MURDER IN DORSET STREET
Today nothing survives of Dorset Street not even its name. It is now a nameless, nondescript thoroughfare that squeezes between the White's Row Car Park on one side and a line of bland industrial units on the other.
In 1888 it had a dreadful reputation as one of the most crime-ridden streets in the East End of London. The local police constables wouldn’t go down it unless they were 3 or 4 strong.
As a result the local populace knew it as “Do as you will” or “Do as you please” Street. The Daily Mail pulled no punches and called it simply “the worst street in London.”
Among its residents was 25 year old Mary Kelly who, around 2am on the 9th November 1888 passed this Christchurch Spitalfields on Commercial Street and a few corners along met with a labourer named George Hutchinson.
“Hutchinson,” she said, “lend us a tanner (sixpence).” He said that he didn’t have any money as he’d “spent out at Romford Market.” “I’ll just have to find it some other way won’t I?” Laughed Mary. She kept going and on the next corner a man coming from the opposite direction tapped her on the shoulder. Mary turned to face him, the stranger said something to her, they both started laughing and Mary then took the man’s arm, put it round her waist and led him in to Dorset Street.
Hutchinson later claimed that he was suspicious of such a well dressed man being in the area and he followed them along Dorset Street and, when Mary Kelly led the man into Miller's Court, Hutchinson stood under the lamp of a lodging house opposite and kept a watch on the court. When no-one had come out after 45 minutes. Hutchinson left the scene.
Doctors were of the opinion that Mary Kelly was murdered at around four o’clock in the morning. This is certainly borne out by two neighbours who said that around that hour they were woken by a soft cry of “Oh Murder.”
But this was a very violent neighbourhood, where domestic violence and drunken brawls were commonplace, and cries of "murder" were frequent, so the neighbours ignored the cry and went back to sleep.
By 10.45am on the Saturday morning, John McCarthy, Mary Kelly’s landlord, had had enough. She was 29 shillings in arrears with the rent and he wanted his money.
So he sent his assistant, Thomas Bowyer - who was also known as Indian Harry - round to collect the rent.
Arriving at her door Bowyer knocked and got no reply. Convinced she was home but hiding so as not to have to pay her rent, he went round to a window and pushed aside an old coat that covered a broken window pane.
Seconds later, an ashen faced Bowyer was back in McCarthy’s shop. “Governor”, he stammered, “I knocked on the door, I could not make anyone answer, I looked through the window and saw a lot of blood.” “You don’t mean that Harry,” observed McCarthy. “I do Governor,” came the reply.
The two men rushed back to Miller’s court where McCarthy stooped down, pushed the coat aside and glanced into the gloomy room.
A sight of unimaginable horror met his eyes. The wall behind the bed was spattered with blood. On the bedside table was a pile of raw human flesh. And there on the bed itself, barely recognisable as human, was the almost skinned body of Mary Kelly.
McCarthy sent Bowyer to fetch the police. Within 10 minutes Inspectors Walter Dew and Walter Beck were at the scene.
By 11.30am Inspector Abberline had turned up. The police were about to go into the room when the Divisional Police Surgeon arrived and warned them that Sir Charles Warren had given instructions that, in the event of another killing, nobody must go near the body until bloodhounds could be brought and put on the scent.
So the police waited two hours until at 1:30 p.m. Supt Arnold arrived and confessed that they didn’t have any bloodhounds in the Metropolitan Police. The door was forced open and the police filed into the room. Not one officer who saw the glut in Miller’s Court would ever again forget it.
No doubt John a McCarthy was speaking for all present when, later that day, he told a journalist “The whole sight is more than I can describe, I hope I may never see such a sight again. It looked more like the work of a devil than the work of a man.”
That sight was the only one of Jack the Ripper's victims to be photographed at the scene of the crime. Indeed, at first glance, when you see that photo, it is difficult to believe that you are looking at the body of a human being so horrifically gruesome were the injuries that Mary Kelly sustained.
But with the glut in Miller's Court Jack the Ripper left the scene and simply disappeared. He left behind him one of the world's greatest murder mysteries and, ever since, people the world over, both professional historians and amateur sleuths have devoted huge amounts of time to trying to identify him.
But if, as most experts do, we accept that Mary Kelly was the last victim of Jack the Ripper then we must accept something about the killer himself.
Something must have happened to him to stop him killing. So what was it?
There are in fact four possibilities:-
1) The first possibility is that he died, either of natural causes or by his own hand.
2) The second is that he was taken off the streets for some unrelated matter. Perhaps he was imprisoned for another crime? Or was he incarcerated in a lunatic asylum, either by his family or by the authorities?
3) An unlikely possibility, but one that needs to be introduced all the same, is that he moved somewhere else, continued killing and the connection between these new crimes and the Jack the Ripper murders was never made. It is unlikely because, of course, the Ripper killings were reported all over the world so it would have been difficult for a similar type of killing to take place anywhere else and for the connection not to be made.
4) The final possibility is that at some stage in the aftermath of the murder of Mary Kelly the police somehow caught him and for some reason they decided not to make the fact public.
What is certain though is that the name of Jack the Ripper holds a fascination for people all over the world. Our online Jack the Ripper walk has taken you through the events of the autumn of 1888, whilst our slide shows have shown you the streets as they are now and as they were then. You have seen photographs of the victims themselves and you have been able to peruse important documents connected with the case.
In closing it is worth quoting a rhyme that was sent in to the police by one of the anonymous letter writers at the height of the Jack the Ripper scare. Unintentionally, or otherwise, the composer of the rhyme summed up the enigma of the unknown miscreant who, over a 3 month period in 1888 held the whole of London in a grip of terror.
I’m not a butcher,
I’m not a Yid,
Nor yet a foreign skipper,
But I’m your own light-hearted friend,
Yours truly, Jack the Ripper.