Friday, October 30, 2009

All Tore Up

Mary Jane Kelly

Mary Jane Kelly (c. 1863 – 9 November 1888), also known as Marie Jeanette Kelly, Fair Emma, Ginger and Black Mary, is widely believed to be the fifth and final victim of the notorious unidentified serial killer Jack the Ripper, who killed and mutilated prostitutes in the Whitechapel area of London from late August to early November 1888. She was about 25 and living in poverty at the time of her death. Reports of the time estimated her height at 5 feet and 7 inches (1.70 metres).

Her hair colour is somewhat uncertain although she was nicknamed 'Ginger'. She has been variously reported as being a blonde or redhead. Her reported eye colour was blue. Detective Walter Dew, in his autobiography, claimed to have known Kelly well by sight and described her as "quite attractive" and "a pretty, buxom girl".Sir Melville Macnaghten (1853 - 1921) of the Metropolitan Police Service, who never saw her in the flesh, reported that she was known to have "considerable personal attractions" by the standards of the time. She was said to be fluent in the Welsh language.

Mary Kelly's origins are undocumented, and much of it is possibly embellished. According to Joseph Barnett, the man she had most recently lived with, Mary had told him she was born in Limerick, Ireland — although whether it was the county or the city is not known — around 1863, and her family moved to Wales when she was young.

Barnett reported that Kelly had told him her father was named John Kelly and worked in iron works; his county of employment was reported as being either Caernarfonshire or Carmarthenshire. Barnett recalled Kelly mentioning having six or seven brothers and at least one sister. One brother named Henry Kelly supposedly served in the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards. She once stated to her personal friend Lizzie Albrook that a family member was employed at the London theatrical stage. Her landlord John McCarthy claimed that Kelly received infrequent correspondence from her mother in Ireland as late as 1888. However, Barnett denied this.

Kelly reportedly stayed for a while with a cousin in Cardiff. She is considered to have started her career as a prostitute there. There are no contemporary records of her presence in Cardiff. Kelly herself claimed to have spent much of her stay in an infirmary. Kelly apparently left Cardiff for London in 1884 and found work in a brothel in the more affluent West End of London. Reportedly, she was invited by a client to France but quickly returned, disliking her life there. Nevertheless she liked to affect the name of "Marie Jeanette" Kelly after this experience.

Both Barnett and a reported former roommate named Mrs. Carthy claimed that Kelly came from a family of "well to do people". Carthy reported Kelly being "an excellent scholar and an artist of no mean degree".

Around 1879, Kelly was reportedly married to a collier named Davies who was killed two or three years later in a mine explosion. No researcher has yet been able to trace the accuracy of this statement. A report of the 1888 London press of Kelly being a mother has led a minority of Ripperologists to suggest the birth of a younger Davies between 1879 and 1882. The story contains several factual errors however, including the claim that she supposedly lived on the second floor. It is likely that news reports initially identifying Lizzie Fisher (or Fraser) as the victim are the source for the rumour. Fisher did live on the second floor and did have a 12 year old son.

On the morning of 9 November 1888, the day of the annual Lord Mayor's Day celebrations, Kelly's landlord John McCarthy sent his assistant, Thomas Bowyer, to collect the rent. Kelly was several weeks behind on her payments. Bowyer knocked on her door but received no response. He reached through a crack in a window and pushed aside a coat being used as a curtain and peered inside. What he discovered was a horribly mutilated corpse.

Kelly's body was discovered shortly after 10:45 am. Her body was found lying on the bed in the single room where she lived at 13 Miller's Court, off Dorset Street in Spitalfields, London. Neighbours' reports of hearing a solitary scream in the night suggested she may have been killed somewhere around 4:00 am. Reports have it that a woman was heard to shout simply: 'Murder!'

The Manchester Guardian of 10 November 1888 reported that Sgt Edward Badham accompanied Inspector Walter Beck to the site of 13 Miller's Court after they were both notified of the murder of Mary Kelly by a frantic Thomas Bowyer. It is generally accepted that Beck was the first police official to arrive at the Kelly crime scene and Badham is believed to have accompanied him, but there are no official records to confirm Badham being with him.

