“Of medium height and well-nourished, Dr. John Williams cut a formidable figure with his silver hair, intelligent eyes, and an absence of burns or beard or moustache. Christien had always thought he needed something, for he had a very grim mouth.”
John Williams was a study in contrasts. Born the son of a congregational minister in Wales, he studied medicine and once in London, soon became private physician to the Royal Family. While he moved in high social circles (eventually becoming the 1st Baronet of the City of London), he was an avid advocate for social reform and spent a good deal of his energies helping the underprivileged in London’s East End. His wife Mary (called Lizzie) was barren, serving to fuel his work as an obstetric surgeon, and he spent much of his time devoted to researching the causes of infertility.
Called Jack by his friends, Williams was also an avid collector of rare books, and was instrumental in founding the National Library of Wales. He was also a collector of Welsh cultural art and maps, and retired from public service after a bout of ‘mental instability’ in the late fall of 1888.
Dr. Williams was first suggested as a Ripper suspect in 2005, when a young relative, Tony Williams, came across the late Uncle Jack’s medical instruments and journals in his personal library. There is a surgical knife and three slides containing ‘uterine matter’, which Williams insists belong to tissue removed from the victims. No DNA testing has been done to either prove or rule out this theory, but he uses the statements of Dr. Thomas Bond as supporting evidence.
“ – a strong knife, at least six inches long, very sharp, pointed at the top and about an inch in width.”
This is consistent with the Lister Knife found in Sir John’s archives. Also in the archives, journals and letters containing names and dates that correspond to the Ripper crimes.
“There is a letter where Sir John indicates that he will be in Whitechapel on the 6th of September 1888. There is also a notebook listing patients in which Sir John has noted he has performed an abortion on a ‘Mary Ann Nichols’ in 1885.” There are also repeated references to a Mary Kelly, who may or may not have been the same woman murdered on Nov. 9, 1888 in Miller’s Court. Williams surmises that they not only knew each other (Mary Jane Kelly did in fact, grow up in Wales), but he believes that they were intimately involved.
According to young Williams, there is also a notable deterioration in handwriting that mirrors the increasingly sloppy, fragmented letters ‘from Jack’ received by the police at the time and he hypothesizes that Uncle Jack was becoming unhinged due to his criminal activities and left public practice to recover from a nervous breakdown. He sites the increasing savagery of the murders as support for this theory, and the fact that they ceased immediately after the death of Mary Jane Kelly.
While Tony Williams builds a fascinating case, it is entirely circumstantial and has been largely denounced by the majority of Ripperologists. Still, it makes for a great deal of fantastical fun, making his multilayered involvement in COLD STONE & IVY a natural. Check out Tony Williams’ book, Uncle Jack, in your local library. Better yet, check out COLD STONE & IVY! It's bloody good!