November 9, 1888: Murder and Mutilation in Miller's Court Nov 10, 2014 1:38:23 GMT -5 Joanna, Sam, and 3 more like this
Post by Graveyardbride on Nov 10, 2014 1:38:23 GMT -5
November 9, 1888: Murder and Mutilation in Miller's Court
The sight that we saw I cannot drive away from my mind, it looked more like the work of a devil than of a man. I had heard a great deal about the Whitechapel murders, but I declare to God I had never expected to see such a sight as this. The whole scene is more than I can describe. I hope I may never see such a sight as this again. – John McCarthy
Around 4 o’clock on the morning of Friday, November 9, 1888, two women at Miller’s Court in the Whitechapel district of London’s East End reported hearing a woman cry, “Oh! Murder!” However, cries of “murder” were common in the neighborhood and usually occurred as the result of a drunken brawl or domestic dispute. As a consequence, the screams were ignored.
When John McCarthy got to his shop at 27 Dorset Street, he realized one of his tenants had not paid her rent and around 10:45 a.m., sent his assistant Thomas “Indian Harry” Bowyer to collect the money from Mary Kelly at 13 Miller’s Court. When he arrived at the woman’s domicile, which was actually nothing more than a 10 x 12-foot partitioned section of a ground-floor room. Bowyer knocked at the door just inside the arched entry to the courtyard, but there was no answer. Assuming the woman was inside, avoiding him because she didn’t have the money, he proceeded to the window where there was a broken pane, pulled aside the curtain, peered inside and beheld a sight so horrifying he could not believe his eyes. The ashen-faced Bowyer staggered through the door of his employer’s shop, gasping, “Governor! I knocked at the door and could not make anyone answer. I looked through the window and saw a lot of blood!” McCarthy, only half-believing his assistant’s wild tale, grabbed his hat and accompanied him to Mary Kelly’s room, where he pushed aside the curtain, stooped down and stared into the gloomy little room. The wall above the head of the bed was spattered with blood and on a small table nearby lay a pile of bloody flesh. But the blood and flesh paled in comparison to what was lying on the bed: a gruesomely-mutilated corpse that was barely recognizable as a human being. McCarthy sent Bowyer to summon the police, while he hurried back to secure his shop, which, presumably, had been left unlocked.
When Bowyer arrived at the police station, he found Inspectors Walter Dew and Walter Beck sitting inside chatting. Later, Dew recalled, "The poor fellow was so frightened that for a time he was unable to utter a single intelligible word. At last he managed to stammer out something about 'Another one ... Jack the Ripper ... Awful ... Jack McCarthy sent me.’” Beck and Dew followed Bowyer along Commercial Street in the direction of Dorset, but when they tried the door at 13 Miller’s Court, it would not open. Beck proceeded to remove the window so that he could see inside, then stumbled backward, crying, “For God’s sake, Dew, don’t look!” But Dew ignored him and saw a sight that would remain with him to his dying day. The horror was still vivid in his mind when he penned his memoirs 50 years later: "As my thoughts go back to Miller’s Court, and what happened there, the old nausea, indignation and horror overwhelm me still ... My mental picture of it remains as shockingly clear as though it were but yesterday ... No savage could have been more barbaric. No wild animal could have done anything so horrifying." The woman’s body was positioned so that she was facing the window. Her face had been mutilated beyond recognition and Dew was particularly unnerved by “the poor woman’s eyes. They were wide open and seemed to be staring straight at me with a look of terror."
* * *
Although Mary Kelly – because of the viciousness of her murder and the fact she is considered the last victim of Jack the Ripper – is likely the most familiar of the five women murdered in the late summer and fall of 1888, hardly anything is known of her life before her fateful encounter with the Whitechapel killer. What little that is known comes primarily from Joseph Barnett, the man with whom she had been living for a little more than a year. Barnett, however, described his lady friend as approximately 5'7"-tall, which is ludicrous when one considers that Elizabeth Stride, at 5'5", was so tall she was called “Long Liz.” For the record, Barnett also claimed he "always found her of sober habits,” while McCarthy, her landlord, insisted: "When in liquor she was very noisy; otherwise she was a very quiet woman,” indicating her habits weren’t as “sober” as Barnett alleged.
