Today is the 125th anniversary of the murder of Mary Jane Kelly, Jack the Ripper’s last victim. Ripperologist JON REES reports …
On the 9th November 1888, at 10.45am John McCarthy (owner of “McCarthy’s Rents) sends his assistant Thomas Bowyer to collect several weeks of arrears from Mary Jane Kelly, who lived at number 13 Millers Court. After knocking on the door and receiving no answer, Bowyer reaches through a broken window pane and pulls back a makeshift curtain to peer into the room. The sight he saw must have stayed with him until his dying day.
Several hours later, the police and McCarthy finally enter the locked room of number 13 by taking an axe to the door. On the bed lies Mary’s mutilated body, the final victim of Jack the Ripper. Jack hadn’t just murdered his youngest victim, but destroyed her.
Her face had been hacked beyond recognition, he had flayed certain parts of her body and removed her organs, scattering them around the bed. Her heart had been removed and taken by the killer.
Because of the horrific mutilations to Mary’s face, we don’t even know what she looked like in life, but descriptions put her at around 25 years old, 5’7” tall and stout with blonde hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion.
Everything else we know about her comes from her former lover Joe Barnett, but little of it has been verified so we can assume that a great part of it is either embellished or made up. She was apparently originally born in Ireland and moved to Wales as a child. There she married a man named Davies who was killed in a mining accident 2 or 3 years later. She then moved to Cardiff where she worked as a prostitute and spent most of her time in an infirmary before moving to London in 1884, where she worked in a high class West End brothel, before accompanying a gentleman to Paris (after which she preferred to be called “Marie Jeanette”) before moving to the East End and living in various lodging houses and with men before finally moving in with Joe Barnett in April 1887 (a day after meeting him). They lived together for over a year, moving to Millers Court in March 1888. When Barnett loses his job in August 1888, she takes to the street and their relationship becomes strained before he leaves at the end of October.
Up until she arrives in the East End, very little of her life can be verified so it is quite possible she made some (or all) of it up to elicit sympathy. No record can be found of her birth or in any census so it is possible that Mary Kelly is not even her real name.
Because of this mystery, her young age and the brutality of her murder, some feel that Mary is the key to solving the crimes. That she was deliberately targeted (not helped by Catherine Eddowes using Mary Ann Kelly as an assumed name) by some kind of conspiracy or as revenge. Many films and games have the lead character trying to save her from her fate (the others don’t seem to matter as much) and some have someone else die in her place and pass it off as a “happy ending”.
Despite this, Mary probably isn’t the key to the mystery – just an unfortunate woman in the wrong place at the wrong time.