Jill the Ripper

It is London in 1888, just one year after the appearance of Arthur Conan Doyle’s “A Study in Scarlet” featuring his infamous protagonist, Sherlock Holmes.  Holmes embodied the idea that any crime can be solved as long as enough wit and time is invested.  This idea is quickly challenged with the appearance of a series of murders in the fall of 1888.  In just over three months there were at least five murders accredited to one man, Jack the Ripper.  

To this day, there are few known facts about Jack the Ripper.  Mary Nichols was his first victim who was murdered on August 31, 1888.  Her body was still warm, except her hands and wrists, which led officials to believe she had only been dead for half an hour.  It was concluded that the murderer likely had remained at the scene of the crime.  The death of Mary Nichols was quickly followed by Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Kelly.  More about these women can be seen here: Ripper Victims.


The way in which the bodies were mutilated pointed towards a suspect who may be a doctor or butcher, someone who may have some experience with anatomy.  Some of the victims were found with missing organs, such as Catherine Eddowes who was discovered without her uterus or left kidney.


Many of us are familiar with the name Jack the Ripper.  However, Inspector Abberline, theorized that the murderer may have actually been a woman.  The theory of Jill the Ripper was not nearly as popular as a male killer.  Caroline Maxwell was recorded saying she saw Mary Kelly around eight in the morning, even able to vividly describe Kelly’s attire.  It was estimated that Kelly was dead by four in the morning. Abberline threw out the possibility that the true murder had dressed in Kelly’s clothing as a disguise in leaving the murder scene.


Today the theory of Jill the Ripper is more largely accepted.  Some thought the murderer could have been a midwife, allowing for the anatomical knowledge.  If a midwife was found to have blood on her clothing, it would have been dismissed.  A woman would also have been able to slip away in a city looking for a suspicious man.


Regardless of the truth, the mystery of Jack the Ripper has captured the attention of diverse audiences through both movies and books.  There is something about an unsolved crime which seems to naturally interest us.



Photo from littlethings.com