On this day in history, August 31, 1888, Jack the Ripper claims his first victim
DNA research may finally unravel mystery of Jack the Ripper's identity.
The still-unidentified serial killer Jack the Ripper killed his first known victim on this day in history, Aug. 31, 1888.
On this day, a woman named Mary Ann "Polly" Nichols, 43, was found murdered in London's Whitechapel neighborhood.
Nichols, who had a known drinking problem and previously worked as a prostitute, was last reported seen around 2:30 a.m. She had told someone that she was going out to make money to pay for lodging, according to the website Jack the Ripper 1888.
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Her body was discovered lying in the streets a little more than an hour later. The man who discovered her, delivery driver Charles Cross, initially thought the body was a disposed tarp.
Due to the dark night, neither Cross nor another person he called over to observe the body did not notice that her throat had been deeply slashed, almost to the point of decapitation, said the website.
A memorial marker of Mary Ann Nichols, believed to be the first known victim of Jack the Ripper, at the City of London Cemetery. (Loop Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Shortly thereafter, police constable John Neil encountered the body of Nichols. Neil reported that "there was not a soul about" and that he had earlier been to the area and had not noticed anyone.
"I was on the right side … when I noticed a figure lying in the street. It was dark at the time … I examined the body by the aid of my lamp, and noticed blood oozing from a wound in the throat," he told officials during an inquest into Nichols' murder.
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"She was lying on her back, with her clothes disarranged. I felt her arm, which was quite warm from the joints upwards. Her eyes were wide open. Her bonnet was off and lying at her side," he said.
Neil then flagged down another police officer, who summoned a doctor. Nichols was officially pronounced dead at 4 a.m., just five days after her 43rd birthday.
A 1965 picture of Durward Street, formerly known as Bucks Row. The street was the location of Mary Ann Nichols' murder on Aug. 31, 1888. The street's name was changed months after the murder. (WATFORD/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)
It was later discovered that Nichols' throat was not her only wound: She had been slashed deep in the abdomen and had been disemboweled by her killer, said the website.
These injuries were concealed by her clothing.
Nichols would not be identified until the following day.
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Her murderer, however, is still unidentified all these years later — although there are many theories about the person's identity.
Nichols is known as the first of the "canonical five" victims of "Jack the Ripper," a serial killer with an unknown death toll.
The last of the "canonical five," Mary Jane Kelly, was discovered murdered on Nov. 9, 1888, said the Encyclopedia Britannica.
A scene from the 1959 film "Jack the Ripper." The serial killer's identity is still unknown all these years later. (Paramount/Getty Images)
The "canonical five" were so named as they each had their throats slit. The five women were sex workers and were believed to have been soliciting on the nights of their murders, noted the encyclopedia.
The name "Jack the Ripper" came from a Sept. 27, 1888 letter sent by the purported killer to the British newspaper Central News Agency.
In the letter, the author boasted of quickly killing the women and promising to kill even more, said the website History House.
There have been several suspects posited as Jack the Ripper.
The letter was signed "Jack the Ripper."
As Jack the Ripper is still unknown, he could be responsible for all or some of the canonical five murders.
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He also is suspected of several other killings in the Whitechapel neighborhood, but it is impossible to prove how many were actually committed by Jack the Ripper, authorities have said.
There have been several suspects posited as Jack the Ripper: These include a lawyer and teacher named Montague Druitt; a Russian criminal and physician named Michael Ostrog; and a Polish immigrant named Aaron Kosminski, noted Encyclopedia Britannica.
Tour guide Joel Robinson, right, leads a group of visitors and tourists on a Jack the Ripper tour in London on Aug. 24, 2020. More than a century after the murders, the crimes still fascinate many people. (TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
Other perhaps more outlandish and less plausible suspects for the Jack the Ripper killings include members of the British royalty as well as American serial killer H.H. Holmes.
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In the 135 years since Nichols was found murdered, the Jack the Ripper story continues to fascinate.
Locations of the murders and other notable events connected to the victims are stops on the "Jack the Ripper Tour," says its website.
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Additionally, there have been numerous books and movies made about the murders — and speculation continues to this day on just who "Jack" really was.
Christine Rousselle is a lifestyle reporter with Fox News Digital.
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