Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jack the Ripper

Mary Kelly

Mary Kelly in Miller's Court
Mary Kelly in Miller's Court
The fear that swept the East End after the "Double Event" was much intensified over the level of anxiety from the Chapman murder. Predictably, for a week or so after the news got out, the streets of Whitechapel were virtually deserted after dark. Many of the prostitutes stayed off the street for as long as they could, living at various shelters and staying with family or friends.

It wasn't just the flesh trade that suffered. Londoners were avoiding that area for any kind of commerce and shopping. Trade had fallen off sharply as people from other areas were afraid to set foot in Whitechapel.

Oddly enough, the streets were, in general, safer than they had been before since everyone was in a heightened state of alert and many more forces were patrolling the streets. There was an influx of both uniformed and plainclothes police walking the streets, particularly during the night and early morning. Plus the Mile End Vigilance Committee paid men, equipped with a police whistle and thick stick, to patrol the streets for several hours after midnight.

Since there were no women on the police force during those days, at least one policeman dressed up as a prostitute and acted as a decoy. Of course, it didn't work and the poor man was rewarded with a lot of snide comments from the locals.

Police visited the common lodging houses, interviewing over 2,000 lodgers. Some 80,000 handbills were printed up and distributed in the neighborhood:



On the morning of Friday, 31st August, Saturday 8th, and Sunday, 30th September, 1888, Women were murdered in or near Whitechapel, supposed by some one residing in the immediate neighborhood. Should you know of any person to whom suspicion is attached, you are earnestly requested to communicate at once with the nearest Police Station, Metropolitan Police Office, 30th September, 1888.

Special investigative work was done for several occupations. Some 76 butchers and slaughterers were interrogated about their operations and employees. Sailors working on the Thames River boats were also questioned. With the blessing of Sir Charles Warren, a group of bloodhounds were trained and deployed to the area. However, there was always some doubt that, with the large number of people living in Whitechapel, a dog would be able to follow a single scent, particularly without an article of clothing from the killer. At the end of October, the experiment was abandoned.

Things were starting to get back to normal in Whitechapel. There had been no murder for a month and the streetwalkers again began to ply their trade in force. One such woman was a good-looking young Irish girl by the name of Mary Kelly. Police officer Walter Dew knew her by sight. "She was usually in the company of two or three of her kind, fairly neatly dressed and invariably wearing a clean white apron, but no hat."

Mary had a lot on her mind at the beginning of November. She was several weeks behind in her rent and her lover, Joe Barnett, was unemployed. She rented a first floor room in Miller's Court in the back of Dorset Street.

Mary was born in Limerick and had lived in Wales. When she was 21 years old, she came to London and worked in a brothel. One of her clients was sufficiently taken by her to have her accompany him to France, but the relationship did not work out and she returned a couple of weeks later. Being an attractive woman, her various lovers supported her so that she did not have to live solely by prostitution.

In 1887, she met Joe Barnett, a respectable market porter, and lived with him at various locations. Every once and awhile, they would drink up the rent money and get evicted. Finally they ended up at 13 Miller's Court. Mary did not have many relationships and the one she had with Joe was a solid one. They lived together until they had an argument and he moved out. Since he did not have any work, she had been forced to return to prostitution to survive.

The cause of the argument was Mary's generosity in allowing a homeless prostitute to stay with them at Miller's Court and Mary's returning to prostitution to earn money. But this was more of a lover's spat than a break-up because they got together Thursday night, November 8, and he apologized for not having any money to give her.

People described her as "tall and pretty, and as fair as a lily, a very pleasant girl who seemed to be on good terms with everybody." One of her acquaintances said she was abusive when drunk, but "one of the most decent and nicest girls you could meet when she was sober." Another acquaintance said Mary was "5 feet 7 inches in height, and of rather stout build, with blue eyes and a very fine head of hair, which reached nearly to her waist."

Friday, November 9, 1888, was the day for the Lord Mayor's Show. This was a major festive event in the city. On that day, he would be sworn into office in a style befitting a prince. Like many Londoners, Mary was planning on seeing this spectacle.

John McCarthy
John McCarthy
John McCarthy sent his assistant, Thomas Bowyer, to see if he could collect any rent from Mary that Friday morning. When his knock went unanswered, he reached inside the broken window and pulled aside the curtain. He wasn't quite sure what he saw, but it caused him to run back to McCarthy. When McCarthy looked through the window, he was so horrified that he sent Bowyer for a constable.

Body of Mary Kelly, as discovered in Miller's Court
Body of Mary Kelly, as discovered in
Miller's Court
The constable was talking with police officer Walter Dew and they went immediately to 13 Miller's Court. They did not force the door, but pushed away a coat that served as a curtain over the broken window. The constable told Dew not to look inside, but he did anyway. "When my eyes had become accustomed to the dim light I saw a sight which I shall never forget to my dying day."

Soon Dr. George Bagster Phillips, the police surgeon, and Inspector Abberline were there. They opened the door to a small, cluttered room with almost no furniture. Mary's body, unbelievably mutilated, lay sprawled on the bed. The cause of death was the severance of the carotid artery in the throat. The horrendous mutilation of this last and most hideous Ripper murder was done after her death.

Dr. Thomas Bond, another veteran police surgeon, had been brought into the case specifically to determine the extent of medical knowledge the killer had. Dr. Phillips' examination report did not survive, but Dr. Bond's did:

The body was lying naked in the middle of the bed, the shoulders flat, but the axis of the body inclined to the left side of the bed...The whole of the surface of the abdomen & thighs was removed & the abdominal cavity emptied of its viscera. The breasts were cut off, the arms mutilated by several jagged wounds & the face hacked beyond recognition of the features & the tissues of the neck were severed all round down to the bone. The viscera were found in various parts: the uterus & kidney with one breast under the head, the other breast by the right foot, the liver between the feet, the intestines by the right side & the spleen by the left side. The flaps removed from the abdomen & thighs were on a table.

The ferocity of this murder astounded the veteran police surgeons. Her throat had been slashed with such force that the tissues had been cut all the way down to the spinal column. Dr. Bond went on to describe the ghastly destruction of her body:

Her face was gashed in all directions, the nose, cheeks, eyebrows & ears being partly removed. The lips were blanched & cut by several incisions running obliquely down to the chin. There were also numerous cuts extending irregularly across all of the features.

The skin & tissues of the abdomen from the costal arch to the pubes were removed in three large flaps. The right thigh was denuded in front to the bone, the flap of skin including the external organs of generation & part of the right buttock. The left thigh was stripped of skin, fascia & muscles as far as the knee.

Dr. Bond went on in his report for several paragraphs, cataloging the wounds and stripping of the skin. As they tried to reconstruct her torn body, they realized that the heart had been cut out and taken away.

There seemed to be agreement that the same monster that killed the other four women murdered Mary Kelly. All of the women were murdered with "a very sharp, strong knife about an inch in width and at least six inches long."

Dr. Bond fixed the time of the murder as between one or two o'clock in the morning. However, given the length of time between her death and the time she was examined by Dr. Phillips, the time of death was approximate.

To the question that Dr. Bond was asked to address the medical skill of Jack the Ripper - he replied: "In each case the mutilation was inflicted by a person who had no scientific nor anatomical knowledge. In my opinion he does not even possess the technical knowledge of a butcher or horse slaughterer or any person accustomed to cut up dead animals." It is possible that Dr. Bond could not imagine that a doctor would be capable of such atrocities, because his position is very different than other physicians who examined the victims.

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