Jack the Ripper's murder victims may not have been prostitutes, a historian has claimed.

Dr Hallie Rubenhold has argued that 'sexist' attitudes of policemen at the time and researchers in the 130 years since have led to inaccurate beliefs about the women who were killed.

The historian, who is writing a history of the five known victims - Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly - said the women had working-class jobs as servants and laundry maids.

The Ripper killed his victims in Whitechapel, east London, between September and November 1888, but his identity has never been discovered.

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Rubenhold, whose book will be called The Five, said researchers had 'fixated' on the Ripper but never thought about who the women were, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

She said: "We glorify the Ripper, we have a whole industry based around him, a fascination with him, an unsolved murder mystery going on for 130 years.

"We have never questioned 19th-century orthodoxy - the world in which they were killed was a world in which women were disrespected and treated as second-class citizens."

One of the women had run a coffee shop in Poplar with their husband while another lived in the residence of a friend of the Prince of Wales, she said.

Misogyny and sexism "run very deep" in accounts of the Ripper and the women involved had been "dehumanised" for 130 years, she said.

On Twitter she said Mary Jane Kelly had been a sex worker and it was "uncertain" if Elizabeth Stride had been soliciting on the night she was killed but the other three were not prostitutes.

Last month the claim sparked a row with fellow historian Paul Begg, who wrote Jack the Ripper: The Definitive History.

He said: "I don't mind you saying they weren't all prostitutes when your book is published and your evidence can be assessed, but doing so before then is you voicing your opinion as if it was fact."

Rubenhold replied: "I'm free to publicise my books and my findings prior to publication. I am behaving professionally.

"Prediction: no matter what appears in my book Paul Begg will find cause to rip it to shreds and denounce it."

The first of the "canonical" five victims, Mary Nichols was found dead on the afternoon August 31, 1888, in a gateway in Buck's Row, Whitechapel. She had been disemboweled.

The mutilated corpse of Annie Chapman was found in the backyard of number 29 Hanbury St at 6am, just over a week later on September 8, after the killer had made off with her womb.

Elizabeth Stride was found dead on September 30, in Dutfield's Yard, off Berner St.

The 'From Hell' letter allegedly from Jack the Ripper on display at the Crime Museum also known as the Black Museum at Great Scotland yard in London.
The 'From Hell' letter allegedly from Jack the Ripper on display at the Crime Museum also known as the Black Museum at Great Scotland yard in London.

It is believed the Ripper may have been interrupted while cutting her throat, as the rest of her body was untouched.

Later the same day the body of Catherine Eddowes was found in Mitre Square in the City of London, with her uterus and kidney removed and her cheeks torn.

Mary Kelly, who was Jack the Ripper's final known victim, was found in her room in Miller's Court, off Dorset St, on November 9.

Victorian police suspected the Ripper was a butcher but they were never able to track him down.

Last year a book claimed that an apparent "confession" found beneath the floorboards of a Liverpool cotton merchant's bedroom was authentic.

The memoir includes the line: "I give my name that all know of me, so history do tell, what love can do to a gentleman born. Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper."

But critics questioned how the book, purportedly belonging to businessman James Maybrick, came to be found and whether the claims were genuine.

Who was Jack the Ripper?

Jack the Ripper is thought to have killed at least five young women in Whitechapel, East London, between September and November 1888, but was never caught.

Numerous individuals have been accused of being the serial killer.

At the time, police suspected the Ripper must have been a butcher, due to the way his victims were killed and the fact they were discovered near to the dockyards, where meat was brought into the city.

There are several alleged links between the killer and royals. First is Sir William Gull, the royal physician. Many have accused him of helping get rid of the alleged prostitutes' bodies, while others claim he was the Ripper himself.

A book has named Queen Victoria's surgeon Sir John Williams as the infamous killer. He had a surgery in Whitechapel at the time.

Another theory links the murders with Queen Victoria's grandson, Prince Albert Victor, the Duke of Clarence.