Art and Culture

The Unfortunate Victim

– Shabana Chowdhury Ahmed,  Belgium

London 1888 is known in history as the gruesome times! The brutal horrifying murders of the five women in Whitechapel in East London, who were prostitutes, terrified the London society of that time. The identity of Jack the Ripper was never discovered. Assumptions were made but never proven! Many felt that the killer was a surgeon because of the way these unfortunate women were disemboweled. Some claimed that the Ripper was a Polish migrant, who was also a Victorian painter. Some even claimed that the Ripper was a grandson of Queen Victoria, who had mental disorder. The Prince of Wales was known to have been a regular visitor in Whitechapel’s shady neighbourhood during the reign of Queen Victoria. 

The story teller tells her tale.

Arabella was the only daughter of Lord and Lady Stanford. They lived in Stanford Manor, London. She was raised by a governess but her father took a personal interest in educating his daughter. So he appointed a tutor to teach her all the subjects a boy would learn at school and high school. Lady Stanford was very annoyed by her husband’s decision. All she wanted was a good husband for Arabella, who would then settle down like other girls and have a family. Lady Stanford also knew that going against the wishes of her husband was inviting trouble.

Arabella’s tutor was a journalist, who worked in the evenings with the local newspaper. He had a wife and two children. The wages he received from the owner of the newspaper was not enough to cover his expenses, so he took the tutor’s job at Lord Stanford’s manor. 

The tutor immediately saw on the very first day that Arabella had a thirst for knowledge. Her inquisitive mind kept him busy. Life was as usual till the first horrific murder of a woman called Mary Ann Nichols in Whitechapel. The date was the 31st August 1888! It became the headline news of all the newspapers in London. Arabella was curious to know more about the victim, so she quizzed her journalist tutor for more details. All he could say was that the victim’s body was horribly disemboweled. This shook the foundation of society equally among the privileged and the underprivileged inhabitants of London. Whitechapel was a breeding ground for violent crimes, murders and prostitutions. It was also well known by the noblemen, who came to seek the pleasures of women and wine. 

All seemed quiet till the 8th of September, when Annie Chapman became the second victim of another gruesome murder. Police investigation found no clues. Soon the Central News Agency received a letter written in human blood describing the murders of Mary Ann Nichols and Annie Chapman. The writer signed his name as JACK THE RIPPER! 

Fear gripped the downtrodden women of Whitechapel. They stayed away from the streets. They went out together in the daytime but avoided the streets at night. Days passed by without further murders on the streets. Just when everyone began to breathe a sigh of relief, Elizabeth Stride became the third victim of JACK THE RIPPER on the 30th of September. Amazingly another victim Catherine Eddowes was also killed on the same day making her the fourth victim. Fear gripped the people of London. The police had no clue to the identity of Jack the Ripper! Armed citizens and police began pattroling the streets. After the 30th September Ripper seemed to have disappeared or was it because of armed citizens and police walking in the streets. 

Arabella meanwhile had been reading about Jack The Ripper in the newspapers. She was filled with curiosity and became obsessed with the idea of visiting Whitechapel at night. She knew that her parents would never allow her to go anywhere near Whitechapel even with the police pattroling the streets. All was calm then on the evening of the 9th November Lord and Lady Stanford were attending the royal dinner at the palace of Queen Victoria. Lady Stanford gave the evening off to all the domestic servants except Mary, the personal maid of Arabella, and their trusted old butler. They were to take care of Arabella. Time was passing slowly for Arabella. She suddenly thought of going to Whitechapel. After dinner she went to her bedroom and sent her maid to bed saying that she would read a book and go to sleep. When the house was quiet, she put on a hooded cloak and quietly passed by the old butler, who had fallen asleep in his chair near the door. The key was in the lock. She gently turned it to open the door and walked out into the night. A little further down the lane she hailed a horse carriage. She asked the coach man to take her to Whitechapel. She paid him and began walking towards a narrow street, which was dimly lit. No one was in sight. Suddenly out of nowhere somebody appeared and knocked her down. As she tried to get up, she saw the face of the man, who held a long bloody knife. The look of horror was on both faces. Then the man punched the knife into her heart. As life was fading out of her the man carried her and placed her body on to a horse cart. He covered her body with straw from the cart and drove away. 

Next morning the mutilated and disemboweled body of Mary Jane Kelly was found in Whitechapel making her the fifth victim of Jack the Ripper! At the residence of Lord Stanford everything seemed normal till Arabella’s maid entered her room and opened the curtains to let the sunlight in. She saw that the bed had not been slept in. She informed Lady Stanford, who asked all the servants if they had seen their young mistress. No one had. The servants searched everywhere but Arabella was nowhere to be found. Panic had set in and Lord Stanford was informed. The first thought was that his daughter was kidnapped. He asked the police commissioner to search for his daughter. He also placed an advertisement in the newspapers offering a reward. No news came. No body was found. It seemed as if Arabella vanished into thin air! Coincidentally Jack the Ripper’s gruesome murders came to an end.

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