Mary Jane Kelly: A Look Back at Jack the Ripper’s Last Victim

By Terri Osborne

mary jane kelly

We’re all familiar with Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror in the Whitechapel area of London in the late 1880s. While we still can only theorize on Jack’s real identity, we can do our best to remember the victims. On November 9, 1888, Jack the Ripper took his last known victim. That woman was Mary Jane Kelly.

Kelly had been born in Limerick, Ireland, but died a prostitute on the dangerous streets of Victorian London. She was just 25 years old, and had a penchant for singing when she was intoxicated. The night of her death, a neighbor heard her singing until shortly after 1:00 A.M. that morning. She was seen an hour later at The Queen’s Head Pub attempting to drum up more money from a client. There were even reports of Kelly being seen outside a pub known as The Britannia just a few hours before her body was discovered by her landlord’s rent collector, Thomas Bowyer. Bowyer had gone to Kelly’s apartment to collect the six weeks of rent she owed. When there was no response to his knock, he looked through the broken window and saw blood. Bowyer went to get the landlord, and when they saw the bloody carnage on the other side of that glass, they went to the police.

While Jack’s other victims all suffered slit throats and sexual mutilation, Mary Jane Kelly endured the most extreme physical damage of them all. Kelly’s lower internal organs, including her uterus, had been removed and were strewn about different parts of the room. Some were serving as a pillow for her head. Both breasts had been cut off, and other body parts had been cut to a point where it was believed that Kelly had been hacked apart by an ax in addition to the wounds seemingly made by a knife. Her face had been cut apart so drastically that she was almost unrecognizable. Her heart had even been taken from her chest. Like Jack’s other victims, she was believed to have been killed by someone with no scientific knowledge of anatomy.

mary kelly death certificate

Mary Kelly’s Death Certificate. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Kelly’s funeral was delayed, but finally happened on November 19. She was buried in the Roman Catholic Cemetery at Leytonstone. According to a report in The Daily Telegraph, they could find no family to attend Kelly’s funeral.

According to reports, there were talks of an exhumation license being granted for Kelly’s body in 2015. The exhumation would have been to prove a theory held by Dr. Wynne Weston-Davies. Weston-Davies believes that Kelly is his great-aunt, and that she was killed by her husband as revenge for her returning to prostitution after their wedding. As previous attempts to exhume the body had been denied, it’s not clear on whether this one actually moved forward.

This video shows one artist’s attempted reconstruction of the face of Mary Jane Kelly.


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Featured photo: JudeMaris / YouTube