I think the people of Whitechapel were some of the hardest working citizens of London. Consider the ambitious John “Jack” McCarthy. He chose to live in Whitechapel, starting by renting a tiny storefront at 26 Dorset Street where he ran a grocery.
That did well enough that in 1877 he married, and after a few years he bought the 2 story brick building, and the identical structure at Number 24, the other side of the four foot wide arched entrance to Miller's Court. He moved his family – 4 children by 1888 - into the top floor of Number 26, and re-opened his grocery on the ground floor. He kept Number 24, renting 2 rooms on the second floor to tenants, using the ground floor front for storage, and subdivided the ground rear into a 10 foot by 12 foot room, which he gave the address of 13 Miller's Court. “Lucky” 13 provided Jack with 23 pence a week in rent. That was how you made a profit in Whitechapel.
Plowing such profits back into his business, Jack McCarthy bought the doss house at number 30 Dorset street, and his business became known as McCarthy Rents. In March of 1882 he partnered in staging a prize fight at St. Andrew's Hall. But a dispute over profits lead to another fight, this one with fists, which lead to an arrest, and a fine for Jack. It is unclear if any money's were made, but Jack did not repeat his venture as a fight promoter. But it did show that Jack McCarthy was always on the look out for a profit.
On Friday, 9 November, 1888, Jack McCarthy was in his store at 24 Dorset Street, going over his books. About 10:30 that morning Jack ordered his employee, Thomas Bowyer, to walk 10 feet back to 13 Miller's Court, and collect the rent - which was 2 weeks in arrears. And he reminded Bowyer that if there was no answer at the door, to look in the window, to confirm if the couple renting the room, Mary Kelly and Joseph Barnett, were inside, hiding or sleeping off a drunk.
That same morning, in the House of Commons, Home Secretary Henry Matthews rose to announce the resignation of Sir Charles Warren as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. It would be a tricky giving this a positive spin, given how recently Matthews had voiced unlimited support for Warren.
The liberal press hated Warren as a reactionary martinet who had crushed the “Bloody 13 of November 1887 Trafalgar Square” demonstration. But the Conservative press saw Warren as a hero, and rumors were already circulating that Warren's one time Assistant Commissioner James Munro, had been colluding with the Home Secretary, to undermine his old boss.
Although Henry Matthew's boss, Prime Minister Robert Gascoyne-Cecil (above), was not permitted to sit in the Commons – as the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, Gascoyne-Ceicil sat in the House of Lords – Matthews knew the Prime Minister was watching him closely.
So after reading the exchange of letters with Warren from the day before, in which Warren had resigned – again - , Henry Matthews (above) assured the Commons, “...the differences of opinion between Sir Charles Warren and Mr. Monro, had nothing to do with...parting with an officer so distinguished and so zealous in the discharge of his Office...I wish to add...The advice which I have sought from Mr. Monro was confined to the general question of the organization proper for the Department...”
It was doubtful anyone in the Commons believed that lie, but nobody had proof. So only Liberal M.P, Robert Cunninghame-Graham (above) rose to question Matthew's statement. Cunninghame-Graham had spent six weeks in jail for his part in Bloody Sunday, and he asked what Warren's use of the word "again" refereed to. “Do I understand that it is not the first time that his resignation has been placed in the hands of Her Majesty’s Government?” The Home Secretary dodged the question saying only, “There have been previous differences of opinion which led to Sir Charles Warren tendering his resignation.” But the Home Secretary refused to provide details.
Liberal M.P. Henry Labouchere (above), who had tried as recently as march to eliminate the House of Lords entirely, asked, “What is the precise position which Mr. Monro holds now?”
Matthews now lied to Labourchere as smoothly and as easily as a politician – which he, of course was. Matthews said, “Mr. Monro fills no office of any kind, and is in no way connected with the Department.”
