Although suspects such as Charles Lechmere stayed out of the spotlight, Joseph Barnett definitely attracted attention from the police. Barnett lived with Mary Jane Kelly (the last Ripper victim) up until a few days before her death. He met Kelly around April 1887, and they later moved to 13 Miller’s Court.
Barnett worked as a fish porter but lost his job during the summer of 1888. Thereafter, the couple struggled to pay rent, and Kelly returned to prostitution. Those who believe that Barnett was Jack the Ripper view his loss of employment as a turning point. The argument is that Barnett was so overcome with guilt for driving Kelly to prostitution that he went on a murder spree.
Murdering local prostitutes in an attempt to frighten Kelly off the streets. While this is pure speculation, it is true that Barnett disapproved of Kelly’s prostitution. Barnett separated from Kelly on October 30 because he disliked the prostitutes she hung around with.
“[Kelly] never went on the streets when she lived with me.” “She would never have gone wrong again, and I should never have left, if it had not been for the prostitutes stopping [by] the house.”
This might further explain why Kelly was the Ripper’s final and most mutilated victim. The reasoning being that Barnett felt rejected by Kelly and wanted revenge for the break-up. According to Barnett, he visited Kelly on the evening of November 8 and they had parted on “friendly terms”.
He then supposedly went home, played a card game until half-past twelve before going to bed. Kelly is presumed to have died in the early hours of November 9, so Barnett could have returned to Miller’s Court sometime after midnight. Ultimately, Barnett was released without charge by the police after a four-hour interrogation.
Then there’s the matter of the locked door. When the police arrived at the scene, they had to break down the door with a pickaxe. This raised an important question. How did the killer lock the door behind him?
According to Barnett, the key to Room 13 had been missing for some time. Because of this, he and Kelly would: “open the door by reaching through the broken window”. The door was said to be equipped with a “catch-lock” and evidently locked itself upon being closed. If that’s true, mystery solved.
But, even if the door was not self-locking, there’s still an obvious solution. All the killer would have had to do is observe Kelly using the window trick and then employ that same technique to fasten the door upon leaving.
But those who favor Barnett as the Ripper believe the key never went missing. Instead, Barnett is said to have stolen the key and then used it on the night of the murder. These solutions are all equally valid, and it’s impossible to know which one is correct.
There is a slight variation of this theory which states that Barnett did murder Kelly but was not the Ripper. Instead, he merely emulated the Ripper to deflect attention away from himself. Once again, this is pure speculation, but the murder of Kelly did somewhat differ from the rest in that it was committed indoors. Barnett remained in the East End until his death in 1926 at the age of 68.
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