16 October 1889
A Curious Theory about the Famous London Murderer
Lawson Tait, the eminent women's surgeon, having read the suggestion published in our columns that Jack the Ripper might be a woman, said the Pall Mall Gazette, had yesterday a chat with one of our representatives. He said:
"No serious suggestion in connection with this matter that one can make may be wisely discarded or made light of. The police have discovered nothing, and are evidently at their wits' end. They must begin afresh.
"I have taken a great interest in these tragedies from the very commencement. Now, looking at the subject as a surgeon, the first conclusion is that the whole of the murders, not only in Whitechapel but in Battersea and Chelsea, are the work of one and the same individual. They must be grouped together. Secondly, the crimes are the work of a lunatic. The absolute motivelessness of the whole business shows this.
"Again, the operator must have been a person accustomed to use a sharp knife upon meat. The work was done by no surgeon. A surgeon cuts in a niggling kind of way. The murderer in these cases has worked in a free, slashing manner. The criminal must have been a butcher, and a London butcher. The cuts are made in a manner peculiar to the London butcher. They would have been made quite differently if the operator had hailed from Dublin or Edinburgh.
"I have said the criminal was mad. He or she is a undoubtedly a person suffering from epileptic furor. The fits last for only a short time. May not police be floored at the outset by the important question of sex? The male epileptic has his fits irregularly. In the case of a woman this is not so. This is something to go upon. Granted that an epileptic be the criminal, on coming out of his or her fit the offender would have no recollection of the murder and cutting up, and would resume his or her everyday life in no way perturbed by what had happened. Nothing is more likely than that Jack the Ripper is some big, strong woman engaged at a slaughter house in cleaning up, now and then actually cutting up the meat.
"Again, in a number of instances, the woman when found were hardly dead. The bodies were warm. The murderers could not be far away. That fact that the police were so close upon the criminal goes to prove to a wonderful degree that the operator was a woman. On the discovery of one of the murders the police promptly made a circuit around the neighbourhood. Nobody was arrested, or rather, no man was arrested. They did not look for a woman."
"How could a woman so cleverly have committed the deed?"
"It must be clearly understood that whoever was the criminal would be thoroughly splashed with blood. It would impossible to hack and hew a warm body in Ripper fashion without getting all over blood. A man who thus besmeared himself could not possibly get clear away time after time. The thing would be perfectly easy for a woman. See here."
Here Lawson Tait picked up a Liberty chair back and placed it round him like an apron. "Conceive the murder done and the woman all splashed. All she has to do is to roll up her skirt to her waist, leaving her petticoat, and fold up her shawl that is over her shoulders and tucked in at her middle. Then she might pass through the crowd with the very slightest fear of detection.
"Then as to washing the bloodied garments. What would a man do? Plunge them into hot water. Result, the blood coagulates, won't come off and stains the clothes. And where is he to get the hot water, or how is he to pour away bloody water undetected? A woman is always at the wash tub, and she would put the clothes in cold water, when, with a little soap and rubbing, they would become clean, practically unstained, and she would be unsuspected.
"An important point is to be noted in connection with what has been termed the fiendish disembowelling of the bodies, and with reference to the particular place at which the incisions have been begun. It is no wild slashing, done without method by a novice with a knife. Having cut the victim's throat from behind, the operator simply by an act of unconscious cerebration goes to her work in the regular butcher fashion. Having slit the calf's neck, the next thing to be done is to make an incision at the bottom of the abdomen, and lay aside the various organs in the very fashion reported at the inquests as having been done. The resemblance between the Ripper's work and that of a butcher is complete.
"On at least one of the occasions when the police came upon the scene there were to be noticed several women in the crowd that quickly gathered. Had those bystanders been searched there is all the chance that the criminal would have been captured."
"What advice do you, then, give to the police?" our representative asked.
"Let them visit all the slaughter houses in the district, inquire as to male or female regular assistants or occasional helps - there are not so many slaughter houses, and they are all licensed and under the health authorities - and find out what facilities there are for entrance into the houses after the work of the day is done.
"If this were carefully done at once the police would catch the criminal in a week. The police need to go in a brand new road."