jack the ripper, undoubtedly the most famous serial killer in the world, spread terror throughout London in the last years of the 19th century.
since then his crimes have been pored over by untold numbers of experts - yet nobody has ever convincingly unmasked this notorious figure.
instead conspiracy theories, myths and fantastical speculation have concealed the chilling facts of the case.
so did 'jack the ripper' really exist? or is he a media invention?
most experts agree that one man was behind at least four killings. others think there were possibly eight.
a metropolitan police investigation collected eleven separate murders between 3 april 1888 and 13 february 1891 under the title of the "Whitechapel murders".
the first recognised 'ripper' killing took place in the early hours of friday, august 31, 1888.
Mary Ann Nichols (above), known as this polly, was probably in her early 40s when she met the ripper while soliciting in Buck's Row (now Durward Street) in Whitechapel.
her body was first discovered by a delivery driver at around 3.45am in the entrance to a stableyard. her throat had been cut twice, severing the blood vessels on both side of the neck.
she also had a deep jagged wound across the left side of the stomach and three or four similar cuts on the right side.
eight days later a second prostitute, Annie Chapman (above), 47, was discovered in the back yard of 29 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields, at around 6am.
again her throat had been severed twice with a sharp knife, so deeply it had cut into the spine.
the killer had also slashed open the abdomen, cut away the intestines and placed them on the victim's shoulder. her uterus had been removed along with part of the bladder.
such was the surgical skill used that the doctor who performed the postmortem believed it would have taken at least 15 minutes and an in-depth knowledge of anatomy.