It’s safe to say that Mary Jane Kelly, the last of the ‘Canonical Five’ Jack the Ripper victims, is the most famous of them all, thanks in large part to the gruesome nature of her murder. Because of this, it may be a bit ironic that so little of what we know about her past has been confirmed to be factual. We know so much about Mary because she told us so much about herself and others after she died at Miller’s Court, Dorset Street, on November 9th, 1888.
Early Life of Mary Jane Kelly
After moving to Wales with her parents, Mary Jane Kelly is said to have married a man called Davies at the age of sixteen. However, her spouse was murdered in a mine explosion just a few years later. Once in Cardiff, Mary Jane Kelly supposedly slipped into prostitution and met a wealthy man in the London area, where she is said to have spent time with him. She went to Paris with him around this time, even though she didn’t much enjoy the city. It’s also said that she went by the name “Marie Jeanette” and lived the life of a woman. By 1886, Mary is claimed to have been living in Thrawl Street, Spitalfields, where she first lived in Breezer’s Hill in St George-in-the-East and then in Thrawl Street.
As early as 4am on November 9th two neighbors reported hearing a faint “Oh Murder!” shout. However, in the neighborhood, hearing the word “murder” was a common occurrence, which usually signified a drunken brawl or domestic violence. Those who were the victims of such brutality were expected to scream “murder.” Local locals were reluctant to get involved, so they ignored any protests, as did Mary Kelly’s two next-door neighbors when they heard a similar call.
A BODY IS FOUND BY THOMAS BOWYER
Mary Kelly’s landlord, John McCarthy, sent his employee, Thomas Bowyer, who was also known as Indian Harry, to collect her unpaid rent from 13 Miller’s Court at 10.45am that morning. Entering Miller’s Court with confidence Her door was slammed twice by Bowyer. Nothing came back in response. Bowyer came around the corner and pulled away a curtain that hid the damaged window pane, perhaps believing she was inside but unable or unable to pay her rent. Bowyer returned to McCarthy’s business a few minutes later, his face covered in ash. “When I knocked on the door and no one answered, I spluttered, “Gov.” I saw a lot of blood as I peered through the window.”
That is not what I meant,” McCarthy screamed, as the two men rushed out of the shop and into Miller’s Court. McCarthy sank to his knees and peered into the murky chamber through the curtain he had pulled aside. His eyes were opened to a scene of unspeakable terror. The blood-spattered wall behind the bed was a disturbing sight. There was a splatter of blood on the bedside table. On the bed, Mary Kelly’s nearly skinned cadaver lay barely recognisable as human.
Jr. Theodore Barnett
On Good Friday 1887, Mary had the pleasure of meeting a costermonger by the name of Joseph Barnett. They got along well enough to move in together in dosshouses on George Street, Little Paternoster Row, and eventually Brick Lane. The couple was residing in a modest, partially furnished room at 13 Miller’s Court, Dorset Street, in March 1888. To rent the property, John McCarthy had set the price at four shillings and sixpence per week.
When Barnett lost his job in the late summer of 1888, the couple’s peaceful existence was shattered. Because of this, Mary had to go back out on the streets to make money, which Barnett found distasteful. When Mary had been intoxicated, arguments grew more frequent and even more aggressive, making life even more difficult for the two of them.
What transpired on the 8th and 9th of November, 1888, was a mystery
According to an unconfirmed rumour, Mary Jane Kelly and Elizabeth Foster were spotted drinking in the Ten Bells tavern on the 8th of November. According to another story, Mary was spotted in the Britannia with a man, and by this point she appeared to be very inebriated. After that, there were two significant sightings. Mary Ann Cox, of 5 Miller’s Court, witnessed Mary, who was clearly intoxicated, entering her room with an unidentifiable blotchy-faced male who was carrying a pot of beer at 11.45pm. As soon as she was alone in her room, Mary started singing and didn’t stop for a long time; another resident of Miller’s Court, Catherine Pickett, was about to go complain until her husband intervened.
The second crucial sighting occurred around 2 a.m. on the morning of November 9th. On Commercial Street, George Hutchinson, who was familiar with Mary, ran into her. As he didn’t have any money to give her, she said her goodbyes and went on her way. When an extraordinarily well-dressed man approached her right outside Thrawl Street’s entrance, he put his hand on her shoulder and the two broke into laughter. Hutchinson remained in the shadows, watching as the couple entered and exited Mary’s room on Commercial Street and Dorset Street, respectively. After about 45 minutes of watching, he decided to go inside because no one had come out.
Remains of Mary Jane Kelly Have Been Found
To make good on Mary’s unpaid rent, landlord John McCarthy sent his helper Thomas Bowyer to room 13 the following morning at 11.45 a.m. on November 9th, 1888. In an attempt to get a response from Mary’s room, Bowyer pounded on her door. When he saw the shattered piece of glass, he reached in and yanked the curtain apart. Looking into the dimness of the room, Bowyer discovered Mary Jane Kelly’s body on the bed, mutilated beyond recognition.
Is This the Last Victim of Jack the Ripper?
Crime scene images were taken in Mary Jane Kelly’s murder, which was the only Ripper murder where photography was practical at the time. Doctors and police confronted a scene of utter devastation when they entered the room later that day, as evidenced by the two photographs that have survived (if there were more).