|A Ripperologist Article|
|This article originally appeared in Ripperologist No. 21, February 1999. Ripperologist is the most respected Ripper periodical on the market and has garnered our highest recommendation for serious students of the case. For more information, view our Ripperologist page. Our thanks to the editor of Ripperologist for permission to reprint this article.|
by Andy Aliffe
Young woman aged approx. 24 years of age found mutilated in Millers Court. Seen earlier accompanying a man into house. Man described as foreign looking about 5ft 7 ins in height with a moustache: Another man seen earlier lurking by a lamppost opposite. Man who discovers body runs into McCarthy's shop. Established that young woman had been, at one time, in domestic service. Coroner's inquest reports she had eaten a meal of fish and potatoes shortly before she was murdered."
This all sounds terribly familiar doesn't it? The date of the crime described above? - July 2nd 1909 .
Let's return now to Millers Court and examine another date - February 1892
Kit had joined the staff of the Mail in the autumn of 1890 aged 36 years, to write and edit a weekly column called "The Woman's Kingdom". She quickly broke with the tradition of recipes, fashion and gossip to write on social issues and what she called "woman's rights and wrongs".
Kit had originally arrived in London at the end of 1891 to write about the disappearing London of Charles Dickens, but "after she had finished the trail of David Copperfield, Pip, Mr. Pickwick, and Scrooge through London, she went in search of the Ripper of Whitechapel". It was the victims and homeless she was to write about.
A chance encounter in Covent Garden led her eventually to the East End. Kit had been exploring the environs of the market and had seen huddled together a young boy and girl. "The worst sight of all was to see two children lying on a heap of refuse near an archway. The boy had his two arms round the sleeping girl and he sat patiently there, his big brown eyes heavy with sleep and solemn with thoughts that did not befit his years, for he was only seven". She took them for coffee, bread and butter and hot pudding and eventually learnt of their plight. "Our mother? - dead - murdered down Spitalfields way; father a rag and bone picker who turned us out".
Her first scene of crime site was Bucks Row, making her way next to 29 Hanbury Street. "It was a foul stinking neighbourhood, where the children are stunted little creatures with vicious faces, old features and where a woman's face would frighten one… here we go through a cats meat shop into a narrow yard, in one corner of which another wretched victim was found murdered".
From there Kit walked to Dorset Street and number 13 Millers Court, which was "reached by a narrow passage under an arch reeking with fifth and crowded with women and children".
Still residing there was Elizabeth Prater, who lived above Mary Kelly on the night of her murder, but was now living opposite. She told Kit how she had been woken by her kitten "Diddles" at about 4am and had heard a faint cry of "oh murder" from somewhere near by.
Elizabeth then took Kit across the court to meet the current occupant of Mary Kelly's still blood stained room of number 13, a lady who went by the name of "Lottie".
"I was her friend" said Lottie, speaking with difficulty because of a broken and battered nose given to her by a kick from her husband's heavy boot. "I was living further up the court then. She (Mary Kelly) says `I'm afraid to go out alone at night because of a dream I had that a man was murdering me. Maybe I'll be next. They say Jack's been busy in this quarter'. She said it with such a laugh ma'am that it just made me creep. And been sure enough ma'am she was the next to go. I heard her through the night singin' - she had a nice voice - "The violets grow on your mothers grave" - but that's all we 'urd". Lottie seemed to have no repugnance in sleeping in the room with its now blood blackened walls.
Kit continues:- "Other women began to gather presently and grew voluble over the hideous details, like birds of prey. They had hard faces with an evil look on them - the demands for money, for beer, the curses, the profane language, jests about the awful fiend who did his deadly work here, the miserable shrewd faced children listening eagerly: it was horrible beyond expression".
Kit Watkins would write about this encounter again in 18 years time so let us now journey that length of time into the future and to the events of July 2nd 1909. "Ghastly Murder in Spitalfields:- A bright young girl cruelly done to death" cries The Illustrated Police News. "Whitechapel Murder:- Jack the Ripper crimes recalled" heads the East End News.
"A sensational discovery was made on Friday at a house off Duval Street, Commercial Street, Stepney. Shortly after two o'clock in the morning it was discovered that a young woman, locally known as "little Kitty" who was employed as an ironer at a lodging house in the locality, had been murdered, her throat having been cut from ear to ear apparently while she was sleeping, whilst her mouth was stuffed with a pocket handkerchief. The victim had been living, it is said, with a man who knew her as Kitty Ronan, at 12 Miller's Court".
