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Authors: Wynne Weston-Davies

The Real Mary Kelly

BOOK: The Real Mary Kelly
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Elizabeth Weston Davies

my great aunt, who until recently had no known grave and whose fate was unknown to her family for 130 years.








I would like to thank the many knowledgeable and extremely helpful librarians and archivists that have assisted me in the research for this book. They are the unsung heroes of our nation’s history, preserving it and making it accessible to successive generations. In particular I wish to thank Anne Wheeldon of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, Malcolm Barr-Hamilton of Tower Hamlets Council, and Catherine Richards of the Powys Archives.

The staff of the National Archives, the London Metropolitan Archives, the British Library, The National Newspaper Library formerly in Colindale but now closed whilst the collection is moved to new premises in Boston Spa, West Yorkshire, the Archives of the London Borough of Camden, the Durham County Archives, The Suffolk County Archives, the Buckinghamshire County Studies Centre, the Gloucestershire Public Libraries and the
Archives Départmentales des Côtes d’Armor,
France, have all been unfailingly helpful.

I owe most of my thanks to the encouragement and tolerance of my wife, Julia, who has put up with long hours of what should by rights have been shared time, during which I was immured in my study working on the book or out doing research in the streets of London, or in one of the many archives.
The intrusion into our joint leisure time over the course of five years should have been intolerable but instead she uncomplainingly supported me, sustained me with endless cups of tea and coffee, and proof read countless drafts of the manuscript as the book evolved. My children Jessica and Edward similarly had to put up with less of my company when they were at home for weekends than they deserved but nevertheless gave me unstinting support. To my cousin Jill Nicholls and her son John Tindle I owe thanks for their recollections of Jill’s father Ted and his association with Sickert. My brother-in-law Richard Malone and his wife Susan advised me about American vocabulary and usage. Others who have helped with general encouragement and constructive criticism include the late Rosemary Petty of Dallas, Texas, my brother Peter Weston-Davies who was able to confirm many details of family history, his wife Dorinda, and Frances Williams.

To Sara George, herself a noted author of books such as the brilliant
The Journal of Mrs Pepys,
I owe a debt of gratitude for help and constructive criticism in crafting the early structure of the book. Kate Summerscale, the author of the best-selling
The Suspicions of Mr Whicher
was an inspiration and gave me her encouragement, practical support and research suggestions in numerous emails. I am extremely grateful to Keith Skinner, one of the world’s leading authorities on the Whitechapel murders and co-author of the most authoritative reference book on the subject,
The Complete Jack the Ripper A to Z
, for his encouragement and for introducing me to his, and now my, agent Robert Smith.

John Julius Norwich kindly confirmed my belief that his grandfather, the eminent surgeon Sir Alfred Cooper, far from being responsible for mutilating Walter Sickert and turning him into a woman-hating monster as other authors have suggested, was ever held in high esteem by the artist for his skill and compassion.

To Professor Harold Ellis CBE, perhaps the greatest teacher of anatomy and surgery of the 20th century and a foremost medical historian, I also owe huge thanks. Not only through his truly inspirational teaching did he launch me and countless others on their medical and surgical careers but his endorsement of my theories regarding the anatomical knowledge of the Ripper gave me the confidence to complete the book. Dr Raymond Prudo, formerly Professor of Psychiatry at McMaster University, Toronto, Canada, gave me
expert advice about the possible psychopathology of Francis Craig. Robert Radley, a noted forensic handwriting expert, kindly gave me his opinion on the very small amount of Francis Craig’s handwriting known to exist. Personal communications from Professor Alun Evans of the Department of Epidemiology, Queens University, Belfast gave me further insights into the life of E T Craig. Robert David Pool kindly sent me information about his ancestor Sergeant David Pool of the Metropolitan Police who was murdered in mysterious circumstances in France in 1901. Christine Williams, a solicitor and expert in family law, advised me on aspects of divorce law relating to Francis Craig’s petition and affidavit.

