I consider it one of the most gruesome crime scene photographs ever made, and it was one of the first. Taken inside Mary Kelly's sad little room at 13 Miller's Court on the cold Friday morning of 9 November, 1888, it is grainy, blurry and more than a century after it was taken, it still chills the soul. It is the only photo of a “Jack the Ripper” victim “in situ”. It is invaluable, because a mere description of the horror which had escaped this killer's mind may disturb you intellectually, but only when you look closely at this photo do you comprehend the emotional violence unleashed. And it would never have been made if Sir Charles Warren's Metropolitan Police had been the well oiled machine he kept telling the public they were.
Inspectors Beck and Dew had arrived in Miller's Court (above) a little after 11:00 a.m. By 11:30 police surgeon Dr. George Bagster Phillips had arrived, along with most of the Whitechapel brass, and even a few officers from the City of London police. But still no one had entered the room. There were standing orders from now ex-Commissioner Sir Charles Warren not to disturb the crime scene at the next Ripper murder until the bloodhounds – Burgho and Barnaby – had arrived to collect the killer's scent. And just peaking in the window, nobody had any doubt that his was another Ripper murder.
However, the accountants at Scotland Yard and the accountants at the Home Office could not agree on who was going to pay for the dogs, and eventually their owner, Mr Edwin Brough, had grown so disgusted that Burgho was now in Brighton, competing in a dog show, and Barnaby had been returned to his home kennel, where he was, in all probability at that moment licking his own private parts and dreaming of chasing Irish politicians seeking self rule.
Evidently, Sir Charles had been doing the human equivalent of the same thing - too busy defending himself in magazines and threatening to resign to have taken the time to tell the Constables and Detectives of Whitechapel Division that the dogs were not coming. So the officers were left holding back the crowds outside of the crime scene in Miller's Court for 2 hours, waiting for the dogs which were not coming, while inside number 13, Mary Jane Kelly's corpse was starting to decay.
It was not until 1:30 that afternoon that Whitechapel Division Superintendent Thomas Anderson got fed up with waiting and asked Jack McCarthy for permission to knock the door down. The exasperated McCarthy said yes, do it, for God's sake. But Anderson still dare not disobey Warren, so he quietly asked the London Police, who were on scene, if they wouldn't mind. And they did not. So it was a City of London Police Constable who went at the flimsy door with a sledge hammer, or an ax.
The blaze was going in the fireplace. Mary Jane Kelly's clothing was neatly folded on the room's only chair. Her boots had been placed to dry in front of the fire place. The rest of the room looked like an abattoir.
The London Police justified breaking down the door because they wanted to photograph the scene. Sir Charles Warren had stopped them from photographing the “The Jewes are not the ones...” message just above the bloody apron found on Goulston Street. But Warren was not here. He was finally gone.
The London Police took two images of the scene, a close up of the lumps of breast and organs left on the table (above)....
...And the second image of the victim's corpse sprawled on the bed (above). Several Whitechapel Detectives ordered their own copies of the photos, and those - in private hands - eventually ended up the Scotland Yard files. But it was only because Sir Charles Warren had resigned that morning, that the photographs were even taken.
On Tuesday, 13 November, 1888 the young and ambitious Robert Gent-Davis, representing the Kennington section of London, rose in the House of Commons (above) to ask a public question of his party's leader, Home Secretary Henry Matthews.
Supported by his recently acquired South London Standard newspaper, the 27 year old Conservative had burst upon the political scene in 1885 like a Guy Fawkes sky rocket Liberals had immediately challenged Robert's election under the new campaign finance law. Gent-Davis had won the case, but the testimony hinted his wealth was all bluff and bluster. This was confirmed in February of 1888 when a court ordered Robert to pay a client 1,500 pounds owed him from an escrow estate Robert had managed. When Robert failed to produce the funds, the judge ordered him jailed for contempt of court. Robert then claimed immunity because of his position in Parliament, but that bluff was sure to fail, and without support from the Conservative Party leadership he was going to jail. So Robert decided to save himself by running yet another bluff.
Robert asked if Mr. Munro (above) had resigned as Assistant Commissioner of Police back in August because the Criminal Intelligence Division had been taken away from him Of course, Munro had resigned because his boss, Commissioner Sir Charles Warren, had wanted him to give up his command of the super-secret and illegal black ops Section “D” of the C.I.D. - the Irish Section. And when Matthews brushed the question aside, Robert raised his bet. He now asked that all correspondence between Munro and the government “be laid upon the table”, meaning the opposition Liberal Party could read it. That would blow the whole game up.
Of course Robert Gent-Davis didn't know what the whole game was. He was a “back bencher” and the leadership would never have entrusted him with knowledge of smear campaigns against Irish politicians, or secret payments to London newspapers and Liberal politicians. Because that was all illegal. So Home Secretary Henry Matthews (above) looked dismissive, promising to release the papers - eventually. Gent-Davis smirked his reply, “Then I am afraid, Sir, we must get them to-night”. He then sat to cheers from the Liberal party.
But he did sit. Because he was bluffing. He had no proof. The brains behind the Conservative Party had judged Gent-Davis as a bluffer. And Matthews never did lay the papers on the table. And on 27 November, 1888, Robert Gent-Davis went to jail for contempt of court, and was forced to resign his seat. Once again the Conservatives had weathered a storm that threatened to sink their boat, not because of their own strength, but because of their opponents' weaknesses.
It seemed to have very little to do with Jack the Ripper. But the politics is what had made a sad homicidal madman into a legend