Mary Jane Kelly is believed to have been born in Limerick, Ireland, around 1863, making her approximately 25-years-old in November 1888. She was known by various names: Marie Jeanette Kelly, Marie Jeanette Davies, “Fair Emma,” “Ginger," "Black Mary” and “Dark Mary.” She earned the latter two nicknames because when she drank, her personality changed and she turned confrontational and fearsome. There have been suggestions that she was called “Fair Emma” by some because she was fair-haired; others insist she was called “Ginger” because she had ginger-colored hair. Unfortunately, her height and hair-color weren’t recorded by the physicians performing the autopsy. However, it is known that she was a stout woman with blue eyes. (She was so badly mutilated that Barnett did not recognize her and was only able to identify her by her ears and blue eyes.)
Said to be the daughter of John Kelly, who worked in either Carnarvonshire or Carmarthenshire, Mary told some of her friends and acquaintances she had six or seven brothers and one sister. Her brother Henry, she claimed, was nicknamed “Johnto” and a member of the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards. She also bragged about having a relative who performed on the London stage. Both Barnett and a “Mrs. Carthy,” a woman with whom Mary lived for a while, believed Mary Kelly was from a “fairly well-off” family, who were “well-to-do people.” Mrs. Carthy also insisted Mary was "an excellent scholar and an artist of no mean degree." Barnett claimed she never corresponded with her family, but McCarthy, her landlord, confirmed that on at least one occasion, his tenant received a letter from her mother in Ireland.
The authorities, reporters and various authors pieced together Mary’s life as best they could and it is believed that in 1879, when she was around 16-years-old, she married a collier (a coal mine or coal barge worker) named Davies and he died in an explosion two or three years later. Some suggested a child was born of this marriage. Following the death of her husband, Mary left Ireland for Cardiff (Wales) to live with a cousin who was a prostitute. Mary claimed that while in Cardiff, she became ill and spent time in the infirmary, but no records have been found confirming her claim. She arrived in London in 1884 and, according to tradition, scrubbed floors and charred for the nuns at the Providence Row Night Refuge on Crispin Street before being placed in a domestic position in a shop on Cleveland Street. According to Barnett, when Mary arrived in London, she found work in a high-class brothel in the West End, during which time she traveled in private carriages and accompanied one gentleman to Paris, but not finding Paris to her liking, returned to London.
One newspaper reporter, checking into the life of Mary Kelly following her murder, wrote as follows:
"It would appear that on her arrival in London she made the acquaintance of a French woman residing in the neighborhood of Knightsbridge, who, she informed her friends, led her to pursue the degraded life which had now culminated in her untimely end. She made no secret of the fact that while she was with this woman, she would drive about in a carriage and made several journeys to the French capital, and, in fact, led a life which is described as that 'of a lady.'
“By some means, however, at present, not exactly clear, she suddenly drifted into the East End. Here fortune failed her and a career that stands out in bold and sad contrast to her earlier experience was commenced. Her experiences with the East End appears to have begun with a woman (according to press reports a Mrs. Buki) who resided in one of the thoroughfares off Ratcliffe Highway, known as St. George's Street. This person appears to have received Kelly direct from the West End home, for she had not been there very long when, it is stated, both women went to the French lady's residence and demanded the box which contained numerous dresses of a costly description.”
On November 10, the day after the murder, Mrs. Elizabeth Phoenix of Bow (a district in London’s East End) went to the police station and revealed that a woman matching Mary Kelly’s description had lived in her brother-in-law’s house off Pennington Street. She described the domicile as a “bad house,” i.e., a house of prostitution. She said Mary “was Welsh and that her parents, who had discarded her, still lived in Cardiff, from which place she came. But on occasions she declared that she was Irish." According to Mrs. Phoenix, she was "one of the most decent and nice girls you could meet when sober,” but very abusive and quarrelsome when drunk. She revealed that Mary finally indulged in intoxicants to such an extant that she wore out her welcome and went to lodge with a Mrs. Carthy, where she remained until around 1886, when she took up with a man in the building trade. Barnett claimed she lived with a man by the name of Morganstone near Stepney Gasworks and then with a man named Joseph Fleming, either a stonemason or plasterer, who resided near Bethnal Green. Mrs. Carthy said she thought Fleming would have married Mary, and Julia Venturney, a neighbor at Miller’s Court, testified that Mary was fond of a man who sometimes visited and gave her money. Mrs. Venturney thought the man was a costermonger (a seller of fruits and vegetables).
