Mary Jane Kelly was approximately 25 years old at the time of her death which would place her birth around 1863. She was 5' 7" tall and stout. She had blonde hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion. "Said to have been possessed of considerable personal attractions." (McNaughten)
She was last seen wearing a linsey frock and a red shawl pulled around her shoulders. She was bare headed. Detective Constable Walter Dew claimed to know Kelly well by sight and says that she was attractive and paraded around, usually in the company of two or three friends. He says she always wore a spotlessly clean white apron.
Maria Harvey, a friend, says that she was "much superior to that of most persons in her position in life."
It is also said that she spoke fluent Welsh.
Joseph Barnett says that he "always found her of sober habits."
Landlord John McCarthy says "When in liquor she was very noisy; otherwise she was a very quiet woman."
Caroline Maxwell says that she "was not a notorious character."
Catherine Pickett claims "She was a good, quiet, pleasant girl, and was well liked by all of us."
Almost everything that is known about Mary Jane Kelly comes from Joseph Barnett, who lived with her just prior to the murder. He, of course, had all this information from Kelly herself. Some is conflicting and it may be suspected that some, or perhaps much of it, is embellished.
She was born in Limerick, Ireland but we do not know if that refers to the county or the town. As a young child she moved with her family to Wales.
Her father was John Kelly who worked in an iron works in either Carnarvonshire or Carmarthenshire. Mary Jane claims to have 6 or 7 brothers and one sister. She says that one brother, Henry, whose nickname is Johnto is a member of the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards. As a member of this battalion he would have been stationed in Dublin, Ireland. She also claims to Lizzie Albrook that she had a relative on the London stage.
John McCarthy, landlord at Miller's Court, states that she received a letter from her mother in Ireland. Barnett says that she never corresponded with her family.
Joseph Barnett and Mrs. Carthy, a woman with whom she lived at one time, say that she came from a family that was "fairly well off" (Barnett) and "well to do people" (Carthy). Mrs. Carthy also states that Kelly was "an excellent scholar and an artist of no mean degree."
Mrs. Carthy is the landlady from Breezer's Hill, Ratcliffe Highway. Barnett refers to her house as "a bad house."
c. 1879: At the age of 16 she marries a collier named Davies. He is killed in an explosion two or three years later. There is a suggestion that there might have been a child in this marriage.
Kelly moves to Cardiff and lives with a cousin and works as a prostitute. The Cardiff police have no record of her. She says she was ill and spent the best part of the time in an infirmary.
She arrives in London in 1884.
She may have stayed with the nuns at the Providence Row Night Refuge on Crispin Street. According to one tradition she scrubbed floors and charred here and was eventually placed into domestic service in a shop in Cleveland Street.
According to Joseph Barnett, on arriving in London, Kelly went to work in a high class brothel in the West End. She says that during this time she frequently rode in a carriage and accompanied one gentleman to Paris, which she didn't like and she returned.
On November 10, one day after the murder, Mrs. Elizabeth Phoenix of 57 Bow Common Lane, Burdett Road, Bow, went to the Leman Street Police Station and said that a woman matching the description of Kelly used to live in her brother-in-law's house in Breezer's Hill, off Pennington Street.
Mrs. Phoenix says that "She 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." She added that Mary Jane was very abusive and quarrelsome when she was drunk but "one of the most decent and nice girls you could meet when sober."
A Press Association reporter who looked into the Breezer's Hill District wrote:
"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.
Kelly at last indulged in intoxicants, it is stated, to an extant which made her unwelcome. From St. George's Street she went to lodge with a Mrs. Carthy at Breezer's Hill. This place she left about 18 months or two years ago and from that time on appears to have left Ratcliffe all together.
Mrs. Carthy said that Kelly had left her house and gone to live with a man who was in the building trade and who Mrs. Carthy believed would have married Kelly."
c. 1886: Kelly leaves Carthy's house to live with a man in the building trades. Barnett says she lived with a man named Morganstone opposite or in the vicinity of Stepney Gasworks. She had then taken up with a man named Joseph Fleming and lived somewhere near Bethnal Green. Fleming was a stone mason or mason's plasterer. He used to visit Kelly and seemed quite fond of her. A neighbour at Miller's Court, Julia Venturney says that Kelly was fond of a man other than Barnett and whose name was also Joe. She thought he was a costermonger and sometimes visited and gave money to Kelly.
