Martha Tabram, a prostitute born in England, lived from May 1849 to August 1888, and was the second victim in the widely recognized Whitechapel murders. The Whitechapel district of London was a notoriously dangerous, violent area, filled with prostitutes, thieves, criminal gangs and vagrants. Martha's murder has been debated by experts for more than a century, as many wonder if she was Jack the Ripper's first victim.
Martha's early life was spent with her mother and father, but her parents separated when she was 16. Only six months after her parents' separation, her father died, which perhaps prompted Martha to move in with a packer from a furniture story, Henry Tabram. Martha had two sons with Henry, but began drinking excessively. When Martha occasionally ceased returning home at night, Henry separated from her. Their youngest son was only about three years old at the time.
We don't know if Martha turned to prostitution before or after her separation from Henry, but she was commonly known in the Whitechapel area as a prostitute, which may have led to her murder on the night of August 7, 1888. She was last seen alive by her friend and fellow prostitute, Mary Ann Connelly, leaving an establishment with a client. Her body was discovered in a stairwell, stabbed at least 39 times. At least three people passed directly by her body without realizing that she was dead, since vagrants were so common in the area.
Most experts agree that Martha was not murdered by the same killer that we know as Jack the Ripper. There are at least two similarities between Martha's murder and the five official Jack the Ripper victims. The position of Martha's clothes, which were raised to her middle, is consistent with Jack the Ripper's method, and there was no evidence of sexual intercourse. The differences between the murders outweigh the similarities; the weapon was different, Martha's throat was not slashed, and the position that the bodies were left in was different. Some experts suggest that Martha might have been one of Jack the Ripper's early victims, thus explaining the discrepancies in the style of the murders.