Elizabeth Stride was born Elisabeth Gustafsdotter in the parish of Torslanda, west of Gothenburg, Sweden, on 27 November 1843. She was the daughter of a Swedish farmer, Gustaf Ericsson, and his wife, Beata Carlsdotter. In 1860, she took work as a domestic in the Gothenburg parish of Carl Johan, moving again in the next few years to other Gothenburg districts. Unlike most other victims of the Whitechapel murders, who fell into prostitution due to poverty after a failed marriage, Stride took it up earlier. By March 1865 she was registered by the Gothenburg police as a prostitute, was treated twice for a sexually transmitted disease, and gave birth to a stillborn girl on 21 April 1865.
The following year she moved to London, possibly in domestic service with a family. On 7 March 1869 she married John Thomas Stride, a ship's carpenter from Sheerness who was 13 years her senior, and the couple for a time kept a coffee room in Poplar, east London. In March 1877, Liz Stride was admitted to the Poplar Workhouse, suggesting that the couple had separated. They had apparently reunited by 1881, but separated permanently by the end of that year.
She told acquaintances that her husband and two of her nine children had drowned in the sinking of the Princess Alice in the River Thames in 1878. In the accident, according to her story, she had supposedly been kicked in the mouth by another of the victims as they both swam to safety, which had caused her to stutter ever since. In fact, John Stride died of tuberculosis in Poplar and Stepney Sick Asylum on 24 October 1884, more than five years after the Princess Alice disaster, and they had no children.
After separating from her husband, Stride lived in a common lodging-house in Whitechapel, with charitable assistance once or twice from the Church of Sweden in London, and from 1885 until her death lived much of the time with a local dock labourer, Michael Kidney, in Devonshire Street. She earned some income from sewing and housecleaning work. An acquaintance described her as having a calm temperament, though she appeared at Thames Magistrates Court numerous times for being drunk and disorderly, giving her name as Anne Fitzgerald. She learned to speak Yiddish in addition to English and Swedish. Her relationship with Kidney continued in an on-and-off fashion. In April 1887, she laid an assault charge against him but failed to pursue it in court. She left Kidney again a few days before her death. Dr Thomas Barnardo, a leading social reformer, claimed to have met Stride at the lodging house at 32 Flower and Dean Street on Wednesday 26 September.
On the night before her murder, 29 September, Stride was wearing a black jacket and skirt, with a posy of a red rose in a spray of maidenhair fern or asparagus leaves. Her outfit was complemented by a black crêpe bonnet. She may have been seen with a client, a short man with a dark moustache wearing a morning suit and bowler hat, at around 11:00 p.m. near Berner Street, and again at about 11:45 p.m. with a man wearing a peaked cap. At 12:35 a.m., PC William Smith saw her with a man wearing a hard felt hat opposite the International Working Men's Educational Club, a socialist and predominantly Jewish social club, at 40 Berner Street (since renamed Henriques Street) in Whitechapel. The man was carrying a package about 18 inches (45 cm) in length.
Stride's body was discovered close to 1 a.m. on Sunday 30 September 1888 by Louis Diemschutz, the steward of the Workers' Club, in the adjacent Dutfield's Yard. Diemshutz drove into the yard with a pony and two-wheeled cart, when his horse shied. The yard was so dark that he was unable to see her body without lighting a match. With blood still flowing from a wound in her neck, it appeared that she was killed just moments before he arrived. Between 12:30 and 12:50 a.m., departing club members, who had attended a debate on "The Necessity of Socialism amongst Jews" followed by community singing, had seen nothing amiss in the yard. Mrs. Mortimer, who lived two doors away from the club, had stood in Berner Street to listen to the singing at about the same time, and had not seen anyone enter the yard. Mortimer did report seeing a man with a shiny black bag race past, which was reported widely in the press, but one of the club's members, Leon Goldstein, identified himself as the man Mortimer had seen and he was eliminated from the inquiry.
The police searched the remaining members of the club, and the adjacent properties, and interviewed the residents of the area. A witness named Israel Schwartz reported seeing Stride being attacked and thrown to the ground outside Dutfield's Yard at around 12:45 a.m. Her attacker may have called out "Lipski" to a second man standing nearby, which was thought to be an anti-semitic taunt derived from the name of a notorious poisoner, Israel Lipski. Schwartz did not testify at the inquest on Stride, possibly because he was Hungarian and spoke very little if any English. Ripper investigator Stephen Knight found Schwartz's statement in case files in the 1970s. At about the same time, Stride, or someone matching her description, was seen by James Brown rejecting the advances of a stoutish man slightly taller than her in the adjacent street to Berner Street (Fairclough Street). A note in the margin of the Home Office files on the case points out that there was time for Stride to meet another man between her death and the latest sightings of her. The steward Diemshutz later said that he believed that the killer was still in the yard when he drove into it.
