13 Miller’s Court Murder

Mary Jane Kelly is widely believed by scholars to have been the final victim of the notorious unidentified serial killer, Jack The Ripper, who murdered at least five women in the districts of London in 1888.

At the time of Kelly’s death, she was approximately 25 years old, working as a prostitute and living in poverty.

Unlike his other murders, Kelly was murdered within the sparsely furnished single room she rented at 13 Miller’s Court, affording her murderer an extensive period of time to remove her organs and mutilate her body. Kelly’s body was by far the most extensively mutilated of the victims, with her mutilations taking her murderer approximately two hours to perform.

The night before

Another resident at Miller’s Court, Mary Ann Cox reported seeing Kelly returning home drunk and in the company of a stout, ginger-haired man, aged approximately 36, at 11:45 p.m. This man was wearing a black felt bowler hat, had a thick mustache, blotches on his face, and was carrying a can of beer.

The discovery of the body

On the morning of 9 November 1888, Kelly’s landlord sent his assistant up to her room to collect the rent, she was six weeks behind on her payments.

Shortly after 10:45 a.m., Bowyer, the assistant knocked on her door but received no response. He then attempted to turn the handle, only to discover the door was locked. Bowyer then looked through the keyhole, but could not see anybody in the room. Pushing aside the clothing used to plug the broken windowpane and the muslin curtains which covered the windows, Bowyer peered inside the room discovering Kelly’s extensively mutilated corpse lying on the bed. She is believed to have died between three and nine hours before the discovery of her body.

Bowyer ran to the police station, yelling the words: “Another one. Jack the Ripper. Awful!”

News of the discovery of another Ripper victim spread rapidly throughout the East End. Crowds estimated to number over 1,000 gathered at each end of Dorset Street, with many members of the public voicing their frustration and indignation at the news.

After two official crime scene photographs had been taken, Kelly’s body was taken from Miller’s Court to the mortuary in Shoreditch, where her body was formally identified by Joseph Barnett, who was only able to recognize Kelly’s body by “the ear and the eyes”. John McCarthy, Mary’s landlord, also viewed the body at the mortuary and was also certain the deceased was Kelly.

The corpse

The mutilation of Kelly’s corpse was by far the most extensive of the Whitechapel murders, (AKA Jack The Ripper) likely because the murderer had more time to commit his atrocities in a private room, without fear of discovery over an extensive period of time, as opposed to in public areas. The autopsy of Kelly’s body took two-and-a-half-hours to complete.

Thomas Bond and George Bagster Phillips examined the body. Phillips and Bond timed her death to about 12 hours before the examination. Phillips suggested that the extensive mutilations would have taken two hours to perform, and Bond noted that stiffening of limbs set in as they were examining the body, indicating that death occurred between 2 and 8 a.m. Bond’s official documents pertaining to his examination of the decedent, the crime scene, and subsequent autopsy state:

  • The body was lying naked in the middle of the bed, 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 pubis.
  • The whole of the surface of the abdomen and thighs was removed and the abdominal cavity emptied of its organs.
  • 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 organs 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 several places.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The heart sac 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.

Phillips believed that Kelly had been killed by a slash to the throat and the mutilations performed afterward. Bond stated in a report that the knife used was about 1 in (25 mm) wide and at least 6 in (150 mm) long, but did not believe that the murderer had any medical training or knowledge. He wrote:

“In each case the mutilation was inflicted by a person who had no scientific nor anatomical knowledge. In my opinion, he does not even possess the technical knowledge of a butcher or horse slaughterer or a person accustomed to cut up dead animals.”

Kelly is generally considered to have been the Ripper’s final victim, and it is assumed that the crimes ended because of the culprit’s death, imprisonment, institutionalized, or emigration.

Leave a Comment