Eddowes, also known as "Kate Conway" and "Kate Kelly" after her two successive common-law husbands, was born in Graisley Green, Wolverhampton on 14 April 1842. Her parents, tinplate worker George Eddowes and his wife, Catherine (née Evans), had 10 other children. The family moved to London a year after her birth, but she later returned to Wolverhampton to work as a tinplate stamper.
On losing this job, she took up with ex-soldier Thomas Conway in Birmingham; she moved to London with him and they had a daughter and two sons. She took to drink and left her family in 1880; the following year she was living with new partner 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. Here she took to casual prostitution to pay the rent. To avoid contact with his former partner, Conway drew his army pension under the assumed name of Quinn, and kept their sons' addresses secret from her.
At the time of her death she was described as being five feet tall, with dark auburn hair, hazel eyes, and a tattoo that read "TC", for Tom Conway, in blue ink on her left forearm. Friends of Eddowes described her as "intelligent and scholarly, but possessed of a fierce temper" and "a very jolly woman, always singing."
In the summer of 1888, Eddowes, Kelly, and their friend Emily Birrell took casual work hop-picking in Kent. At harvest's end they returned to London and quickly went through their pay. 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, just enough for her to stay a night at Mile End Casual Ward in the neighbouring parish.
They met up 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, Annie Phillips, who was married to a gun-maker in Southwark. 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".
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. Only Lawende could furnish a description of the man, whom he described as a fair-moustached man 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. He wrote that Lawende had said that some clothing of the deceased's that he was shown resembled that of the woman he saw—"which was black ... that was the extent of his identity [sic]". 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.
Eddowes was killed and mutilated in the square between 1:35 and 1:45 a.m.
At 1:45 a.m., Eddowes' mutilated body was found in the south-west corner of Mitre Square by the square's beat policeman PC Edward Watkins. Watkins 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.
Police surgeon Dr. Frederick Gordon Brown, who arrived after 2:00 a.m., said of the scene:
The body was on its back, the head turned to left shoulder. The arms by the side of the body as if they had fallen there. Both palms upwards, the fingers slightly bent. A thimble was lying off the finger on the right side. The clothes drawn up above the abdomen. The thighs were naked. Left leg extended in a line with the body. The abdomen was exposed. Right leg bent at the thigh and knee.
The bonnet was at the back of the head—great disfigurement of the face. The throat cut. Across below the throat was a neckerchief. ... The intestines were drawn out to a large extent and placed over the right shoulder—they were smeared over with some feculent matter. A piece of about two feet was quite detached from the body and placed between the body and the left arm, apparently by design. The lobe and auricle of the right ear were cut obliquely through. There was a quantity of clotted blood on the pavement on the left side of the neck round the shoulder and upper part of the arm, and fluid blood-coloured serum which had flowed under the neck to the right shoulder, the pavement sloping in that direction.
Body was quite warm. No death stiffening had taken place. She must have been dead most likely within the half hour. We looked for superficial bruises and saw none. No blood on the skin of the abdomen or secretion of any kind on the thighs. No spurting of blood on the bricks or pavement around. No marks of blood below the middle of the body. Several buttons were found in the clotted blood after the body was removed. There was no blood on the front of the clothes. There were no traces of recent connection.
Brown conducted a post-mortem that afternoon, noting:
After washing the left hand carefully, a bruise the size of a sixpence, recent and red, was discovered on the back of the left hand between the thumb and first finger. A few small bruises on right shin of older date. The hands and arms were bronzed. No bruises on the scalp, the back of the body, or the elbows. ... The cause of death was Haemorrhage from the left common carotid artery. The death was immediate and the mutilations were inflicted after death ... There would not be much blood on the murderer. The cut was made by someone on the right side of the body, kneeling below the middle of the body. ... The peritoneal lining was cut through on the left side and the left kidney carefully taken out and removed. ... I believe the perpetrator of the act must have had considerable knowledge of the position of the organs in the abdominal cavity and the way of removing them. The parts removed would be of no use for any professional purpose. It required a great deal of knowledge to have removed the kidney and to know where it was placed. Such a knowledge might be possessed by one in the habit of cutting up animals. I think the perpetrator of this act had sufficient time ... It would take at least five minutes. ... I believe it was the act of one person.
