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James Kelly
Our thanks to Alan Sharp for compiling this timeline

April 20th 1860 - James Kelly born in Preston, Lancashire, the illegitimate son of 15 year old Sarah Kelly. After the birth Sarah returns to Liverpool leaving James in the care of her mother Teresa. James never meets his mother.

1870 - Sarah Kelly marries Master Mariner John Allen.

1873 - James Kelly leaves school and begins an apprenticeship as an upholsterer.

May 16th 1874 - John Allen dies in Peru leaving Sarah Kelly a house and a share in a cargo ship. Sarah falls to pieces and her health begins to deteriorate.

July 29th 1874 - Sarah Kelly dies. In her will she leaves James a small fortune of over 25,000 to be held in trust for him until his 25th birthday.

1875 - Teresa Kelly tells James about his history and his inheritance. It is the first time he learns that the woman he thought was his mother is really his grandmother. He is withdrawn from his apprenticeship and sent to Dr Robert Hurworth's Commercial Academy in New Brighton to learn bookkeeping and clerical skills.

1876 - Teresa Kelly dies.

1877 - James finishes his education and takes a job in Liverpool with Isaac H. Jones, a pawnbroker. He begins to act irrationally and experience mood swings.

Late 1878 - James decides to quit his job and return to his previous trade as an upholsterer. He also decides to move to London, and applies to the administrators of his trust fund who agree to fund the move. On arrival in London he applies to the East London Upholsterer's Trade Society in Shoreditch for work. They agree to help him find a position, but suggest he takes casual work in the meantime.

Early 1879 - Kelly takes lodgings at 37 Collingwood Street, Bethnal Green with the family of fellow upholsterer Walter Lamb. In the company of Lamb and another friend John Merritt, a 35 year old married cab driver, the formerly devout Catholic Kelly learns the delights of hard drinking and paid sex on the back streets of the East End. He works at a variety of casual jobs in sweatshops all over the district. Eventually he decides to try his luck elsewhere.

1879-1881 - For two years there are only scant details of Kelly's movements. For at least some time he is living in Brighton, and he spends a period serving aboard an American Man-o-war.

Mid 1881 - He returns to London and renews his acquaintance with Lamb and Merritt. He works at a variety of casual jobs and sometimes serves on Continental cargo ships. His drinking becomes heavier than ever and most evenings are spent around Whitechapel and Spitalfields.

December 1881 - A few weeks before Christmas he meets Sarah Brider and quickly becomes enamoured of her. Sarah takes him home to meet her family and the pair become an item. Sarah's parents think him a serious and religious young man with good prospects.

March 1882 - Kelly moves into the Brider's house at 21 Cottage Lane, just off the City Road between Shoreditch and Islington, as a lodger. He has to share a room with another man. He cuts down n his drinking and other activities and spends many evenings in the house with Sarah and her parents.

Christmas 1882 - Kelly and Sarah have become increasingly intimate over the year and, after much persistence on his part, she surrenders her virginity to him. The event is a disaster. Despite being sexually experienced, Kelly has only slept with low-class prostitutes, and neither one has had any kind of sex education. He is not prepared for how different sex with a virgin will be and finds himself unable to penetrate. He is convinced that Sarah has some kind of deformity and she babbles a story of being interfered with by an uncle by way of explanation. Kelly's former erratic behaviour returns after this and he experiences stronger and stronger depressions and mood swings in the following months. He also returns to his former habits in the East End rather than pressing Sarah further.

February 1883 - Fearful that he will lose Sarah who is growing more distant, he proposes marriage to her. She delays but eventually accepts. However in the meantime Kelly finds he has a venereal disease and, fearful of doctors, resolves to treat it himself.

April 1st 1883 - Kelly finally lands a permanent job in the upholstery trade, working for John Hiron of 4 Orchard Buildings, Acton Street, Haggerston. Sarah's family pressure him to set a date for the wedding, although he is reluctant due to his disease. They finally agree a date of June 4th. Kelly's erratic behaviour continues and he begins experiencing serious headaches and discharges from his ears.

Friday June 1st 1883 - Kelly is dismissed from his job. As a reason Hiron states that "he was obviously not right in the head." Kelly has some money from his trust fund and it is decided that the wedding will go ahead.

Monday June 4th 1883 - Kelly and Sarah are married at St Luke's Parish Church, Old Street, EC1. On the same day he obtains a new upholstery job with Cornelius Vincent Smith at Marshall's Yard, 4 Henry Street, close to Regents Park and 2 miles walk from Cottage Lane. The couple remain at Sarah's parents house and because of shortness of space Kelly continues to share a room with the lodger. It is believed that the marriage is never consummated.

