Did Kelly Have a Heart?
by Dave Yost
First Published in Ripper Notes, Vol 1, No 1, May 1999
One of the many controversies within the case of Mary Jane Kelly is whether or not her heart was taken by her killer. Some have concluded that the killer not only removed the heart from the chest cavity, but also took it with him when he left the scene, while others accept that the heart was merely removed from the body, and some view all of this as too vague. As with many other aspects within our world of Jack the Ripper, there seems to be an insufficient amount of facts, which specifically spell things out for us, (and sometimes even the facts may appear to be ambiguous), but there is usually more than enough circumstantial evidence which can be utilized by either side of the aisle. This one topic is no different.
On any particular avenue of research, we are not necessarily aided by the media, as Paul Begg has rightly pointed out, "There are several newspaper reports that state that notwithstanding stories to the contrary, all body parts were accounted for. Other newspapers, of course, carried stories that part's were missing." While Paul Begg's statement is very true, one news article found by Stephen Gouriet Ryan is of interest:
"Though the coroner prevented most of the medical evidence from coming out, it is believed that much of it will be of a curious nature. According to one report published on Friday it seems that the assassin cut the woman's heart out and carried it away, and if he did not carry away the other parts of the body, it was supposed that he was either disturbed or that he forgot them in his hurry to escape. That he cut the heart out from below instead of cutting through the diaphragm does not, as some argue, show that he is an ignorant person..." 1
Nick Warren has concluded that The Observer's article refers to Dr Bond's report, "Anatomical detail in the item [article] suggests that it was taken from a leaked copy of Dr. Thomas Bond's autopsy report on Kelly. If so, it indicates that when he wrote that the heart was "absent", he meant "taken away." Yet, Paul Begg demurs on this point suggesting, "It will be seen that the Observer refers to a report, meaning a newspaper or more likely a news agency report, not to Dr. Bond's report. That the ultimate source of the information was Dr. Bond's report was a piece of speculation by Nick Warren...If the source was indeed Dr. Bond's report then we know what Dr. Bond wrote - he wrote that the heart was 'absent' - and we know that this can be interpreted as either removed from the body or missing from the room. The Observer's reporter may simply have interpreted the word as taken away. I would not be inclined to think that Dr. Bond's report was the source, however, as his report appears to have been prepared specifically for senior level Police. A more likely source is any one of the several doctors at the autopsy. The Times, 13 November 1888, commented 'Notwithstanding reports to the contrary, it is still confidently asserted that some portions of the body of the deceased woman are missing.' Who 'confidently asserted' this? One of the surgeons? Or, since the informed source isn't named, it could just have been general gossip among attendants at the mortuary.", adding that this conflict "...is made worse by Dr Bond's report because we don't know what he meant." 2
The alleged confusion over Dr Bond's report is due to his use of the word, "absent". And, depending on what one wishes to believe, absent can mean either merely removed from the body or completely taken out of the room. Yet, there can be no doubt, however, that organs were at least removed from Kelly's body. It seems reasonable that The Observer's reference to the "one report published on Friday" is probably referring to another news article and not directly to Dr Bond's report, as Paul Begg states. Yet, The Observer's one comment, "That he cut the heart out from below...", is too similar in content to Dr Bond's known report of the autopsy, ("The Pericardium was open below & the Heart absent"), to merely accept that either news report stemmed from general gossip. And, if the leak did stem from someone who was at the autopsy, then it carries no less weight than if the reporter had unofficially seen Dr Bond's report. And yes, we do know what Dr Bond wrote, whether or not The Observer's article factually stemmed directly from his report. But, do we not know what he meant? Dr Bond specificly wrote with respect to the lack of a heart within the chest cavity, and it would only be speculation, without further data, to conclude that he meant anything else. I must demur on the the alleged ambiguity of Dr Bond's report, and offer the following with respect to what might have happened to Kelly's heart.
