Bury and the Stride Murder

Given the close proximity in space and time and the similar victimologies of the two murders, there is statistically only a very remote possibility that the murderer of Catherine Eddowes was not also the murderer of Elizabeth Stride.  Since William Bury can be identified as the Ripper through signature analysis and supporting evidence, we can say that he was almost certainly the man who murdered Elizabeth Stride.

So why didn’t he mutilate Stride’s body?  Why are other elements of his signature also absent at the Stride crime scene?  John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker, in their book, The Cases That Haunt Us, suggested that the Ripper didn’t mutilate Stride because he was interrupted by the arrival of Louis Diemschutz, who drove his cart into the yard where the murder took place, causing the assailant to flee.

If we accept the arrival of Diemschutz onto the scene as the explanation for the lack of mutilations, then we must also accept that Diemschutz arrived at precisely that moment in time between the slashing of Stride’s throat and what would have been the commencement of mutilations.  For Bury the mutilations were necessary to fulfill his psychological needs and it’s inconceivable that he would have dawdled, under the pressure of time, and outside a crowded club, before beginning to mutilate Stride.  After cutting Stride’s throat, he would have immediately begun to mutilate her body.  It’s extremely unlikely that Diemschutz would have arrived on the scene during the very brief pause that would have existed between these two behaviors.

The account of Israel Schwartz leads us to a much more likely explanation of the absence of mutilations and other signature elements at the Stride crime scene.  Schwartz is a curious witness.  He does not seem to have appeared at the Stride inquest, but police records clearly indicate that his account was valued and that he was not dismissed as an unreliable witness.  He happened upon a struggle between a man and a woman, who would later be identified as Stride, just outside the gate of the yard where the murder took place, and just prior to its occurrence.  William Bury was 5’3½” in his boots, but wearing a hat, he would have appeared a little taller than that to an eyewitness.  The man seen by Schwartz does appear to have been Bury, as he provided a generally accurate description of him.  Schwartz described the man as “age about 30 ht. 5 ft. 5 in. comp. fair hair dark, small brown moustache, full face, broad shouldered.”  Schwartz indicated “The man tried to pull the woman into the street, but he turned her round & threw her down on the footway & the woman screamed three times, but not very loudly.”  The man shouted “Lipski” at Schwartz (Schwartz had a strong Jewish appearance and “Lipski” was a perjorative hurled at Jews at the time), and Schwartz then fled the scene.

There are reasons to believe that Stride and Bury were familiar with each other prior to her murder.  It’s important to keep in mind that this was a period of time when there was a murder scare in the East End of London.  Prostitutes would have been more cautious than usual.  Yet when Bury threw Stride to the ground, she didn’t scream for her life, but instead she screamed “not very loudly.”  And in spite of this initial assault, Bury was nevertheless able to obtain Stride’s compliance, getting her to go into the yard with him.  And he was further able to take her completely by surprise with his attack once they were both in the yard.  All of this suggests that she had a baseline level of comfort with him and that he was not a complete stranger to her.  If we assume that Stride and Bury had come into contact with each other and knew each other prior to Stride’s murder, which is a reasonable assumption given that Stride was a prostitute and Bury appears to have been a user of prostitutes, and was a person who visited the Whitechapel area, then the arrival of Schwartz on the scene could explain the absence of mutilations and other signature elements in the Stride murder.  When Schwartz fled, Bury had to assume that he was rushing off to find the nearest policeman.  As a man who had been seen assaulting a prostitute on the streets of Whitechapel in the early hours of the morning, he obviously would have been a person of interest to the police.  If Stride could ID him, that would have been a problem, as the police would then have been able to conduct an investigation of him.  Bury would have needed to immediately murder Stride to close off that possibility, and not knowing how quickly Schwartz might have been able to lead a policeman to the scene, he would not have wanted to risk spending time in the yard mutilating Stride’s body.  He would have wanted to get out of there fast.  This is the probable explanation of why no mutilations occurred at Berner Street.

[updated June 7, 2018]