Saturday June 9th 1883 - Kelly demands Sarah see a doctor about her 'deformity'. Sarah turns to her parents and her father, John Brider, confronts Kelly who pours out to him the whole tale of their sexual problems and the supposed abuse by an uncle. Stunned by this, Mr Brider agrees that Sarah should see a doctor, but Kelly broods on the incident the whole weekend.

Monday June 11th 1883 - Kelly travels to Liverpool and asks the fund trustees for money so that he and Sarah can set up house together. He is successful and returns the same day.

Sunday June 17th 1883 - When cleaning the room Kelly shares, Mrs Brider finds a syringe and the drugs Kelly is using to treat himself. She and Sarah tackle him and after initially denying that they are his, he flies into a rage and accuses Sarah of being a prostitute and infecting him, and accuses them both of tricking him into marriage to get their hands on his inheritance.

Monday June 18th 1883 - Sarah's birthday. Filled with remorse at his outburst of the night before Kelly resolves to take her out on their return from work. Kelly waits for her but she does not return until 9 o'clock, over an hour later than usual. Ignoring Kelly she goes into the parlour and tells her mother she is unwell. Kelly runs into the parlour and drags Sarah into the kitchen screaming abuse at her. Then he pulls a carving knife from a kitchen drawer and threatens to stab her unless she tells him where she has been. She claims to have gone to get some quinine to help him with his problems. Kelly calms down instantly and collapses in a chair crying.

Thursday June 21st 1883 - Sarah returns home from work at around 8pm and says she is going back out to meet Kelly. An hour later he appears without her. Mrs Brider asks where she is and he tells her that he saw her on the other side of the road and did not cross to her. Then he snaps at her that no woman will ever master him and he goes out again.

Twenty minutes later they return together and on entering Sarah pulls away from him and locks herself in her room. Kelly flies into a rage and breaks the door down. When Mrs Brider arrives Kelly is yelling at Sarah that she is a whore. Sarah replies that she no longer wants to live with him or ever see him again. Once again Kelly calms down instantly and begs forgiveness, but Sarah will not relent this time. Kelly flies into a rage once more and this time he throws her to the floor, pulls a pen-knife from his pocket and plunges it into her neck. He then begins digging away with the knife as if trying to burrow deeper and deeper. Mrs Brider tries to drag him off by the hair, and he turns on her, picks her up and throws her across the room. Then he runs off and shuts himself in his bedroom.

Mrs Brider runs into the street screaming for help. Within minutes the police and a doctor arrive. Sarah is taken to St Bartholomew's Hospital and Kelly is arrested and taken to Old Street Police Station.

Friday June 22nd 1883 - Kelly is charged with attempted murder at Clerkenwell Police Court. He is remanded in custody for a week.

Saturday June 23rd 1883 - Kelly is taken to the hospital by Inspector Maynard where Sarah's statement is taken in his presence.

Sunday June 24th 1883 - Kelly writes a letter to Sarah begging her forgiveness. At 10.30 that evening Sarah dies from her injuries.

Monday June 25th 1883 - Kelly is charged with murder.

Thursday June 28th 1883 - First hearing at Clerkenwell Police Court. Kelly is formally charged and pleads insanity. He is remanded again for a week to allow the inquest on Sarah to take place. The inquest returns a verdict of wilful murder against him and a trial date is set.

Wednesday August 1st 1883 - The trial is held at the Old Bailey. Kelly pleads not guilty by reason of insanity. Sarah's statement is read to the court. A coachman named Frederick Hammond testifies to seeing Kelly threaten Sarah in the street shortly after 9 that evening. Dr Oliver Treadwell of Clerkenwell Prison testifies to having examined Kelly and found him to be sane. The jury return a guilty verdict and Kelly is sentenced to be hanged.

Thursday August 2nd 1883 - Kelly's lawyers lodge a petition of clemency. Among the signatories are Mr and Mrs Brider.

Friday August 3rd 1883 - The Home Secretary refuses clemency and the execution is set for August 20th. Kelly refuses to believe that he will be hanged, saying that God still has a mission in mind for him.

Tuesday August 7th 1883 - Kelly is examined by Dr W. Orange, superintendent of Broadmoor, who reports that in his opinion Kelly is of defective mental capacity.

Friday August 17th 1883 - Kelly is certified insane and his sentence is commuted. He is sentenced to be held in a maximum security mental institution during Her Majesties pleasure.

Friday August 24th 1883 - Kelly arrives at Broadmoor to begin his sentence.

1884 - Kelly obtains a violin and begins playing in the asylum band. He is put to work in the asylum garden.

1886 - Kelly befriends fellow inmate George Shatton. The two begin to plan an escape. They fashion keys from metal found in the asylum garden, by observing the keys hanging from the warder's belts.