In April 1887, Mary Kelly was living at Cooley's Lodging House on Thrawl Street in Spitalfields and on Good Friday (April 8), she met Joseph Barnett, a Londoner of Irish heritage, on Commercial Street. He took her out for a drink and arranged to meet her the following day at which time they decided to set up house together and shortly thereafter, moved to George Street. Later they relocated to Little Paternoster Row off Dorset Street. Barnett was a riverside laborer and market porter licensed to work at Billingsgate Fish Market. Julia Venturney described him as a man of good character, who was kind to Mary Jane, giving her money on occasion. Mary and Barnett were generally viewed by their neighbors as a friendly and pleasant couple who caused little trouble unless they were drinking. The two were evicted from their George Street lodgings for being drunk and disorderly and nonpayment of rent. Their next move was to Brick Lane.
In February or March of 1888, Barnett and Mary moved again, this time to 13 Miller’s Court. Their home consisted of one room furnished with a bed, a cupboard, a chair or two, a dining table and a small bedside-type table. The room’s only decoration was a copy (probably black and white) of Frank Bramley’s painting, The Fisherman’s Widow, hanging above the mantle.
On Tuesday, October 30, between 5 and 6 p.m., Elizabeth Prater, who lived in a room above that occupied by Mary Kelly, reported that Barnett and Mary had an argument after which Barnett left and went to live at Buller’s Boarding House at 24-25 New Street in Bishopsgate. At the inquest, Barnett explained he left because Mary was inviting other prostitutes to stay in their small room. "She would never have gone wrong again," he said, "and I shouldn't have left her if it had not been for the prostitutes stopping at the house. She only let them [stay there] because she was good-hearted and did not like to refuse them shelter on cold bitter nights. We lived comfortably until Marie allowed a prostitute named Julia to sleep in the same room; I objected: and as Mrs. Harvey afterwards came and stayed there, I left and took lodgings elsewhere." Maria Harvey is known to have spent the nights of November 5 and 6 in Mary’s room before she moved to another location off Dorset Street.
On Wednesday, November 7, Mary Kelly purchased a half-penny candle at McCarthy's shop and Bowyer later observed her speaking with a man at Miller’s Court. He described the man as "smart" in appearance and said he had very white cuffs and a rather long white collar that came down over the front of his long black coat. The man, he added, was not carrying a bag.
Almost every day after he left, Barnett visited Mary and on Thursday, the 8th, he stopped by between 7:30 and 7:45 p.m., when he said, Mary was in the company of a neighbor woman, Lizzie Albrook, who lived at 2 Miller’s Court. According to Mrs. Albrook: “About the last thing she said to me was 'Whatever you do don't you do wrong and turn out as I did.' She had often spoken to me in this way and warned me against going on the street as she had done. She told me, too, that she was heartily sick of the life she was leading and wished she had money enough to go back to Ireland where her people lived. I do not believe she would have gone out as she did if she had not been obliged to do so to keep herself from starvation." (This seems to be more apocryphal than factual.)
There were no confirmed sightings of Mary Kelly between 8 and 11:45 p.m., although, according to legend, she was seen drinking with a woman named Elizabeth Foster at the Ten Bells Public House. There was also a rumor that around 11 p.m., Mary was seen in the Britannia public house drinking with a young, respectable, well-dressed man with a dark moustache.
At 11:45, Mary Ann Cox, a 31-year-old widow and prostitute who lived at 5 Miller's Court, entered Dorset Street from Commercial Street, returning home to warm herself because the night had turned cold. She saw Mary Kelly ahead of her, walking with what she described as a stout man, who appeared to be 35- or 36-years-old, 5'5"-tall and shabbily dressed in a long overcoat and billycock hat. She recalled the man had a “blotchy” face, small side whiskers and a carroty (reddish) moustache. The man was carrying a pail of beer. Mrs. Cox followed Mary and her companion into Miller’s Court and the two were standing outside No. 13 as Mrs. Cox passed and said, “Goodnight.” According to Mrs. Cox, Mary replied, somewhat incoherently, “Goodnight, I am going to sing” and a few minutes later, she heard the girl singing “A Violet from Mother’s Grave.” When Mrs. Cox went out again around midnight, Mary was still singing the same song. At some point that night, Mary ate a meal consisting of fish and potatoes. Around 12:30 a.m., Catherine Pickett, a flower-seller who lived nearby was disturbed by Mary’s singing, but her husband stopped her from going downstairs to complain, saying, “You leave the poor woman alone!” By 1 o’clock, it was beginning to rain and Mrs. Cox returned home again to warm herself. Mary was still singing at that time and Mrs. Cox observed a light coming from No. 13. A few minutes later, Mrs. Cox, went out again.
