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 Jack the Ripper: A Suspect Guide 
This text is from the E-book Jack the Ripper: A Suspect Guide by Christopher J. Morley (2005). Click here to return to the table of contents. The text is unedited, and any errors or omissions rest with the author. Our thanks go out to Christopher J. Morley for his permission to publish his E-book.

James Kelly

Named as the Ripper by author James Tully in the book The Secret Of Prisoner 1167 - Was This Man Jack The Ripper, and by John Morrison in Jimmy Kelly's Year Of The Ripper Murders.

James Kelly was born on 20 April 1860 at 43 St Mary's Street, Preston, to Sarah Kelly, an illiterate 15 year old Liverpudlian, and John Miller a clerk. Miller deserted Sarah upon finding out that she was pregnant, and fearing shame having a child out of wedlock, Sarah allowed the boy to be brought up by his grandmother in Southport. In 1870 Sarah met John Allan a master mariner, who had a share in his own ship. They soon married and went to live at 95 Manchester Road, Southport. Sarah did not reveal to her husband that she had a son and their marriage was short lived. Allan died on 16 May 1874 at Pisagua in Peru. He left everything to Sarah, who now wanting to make some form of recompense to her son, made a will on 22 July 1874, leaving everything to him. The money was to be held in trust until he reached the age of 25. Sarah, who had been unwell for some years with liver disease, died on 29 July 1874 at the age of 29, two months after her husband.

James Kelly was raised believing his grandmother was his real mother. he left school at the age of thirteen and was apprenticed to the firm of upholsterers Ray & Miles of London Road, Liverpool. At the age of seventeen a position was found for him at Isaac H. Jones pawnbrokers, 102 West Derby Road, Liverpool. In 1878 at the age of eighteen, he moved to London. Little is known of his movements over the next two to three years. He stayed in several lodging houses and found work as an upholsterer and on the docks. In 1881 he met his wife to be Sarah Brider, who was known as 'Titty' to her family. She was described as a very reserved good living girl, modest and proper, who was employed as an Indian envelope folder by Thomas De La Rue at 107-115 Bunhill Row. Kelly paid regular visits to see Sarah and her family at 21 Cottage Lane, which was just off City Road. In March 1882 Kelly moved in as a lodger.

The conditions for the young courting couple were far from ideal and provided little in the way of privacy, for also living at 21 Cottage Lane were Sarah's mother and father, her sister, her three brothers and a lodger, whom Kelly had to share a room with. Kelly, frustrated at the lack of intimacy with Sarah, began to seek the company of prostitutes, which resulted in him contracting a venereal disease. His mood and behaviour had began to change, and he was suffering from a nasty discharge from both ears and became convinced he had abscesses in his head. However, despite their problems the couple married on 4 June 1883 at St Luke's Parish Church, Old Street. James Kelly was 23, Sarah 21 years of age. There was to be no honeymoon, and the couple did not sleep together on their wedding night, they simply went home from the church, changed clothes before going off to work.

From the outset the marriage was stormy, and the fact that the couple were now married made little difference to their arrangements, and they still did not have a room of their own. Kelly's mood and behaviour was now getting much worse and he became jealous and suspicious of Sarah talking to people in the street. On 21st June during a violent argument, Kelly stabbed his wife in the throat with a pocket knife. He was arrested, and when asked if he had anything to say for himself replied, 'I don't know what I am, I must be mad'. Sarah died on 24 June 1883 and Kelly was sentenced to death. His execution was set for 20 August 1883 but fortunately for him was granted a reprieve. Instead he was sent to Broadmoor, from where he subsequently escaped on 23 January 1888 using keys he had made from an old piece of metal he had unearthed whilst digging in the kitchen garden. He remained at large for a remarkable 39 years.

Heading first for London, then to France and America, he found work as a coach trimmer in various motor works, and on at least two occasions while at large, decided to give himself up. First on the 27 January 1896 and again in 1901, before having a change of heart. In 1917 he went totally deaf, and was now beginning to find life a struggle. He worked until he was 65 but fearing old age was closing in decided to give himself up. On 11 February 1927 at the age of 67 James Kelly, after claiming to have wandered around the world, voluntarily returned to Broadmoor, claiming he wanted to die among friends. The News Of The World described him on his arrival at the gates of Broadmoor as, 'A wizened little man with grey hair and wrinkled face, footsore and half starved'. Kelly's mental condition had also began to deteriorate and he was full of petty grievances and felt he was not receiving the attention due to him. At the beginning of 1929 he tried to escape again, but this time both his age and health were against him, and he could not repeat his feat of 1888. He died at the age of 69 on 17 September 1929 of double lobar pneumonia.

According to author John Morrison, Kelly is supposed to have confessed to being Jack the Ripper on his return to Broadmoor. Morrison offers us no evidence to support this claim. Another theory is that Kelly killed his wife because she found out about his affair with Mary Kelly, this theory provides us with no explanation for the other Ripper murders, nor any evidence to prove James Kelly knew Mary Kelly. Kelly was also at liberty until 1927, if he was Jack the Ripper, why did he stop after murdering Mary Kelly. He also did not match any of the eyewitness descriptions of the Ripper, him being 5ft 7" tall, with a dark complexion, black hair, a heavy moustache, spare build and a thin pale face.

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Related pages:
  James Kelly
       Message Boards: James Kelly 
       Press Reports: John Blunts Monthly - 16 December 1929 
       Press Reports: Morning Advertiser - 20 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Times - 2 August 1883 
       Ripper Media: Jimmy Kelly's Year of Ripper Murders 
       Ripper Media: Prisoner 1167: The Madman Who Was Jack the Ripper 
       Suspects: James Kelly