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The first prostitute introduced in 1888, is Mary Ann Nichols, the woman many believe to have been the Ripper's first victim.
"The Canonical Five," is a term used to refer to the five women identified by Assistant Chief Constable, Sir. Melville Macnaghtan, as being unquestionably victims of Jack the Ripper in an 1894 report on the crimes. For a long time, this was agreed upon by most historians, but the past couple of decades have led to others reevaluating the evidence and suggesting that a sixth, Martha Tabram, was also slain by the unknown killer.
To further complicate matters, some ripperologists insist Tabram was one of the "Canonical Five", in place of Elizabeth Stride, who many believe may have been killed after a quarrel in a tavern.
Whether or not Mary Ann Nichols was the Ripper's first victim is a matter of debate, but very few disagree that she was clearly murdered by that unnamed assailant, and no other.
On the night Nichols was killed, Whitechapel had recently been the scene of two previous murders of prostitutes; the aforementioned Tabram and an earlier victim; Emma Smith.
Mary Ann Nichols, who was known to all as Polly, would certainly have been aware of this, but like all of the desperate, poverty stricken and forgotten women of the district, she had no other means of supporting herself, and as such had no choice but to take to the streets.
She was murdered a few days after her 43rd birthday in the small hours of Friday, August 31st.
It is known that she had been drinking earlier that evening, and was in a somewhat worse state for it. it is known that she was in possession of a new bonnet of which she was very proud, and it is known that earlier that night, she had attempted to rent a room in a local dosshouse, but was turned away for having drunk the last of her money. Her movements from then on are unknown.
That is, until about 3.30AM when a cabman, Charles Cross found her body near a wooden fence on Buck's Row. Believing that he could detect a shallow breath, he ran for help.
She was reported dead at the scene. A deep incision had been carved along her abdomen as well as several other slashes around the area. Her throat had been cut, possibly after strangulation, which would explain why so little blood was found at the scene.
Polly Nichols may have been the first Ripper murders of that autumn, but she was not to be the last, and while her sad story shocked all of London, due to its brutality and seemingly unprovoked nature, the people of the city could have had no idea that the story that was about to unfold, would shake all of England to its core.