A British author is claiming that after some research, he believes that the notorious (but unsolved) Whitechapel murders were committed not by Jack the Ripper, but by a woman named Lizzie Williams. According to author and former solicitor John Morris, there was so much evidence that pointed to Mrs. Williams as a suspect but was completely ignored by police, who could not believe that a woman could commit such a crime. So, what has convinced Mr. Morris that Mrs. Williams is the Ripper? The fact that three of the murder victims had their wombs removed in the grisly killings, and Mrs. Williams was unable to conceive. What? Yes, that sounds like kind of a sexist conclusion. It’s not just you.
Mrs. Williams was the wife of Sir John Williams, who was a surgeon and a possible suspect in the Ripper murders. In Jack the Ripper: The Hand of a Woman, Morris posits that Mrs. Williams’ inability to have children drove her so mad with rage and jealousy towards other women that she actually killed a bunch of women with (presumptively) working uteri. Five such women were killed over a period of 10 weeks in 1888: Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly. Three of them were found with their wombs cut out of them, and this is what Morris believes is the smoking gun.
You know, your typical hysterical, jealous woman with access to surgical equipment and a small chip on her shoulder.
Well, it wasn’t just that, it was also other elements of the crime scenes that may have suggested the killer was more sensitive to a woman’s modesty than a man would have been. Which is hilarious, because they were murdered and disemboweled. Anyway, Jezebel summarized the other evidence:
“[N]one of the Ripper’s victims were sexually assault[ed]; that personal items were laid out at the feet of Annie Chapman in a ‘typically feminine manner’; that remnants of a cape, skirt, and hat were found in the ashes of Mary Kelly’s fireplace, though Kelly had never been seen wearing them; and that three small buttons from a woman’s boot were found near the body of Catherine Eddowes.”
Mrs. Williams was never questioned in connection to the murders, but suffered a nervous breakdown not long after the murders. She died in 1912. And like Jezebel, we will also say that we have not read Morris’ book, which was written with his father, Byron Morris, so we don’t know that his entire theory is based solely on somewhat sexist assumptions. We’re certainly not saying that there’s no way a woman could have committed such horrific crimes, but Mrs. Williams’ “reason” certainly doesn’t make her the most compelling suspect if her childlessness is all we’re going on here.
The affair Dr. Williams was having with Mary Kelly, however …