Mitre Square, located in the City of London, occupies the site of the cloister of the Holy Trinity Priory, which was demolished under Henry VIII. It was also a crime scene: Catherine Eddowes’s horribly mutilated body was found in the south corner of the square on 30 September 1888. Her murder on the site of the old monastery is ascribed to an ancient curse in a contemporary penny dreadful entitled “The Curse Upon Mitre Square A.D. 1530-1888” by J.F. Brewer.
Catherine Eddowes was one of the victims in the Whitechapel murders. She was the second kill of the so-called “double event”, two homicides attributed to Jack the Ripper that occurred on 30 September 1888. Eddowes was killed not even an hour after Elizabeth Stride, who was the first to die on that fateful night.
She was five feet tall, with dark auburn hair, hazel eyes and a tattoo on her left forearm that read ‘TC’, for Tom Conway. She was intelligent, temperamental and “jolly”.
Eddowes, also known as Kate Conway and Kate Kelly, after her two successive common-law husbands, was born in Graisley Green on 14 April 1842, as one of her parents’ eleven children. Her family moved to London, but she returned to Wolverhampton and worked as a tin plate stamper. Having lost her job, she moved back to London with an ex-soldier Thomas Conway. They had three children: a girl and two boys. She started drinking and left her family in 1880. The following year found her living with a John Kelly at Cooney’s common lodging-house at 55 Flower and Dean Street, Spitalfields, at the centre of London’s most notorious criminal rookery. There she took to casual prostitution to pay the rent. Her former partner, Conway, drew his army pension under the assumed name of Quinn, and kept their sons’ address secret from her.
At 1:45 a.m., Eddowes’s mutilated body was found in the south-west corner of Mitre Square by the square’s beat policeman PC Edward Watkins. She was laid on her back, with her head turned to her left. Her throat was cut through almost to the spine. The right earlobe had been cut off, as was the tip of the nose. The face had incisions through cheeks and eyelids. The abdomen was also cut open, the intestines laid over Eddowes’s shoulder. The uterus and the left kidney were missing.
In the summer of 1888, Eddowes, Kelly and a friend of theirs called Emily Birrell took casual work hop-picking in Kent. On returning to London at the end of the harvest, their money was soon exhausted. Eddowes and Kelly split their last sixpence between them; he took fourpence to pay for a bed in the common lodging-house, and she took twopence, which was just enough for her to stay a night at Mile End Casual Ward in the neighbouring parish. They met up again the following morning, 29 September, and in the early afternoon Eddowes told Kelly she would go to Bermondsey to try to get some money from her daughter, Mrs Annie Phillips. With money from pawning his boots, a bare-footed Kelly took a bed at the lodging-house just after 8:00 p.m., and according to the deputy keeper remained there all night.
At 8:30 p.m. on Saturday 29 September, Eddowes was found lying drunk in the road on Aldgate High Street by PC Louis Robinson. She was taken into custody and then to Bishopsgate police station, where she was detained, giving the name ‘Nothing’, until she was sober enough to leave at 1 a.m. on the morning of 30 September. On her release, she gave her name and address as ‘Mary Ann Kelly of 6 Fashion Street’. She spoke to the desk sergeant, “Cheerio me old cock”, which were her last recorded words. When leaving the station, instead of turning right to take the shortest route to her home in Flower and Dean Street, she turned left towards Aldgate. She was last seen alive at 1:35 a.m. by three witnesses, Joseph Lawende, Joseph Hyam Levy and Harry Harris, who had just left a club on Duke Street. She was standing talking with a man at the entrance to Church Passage, which led south-west from Duke Street to Mitre Square along the south wall of the Great Synagogue of London. Lawende described the man with Eddowes as a fair-moustached and wearing a navy jacket, peaked cloth cap, and red scarf. Chief Inspector Donald Swanson intimated in his report that Lawende’s identification of the woman as Eddowes was doubtful. A patrolling policeman, PC James Harvey, walked down Church Passage from Duke Street very shortly afterwards, but his beat took him back down Church Passage to Duke Street, without entering the square.
At 1:45 a.m., PC Edward Watkins found Eddowes’s body. He said that he entered the square at 1:44 a.m, having previously been there at 1:30 a.m. He called for assistance at a tea warehouse in the square, where night watchman George James Morris, who was an ex-policeman, had noticed nothing unusual. Neither had another watchman (George Clapp) at 5 Mitre Square or an off-duty policeman (Richard Pearse) at 3 Mitre Square.