Genealogy Today, by Betty Lou Malesky, CG
Nephew ID's Doctor as Jack the Ripper
Although Jack the Ripper's career as a murderer was extremely short, he continues to be the most famous criminal in British history. Five murders committed in 1888 are attributed to him and an additional seven may have been his work. His victims were prostitutes, strangled, then carved up after they were dead. All frequented the streets at night, easy targets for a madman.
Tony Williams, the great-great-great-great nephew of a surgeon to Queen Victoria, has written a book accusing his uncle of being Jack the Ripper. Sir John Williams, a Welshman, was successful in London at the time of the slayings, well known as a doctor, surgeon and teacher. He was appointed court physician in 1886 and made a baronet in 1894. He was not a suspect at the time of the crimes.
The doctor gave up nearly all his public work between 1888 and 1892 to devote his time to his private practice, the royal family, and his campaign to raise funds for a library he planned to establish in Wales. The author claims he had a nervous breakdown during these years due to his activities as the Ripper.
In 1903, the 63 year old Dr. Williams retired and moved back to Wales. He donated his collection of over 25,000 books and items related to his medical career to the library he founded, the National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth. His nephew, while doing research about his uncle's life, claims to have found the knife used by Jack the Ripper among his uncle's belongings in the library.
Scotland Yard believed the bodies were cut by someone with medical expertise and knowledge of anatomy. Dr Thomas Bond, a pathologist who examined the body of victim Mary Kelly in 1888, said the Ripper had used the same six inch knife in all the murders. Bond described the knife as "very sharp, pointed at the top and about an inch in width." This type of knife was commonly used by surgeons so it's not surprising that Dr. Williams would have such an instrument.
Also included with the doctor's possessions given to the library is his medical diary. Three years before the murders Sir John wrote of performing an abortion in the Whitechapel workhouse on Mary Ann Nichols, the same name as one of the victims in 1888. The doctor's diary also mentioned a Mary Kelly, surely a common name, shared by many besides the unfortunate victim of that name. The author's conjecture is these names tie Dr. Williams to the victims and that he was having an affair with Kelly causing him to killed her because she could identify him.
The younger Williams believes his uncle was a Jekyll/Hyde type, obsessed with the fact that his wife could not have children, and driven to murder to try and find a way to cure her condition. In addition to the knife, Williams says he found three glass slides said to contain "animal matter" that are actually of uterine tissue.
In 2005 the nephew concocted the theory that the doctor stalked Whitechapel, a squalid, inner city area of London, looking for women of similar age to his wife. He killed each victim and removed her uterus for experimentation. Despite Tony Williams' statement, ". . . in my mind the case has been solved," the facts in this case do not support the book, Uncle Jack - A Victorian Mystery. The real mystery is why anyone would malign a family member with these charges.
From a genealogical standpoint, Tony Williams is out in left field. He has not performed a reasonably, exhaustive search for evidence. He has not considered conflicting evidence that makes it unlikely his uncle was a murderer, and he uses coincidence rather than fact to jump to a conclusion guaranteed to sell books.
We don't want to skirt sensitive issues in our family, but neither should we create controversy and make unfounded accusations for our own personal gain. After all, dead ancestors can't defend themselves.
For more than you want to know about this famous serial killer, read http://www.casebook.org/intro.html.
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25 November 2011