|A Ripperoo Article
|This article originally appeared in Ripperoo, the flagship magazine of the Australian Cloak and Dagger Club. For more information, view our Ripperoo page. Our thanks to the editor of Ripperoo for permission to reprint this article.
By Cherise McClain, Carl Dodd & Julian Rosenthal
The murder of Mary Jane Kelly has probably raised more questions than answers in regards to the other Whitechapel murders. Debate has raged over whether it was in fact Kelly who was found dead and mutilated in 13 Millers Court that morning. After the dead woman was found in Kelly’s room, several people supposedly saw Mary Kelly alive and walking around. In addition to this identity problem, the corpses ‘time of the death’ has eluded investigators like no other case. What we are going to do here is take another look and try to come up with a way to logically determine the approximate time and possible events leading to her death. If we are lucky, we might be able to help eliminate some of the confusion here.
In order to calculate the time of Mary Kelly’s murder, we’re going to use four items: witness information, the Ripper’s previous actions, rigor mortis coupled with the Coroner’s report and lastly, common sense. The reader should understand that there is no guarantee that our estimate of the situation will be correct. We, the authors do feel that we have come up with a realistic estimate and scenario that may explain Mary Kelly’s murder a little bit better than what Ripper investigations have had to use.
Where many people get confused is when they read too much into what witnesses say. When an investigator works with statements from witnesses, the investigator should not nitpick a statement to the point where the investigator gets confused about what has been said. This is one of the points where common sense comes into play.
In the book: ‘The Jack the Ripper A-Z’ Paul Begg, Martin Fido, Keith Skinner, information on all five of the five canonical ‘Ripper’ victims plus others, can be found. The leading Ripper investigators have gone to great lengths to make sure that the information in their book is accurate. Using this book, we will try to narrow down the times when the Ripper attacked his victim and killed her. The copy that we will be using is the one published with a revised edition of 1996.
In ‘The Jack the Ripper A-Z’, the main section on Mary Kelly starts on page 214 and goes to page 220. When we look at this section, we see that all the witness observations that night, help us.
On page 217 we can find this interesting paragraph: ‘At 2:00 a.m. George Hutchinson met Kelly in Commercial Street, where she addressed him by name and asked him for sixpence. Hutchinson watched her proceed toward Aldgate and pick up another client near Thrawl Street. He examined him closely under the light of the Queen’s Head on the corner of Fashion Street as the two passed him, and followed them to Dorset Street, where he watched them go into Kelly’s room. Then he waited outside for 45 minutes, sheltering under the arched entry besides Crossingham’s Lodging House before going home. Neither the client nor Kelly emerged during this time.’ Basically George Hutchinson saw Mary Jane Kelly pick up a client and take the client to her room. He then stood around for about 45 minutes outside, and observed neither leave.
The next paragraph we quote from this book is on page 218: ‘Mrs. Kennedy, Sarah Lewis and Elizabeth Prater, who lived in the room above Kelly’s, all reported hearing the cry of “Murder!” from the direction of Kelly’s room shortly before 4:00 a.m.’ With this second paragraph, we now have a witness, 3 of them, who tell us that at approximately 4:00 a.m., Mary Kelly was probably being murdered. We can say this because of what the 3 women heard, plus how they later reported it. In addition, Mary Kelly was the only person in that area known to be attacked at that time. So narrowing things down a bit, we can say that in the area of 2:45 a.m., George Hutchinson had not heard or seen anything that involved Mary Kelly being in a danger, so he left the Millers Court area. At about 4:00 a.m. Kelly probably yelled “Murder!” Somewhere between 2:45 and 4:00 a.m. was when Mary Kelly was probably attacked. But there is more homing to be done on this scenario later...Keep these 2 main time references in mind for later use!
The Ripper’s Previous Attacks:
One of the things that the authors took a long look at, was information involving previous attacks done on other victims. McClain and Dodd found that in 3 of the 4 previous attacks, the Ripper had met the victims and in less than half an hour, based upon information given by several witnesses, killed the women. This means that the Ripper’s attacks had been done with speed in mind and that only a little time had been used by the Ripper to lure the victims into being comfortable with his presence.
Again, using ‘The Jack the Ripper A-Z’ for reference purposes, we find that Mary Ann Nichols was the first of the Ripper victims. Information on Nichols starts on page 317 in the book. We learn from the book that at about 2:30 a.m. Ellen Holland saw Nichols alive. We also know that Nichols’ body was found at about 3:40 a.m. by two men. In Nichols’ case there was about a 70 minute gap from the time she was last seen alive to the time her body was found.
In ‘The Jack the Ripper A-Z’, we next look at the murder of Annie Chapman. Chapman’s information starts on page 75. At about 5:30 a.m. a woman named Elizabeth Darrel saw Chapman alive and talking to an unknown man. At about 6:00, John Davis found Chapman’s body lying next to a fence. That means that in about a 30 minute period, Jack the Ripper had met Chapman, gotten her to feel comfortable with him and then killed her. Chapman’s murder displays a certain amount of speed to it, that future investigators need to analyze.
Elizabeth Stride was the third victim of the Ripper. In the ‘A-Z’, her information starts on page 434. In Stride’s information we learn that a Police Constable named William Smith, at about 12:30 a.m., saw Stride alive and talking to an unknown man. Another witness named James Brown was almost certain that he saw Elizabeth Stride alive and talking to an unknown man at about 12:45 a.m. At about 1:00 a.m., Louis Diemschutz found Elizabeth Stride’s dead body in Dutfield’s Yard. At most the Ripper had about 30 minutes to kill her, based upon the observation of the Constable. If we believe William Smith, the second witness, the Ripper had only about 15 minutes in which to kill her, before her body would be found. Again, speed seems to have been used in this murder.
