Medical records reveal identity of Jack the Ripper, ex-police volunteer claims

The 19th-century serial killer is responsible for some of the UK’s most infamous and unsolved murders

Matt Mathers
Sunday 16 July 2023 13:56 BST
Related video: ID’ing Jack the Ripper

A former police volunteer has unearthed new medical evidence she believes identifies Jack the Ripper, the 19th-century serial killer responsible for some of the UK’s most infamous and unsolved murders.

Sarah Bax Horton has named Hyam Hyams as the man she claims is responsible for the murders of at least six women in or near Whitechapel, east London between August and November 1888.

Martha Tabram, Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elisabeth Stride, Kate Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly were either destitute or prostitutes who had their throats cut and bodies butchered in horrific attacks that shocked the nation.

Ms Baxton Horton, whose grandfather worked on the Ripper investigation, examined medical records and witness descriptions of the man seen with female victims before they were stabbed to death, leading her to Mr Hyams.

Mr Hyams, a cigar maker who lived in the area where the murderers were committed, was an epileptic and alcoholic who was in and out of mental asylums. His job meant he was likely skilled in using a knife.

He repeatedly assaulted his wife, fearing she was cheating on him, and was eventually arrested after attacking her and his mother with a “chopper”.

Mr Hyams was described by witnesses as a man in his mid-thirties with a stiff arm and an irregular gait with bent knees.

Ms Bax Horton discovered that the medical notes of Hyams, who was 35 in 1888,  recorded an injury that left him unable to “bend or extend” his left arm.

He also had an irregular gait and an inability to straighten his knees, with asymmetric foot-dragging, the medical records showed. Mr Hyams also had the most severe form of epilepsy, with regular seizures.

The medical notes, taken from various infirmaries and asylums, revealed that his mental and physical decline coincided with the Ripper’s killing period, escalating between his breaking his left arm in February 1888 and his permanent committal in September 1889.

“For the first time in history, Jack the Ripper can be identified as Hyam Hyams using distinctive physical characteristics,” Ms Bax Horton told The Telegraph.

In the files, it said what the eyewitnesses said – that he had a peculiar gait. He was weak at the knees and wasn’t fully extending his legs. When he walked, he had a kind of shuffling gait, which was probably a side-effect of some brain damage as a result of his epilepsy.”

A street near Spitafileds market where Jack the Ripper killed most of his victims (AFP via Getty Images)

Three of the Ripper’s victims had internal organs removed, leading to previous police theories that the culprit had a background in human anatomy.

Letters taunting investigators and claiming to be from the “killer” first used the term “Jack the Ripper”. Most were thought to be hoaxes but the moniker remained.

Police never established for certain how many victims there were in total and investigators examining 11 murders in Whitechapel and Spitalfields between 1888 and 1891 could not link them to the five in 1888.

Pinning down the identity of Britain’s most notorious serial killer has occupied the minds of historians and conspiracy theorists alike for decades.

Over the years, enthusiasts have pored over the evidence to draw up a list of potential killers that range from the plausible to the preposterous.

A Russian con artist, a Polish barber, an Irish-American quack and even the eldest son of Edward VII have all been accused of being the man who, for one summer in 1888, brought terror to the heart of London’s East End before disappearing without a trace.

In 2009 a historian claimed to have uncovered another potential suspect, one who fitted a modern forensic profile of the killer but had, until then, been overlooked by his fellow “Ripperologists”.

Mei Trow said mortuary attendant Robert Mann, who lived in the area where the killings took place and had a good knowledge of anatomy, would have been regarded as a prime suspect had the modern profiling techniques of today been available to the Metropolitan Police’s baffled officers at the time.

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