After midnight, Elizabeth Prater, who lived above Mary Kelly’s room, was standing at the entrance to Miller’s Court waiting for a man. She estimated she stood there about a half-hour before going into McCarthy’s shop to chat. After a few minutes, she went to her room, placed two chairs in front of the door and being inebriated, went to sleep without undressing.
George Hutchinson, a resident of the Victoria Working Men's Home on Commercial Street returned to the neighborhood from Romford at approximately 2 o’clock and while walking along Commercial Street, passed a man at the corner of Thrawl Street, but paid him no attention. At Flower and Dean streets, he met Mary Kelly, who asked if he had any money to spare. "Mr. Hutchinson,” she implored, “can you lend me sixpence?" Hutchinson said he could not, explaining, "I spent all my money going down to Romford." The girl replied, “I must go and find some money," and walked in the direction of Thrawl Street, where she met the man Hutchinson had seen earlier. The man put his hand on Mary’s shoulder, said something that made her laugh and Hutchinson heard her say, "All right,” to which the main responded, "You will be all right for what I have told you." The two then began to walk toward Dorset Street at which point Hutchinson noticed the man was carrying a small parcel in his left hand.
While standing under a streetlight outside the Queen's Head Public House, Hutchinson got a good look at the man, whom he described as having a pale complexion, slight moustache turned up at the corners (the press reported the man had a dark complexion and heavy moustache), dark hair, dark eyes and bushy eyebrows. According to Hutchinson, he had a "Jewish appearance." The man was wearing a soft felt hat pulled down over his eyes, long dark coat trimmed in astrakhan (cloth with a curled and looped pile) and a white collar with a black necktie fixed with a horseshoe pin. He wore dark spats over light button-over boots and there was a massive gold chain in his waistcoat with a large seal that had a red stone hanging from it. He was carrying kid gloves in his right hand and a small package in his left. Hutchinson estimated the man to be in his mid-30s and 5'6" or 5' 7"-tall. Hutchinson continued to follow Mary and the stranger and watched them as they stood talking for about three minutes outside Miller’s Court. He overheard Mary say, “All right, my dear. Come along. You will be comfortable.” He then saw the man put his arm around Mary and she kissed him. Then she exclaimed, "I've lost my handkerchief!" The man handed her a red handkerchief and the two stepped into the entry to Miller’s Court (above). Hutchinson waited until the clock struck 3 a.m. before leaving.
Mrs. Cox also heard the clock strike 3 as she was returning home, yet again, and by this time, it was raining hard. There was no sound or light coming from Mary's room. This time, Mrs. Cox stayed in her room, but did not sleep. Throughout the night, she reported, she heard men coming and going in and out of the court. "I heard someone go out at a quarter to 6,” she told the inquest. “I do not know what house he went out of [as] I heard no door shut."
Elizabeth Prater was awakened around 4 o’clock by her pet kitten "Diddles" walking on her neck and at that time, heard someone cry faintly, “Oh, murder!” but, paid no attention. Sarah Lewis, who was visiting friends at Miller’s Court, also heard the cry.
Caroline Maxwell, who knew Mary Kelly casually, claimed she saw Mary around 8:30 a.m. and described her clothing and appearance. She insisted she was not mistaken about the time. Maurice Lewis, a tailor who resided on Dorset Street, later told newspaper reporters he had seen Mary Kelly and Barnett at the Horn of Plenty public house on the night of the murder, but more importantly, insisted he saw her again at 10 o’clock on the morning of November 9.
* * *
Mary Kelly was wearing only a chemise when she was found and police discovered her clothing – which had been carefully folded – stacked on the chair at the foot of the bed. Her boots were sitting in front of the fire grate.
Dr. Thomas Bond, a registered police surgeon, was fetched and recorded what he observed that morning in Mary Kelly’s room:
“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 head was turned on the left cheek. The left arm was close to the body with the forearm flexed at a right angle and lying across the abdomen. The right arm was slightly abducted from the body and rested on the mattress, the elbow bent and the forearm supine with the fingers clenched.
