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Why it's time to debunk the biggest myth about Jack the Ripper's victims

'A street in Whitechapel': a 1891 illustration from Le Petit Parisien
'A street in Whitechapel': a 1891 illustration from Le Petit Parisien Credit: Getty
by Hallie Rubenhold

Forget the alleged perpetrator, Jack the Ripper, and the often fanciful identities – from the painter Walter Sickert to a grandson of Queen Victoria – that have been attributed to him. Focus instead on his victims, the “canonical” five women, who were brutally murdered on the streets of Whitechapel in east London over 10 weeks in the autumn of 1888. The police, the press and the public egged each other on in demonising these destitute females as prostitutes – a view that persists in the macabre myth of the Ripper, the crazed killer of sex workers.

Hallie Rubenhold argues in this humane and convincing book that this interpretation is wrong. Only...