In my post Bury and the Stride Murder, I pointed out that there is statistically only a very remote possibility that Elizabeth Stride was murdered by someone other than William Bury. If Bury did murder Stride, however, then there are two questions that need to be answered. The first is why Bury didn’t mutilate Stride’s body, and I dealt with that in my earlier post. The second is why Bury used different knives on Stride and on Catherine Eddowes on the same night, the knife used on Stride being shorter than the one used on Eddowes, and I will address that question here.
First, it’s reasonable to expect that William Bury did not carry his long “Ripper knife” with him at all times. It would have been foolish for him to do so. He knew the police were conducting an intensive investigation of the murders, he knew the murder knife had been described in the newspapers, and he knew that if he were ever stopped, questioned and searched by the police, it would not have been in his best interest to be found in the possession of that knife. There are other reasons, too, why Bury would have wanted to avoid taking the murder knife with him wherever he went. For example, Bury was a heavy drinker who seems to have spent a lot of time drinking in pubs. If he ever got into a drunken altercation at a pub, he would not have wanted to flash the long knife that was used in the murders, as that could have aroused the attention of others at the pub. He similarly would not have wanted to use the murder knife when he was working, as that, too, could have garnered unwanted attention. It would have made sense for Bury to keep the murder knife hidden away somewhere, either on his cart or at the residence of a friend or accomplice in the area, if he had one, until he decided it was time to hunt for prostitutes.
Next, let’s set the night of the double event aside for a moment, and look instead at the times of the other “C6” murders:
Martha Tabram, 2-3:30 a.m.
Mary Ann Nichols, roughly 3:30 a.m.
Annie Chapman, roughly 5:30 a.m.
Mary Jane Kelly, 2-10 a.m.
Based on these four murders, Bury’s practice seems to have been to murder somewhat deeper into the morning than the roughly 12:45 a.m. time that Stride, the first of the two victims on the night of the double event, was murdered. We can speculate, then, that 12:45 probably wouldn’t have been “hunting time” yet for Bury. When Bury initially approached Stride, it is likely that he was simply approaching her for sex and was not looking for a murder victim at that relatively early hour. This would explain why he behaved so brazenly with her in the account provided by Israel Schwartz, and not in the way we might expect of a cunning murderer.
In his book Jack the Ripper Unmasked, William Beadle writes, “According to [Matthew] Packer and a witness at Stride’s inquest, the pubs in that vicinity turned out between midnight and 12:30 that night” (1). Hence, Bury, who was a heavy drinker, had probably just finished drinking at one of the pubs in the area when he happened upon Stride. Having just come from a pub, it’s reasonable to expect that he would only have had a lesser, “self-defense” knife with him at the time, and not the murder knife, which he would have wanted to avoid carrying in a pub. As I detailed in my Bury and the Stride Murder post, the tussle with a resistant Stride and the arrival and flight of Israel Schwartz could have caused Bury to commit a murder with the only knife he had available to him at that time.
After murdering Stride, Bury’s blood would have been up, and it’s not hard to see how he could then have wanted to carry out a “real” murder, a murder where he could commit extensive mutilations, even though it would have been a little early for that. He would have recognized that there was no time to waste, as once Stride’s body had been discovered, there would have been an increased police presence in the area. After murdering Stride, Bury would have immediately set off for the yard where his cart was parked, or for whatever residence in the area he was using as his base, to retrieve his longer murder knife. Since Bury would have expected that Schwartz had described his appearance in detail to the police, Bury would also have wanted to change his hat and coat, if he had the opportunity to do so, before setting off to commit his second murder of the night.
We see, then, that there is a reasonable explanation for why Bury used two different knives on the night of the double event.
(1) Beadle, William. Jack the Ripper Unmasked. London: John Blake (2009): 134.