“Annie Chapman: A Brief History of ‘Dark Annie’, Jack the Ripper’s Fourth Victim in his Reign of Terror”
Annie Chapman was born as Annie Eliza Smith in September 1841, but “to her friends the fourth victim was known simply as ‘Dark Annie’” (Sugden 77). According to Casebook, and various accounts, Chapman was described as five foot, with a “pallid complexion”, blue eyes, dark brown hair, a “thick” nose, a stout build, and contained excellent teeth for the time – was possibly missing two. However when she was found dead at the age of forty-seven, Chapman was malnourished and suffering from tuberculosis. Her diseased lungs and brain tissue were causing a slow death for Chapman, yet these symptoms could have been attributed to syphilis, a disease better known as “the great imitator”. Alcohol could have affected Chapman’s steady decline, nevertheless, she could not be classified as an alcoholic and even “her friend Amelia Palmer described her as a ‘sober, steady going woman who seldom took to drink’” (Casebook).
The earlier version of the forty-seven year old Ripper victim was quite different then how she was described upon discovery. At the age of twenty-eight, Annie Smith was married on May 1st, 1869, to a coachman named John Chapman whom she had three children with, however only one of the three was physically stable. Although Chapman’s marriage is one of the few recorded amongst the Ripper victims, Annie and John were not meant to be, and between the years of 1884 and 1885 they “separated by mutual consent” for reasons cited as “uncertain” (Casebook). In a police report, it is stated that the cause was attributed to Annie’s “drunken and immoral ways”. Yet it should be noted that her husband John “was [also] a heavy drinker and the misfortunes [with their] children must have imposed strains upon the union” (Sugden 78). John Chapman died shortly after their divorce on December 25th, 1886, denying Annie of the allowance of 10s a week he had been providing her in the three or four years which they lived apart. This loss of income nonetheless impacted her both financially as well as psychologically.
In the years preceding her run in with the Ripper, Chapman struggled to survive and her living situation at the time of her death, including her occupation, was questionable. For a stint, Chapman did “crochet work, made antimacassars and sold flowers”, but even though Annie “when sober [was] industrious…she was overfond of liquor”, and eventually turned to prostitution (Sugden 78). Circumstances such as these soon put her as a “sad, broken-down little prostitute, [who] lived a precarious and semi-nomadic existence on the streets and in the common lodging houses of Spitalfields” (Sugden 77). The lodging houses in Spitalfields were “where [people] such as she herded like cattle”, and upon examination of these “dens”, the jury at Chapman’s inquest “did not require [reminding] of what life in a Spitalfields lodginghouse meant” (Evans 102-103).
Annie Chapman lived at the Crossingham’s Lodging House, which housed around 300 people, from either May or June 1888. The lodging house at Crossingham’s is where Chapman met and began her relationship with Edward Stanley, a bricklayer who claimed to be a member of the military, but admitted later he was not of any sort. According to Casebook, Annie did not “take to prostitution until after her husband’s death”, however Stanley, who apparently told the lodge house’s deputy to not allow Chapman entrance with another man, also discouraged this type of “work”. However Stanley often paid for a bed for both Annie and Eliza Cooper, a woman who Annie was seen arguing with over Edward Stanley on several occasions (Evans103).
Instances such as this occurred on the days leading up to her death, and on Monday, September 3rd, Annie Chapman met with her friend Amelia Palmer who noticed bruises on Chapman’s right temple left from an altercation. After Palmer’s inquiry, Annie Chapman opened her dress to reveal her chest, stating then that she felt unwell and would perhaps visit her sister to “get a pair of boots” to “go hop picking” (Casebook). Although it is unknown if Annie did visit her sister or try and cure her ailment, Palmer did see Chapman again, still malnourished and sickly, and gave her money for tea, not rum. The lack of funds and desperate situation that “Dark Annie” Chapman found herself in, lead her on Friday, September 7th, 1888, to drink away what money she possessed and “between [the hours of]1 and 2 o’clock…when the money for her bed was demanded, she was obliged to admit that she was without means, and at once turned out into the street to find it” (Evans 103).