They had actually been living in the room formerly occupied by Elizabeth Prater.
Kitty Ronan's male friend was Henry Benstead, a news vendor who had been living with Kitty for about four weeks. It was reported that "He left home on the morning of the tragedy about 9 o'clock, and left the deceased in bed. Witnesses described his subsequent movements until 1.30 the next morning when he parted from a man whom he knew at Spitalfields Church, and then went home. On reaching Miller's Court he found the street door open, and made his way upstairs. He found the bedroom door open, he lit a lamp and saw Kitty lying on the bed fully dressed. He said 'Hello Kitty' and then noticed blood on her neck and on the bed. She did not answer him, he rushed out crying 'someone has cut Kiity's throat' and into McCarthy's shop, then went on to Commercial Street police station."
Detective Inspector Fredrick Porter Wensley took up the case.
The body was subsequently identified by both her mother, Mrs. E. Dresch of Hoxton, and her father, Andrew Ronan, of Fulham, who said that she had been in domestic service when he had last seen her several years before.
The Illustrated Police News was quick off the mark to satisfy its reader's thirst for the morbid and graphic details of this atrocious killing.
Dated July 10th 1909 it reads:- "Several neighbours ran upstairs and found the girl lying in bed with a terrible gash in her throat. The room of the tragedy was the top apartment of a two roomed house. There was about half a dozen white walled houses in the court and the opposite houses are only a few feet apart. Two doors away on the right hand side near the entrance, is the house in which one of the last "Jack the Ripper" murders was committed. Andrew Stevens a 17 year old market porter, who went into the house when the discovery was made told the following story. `I was standing out in the street opposite the court about five minutes to twelve last night and I saw Kitty come down the street with a strange man, pass up the court and enter her house. About 12.20 I saw him come down the court again. He looked round sharply once or twice and the walked briskly up to Commercial Street. From what I remember of him he struck me as being a man of military appearance or perhaps a sailor; but he was well set up.... he had a moustache and was wearing a dark suit and a dark cloth cap. When I went upstairs I saw Kitty was lying in bed fully clothed. There was blood on the bedclothes. The room did not appear to have been disturbed in any way and there were no signs as if there has been a struggle. It looked to me as if she had been strangled first, and then her throat cut afterwards. On the floor I saw an ugly looking knife with blood on the it. It was a pocket knife but the blade was a thin one. I should think it was about three and a half inches long. The point of the knife was about half an inch in length. At the time of the crime the court was quite deserted. You can hear everything in the ordinary way, but nobody heard a sound or a scream.
The only sound was the footfalls of the man coming out of the court. One of the neighbours I believe heard the sound of footsteps coming down the stairs, but nothing else."'
John Callaghan, a stableman who was living at Mary Kelly's old address, number 13, was also called as a witness, having taken charge of the murder weapon at the time.
At the inquest Dr. John Clarke said he saw the body of the deceased on the bed. "The woman was lying on her back with her head to the left side. There was an incised wound on the right side of the neck about one and a half inches below the jaw; the wound divided the windpipe and all large vessels on the right side of the neck. There was a large quantity of blood on the right side of the neck but there was no sign of a struggle. In his opinion the injuries were not self-inflicted and must have caused instantaneous death."
Police evidence was also given, including a statement from Detective Inspector Wensley who said that every inquiry had been made, and every clue followed, but without success.
The Coroner in summing up, alluded to the mode of life led by the deceased (possibly a part time prostitution) and those associated with her. The jury returned a verdict of "wilful murder against some person or persons unknown" and expressed the opinion that the police had done all they possibly could under the circumstances.
Had the "Ripper" returned once more only to disappear so inexplicably again?
And so it was finally with this murderous event that Kit Watkins reported the news for the Toronto Mail recalling her first visit to the same mean street in the 1890's and the horrors which in time seem to have repeated themselves.Sources:
Toronto Mail - 1892
Toronto Globe and Mail -1988
East End News - July 1909
Illustrated Police News - July 1909
Begg, Fido, Skinner: JTR A-Z - 1996