On page 121 of the ‘A-Z’, is where Catharine Eddowes’ information starts. At about 1:00 a.m. Eddowes was released from police custody from an earlier arrest for public intoxication. At about 1:35 a.m. Eddowes was seen alive and talking to an unknown man by 3 other men in the area of Duke’s Place entrance to Church Passage. At about 1:45 a.m. Police Constable Edward Watkins came into the area and found Eddowes’ body in the southwest corner of the square. This means that the Ripper had about 10 minutes or less to kill and mutilate her.
Understanding that the estimates of times that the Ripper had to kill and mutilate his victims is based, in this section, on approximations and guesses from witnesses who had seen or found the victims. Could the Ripper have had more time in which to work? Yes, he could have, but not much more. It is also possible that the Ripper may not have had as much time to work. What does seem to stand out is that in 3 of the murders the Ripper had 30 minutes to get things done. In 30 minutes the Ripper had to make the victims feel comfortable with him, get the women alone, launch his attack, kill the victims and then mutilate them. The Ripper’s speed in 3 of the 4 murders might indicate that he had done some prior planning and knew exactly what he was going to do before he did it. In other words, the Ripper sort of pulled a one-man high-speed, pre-planned attack against 3 of the 4 victims. His fury was such that his victims didn’t make much noise when they died.
As we move on to the next section of our article, we want to keep what we now suspect in mind so that we can tie all of our information together later. In this case, we want to keep in mind that in a short time frame the Ripper would meet his potential victims and attack them.
Rigor Mortis and the Coroner’s Report:
Rigor Mortis is one subject on which nobody seems to agree. If you go to different reference books and Websites you’ll find that each one has a different idea involving rigor mortis and how fast it can set into place in a dead body. Years ago it was not unusual for police officers, in some areas, to be taught that rigor mortis could develop twice in some bodies. There are some sources of information that say rigor mortis can start to set into a body within a few minutes of death. Other reference works to indicate that it takes hours to start setting. This will be one of those places where we will will need to use some common sense.
As a general rule, most people who work with dead bodies think that rigor mortis starts to set in after about 3 or 4 hours. There are various conditions that may cause it to set into a dead body faster or slower than is normally expected. Air temperature and moisture in the air are two examples of factors that cause its’ arrival to be delayed or accelerated, but basically 3 to 4 hours is the normal set in time.
Rigor mortis will gradually dissipate over the next several days after it has set into place. Again various factors can affect how it moves through a body. As another general rule, ‘rigor’ peaks in about 12 hours.
So what we have is rigor mortis starting to set into place in about 3 to 4 hours, peaking in about 12 hours, and then gradually dissipating over the next couple of days. With this understanding of it, we’re now going to try to work with a Coroner’s report involving Mary Kelly’s death.
Jules Rosenthal managed to develop information involving a report from a Dr. Thomas Bond. According to Dr. Bond, who performed the autopsy on Kelly at 2:00 p.m. rigor mortis had started to set in, but became more pronounced during the examination. Quoting from his annexed report of the autopsy he says: “Rigor Mortis had set in, but increased during the process of the examination. From this it is difficult to say with any degree of certainty the exact time that had elapsed since death…”
So if the autopsy started at 2:00 p.m. and rigor mortis was setting into Mary Kelly’s body, we can figure that rigor mortis would probably peak at about 3:00 p.m. or a little later. If we use the general rule that rigor mortis peaks in about 12 hours, then we can say that Mary Kelly probably died sometime after 3:00 or 3:30 a.m.
Now let’s couple all of our information together and see what we have. Let’s see what sort of a general scenario we can develop about Mary Kelly and Jack the Ripper.
The Information Summary:
We know that George Hutchinson left the area of Mary Kelly’s room at about 2:45 a.m. When Hutchinson left, we can be pretty sure that Mary Kelly was still alive. We also know that at about 4:00 a.m., 3 women heard somebody, probably Mary Kelly, cry out “Murder!”
This part indicates that Mary Kelly was probably alive at about 3:00 a.m. and under attack at about 4:00 a.m.
We know from analysis information involving prior attacks initiated by the Ripper, that he worked fast and seems to have used a furious sort of attack on his victims. He would lure in his victims so that they would feel comfortable with him and then strike.
With the general rules involving rigor mortis and the coroner’s report, we sort of confirm the information about when Mary Kelly died: sometime after 3:00 a.m. or 3:30 a.m. When the authors put all this information together, they came up with an interesting but chilling scenario involving the murder of Mary Kelly. Here’s what has developed in the Mary Kelly murder: Mary Kelly was probably attacked at or just before 3:30 a.m. During the attack she was knocked out or rendered unconscious. During the time that Mary Kelly was unconscious, it is thought that Jack the Ripper started to mutilate her. At about 4:00 a.m. Mary Kelly became unconscious again, discovered what the Ripper was doing to her body and cried out. It was at 4:00 a.m. that the Ripper finished killing Mary Kelly. This is why the time estimation involving rigor mortis seems to back-up information from the witnesses.
If Mary Kelly died the way that the authors think it may have occurred, then she suffered the worst of all the Ripper’s victims. Mary Kelly probably died knowing that she had no hope of survival and that she was already in the hands of pure evil.
If this scenario is one that police officers were able to develop back in 1888, then it would explain why so many of them were shaken-up by Mary Kelly’s death. The thought of any woman dying in the manner described here in this possible scenario, would’ve shown the officers just how bad things were for ‘Jack the Ripper’s’ victims.
Cherise,Carl , and Jules!