The body of Jack the Ripper’s final victim is set to be exhumed as a new book claims the world’s most famous serial killer was her estranged husband.
The Ministry of Justice has indicated it will grant the first ever exhumation licence for the grave of a Ripper victim after examining the new theory, which is serialised exclusively in The Telegraph.
The author, Dr Wynne Weston-Davies, provided the Government with evidence that Mary Jane Kelly, an East End prostitute, was in fact his great aunt, and that her murder was an act of marital vengeance.
He names the Ripper as Francis Spurzheim Craig, who at the time of the murders in 1888 was a 51-year-old reporter covering the police courts and inquests in the East End of London.
He lived in Mile End Road, Whitechapel, just seven minutes’ walk from the first murder scene.
Dr Weston-Davies believes Craig’s knowledge of police methods of the day led him to kill four other women as a “cover” for his true intent – to murder his wife who embarrassed him by secretly returning to her life of prostitution just months after they wed in 1885.
The author hopes his theory will be proved, at least partly, by DNA evidence from the exhumation.
He has even located what may be the only surviving image of the face of Jack the Ripper.
A contemporary sketch of the inquest into the murder of the Ripper’s earlier victims is thought to show Craig sitting near the front of the court, reporting on a murder he himself had committed.
“The only way of absolutely proving that the Ripper’s final victim was my great aunt is to exhume Mary Jane Kelly’s body,” said Dr Weston-Davies, a former surgeon.
“We will then attempt to extract DNA from her bones or teeth and compare them with DNA from myself or my brother who, as far as I know, are her only living relatives.”
Ministry of Justice officials wrote to Dr Weston-Davies in September last year after considering his research for six months.
His work had required “detailed consideration”, they said, before adding that they would be “happy to consider your application for an exhumation licence” providing two simple criteria were met.
He has been asked to provide a letter from a forensics laboratory which is prepared to carry out the DNA testing and – as a final formality – post a public notice on the grave for three months.
The key to unlocking the secret of the Ripper were documents discovered in the National Archives at Kew, south-west London, four years ago.
Dr Weston-Davies proposes in The Real Mary Kelly that the divorce papers showed his family links with Elizabeth Weston Davies, the true identity of Mary Jane Kelly, and Francis Craig.
The author said: “I didn’t know more than the average person about Jack the Ripper when I started out researching my family history more than 10 years ago.
“My father, who died in 1996, always refused to speak about his family, saying they were a ‘bad lot’.
“One day in 2011, I was at the National Archives looking for documents and keyed the surname ‘Weston Davies’ into their database, and one result that popped up was ‘Weston Jones’.
“I was about to disregard it but ordered the document out of curiosity.
“When it arrived it consisted of a box of legal documents including a divorce petition and an affidavit.
“They related to my ancestor who had adopted a false surname – the ‘Weston Jones’ name – to pose as a widow when she wed, which was common at the time because although she’d never been married she was sexually experienced.
“An extraordinary story started to unfold about a woman marrying a man much older than herself, Francis Craig, and how this a marriage only lasted a few months, and then turned sour.”
Dr Weston-Davies went on: “It was several years before I made the connection with Jack the Ripper.
“I ordered Francis Craig’s death certificate and then tracked down reports of the inquest into his death.
“It was another bombshell. I realised he had committed suicide by slitting his own throat with a blade, exactly the same way the Ripper’s victims had been murdered.”
Francis Craig was a down-on-his-luck journalist.
A few years earlier Craig’s journalism career suffered an almost terminal blow when, as editor of the Bucks Advertiser he was brutally exposed as a plagiarist by a rival newspaper after stealing reports word-for-word from The Daily Telegraph.
The possibility of seeing the Ripper’s face for the first time – in a courtroom sketch – is another tantalising aspect to the new research.
“There’s a sketch of a scene from the inquest of Annie Chapman which shows a man sitting on the front bench, the one reserved for the Press.