Police physician Thomas Bond, disagreed with Brown's assessment of the killer's skill level. Bond's report to police stated: "In each case the mutilation was inflicted by a person who had no scientific nor anatomical knowledge. In my opinion he does not even possess the technical knowledge of a butcher or horse slaughterer or any person accustomed to cut up dead animals." Local surgeon Dr George William Sequeira, who was the first doctor at the scene, and City medical officer William Sedgwick Saunders, who was also present at the autopsy, also thought that the killer lacked anatomical skill and did not seek particular organs. In addition to the abdominal wounds, the murderer had cut Eddowes' face: across the bridge of the nose, on both cheeks, and through the eyelids of both eyes. The tip of her nose and part of one ear had been cut off. The Royal London Hospital on Whitechapel Road preserves some crime scene drawings and plans of the Mitre Square murder by the City Surveyor Frederick Foster; they were first brought to public attention in 1966 by Francis Camps, Professor of Forensic Medicine at London University. Based on his analysis of the surviving documents, Camps concluded that "the cuts shown on the body could not have been done by an expert."
The Eddowes inquest was opened on 4 October by Samuel F. Langham, coroner for the City of London. A house-to-house search was conducted but nothing suspicious was discovered. Brown stated his belief that Eddowes was killed by a slash to the throat as she lay on the ground, and then mutilated.
A mustard tin containing two pawn tickets issued to Emily Birrell and Anne Kelly was discovered on Eddowes' body. These eventually led to her identification by John Kelly as his common-law wife, after he read about the tickets in the newspapers. His identification was confirmed by Catherine Eddowes' sister, Eliza Gold. No money was found on her. Though the murder occurred within the City of London, it was close to the boundary of Whitechapel where the previous Whitechapel murders had occurred. The mutilation of Eddowes' body and the abstraction of her left kidney and part of her womb by her murderer bore the signature of Jack the Ripper and was very similar in nature to that of earlier victim Annie Chapman.
Due to the location of Mitre Square, the City of London Police under Detective Inspector James McWilliam joined the murder enquiry alongside the Metropolitan Police who had been engaged in the previous murders. At about 3 a.m. on the same day as Eddowes was murdered, a blood-stained fragment of her apron contaminated with fecal matter was found lying in the passage of the doorway leading to Flats 108 and 119, Model Dwellings, Goulston Street, Whitechapel. Above it on the wall was a graffito in chalk commonly held to have read: "The Juwes are the men that Will not be Blamed for nothing". The writing may or may not have been related to the murder, but either way it was washed away before dawn on the orders of Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Charles Warren, who feared that it would spark anti-Jewish riots. Mitre Square had three connecting streets: Church Passage to the north-east, Mitre Street to the south-west, and St James's Place to the north-west. As PC Harvey saw no-one from Church Passage, and PC Watkins saw no-one from Mitre Street, the murderer must have left the square northwards through St James's Place towards Goulston Street. Goulston Street was within a quarter of an hour's walk from Mitre Square, on a direct route to Flower and Dean Street, where Eddowes lived, hinting that her murderer also resided nearby and headed back there after the killing.
Major Henry Smith, acting Commissioner of the City Police, claimed in his memoirs to have discovered bloodied water in a public sink in a court off Dorset Street, and as the water was slowly running out of the basin, he calculated that the Ripper had been there only moments before. Ripper author Martin Fido thought it unlikely that the culprit would wait to wash his hands in a semi-public place about forty minutes after the crime, and Smith's memoirs are both unreliable and embellished for dramatic effect. There is no mention of the sink in the official police reports.
On 1 October, a postcard, dubbed the "Saucy Jacky" postcard and signed "Jack the Ripper", was received by the Central News Agency. It claimed responsibility for Stride's and Eddowes' murders, and described the killing of the two women as the "double event", a designation which has endured. It has been argued that the postcard was mailed before the murders were publicised, making it unlikely that a crank would have such knowledge of the crime, but it was postmarked more than 24 hours after the killings took place, long after details were known by journalists and residents of the area. Police officials later claimed to have identified a journalist as the author of the postcard, and dismissed it as a hoax, an assessment shared by most Ripper historians.