According to The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Companion, Annie left the lodging house around 1:45 a.m. that Saturday morning and was seen by a night watchman, and then was observed walking toward Brushfield-street, yet not in the direction of Hanbury-street. Researchers at Casebook then put Mr. John Richardson entering the backyard of number twenty-nine Hanbury Street at approximately 4:45 a.m. Richardson was on his way to work and sat down to remove a piece of leather from his boot, and though it was dark this seat would have placed him “no more than a yard away from where the head of Annie Chapman would have been” if she had already been mutilated by Jack the Ripper. Despite this proximity, Richardson later stated that he saw nothing of “extraordinary nature”. What occurred later at 5:30 a.m. was witnessed by Elizabeth Long, who testified that she saw Chapman talking with a man and leaning against number twenty-nine Hanbury Street, Long stated that she heard the man ask “Will you?” and Annie reply “Yes.” Elizabeth Long told the police that she was indeed certain of the time this conversation took place, because she heard “the clock on the Black Eagle Brewery…strike the half hour just as she had turned the street”, however she could not describe the man because his back was turned toward her.
Just after Elizabeth Long saw Annie Chapman, a carpenter named Albert Cadosch who lived at number twenty-seven Hanbury Street, recalled hearing a woman saying “No!” and then something falling down from behind the fence separating the two houses. A little before 6:00 a.m., a resident of number twenty-nine Hanbury Street found Annie Chapman’s body, and at 6:30 a.m. Dr. George Bagster Phillips arrived to the scene and later described his findings in an inquest testimony:
“Her left arm was placed across the left breast. The legs were drawn up, the feet resting on the ground, and the knees turned outwards… The tongue protruded between the front teeth, but not beyond the lips… The body was terribly mutilated… the throat was dissevered deeply…the incision through the skin were jagged and reached right round the neck… The abdomen had been entirely laid open: the intestines, severed from their mesenteric attachments, had been lifted out of the body and placed on the shoulder of the corpse; whilst from the pelvis, the uterus and its appendages with the upper portion of the vagina and the posterior two thirds of the bladder, had been entirely removed…” (Casebook)
Dr. Phillips believed that Annie Chapman had “been dead at least two hours, probably longer” (Sugden 87), and that the same knife, “probably with a thin, narrow blade at least six to eight inches long” (Sugden 91), had made all of the incisions. He stated in his post mortem report that “he himself could not have performed all the injuries he described, even without a struggle, under a quarter of an hour”, yet he also believed that there had indeed been no struggle or “meaningless cuts” (Sugden 87& Evans 105).
Among the clothing and miscellaneous possessions found on “Dark Annie”, two items stand out from the rest. The three brass rings which Chapman had been seen wearing before her murder, which went missing after she was attacked and an envelope which contained two pills stamped with the Sussex Regiment seal, and bore the postal stamp “London, 28, Aug., 1888” (Casebook). Still, it is debatable whether the Ripper, or a bystander took the rings during the ciaos of the discovery and it has since been proven that it is possible for citizens to obtain the pills found on Chapman’s person. Dr. Phillips believed however that all of the items “had not been casually cast to the ground. ‘They had apparently been placed there in order’, he would later state at the inquest, ‘that is to say, arranged there’” (Sugden 88). The “business-like precision” in which the contents of Chapman’s pockets were emptied and placed near her feet echoes closely to the “cool impudence and reckless daring” that the Ripper took with his victim.
Post-examination, Annie Chapman was buried on Friday, September 14th, 1888, in a “black-draped elm coffin” and carried by hearse to the City of London Cemetery at Manor Park Cemetery, and then buried in public grave number seventy-eight. Annie’s relatives, who met the hearse at the plot and also requested to keep the ceremony a secret, paid for the funeral of Annie Chapman and were the only ones to attend (Casebook).
After the inquest of Annie Chapman, the jury returned a verdict of “willful murder against some person or persons unknown” and that they “were confronted with a murder of no ordinary character, committed not from jealousy, revenge, or robbery, but from motives less adequate than many which still disgraced out civilization, marred our progress, and blotted the pages of our Christianity” (Evans 107). Their opinions of this crime were very accurate for the Victorian Era; as no one had seen a murder of this magnitude and brutality until Jack the Ripper began his reign of terror.
Evans, Stewart P., and Keith Skinner. Ultimate Jack the Ripper Companion an Illustrated Encyclopedia. New York: Carroll & Graf, Inc., 2000.
Schachner, Thomas. “Annie Chapman.” Casebook: Jack the Ripper. Ed. Stephen P.Ryder. 1996-2009. 5 Apr. 2009.
Sugden, Philip. The Complete History of Jack the Ripper. New York: Carroll & Graf, Inc., 2002.