“The legs were wide apart, the left thigh at right angles to the trunk and the right forming an obtuse angle with the pubes. The whole of the surface of the abdomen and thighs was removed and the abdominal Cavity emptied of its viscera. The breasts were cut off, the arms mutilated by several jagged wounds and 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 viz: the uterus and Kidneys with one breast under the head, the other breast by the right foot, the Liver between the feet, the intestines by the right side and the spleen by the left side of the body.
“The flaps removed from the abdomen and thighs were on a table. The bed clothing at the right corner was saturated with blood, and on the floor beneath was a pool of blood covering about 2 feet square ... The face was gashed in all directions, the nose, cheeks, eyebrows and ears being partly removed. The lips were blanched and cut by several incisions running obliquely down to the chin. There were also numerous cuts extending irregularly across all the features.”
Dr. George Bagster Phillips – who performed the postmortems on Annie Chapman and Elizabeth Stride – also viewed the scene after which he noted: "The mutilated remains of a female were lying two-thirds over towards the edge of the bedstead nearest the door. She had only her chemise on, or some under-linen garment. I am sure that the body had been removed subsequent to the injury which caused her death from that side of the bedstead that was nearest the wooden partition, because of the large quantity of blood under the bedstead and the saturated condition of the sheet and the palliasse (straw mattress) at the corner nearest the partition. The blood was produced by the severance of the carotid artery, which was the cause of death. The injury was inflicted while the deceased was lying at the right side of the bedstead."
It was rumored at the time that the killer had taken Mary Kelly’s heart. The autopsy was conducted the following day (Saturday) by Dr. Phillips, assisted by Drs. Bond and two other physicians. In his report, Phillips indicates the face was cut in all directions, with numerous cuts across all features. The neck was sliced down to the vertebrae with the cuts revealing distinct ecchymosis (discoloration of the skin resulting from bleeding underneath). Both breasts were removed by quasi-circular incisions leaving the associated muscles beneath and the thorax visible. The front of the right thigh was flayed (skinned) down to the bone, the left thigh was stripped of skin and muscle down to the knee and there was an incision to the left calf running from the knee to around 5-inches above the ankle. Both arms and forearms had extensive jagged wounds and the right thumb had a 1-inch superficial laceration, along with several abrasions to the back of the hand. The lower portion of the right lung was torn away and the pericardium was open below and the heart absent. There was partly digested food in the abdominal cavity and stomach. The organs were inventoried during the postmortem, but there was no mention of the heart, indicating it had, indeed, been taken by the killer.
Unfortunately, Drs. Bond and Phillips could not agree on the time of Mary Kelly’s death. Bond was convinced she died between 1 and 2 a.m. Phillips was just as convinced death had occurred between 5 and 6 a.m. Because there was no clear time of death, witness testimony was compromised because no one could ascertain, with any degree of certainty, who had seen, or heard, the woman during her final hours.
The funeral for Mary Jane Kelly, aka Maria Jeanette Kelly (Davies), was delayed until Monday, November 19, 1888, because she was Catholic and Joseph Barnett and John McCarthy (her landlord) demanded she be interred in accordance with the rituals of the Catholic Church. Finally, her remains were taken from Shoreditch Mortuary to St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cemetery in Leystone and she was laid to rest in grave no. 66, row 66, in plot 10. No family members attended her funeral.
In the 1950s, Mary Kelly’s grave was reclaimed and John Morrison erected a large, white headstone. Unfortunately, the wrong grave was marked, the headstone was removed and the grave was re-marked with a simple memorial in the 1990s.
The murder and mutilation of Mary Kelly created even more panic in Whitechapel and people, particular women, avoided the streets at night. There were sporadic episodes of mob violence when a man drew attention to himself by boasting he knew something about the murders, however, most of the time, it turned out the braggart was under the influence of alcohol and his assertions amounted to nothing. There were no further letters from “Saucy Jack” and although there were numerous suspects at the time and in subsequent years, and many authors have officially “solved” the Jack the Ripper case, the Whitechapel fiend remains as elusive today as he was on the morning of November 9, 1888.
Sources: Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper - Case Closed by Patricia Cornwell, The Murder of Mary Kelly, The Complete Jack the Ripper by Donald Rumbelow, The Complete History of Jack the Ripper by Philip Sugden, Casebook: Jack the Ripper, History in the Headlines; The Whitechapel Murders, CrimeLibrary; BBC News, and Jack the Ripper - 1888.