The Real Mary Kelly

Free The Real Mary Kelly by Wynne Weston-Davies

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Authors: Wynne Weston-Davies
way Francis was living during the three years he spent in Whitechapel and the longing references to fame and success almost certainly reflect his state of mind for much of his life. Although he yearned for recognition he thought of himself as a failure and that was probably reinforced by his father who, as all who knew him agreed, was an arrogant and bombastic man obsessed with his own self-importance. The poem goes on to describe the editor wandering the streets for the news, ‘feeling the pavement through the holes in his shoes’. The cost of searching for Elizabeth by using private detectives, and engaging a West End solicitor to start a costly divorce action, were more than enough to reduce a penny-a-line reporter to penury and the self-pitying lines of the poem vividly portray his plight.
    As he fruitlessly tramped the streets and alleys of the East End searching for Elizabeth during 1887 and on into 1888 the resentment and bitterness seem to have grown. The initial desire to have her back had long since given way to a determination to take his revenge on her and the people that he held responsible for her downfall. But once again she had given him the slip. The fact that he himself remained in the area suggests that he knew that she was still around. Whether small snippets of information were reaching him or whether her failure to reappear in her old haunts in the West End reinforced his conviction is not known but he had certainly not given up as the events of 1888 would show.
    Elizabeth seems to have kept in touch with at least one member of her family during this time. There is a persistent story that Mary Jane Kelly was visited in the East End by her brother Johnto 54 . It was suggested by Joe Barnett that this was a nickname for her brother Henry, who was allegedly serving with the 2nd Battalion of the Scots Guards, although no such person has ever been identified. Elizabeth’s younger brother was known to his family as Johnto and he certainly knew that his sister was a London prostitute for he passed that information on to his own son John many years later. When John senior came to London around 1884 he boarded with a Welsh dairyman who originally hailed from a village a few miles from the Davieses in Montgomeryshire. His lodgings were in Leigh Street, St. Pancras, only a few hundred yards from Francis and Elizabeth’s rooms in Argyle Square, and it is very likely that the brother and sister were in touch at that time and may have remained so after she decamped to Whitechapel. If so it may be the explanation for the Johnto story, although Elizabeth’s brother had no known connection with the Scots Guards 55 .
    If the first two years of Francis’s residence in the East End were uneventful, things were hotting up by the start of 1888. The East End was always a crimeridden area but in the early part of the year it excelled itself in violence and cruelty directed at women. First, on Saturday 25th February, an unfortunate called Annie Millwood was attacked in the street and stabbed multiple times in her legs and lower body by an unknown assailant. She survived, as did Ada Wilson who opened the door to a stranger on 28th March and was stabbed twice in the throat when she was unable to hand over any money.
    A much more serious attack took place on 3rd April, Easter Monday, when another unfortunate, Emma Smith, was set upon by a gang of youths in Brick Lane, Spitalfields. She was beaten and savagely gang-raped before having a blunt object rammed so forcibly into her vagina that it perforated into her abdominal cavity. She survived for four days before inevitably succumbing to peritonitis, a condition for which in 1888 there was no surgical remedy 56 . The reports in the newspapers shocked not only the East Enders, who were almost inured to such things, but a wider, national audience who were just starting torealise that all was not well in a part of the capital of which most preferred to forget the existence. The

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