Orsam Books

The Heart of the Matter

I see that Trevor Marriott is back terrorising the forums with his 'primary evidence' that Mary Jane Kelly's heart wasn't taken away by her murderer.  This so-called 'primary evidence' is a reported remark eight years after the murder by ex-Inspector Reid that, 'I ought to tell you that the stories of portions having been taken away by the murderer were all untrue.  In every instance the body was complete'.

As Trevor resurrects this claim every few years, it is, I think, worth a close look at the evidence regarding Mary Jane Kelly's heart.

The true primary evidence in this respect is, of course, Dr Bond's examination notes which state:

'The Preicardium was open below & the Heart absent'.

Trevor describes this as 'ambiguous' but, as Dr Bond had told us where other body parts removed from the body had been placed in the room, the fact that he wrote that the heart was absent strongly suggests that it wasn't present when he examined the body.

In support of his claim that Kelly's heart wasn't removed by the murderer, Trevor also refers us to a report in Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper of 11 November 1888 which, he suggests, was likely based on information provided by Superintendent Arnold.  As usual with Trevor, he's cited the wrong newspaper because the report he refers to was first published in the Times of 10 November 1888 and we need to look at that report.

The Times of 10 November 1888 stated (my underlining):

Mr Arnold, having satisfied himself that the woman was dead, ordered one of the windows to be entirely removed. A horrible and sickening sight then presented itself. The poor woman lay on her back on the bed, entirely naked. Her throat was cut from ear to ear, right down to the spinal column. The ears and nose had been cut clean off. The breasts had also been cleanly cut off and placed on a table which was by the side of the bed. The stomach and abdomen had been ripped open, while the face was slashed about, so that the features of the poor creature were beyond all recognition. The kidneys and heart had also been removed from the body, and placed on the table by the side of the breasts. The liver had likewise been removed, and laid on the right thigh. The lower portion of the body and the uterus had been cut out, and these appeared to be missing

Four things are noteworthy about this report:

1. The description of the crime scene is not directly attributed to Superintendent Arnold, who is not quoted, and there is a very good chance that the information did not come from Arnold.

2.  We know for a fact that the Times report here is inaccurate because the kidneys and breasts were not on the table.  Yet, as we can see, the Times claimed that kidneys and heart had been 'placed on the table by the side of the breasts'.  As Dr Bond's notes revealed, the kidneys and one breast had been placed by the murderer under Kelly's head while the other breast had been placed by the right foot.

3. The liver was not 'laid on the right thigh' as the Times claimed.  Per Dr Bond's notes the liver was between the feet. 

4. The claim by the Times that the uterus 'appeared to be missing' is also false in the sense that the uterus was not missing but it is remarkable that Trevor literally wants to rely on a newspaper report which suggests that one of Kelly's organs was 'missing'!

Given that neither the kidneys nor the breasts were on the table in Kelly's room, the claim that the heart was on that same table can hardly be considered reliable. 

On the other hand, on the same day, the Daily Telegraph was reporting that:

'it is believed that once more there are portions of the organs missing'. 

The Times report was repeated word for word in the Pall Mall Gazette later on 10 November and in almost identical form in The Star too.  As Trevor has noted, it also found it's way into Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper of 11 November 1888, on page 7 of that newspaper.  But what Trevor never mentions (probably because he isn't aware of it) is that on the front page of Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper of 11 November 1888 is what was evidently a more recent story.  

The key passage for our purposes is:

'Among the many conflicting statements which have been published was one relating to the removal of a party of the body of the victim.  It was contradicted yesterday, but when evidence comes to be given at the inquest, we have no doubt that the doctors will have a fact to reveal in this direction.'

That is ambiguous but the next paragraph leaves no room for doubt as to what was being said.


'A very singular investigation was in progress yesterday with respect to something missing.  It was thought the murderer had burnt the thing in question before leaving the scene of the crime.  Accordingly the ashes and other matter in the fireplace of the room in Miller's-court were carefully taken up, sifted, and examined.  Dr. Phillips and Dr. Macdonald M.P. the coroner for the district, visited the house, and subjected the refuse to the closest scrutiny.  It is understood, however, that nothing  was discovered, leaving it to be assumed, therefore, that the murderer took away a part of his victim's body, though what portion is for the present a  secret known only to the doctors.'

It's very clear, therefore, that the newspaper had been informed that the murderer had taken something from the body, which was being kept secret.  There was, it said, 'something missing' and, because that something hadn't been found in the fire, the conclusion was that the 'murderer took away a part of his victim's body'.

The following day, however, the Times was continuing to tell a very different story.  According to that newspaper on 12 November:

As early as half-past 7 on Saturday morning, Dr. Phillips, assisted by Dr. Bond (Westminster), Dr. Gordon Brown (City), Dr. Duke (Spitalfields) and his (Dr. Phillips's) assistant, made an exhaustive post-mortem examination of the body at the mortuary adjoining the Whitechapel Church. It is known that after Dr. Phillips  had "fitted" the cut portions of the body into their proper places no portion was missing. At the first examination, which was only of a cursory character, it was thought that a portion of the body had gone, but this is not the case. 