Above all, Matthiews avoided any mention of the “Special Irish Branch” of the police, which James Munro (above) had headed while Assistant Commissioner under Warren, and which he still headed. His use of spies and political sabotage campaigns in Ireland and even in Whitechapel, must not even be hinted at. Nor could there be any whisper of Matthews' instructions to Mr. Munro and his replacement Mr Anderson , to “consult” with Matthews behind Sir Charles' back. So the lie was not revealed. The scandal, such as it was, would end with Sir Charles' resignation.
Jack McCarthy's employee, Thomas Bowyer, was called “Indian Joe” because he had served in India. He was surviving on a pension now, and reduced to living on Dorset Street.
At about 10:40 that same morning, “Indian Joe” walked out the front door of McCarthy's grocery at 24 Dorset Street (above, left), and turned right into the narrow 4 foot wide 5 foot long alley leading to Miller's Court (above, center archway).
The Court was a small space, little more than 10 feet wide by 20 feet long, the ground floor whitewashed and the courtyard cobblestoned. On the left side, as you entered, was Number 1 Miller's Court, with number 2 directly above it, each the standard Whitechaple 8 foot by 8 foot room. Numbers 3 through 8 finished the left side of the court. On the right side were numbers 9 through 13, as well as a water tap, a privy toilet and a dustbin. Opposite Number 13, on the ground floor, stood a single gas lamp
Thomas Bowyer did not know the 25 year old woman who rented Number 13 (above) as Mary Kelly, which was not surprising. Among her many aliases were Marie Jeanette Kelly, Mary Jeanette, Black Mary, Ginger and Fair Emma.
Jack McCarthy described her as “noisy” when drunk, but “otherwise she was a very quiet woman.” A friend described her as “ a good, quiet, pleasant girl, and was well liked by all of us." “She was not a notorious character”, said another friend. Born in Ireland and raised in Wales, Mary Kelly spoke fluent Welsh, no small accomplishment. She was handsome and well spoken, and “much superior to that of most persons in her position in life." But she was, like so many, an alcoholic.
“Indian Joe” said later, “Knocking at the door, I got no answer, and I knocked again and again. Receiving no reply, I passed round the corner by the gutter spout where there is a broken window - it is the smallest window. There was a curtain. I put my hand through the broken pane and lifted the curtain. I saw two pieces of flesh lying on the table...The second time I looked I saw a body on this bed, and blood on the floor.”
Thomas Bowyer ran back into McCarthy's shop, where he told him, “"Governor, I knocked at the door and could not make anyone answer. I looked through the window and saw a lot of blood." Looking into the man's face, McCarthy's reaction was understandable. He said, “You don’t mean that, Harry.” Both men returned to the room, where Jack McCarthy pushed aside the curtain. “The sight that we saw I cannot drive away from my mind. It looked more like the work of a devil than of a man...I hope I may never see such a sight as this again.”
One writer described the discovery this way. “The wall behind the bed was spattered with blood. On the bedside table was a pile of bloody human flesh. And there on the bed, barely recognizable as human, lay the virtually skinned down cadaver of Mary Kelly.” McCarthy told Thomas to go straight to the Commercial Street police station. Pausing only to lock up his store, Jack McCarthy followed him.
At the Commercial Street Station (above), Detective Inspectors Walter Dew and Walter Beck were on duty when Thomas Bowyer ran in. Drew wrote later, “The poor fellow was so frightened that for a time he was unable to utter a single intelligible word. At last he managed to stammer out something about "another one. Jack the Ripper. Awful. Jack McCarthy sent me."” A moment later Jack McCarthy arrived, and all 4 man ran back to Dorset Street.
Beck looked into the room, and then told his partner, "For God’s sake, Dew, don’t look." Drew looked anyway.
Fifty years later he wrote, “...the old nausea, indignation and horror overwhelm me still… No savage could have been more barbaric. No wild animal could have done anything so horrifying...…the poor woman’s eyes. They were wide open, and seemed to be staring straight at me with a look of terror."
The Government may have made peace with the Sir Charles Warren scandal, but Jack the Ripper had made no truce with his own demons. And he was intent up sharing them with the entire world.