No money was found on Stride's body, so it is possible that her night's takings were stolen from her, either in the attack seen by Schwartz, or by her murderer. Either way she seems to have gone into the yard with her murderer alive, presumably on the basis that he was a client.
Stride's murder occurred in the midst of the Jack the Ripper scare, when a single attacker, known as Jack the Ripper, was blamed for a series of brutal attacks against prostitutes. However, unlike at least six other victims, who had abdominal injuries in addition to a slash across the neck, she had no mutilations beyond her slit throat. The murder of Stride shares similarities to the pattern of Ripper killings, such as day of the week, time, type of site, characteristics of the victim and the method of murder. It is possible that the killer was interrupted before he had the opportunity to mutilate the body. Catherine Eddowes was murdered within walking distance less than an hour later, and both Stride and Eddowes lived in Flower and Dean Street. The deaths of Eddowes and Stride sent London into a panic, as it was the first time that two murders ascribed to the Ripper had occurred in one night.
Local doctor Frederick William Blackwell attended the scene, shortly before the arrival of Dr George Bagster Phillips, who had handled the case of a previous Whitechapel murder victim, Annie Chapman, and would also handle the later Mary Jane Kelly case. Phillips reported:
The body was lying on the near side, with the face turned toward the wall, the head up the yard and the feet toward the street. The left arm was extended and there was a packet of cachous in the left hand. ... The right arm was over the belly; the back of the hand and wrist had on it clotted blood. The legs were drawn up with the feet close to the wall. The body and face were warm and the hand cold. The legs were quite warm.
The deceased had a silk handkerchief round her neck, and it appeared to be slightly torn. I have since ascertained it was cut. This corresponded with the right angle of the jaw. The throat was deeply gashed, and there was an abrasion of the skin about one and a quarter inches in diameter, apparently stained with blood, under her right brow.
At 3 p.m. on Monday at St. George's Mortuary, Dr Blackwell and I made a post-mortem examination. Rigor mortis was still thoroughly marked. There was mud on the left side of the face and it was matted in the head. ... The body was fairly nourished. Over both shoulders, especially the right, and under the collarbone and in front of the chest there was a blueish discolouration, which I have watched and have seen on two occasions since.
There was a clear-cut incision on the neck. It was six inches in length and commenced two and a half inches in a straight line below the angle of the jaw, three quarters of an inch over an undivided muscle, and then, becoming deeper, dividing the sheath. The cut was very clean and deviated a little downwards. The arteries and other vessels contained in the sheath were all cut through. The cut through the tissues on the right side was more superficial, and tailed off to about two inches below the right angle of the jaw. The deep vessels on that side were uninjured. From this it was evident that the haemorrhage was caused through the partial severance of the left carotid artery and a small bladed knife could have been used.
Decomposition had commenced in the skin. Dark brown spots were on the anterior surface of the left chin. There was a deformity in the bones of the right leg, which was not straight, but bowed forwards. There was no recent external injury save to the neck.
The body being washed more thoroughly, I could see some healing sores. The lobe of the left ear was torn as if from the removal or wearing through of an earring, but it was thoroughly healed. On removing the scalp there was no sign of bruising or extravasation of blood. ... The heart was small, the left ventricle firmly contracted, and the right slightly so. There was no clot in the pulmonary artery, but the right ventricle was full of dark clot. The left was firmly contracted as to be absolutely empty. The stomach was large and the mucous membrane only congested. It contained partly digested food, apparently consisting of cheese, potato, and farinaceous powder [flour or milled grain]. All the teeth on the lower left jaw were absent.
Blackwell thought that Stride might have been pulled backwards on to the ground by her neckerchief before her throat was cut. Phillips concurred that Stride was likely to be on the ground when she was killed by a swift slash left to right across the neck. Bruising on her chest might also suggest that she was pinned to the ground during the attack by her assailant.
The inquest was opened on 1 October, at the Vestry Hall, Cable Street, St George's in the East, by the Middlesex coroner, Wynne Edwin Baxter. The following day conflicting testimony as to Stride's identity was heard. The police seemed certain that Stride was the Swede Elisabeth Gustafsdotter, but Mrs Mary Malcolm swore the body was that of her sister, Elizabeth Watts. Over the course of the inquest, other witnesses identified the dead woman as Stride, including the clerk of the Swedish Church in Prince's Square, Sven Ollsen. Malcolm's story was only finally dismissed on 24 October when Elizabeth Watts disproved her sister's story by appearing personally at the inquest as living proof that she was not dead and PC Walter Stride (Stride's nephew-by-marriage) confirmed her identity.
