Whitechapel is a British television drama mini-series written by Ben Court and Caroline Ip and produced by Carnival Films and set in London 2008. A series of horrific crimes suggest someone is carrying out copycat Jack the Ripper murders 120 years after the killer struck.
The clock is ticking as the case turns into a hunt for an old enemy, with three unlikely heroes at the centre.
The mini-series premiered in the UK on ITV on 2 February, 2009. A second season was commissioned by ITV in September 2009, with the focus on the Kray Twins.
Whitechapel premiered in South Africa on DStv's BBC Entertainment channel on Monday 22 June 2009, at 20h30. New episodes aired nightly, until Wednesday 24 June.
A rebroadcast of Whitechapel premiered on BBC Entertainment on Monday 29 March 2010, at 22h30.
Set against the contrasting facades of Whitechapel, London, a series of bloody, tragic and impossible crimes suggest someone is carrying out copycat Jack the Ripper murders 120 years after the killer first struck.
In a city under the constant surveillance of CCTV and safe in the knowledge that DNA evidence helps catch even the most dangerous criminal, this modern day Ripper still manages to recreate the slaughter with alarming accuracy while mirroring the red herrings and twisted idiosyncrasies connected to the original case.
The murders are investigated by three unlikely heroes: Joseph Chandler (Rupert Penry-Jones), a fast-tracked, media savvy DI on his first big murder case; Ray Miles (Philip Davis), a front-line, hard-bitten DS, nearing retirement, now saddled with a boss who would rather talk about Emotional Intelligence than gut feeling; and Edward Buchan (Steve Pemberton), the expert on myths and legends behind unexplained or violent deaths: an eccentrically brilliant Ripperologist.
A modern police force is fighting an old adversary; an adversary who was never caught. Our heroes have a race against time to prevent further bloodshed.
This three part drama is produced by Marcus Wilson (True Dare Kiss, Life on Mars) for Carnival Films. It was written by Ben Court and Caroline Ip (Marian Again) and directed by SJ Clarkson (Mistresses, Life on Mars). Sally Woodward Gentle (Ruby in the Smoke, Waking the Dead) is Executive Producer.
In the first episode, fast-tracker, DI Joseph Chandler, is posted to Whitechapel by Commander Anderson to lead the investigation into the murder of a young woman, the final step before promotion. However the case does not turn out as straightforward as Chandler had hoped.
The victim, Cathy Lane, is found by Community Support Officer Mary Bousfield, bleeding to death, her throat cut, in the yard of a Board School.
The Whitechapel squad – front-line, hard-bitten DS Ray Miles and DCs Kent, McCormack, Sanders and Fitzgerald – arrive at the scene after Cathy is pronounced dead and are less than pleased to hear of the imminent arrival of yet another new DI, a 'plastic', a 'paper policeman' who has no idea what he is doing.
Chandler arrives, armed with the knowledge of his courses and text books, ready to solve his first murder.
Miles' instinct tells him that the prime suspect is Cathy's husband, Rob Lees, a violent man with a history of assaulting his wife. However, when it turns out Rob has a 'ten copper alibi', the case becomes more complicated than it originally appeared.
And when the pathologist, Dr Llewellyn, uncovers a nasty surprise that Cathy Lane's killer attempted to gut her, Chandler becomes increasingly aware that he is out of his depth: not only does he have a hostile squad to lead, but there is no evidence and no witnesses.
Then Ripperologist, Edward Buchan, turns up to offer the theory that London has a copycat Jack the Ripper killer. Miles dismisses Buchan immediately as a crackpot Ripperologist and a timewaster, however Chandler, although sceptical at first, does realise that the case appears to share many similarities with the murder of Mary Ann Nichols in 1888.
At a total loss as to how to progress the investigation and fearful there will be another murder, Chandler puts his career on the line and stages a major police operation in Whitechapel.
All the squad go undercover and stake out the area around Brick Lane in Whitechapel near to where Jack the Ripper murdered his second victim, Annie Chapman in 1888.
No one is convinced, least of all DS Miles... until the body of Alice Graves is found in the early hours – an exact recreation of the murder of Annie Chapman in 1888.
It is now Chandler's job to track down the world's most infamous serial killer.
As the team begins to accept Chandler's beliefs and methods, they are left with the problem of solving the unsolvable.
In the second episode it is clear this case is no longer a straightforward murder that Chandler can wrap up quickly.
He is summoned to see Commander Anderson and his superiors who are very concerned that London may have a Jack the Ripper copycat, and especially the impact of this leaking to the press. They tell Chandler he is on his own and must solve this case quickly.
Having earned a small degree of grudging respect Chandler leads his squad as they begin researching Jack the Ripper, reading books and looking at DVDs, in an attempt to discover who the new Ripper may be.
It is a race against time before he strikes again and they currently have nothing to go on – except what history tells them.
Thanks to a witness and some helpful information from Ripperologist Buchan they have a prime suspect – a solider called Leary. Failing to get a confession out of him, they stake him out.
It is the night when the next murder is due to happen in Mitre Square and all the team are tailing their chief suspect. However Leary, now clearly innocent, sets them up and they are ambushed by the media.
By the time our team reach Mitre Square they are too late – the Ripper has struck again, this time murdering one of their colleagues, Community Support Officer Mary Bousfield. And not only this, Buchan the Ripperologist has been arrested at the scene.
Was Chandler wrong to put his trust in Buchan? Is Buchan somehow assisting the Ripper? Miles is convinced Buchan is up to no good, and a visit to Buchan's home reveals to them the true extent of his Ripper obsession.