By 1886 she is living in 'Cooley's Lodging House' in Thrawl Street, Spitalfields and it is here that she meets Joseph Barnett.
Joseph Barnett is London born of Irish heritage. He is a riverside laborer and market porter who is licensed to work at Billingsgate Fish Market. He comes from a family of three sisters and one brother who is named Daniel. Barnett was born in 1858 and dies in 1926.
Julia Venturney says that Joe Barnett is of good character and was kind to Mary Jane, giving her money on occasion.
Barnett and Kelly are remembered as a friendly and pleasant couple who give little trouble unless they are drunk. She may be the Mary Jane Kelly who was fined 2/6 by the Thames Magistrate Court on September 19, 1888 for being drunk and disorderly.
Good Friday, April 8, 1887: Joseph Barnett meets Mary Jane Kelly for the first time in Commercial Street. He takes her for a drink and arranges to meet her the following day. At their second meeting they arrange to live together.
They take lodgings in George Street, off Commercial Street. Later they move to Little Paternoster Row off Dorset Street. They are evicted for not paying rent and for being drunk. Next they move to Brick Lane.
In February or March of 1888 they move from Brick Lane to Miller's Court off Dorset Street. Here they occupy a single room which is designated 13 Miller's Court.
August or early September, 1888: Barnett loses his job and Mary Jane returns to the streets. Barnett decides to leave her.
October 30, between 5 and 6 PM: Elizabeth Prater, who lives above Kelly reports that Barnett and Kelly have an argument and Barnett leaves her. He goes to live at Buller's boarding house at 24-25 New Street, Bishopsgate.
Barnett states at the inquest that he left her because she was allowing other prostitutes to stay in the room. "She would never have gone wrong again," he tells a newspaper, "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." He adds, "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 stayed with Kelly on the nights of November 5 and 6. She moved to new lodgings at 3 New Court, another alley off Dorset Street.
Wednesday, November 7: Mary Jane buys a half penny candle from McCarthy's shop. She is later seen in Miller's Court by Thomas Bowyer, a pensioned soldier whose nickname is "Indian Harry." He is employed by McCarthy and lives at 37 Dorset Street.
Bowyer states that on Wednesday night he saw a man speaking to Kelly who closely resembled the description of the man Matthew Packer claims to have seen with Elizabeth Stride. His appearance was smart and attention was drawn to him by his very white cuffs and rather long, white collar which came down over the front of his long black coat. He did not carry a bag.
Thursday-Friday, November 8-9: Almost every day after the split, Barnett would visit Mary Jane. On Friday the ninth he stops between 7:30 and 7:45 PM. He says she is in the company of another woman who lives in Miller's Court. This may have been Lizzie Albrook who lived at 2 Miller's Court.
Albrook says "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."
Mary Kelly as discovered in Miller's Court (MJK2).
Second view of Mary Kelly as discovered in Miller's Court (MJK3).
Maria Harvey also says that she was woman that Barnett saw with Mary Jane and that she left at 6:55 PM.
8:00 PM: Barnett leaves and goes back to Buller's Boarding House where he played whist until 12:30 AM and then went to bed.
8:00 PM: Julia Venturney, who lives at 1 Miller's Court goes to bed.
There are no confirmed sightings of Mary Jane Kelly between 8:00 PM and 11:45 PM. there is an unconfirmed story that she is drinking with a woman named Elizabeth Foster at the Ten Bells Public House.
11:00 PM: It is said she is in the Britannia drinking with a young man with a dark mustache who appears respectable and well dressed. It is said she is very drunk.
11:45 PM: Mary Ann Cox, a 31 year old widower and prostitute, who lives at 5 Miller's Court (last house on the left) enters Dorset Street from Commercial Street. Cox is returning home to warm herself as the night had turned cold. She sees Kelly ahead of her, walking with a stout man. The man was aged around 35 or 36 and was about 5' 5" tall. He was shabbily dressed in a long overcoat and a billycock hat. He had a blotchy face and small side whiskers and a carroty mustache. The man is carrying a pail of beer.
Mrs. Cox follows them into Miller's Court. they are standing outside Kelly's room as Mrs. Cox passed and said "Goodnight." Somewhat incoherently, Kelly replied "Goodnight, I am going to sing." A few minutes later Mrs. Cox hears Kelly singing "A Violet from Mother's Grave" (see below). Cox goes out again at midnight and hears Kelly singing the same song.
