"This is 1888, isn't it? I knew I was Jack. Hats off
I said Jack. I'm Jack, cunning Jack, quiet Jack, Jack's
my name. Jack whose sword never sleeps. Hats off
I'm Jack, not the Good Shepard, not the Prince of
Peace. I'm Red Jack, Springheeled Jack, Saucy Jack,
Jack from Hell, trade-name Jack the Ripper!"
-- Peter Barnes, The Ruling Class
First, some background. All murders occurred between the months of August and November of 1888, in Whitechapel, in the East End of London. The victims were Mary Anne Nichols, Annie Chapman, Catherine Eddowes, Mary Kelly, and Elizabeth Stride; all were prostitutes. Each of their necks was slit, and there was some disturbance (i.e. mutilation) to other parts of their bodies as well. Upon investigating the murder of Mary Kelly, the Illustrated Police News reported: "The throat had been cut right across with a knife, nearly severing the head from the body. The abdomen had been partially ripped open, and both of the breasts had been cut from the body; the left arm, like the head, hung to the body by skin only. The nose had been cut off, the forehead skinned, and the thighs, down to the feet, stripped of flesh. The abdomen had been slashed with a knife across downwards, and the liver and entrails wrenched away. The entrails and other portions of the frame were missing, but the liver etc., it is said, were found placed between the feet of this poor victim. The flesh from the thighs and legs, together with the breasts and nose, had been placed on the table, and one of the hands of the dead woman had been pushed into her stomache." The horrifying mutilation of Mary Kelly was the most sadistic, and signified the end of Jack the Ripper's reign of terror.
According to the Post Mortem Examiner, all the murders were committed by the same person, in that each victim's throat was slashed from left to right. This rules out the theory that there was more than one killer. There is no evidence of any struggle and all victims were laying down at the time of the murder.
Also according to the Post Mortem Examiner, this must have been done by a man with great strength, and a considerable amount of coolness and daring. This person was probably subject to frequent attacks of homicidal or erotic mania. As well, the sexual condition known as Satyriasis is linked with the killer.
The first suspect is not that of Jack the Ripper, but Jill the Ripper. First, in order to narrow down the identity of the killer, we must ask ourselves four important questions: What sort of person could move around at night without arousing too much suspicion? Who could basically walk the streets covered in blood? Who would have had the basic knowledge and skill to commit such murders? Who could have been found near the body, yet provide a decent explanation as to why? The answer might surprise you. A midwife and/or abortionist fits every single question. Of course, at the time, London was looking for a man, so a woman would have been even more unnoticed. Also, the fact that there are credible witnesses claiming to have seen Mary Kelly after her established time of death points to the fact that a woman could have killed her and ran off in Kelly's clothes. At the time of the murder, Kelly was rumored to be pregnant, which builds an even better case against an abortionist. She had no money or means to support a child, and it would almost be common knowledge to say that she probably would want to get rid of it. Midwives and abortionists in the 19th century didn't have much in the way of anaesthesia, so they knew how to knock a person out just by using pressure points. Since no struggle was involved, the most probable situation is that a midwife/abortionist put their victims under, and then killed them. The one known suspect in this theory is Mary Pearcey. In October of 1890, she stabbed the wife and child of her lover, slitting their throats in the same manner as the Whitechapel murders. She later wheeled their bodies into a secluded street and left them there.
The second main suspect is that of Prince Edward, the Duke of Clarence. He was supposed to have had "syphilis of the brain", which drove him to commit the murders. These murders were said to have been covered up by Sir William Gull, his private physician, as not to dirty the Royal Family. Clarence was a hunter and knew how to dress deer, which could have attributed to his supposed knowledge of disemboweling prostitutes. Hunting was said to have also stimulated his psychopathic rages. Of course, the Clarence theory is shaky. Clarence was not even in the London area at the time of the murders.
The third main suspect is that of Montague John Druitt. He was the son of a veterinarian, he studied medicine for a short time, and he was a very good cricketeer. However, in Sir Melville Macnaghten's case notes, he is described as sexually insane. His mother, Ann Druitt, also suffered from depression and paranoid delusions, thus possibly genetically causing John Druitt's illness. Druitt refers to this in his suicide note, when he is quoted as saying "Since Friday I felt I was going to be like Mother and the best thing was for me to die." He drowned himself in the Thames River and soon after, the police closed the Ripper cases.
So who was Jack the Ripper really? All speculation aside, no one will ever know for sure. I, myself, am inclined to believe that it is the female abortionist theory that comes closest to the truth. First of all, everyone in London was looking for a male killer, allowing a female murderer to walk the streets with little fear of being caught. Secondly, it would not be uncommon to see a midwife on the streets at all hours of the night. Last, if there was any presence of blood on her clothing, it would be passed off as a result of her profession. This is in no way a common theory, but sometimes you have to look past the obvious in order to find reality.