At 10.45am on November 9th, 1888, the Lord Mayor’s Day celebrations were just getting under way when the horribly mutilated body of a young prostitute named Mary Kelly was discovered in a small room on one of East London’s worst streets.
The murder of Mary Kelly would go down as one of the most heinous murders on record in the history of crime.
Mary Kelly was twenty-five years old, had blue eyes, a rather pale complexion and hair down to her waist.
By April 1887, Mary Kelly was residing in Cooley’s Common Lodging house on Thrawl Street, Spitalfields. It's understood she was working as a prostitute. On April 8th of 1887, she met a man named Joseph Barnett on Commercial Street, and the two had drinks together. Barnett was a thirty-nine-year-old London-born Irishman who worked at the Billingsgate Fish Market as a fish porter. By early 1888, Kelly and Barnett were living in a small room at 13 Miller’s Court, Dorset Street.
The room was about twelve feet square and sparsely furnished with a bed, two tables, and a cupboard.
It's understood that by August 1888, Joseph Barnett had lost his job, causing Mary Kelly to returned to her former occupation as a prostitute. By November, Kelly and Barnett were six weeks behind on their rent.
On 30th November, 1888, Barnett and Kelly separated and he moved to New Road.
Mary Kelly’s movements on the night before her murder are unclear.
- At 11.45 pm, Kelly’s neighbour Mary Ann Cox, another prostitute, was returning home and followed Kelly and a man as they walked up the court through the arched. Kelly’s companion was a man about five feet five inches tall, stout, about thirty-six years of age, and shabbily dressed in a dark overcoat and a round black billycock hat.
- At 2am George Hutchinson saw Mary Kelly back on Commercial Street.
At 10.45am, John McCarthy sent his servant, Thomas Bowyer, to collect overdue rent from Mary Kelly. Mary was 29 shillings in arrears. Thomas Bowyer knocked on the door several times after which he walked around to the corner by the gutter spout to peer into Kelly’s window. He reached through the hole in the broken glass and pulled the curtain aside. Bowyer noticed "the body of somebody lying on the bed, and there was blood on the floor".
Bowyer rushed back to John McCarthy and said:
"Governor, I knocked at the door, and couldn’t make anyone answer. I looked through the window and saw a lot of blood".
McCarthy and Bowyer returned to Kelly’s room, and McCarthy looked through the window. McCarthy sent Bowyer to fetch the police. It's understood that McCarthy soon chased after Bowyer.
Bowyer stormed into the Commercial Street Police Station where he told Detective Constable Walter Dew:
"Another one ... Jack the Ripper ... awful ... Jack McCarthy sent me".
Detective Constable Walter Dew said of Thomas Bowyer:
"The poor fellow was so frightened that for a time he was unable to utter a single intelligible word".
Inspector Walter Beck, on duty with Detective Constable Walter Dew sent someone to fetch Dr George Bagster Phillips in nearby Spital Square, then dispatched a telegram to Scotland Yard. Beck closed off Miller's Court.
Dr Phillips arrived at Miller’s Court at approximately 11.15am. The door was locked. There was an initial delay in breaking the door down as it was understood bloodhounds may have been on the way to track the scent. When Detective Frederick Abberline arrived at 11.30am, he was informed that they were still waiting for the bloodhounds. At 1.20pm Superintendent Arnold arrived and informed everybody that the order had been cancelled, and the bloodhounds were not coming. He gave the order to break down the door,.
Inspector Henry Moore later said that the murderer "cut the skeleton so clean of flesh that when I got here I could hardly tell whether it was a man or a woman".
Mary Kelly was savagely mutilated:
- Mark Kelly was lying on her back
- Her legs were wide apart
- Her throat had been severed
- Her body had apparently been moved to the middle of the bed and eviscerated
- Most of the skin had been removed from her thighs
- Her breasts had been cut off by circular incisions
- One of her breasts was near her right foot and the other was under her head
- Her intestines were by her left side
- Her liver was between her feet
- The table next to the bed contained large flaps of skin and muscle that had been removed from her abdomen and her thighs
- Her face had been mutilated "beyond recognition"
In total four doctors (Dr George Phillips, Dr Thomas Bond, Dr Gordon Brown of the City Police, and Dr John Rees) performed examinations in the room until the late afternoon.
The postmortem took place on November 10th, 1888, at 7.30am. The postmortem examination was conducted at the mortuary next to the Whitechapel Church. Dr Phillips, Dr Bond, Dr Brown, and Dr William Dukes of Spitalfields concluded that (as in the other cases) death had resulted from a severed carotid artery. The throat had been slashed so many times that it was impossible to determine the direction of the cuts.
On November 12th the inquest commenced in a small committee room on the ground floor of the Shoreditch Town Hall, conducted by Dr Roderick McDonald, MP, the coroner for the North-Eastern District of Middlesex. Superintendent Arnold of H Division, Detective Abberline of CID, and Inspector James Nairn represented the police. The fifteen jurymen were taken to view the body at the mortuary and then went to inspect Kelly’s room.
In his inquest testimony, Dr George Bagster Phillips gave only a very limited description of Kelly’s wounds and did not describe the mutilations at all. Coroner McDonald then said, "It was clear that the severance of the artery was the immediate cause of death, and unless the jury otherwise desired, this was all the evidence Dr. Phillips proposed to give that day". The inquest was closed the same afternoon after the jury had passed a verdict of “Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown.”
Mary Kelly was born in Limerick, in the West of Ireland, in 1863 or 1864.
At a young age Mary Kelly moved with her family to Carmarthen, Carmarthenshire, in South Wales.
Mary's father, John Kelly, was a foreman in an iron works.
Mary Kelly married a coal miner, Davies at the age of sixteen. It is unclear how long they were married before Davies died in a pit explosion. It's estimated that she arrived in London in about 1884 and worked as a prostitute in an upscale West End "gay house".