The Murder Of Mary Mackenzie

Murders were being compared to the Whitechapel murders long beyond 1888, the year in which the murders actually occurred.

Indeed, for many decades, and well into the 20th century, newspapers were still drawing comparisons between gruesome murders and the crimes of the autumn of 1888.

The Nottingham Evening Post, on Friday, 22nd July, 1921, carried the story of a murder that bore similarities to the Jack the Ripper atrocities.

In fact, on reading the account, one is actually struck by how it shared certain similarities with the murder of Mary Kelly.



“No arrest has yet been in connection with the murder of a woman in Liverpool, whose body was found on Wednesday night in a combined bed-sitting-room on the ground floor of house in Brownlow-street.

The woman has been identified as Mary Mackenzie, aged 40, a single woman, living in Springfield. Liverpool.

She told her fellow-lodgers on Friday last that she was to meet a gentleman, who was going to buy her under-clothing and boots.


The wounds on the body were of a revolting character.

Her head had almost been decapitated by two frightful gashes across the throat.

The fact that a piece is broken from the blade of a blood-clotted razor found in the room suggests that the slashes were inflicted with the utmost savagery.

In addition to the wounds on the throat, there was shocking mutilation of the body, reminiscent of the “Jack the Ripper” outrages.

Her naked body had laid under the bed in the locked room from Friday night until last evening.

He looks under the bed and finds the body.
From The Illustrated Police News, Saturday, 28th July, 1921. Copyright, The British Library Board.


The tenant of the room was a tall, who in filling in the form as the payer, gave his name and particulars as John Brown, aged 50, born in London, a commercial traveller.

He engaged the room about eight weeks ago.

He was understood to be a traveller in woollen goods and small articles, and the police have discovered in his room a quantity of skeins of wool, ladies’ underclothing, combs, and boxes of pins.

About a month ago he was away from home for two days, and explained on his return that he had been staying with his sister, who was an officer’s widow and lived alone. She had been ill, he said, that he had been unable to leave her.


About a week later the murdered woman came to the house and asked to see Mr. Brown, whom she described as her brother.

She only visited the house twice, the second occasion being on Friday last.


On Saturday morning, on finding Brown’s door locked, the landlady was not suspicious, as he was in the habit of locking the door.

She thought he had taken his sister home the previous night, and had left the house early in the morning as usual.

He paid for the room in advance, and when the week expired yesterday she thought she was entitled to relet it.


The room was entered by another lodger named Grant, who, on climbing a ladder from the backyard, opened the window.

On finding the body of the woman under the bed, he left the room as he had entered, and the police were informed.

The new tenant climns in through the window to enter the room.
From The Illustrated Police News, Saturday, 28th July, 1921. Copyright, The British Library Board.


The police have not much in the way of clues to work upon.

Nothing is known of the man Brown in Liverpool.

He was a stranger to the district, and a search of the room has failed to reveal any correspondence received by him.


The police description of Brown is that he is between 40 and 50 years of age, 5ft. 10in. to 5ft. 11in. in height, broad-set, sallow complexion, dark brown hair, ragged moustache (turning slightly grey), wearing a dark grey mixture suit and a grey check cap alternately with very light grey jacket suit and a black bowler hat.

He has a very slight stoop, and walks with a slouching gait.

The police in the room around the bed.
From The Illustrated Police News, Saturday, 28th July, 1921. Copyright, The British Library Board.


All who came into contact with him agree that he was secretive.

Some say he spoke like a foreigner, but others declare he had a Scottish accent.

No visitors except the murdered woman were received by him at his apartments. He held aloof from his fellow-lodgers, taking all his meals out of the house, and received no correspondence.”


The Sunday Post provided some updates on the case in its edition of Sunday 24th July 1921:-


“New facts in connection with the Liverpool murder mystery were brought to light today at the inquest on Mary MacKenzie (40) who, late on Wednesday night, was found badly mutilated and in a nude state in a locked room in a boarding-house in Brownlow Street.

Mrs Kelly, 10 Russell Street, stated that deceased came to her house two and a half years ago and passed under the maiden name of Clarke.

She was a widow, but represented herself as single in order to obtain situations.

The Deceased stayed six months, leaving to take a post as head waitress at an hotel in Llandudno or Colwyn Bay. She returned in October, but left shortly afterwards.

Witness believed deceased’s husband had been an engineer on the steamer Black Prince, and that she had a small pension.

Deceased never stayed out late at night.

Witness understood that her home was in the Isle of Man, where her sister still lived.

The inquest was adjourned.


There is no trace of John Brown or E. Brown, who rented a room in the boarding-house, and who vanished some days before the body was found.

The hue and cry for him has been set up throughout the country and on the Continent, but the authorities are placed at a disadvantage owing to the body not being discovered for five days after Brown had disappeared.


The room in which the body was found is situated on the first floor, which was let nearly three months ago to “John Brown.” He applied for the room in answer to an advertisement.

During his stay he is said to have received no visitors except the murdered woman, and no correspondence except an occasional foreign paper.

He stated that he was a commercial traveller.

Occasionally he would stay away for a night or two. He never took meals in the house, and was always absent from morning till late in the evening. His room door was always kept locked.

Only once previously was he visited by the victim of the crime; last Friday was the date of her second visit. She called in the afternoon, and stated that she was the man’s sister.

Both left to dine in the city, and returned later in the evening.

The man left the house next morning, and the room was left locked as usual. He never returned.


Brown seems to have been very careful both before and after the crime that little should be known about his personal affairs. He received no correspondence at his lodgings. and it has been found that parcels left behind him had the addresses removed.

Other precautions had also been taken, such as the destruction of pages in books which might have afforded a clue to his identity.

In spite these endeavours to cover his tracks, the police are in possession of certain facts which may help them. They have traced some of Brown’s customers, and have learnt that he was known as E. Brown as well as John Brown.


Though satisfied with a ground-floor back as a residence, he seemed to have had his tastes in wearing apparel, high quality linen shirts with starched fronts and expensive boots being his specialities.

In view of the fact that the man’s accent and mannerisms impressed his fellow-lodgers with the idea that he was probably a Frenchman, inquiries are being pursued in certain Continental quarters.”