Mary Ann Nichols

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Picture of Mary Ann Nichols - Polly

Mary Ann Nichols

The first victim of Jack The Ripper?

Most experts consider Mary Ann Nichols to be the first victim of Jack The Ripper.


Mary Ann Nichols was also known by many as "Polly".

The body in Buck's Row

Charles Cross, a carman, of 22 Doveton Street, Bethnal Green, and Robert Paul, also a carman, of 30 Foster Street, Bethnal Green, were the first people to see Mary Ann Nichols' body laying on the pavement in Buck's Row. Cross is reported to have said to Paul, "Come and look over here, there’s a woman lying on the pavement".

It was 3.40am on Friday 31st August 1888, and with it still being dark they appeared to have missed Mary's horrific injuries. Mary Ann Nichols was lying on the pavement, on her back, with her skirts raised almost to her stomach.

After feeling her hands Cross thought Mary was dead - Paul thought she might still be breathing. Both men are reported to have been running late - so after trying to pull Mary's skirts down they moved on, intending to alert a policeman on the way.

In Baker’s Row, at the junction of Hanbury and Old Montague Street, they met PC Mizen 55H and told him of their discovery.

Unknown to PC Mizen 55H, Cross and Paul, at around 3.45am PC John Neil 97J had discovered the body of Mary Ann Nichols. The body hadn't been there when PC Neil had patrolled 30 minutes earlier.

Nichols was lying outside the gate to Mr Brown’s stables, her head towards the east, her left hand touching the gate. Her hands, which were open, lay by her sides and her legs were extended and a little apart. Blood oozed out of the wounds in her throat. A black straw bonnet trimmed with black velvet was by her side.

PC John Thain 96J was patrolling Brady Street when PC Neil spotted him and called him over. PC John Thain 96J was asked to run for Dr Llewellyn immediately.

PC Mizen was the third constable to arrive at the murder scene. He was sent to fetch an ambulance and further assistance from Bethnal Green Police Station.

Sergeant Kirby also joined the crime scene.

Dr Llewellyn

Dr Rees Ralph Llewellyn of 152 Whitechapel Road, arrived on the scene at around 4am. The severe throat injuries were considered and Dr Llewellyn pronounced life extinct. Dr Llewellyn suggested Nichols had been dead for less than thirty minutes.

As on-lookers started to group Dr Llewellyn ordered that the body should be moved to the mortuary in Old Montague Street.

PC Mizen, PC Neil and Sergeant Kirby left with the body to go to the mortuary. PC Thain waited for Inspector John Spratling to arrive. Inspector Spratling examined the scene, and although some of the blood had been washed away, it could still be seen between paving stones.

Inspector Spratling's discovery

Inspector Spratling made his way to the mortuary to find the mortuary locked and Mary Nichols' body still on the ambulance.

Some time between 5am and 5.20am Robert Mann, keeper of the mortuary arrived with keys to unlock. Upon lifting her clothes Spratling discovered that Mary's abdomen had been savagely ripped apart from the breast bone. Her intestines were also exposed. For the second time that night Dr Llewellyn was fetched from his bed.

Dr Llewellyn would later tell the press "I have seen many terrible cases, but never such a brutal affair as this".

Pre Post-Mortem Findings

  • Mary Ann Nichols' throat had been cut from left to right with two distinct cuts being on left side
  • The windpipe, gullet and spinal cord had been cut through
  • A bruise apparently of a thumb was on right lower jaw, with one also on the left cheek
  • The abdomen had been cut open from centre of bottom of ribs along right side, under pelvis to left of the stomach, there the wound was jagged
  • The omentum, or coating of the stomach, was also cut in several places, and two small stabs on private parts
  • Injuries were apparently committed with a strong bladed knife
  • Supposed to have been done by a left handed person
  • Death was almost instantaneous

Future reports suggested that Dr Llewellyn was later to consider that the injuries may not have been committed by a left handed murderer.


On Saturday 1st September 1888 Dr Llewellyn carried out a post-mortem examination.

