aka “Kate Conway”, aka “Kate Kelly”
The Fourth of the Canonical Five Ripper Victims
September 29th, 1888; Aldgate Street; City of London
At 8:30 PM on Saturday 29 September, City PC Louis Robinson saw a crowd gathered around 29 Aldgate Street. Approaching to see what all the commotion was about, he saw a woman lying in a heap in the center of the group of people.
“I asked if there was one that knew her or knew where she lived,” he would later report, “but I got no answer.”
Finding the crowd silent and the woman passed out drunk, Robinson enlisted the help of City PC George Simmons in getting her to her feet and dragging her to Bishopsgate Police Station.
Sergeant James Byfield was registering inmates when Simmons and Robinson brought the woman into the station around 8:45 PM. When Byfield asked her name, she replied, “Nothing.” Five minutes later, she was placed in a cell, where she passed out. PC George Hutt was tasked with keeping an eye on the prisoners that evening, and passed by her cell several times as she slept.
An hour later, the City Police constables assigned to the night shift headed out through the gates of Bishopsgate Station to walk their beats. This included City PC Edward Watkins, whose fifteen-minute loop took him through Mitre Square, and City PC James Harvey, whose route passed by Mitre Square at regular intervals.
At 12:15 AM, PC George Hutt heard the woman who was brought in earlier singing softly to herself in her cell. A few minutes later, she called out, asking when she would be released.
“When you are capable of taking care of yourself,” replied Hutt.
“I can do that now,” she said.
Several minutes later, she was finishing being processed, and amended her earlier registry of “Nothing” to Mary Ann Kelly of 6 Fashion Street. It was more believable, but still an alias. Her real name was Catherine Eddowes, sometimes called Kate Kelly. She was ready to be released by 1 am.
“What time is it?” She asked Hutt.
“Too late for you to get anything to drink,” he replied.
“I shall get a damn fine hiding when I get home,” she said.
“And serve you right, you had no right to get drunk,” he admonished, opening the door for her. “This way missus, please pull it to.”
She exited in the opposite direction of where her actual nightly residence had been, the Cooney’s Lodging House located at Flower and Dean Street. Instead she headed back toward Aldgate High Street, where Robinson had discovered her earlier.
At about 1:30 am, Joseph Lawende, a commercial traveller, Joseph Hyam Levy, a butcher, and Harry Harris, a furniture dealer were walking nearby. They were heading down 16-17 Duke Street from the Imperial Club. The three passed by a couple walking in the opposite direction. Harris did not notice them at all, and Levy took little note of them other than the fact that they were both rather shabby looking.
Lawende, however, had the best memory of the couple’s appearance of all. While he didn’t see the woman’s face, he was later able to recognize her clothing. He went on to describe the man as looking to be about 30 years old, five foot seven inches tall, with a mustache, wearing a loose-fitting salt and pepper jacket and a red handkerchief around his neck. Lawende was the last person, besides her killer, to lay eyes on Catherine Eddowes while she still lived.
Mitre Square was a ten-minute walk from Bishopsgate Station. Eddowes was discovered murdered there at 1:45 am by PC Watkins.
The Life of Catherine Eddowes
Based on the accounts of her friends and family, Kate was well liked. Old friends described her as an “intelligent, scholarly woman, but of fiery temperament.” Frederick Wilson, the deputy of Cooney’s Lodging House, described her as a “very jolly woman, always singing”, which seemed to be corroborated by George Hutt’s experience with her in the jailhouse.
Catherine Eddowes was born to George Eddowes, a tin plate worker, in 1842. Her mother was also named Catherine and she had two sisters whose married names were Elizabeth Fisher and Eliza Gold. Her family moved from the countryside to London in 1848, where she was educated at St. John’s Charity School until her mother died in 1855. Some newspaper accounts claimed that both of Catherine’s parents died in 1851. In any case, after she was orphaned, she moved to Bison Street in Wolverhampton where she attended Dowgate Charity School.
