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Could Jack the Ripper have been a woman?

I know, I know.

I can hear what you’re thinking. “We’ve had too many theories about Jack the Ripper already. Do we really need another?”

Good question, and it has some merit. But hear me out–this is quite interesting.

People are obsessed with unsolved mysteries, and none more so than the identity of Jack the Ripper, who brutally murdered five prostitutes in London in 1888 and taunted the police through posted letters and scrawled messages at the crime scenes. Everyone from the Masons to the Queen’s royal physician have been blamed for the crimes as amateur sleuths, FBI profilers, seasoned detectives, and novelists have done their best to put forth the likeliest solution.

John Morris, a retired Irish lawyer, shared his fascination of the case with his father, and while combing over the evidence again and again, came to a surprising (and original!) conclusion. Morris is convinced Jack the Ripper was a woman.

One hell of a good cover

If so, it would be one hell of a good cover. The police were searching for a man, so a woman would have escaped their notice entirely. And back then, as now, people had a difficult time believing women capable of brutality and evil, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen Aileen Wuornos erroneously called “the first female serial killer.” Are you kidding me?

Morris’s suspect of choice is Lizzie Williams, the wife of physician Sir John Williams, who was the prime suspect in yet another book about the Ripper killings. Morris’s reasoning is intriguing. Lizzie, who was apparently trapped in an unhappy marriage and unable to have children, murdered the prostitutes out of jealousy, Morris suggests. In his book Jack the Ripper: The Hand of a Woman, he points to the fact that three of the women’s wombs were removed.

Though the crimes appeared to be sexual homicides, none of the victims were sexually assaulted. Some physical evidence found at the crime scenes, including buttons from a woman’s boot in a pool of blood and remains of a woman’s skirt, hat, and cape in the ashes of a fireplace, did not belong to the victims. The personal items of victim Annie Chapman were arranged in a “feminine manner” at her feet. (I couldn’t find any photos to confirm this, so I’ll have to take Morris’s word for it and assume I myself don’t arrange items in a feminine manner, since my house is a disaster.)

Could Jack the Ripper have been a woman?

Was a roving eye to blame?

Morris believes Mary Kelly, the Ripper’s best-known victim, was having an affair with Lizzie’s husband. Since Sir John ran abortion clinics, he theoretically could have come in contact with plenty of prostitutes. But if that’s true, why did Lizzie leave Kelly for last? Were the other four murders just practice as she worked toward her intended victim?

Then there’s the fact that Lizzie had a nervous breakdown after the murders. Could the guilt have gotten to her? DNA analysis of the letters believed to be from the real Jack the Ripper can’t rule out a female killer. But it can’t confirm the theory, either.

Of course, Ripper “purists” aren’t happy with this hypothesis. A woman, responsible for the most famous serial murders ever committed? It is to laugh! Or…is it?

Have you read John Morris’s book or heard his theory? What do you think–could Jack the Ripper be a woman? Why do you think this theory has made so many people lose their shit? Why does the Jack the Ripper mystery continue to intrigue us?

P.S. Did you know there’s a FREE book on unsolved mysteries tucked away in my Hidden Library? Get your key here, and it’s yours!

P.P.S. You may also enjoy these stories about the missing boy who drew his kidnappers and the men who vanished from a Scottish lighthouse.

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45 Comments

  1. I can understand the reasoning and it certainly makes sense. Today, that would not be so unusual. Sounds like an episode for Criminal Minds.

    Reply
    • JH

      One is probably already in the works!

      Reply
  2. While it’s certainly possible, it is hard to believe a woman capable of such grotesque crimes.

    Reply
    • JH

      Maybe that’s exactly how she got away with it. 😉

      Reply
  3. An interesting idea with some convincing theories to back it up. Many people feet a woman could not do such a thing, but anything is possible and what an amazing swerve if it was true. I’m surprised there hasn’t been a movie made along these lines yet.

    Reply
    • JH

      I’m sure it’s coming, Dave. Wait for it! 🙂

      Reply
  4. That does put a new spin on things. It is the most famous unsolved mystery, mostly because writers for books, movies, and tv keep bringing it up! Maybe the police were looking in the wrong direction the whole time. This is the first that I heard the wombs were removed. That does point more to a woman. hmm.

    Reply
    • JH

      Interesting twist, isn’t it? My question is, why do writers keep bringing it up? What is it about this cold case that makes it endure?

      Reply
  5. I wouldn’t be surprised – it sounds as if the motivation was there. And I would also surmise that more women than we could imagine have committed murders ..

    Reply
    • JH

      I agree, Susan. Female murderers often get away with their crimes for years. I’m sure there are many who were never caught.

      Reply
  6. I have read so many books about Jack the Ripper – with so many different theories – but this is a new one on me. I suppose there’s no reason it couldn’t have been a woman. Fascinating post. Thanks for sharing this with us 🙂

    Reply
    • JH

      Yay! I’m glad so many people hadn’t heard of this one. I was afraid it might be old news by now.

      Reply
  7. Interesting concept, and totally possible. Could also have been a husband and wife team (hiding botched abortion victims, or a pay scheme where the team was paid to get rid of a woman and her unborn child, hence the womb removal).
    I like how you always see these unsolved mysteries with new eyes, J.H.

    Reply
    • JH

      Hmm, what an interesting theory! You never know, right? There’s definitely been some sinister husband-wife teams in the past.

      Reply
  8. Fascinating! I’ve never heard this theory and it totally intrigues me. Hmm, what if Lizzie killed only Mary Kelly then made it look like it was related to the other crimes? What if she/the crime was a copycat?

    Reply
    • JH

      I love this theory, Madeline! To me, this makes the most sense.