Somewhere in this time period, Mary Jane takes a meal of fish and potatoes.
12:30 AM: Catherine Pickett, a flower-seller who lives near Kelly, is disturbed by Kelly's singing. Picket's husband stops her from going down stairs to complain. "You leave the poor woman alone." he says.
1:00 AM: It is beginning to rain. Again, Mary Ann Cox returns home to warm herself. At that time Kelly is still singing or has begun to sing again. There was light coming from Kelly's room. Shortly after one, Cox goes out again.
Elizabeth Prater, the wife of William Prater, a boot finisher who had left her 5 years before, is standing at the entrance to Miller's Court waiting for a man. Prater lives in room number 20 of 26 Dorset Street. This is directly above Kelly. She stands there about a half hour and then goes into to McCarthy's to chat. She hears no singing and sees no one go in or out of the court. After a few minutes she goes back to her room, places two chairs in front of her door and goes to sleep without undressing. She is very drunk.
2:00 AM: George Hutchinson, a resident of the Victoria Working Men's Home on Commercial Street has just returned to the area from Romford. He is walking on Commercial Street and passes a man at the corner of Thrawl Street but pays no attention to him. At Flower and Dean Street he meets Kelly who asks him for money. "Mr. Hutchinson, can you lend me sixpence?" "I can't," says Hutchinson, "I spent all my money going down to Romford." "Good morning," Kelly replies, "I must go and find some money." She then walks in the direction of Thrawl Street.
She meets the man Hutchinson had passed earlier. The man puts his hand on Kelly's shoulder and says something at which Kelly and the man laugh. Hutchinson hears Kelly say "All right." and the man say "You will be all right for what I have told you." The man then puts his right hand on Kelly's shoulder and they begin to walk towards Dorset Street. Hutchinson notices that the man has a small parcel in his left hand.
While standing under a street light on outside the Queen's Head Public House Hutchinson gets a good look at the man with Mary Jane Kelly. He has a pale complexion, a slight moustache turned up at the corners (changed to dark complexion and heavy moustache in the press reports), dark hair, dark eyes, and bushy eyebrows. He is, according to Hutchinson, of "Jewish appearance." The man is wearing a soft felt hat pulled down over his eyes, a long dark coat trimmed in astrakhan, a white collar with a black necktie fixed with a horseshoe pin. He wears dark spats over light button over boots. A massive gold chain is in his waistcoat with a large seal with a red stone hanging from it. He carries kid gloves in his right hand and a small package in his left. He is 5' 6" or 5' 7" tall and about 35 or 36 years old.
Kelly and the man cross Commercial Street and turn down Dorset Street. Hutchinson follows them. Kelly and the man stop outside Miller's Court and talk for about 3 minutes. Kelly is heard to say "All right, my dear. Come along. You will be comfortable." The man puts his arm around Kelly who kisses him. "I've lost my handkerchief." she says. At this he hands her a red handkerchief. The couple then heads down Miller's Court. Hutchinson waits until the clock strikes 3:00 AM. leaving as the clock strikes the hour.
3:00 AM: Mrs. Cox returns home yet again. It is raining hard. There is no sound or light coming from Kelly's room. Cox does not go back out but does not go to sleep. Throughout the night she occasionally hears men going in and out of the court. She told the inquest "I heard someone go out at a quarter to six. I do not know what house he went out of (as) I heard no door shut."
4:00 AM: Elizabeth Prater is awakened by her pet kitten "Diddles" walking on her neck. She hears a faint cry of "Oh, murder!" but, as the cry of murder is common in the district, she pays no attention to it. Sarah Lewis, who is staying with friends in Miller's Court, also hears the cry.
8:30 AM: Caroline Maxwell, a witness at the inquest and acquaintance of Kelly's, claims to have seen the deceased at around 8:30 AM, several hours after the time given by Phillips as time of death. She described her clothing and appearance in depth, and adamantly stated that she was not mistaken about the date, although she admitted she did not know Kelly very well.
