New York, USA
11 November 1888
THE LATEST VICTIM OF THE WHITECHAPEL MURDERER
MARY JANE'S TERRIBLE DEATH
This last Whitechapel murder was not committed in Dorset street, properly speaking. Out of Dorset street there opens an arched passage, low and narrow. A big man walking through it would bend his head and turn sideways to keep his shoulders from rubbing against the dirty bricks. At the end of the passage is a high court, but ten feet broad and thirty long, thickly whitewashed all around for sanitary reasons, to a height of ten feet. This is Miller (sic) court. Misery is written all over the place, the worst kind of London misery, such as those who have lived their lives in America can have no idea of. The first door at the end and on the right of the passage opens into a tiny damp room on a level with the pavement. The landlord of this and neighboring rooms is a John McCarthy, who keeps a little shop in Dorset street, on the side of the passage. About a year ago he rented it to a woman who looked about thirty. She was popular among the females of the neighborhood, who shared her beer generously, as I have been tearfully informed, and went under the title of Mary Jane McCarthy. Her landlord knew that she had another name, Kelly, but her friends had not heard of it. It seems there had been a Mr. Kelly, when Mary Jane had married in the manner which is considered satisfactory in Whitechapel. They had not gone to the expense of a license, but published the fact of matrimony by living in one small room, and sharing joy and sorrow and drunkenness there together.
Mary Jane took up her residence in the little room in Miller court when Kelly went away. Since then her life has been that of all the women around her, her drunkenness and the number of strange men she brought to her little room being the gauges by which her sisters in wretchedness measured her prosperity. Last night also she went out as usual and was seen at various times up to 11.30 o'clock drinking at various low beer shops in Commercial street. In those resorts she was known not as Mary Jane, her home name, but as "Fair Emma," a title bestowed in complimentary allusion to her appearance. At last, just before midnight, she went home with some man who appears to have dissuaded her from making a goodnight visit, as was her custom, at the drinking place nearest her room. No description whatever can be obtained of this man.
Right opposite the passage leading to Mary Jane's room is a big and very pretentious lodging house, where the charge is fourpence. Some gentlemen congregated about the door at midnight are sure they saw a man and woman, the latter being Mary Jane, stop to laugh at a poster on one side of the passage which offers a hundred pounds reward for the Whitechapel murderer. The man must have enjoyed the joke, for he himself was the Whitechapel murderer beyond all doubt. This picture from real life of a murderer reading an advertised reward for his capture with the woman he is about to butcher is not a usual one. A great deal of speculating will be done as to whether he was a cold blooded monster trembling at his own danger, or a madman defiant of everything and with difficulty restraining his impulse to kill at once. The men who saw him can only say that he did not look remarkable.
At 10 o'clock this morning, just as the Lord Mayor was climbing into his golden carriage, three horrified policemen, who had first looked in through Mary Jane's window and then drunk big glasses of brandy to steady themselves, were breaking in her door with a pickaxe. The Whitechapel murderer had done his work with more horrible thoroughness than ever before. The miserable woman's body was literally scattered all over her little room. A description of such butchery is unpleasant to write, but is necessary to understand London's state of terror and to form an opinion as to this remarkable murder. Almost every conceiva
ble mutilation had been practised on the body. McCarthy, the shopkeeper and landlord, had seen the body first. He had gone, as he has daily for a long time, to ask for several weeks' arrears of rent, amounting in all to thirty shillings. Though not an imaginative man, McCarthy at once expressed the conviction that a devil, and not a man, had been at work. This, by the way, is a new theory in regard to the murderer's identity. The woman's nose was cut off, and her face gashed. She had been completely disembowelled, as had all the murderer's former victims, and all the intestines had been placed upon a little table which, with a chair and the bed, constituted all the furniture in the room. Both the woman's breasts had been removed and placed also on the table. Large portions of the thighs had been cut away, and the head was almost completely severed from the body. One leg also was almost completely cut off. The mutilation was so frightful that more than an hour was spent by the doctors in endeavoring to reconstruct the woman's body from the pieces so as to place it in a coffin and have it photographed.
Tonight at midnight Dorset street and all the neighborhood was swarming with such a degraded Whitechapel throng as I have already described in these columns. Those with any money were getting drunk very fast. The drunkenness of the poor in London is amazing. Many sober women and all the drunken ones were crying from terror, while the men lounged about singing or fighting and chaffing the women, according to their ideas of humor. Gallantry is not rampant among these Whitechapel men. The police were and are doing nothing of importance. The poor woman's fragments, put together as skilfully as possible, are lying in the Houndsditch mortuary in a scratched and dirty shell of a coffin often used before. The mortuary is in a graveyard back of gloomy old Houndsditch church, and not a pleasant spot late at night. While the body was being carried from the scene of the murder thousands crowded as near as the police would allow and gazed with lifted caps and pitying faces at the latest victim. The police have done nothing but push the crowd about and be officious, this to such an extent that even those whose duty led them to the place found it necessary to place frequent softening half crowns into policemen's palms.
The most interesting individual in Miller court was a woman who had known the dead woman, Mary Jane's pal, she called herself. Her room is directly opposite the murdered woman's, and its agitated proprietor stood in the doorway urging a young girl with straggling wisps of red hair, who had started for beer, not to be gone a minute. She assured me that she would be glad to talk to me while Kate was away, just to forget the horrors. This woman spoke well of the dead. Her name was Mary, and she had not always been on peaceable terms with murdered Mary Jane, but they were good friends. Though quarrelsome, Mary Jane was pretty before she was cut up, Mary said, and she was only twenty four, not thirty, as she looked; but she would fight, and did not care what sort of a place she lived in.
I was invited to inspect Mary's room, as evidence of the fact that her taste was superior to murdered Mary Jane's. It was almost as big as a horse car. Sleeping and cooking were both done in it. On a clothes line stretched across it a night dress was drying. There was a bed one foot above the floor, a stool and a nondescript piece of furniture to hold things. The thinnest kitten I ever saw sat on the bed post. It had been scalded, and had a leather collar around its neck. There was milk in a saucer on the floor, showing that vile air and worse drainage had brought the kitten down without the help of hunger.
When the girl with the red hair came back the woman who had been a friend of Mary Jane drank in a few minutes a quart of beer, relating at the same time many incidents in the lives of herself and her dead friend. At last, with a flood of drunken tears, she declared that she would never dare go out on the streets again to earn a living, observed somewhat inconsistently that lightning never struck twice in the same place, meaning that the murderer would never come back to Miller court, made the red haired girl swear an oath to stay all night, snatched the amazed kitten convulsively to her breast, and went asleep on the bed with her head the wrong way up. Those who think they have a working plan for reforming society should take a careful look through Whitechapel and see the things they have got to reform.
The girl with the red hair did not think it wonderful that no one had heard any sound of the murder. Someone was always drunk and yelling in Miller court, and she rightly guessed that a woman being beaten would make as much noise as one cut up, so that the murder would not be noticed. For her part she was sure to imagine murder in every direction now. She had strong mind, however, had not had any beer and did not cry. She knew positively that Mary Jane was alive at 1 o'clock, for at that hour she had heard her singing "Sweet Violets" to whoever was in her room. This fact and the name of the name have been solemnly entered in the police account of the case.