You Don’t Know Jack
You Don’t Know Jack
Murder used to be a simple game; one man killed the other for personal gain or revenge, no sadists, psychos, or freaks. That was until Jack the Ripper. But who was this man who could kill and dehumanize his victims? This question has plagued criminologists, and more recently deemed “ripperologists.” With countless suspects to choose from, it soon became obvious that it was the butler who did it! All jokes aside there exists a man, well…existed a man, who fits the criteria to be the Ripper, and William Bury is this man. Bury was a simple man, and to borrow William Beadle’s term, he had perfected the art of being a Jack. The art of being a Jack is that he was Jack Who, nobody saw him enter and nobody saw him leave; he went out and about unnoticed (Beadle 120). But this Jack was Jack the Ripper.
William Henry Bury lived in Stourbridge, Worcestershire from sperm to approximately his early twenties, at which point he may have lived with his uncle in Wolverhampton (this is only hearsay and there is no proof of this). Not much else is know of his early life, for Bury’s life was almost entirely uneventful (Beadle 119). His father, a fishmonger, had little motivation and it took him nearly a month after William’s birth to file a birth certificate. The first true account we have of Bury is when he moved to London in 1887. After he arrived in London he was hired by James Martin a “general dealer”, this was in reality more of a brothel than a super market, and Bury was employed as a sawdust collector. While working for Martin, Bury met his future wife Ellen Elliot, a prostitute whom he probably married for her inheritance. They were married on April 2, 1888. Bury, obviously a manipulative man, convinced his wife to sell part of her inheritance; Bury used the proceeds to buy a pony and cart, which he used to sell sawdust (Beadle 123). On January 19, 1889 the “happy” Bury couple sailed for Dundee Scotland. However, those who asked where they we going received an answer of Brisbane, Australia. Seventeen days after arriving in Dundee, Bury killed his wife- in a manner very similar to that of Jack the Ripper. She was strangled and then carved up. Five days after the murder, Bury went to the local police telling them he and his wife had been drinking and when he awoke he found she strangled herself. Bury appeared mildly inebriated and told stories which did not match to two different police officers. When they inspected his house they found two counts of graffiti pointing to Bury as the Ripper as well as Ellen’s mutilated body. The Dundee police, having no knowledge of the Ripper case, had no reason to report to London authorities. Bury was tried and found guilty of the murder and sentenced to hang. The sentence was carried out on April 29, 1889 (Macpherson 19).
That is an interesting background, but what is it that makes him Jack the Ripper? To begin with Bury is an almost perfect match to the FBI’s psychological profile for the Ripper. In 1988 the Federal Bureau of Investigation in corporation with British authorities released a psychological profile of Jack the Ripper:
· In childhood, there was an absent or passive father figure
· White male, aged 28 to 36, living or working in the Whitechapel area.
· The killer probably had a profession in which he could legally experience his destructive tendencies.
· Jack the Ripper probably ceased his killing because he was either arrested for some other crime, or felt himself close to being discovered as the killer.
· The killer probably had some sort of physical defect which was the source of a great deal of frustration or anger. (Joseph)
The first fit is the fact that Bury’s father appears to have been negligent; it took Bury’s father nearly a month to file for a birth certificate, not the image of an ideal father. This was the first brick building Jack the Ripper. Second, when Bury moved to London in late 1887 he was 28, and he began working for James Martin, whose store was located in Bow, which is adjacent to Whitechapel. Driving a nail further in to the coffin is the fact that “Bury had been a horsemeat butcher before migrating to London” (Beadle 120). Bury was built into the perfect serial killer, but why did he quit? This is a simple answer, but one that comes in two parts. First, he felt that is area of operation was too hot for him to handle, causing him to flee to Dundee Scotland and telling those who asked that he was going to Austria. If he was simply moving why would he lie about his destination unless he was afraid of being followed or watched? Second, he was arrested on February 10, 1889 for the murder of his wife, and subsequently was hung on April 24. Jack the Ripper was never heard from again. The only aspect of the profile which lacks concrete proof of applying to Bury is a physical defect. However, there is a theory which states Jack the Ripper killed his victims and removed their sexual organs for gratification because he had some form of erectile dysfunction, though he was not completely impotent for Bury frequently used prostitutes. I feel that Bury had ED and caused him humiliation with his female companions, fueling his hatred of women, giving Jack the Ripper his victimology, prostitutes who humiliated him.
Now that Bury has been nailed in the coffin, his must be buried (a bad pun, yet one that had to been done). The dirt is that of escalation. Serial killers don’t start off killing; they start small, usually killing animals or non fatal attacks, and Bury has a strong case for experiencing escalation. There was a woman named Annie Millwood who was the victim of a knife attack. Her injuries were similar to those of the Ripper victims. Around her legs and genitalia she was brutally stabbed multiple times. Although this is not exactly how the other victims were killed, but it is a step in the evolution of a killer. This attack happened in Spitalfields, just a few miles walk from Bow where Bury worked. A few weeks later Ada Wilson was attacked in her home by a man who demanded money and stabbed her twice in the throat. This was in the latter half of March, just after Bury had been fired from his job for theft. But the question is now is this Bury or not? Knife attacks were not common Whitechapel; violent crime in general was an anomaly with no murders happening in 1886 or 1887. Bury had a history of violent crime: he slept with a knife under his pillow, and there exist many counts of abuse toward his wife (one neighbor even walked in with Bury kneeling atop his wife trying to slit her throat). If Bury had been drinking, and began his walk home from work and saw a prostitute, he would have possible endowed her with the characteristics of his wife and attacked her. Additionally when Bury had been fired he would have used the little money he had to buy gin; and when he ran out of coin, he did the most logical thing he could, he would steal it from the first person he saw (Beadle 122). If these attacks were carried out by Bury, it also gives a clue into the evolution of his modus operandi, Annie was hacked around her legs and genitalia and Ada had her throat cut, if both are put together, it is the MO of the Ripper.
