Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Annie Chapman is widely believed to be the second victim of the notorious unidentified serial killer "Jack the Ripper," who killed and mutilated prostitutes in the Whitechapel area of London during the late summer and autumn of 1888. As with other Ripper victims, there is some confusion about her personal details. "Dark Annie," as she was known, was 47 years old, in poor health and destitute at the time of her death.
Chapman's body was discovered about 6:00 on the morning of Saturday, September 8, 1888, lying on the ground near a doorway in the back yard of 29 Hanbury Street, Whitechapel. Her killing was very typical of Ripper murders and most similar to that of Catherine Eddowes three weeks later. Chapman was found with her throat deeply slashed, her abdomen cut open and completely disembowelled, her intestines thrown over her right shoulder. Her killer had taken away her uterus and a portion of the flesh surrounding her navel. Arguably this was the most audacious of Ripper crimes. Evidence indicated Chapman was killed around 5:30am, in daylight, in the enclosed back yard of a house occupied by seventeen people, some of whom were already up and about, with windows overlooking the yard, the only convenient escape route being the narrow passage through the building by which the workman discovering her body had entered the yard. Residents however had seen and heard nothing at the time of the murder.
Chapman was born Eliza Ann Smith in September 1841. She was the daughter of George Smith, who did not marry her mother Ruth until nearly six months later, on February 22, 1842, in Paddington, London. Smith was a soldier at the time of his marriage, later becoming a domestic servant. In May 1869 Annie married John Chapman, a coachman. For some years the couple lived at addresses in West London, and they had three children, Emily Ruth, born in 1870, Annie Georgina, born in 1873, and John in 1880. In 1881 they moved to rural Clewer in Berkshire, where John Chapman took a job as coachman to a farm bailiff. But young John had been born disabled, while their firstborn, Emily Ruth, died of meningitis shortly after at the age of twelve. Due probably to stress caused by their children's misfortunes, both Annie and her husband took to heavy drinking and separated soon after. By the time of her death young John was said to be in the care of a charitable school, and the surviving daughter Annie Georgina, then in her teens, traveling with a circus in France.
Annie Chapman eventually moved to Whitechapel, where in 1886 she was living with a man who made wire sieves; she was often known as Annie "Sievey" or "Siffey." For three or four years she had been receiving an allowance of ten shillings a week from her husband, but at the end of 1886 payments stopped abruptly. On inquiring, she found her husband had died of alcohol-related causes. The sieve-maker left her soon after, possibly due to the cessation of her income. One of her friends later testified that Chapman became very depressed after this and went downhill.
By 1888 Chapman was living in common lodging houses in Whitechapel, occasionally in the company of a bricklayer's labourer, and earning some income from crochet work, making antimacassars and selling flowers, supplemented by casual prostitution. Acquaintances described her as a more accomplished woman than some in the area, and inoffensive, though she drank regularly and her health was failing. A week or more before her death she was feeling ill after being bruised in a fight with another woman, which was uncharacteristic for her. Shortly after midnight on the morning of her death, she, like Mary Ann Nichols, found herself without money for her lodging and went out to earn some on the street. She was probably last seen alive by a woman who believed she saw Chapman in front of 29 Hanbury Street close to 5:30am, talking to a man who may well have been her killer.
- The Complete History of Jack the Ripper by Philip Sugden, ISBN 0786702761, is widely held to be one of the best on the topic.
- Casebook: Jack the Ripper has numerous articles covering many aspects of the case and reproduces many original source texts relevant to the case.
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