|A Ripperologist Article|
|This article originally appeared in Ripperologist No. 4, December 1995. Ripperologist is the most respected Ripper periodical on the market and has garnered our highest recommendation for serious students of the case. For more information, view our Ripperologist page. Our thanks to the editor of Ripperologist for permission to reprint this article.|
By Nick Connell
The circumstances surrounding the death of Jack the Ripper's final victim Mary Jane Kelly are almost as mysterious as the story of her life. Several witnesses made the attestation that they heard a cry of "murder" from the direction of Kelly's room (13 Miller's Court) shortly before 4 a.m. The findings of the post mortem indicated that death occurred before 8 a.m. but there were three sightings of Kelly after 8 a.m.
At Kelly's inquest Caroline Maxwell, the wife of a lodging house deputy from Dorset Street, claimed to have seen Kelly in Miller's Court at 8.30 a.m. where the following conversation took place:
Maxwell - What brings you up so early?
Kelly - I have the horrors of drink upon me, as I have been drinking for some days past.
Maxwell - Why don't you go to the Ringers and have a half pint of beer?
Kelly - I have been there and had it, but I have brought it all up again (pointing to a pool of vomit).
Maxwell - I pity the feeling.
Maxwell further claimed to have seen Kelly at about 8.45 a.m. outside the Ringers (The Britannia) talking to a man who looked like a market porter. He was "a short man, dressed in dark clothes, and wearing a sort of plaid coat." (The Herts and Cambs reporter of 16.11.1888 named the man as Joe Barnet.)
Maurice Lewis, a tailor who lived in Dorset Street, claimed to have seen Kelly leave her room at around 8 a.m. only to return shortly afterwards (Lewis was possibly the unnamed witness reported in the Hertfordshire Mercury of 10.11.1888 who said that Kelly had left her room at 8 a.m. to buy some milk), and again at around 10 a.m. in the Ringers. An anonymous witness informed the police that she had definitely seen Kelly between 8 and 8.45 a.m.
Both Caroline Maxwell and Maurice Lewis appeared to have made their statements in earnest as to having seen Kelly alive after 8 a.m. on Friday 9th November. The possibility of Maxwell being mistaken as to the date when she saw Kelly was eliminated by the shopkeeper who had sold her milk after she had spoken to Kelly, (although he made no mention of Kelly buying milk as the witness claimed).
The course of events is complicated by subsequent press reports that, although self-admittedly unconfirmed, tell a remarkable story. The Herts. and Cambs. reporter on 16.11. gives the following details of the events of the 8th/9th November:
"She had a little boy, aged about six or seven years, living with her, and latterly her circumstances had been so reduced that she is reported to have stated to a companion that she would make away with herself, as she could not bear to see her boy starving ....a man who is described as respectably dressed, came up and spoke to the murdered woman Kelly and offered her some money. The man accompanied the woman to her lodgings, which are on the second floor, the little boy being sent to a neighbour's house. Nothing more was seen of the woman. On Friday morning, it is stated, the little boy was sent back into the house, and the report goes that he was sent out subsequently on an errand by the man who was in the house with his mother. Confirmation of this statement is, it is true, difficult to obtain, and it remains in doubt whether anyone really saw the unfortunate woman on the morning of the discovery."
The Hertfordshire Mercury on the 10.11 also suggests that there was someone else in Kelly's room, but "there is no evidence as to who was in the house with her."
The Herts. Advertiser & St. Albans Times on 10.11 describes Kelly's son as around 10-11 years of age and adds: "The story of the crime current among the neighbours is that this morning - what time cannot at present be ascertained, but at any rate after daylight - she took a man home to her own room, presumably for an immoral purpose."
The report also adds another name to the equation. Mrs Hewitt of 25 Dorset Street "stated that a man - a drover - called on her some time ago. He asked her if a summons came in the name of Lawrence to accept it. This man Lawrence, she says, she believes lived with the dead woman. He was off and on in London, sometimes being absent for five or six weeks."
Two stop press reports of the Kelly murder offer tentative solutions as to the circumstances of her death. The Bristol Mercury (12.10) reports that, "seeing that it was contrary to Kelly's custom to take strangers to her room, it is believed that her destroyer offered some exceptional inducement." And the Eastern Post (10.11) suggests, "the cause of the dreadful crime was jealousy."
It has been suggested that another woman was murdered in Kelly's room, thus explaining the sightings of her on Friday morning but Joe Barnett's identification of the body was made confidently. Maxwell's claims can be weakened by the fact that she had not known Kelly for long and had only spoken to her on two previous occasions. The fact that neither the press nor the police took the claims seriously adds flavour to the belief that the witnesses were mistaken.SOURCES:
Jack the Ripper the Uncensored Facts - Paul Begg
The Crimes, Detection and Death of Jack the Ripper - Martin Fido
Herts. Advertiser & St. Albans Times 10.11.1888
Herts. & Cambs. Reporter and Royston Crow - 6.11.1888
Hertfordshire Mercury - 10.11.1888