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Martha Tabram: Wikis


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Mortuary photograph of Martha Tabram (1888)

Martha Tabram (May 10, 1849 - August 7, 1888) is considered by some to be a possible early victim of the notorious unidentified serial killer known as "Jack the Ripper", who killed and mutilated prostitutes in the Whitechapel area of London. Tabram's name is sometimes misspelled in the press as "Martha Tabran,"[1] and she was at other times known as "Emma Turner" or "Martha Turner," taking the last name of the man with whom she had most recently lived.


Early life and marriage

Tabram was born Martha White in Southwark, London, the daughter of Charles Samuel White, a warehouseman, and his wife Elisabeth Dowsett. Martha was the youngest of five children. Her older siblings (in order of birth) included Henry White, Stephen White, Esther White and Mary Ann White.

In May 1865, her parents separated; six months later her father died suddenly. Later she went to live with Henry Samuel Tabram, a foreman packer at a furniture warehouse, and married him on December 25, 1869.

In 1871 the couple moved to a house close to her childhood home. The couple had two sons:

  • Frederick John Tabram (born February 1871).
  • Charles Henry Tabram (born December 1872).

The marriage was troubled, due to Tabram's drinking, which was heavy enough to cause alcoholic fits, and her husband left her in 1875. For about three years he paid her an allowance of 12 shillings a week, then reduced this to two shillings and sixpence when he heard she was living with another man.

Living with Henry Turner

Tabram lived on and off with Henry Turner, a carpenter, from about 1876 until shortly before her death. This relationship was also troubled by Tabram's drinking and occasionally staying out all night. By 1888 Turner was out of regular employment and the couple earned income by selling trinkets and other small articles on the streets, while lodging for some months in a house off Commercial Road in Whitechapel. Around the beginning of July they left abruptly, owing rent, and separated for the last time about the middle of that month. Tabram moved to a common lodging house in Spitalfields.

Last seen alive

The Monday night before her murder, Tabram was drinking with another prostitute, Mary Ann Connelly, known as "Pearly Poll," together with two soldiers in a public house close to George Yard Buildings. The two couples left the public house and separated at 11:45pm, each woman with her own client. This was the last time Tabram was seen alive. Connelly, not cooperating wholly with police, later identified two soldiers in barracks as their clients, but both had alibis. No suspect was ever arrested for Tabram's murder.


Tabram's body was first noticed at 3:30am in the early morning of Tuesday, August 7, 1888, lying on a landing above the first flight of stairs in George Yard Buildings, Gunthorpe Street, Whitechapel. The landing was so dimly lit that a resident of the apartment building mistook her for a sleeping vagrant, and it was not until 4:50am that a second resident realized she was dead. Her killer had stabbed her 39 times in the body and neck, including nine stab wounds in the throat, five penetrating the left lung, two the right lung, one the heart, five the liver, two the spleen, and six the stomach, also wounding her lower abdomen and genitals. A third resident had not noticed anyone lying there while using the stairs three times around 1:50am, indicating Tabram was killed between 1:50am and 3:30am. Residents had seen and heard nothing between those times.

At the time of her death she was wearing a black bonnet, a long black jacket, a dark green skirt, a brown petticoat, stockings, and spring sided boots showing considerable age.

George Yard Building

The site of the murder, George Yard is a narrow north-south alley connecting Wentworth Street and Whitechapel High Street. Entrance is gained through Whitechapel High Street, next to The White Hart, by a covered archway. George Yard Buildings were on the eastern side of the alley, near the northern end to the back of Toynbee Hall. Today, the location is called Gunthorpe Street and residential flats stand where George Yard Buildings used to be located.

Connection to the Jack the Ripper case

Contemporary newspaper reports at the beginning of September linked Tabram's murder to those of Emma Elizabeth Smith on April 3 and Mary Ann Nichols on August 31, though Smith before dying told police that a gang had attacked her. The later killings of Annie Chapman on September 8, both Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes on September 30 and that of Mary Jane Kelly on November 9 were also linked at the time to Tabram. The last five murders mentioned are now generally referred to as the "canonical five" victims of Jack the Ripper. All were knife murders of impoverished prostitutes in the Whitechapel district, generally perpetrated in darkness in the small hours of the morning, in a secluded site to which the public could gain access, and occurred on or close to a weekend. The day before Tabram's murder was the night of a Bank Holiday.

Later students of the Ripper murders have largely excluded Tabram from the list of five "canonical" Ripper victims, chiefly because her throat was not cut in the manner of later victims, nor was she eviscerated. This view was advanced by Sir Melville Macnaghten, Chief Constable of the Metropolitan Police Service Criminal Investigation Department, who attributed Tabram's killing to an unidentified soldier in private notes he made in 1894, which came to light in 1959.[citation needed] Dr Timothy Killeen, who performed the post mortem on Tabram, strengthened this belief with his opinion that one of Tabram's wounds was inflicted with a weapon longer and stouter than the others, a dagger or possibly a bayonet.

Researchers such as Philip Sugden (see below), and Sean Day in Peter Underwood's Jack the Ripper: One Hundred Years of Mystery (ISBN 0-7137-1954-0), however, do view Tabram as a probable Ripper victim. The time of her murder, at least two hours after leaving with her soldier client, would have allowed her to solicit another client. Macnaghten did not join the force until the year after the murders, and his notes reflect only the opinions of some police officers at the time, and include factual errors in the information presented about possible suspects. Serial killers have been known to have changed their murder weapons, but especially to develop their modus operandi over time, as the Ripper did with increasingly severe mutilations. While the five canonical Ripper murders were located roughly to north, south, east and west of Whitechapel, Tabram's murder occurred close to their geographic centre. The fact that the murder was committed before the canonical five is often used to explain the probability of her death and the Ripper's different modus operandi.


  1. ^ e.g. The Times, 24 August 1888, quoted in Evans and Skinner, The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Sourcebook, p. 18

Further reading

  • The Complete History of Jack the Ripper by Philip Sugden, ISBN 0-7867-0276-1.

External links



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