Eddowes was about 21 and living in Wolverhampton when she met and became involved with a man named Thomas Conway. He was a military pensioner from the 18th Royal Irish Regiment. Not too much is known of their life together, but it is believed that they made their money in Birmingham selling cheap novels as well as writing popular songs called “gallows ballads.” They never married, but did live together for about 20 years and had three children in 1865, 1868 and 1873, two boys and a girl named Annie. A tattoo found on Eddowes’ arm reading “TC” was believed to represent Conway’s initials, and was very helpful when her body had to be identified later on.
In 1881, the couple split, according to Annie Phillips, “entirely on account of her drinking habits.” Conway was a teetotaler, according to his daughter, while Kate was in the habit of drinking excessively. Eventually, the conflict became too great, and Eddowes moved into Cooney’s Lodging House at 55 Flower and Dean Street. Annie soon married and moved in with her husband, Louis Phillips. She spent the next several years moving from one place to the other in attempts to avoid her mother’s “scrounging” (asking for money).
While staying at Cooney’s, Catherine met an Irishman named John Kelly, who worked in the markets, often for one of the local fruit vendors. The two were close for the next seven years, until police found Eddowes’ body in Mitre Square. Taking on the surname of one’s partner, even if marriage had not officially taken place, was a common practice for lower class women at the time. Catherine, therefore, was also known as Kate Kelly.
Friends and family were adamant that Kate was not a prostitute, and that she made her money from hawking and doing odd jobs around town. The Cooney house deputy, Frederick Wilkinson told the police that he, “never knew of her being intimate with anyone but Kelly” and that she was usually home and to bed by nine or ten in the evening. It is very unlikely, though, that anyone in Catherine’s life would wish to speak ill of the dead. On the other hand, it is likely that Eddowes, like Annie Chapman, had engaged in prostitution from time to time when she needed the money.
The Days Leading up to Eddowes’ Murder
Late summer in England was hop-picking season, where many of the poor would go to the countryside to find work collecting the hops that would be used by nearby breweries. John Kelly and Catherine Eddowes went to the countryside for hop-picking season in 1888, which they had done for the previous several years. Having little success getting work and with no money for a ride, the two struck out for London on foot.
On the road, they came across a man and a woman. The woman offered Eddowes a pawn ticket she had for a flannel shirt. The woman’s name was Emily Birrell, and the pawn ticket would be found on Eddowes’ person in Mitre Square.
On September 29th, the John and Kate arrived back in London. Having no money when they got to the city, John managed to earn 6d so they could get lodging for the night. A bed at their usual lodging house, Cooney’s, was 4d, so Kate volunteered to take the remaining 2d and sleep in the casual ward that night.
When interviewed, a superintendent of the casual ward reported that Eddowes had said, “I have come back to earn the reward offered for the apprehension of the Whitechapel murderer. I think I know him.” He warned her to watch out or the killer might murder her too, to which she replied, “Oh, no fear of that.”
This story was not corroborated by anyone else and could well have been a complete fabrication, but the quote added to the sensationalism of and public reaction to the coming double homicide. The following morning of September 29th, Kate was kicked out of the casual ward for an unknown reason, never to return.
They met 8 am near Cooney’s Lodging House, and Kate took a pair of Kelly’s boots to a pawnbroker on Church Street named Jones. She pawned the boots under the name of “Jane Kelly” for the price of a meal. Frederick Wilkinson saw Eddowes and Kelly later, between 10 and 11 am, having breakfast in Cooney’s kitchen. Still completely broke, the hunt began for money for food and lodging for the rest of the day.
Eddowes told Kelly that she would try to get some money from her daughter, Annie. Kelly was worried about separating from her and reminded her of the killer. The two parted in Houndsditch and she would be home no later than 4 pm. “Don’t you fear for me. I’ll take care of myself and I shan’t fall into his hands,” were her parting words to him.
Nobody is quite sure what happened in between the time they parted and the time that PC Robinson found Eddowes lying drunk on Aldgate Street. John Kelly would not see her again alive.
Post-Mortem, Evidence, and Investigation
At 2 AM, Dr. Frederick Gordon Brown arrived at Mitre Square to perform the on-site post mortem, later continuing the autopsy at the Golden Lane mortuary twelve hours later.