Coroner Baxter believed that Stride had been attacked with a swift, sudden action. The murderer could have taken advantage of a checked scarf she was wearing to grab her from behind before slitting her throat, as was suggested by Blackwell. Baxter, however, thought the absence of a shout for assistance and the lack of obvious marks of a struggle indicated that she lay down willingly. She was still holding a packet of cachous (breath freshening sweets) in her left hand when she was discovered, indicating that she had not had time to defend herself. A grocer, Matthew Packer, implied to two private detectives employed by the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, Le Grand and Batchelor, that he had sold some grapes to Stride and the murderer; however, he had told police sergeant Stephen White that he had shut his shop without seeing anything suspicious. At the inquest, the pathologists stated emphatically that Stride had not held, swallowed or consumed grapes. They described her stomach contents as "cheese, potatoes and farinaceous powder". Nevertheless, Packer's story appeared in the press, and private detectives did discover a grape stalk in the yard. When re-interviewed by the police, Packer described the man as aged between 25 and 30, slightly taller than her and wearing a soft felt hat, but he had told the private detectives that the man was middle-aged and heavy set. Neither of his descriptions matched the statements by other witnesses who may have seen Stride with clients shortly before her murder, but all the descriptions differed.
In his book Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution, Stephen Knight linked the prominent physician Sir William Gull to Stride on the basis that both were reported to carry grapes, which another Ripper author, Martin Fido, dismissed as a "wild allegation". Further doubt is cast on the story by the character of Le Grand, also known as Charles Grand, Charles Grandy, Charles Grant, Christian Neilson, and Christian Nelson, one of the men hired by the Vigilance Committee to investigate the crimes. He had an extensive criminal record, which included assault on a prostitute and conviction for theft. In 1889, he was convicted of conspiracy to defraud and served two years' imprisonment. After his release, he was arrested in possession of a revolver and charged with demanding money with menace, a crime for which he was sentenced to twenty years' imprisonment. The overall commander of the Ripper investigation, Donald Swanson, noted "any statement [made by Packer] would be rendered almost valueless as evidence".
On 1 October, Michael Kidney walked drunk into Leman Street police station and decried police incompetence. If he were the policeman on duty in Berner Street that night, he said, he would have shot himself. The following year he appears in the records of Whitechapel Workhouse Infirmary three times: for syphilis in June, lumbago in August and dyspepsia in October. Kidney has come under suspicion for the murder, because of their turbulent relationship, and there is no record of his alibi. Police, however, appear to have eliminated him from the inquiry, and his decline in health and distress at the police station indicate that he took her death badly.
Elizabeth Stride was buried on Saturday 6 October 1888 in the East London Cemetery, Plaistow, London, in grave #15509, square 37. The sparse funeral was provided at the expense of the parish by the undertaker, Mr Hawkes.
On 19 October, Chief Inspector Swanson wrote a report detailing that 80,000 leaflets requesting information had been distributed to the neighbourhood and 2000 lodgers had been examined, among other lines of inquiry.
Since there had been two other murders, those of Mary Ann Nichols and Annie Chapman, involving a cut throat nearby, Stride's murder was added to the Whitechapel murders investigation, and was widely believed to have been perpetrated by the same killer. However, some commentators on the case conclude that Stride's murder was unconnected to the others on the basis that the body was unmutilated, that it was the only murder to occur south of Whitechapel Road, and the blade used might have been shorter and of a different design. Most experts, however, consider the similarities in the case distinctive enough to connect Stride's murder with the two earlier ones, as well as that of Catherine Eddowes on the same night.
On 1 October, a postcard, dubbed the "Saucy Jacky" postcard and also signed "Jack the Ripper", was received by the Central News Agency. It claimed responsibility for Stride's and Eddowes's murders, and described the killing of the two women as the "double event", a designation which has endured. It has been argued that the postcard was mailed before the murders were publicised, making it unlikely that a crank would have such knowledge of the crime, but it was postmarked more than 24 hours after the killings took place, long after details were known by journalists and residents of the area. Police officials later claimed to have identified a journalist as the author of the postcard, and dismissed it as a hoax, an assessment shared by most Ripper historians.Jack the Ripper: The Definitive Story (2011) TV Played by Elizabeth ElstubThe Real Jack the Ripper (2010) TV Played by Tina SterlingJack, the Last Victim (2005) Played by Sallie LloydFrom Hell. (2001) Film Played by Susan LynchLove Lies Bleeding (1999) Played by Alice BendováJack the Ripper (1988) TV Played by Angela CrowA Study in Terror (1965) Played by Norma Foster