It’s one of the most notorious unsolved mysteries in history: who was Jack the Ripper, the Victorian serial killer who surgically disemboweled five prostitutes in the fall of 1888?
According to claims that are currently getting a great deal of media attention in Britain, he may be none other than prominent surgeon Sir John Williams – who, in addition to serving as Queen Victoria’s surgeon in London, was also a well-known abortionist.
In a new book, Sir John’s great-great-great-great nephew, Tony Williams, presents evidence for Sir John’s guilt, including his discovery of a six-inch surgical knife among his ancestor’s possessions that he believes was the murder weapon.
The knife was found along with three glass slides that, according to tests performed on them, contain smears of a uterus.
“The person who carried out the killings had significant medical knowledge and Sir John was an accomplished surgeon,” said Williams, pointing out that he “routinely performed abortions on women.”
There is also evidence that Sir John – who was known as “Uncle Jack” by his relatives - was acquainted with at least one of the prostitutes: he may have performed an abortion on one of them, Mary Ann Nicholls, three years prior to the murders.
As a possible motive for the crime, Williams puts forward Sir John’s “obsession” with his wife’s infertility, pointing out that two of the murdered prostitutes were found without their uteruses.
However, while Sir John’s role in the famous murders may remain a compelling source of speculation, the solution to the mystery may never be known for certain.
Many critics of Williams’ theory point out that Sir John wasn’t presented as a possible suspect until 2005, over a century after the murders, in a book also published by Williams. There are also claims that one of the key documents tying Sir John with Mary Nicholls may have been forged.
For now, Sir John remains as only one of dozens of possible suspects in the murders that have been put forward over the years, and not necessarily the most compelling.