By the time of the death of Mary Kelly, which took place on Friday the 9th of November, 1888, in Miller’s Court of Dorset Street, the newspapers had learned from experience that the public appetite for any information on the case was insatiable.
Consequently, when news of her murder, broke, reporters scrambled to Dorset Street, to try and uncover as much as they could about this latest atrocity.
The police were giving little information away, but many of the locals were more than willing to speak to the journalists, even if they didn’t know that much about the crime.
Many of them claimed to have known Mary Kelly personally, and a large number of the fallacies about her that still circulate today can be traced to press reports that were gleaned from local gossip, as opposed to actual facts, and which appeared in the newspapers over the weekend of the 10th and 11th of November.
LIZZIE ALBROOK’S STORY
One person who seems to have been more than happy to talk to a journalist was a twenty-year-old woman by the name of Lizzie Albrook.
She was interviewed by a representative from a press agency, possibly on the Friday afternoon, and she told the reporter that she resided in Miller’s Court, and claimed that she hadbeen on “friendly” terms with Mary kelly, on account of the fact that they were “near neighbours.”
According to the subsequent article, which appeared in many newspapers over that weekend, Lizzie had stopped by Mary’s room for a chat on the Thursday night, the day before Mary’s murder.
SHE WANTED TO CHANGE
Mary had told Lizzie that she was heartily sick of the life she was leading, and had warned the younger woman against going out on the streets, as she had done.
One of the newspapers that published the story in its Sunday edition was Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper:-
Lizzie Albrook, a young woman of 20, who resides in Miller’s-court and works at a lodging-house in Dorset-street, also made the following statement:-
“I knew Mary Jane Kelly very well, as we were near neighbours.
THEIR LAST MEETING
The last time I saw her was on Thursday night, about eight o’clock, when I left her in her room with Joe Barnett, who had been living with her. About the last thing she said was, “Whatever you do don’t you do wrong and turn out as I have.”
She had often spoken to me in this way, and warned me against going on the streets as she had done.
She told me, too, that she was heartily sick of the life she was leading, and she wished that she had money enough to go back to Ireland, where her people lived.
I don’t believe she would have gone out as she did if she had not been obliged to do so in order to keep herself from starvation.
A RELATIVE ON THE STAGE
She had talked to me about her friends several times, and, on one occasion, she told me that she had a female relation in London who was on the stage.
A VICTORIAN MELODRAMA
Of course, reading the full story, you can almost see it as Victorian melodrama.
The tragic murder victim who had wanted to leave behind her life of immorality and return to the bosom of her family in Ireland, and the warning to a younger woman to avoid the life she [Mary kelly] was leading, at all costs, could almost be the plot from a set piece at one of the penny gaffes in the district.
WAS SHE REAL?
Given its mix of tragedy, regret, and brutal murder, Lizzie Albrook’s story proved irresistible to newspapers across the country and it was duly picked up by many of them over the course of the weekend.
But, some commentators have gone so far as to suggest that the story is just too like a melodrama to actually be true, and that, given that efforts to trace Lizzie Albrook in the official records have proved unsuccessful, she may have been a figment of the reporter’s imagination, and her story a journalistic fabrication.
JOSEPH BARNETT MENTIONED HER
However, there was certainly a woman in Mary Kelly’s room, since she was specifically mentioned by Mary Kelly’s lover Joseph Barnett, who had moved out of the room they shared at 13 Miller’s Court, a few weeks before.
According to Barnett, he had stopped by Mary Kelly’s room ay between 7 and 8 p.m. on the Thursday evening.
There had, he said been another woman with them, albeit she left before he did. Since he didn’t actually name the other woman, it is impossible to say for certain that it was Lizzie Albrook.
However, the time frame he gave does fit with the timing given by Lizzie Albrook to the journalist as to when she visited Mary Kelly in her room.
WALTER DEW’S RECOLLECTION
Interestingly, Lizzie was mentioned many years later by one of the first police officers on the scene of Mary Kelly’s murder. Writing in his memoirs I Caught Crippen, published in 1938, by then retired Chief Inspector Walter Dew specifically mentioned Mary Kelly’s last night and her exchange with Lizzie Albrook.
Dew was probably using the newspaper article as his source, and he was certainly ramping up the tragedy of Mary Kelly’s last hours and of her regret for the life she was leading.
But he also adds the fact that she may have had a premonition about what was to come:-
“Just the night before, Marie had been fearfully discussing the killer of her kind with Lizzie Albrook, a nineteen-year-old friend. “This will be the last Lord Mayor’s show I shall see,” said Marie tearfully. “I can’t stand it any longer. This Jack the Ripper business is getting on my nerves. I have made up my mind to go home to my mother. It is safer there.”
PROBABLY AN EMBELLISHMENT
There can be little doubt that those fateful last words of Mary Kelly were dramatic embellishments added by the original journalist and Walter Dew.
A POIGNANT GLIMPSE
As for Lizzie Albrook, if she did, as was claimed, spend time with Mary Kelly on the night before her death, and their conversation did take place as reported, then she provides us with a poignant glimpse of Mary Kelly’s frame of mind in the final hours of her life.