The first, who is formally acknowledged as being one of the Jack the Ripper’s victims, was a woman by the name of Mary Ann Nichols commonly known as, “Polly Nichols”. She was regarded as an unfortunate, a prostitute, who lived in the Whitechapel area.
William Nichols, lived in Coburn Street and worked as a Printer Machinist near the Old Kent Road. After he and Polly separated, he paid her a weekly allowance for her subsistence, but after hearing that she was also gaining money via prostitution he stopped her income. Polly fell deeper into a life of degradation.
At the time Polly was residing at 18 Thrawl Street, in Spitalfields, which runs from Commercial Road through to Brick Lane. It was a common lodging house for “unfortunates” or those who lived a wretched existence selling their body for very little and barely scraping through their life from day to day. Polly was described as female, 44 years of age, 5ft 2 inches, greying brown hair, with teeth missing from her upper and lower jaws.
The 31st of August 1888 was the night that Polly Nichols met her gruesome fate. She had been seen drinking at 12.30am in the Frying Pan public house, which is situated on Brick Lane and is less than a few minutes walk from her common lodging house. At approximately 1.40am she had returned to the kitchen of 18 Thrawl Street in a drunken state to tell the deputy that she had no money yet for a bed but would soon get her doss money as she was wearing a “jolly bonnet”.
At 2.30am she was last seen alive by Ellen Holland on the corner of Osborn Street and Whitechapel Road, Ellen also stated that when she saw Polly she was in a state of complete drunkenness.
At 3:40 am, the body of Mary Ann Nichols was discovered by man named Charles Cross near the entrance of a stable yard in Bucks Row, situated in the Whitechapel district. Charles Cross was on his way to work when he saw what looked like a large piece of tarpaulin on the ground. He stopped to investigate only to realise that it was a body lying on the ground. Whilst standing in front of the body, another man was walking past him. His name was Robert Paul, who himself was on his way to work and co-incidentally was a car man just like Cross.
Charles Cross obviously startled by his discovery, touched Robert Paul on the shoulder as he passed him and asked him to look at what he had found. They both approached the body and saw that the woman’s clothes were in disarray. They touched her hands and realized that they were not entirely cold. Not knowing completely whether she was dead or alive, they immediately went to find a policeman and ran in the direction of Bakers Row. They found PC Mizen on the corner of Hanbury Street and Bakers Row and told him what they had found.