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Little is known about John Kelly. He was born c.1848 in London. He worked as a labourer and occasionally in the markets, mainly as a fruit seller. In 1881 he lived at Cooney Street Lodging House, which is where he met Catherine Eddowes. He claimed that he had never known her to act as a prostitute. He himself was noted as suffering from a cough and kidney problems, but to be a kind man of pleasant demeanour. In late September he and Eddowes went to Kent to take work as casual hop pickers, which they often did in the summer. They returned to London on the 28th. As the crop had been bad, they pawned his boots and took beds in separate casual wards, he on Shoe Lane and she in Mile End. They met up again the next day and spent the money obtained from the sale of the boots on food, then parted at around 2 p.m., when Eddowes told him she was planning on travelling to Bermondsey to see her daughter. She was supposed to meet with him again at 4 p.m., but did not show up. He was unconcerned, as he expected her to return to the lodging house later that night. He heard from friends that she had been brought to Bishopsgate station because she was drunk. He was unsure how she had gotten money for the drink, but knew she was occasionally in the habit of drinking too much.
He identified her body after learning of the pawn tickets that had been found under her body which identified her as "Emily Birrel" and "Jane Kelly". He also attended her funeral, which was held on October 8th, 1888. On November 29th, 1888, he was admitted to the Whitechapel Workhouse Infirmary to be treated for laryngitis. There is no known further record of him.