Of all the Ripper victims up until this point, Catherine Eddowes’ body had the greatest amount of damage to the entire body. Her throat was cut in the same manner, about six or seven inches from left to right, and she was disemboweled. The large vessels on the left side of the neck were severed
Her intestines were also placed over her right shoulder, and had been nicked, releasing smeared fecal matter upon the space behind her shoulder. About two feet of intestine had been detached from the body and placed between Eddowes’ body and left arm.
Whereas the previous disemboweled victims (Nichols and Chapman) had fairly straight and organized cuts to their abdomens, Eddowes had been cut in a more jagged and erratic manner.
Kate was also the first to have her face mutilated by the Ripper. A triangular flap was peeled from the skin of each cheek, with tips pointing toward the eyes that some have said look like arrows. There were also cuts made to her eyelids, including one that was about an inch and a half long to the left eye.
Upon examining her internal organs, Brown found that Eddowes’ right kidney was pale, or as he described: “bloodless with slight congestion of the base of the pyramids.” This was a sign that she suffered from Bright’s disease. The left kidney had been removed, and could not be found in or around the body. The uterus had been cut horizontally and had been removed all but for a quarter of an inch-sized stump.
Brown made several summarizing comments at the conclusion of his post-mortem exam. Among these, was that the murder was the work of one person, and that this person had severed Eddowes’ throat so suddenly that there was no way she could have cried out. He also stated that whoever had removed Eddowes’ kidney must have had some knowledge of where the kidney was located to be able to so quickly remove it in the dark, whether that meant he was a medical man or a slaughterhouse worker. Brown asserted that he had no idea what reason someone would have to take any of the body parts away.
The kidney, however, would come into play later on in the form of a package sent to George Lusk, head of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee (a neighborhood watch group) on October 16th, 1888. What appeared to be a human kidney that had been preserved in spirits was sent to Lusk as an accompaniment to the notorious “From Hell” letter. Major Smith claimed later on that the kidney had shown signs of Bright’s disease, but Metropolitan Police memos at the time denied this and said that the kidney could have come from somewhere else.
Metropolitan Police and the City of London police joined together for the murder inquiry, and found some evidence in the surrounding area of the path that the Ripper may have taken. For example, at 3 am, soon after Brown came to examine Eddowes’ body, there was a piece of fabric covered with blood and fecal matter lying in a passageway near Goulston Street in Whitechapel. This fabric was found to match a part missing from Eddowes’ own apron, seeming to imply that after the murder, the Ripper had headed back into Whitechapel. Goulston Street was only about a 15-minute walk from Mitre Square.
Another puzzling piece of evidence was a graffito found above the place where the soiled fabric was found. Written in chalk, it said, “The Juwes are the men that Will not be Blamed for nothing”. Not knowing whether or not this was related to the murder, and afraid that this might incite anti-Jewish rioting and violence, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Charles Warren demanded that it be washed away before morning.
Funeral and Final Resting Place
While Nichols, Chapman, and Stride had quiet, private funerals, Eddowes’ funeral brought the entire city into the street as spectators. The procession coming from the Golden Lane mortuary passed along Mile End Road, through Bow and Stratford streets. A large crowd was waiting at the gates of the cemetery, after which the gates shut them out. Ultimately, only those who were close to Eddowes while she lived were permitted to attend the graveside services.
Among those who attended the funeral were Kate’s daughter Annie Phillips, her sisters Eliza Gold Harriet Jones, Emma Eddowes, and Elizabeth Fisher, and John Kelly.
Coincidentally, Eddowes was buried just a few graves away from Mary Ann Nichols, both in square 318 of the City of London Cemetery (Little Ilford) at Manor Park Cemetery. Eddowes was laid to rest in public grave 49336. Her remains currently lie beside the Garden Way. In 1996, cemetery authorities decided to mark Kate’s grave with a bronze plaque.Sources
- A Complete History of Jack the Ripper by Philip Sudgen; Chapter 12
- Casebook: Jack the Ripper: Catherine Eddowes aka Kate Kelly
- By Accident or Design? A Critical Analysis of the Murder of Catherine Eddowes by Sam Flynn (originally appeared in Ripperologist No. 73)
- The Funeral of Catharine Eddowes by James Marsh
- The Marking of Catherine Eddowes by Derek Osborne
- Wikipedia: Catherine Eddowes