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Crime experts debate whether 'Jack the Ripper' was a woman

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 14th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

There have been countless suspects as to who the infamous "Springheel Jack" - or "Jack the Ripper," the killer who preyed upon prostitutes in Victorian London. As the world's most famous unsolved murder case, at least a hundred likely suspects have been trotted out since. Retired lawyer John Morris offers up a most intriguing theory in his book, "Jack the Ripper: The Hand of a Woman." Jack was a "Jackie," i.e. a female.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - In 1888, Jack the Ripper gruesomely butchered five prostitutes in London's Whitechapel district. Everyone from Lewis Carroll to Queen Victoria's grandson has been named as potential suspects. A field of study entitled "Ripperology" has been inspired by the case. 

Morris, who lives in Ireland, has implicated Lizzie Williams, the wife of the physician Sir John Williams, who was himself labeled a Ripper suspect in a 2005 book. Morris argues Lizzie killed the prostitutes out of anger over being unable to bear children. Despair over her condition is also what drove her to remove the wombs of three of her victims.

Morris cites as evidence that none of the five murdered prostitutes was sexually assaulted, and that the personal items of one, Annie Chapman, were laid out at her feet "in a feminine manner."

In addition, three small buttons from a woman's boot were found in blood near the body of another victim, and remnants of women's clothing, including a cape, skirt and hat, were found in the fireplace ashes of a third victim, Mary Kelly. These items did not belong to the victims.

Morris also presents evidence that Kelly was having an affair with Lizzie's husband, Sir John, who ran abortion clinics in Whitechapel. Morris found documentary evidence suggesting that Lizzie suffered a nervous breakdown soon after the horrific killing spree.

"The case for a woman murderer is overwhelming, but unfortunately it does not sit well in some quarters where such a theory flies in the face of long-held beliefs," Morris was quoted as saying in the Daily Telegraph. "Because everyone believes that the murderer was a man, all the evidence that points to a woman has been ignored."

While intriguing, Morris' fellow Ripperologists are quick to discount the theory.

Leading Jack the Ripper expert Paul Begg, who has authored several books on the subject of the Ripper's identity feels that the case for Lizzie Williams is weak. "The original book putting John Williams in the frame was bad but this one is even worse," Begg told newspaper reporters.

Sir John Williams was obstetrician to members of the British Royal Family, and was accused of the Ripper crimes in the 2005 book "Uncle Jack," co-written by one of his descendants, Tony Williams. The book claims that the surgeon knew the victims personally, and killed and mutilated them in an attempt to research the causes of infertility.

Ripperologists later showed that much of the research in the book was flawed. A key piece of documentary evidence supposedly connecting Williams to one of the Ripper victims was found not to be in the original source document that was cited.

The identity of the real Jack the Ripper still lies tantalizingly out of reach. 

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