Should It Have Been Jill?

In 1939, William Stewart’s book on the mystery of the Whitechapel murders was published, and the newspapers began reviewing it. Thee book was a ground breaking tome in that Stewart, who was an artist by profession, included models that he had made of the crime scenes.

But it was also ground-breaking in its suggestion that the perpetrator of the crimes may have evaded capture for the simple reason that the police were looking for the wrong gender.

It wasn’t, so Stewart claimed, “Jack the Ripper”, but rather “Jill the Ripper” whose trail the police should have been on all along!

The Nottingham Evening Post published the following review of the book in its edition of Thursday, 9th March 1939:-


A New Theory Of The Notorious Crimes

Fifty years ago a series of London murders of women baffled all concerned in their investigation. No clues were found, and the apparent absence of motive made the work of the police all the more difficult.

The mystery still remains, and the murderer has become known as “Jack the Ripper.”


Various theories have been put forward by crime students, and the latest is startling indeed.

It is thought that it was not “Jack the Ripper” but “Jill the Ripper,” a woman who was, or had been, a midwife who was responsible for the murders.

This is advanced by Mr. William Stewart in his book, “Jack the Ripper,” published today.


In this book he supplies it as the answer to these questions:-

What sort of person could be out at night without exciting the suspicion of the household or neighbours who were keyed up with suspicion on account of the mysterious crimes?

What sort of person, heavily bloodstained, could pass through the streets without exciting suspicion?

What sort of person could have the elementary anatomical knowledge which was evidenced by the mutilations, and the skill to perform them in such a way as to make some people think that a doctor was responsible?

What sort of person could have risked being found by the dead body and yet have a complete and perfect alibi?

Mr. Stewart takes each of the Ripper crimes separately and endeavours to show how a woman alone could have been responsible.


That woman, he states, may have been Mrs. Pearcy, who murdered Mrs. Hogg and her baby in kitchen at 2, Priory-street, Camden Town, in 1890.

The victims were battered to death, their throats cut, and the bodies taken in a perambulator by Mrs. Pearcy to Crossfield-road, Hampstead, where they were dumped and left.

“This crime is significant to students of the Ripper crimes,” writes Mr. Stewart, for it is not only similar in two respects – the victim’s throat had been almost completely severed and the body was discovered in the street – but it also suggests that the Ripper may have murdered her victims in some house, afterwards conveying their bodies by means of a perambulator to the spots where they were found.”

Illustrations showing the finding of the body of Mrs Phoebe Hogg.
How The Illustrated Police News Reported The Murder On 1st November 1890. Copyright, The British Library Board.


“Such action could have taken place in the Ripper cases of  Mary Nichols, Annie Chapman and  Catherine Eddowes, but Mary Kelly was undoubtedly killed on the spot where her body was discovered.”

Jack the Ripper has been credited with the murder of no fewer than seven women, but Mr. Stewart maintains that four was the actual number of his victims.

It is possible that Mrs. Pearcy may have been Jack the Ripper, in which case the victims would have been murdered in a room owned by her.

If Mrs. Pearcey was Jack the Ripper, the mystery which surrounds the silence with which the victims were killed is explained, as is also the fact that the bodies were discovered at places where a wayfarer was likely to arrive at any moment.


She may have confessed her crimes to someone who could have been prosecuted for being an accessory after the fact, which would account for her mysterious message which she had inserted in a continental paper the day before her execution.

This message ran: “I have not divulged.”

This message has puzzled crime students ever since; and if further evidence is required that Mrs. Pearcy was capable of the Ripper cases, there is the statement once made by Mr. Hutton, the famous lawyer, who said that she was the most cold-blooded and remarkable murderess he had ever defended.


Mr. Stewart continues that there is abundant evidence to support the theory that the Ripper was a midwife, and he gives two points to confirm such a belief – the knowledge which was displayed in the performance of the mutilations, and the fact that these mutilations could have been performed only by a hand unpractised in surgery, but at the same time possessing a knowledgeable and manipulative dexterity which the calling for a midwife calls for.


“Practically the whole world was looking for a man who was non-existent, and for this reason alone Jack the Ripper was never discovered,” writes Mr. Stewart, who adds that he has by no means given up further search for information about the East End murders, and hopes at some future date to convert a theory into an accurate solution.”