In saying that it was initially thought that 'a portion of the body had gone' the Times was probably referring to the uterus but, nevertheless, according to the Times, 'no portion was missing'. 

This repeated something which had been published at the end of the Times' story of 10 November 1888 in which it had been said that:

'The latest account states upon what professes to be indisputable authority that no portion of the woman's body was taken away by the murderer.  As already stated, the post-mortem examination was of the most exhaustive character, and surgeons did not quit their work until every organ had been accounted for and placed as closely as possible in its natural position.'

This part of the Times' report of 10 November didn't make it into the Pall Mall Gazette or Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper but did find its way into a number of regional newspapers including the South Wales Echo of 10 November and Reynolds' Newspaper of 11 November.  The source was a Central News report circulated very late on 9 November which probably explains why it was bolted onto the Times report of 10 November as a late addition.  This Central News report was also included in the Daily Telegraph of 10 November.

While that might seem to be conclusive, the Daily Telegraph of 13 November nevertheless said (underlining added):

'We are enabled to state, on good authority, that notwithstanding all that has been said to the contrary, a portion of the bodily organs was missing. The police, and with them the divisional surgeon, have arrived at the conclusion that it is in the interest of justice not to disclose the details of the professional inquiry.'

So once again we have a report stating that there was a missing body part but it was also being said that the identity of that body part was deliberately being kept secret.

Then we find that the Times itself on 13 November said:

'The examination of the body by Dr. Phillips on Saturday lasted upwards of six-and-a-half hours. Notwithstanding reports to the contrary, it is still confidently asserted that some portions of the deceased woman are missing'.

So the Times was hinting that its own story might have been wrong.

There was clearly a dispute between different newspapers and press agencies as to what the correct position was because on 13 November the Central News issued a further report (as published the next day in the South Wales Daily News and other regional newspapers) which stated that:

'In view of certain statements to the effect that portions of the body of the Miller-court victim were taken away by the murderer, we think it necessary to re-affirm that at the post-mortem examination  every organ was fully accounted for and replaced, as far as possible, in its natural position.  We are further enabled to add upon authority, that the uterus had been cut out by the murderer, but that it was found lying in a corner of the bed, the murderer having apparently no desire to take it away, or having forgotten, in his final hurry to do so'.

A few days later, however, reports started to leak out that it was the heart  that was missing from Kelly's body. Hence from the Dundee Evening Telegraph of Saturday, 17 November, 1888:

'The uterus, it seems, too, is not missing, as was once stated, but the heart is.'

The next day, the Observer published a statement that:

'According to one report published on Friday, it seems that the assassin cut the woman's heart out and carried it away'.

It's not entirely clear where the Friday report was first published but it was probably the same report carried by the Dundee Evening Telegraph on the Saturday.

In 1894, a textbook published in the United States entitled 'A System of Legal Medicine' included a chapter by Dr. Francis A. Harris in which it was stated that, in the Kelly case, 'all the organs except the heart were found scattered about the room'.  The source for this information was said to be Dr Charles Hebbert who was Dr Bond's assistant. 

Inspector Reid was interviewed in 1896 by a News of the World journalist following his retirement from the force. As we've seen, he was reported as saying (12 April 1896):  

'I ought to tell you that the stories of portions having been taken away by the murderer were all untrue.  In every instance the body was complete'. 

Although this was said in the context of a discussion about the Kelly murder, the only meaning of 'every instance' is that the body in every murder was complete.  That this is the case is confirmed by an interview Reid gave to the Sun newspaper in 1901 in which he was quoted as saying:

'It was said in the case of the woman Kelly that portions of the body were carried away.  This was not true.  Every body was found complete. It was simply hacked without any system or plan other than dictated by ferocity.' 

Again, while said in the context of the Kelly murder, Reid made it clear that 'Every body' was found complete.  It's exactly the same point expressed slightly differently, confirming that by 'every instance' Reid meant 'every body' or every victim of the Ripper.  This is known to be false because it was confirmed at the inquest in two earlier cases (Chapman and Eddowes) that body parts were missing.  

Trevor likes to refer to Inspector Reid as 'head of Whitechapel CID' as if such a position must mean that he knew everything about the Ripper murders.  Well in 1907 Melville Macnaghten was the head of the entire CID at Scotland Yard but when it came to describing the events surrounding the 1907 murder of Phyllis Dimmock in his 1913 memoir he made a number of basic factual errors as I describe in my book 'The Camden Town Murder Mystery'.  In similar fashion, as we shall see, Reid was capable of making basic errors regarding the facts of the Ripper murders.

