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Mary Jane Kelly

The canonical five
Jack the Ripper victims
Mary Ann Nichols
Annie Chapman
Elizabeth Stride
Catherine Eddowes
Mary Jane Kelly

Mary Jane Kelly is widely believed to be the fifth and final victim of the notorious unidentified serial killer Jack the Ripper, who killed and mutilated Censored pages in the Whitechapel area of London during the late summer and fall of 1888. She was about 25 and in poverty at the time of her death.

Kelly's body was discovered shortly after 10:45 on the morning of Friday, November 9, 1888, the day of the annual Lord Mayor's Day celebrations. The body was lying on the bed in the single room where she lived at 13 Miller's Court, off Dorset Street, Spitalfields. Her throat was slashed, her face severely mutilated and her chest and abdomen cut open, with many of her internal organs removed and strewn around, along with flesh carved from her limbs and elsewhere. Her heart was not found, and it is believed that it was either taken away by her killer, burned in the fireplace, or perhaps cooked and eaten (though the length of time necessary to do so suggests that it probably would have been done elsewhere if that were the killer's intent). The first to notice her body was her landlord's assistant, who had knocked on the door to collect rent, then peered through a window on receiving no answer. Evidence of neighbours who reported hearing a solitary scream in the night suggested she may have been killed somewhere around 4:00 in the morning.

Compared with other Ripper victims, Mary Kelly's origins are obscure and undocumented. According to her own statements, as reported by Joseph Barnett, the man she had most recently lived with, Mary was born in Limerick, Ireland — either the county or the city — around 1863, and her family moved to Wales when she was young. At sixteen she married a collier who was killed two or three years later in a mine explosion, and she came to London at the age of about 21. She found work in a brothel in the more affluent West End of London, and was invited by a client to France, but quickly returned, not liking her life there. Nevertheless she liked to affect the name of "Marie Jeanette" Kelly after this experience.

By others she was nicknamed "Ginger" after her ginger hair, and she may also have been known as "Mary McCarthy." Gravitating for unknown reasons toward the poorer East End, she reportedly lived with a man named Morganstone near the Commercial Gas Works in Stepney, and later with a mason's plasterer named Joe Flemming. Friends described her as a quiet woman who liked to drink and was fond of singing Irish songs when drunk. Barnett had lived with her since the previous year. At the beginning of 1888 they both moved into 13 Miller's Court. Barnett was a market porter, but when he fell out of work, Kelly turned to prostitution again. A quarrel ensued over Kelly's sharing of the room with another prostitute, and Barnett had left on October 30, more than a week before her death, while continuing to visit Kelly. Witnesses gave various descriptions of men accompanying Kelly in Dorset Street in the early hours of the day she was killed.

Some students of the case consider it unlikely that Kelly was a victim of the same killer. At an assumed age of around 25, she was younger than the other canonical victims, all of whom were in their forties. The mutilations inflicted on her were far more extensive than those on other victims, but she was also the only one killed in the privacy of a room instead of outdoors. Her murder was separated by five weeks from the previous killings. Bruce Paley, in Jack the Ripper: The Simple Truth (ISBN 0747252181) proposed that her lover Joseph Barnett may have been the Ripper.

Kelly's murder does fit the pattern of Ripper killings with respect to time, method of murder, and general class of victim, as well as the trend for mutilations to become more severe as the murders progressed. The increasing public outcry, warnings, and precautions taken after all the previous murders undoubtedly made it more difficult for the killer to operate in public, and securing a victim with a private room would allow more time for the extensive mutilations.

Further reading

  • The Complete History of Jack the Ripper by Philip Sugden, ISBN 0786702761, is widely held to be one of the best on the topic.

External links

  • Casebook: Jack the Ripper has numerous articles covering many aspects of the case, and reproduces many original source texts relevant to the case.

Last updated: 02-09-2005 19:47:57
Last updated: 02-28-2005 17:59:43