Exceptionally little is known about Mary Jane Kelly's life. Most of what has gone into the public record was reported by her lover, Joseph Barnett
. She was supposedly born in Limerick, Ireland
sometime around 1863, though she moved with her family to Wales
when she was a young child. She is said to have spoken Welsh fluently, and if this is so it was probably picked up at this time. Her father's name may have been John, and she may have had up to seven brothers and at least one sister. Her landlord, John McCarthy, claimed that she received irregular letters from Ireland, though Barnett claimed this was untrue. It is unknown whether or not she was literate, with Barnett claiming she was not or at least was not particularly skilled. Barnett claimed that Kelly came from a well-off family, and she herself was reported to have told a friend that she had a relative on the stage at the time. Around 1879 she may have married a collier named Davies, who died in an explosion some two or three years later. Whether or not a child resulted from this marriage is unknown, though was hinted at by contemporary sources. Probably this was due to confusion over the identity of the last victim, who was initially believed to be Lizzie Fisher. After Davies' death she probably went to Cardiff, where she spent her time in either an infirmary or staying with a cousin. At this point she is believed to have begun her career in prostitution. There are no records of her time in Cardiff. In any case, she arrived in London
around 1884. During this time she supposedly gained employment in a high class West End brothel. She claimed that a client there had invited her to France
with him. There are no records either supporting or contradicting this trip. In either case she was back in England
shortly thereafter, and after this point she began to insist on the use of the name "Marie Jeanette".
She was noted to be a quiet woman when sober, but a quarrelsome and abusive drunk. She spent most of her time after 1884 in the East End of London, where she stayed with at least two different men, one possibly named Morganstone and the other Joseph Fleming. in 1887 she met Joseph Barnett for the first time, and when they met again the following day they decided to live together. In 1888 they took a room in Miller's Court. The window next to the door was broken, and Kelly used it to bolt and unbolt the door, as she had lost her key. For a while Barnett had regular employment as a fish porter, but lost it. After this point Kelly returned to prostitution and began sharing the room with another prostitute. On October 30th the couple quarreled about the presence of the other prostitute, known only as Julia
, and Barnett left. Despite this, he continued to visit her, the last such visit occurring on November 8th.
Major Story Arcs
Mary Jane Kelly was murdered on November 9th. At 8 p.m. on November 8th Barnett concluded his visit and left her with another woman, probably Maria Harvey
. He returned to his new room and remained there all night. After this point there are no confirmed sightings of her until 11:45 that night. However, there is an unconfirmed story that she was seen drinking in a pub with a mustachioed man, and appeared very drunk. At 11:45 she was seen by Mary Ann Cox, another prostitute, returning to her room with a shabbily dressed man. The two women wished one another good night. Kelly began to sing "A Violet I Plucked From Mother's Grave When a Boy" at about this time, and Cox heard her still singing that same song some 15 minutes later as she went out. Cox returned again at 1 a.m. and heard Kelly still singing, or possibly beginning to sing again. By 1:30 the singing had stopped. At 2:00 George Hutchinson claimed to have encountered Kelly, who requested he lend her sixpence. When he told her he was broke she went on her way in search of money. Hutchinson vividly described a man who then met Kelly a few paces down the street. Hutchinson followed them to Miller's Court, where he saw Kelly kiss the man and lead him into the Court. Hutchinson hung around outside of the court until 3, then left. It is unclear why he chose to follow or observe the couple at all. Around this same time Cox returned to the Court, and saw nothing out of the ordinary. At 4 a.m. two separate women reported hearing a cry of "Oh, murder" that they ignored due to it being a common cry heard in the area. At around 5:45 Cox claimed she heard someone leave the Court, though she was unsure from where. At 8:30 a woman claimed to have seen Kelly, though this is impossible considering that she was probably murdered between 4 and 5 that morning. A man also claimed to have seen her later still, at around 10 a.m. This claim was ignored by the police. At 10:45 Kelly's landlord sent one of his employees, Thomas Bowyer
, to collect the rent, which was past due, from Kelly. After knocking on the door and receiving no reply, Bowyer pushed aside the curtain and looked inside, seeing Kelly's mutilated body lying on the bed.
Of all of the victims, Mary Kelly's body was the most mutilated. This is probably due to the fact that the murderer had a great deal of time and privacy in which to commit the murder, unlike in the previous four. Her throat, like the others, had been slit. Her abdomen and thighs were mutilated, with flaps from both removed and placed on the table. Her arms and legs all bore extensive and deep cuts, with many parts flayed to varying layers, going so far as the bone on one thigh. All of the organs had been removed from the abdominal cavity. Her breasts had also been removed. They were scattered around her body. The intercostal muscles between her ribs were cut through so that the thoracic cavity was visible. Her heart was completely missing, and has never been found. Her face was mutilated beyond recognition, with her nose, cheeks, ears and eyebrows all being partly removed. Her lips were blanched. Mary Jane was buried on November 19th, 1888.
There has been a great deal of speculation since the death of Mary Jane Kelly as the the nature of her death and of her killer. There has been much speculation that Kelly was the victim not of Jack
, but of "Jill the Ripper", an insane midwife who had been engaged by Kelly to perform an abortion. However, Kelly was not pregnant at the time of her murder, which was unknown to the proposer of that theory. Others have suggested that the extreme mutilation and relative privacy of the murder location is sufficiently different from the other Ripper murders to suggest another killer was responsible. It has also been suggested that Kelly was not the victim at all, since the extensive mutilation rendered definite identification impossible. If this was so the victim may instead have been Julia, or some other prostitute who was sharing the room at the time. This would explain the later alleged sightings, but call into question why exactly Mary Kelly would be willing to allow everyone to believe that she was dead. In any case, the true fate of Mary Jane Kelly, like the true identity of Jack the Ripper, will probably be debated forever.