Mary Jane Kelly – Marie Jeanette as she called herself – is the mystery girl of the Jack the Ripper victims. Nothing of her life prior to 1887 is known for certain. The only information we know about her is what she told her boyfriend and some friends in the years she was living in London.
So far, no researcher has been able to track down the real Mary Jane Kelly.
She claimed to have been born in Ireland around 1863 and to have moved to Wales with her family when she was very young. Later, at the age of 16, she would marry a miner named Davies, but two or three years later he was killed in a pit explosion. Mary Jane moved to Cardiff and, from there, to London. She claimed to have become a prostitute at a high-class West End bordello run by a French woman. Kelly claimed a rich gentleman even took her to Paris.
She returned to London where she met a fishmonger called Joseph Barnett and the two of them lived in several locations before settling in a small room in 13 Millers Court, off Dorset Street, in Spitalfields. The room they lived in was, in fact, a partitioned off back room, accessed through a narrow passageway that ran from Dorset Street to Millers Court. It afforded them a degree of privacy, although some historians believe the courtyard was well known for being a place where prostitutes took their clients. The area was known as McCarthy’s Rents, on account of the landlord John McCarthy who ran the houses.
By November 1888, Joseph Barnett had moved out of number 13 Millers Court following a row with Kelly. The opinion is Barnett had lost his job and Kelly had returned to prostitution to make ends meet. He objected to this lifestyle and went his separate way.
On the night of November 8th, Mary Jane Kelly had been drinking heavily in some of the local pubs in the area and, by 2am, she was seen looking for business along the busy Commercial Street road. Here, she was seen in the company of a well-dressed gentleman who walked with her back to Millers Court. This would be the last time she was seen alive.
At 10.45am on 9th November, the landlord, John McCarthy sent his rent collector, Thomas Bowyer, to 13 Millers Court in the hopes of getting overdue rent from Kelly. Receiving no answer to his knocking on the door, Bowyer went round to the window to peer inside the room and discovered, to his horror, the mutilated body of Mary Jane Kelly lying on the bed. She had been butchered like an animal. As well as having her throat cut, the killer had emptied the stomach contents out of her body and placed them on the table next to her bed. Her face had been stripped of all the flesh and it was nearly impossible to identify the corpse.
When the question is asked “how many people did Jack the Ripper kill”, Mary Jane Kelly is usually regarded as the last victim of the killer. Just as we will never know the identity of Jack the Ripper; it is highly unlikely that we will ever know the true identity of Mary Jane Kelly. All attempts to locate her have failed, leaving us with another enduring mystery to add to the case.
On our Jack the Ripper tour, we attempt to uncover just who the real Mary Jane Kelly was, as well as the identity of the killer himself. Think you have what it takes to solve a 130-year-old mystery? Book your tickets today.