On 16 October 1888 a parcel containing half a human kidney accompanied by a note was received by George Lusk, Chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee. The note has become known as the "Lusk letter" or the "From Hell" letter, because of a phrase "From Hell" used by the writer, who claimed to have "fried and ate" the missing kidney half. The handwriting and style were unlike that of the "Saucy Jacky" postcard. The kidney was taken to Dr Thomas Horrocks Openshaw at the nearby London Hospital. He believed that the kidney was human, from the left side, and preserved in spirit. The Daily Telegraph reported on 19 October that he said it was a recent "ginny kidney" from a 45-year-old female, but in the Star newspaper the same day Openshaw denied the report strongly, saying it was impossible to tell its age or gender, or how long it had been preserved in spirits. Major Smith claimed in his memoirs that the sent kidney matched the one missing from Eddowes, because the length of renal artery attached to the kidney matched the missing length from the body, and both the body and kidney showed signs of Bright's disease. Smith's later recollection does not match the medical reports submitted by the examining pathologists or the police records. Police surgeon Dr Brown said that the kidney had been trimmed up, and that the renal artery was entirely absent. Metropolitan police memos state that the kidney could have come from any body, such as those found in a hospital morgue. Smith's story is thought by historians to be dramatic licence on his part, and the kidney could have been a medical student's prank. Dr Saunders, who attended the post-mortem, told the press, "the right kidney of the woman Eddowes was perfectly normal in its structure and healthy ... my opinion is that it was a student's antic." Chief Inspector Donald Swanson, who co-ordinated the inquiry, wrote, "similar kidneys might and could be obtained from any dead person upon whom a post mortem had been made for any cause, by students or dissecting room porter."
Catherine Eddowes was buried on Monday, 8 October 1888 in an elm coffin in the City of London Cemetery, in an unmarked (public) grave 49336, square 318. Kelly and Eddowes' sister attended. Today, square 318 has been re-used for part of the Memorial Gardens for cremated remains. Eddowes lies beside the Garden Way in front of Memorial Bed 1849. In late 1996, the cemetery authorities decided to mark her grave with a plaque.
In 2014, mitochondrial DNA that matched that of one of Eddowes' descendants was extracted from a shawl said to have come from the scene of her murder. The DNA match was based on one of seven small segments taken from the hypervariable regions. The segment contained a sequence variation described as 314.1C, and claimed to be uncommon, with a frequency of only 1 in 290,000 worldwide. However, Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys and others pointed out this was in fact an error in nomenclature for the common sequence variation 315.1C, which is present in more than 99% of the sequences in the EMPOP database.
Other DNA on the shawl matched DNA from a relation of Aaron Kosminski, one of the suspects. This match was also based on a segment of mitochondrial DNA, but no information was given that would enable the commonness of the sequence to be estimated.
The owner of the shawl, British author Russell Edwards, claimed the matches proved Kosminski was Jack the Ripper. Others disagree. Donald Rumbelow criticized the claim, saying that no shawl is listed among Eddowes' effects by the police, and mitochondrial DNA expert Peter Gill said the shawl "is of dubious origin and has been handled by several people who could have shared that mitochondrial DNA profile." Two of Eddowes' descendants are known to have been in the same room as the shawl for 3 days in 2007, and, in the words of one critic, "The shawl has been openly handled by loads of people and been touched, breathed on, spat upon."In Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's From Hell, (based on Stephen Knight's Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution) Catherine Eddowes is introduced late in the narrative, and is targeted by the Ripper solely because she claims she is Mary Kelly, one of the four Whitechapel prostitutes targeted by Sir William Gull.SoulMate: True Evil Never Dies (2012) Played by Anna MagoulasThe Real Jack the Ripper (2010) TV Played by Sarah WilliamsonJack, the Last Victim (2005) Played by Janet WheelerFrom Hell. (2001) Film Played by Lesley SharpJack the Ripper (1988) TV Played by Susan GeorgeJack the Ripper (1973) TV Played by Hilary SestaA Study in Terror (1965) Film Played by Kay Walsh