Dr Llewellyn concluded:

  • There was bruising about the face
  • A bruise running along the lower part of the jaw
  • There were two incisions in the throat - one encircled the throat
  • One cut had severed both carotid arteries and all the tissues down to the vertebrae. Both incisions had been made from left to right
  • Further severe cuts in the lower part of the abdomen
  • Two or three inches from the left side was a long, very deep and jagged wound which had cut through the tissues
  • Several incisions ran across the abdomen. On the right side were three or four similar cuts running downwards. The abdominal injuries had been inflicted with a knife used violently and downwards

D Llewellyn initially thought the murderer to be left handed. He also stated that the murderer "must have had some rough anatomical knowledge, for he seemed to have attacked all the vital parts". Llewellyn thought the injuries could have been inflicted in just four or five minutes.

Possessions on the body

The body had the following items of clothing and possessions:

  • A comb
  • A piece of looking glass
  • A white pocket handkerchief
  • A reddish-brown ulster with seven large brass buttons
  • A brown linsey frock
  • A white chest flannel
  • Two petticoats, one of grey wool, the other flannel
  • A pair of brown stays
  • A pair of black ribbed woollen stockings
  • A pair of men’s side spring boots
  • A black straw bonnet trimmed in black velvet

Identification of the body

Mary's identity was known within 24 hours of the murder. A woman of Mary's appearance was known to be living in a common lodging house at 18, Thrawl Street. Ellen Holland from that address identified the body as that of ‘Polly’, a woman who had once shared her room at Thrawl Street.

Upon examining the deceased's clothing a label with "Lambeth Workhouse, P.R. was found". The "P.R." designated which Workhouse - in this case Prince's Road. During the evening of 31st August Mary Ann Monk, an inmate of the Lambeth Workhouse, was taken to Old Montague Street and identified the body as that of Mary Ann Nichols.

Mary Ann Nichols had been a resident of the workhouse as late as May 1888.

In the following days Mary's father, Edward Walker, and husband, William Nichols were located. They both confirmed her identity.

Early life

Mary was born on 26th August 1845 to Edward Walker, a locksmith, and Caroline. The family resided at Dawes Court, off Shoe Lane.

The daughter of Edward Walker, a locksmith, and his wife Caroline, Polly was born in Dawes Court, off Shoe Lane, on 26 August 1845.

Family Life

Mary married William Nichols, a printer’s machinist, at St Bride’s, Fleet Street, on 16th January 1864.

In the summer of 1868 the couple were living at 131, Trafalgar Street, Walworth.

In 1874, they set up home for themselves at 6D Block, Peabody Square, Duke Street, in Lambeth.

Mary and William had five children:

  • Edward John (1866)
  • Percy George (1868)
  • Alice Esther (1870)
  • Eliza Sarah (1876)
  • Henry Alfred (1878)

Mary and William ended their marriage on bad terms in 1880.

31st August 1888

Mary Ann Nichols is reported to have left Thrawl Street about a week before her murder. Mrs Holland saw Mary in the early hours of 31st August. Mary had tried to return to 18, Thrawl Street and was turned away because she did not have the required lodging money. Ellen Holland was the last person apart from the killer who is known to have seen her alive. Mrs Holland saw Ann at the corner of Osborn Street and Whitechapel Road at 2.30am on the morning of 31st August.

Just over an hour later and less than three-quarters of a mile away her dead and mutilated body was found in Buck’s Row. It was just a few days after her forty-third birthday.

The Police Investigation

Inspector Joseph Helson from the newly created J, or Bethnal Green Division, took control of the investigation.

As Ann's murder took the East End prostitute murder count to 3 Inspector Frederick George Abberline from Scotland Yard also played a role. Abberline had served twenty-five years in the Metropolitan Police, fourteen of them in the slums of Whitechapel. During his years as H Division’s ‘Local Inspector’ (1878–1887) he had built up an unrivalled knowledge of the East End and its villains.

The police searched the local area, various railways and spoke to the local community. They found no clues whatsoever.

After reviewing the case on 19th October Chief Inspector Swanson acknowledged that the "absence of the motives which lead to violence and of any scrap of evidence either direct or circumstantial, left the police without the slightest shadow of a trace".


Mary Ann Nichols was buried in the City of London Cemetery, Ilford, on the afternoon of Thursday, 6th September.