Searching for Jack the Ripper: Seven Theories
Searching for Jack the Ripper: Seven Theories

Searching for Jack the Ripper: Seven Theories

Michelle Powell-Smith - October 25, 2016

Searching for Jack the Ripper: Seven Theories

Francis Thompson

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.

Searching for Jack the Ripper: Seven Theories

Lizzie Williams

Was Jack the Ripper really Jill the Ripper? While most Ripper theories point directly toward male suspects, John Morris’ Jack the Ripper: The Hand of a Woman suggests a very different suspect profile, and suspect. Lizzie Williams was the wife of an obstetrician and abortionist, Sir John Williams. Her husband has also been suggested as a possible Ripper suspect.

Morris’ evidence for a female Ripper is relatively scarce. He points out that none of the Ripper victims were raped, and suggests that the positioning of their possessions was feminine. Buttons from a woman’s boot were found near one of the victims, and burnt female clothing was found in the fire where Mary Kelly was found. These items have not been connected to any of the victims. Morris suggests a personal link, believing that Sir John Williams was having an affair with Mary Kelly. According to Morris, Lizzie had a nervous breakdown not long after the last murder.

Murder does not happen without motive. Lizzie’s only possible motive, suggested Morris, was her own infertility. He connects her infertility to the removal of the uterus in three of the Ripper victims.

Most Ripper scholars do not believe that the crimes were committed by a woman. In addition, modern profilers believe that the killer was male. Women who kill rarely do so with this degree of extreme violence; poisoning is far more common. While the victims were not raped, Jack the Ripper has been widely thought to have been a sexual sadist, taking pleasure in his acts, particularly mutilation.

There are a number of other issues with the Lizzie Williams theory. As a woman of the upper classes, Lizzie Williams had limited personal freedoms, and certainly lacked the freedom to wander around Whitechapel in the wee hours of the morning. She had no medical training. There is, in fact, no reason to suggest or believe that Lizzie Williams had the ability or access to be Jack the Ripper.