Jack The Stripper
|Kill Date||1959 - 1965|
Seventy years after "Jack the Ripper" murdered and disembowelled prostitutes in London's East end, a new generation of prostitutes learned to live with the ever-present fear of a lurking killer.
This "Jack" carried no knife, but he was every bit as lethal (claiming seven victims to the Ripper's five) and possessed of far greater longevity (operating over nearly six years, compared to the Ripper's 10 weeks). At the end of the case, both killers shared a common attribute: despite a wealth of theories and assertions, neither "Jack" was ever captured or identified.
17th June 1959, prostitute Elizabeth Figg, 21, was found floating in the Thames, dressed only in a slip, her death attributed to strangulation. As with many old unsolved cases there is a discrepancy, another report says They stumbled across the body of a woman, sat up against a small willow tree, her blue and white striped dress torn open to reveal her breasts and some scratches on her throat. She had been strangled.
8th November 1963, Four and a half years passed before discovery of the next victim, with the skeleton of 22 year old Gwyneth Rees unearthed during clearance of a river Thames-side rubbish dump. She was last seen getting into a van on 29th September 1963.
The cause of death was difficult to ascertain, and homicide investigators later tried to disconnect both murders from the "Stripper" series, but today the better evidence suggests that these were practice runs, the early crimes committed by a killer how had yet to hit his stride.
2nd February 1964, Thirty year old Hannah Tailford was the next to die, her naked corpse discovered in the Thames by boatman.. Her stockings were pulled down around her ankles, panties stuffed inside her mouth, but she had drowned, and the inquest produced an "open" verdict, refusing to rule out suicide, however improbable it seemed.
9th April 1964, 20 year old Irene Lockwood was found naked and dead in the Thames, floating 300 yards from the spot where Tailford was found. Another drowning victim, she was four months pregnant when she died. Suspect Kenneth Archibald confessed to the murder later that month, then recanted his statement, blaming depression. He was subsequently cleared at trial.
24th April 1964, Helen Barthelmy, age 20, was the first victim found away from the river, her naked boy was discovered near a sports field in Brentwood, four front teeth missing, with part of one logged in her throat. Traces of multicoloured spray paint on the body suggested that she had been kept for a while after death in a paint shop before she was dumped in the field.
14th July 1964, 30 year old Mary Fleming was discarded, nude and lifeless, on a dead-end London street. Witnesses glimpsed a van and its driver near the scene, but none could finally describe the man or vehicle with any certainty. Missing since 11th July, Fleming had apparently been suffocated or choked to death - as opposed to strangled - and her dentures were missing from the scene.
25th November 1964, Margaret McGowan, 21, had been missing a month when her nude corpse was found in Kensington. Police noted the familiar traces of paint on her skin, and one of her teeth had been forced from its socket in front.
16th February 1965, The last to die was 27 year old Bridget O'Hara, last seen alive on 11th January 1965, her body found hidden in some shrubbery on the Heron Trading Estate in Acton. Her front teeth were missing, and pathologists determined that she had died on her knees. The corpse was partially mummified, as if from prolonged storage in a cool, dry place.
Despite appeals to prostitutes for information on their "kinky" customers, police were groping in the dark. Inspector John Du Rose suggested that the last six victims had been literally choked to death by oral sex, removal of the teeth in four cases lending vague support to the hypothesis. A list of suspects had supposedly been narrowed down from 20 men to three when one of those committed suicide, gassing himself in his kitchen and leaving a cryptic note: "I cannot go on." It might mean anything - or nothing - but the murders ended with the nameless suspect's death, and so police seemed satisfied, although the case remains officially unsolved.
Who was the Stripper? Suspects range from a deceased prize fighter, Freddie Mills, who committed suicide in 1965, to an unnamed ex-policeman, but Du Rose favoured a private security guard on the Heron Trading Estate, his rounds including the paint shop where at least some of the victims were apparently stashed after death. The only "evidence" of guilt is the cessation of similar crimes after the suspect's suicide, but numerous serial killers have "retired" once they achieved a certain body count. The best that we can say for Scotland Yard's solution is that it is plausible…but unconfirmed.
Someone, possibly still alive may have a macabre set of teeth as an ornament, possibly still in the London area, do you know JACK THE STRIPPER ?????