What of the five victims of Jack the Ripper? Bury drank nearly every day of the week, with the exception of Sunday. This has a striking corollary to the murders, if the times are lined up late Sunday and early Monday are missing, the only times at which Bury was sober. The first widely accepted victim of the Ripper was Polly Nichols; there exists one problem with her candidacy as a Ripper victim. The location of her murder never quite matched. Bury took his wife to Wolverhampton sometime in late July and/or August. If Bury was parking his cart late on August 31 he would have seen Polly; Bury could park his cart, enlisting Polly’s services, escorting her into Bucks Row, and killing her is a perfect scenario. A week later Bury finishes his day of sawdust collecting parks in George Yard and starts his walk home. Two-minutes later he walks along Hanbury Street and chooses his next victim, Annie Chapman. At the end of the month Bury needs to park his cart, and release his sexual tension through another kill: Liz Stride. This time he leaves George Yard from the south entrance walks for a few minutes reaches Settles Street and ends the life of Long Liz. Unfortunately for Bury he was interrupted before he could finish with her, disemboweling and the like, so he had to find another outlet for his hormones. How Bury left the street is unknown, but he fled and found Catherine Eddowes, and had his way with her. After he experienced the thrill of his kill he took a path back to George Yard where his pony and cart were waiting allowing him a safe ride away from the scene.
The climax of the killings was with the mutilation of Mary Kelly. She had been almost butchered with the meat of her muscles being removed and placed around the room, and according to Nick Warren, editor of Ripperana and a surgeon, her femur had been split with a small axe. A butcher’s main tools are a knife and a small axe, and Bury had been a horsemeat butcher before moving to London. Probably even more condemning is the fact that on the day Bury killed his wife, he asked a neighbor to borrow a hatchet. All of the canonical victims could have been easily killed by Bury, but what of Martha Tabram? She was killed in George Yard. Bury goes to pick up his cart; inebriated he sees Tabram substitutes her for his wife, and commits his first murder. It is almost more than he can handle; he needs to get out of London. He takes his wife for a vacation in Wolverhampton and returns at the end of August placing him in perfect place to kill Polly (Beadle).
The most damning evidence against Bury is the murder of his wife and his resulting actions. On February 5, two weeks after fleeing London, Bury strangled his wife with a piece of rope and stabbed her multiple times -several long cuts along her abdomen with twelve inches of intestines hanging out- and stuffed her body into a trunk. He hadn’t sliced her throat, but he had tried to do it previously. Contrary to popular belief serial killers don’t kill in the same way every time; they kill in a very similar manner adapting to previous experience with kills and the current situation- how much the victim fights and other hard to control events. Five days later Bury went to the police telling them his wife had commit suicide. Two different constables took reports from Bury, but his stories did not match each other so an investigation ensued. When the constables reached Bury’s apartment two messages were found on the walls. The first was on the stairway down to Bury’s apartment it read “Jack Ripper is in this Seller” [sic]. Once they reached the apartment on the back of the door they read “Jack Ripper is at the back of this door.” Inside they found Ellen, still in the trunk. Bury was arrested, tried, and found guilty. Just before Burry hung he told them “I suppose you think you are clever to hang me.” (Beadle, emphasis added) The detectives present at the time thought he meant “I suppose you think you are clever to hang Jack the Ripper” and they were right.
Countless people have been accused of being Jack the Ripper: some are viable [though little tangible evidence may exist], while others are completely insane *cough* Lewis Carol *cough*. However, none fit as well as William Bury. Serial killers don’t start out killing, and Bury gives a huge case for the escalation experienced by Jack the Ripper. He also answers the question of how the Ripper was able to walk about Whitechapel with the police out in force. He was a common sight to the prostitutes and police in the area, simply another face; also, slaughter houses purchased saw dust to line their floors with, giving Bury a viable reason to be covered in blood. What truly places this man as Jack the Ripper is the murder of his wife: it was too graphic, too through, too brutal to have been a first kill. April 29, 1889- the day Jack the Ripper died.
Beadle, William. “The Real Jack the Ripper.” The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper. Ed. Maxim Jukubowski and Nathan Braund. London: Robinson Ltd, 1999. 119-131.
“Joseph Barnett.” Casebook. 17 Apr. 2008 <http://www.casebook.org/suspects/barnett.html>.
Macpherson, Euan. The Trial of Jack the Ripper: the Case of William Bury. Great Britain: Mainstream Company, 2005.
 For the exact path see Beadle’s essay on John Bury, but unless one has a very accurate knowledge of London’s streets the street names don’t matter.