January 23rd 1888 - At 6.30pm Kelly takes his violin and he and Shatton head off apparently to band practice. In reality Kelly uses the keys to let himself into the asylum garden. Shatton locks up after him and keeps the keys to make his own escape at a later date. Kelly then climbs the six foot wall of the garden to freedom. His escape is not noticed until the inmates are called for bed at 7.30. An anonymous note in Kelly's Broadmoor file indicates that John Merritt was seen in the neighbourhood of Broadmoor on the day of the escape. He may have been delivering 5 which Kelly had arranged to be given him from the trust fund, with which to bribe a warder.

Note: Aside from where official agencies are involved, Kelly's movements from this point are based on his own confession of 1927 and are uncorroborated.

Kelly heads for London by a roundabout route to escape detection. The journey takes 4 days and ends at a lodging-house in the docks where he lies up for a week or more.

February 1888 - James Monro, head of the Metropolitan Police CID, takes a particular interest in the case.

February - June 1888 - Having obtained money from friends Kelly heads to Liverpool. He walks the whole way to avoid being spotted on public transport. He is harboured by relatives for a while. After obtaining more money from friends he resolves to escape to the Continent. He sets off walking again to Harwich, where he arranges to work his passage on a ship. He is spotted on the deck by a sharp-eyed policeman and narrowly escapes. He heads back to London, arriving sometime before the end of June.

July - December 1888 - Kelly provides no details as to his movements until late that year, in November or December, he walks to Dover and obtains passage on a cross-channel steamer to Dieppe. He remains in France for three years, at first hugging the northern coast and later heading to Paris.

10th November 1888 - The day after the Mary Kelly murder, detectives raid 21Cottage Lane and question Mrs Brider as to Kelly's whereabouts.

12th November 1888 - Someone with the initials CET enters a note in Kelly's Metropolitan Police file suggesting that the detectives investigating the Whitechapel Murders should look into what steps have been taken to recapture Kelly.

January 1892 - He returns to England and obtains 3 10s from friends with which he buys passage on a German steamer, the Zaandam, to New York via Rotterdam.

January 27th 1896 - Kelly walks into the British Consulate in New Orleans and gives himself up.

March 18th 1896 - Kelly sets off back to England aboard the SS Capella. The Foreign Office arrange for him to be met by the authorities when the ship docks in Liverpool.

March 26th 1896 - The Capella arrives in Liverpool a day early. The authorities have not thought to check. Kelly waits around for some time to be arrested, then finally gets tired of waiting and heads off into Liverpool. When the escort party arrive the next day there is no sign of him. Kelly remains in England for a further two or three years working as a coach trimmer in Guildford, then takes a steamer, the SS Beechdale, to Vancouver.

1901 Kelly again resolves to give himself up. He tells his story to the British Consul in Vancouver but when the information is communicated back to London nobody appears interested. After waiting 3 months Kelly heads back to England under his own steam but on arrival changes his mind and does not give himself up. It is not known how long he stays this time. He works for some time as a coach trimmer in Godalming, and is spotted at one point working as an upholsterer in North London. At some point he returns to America, and crosses the Atlantic several more times in the years up until 1927.

April 22nd 1907 - Broadmoor officially discharge Kelly on account of the failure of the authorities to recapture him.

February 11th 1927 - Kelly arrives at the main gate of Broadmoor and asks to be let in. He is profoundly deaf and in poor physical condition. He is readmitted and remains there the rest of his life.

September 17th 1929 - Kelly dies.

Reasons for suspecting Kelly: He was a diagnosed Paranoid Schizophrenic. He had shown himself capable of murder with a knife. His reasons for murdering his wife were his belief that she was a prostitute and had infected him with VD. Having been disavowed of this idea in Broadmoor he would almost certainly have realised that the real source of his infection was the prostitutes of Whitechapel and Spitalfields with whom he had consorted. He may well have resolved to take his revenge on them for destroying his life. The raid on 21 Cottage Lane on 10th November 1888 shows that at least someone in the Metropolitan Police must have suspected him.

Reasons against suspecting Kelly: His movements after his escape from Broadmoor cannot be verified. There is no proof he was in London in late 1888. There are also no other murders which can be tied in with his movements between then and 1927.


Related pages:
  James Kelly
       Message Boards: James Kelly 
       Press Reports: John Blunts Monthly - 16 December 1929 
       Press Reports: Morning Advertiser - 20 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Times - 2 August 1883 
       Ripper Media: Jack the Ripper: A Suspect Guide - James Kelly 
       Ripper Media: Jimmy Kelly's Year of Ripper Murders 
       Ripper Media: Prisoner 1167: The Madman Who Was Jack the Ripper