At approximately 1:30 P.M., Friday, 9 November, Superintendent Arnold ordered the door to Kelly's room at 13 Miller's Court to be broken open. Photographs were taken; Dr Phillips and Dr Dukes examined the body; a search of the room was made; and, Insp Abberline took inventory of the room's contents, noting that a fire had burned in the grate (part of a hat brim was in the grate and a near-by kettle had a melted spout and handle. The ashes were still warm). 3
This single room (10FT x12FT) was actually a partitioned section of the ground floor back room. The only door was just inside the arched entry to the court, and the room was sparse: Opposite of the door was the fire-grate; to the left, the broken window; and, to the right, the table and bed. 'The Fisherman's Widow', hung over the mantelpiece. A cupboard was in the corner. At the foot of the bed, a chair upon which lay folded clothes. (Some later reports indicate that a hatchet was by the door.) A body lay sprawled on the bed. 4
The body had a thin chemise and was situated in the middle of the bed; the shoulders lay flat, but the body leanedtoward the left side of the bed; the head was turned toward the left shoulder, facing the windows; the right arm lay across the body with the right hand in the abdominal cavity; the left arm was partly removed from the body and lay on the bed, it was bent at the elbow and the fingers were clenched; the legs were spread apart, (the left leg lay flat on the bed and the right leg was slightly above the bed, due to the leaning of the body); and, the bed clothing and the right corner of the bed were saturated with blood. About two square feet of blood was below the bed, and the wall by the right bedstead had several splashings of blood. 5
The thighs were stripped and the abdomen was removed, (flesh removed from the abdomen and thighs were placed on the table by the door); the abdominal cavity was empty; the breasts were cut off, (one was placed under the head and the other was by the right foot); the arms were mutilated; her facial features were removed; the neck was severed down to the spine; (the left femur appears to be split from the hips downward, exposing the marrow cavity); the uterus and kidneys were also placed under the head; the liver was placed between the feet; and, the intestines lay by the right side of the body. 6
The autopsy was conducted at 7:30 A.M. on Saturday, 10 November by Dr Phillips, his assistant, Dr Bond, Dr Brown, and Dr Dukes and tells us the following: The face was cut in all directions; numerous cuts across all features; the neck was cut down to the vertebrae; the cuts showed distinct ecchymosis; the breasts were removed by quasi-circular incisions; associated muscles attached to the breasts; the thorax was visible through the cuts; the abdomen and costal arch to pubes removed; the front right thigh skinned down to the bone; the left thigh was stripped of skin and muscle as far as the knee; the left calf had a long incision running from the knee to 5" above the ankle; both arms and forearms had extensive jagged wounds; the right thumb had a 1" superficial cut, extravasation of the blood in the skin and several abrasions on the back of the hand; lower part of the right lung was broken and torn away; the left lung was intact; the pericardium was open below and the heart absent; and, partly digested food was found in the abdominal cavity and in the stomach remains.7
While some have concluded that Dr Bond's report is insufficiently explicit for a proper evaluation of what was meant, I suggest that there really is no ambiguity about Dr Bond's statement from the autopsy. "The Pericardium was open below & the Heart absent." This is very explicit, indeed. Dr Bond clearly wrote that the conical sac which encloses the heart was empty of its contents. The heart was missing, and this can only achieved by removal.
The "inventory" of the organs, (at 13 Miller's Court and during the autopsy) is very thorough. Neither the heart, nor its location were specified; yet, the other organs were mentioned. What does this tell us? That the heart was neither near the body, while it still lay on the bed, nor was it present during the autopsy. But could it still have been within the room?
Insp Abberline took an inventory of the room's contents. The room was only 10FT x 12FT with few items. Between Insp Abberline's search and the others who were in the room after McCarthy broke in the door (which includes Dr Phillips and Dr Dukes), had the heart been elsewhere within the room it surely would have been found. It would be very doubtful that the heart was readily overlooked, let alone completely missed. As for the fireplace, it is possible that the killer might have tried to burn it. But, a heart will not simply be consumed and disintegrate, like paper or clothes. It would have been found by Insp Abberline when he went through the ashes had it been there.
The various interpretations of Dr Bond's report actually stem from him not specifically stating that the heart was not found anywhere within the room. Even though Dr Bond did not go out of his way to state it, this does not mean that the heart could still have been somewhere in the room. And it should be pointed out that Dr Bond was not necessarily required to state what was not there, only what was there. The evidence does clearly indicate that the heart was missing from the room. While Dr Bond specifically wrote of the heart's absence from the body, there should be little doubt that it was also "taken away".
1 - The Observer, (London), 18 Nov 88, p5, as reprinted in Ripperana, #13, July 1995, p16-17; re: Facts Mr Hinton Paul Begg 3:03 am Tue Aug 25 and 4:50 am Wed Aug 26, 1998 (old general message board, CB:JTR)
2 - ibid
3 - A-Z, 3rd ed, p115; MEPO 3/140, f226-225
4 - A-Z, 2nd ed., p229, 232; KIR, p8; MEPO 3/140, f226-225; Ripperana, #16, Apr 1996, p10-14; Ripperana, #18, Oct 1996, p1-2
5 - A-Z, 2nd ed, p49-50, 365; Ripperana, #13, July 1995, p16-17; Ripperana, #18, Oct 1996, p1-2
6 - ibid
7 - A-Z, 2nd ed., p365; The Times, 12 Nov 88
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