“I think this is very possibly Francis Craig, and therefore the only surviving image of Jack the Ripper.
“The reporter in the illustration looks very much like Francis’s father, who was a well-known phrenologist who moved in the west London bohemian set with William Morris and the like.
The scene at the inquest on Annie Chapman. Circled is the reporter believed to be Francis Craig (Pictorial News)
“We know Francis was living in the East End, covering the courts and it’s very likely he covered the Chapman inquest,” said the author.
Followers of the case have long puzzled over why a series of infamous letters which originated the “Jack the Ripper” nickname were sent to the Central News press agency at the Old Bailey rather than a national newspaper, which would have been the most obvious destination to an ordinary member of the public.
Dr Weston-Davies suggests Craig was indeed the author of these “Dear Boss” letters and sending them to a news agency would have been a straightforward choice for him.
As a journalist who sometimes syndicated his own work, Craig knew it was the best way to have their contents sent to every newspaper in the land, further deepening his camouflage as the killer.
Also, the letters used Americanisms and Craig had spent time in the US during his younger years.
Craig was a peculiar man. Reports survive of his odd habits and the author believes he was suffering from schizo-typal personality disorder, or STPD.
“A psychiatrist friend of mine has indicated this is the most likely diagnosis,” said Dr Weston-Davies.
Because Elizabeth – or Mary Kelly, as she has been known until now in the vast Ripper archives – was buried in a pauper’s grave there are more bureaucratic hurdles to mount before an exhumation can take place.
A notice must be displayed by the grave for three months warning relatives that their loved one’s grave may also be disturbed.
“I understand there have been previous applications to exhume her body and they were all refused,” said Dr Weston-Davies.
“I think it is my family connection to her which persuaded the authorities, after months of deliberations.
“I’ve already obtained an indication from the Ministry of Justice that they are minded to issue an exhumation licence.
“There’s a bit more red tape to complete but I believe that exhuming her body will solve the Ripper mystery once and for all.
“I will proceed with the exhumation depending on the reaction to the book.
“If someone can show me clear evidence that Mary Kelly was not Elizabeth then of course there will be little point in proceeding.
“But otherwise I’m hoping we can go ahead and attempt to get the DNA evidence that will prove my theory once and for all.”
The murders took place three years after the marriage of Craig and Mary Jane/Elizabeth had broken down.
“There is evidence he spent a long time looking for her in the East End, even employing private detectives,” said the author.
“His initial aim – to win her back – turned to hatred.”
Dr Weston-Davies’ book highlights other cases from history when disgruntled men killed innocent strangers in order to obtain revenge on a specific person, usually after being spurned.
It was Craig, the book says, who killed Mary Jane/Elizabeth in November 1888 at her room in Miller’s Court, a Whitechapel slum.
After her throat was slit, she suffered heinous disfigurement and – unlike all the other victims – was rendered unrecognisable through terrible facial mutilation.
“He went to great lengths to ensure that her real identity could not be discovered,” said Dr Weston-Davies.
“Elizabeth was only known by her pseudonym.
Miller’s Court in Dorset street, where Mary Jane Kelly was killed, then and now (Hulton Archive/Warren Allott)
“He mutilated her face so her friends and family would never know it was her if the police published photographs of her face.
“He did not want her linked to him.”
Dr Weston-Davies, who worked as a general surgeon before moving into medical research, said: “Craig also went to great lengths to remove her heart, going for it through the diaphragm.
“The heart was never found despite an extensive search by police who arrived at the murder scene the following morning.
“It’s my belief there was a further piece of symbolism in her terrible evisceration.
“She had taken his heart, and now he was stealing hers.”
Read exclusive extracts from the book here:
The Real Mary Kelly: Jack the Ripper’s Fifth Victim and the Identity of the Man that Killed Her by Wynne Weston-Davies is published by Blink priced £16.99. To order your copy for £14 plus p&p call 0844 871 1514 or visit books.telegraph.co.uk