Jack The Ripper Mary Jane Kelly

History Uncovered Episode 106:
Jack the Ripper, Part 5: The Final Victim

Published March 1, 2024

On November 9, 1888, Jack the Ripper killed his final victim, Mary Jane Kelly — and it was by far his grisliest murder of all.

Like Jack the Ripper himself, little is known about his last victim, Mary Jane Kelly. Her heavily mutilated body was found in a leased room on Dorset Street in East London on November 9, 1888. She had been living in a slum frequently occupied by sex workers and criminals – and her murder was so gruesome, police actively tried to suppress information about it to prevent any rumors.

Like the Ripper’s other victims, Mary Jane Kelly was a heavy drinker – at least, she began drinking heavily when she moved to London’s East End. For a time, she lived with a married couple, then left to live with a man, and then another man shortly after.

Eventually, she met Joseph Barnett, and the two became lovers. And, for better or worse, most of the known information about Kelly comes from what she told him. However, given that Kelly went by various aliases – including Ginger, Black Mary, and Fair Emma – and the fact that there are nearly no documented records supporting anything she said, her words, and therefore Barnett’s, aren’t exactly reliable.

Barnett said Kelly had told him that she was born in Limerick, Ireland around 1863. Her father was supposedly an ironworker named John Kelly, no information about her mother was known, and she had either five or six siblings.

When she was 16, she said she married a man with either the last name of Davies or Davis, who was allegedly killed in a mining accident. There is no record of their marriage.

Mary Jane Kelly Corpse

Public DomainThe mangled corpse of Mary Jane Kelly.

Kelly then moved to Cardiff, where she lived with a cousin, and began working as a prostitute. In 1884, Barnett said, she moved to London and began working at an upscale brothel. According to an anonymous sex worker, however, by 1886, Mary Jane Kelly was living at a lodging house in Spitalfields – where she met Barnett.

After spending just two nights together, Barnett and Kelly decided to move in together. They were then evicted from their first residence for falling behind on their rent and getting drunk. So, they moved to a dirty, damp room on Dorset Street – 13 Miller’s Court. The room had boarded up windows and a padlocked door.

Barnett said that Kelly had stopped being a sex worker then, but when he eventually lost his job, she returned to sex work. He also said that Kelly then wanted to share their room with another sex worker, prompting an argument between Barnett and Kelly that resulted in him leaving.

They stopped living together, then, but Barnett still visited her frequently – including on the night of her death, though left around 8:00 p.m.

The account gets murkier from there, with some neighbors saying they saw Kelly drunk that evening around 11:00 p.m., and others saying she was singing into the wee morning hours.

One thing is for certain, though: sometime before noon on November 9, 1888, someone entered Kelly’s room and killed her.

And of all of Jack the Ripper’s canonical victims, Mary Jane Kelly’s murder was the most gruesome of all.

Read more about Mary Jane Kelly, Jack the Ripper’s final victim.

Listen to part four of History Uncovered’s series on Jack the Ripper here and listen to part six here.

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