The Latest Victim

Mary Kelly, murdered on the 9th of November, 1888, in Miller’s Court, off Dorset Street, Spitalfields, is the most enigmatic of Jack the Ripper’s victims. We know virtually nothing about her life before she came to be living in the East End of London, and what we do know about her is drawn mostly from autobiographical details she had told top those who knew her in London.

There is a consensus that she was born in Ireland, but even that is is not 100% proven, as no birth certificate, or, for that matter, any other documentation about her earlier life before arriving in East London, has ever come to light.

However, even in the wake of her murder, there was a general consensus that she was of Irish origin, and, consequently, Irish newspapers focussed on this aspect of her past when reporting her death to their readers.

A sketch of Mary Kelly.
Mary Kelly. From The Illustrated Police News, 17th November 1888. Copyright, The British Library Board.


The Armagh Standard  published the following brief account of her death and antecedents in its edition of Friday, 16th November, 1888:-

“The woman murdered in Spitalfields was born in Limerick, her name being Marie Jeanette Kelly.

Her parents removed from Limerick to Carmarthen, and here the deceased married a collier, whose name is believed to be Davies.

He, however, was killed in a colliery explosion, and the deceased woman then lived an ill life at Cardiff.

She afterwards. removed to London.

Her parents are still living in Wales.”

The grave of Mary Kelly shown in March 2016.
Mary Kelly’s Grave.


The next day, Saturday, 17th November, 1888 The Dublin Weekly Nation used her death as an illustration of the pitfalls that could await Irish emigrants who had been forced to leave their native land through poverty or other circumstances:-

“The success of our countrymen abroad has been repeatedly made the subject of praise and congratulation. This is, indeed, but just. Few things strike the attention more than this, that the Irish people in other countries have been able to attain the highest positions, whether in business pursuits, in the professions, or the legislative and administrative departments.

There is, however, a danger that this view of the picture may be considered to the exclusion of its reverse. Of those who emigrated, forced from their homes by the victor or by the poverty entailed in fruitless endeavours to satisfy the rackrenter, many went down in the struggle for life under new conditions.


Many of them merely drag out a miserable existence; and many more, helpless and ignorant, and unskilled in any occupation in which there is demand for labour, drift from bad to worse – forced by sheer necessity to herd among the outcasts, and thus familiarised with vice, they at last become criminals themselves. Men and women who, had they been suffered to remain at home, away from contact with crime, would have led good, useful lives, are in this way ruined forever.

It is an embittering reflection that the criminal population of English and American cities should draw recruits from the Irish-born immigrants. And it surely is not extravagant to suggest that much of the ultimate responsibility for such being the case rests on the shoulders of those who have made emigration an unnatural necessity.


The newspapers report another brutal murder in Whitechapel, and the victim is an Irishwoman.

She is but a type of, unhappily, too large a class. Irishwomen and Irishmen have been driven into the slums and back alleys of foreign towns, and criminality has been made the only resource for them, if life is to be lived at all.


And it is beyond question that a large majority of these wretches may attribute this, their fate, directly to the operation of the land laws. Landlord oppression and extortion have done more to pauperise the country than even a devastating war could have done. Her wealth, and, worse than all, the bone and sinew of her population have been annually drained away.

And it is to perpetuate this system of land tenure to which all those evils are due, that the people are coerced.

Irishmen might be tempted to forget all that is meant by eviction and emigration, but this terrible story of Whitechapel reveals what they too often involve.”