10:00 AM: Maurice Lewis, a tailor who resided in Dorset Street, told newspapers he had seen Kelly and Barnett in the Horn of Plenty public house on the night of the murder, but more importantly, that he saw her about 10:00 AM the next day. Like Maxwell, this time is several hours from the time of death, and because of this discrepancy, he was not called to the inquest and virtually ignored by police.
10:45 AM: John McCarthy, owner of "McCarthy's Rents," as Miller's Court was known, sends Thomas Bowyer to collect past due rent money from Mary Kelly. After Bowyer receives no response from knocking (and because the door was locked) he pushes aside the curtain and peers inside, seeing the body. He informs McCarthy, who, after seeing the mutilated remains of Kelly for himself, ran to Commercial Street Police Station, where he spoke with Inspector Walter Beck, who returned to the Court with McCarthy.
Several hours later, after waiting fruitlessly for the arrival of the bloodhounds "Barnaby" and "Burgho," McCarthy smashes in the door with an axe handle under orders from Superintendent Thomas Arnold.
When police enter the room they find Mary Jane Kelly's clothes neatly folded on a chair and she is wearing a chemise. Her boots are in front of the fireplace.
Dr. Thomas Bond, a distinguished police surgeon from A-Division, was called in on the Mary Kelly murder. His report is as follows:
"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 was bent, 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 two feet square. The wall by the right side of the bed and in a line with the neck was marked by blood which had struck it in a number of separate splashes.
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.
The neck was cut through the skin and other tissues right down to the vertebrae, the fifth and sixth being deeply notched. The skin cuts in the front of the neck showed distinct ecchymosis. The air passage was cut at the lower part of the larynx through the cricoid cartilage.
Both breasts were more or less removed by circular incisions, the muscle down to the ribs being attached to the breasts. The intercostals between the fourth, fifth, and sixth ribs were cut through and the contents of the thorax visible through the openings.
The skin and tissues of the abdomen from the costal arch to the pubes were removed in three large flaps. The right thigh was denuded in front to the bone, the flap of skin, including the external organs of generation, and part of the right buttock. The left thigh was stripped of skin fascia, and muscles as far as the knee.
The left calf showed a long gash through skin and tissues to the deep muscles and reaching from the knee to five inches above the ankle. Both arms and forearms had extensive jagged wounds.
The right thumb showed a small superficial incision about one inch long, with extravasation of blood in the skin, and there were several abrasions on the back of the hand moreover showing the same condition.
On opening the thorax it was found that the right lung was minimally adherent by old firm adhesions. The lower part of the lung was broken and torn away. The left lung was intact. It was adherent at the apex and there were a few adhesions over the side. In the substances of the lung there were several nodules of consolidation.
The pericardium was open below and the heart absent. In the abdominal cavity there was some partly digested food of fish and potatoes, and similar food was found in the remains of the stomach attached to the intestines."
Dr. George Bagster Phillips was also present at the scene, and gave the following testimony at the inquest:
"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 underlinen 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 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."
Buried: Monday, 19 November, 1888
Mary Jane Kelly was buried in a public grave at St Patrick's Roman Catholic Cemetery, Langthorne Road, Leytonstone E11. Her grave was no. 66 in row 66, plot 10.
The funeral of the murdered woman Kelly has once more been postponed. Deceased was a Catholic, and the man Barnett, with whom she lived, and her landlord, Mr. M.Carthy, desired to see her remains interred with the ritual of her Church. The funeral will, therefore, take place tomorrow [19 Nov] in the Roman Catholic Cemetery at Leytonstone. The hearse will leave the Shoreditch mortuary at half-past twelve.
The remains of Mary Janet Kelly, who was murdered on Nov. 9 in Miller's-court, Dorset-street, Spitalfields, were brought yesterday morning from Shoreditch mortuary to the cemetery at Leytonstone, where they were interred.
Death certificate of Mary Jane Kelly.
No family member could be found to attend the funeral. (The Daily Telegraph, November 19 1888, page 3, November 20 1888, page 3)
Mary Jane's grave was reclaimed in the 1950s. John Morrison erected a large, white headstone in 1986, but marked the wrong grave. Morrison's headstone was later removed, and the superintendent re-marked Mary Jane's grave with a simple memorial in the 1990s.
Death Certificate: No. 326, registered 17 November, 1888 (HC 08437). Certificate lists name as "Marie Jeanette Kelly," aka "Davies." Certificate lists place of death as "1 Millers Court Christ Church."