Kelly was buried in a public grave at St Patrick's Roman Catholic Cemetery on Langthorne Road, Leytonstone E11, on 19 November 1888. Her grave was no. 66 in row 66, plot 10.

Her obituary ran as follows:
The funeral of the murdered woman Kelly has once more been postponed. Deceased was a Catholic, and the man Barnett, with whom she lived, and her landlord, Mr. M. Carthy, desired to see her remains interred with the ritual of her Church. The funeral will, therefore, take place tomorrow [19 Nov] in the Roman Catholic Cemetery at Leytonstone. The hearse will leave the Shoreditch mortuary at half-past twelve.
The remains of Mary Janet Kelly, who was murdered on Nov. 9 in Miller's-court, Dorset-street, Spitalfields, were brought yesterday morning from Shoreditch mortuary to the cemetery at Leytonstone, where they were interred.
No family member could be found to attend the funeral." (The Daily Telegraph, 19 November 1888, page 3; 20 November 1888, page 3)


(bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson)

Victim of Jack the Ripper. At the age of 25, she was the fifth and last of five confirmed Ripper victims. Most modern investigators and researchers believe that Jack the Ripper had more victims than the five confirmed ones. Mary Jane Kelly was born in Limerick, Ireland, the daughter of John Kelly, an Irish ironworker. Mary had six brothers who lived at home, a brother in the Army, and a sister who worked in the markets.

When Mary was young, her family moved to Caernarvonshire, Wales, and at sixteen, she married a collier named Davis. Two years later, he was killed in an explosion, and Mary left Cardiff to live with a cousin in London in 1884. There she began to drink heavily and drifted into prostitution. For eight months, she lived in an infirmary being treated for venereal disease. With a pretty face, dark hair and the youthful hourglass figure coveted in that time, she was better educated than most people, and could read and write. For a while she worked as a high class prostitute in London's upscale West End, where she met a gentleman who took her on vacation to France. Returning after only ten days, she complained that France did not suit her, and she would soon move on to other men. Eventually she would live with Joseph Barnett, a coal porter. They would live together at 26 Dorset Street in the Whitechapel area of East London, in a house that had been converted into a hotel, living in room 13 on the ground floor.

She had lost the key, and had broken a window in the door, allowing her to reach through and open the door from the outside. When Mary took to sleeping with another prostitute, Maria Harvey, Barnett moved out. The afternoon of November 8, 1888, Maria left early in the afternoon, indicating that she would not return until the next day. Despite the news of the awful Ripper murders happening just blocks from where she lived, Mary would continue to walk the streets at night as that was the only way she could earn money. Mary apparently went out about 6:00 pm, and one of her neighbors in room 5, a prostitute named Mary Ann Cox, would later testify at her inquest that she saw Mary on the street about midnight, apparently intoxicated and with a customer, heading back to her lodgings. Other neighbors would testify that they heard her singing in her room until about 1:00 am. When Mary Ann Cox returned to her room about 3:00 am, Mary Kelly's room was dark and silent.

Mary Kelly's body was discovered at 11:00 that morning, in her room, when the assistant landlord, Thomas Bowyer, went to collect on overdue rent. Police were immediately summoned, and very quickly, senior police inspectors arrived at the scene. Mary's murder was the only Ripper murder scene to be photographed by the police. The Ripper had hacked off her nose and ears, slashed her face, and removed much of her face leaving her with no features. Her right carotid artery had been severed, leading to her immediate death. Her clothing had been neatly folded next to the bed, as if she had willingly undressed in front of her killer. Her body had been hacked and cut open, and most of her organs had been removed and left on the table. The police doctors held a postmortem at Shoreditch Mortuary, with some of the most experienced medical men in London performing the autopsy – no less than four medical doctors were present.

The inquest, held two days later, quickly determined her death to be murder. For several months afterwards, there were no murders in Whitechapel, and the press soon speculated that the Ripper murders were over with. On July 16, 1889, another drunken prostitute named Alice McKenzie was murdered in Whitechapel, and the officiating doctor at her autopsy, Dr. Thomas Bond, thought her to be a victim of the Ripper, but the press made little mention of her death. Despite the most extensive investigation by police at the time, Jack the Ripper was never found, and today, numerous theories about his identity continue to surface.
(bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson)

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