When Miles receives some disturbing post at his home, it is clear that this has now become personal.
In the concluding episode DS Ray Miles is sent the gruesome package containing half of Mary Bousfield's kidney along with a letter from the Ripper, an exact replica of the letter sent to George Lusk in 1888, along with half of Catherine Eddowes' kidney.
The squad find the post office where the Ripper sent the package and see him on the CCTV, but are unable to identify him and they hit another dead end.
Meanwhile Chandler decides to release Buchan as they have no evidence to hold him, but he puts a police tail on him. Buchan, his soul tortured, dramatically burns all his books in front of a press audience and denounces his life's work and theories in an attempt to stop the Ripper.
But is this too little too late? And can the squad really trust Buchan and his theatrics as genuine?
The CCTV footage of Mitre Square is more successful for the squad and leads them to Maduro's Health and Safety. They find evidence that proves Mary Bousfield was killed in one of Maduro's vans, driven by Antoni Pricha, the morgue man at the hospital.
However when it becomes evident that the killer stole Pricha's identity, the squad draw another blank. All they have to go on is what happened in 1888: all they know is that Jack the Ripper's next victim was red-haired Mary Kelly, that she had fish and potatoes for her supper and the date she was murdered. Not a lot to go on...
Chandler becomes increasingly obsessed and disturbed by feelings of personal responsibility. After much time, thinking and searching for the answer, he suddenly has a "eureka" moment, acts on his instincts and works out where the Ripper's flat is, but not before being attacked by the killer.
In the Ripper's lair the squad find photos of the next victim and what's more they recognise her. They send a tactical team round to her flat – but she's not there. Everyone desperately tries to work out where she is before it's too late.
Will the squad get there in time? Will they manage to rescue the next victim? Will Chandler apprehend the Ripper and succeed where his police equivalent in 1888, Inspector Abberline, failed?
Jack the Ripper Facts
It is generally accepted that there are 5 canonical victims of Jack the Ripper, all murdered in 1888:
Mary Ann Nichols (31st Aug)
Annie Chapman (8th Sept)
Elizabeth Stride (30th Sept)
Catherine Eddowes (30th Sept)
Mary Jane Kelly (9th Nov)
...but there are 13 further alleged Ripper victims, murdered between 1887 and 1891.
The time when the 5 canonical victims were murdered was known as the "Autumn of Terror".
All 5 canonical victims were probably prostitutes and had reputations as heavy drinkers.
The Ripper's last canonical victim, Mary Jane Kelly, had a supper of fish and potatoes the night she was murdered.
There were more than 30 people suspected of being Jack the Ripper, including some famous names: Queen Victoria's grandson, Prince Albert Victor the Duke of Clarence, the novelists Arthur Conan Doyle and Lewis Carroll and artist Walter Sickert.
During the "Autumn of Terror", the police and local press received hundreds of letters purporting to be written by the Ripper. Some Ripperologists believe that 3 are genuine: the "Dear Boss" letter, the "Saucy Jacky" postcard and the "From Hell" letter.
The name "Jack the Ripper" comes from the "Dear Boss" letter, which was written in red ink and sent to a London news agency in late September 1888.
The arrival of the "Dear Boss" letter and the reporting of it in newspapers all over the world turned the East End murders and Jack the Ripper into an international phenomenon.
"Jack the Ripper" was the first modern tabloid scandal and the way the story was used to sell papers is still replicated by tabloids today. Jack the Ripper almost became a cause célèbre despite the depraved savagery of his attacks on prostitutes.
However, the fact that he has passed into mythology is largely due to the prurient reporting of the times. In fact, it's believed that the Whitechapel killings led directly to the birth of the tabloid press.
Jack the Ripper was the first serial killer to strike in a major metropolis at a time when the popular press was on the ascendance.
Inspector Frederick Abberline was in charge of the Ripper investigation in 1888.
George Lusk, President of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, received half a human kidney preserved in wine, along with the "From Hell" letter, in the post on October 16th 1888. The kidney is believed to be that of Catherine Eddowes.
The FBI profiled Jack the Ripper in 1988 and produced a criminal investigative analysis of the murderer, but his identity still remains unproven today.
The American crime authoress Patricia Cornwell has spent years trying to prove that the artist Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper, including spending millions of pounds buying up over 30 of his paintings (and ripping up one of them up), some of his letters and even his writing desk, and then having a battery of forensic tests performed on them to prove her theory right.
Cornwell believes "100% that Walter Richard Sickert committed those serial crimes, that he is the Whitechapel murderer," and she is convinced that a defect in Sickert's penis, coupled with his failure to procreate from any of his three marriages and numerous affairs, turned him into a serial killer.
She has written a book – "Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper – Case Closed". However her theory does not hold much sway in 'Ripper world', and most Ripperologists consider Cornwell's theory total rubbish.
The filming of Whitechapel coincided with the 120th anniversary of the Jack the Ripper murders in London's East End.
Picture of Buck's Row Whitechapel in London's East End (now Durward St) - site of Jack the Ripper's first murder on 31 August 1888. Mary Ann "Polly" Nichols' body was discovered 3 metres back from the corner of the tall brick building.
Take a Ripper virtual tour from the first murder scene. Click on the map below to view all 5 murder scenes and other key locations in the hunt for the world's first recognised serial killer.
Jack the Ripper's London 1888
This link will take you to the key points in London where Jack the Ripper carried out his 5 murders
over 71 days from 31 August 1888 to 9 November 1888. You can use this map to make your own Jack the
Ripper walk around London or to trace the movements of the Whitechapel killer whose identity has
never been established.