Finally I would like to thank my agent Robert Smith, himself one of the country’s leading experts on the Whitechapel murders, who proved himself to be an excellent mentor and professional colleague and my publishers at Blink, Clare Tillyer, Acquisitions and Rights Director and my editor Joel Simons who helped to make the process of publication a much easier and pleasanter experience than it might otherwise have been.





The Mystery


Mary or Marie?




The Phrenologist’s Son




The Trail Goes Cold


The Breakthrough








Jack Introduces Himself


The Double Event


From Hell


The Pressure Mounts


Hue and Cry


Oh Murder!


The Horror in Room 13


The Aftermath


The Last Act


Where’s Jack?




The Last Day












The East End in 1888. Spitalfields is centred on Commercial Street with the notorious Flower and Dean and Thrawl Streets running between it and Brick Lane. Whitechapel lies in the centre and, to the south, the area around the docks is Wapping. The two H division police stations at Commercial Street and Leman Streets are within a few hundred yards of three of the murder sites. Francis’s lodgings at 306 Mile End Road were about a mile and a half from the most distant site, Mitre Square, where Catherine Eddowes met her death.


A   306 Mile End Road where Francis Craig lodged from 1886 until a few months after the murders.

B   Breezer’s Hill, Elizabeth’s home from late 1885 or early 1886 until the end of that year.

C   Bucks Row (Polly Nichols, d. 31st August 1888).

D   29 Hanbury Street (Annie Chapman, d. 8th September, 1888).

E   Dutfield’s Yard, Berner Street (Elizabeth Stride, d. 30th September, 1888)

F   Mitre Square (Catherine Eddowes, d. 30th September, 1888)

G   Miller’s Court, Dorset Street (Elizabeth Weston Craig a.k.a. Mary Jane Kelly, d. 9th November, 1888)

H   Spitalfields market

I   Christ Church, Spitalfields





The homicidal impulse may have developed from a revengeful or brooding condition of the mind … the murderer in external appearance is quite likely to be a quiet inoffensive looking man, probably middle-aged and neatly and respectably dressed.

Report to the Metropolitan Police by Mr. Thomas Bond FRCS,
Surgeon and Lecturer in Forensic Medicine to the Westminster Hospital, London.
10th November 1888

The Mystery

At some time in either late 1885 or early 1886 a young woman arrived in the East End of London.
She arrived suddenly and anonymously, and people wondered what such an attractive woman – who was apparently used to living comfortably and riding out in carriages – was doing in the worst stews of the London docks. When she left it again, some two and a half years later, it would be in her coffin and still no-one was any the wiser as to who she was or what had brought her there. Despite that, when her brutally murdered body was found in a squalid room in Spitalfields on the morning of 9th November 1888, she became overnight one of the best-known and most tragic characters in British criminal history. She became famous not because of who she was but because of who had killed her. His name, until now, has also remained a mystery but her murderer’s
nom de guerre
is as well-known as any in history. It was Jack the Ripper.

The crowds that turned out for his victim’s funeral on 19th November brought the streets of East London to a standstill. Her coffin, carried in a glass-sided hearse behind two black-plumed horses, bore the name Marie Jeanette Kelly but few people then or now believed that that was her real name.
Marie Jeanette, or Mary Jane as most people knew her, took her real identity to her grave in Leytonstone Catholic cemetery. The arc light of the world’s press, the investigative powers of the greatest police force in the world and the intense scrutiny of hundreds of writers and criminologists since have never succeeded in penetrating the false persona that a frightened young woman carefully encased herself in 127 years ago.

Her first residence after she came to the East End was in the house of a character famous in the mythology of Jack the Ripper, who until recently has always been known as ‘Mrs. Buki’. The first written appearance of Mrs. Buki was in
The Star
on 12th November 1888.
The Star
, which had been founded less than a year before, had already become by far the highest circulation newspaper in Britain. After the news of Mary Jane’s murder burst upon the world on 9th November, the newspaper sent one of its reporters into the streets of Wapping in an attempt to shed some light on her shadowy background. Other newspapers and the Press Association did the same but the anonymous newshound from
The Star
succeeded in uncovering more detail than any of the others, possibly because his employer’s bulging purse was capable of loosening more tongues.

BOOK: The Real Mary Kelly
13.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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