It might be noted, incidentally, that Reid was transferred to Whitechapel as a punishment for an unspecified offence.  At the start of July 1887 he was a detective inspector in J Division but Police Orders of 30 July 1887 record that he was 'reprimanded, and transferred to another Division' by order of James Monro:


We can see that the transfer from J to H as a Local Inspector (which put him in charge of the detectives in Whitechapel) occurred on the same day.  

As for those errors which Reid was capable of making, according to the 1896 News of the World article, Reid said this:

'The first Ripper murder...a woman named Smith was met by a man in Brick-lane who carried a walking stick, and committed a most terrible outrage on her'.

The truth as set out in the police's own report at the time was that Smith said that three men had attacked her.  There is no mention in the police report of a walking stick.  Reid himself referred in his report to 'a blunt instrument' as being the murder weapon. 

The 1896 article also quotes Reid as saying of the murder in Bucks Row:

'In this case the woman was believed to have been murdered at about one o'clock in the morning'.

The truth, of course, is that she was believed to have been murdered shortly before her body was discovered at about 3.45am.

Even worse, Reid said:

'The mutilation in the Buck's row case was exactly of the same nature as that inflicted upon the woman [Emma Smith] who died in the hospital'

Of course, there was no mutilation in the Smith case and her cause of death was very different to that of Nichols.

In the case of Martha Tabram, Reid said that her body was found by 'a cabman' coming down the stairs of some dwellings 'at four o'clock in the morning'.   The body was actually found at about 4.45am and not by a cabman.  The man who found it, John Reeves, gave his occupation at the inquest as 'a waterside labourer'.

In the case of Stride, Reid said that the discovery of her body occurred 'about half-past twelve' whereas it was, in fact, at 1am.  He also says that 'Darnschitz (sic) saw something move on the ground' which obviously wasn't the case.

When it came to the murder of Catherine Eddowes (whose name Reid didn't seem to be able to remember) the ex-inspector could only say that, 'This murder was  committed in September 1889 or 90.  I forget for the moment which year'.

In the case of Kelly, Reid said:

'Kelly was in arrears with her rent and one morning a man known as ‘The Indian’, who was in the employment of the landlord of the house, went round about eight o’clock to see the woman about the money.'

So Reid got the time wrong when Thomas Bowyer knocked at Kelly's door.  It was about 10.45am.

It was perfectly possible for Reid to have got confused about the details of a case that had occurred eight years earlier.  When it came to the Kelly murder, he wasn't stated to be one of the officers attending the inquest.  Superintendent Arnold, Inspector Abberline and Sergeant Nairn were the three officers in attendance.  There are no known reports written by Inspector Reid relating to the Kelly murder.

Even if Reid attended at Miller's Court following the murder this wouldn't have helped him to know if any body parts were missing because he wouldn't have been able to work it out for himself.  He would either have needed to have read the post-mortem report or to have been told by someone who was familiar with the medical evidence whether the heart had or had not been taken away.  Did this happen?  We just don't know.  I don't think it can automatically be assumed that he was fully briefed at the time but, even if he was, by 1896 he could easily have forgotten.  What he might have retained in his head was a memory that the uterus of Kelly hadn't been removed which he built up into a belief that nothing had been removed.

Also in his mind he might have been influenced by the fact that no body parts had been removed from Smith, Tabram, Nichols, Stride, McKenzie and Coles.  The murder of Eddowes had occurred within the jurisdiction of the City Police so he would have had no first-hand knowledge of that murder and the Chapman murder is the only other case involving removal of a body part that he might have been personally familiar with.  Once again, however, he didn't write any reports relating to this murder and didn't attend the inquest on behalf of the police.  It's entirely possible that he confused himself and believed that the killer didn't take body parts away from the scenes of the crime.


What seems to have occurred in November 1888 was that different newspapers or press agencies were briefed by two different sources.  One source appears to have believed that all of Mary Kelly's body parts were accounted for, while the other appears to have believed that Kelly's heart was taken away.  It's by no means impossible that Inspector Reid was the first source, while Dr Bond or his assistant was the second source.  But equally it's not inconceivable that one of the doctors who attended Miller's Court on 9 November was under the impression that all the body parts had been accounted for. The focus at that time was probably on the uterus and kidneys.  Once it was discovered that they hadn't been taken away it might have been assumed that all body parts were present.  We should not assume that everyone involved in the case knew everything.

It is of interest that Dr Bond's notes indicating that the heart was absent were received by Scotland Yard on 16 November 1888, the very same day that there was (according to the Observer) a report in circulation that the heart had been taken away by the killer.  That newspaper report, or at least the one published on 17 November, which expressly stated that the heart had been removed, means that when combined with Dr Bond's notes, which, like I say, form the real primary evidence in the case, stating that the heart was absent, make it overwhelmingly likely that the heart was removed from Kelly's room by her murderer.


14 May 2022 


At the time of Inspector Reid's appointment to H Division in 1887 there was, within Whitechapel CID, of which Reid professed himself to be in charge, a Detective Sergeant Marriott. Honestly, you couldn't make it up!