One of the many age-old questions surrounding the case of ‘Jack the Ripper’ is who was Mary Jane Kelly? After her gruesome remains were identified by her former lover Joseph Barnett, and her death announced to the world, not one family member showed themselves to the police or the press. Eventually, she was laid to rest (somewhere) in St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cemetery in Leytonstone. She had a modest remembrance.


No persons ever came forward to publicly claim that Mary Jane Kelly was a member of their family. She is the victim researchers know the least about. So the question remains, who actually was Mary Jane Kelly?

The obvious start for many researchers has been her name. Whilst quite a few Mary Kellys appear on numerous records in Ireland from the 1860s onwards, none have fitted perfectly to the information provided by Kelly herself. All searches here have hit a brick wall. There have been many searchers. We also have to factor in that all Irish census data for most of the 19th century (and many more critical records) were lost during the Irish Civil War in 1922. A fire ravaged the Public Records Office for two days straight.


What if Kelly was not her real surname? Why would this be? There are many theories. Most revolve around a desire not to be found. Therefore, she used a false name. I believe she embellished certain aspects of her life for reasons ultimately only known to her. I also think some of the facts she offered up had either a grain of truth or were wholly accurate.

I may have found the real Mary Jane Kelly, and her life story will be featured in my forthcoming book “Jack the Ripper: Threads”.


Key points to bear in mind below from the various accounts of the information offered by Mary Jane to Joseph Barnett, Mrs Phoenix, Mrs Carthy and Mrs Buki.

Claimed she was previously married to a miner named Davies who died in a mining explosion
Unlikely married as she was too young. She was perhaps engaged. I believe she was involved with James Davies, a miner who died in Risca in 1880. 

Claimed she came from a well-to-do family in Limerick
I do not believe this to be true. I believe the Irish element (amongst others) of her story may have been embellishments from someone she knew.

Claimed she had six brothers and one sister
Evidence suggests to me it may have been the opposite.

Claimed her father worked as an Iron worker
My candidate’s father most likely did work as a labourer at an Iron and Tin works in Carmarthen.

She could speak fluent Welsh
I believe she could do so by spending her childhood and teenage years growing up in South Wales.

Claimed she worked as a prostitute in Cardiff
There is no evidence to suggest my Mary was arrested for prostitution but she was arrested for lancery and sentenced to six months prison in 1883 in Cardiff. She was also convicted of stealing money from a client in a brothel where she was working in Newport in 1881.

Claimed she worked as an upmarket prostitute in a French-style brothel in Kensington
I would suggest this is most likely true but cannot be independently verified. There is good evidence that it was around this time she had changed her name to Marie Jeanette Kelly, later to be known as Mary Jane Kelly. I believe she worked at a brothel in Kensington run by the Maundrell sisters. Her sudden departure may have been to do with her penchant for theft.

Claimed she was born in Limerick and moved to Carmarthen at a young age
I believe this is one of those examples of her merging truth with fiction. She was born in Carmarthen but Limerick and Ireland may have seemed an interesting element to add to the back story she was crafting.

She had a brother called Henry (nicknamed ‘Johnto’) in the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards
Her cousin from Cardiff Henry joined the Scots Guards in 1877. She learned of this when she was with her other cousins in Cardiff. She may have met with him when she was in Whitechapel, and he was stationed at The Tower of London.

Mary Jane Kelly was a Mary. But she was not Mary Jane Kelly. Her surname was, in fact, a very common Welsh name, and it will be revealed in the book along with her story. 


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