Who Was Martha Tabram? Jack The Ripper May Have Killed His First Victim 131 Years Ago

On August 6, 1888, Martha Tabram was brutally murdered. Her death is still a century-old mystery that some confidently attribute to globally-infamous murderer Jack The Ripper. Tabram would have been the serial killer's first known murder.

Tabram was a prostitute in London at the time of her death. It's believed she was drinking with a fellow sex worker, and eventually, the women split up and set a price with a couple of men. Tabram brought her client to a dark alley called George Yard, which was a notoriously dangerous, dimly-lit spot in the city. Her body was found the next morning.

Jack The Ripper was only active for a few months in 1888, though he wreaked havoc during his murder spree. His preferred victims were prostitutes; he killed five between August and September that year. It's never been confirmed that Tabram died at his hand.

Tabram was stabbed 39 times throughout her body. It was believed two different knives were used to kill her. Examiners also found Tabram had not recently had sex, according to jack-the-ripper.org.

There's still a lively debate on if Tabram was a victim of Jack The Ripper. While the knife wounds hit both her throat and neck area and her stomach—areas that The Ripper targeted—her killing was different from the serial killer's leading methods in his known five victims.

One of the telltale marks of Jack The Ripper was his decision to mutilate his victims' bodies. The way he did so proved to investigators that he had a knowledge of anatomy. The serial killer is still one of the most notorious in London history, despite only having been actively killing for one season. He was never caught, and his real identity remains unknown.

The serial killer was also one of the first murderers to taunt police. It's believed Jack The Ripper sent a series of messages to the Scotland Yard police team, taking responsibility for the murders—similar to the infamous American Zodiac Killer—and teasing future crimes, according to Biography.

In conversations surrounding Jack The Ripper's murder style, some claim he had low regard for female life, as his victims were often left in humiliating, inhumane ways.

While there are no confirmations on the Ripper's identity, the leading theory is Polish immigrant Aaron Kosminski could have been responsible. This is because of DNA testing from samples found on Catherine Eddowes, one of Jack The Ripper's victims. The testing was done by Russell Edwards, who is not a member of law enforcement, and its authenticity is unconfirmed.

Jack the RIpper
A street in Whitechapel: the last crime of Jack the Ripper, from "Le Petit Parisien," 1891. Stefano Bianchetti/Corbis via Getty Images