      Reply
  9. History shows again and again that you do not want to cross a “cross” woman. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if this theory were true.

    Reply
    • JH

      So true! The weaker of the species, my arse!

      Reply
  10. That clothing not belonging to the victim was found at the scene, burned in the fireplace even, is intriguing. That sort of clue would not slip by without a thorough investigation in modern times.

    Reply
    • JH

      Well, they found it, so perhaps it was preserved as evidence. I’d have to do more research to know for sure.

      Reply
  11. I have to say, I never thought of a woman doing these killings and I would have to read more to think this could be true. The burning of women’s clothing is intriguing and I never heard or read about that before. I believe I have seen a picture of the items placed neatly at her feet…I have to check my books now. The one issue I have is the strength needed to kill the victims and subdue them. Why would a female prostitute go to a side alley with a woman..well could be. I always felt it was Druitt no matter what many think. Interesting take for sure

    Reply
    • JH

      I think prostitutes would trust a woman more than a man. She could have promised them food, money, or a warm place to sleep. As for strength, there have been a lot of strong female serial killers, who of course were thought to be men until they were captured. Check out this post about a Mexican serial killer who was hella strong!

      Reply
  12. I haven’t read the book, but I’ve heard the theory – it does make a strange sort of sense and explains how the police had no substantial leads as they would have been looking in all of the wrong places.
    Debbie

    Reply
  13. That’s the first I’ve heard of this theory. It’s interesting, but most female serial killers choose poison as their method of killing so I find it hard to believe. Of course, serial killers don’t stick to a set profile, so you never know. If anything, it adds more interest to the mystery.

    Reply
    • JH

      Sure, but other female killers have stabbed, shot, bludgeoned and strangled their victims. One even hit them with her car. These ladies got away with their crimes for a long time because women “don’t do that sort of thing.”

      Reply
  14. I admit, I’m always fascinated by Jack the Ripper. I never considered it being a woman. The whole thing about Wuornos being the first female serial killer always irks me, too. There were quite a few sadistic women, including a couple who repeatedly killed their own children through the years, in addition to others. I find it intriguing how people don’t WANT to believe women can commit atrocious crimes.

    Reply
    • JH

      Glad I’m not the only one. I’m not sure how that myth has persisted as long as it has.

      Reply
  15. While I had never heard this theory before, it does seem to make sense. The very fact that a woman was never suspected at the time would make it easy for the case to fall in the unsolved category.
    Come see my daughter & her graduation surprise! #Caneyhead: High School Graduation. 🙂

    Reply
  16. I’d never actually heard the theory that Jack the Ripper could have been a woman. That really creeps me out. It’s really interesting that there is this ongoing fascination with him (or her).

    Reply
    • JH

      I find that one of the most fascinating things. What is it about this case that allows it to endure? There are other unsolved serial murders that are just as horrific. Some student needs to write his thesis on this!

      Reply
  17. It’s an interesting theory. One of many, many, many interesting theories, and not even the least plausible. A new book came out just a few weeks ago by Patricia Cornwell. She paid investigators and scientists millions of dollars to conduct new studies and investigations that led to the killer as Walter Sicket, an artist whose paintings matched details from the crime scenes that he should never have been able to see. They also traced some of the paper used in Jack’s famous letters as being cut from the same sheets that Sicket used to write letters himself. It’s all pretty damning evidence, but new theories are bound to crop up in a few years.

    Reply
    • JH

      Did Cornwell write a new one about this case? That sounds exactly like the one she wrote years ago.

      Reply
  18. This is a dazzling theory. People lose their shit over all sorts of stuff. It would really be something if Jack the Ripper was revealed to be a woman. Oh how the tongues would go wagging!

    Reply
    • JH

      Yeah, I think it would take a lot of inarguable evidence before people would ever believe it!

      Reply
  19. There has been so much written about this case over the years – but bear in mind that there are TWO witnesses who it is believed actually saw JTR prior to his murdering Liz Stride. And it was definetly a male figure. Personally, I believe it was Polish immigrant Severin Klosowski (who was hanged for other murders) though I do realise that would mean him changing his modus operandi from strangling to what JTR undertook. The “Jill the Ripper” theory is, I believe, just an understandable reading of the facts relating to an unsolved murder. But it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

    Reply
    • JH

      Hmm…interesting points. I like the theory that Lizzie murdered Mary Kelly. Could explain why her murder was done inside, and was so different from the others.

      Thanks for commenting! Welcome to my blog.

      Reply
  20. That’s a fascinating hypothesis! Is it wrong that I kind of hope it’s true? It makes for such an interesting story.

    Reply
    • JH

      Not at all! It’s always interesting when history throws us a nice curveball.

      Reply
  21. Plausible, but I’m sticking with the it-must-have-been-a-doctor theory. I think only a doctor/surgeon could remove things like the uterus while a layman wouldn’t even know where it was or what it looked like. I hypothesize the burned clothes and buttons were from a disguise the killer wore.

    Reply
    • JH

      True. I once asked my female doctor where it was and she didn’t know! Says it’s slightly different with every woman.

      Reply
  22. I’ve never heard this theory, but the revenge hypothesis sounds possible.

    Reply
  23. Another take on an intriguing case. I sure think Jack the Ripper could have been a woman. Some of the evidence sure seems to point that way, based on your story. But, the nervous breakdown of the physician’s wife could also have been because her husband was under so much pressure and was being suspected…

    Reply
    • JH

      Good point, Liesbet. I agree!

      Reply
  24. I could see this. It makes sense. Maybe a woman felt threatened by the ladies of the night. Or maybe she was jealous.

    Reply
    • JH

      Good theories, Sugabee! I wish someone would solve this sucker, once and for all.

      Reply

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