Jack the Ripper is perhaps the most researched serial killer in history, and judging by the sheer horror of the crimes he committed, that’s not surprising. One of the most chilling examples of his handiwork is the Jack the Ripper murder scene photo of Mary Jane Kelly, his fifth andarguably his final victim. This is pretty much the only Victorian crime scene photo of a Ripper murder known to exist.
In 1888, an unknown killer murdered poor women in the East End of London, an over-crowded, poverty-stricken corner of the city. The press quickly dubbed this murderer “Jack the Ripper,” and London remained on edge while the police hunted for and failed to apprehend the serial killer. Jack the Ripper’s identity remains shrouded in mystery - and, let’s face it: it will probably stay that way forever - and historians can’t even 100% agree on just how many women he murdered. The so-called “canonical five” victims - the ones that most people agree on - were Mary Ann "Polly" Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly, and their lives were complex and fascinating.
Kelly was murdered in her room at 13 Miller's Court in the early hours of November 9, 1888. Though it is debatable whether Kelly was Jack the Ripper’s final victim or not, it is true that her corpse was actually photographed at the scene of the cold-blooded crime. Warning: photographs of Mary Kelly's murder scene are quite difficult to look at since they display unsettling details. The sheer barbarism of the attack on Kelly, however, is an important reminder that violence against women has a long and tragic history.
The Murder Was So Violent And Frenzied That Kelly Is Virtually Unrecognizable In The Photograph
This photograph, as unsettling as it is to see, is nonetheless an important visualization of the murderer's MO. Kelly's torso was completely ripped open, and the murderer cut parts of her flesh literally to the bone. Indeed, her right thigh bone is clearly exposed in the photograph. Moreover, unlike some of the previous victims, Kelly's face itself has been slashed, making her unrecognizable: the killer had removed her ears, nose, and part of her forehead. Her white blouse was also blood-stained, and there was blood soaked into the bed, splattered on the walls, and pooled on the floor.
Kelly Was The Only Victim To Be Photographed At The Murder Scene
Mary Kelly was not the only Ripper victim to have been photographed. The other four canonical victims - Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, and Catherine Eddowes - were photographed in the mortuary, usually after their bodies had been stitched back together. Kelly was, however, the only one to be photographed in the crime scene. Moreover, the photograph shows Kelly largely as she appeared to police, giving a sense of the true horror and scale of the murders that the mortuary images do not always represent.
Instead of relying on photographic evidence, newspapers often rendered sketches of the scenes when they published articles about the murders. Often, these drawings were highly stylized and sensationalized, in the hopes of selling papers. These drawings were by no means accurate depictions of crime scenes. But they are interesting windows into how the public may have imagined the murders.
The mortuary photographs and Kelly murder scene are important for another reason: they are the first photographic evidence of sex crimes.
Her Organs Had Been Removed, And A Critical One Was Missing From The Crime Scene
Mary Kelly's body had not just been ripped apart; the killer had cruelly dissected it. Parts of her body and internal organs were strewn around the bed and neighboring table, which can be seen the photograph. In particular, her breasts had been cut off, and her liver, spleen, kidneys, uterus, and intestines had been removed.
Though detectives were able to track down the majority of her body parts, one crucial part of Mary Kelly was missing: it seemed that the murderer had literally walked away with her heart. Jack the Ripper was in the habit of leaving crime scenes with a few of his victims' body parts. After murdering Catherine Eddowes - a woman who may not have been a prostitute at all - the killer apparently took her kidney with him as he fled the scene.
Mary Kelly's Murder Was The Only One To Happen Indoors
All of Jack the Ripper's other victims had been murdered outside. Annie Chapman's body, for example, was found in the backyard of 29 Hanbury Street, and Catherine Eddowes had been killed in Mitre Square. The public nature of these horrific crimes is partly what made them so terrifying to Londoners. Moreover, the dim gas lights that dotted the East End of London only provided about 6 feet of light, offering a convenient cover of darkness for many criminals.
Since Mary Kelly was murdered in the privacy of her own room at Miller's Court, many have speculated that it allowed Jack the Ripper to go about his grisly work and mutilate her body without the possibility of interruption. Indeed, police assumed that Jack the Ripper had to flea the scene of Elizabeth Stride's murder on September 30 in Berner Street before he could complete cutting up her corpse because he was "interrupted" by a passerby.