English poet Francis Thompson has also been considered as a possible suspect in the Ripper killings. Thompson was first identified as a suspect in 1986, in an article written by an American pathologist. More recently, author Richard Patterson has worked to elaborate on this theory.
At the time of the Ripper killings, Thompson was a failed medical student, having attended medical school for some six years. While he did poorly on exams, according to his family, he was enthusiastic about dissection and anatomy. He was addicted to opium and, by this time, largely living on the streets in Spitalfields, very near where Mary Kelly was found. He had had an unsuccessful relationship with an East End prostitute, and may have known Mary Kelly.
Thompson was a devout Catholic, having trained unsuccessfully to be a priest. All of the Ripper killings occurred on specific saints’ days in the Catholic calendar, and the police believed the killer was likely Catholic.
Not long after the final murder, Thompson’s editor removed him from Spitalfields. For the remainder of his life, his encounters, finances and other factors were tightly controlled. After Thompson’s death, his editor destroyed his personal papers. Thompson’s writing, both before and after the murders, showed a strong interest in the mutilation of women’s bodies with knives.
Thompson certainly did have an interest in killing and mutilating women, was in the area, and was controlled and his movements limited not long after the final murder. He had both the interest in Catholicism and medical training suspected of the Ripper. He was known to carry a knife in his coat. While there is no hard proof of Thompson’s guilt, he does meet the criteria for a viable suspect in the crime. There is no evidence that clearly eliminates Thompson from the possible suspect list.