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Joseph Barnett (Jack the Ripper suspect)

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Joseph Barnett
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Sketch of Barnett
Born(1858-05-25)May 25, 1858
Whitechapel, London, England
DiedNovember 29, 1926(1926-11-29) (aged 68)
Stepney, England
Cause of deathPulmonary edema and acute bronchitis
OccupationFish porter, construction worker
Spouse(s)Louisa Barnett

Joseph Barnett, also known by his nicknames Danny Barnett[1] and “Joe”,[2] was a fish cutter who worked at Billinsgate Market in the 19th-century, located in the East End of London, and later became known for being the last partner of Mary Jane Kelly. It was not suspected that he had murdered her and, even less, that he was Jack the Ripper, until recently, when he was proposed on the basis of speculation and merely circumstantial evidence.


Joseph Barnett was born on May 25, 1858 in Whitechapel's Hairbrain neighborhood. He was the fourth son of dock worker John Barnett and his wife, Catherine, Irish immigrants who fled their native country for Great Britain following the great famines. The Barnetts already had a son before they moved to Whitechapel, Denis, and went on to have three others (excluding Joseph) - Daniel (b. 1851), Catherine (b. 1853) and John (b. 1860).

In 1861 the family moved to nearby Cartwright Street, and they lived there until 1864, when the elder Barnett, who worked as a porter in the Billinsgate Fish Market, died of pleurisy in July. His eldest son Denis assumed responsibility as head of the family, although he married Mary An Garrett and settled in Bermondsey.

Before he turned 20, Joseph began working in the Billinsgate Market as a fish cutter, a job he held for more than a decade, although intermittenly, until he was terminated in October 1888, when he was 30 years old and already lived with a girl, also from Ireland: Mary Jane Kelly.

Little is known about Barnett's life after Kelly's death. He only reappears in a register in 1906, when he was granted a license as a doorman, again in the Billinsgate Market. At that time he lived at Number 18 of New Lane Gravel, Shadwell, with his brother Daniel. The following year his work license says that he lived at Number 60 Red Lion Street, Shadwell. And in 1908, he lived in Tencas Street, in the district of Wapping.

After this, in 1919 he appeared in the electoral register living at 106 Red Lion Street in Shadwell with Louisa Barnett, who appears to be his wife, although there is no documented evidence to confirm whether he was married or had any children with her. The couple remained there until Louisa's death on November 3, 1926. Shortly thereafter, it is recorded that Joseph Barnett died on November 29, 1926, at the age of 68. The cause of death was edema in the lungs and acute bronchitis.[3]

Relationship with Mary Jane Kelly[edit]

Joseph Barnett was 30 years old and fired from his usual job when his ex-girlfriend Mary Jane Kelly was brutally murdered on Friday, November 9, 1888. His usual activity was to work as a fish porter at the Billinsgate Fish Market in London's East End, although he occasionally worked as a construction worker. He was the last concubine of the young and sensual Irish girl known as "Marie Jeannette", "Fair Emma", "Ginger", and several other pseudonyms, and until a few days before the tragedy he shared with her the tiny room number 13 of the building called Miller's Court, located at number 26 on Dorset Street.

On October 30th of that year, he had just separated from Kelly after a violent fight, during which the angry lovers attacked each other by throwing blunt objects they had at hand. As a result of this, the glass of the window adjacent to the door that gave entry to the modest housing was broken.

Barnett later testified that, once said brawl occured and despite the separation, they saw each other again outside the house several times, though only as friends. Both he and Mary adopted, from then on, the custom of introducing the arm through a slit in order to open the porch from the inside, pushing the inner bolt, since they would've lost the only key and had no money to manufacture a copy.

That version seemed incongruous and aroused distrust among the investigators. If the concubine had moved away from the woman, and ceased living with her, his claim that they both opened the keyless door by using the procedure he described was not understood. However, the ex-boyfriend defended himself when he was questioned and explained that, despite their confrontation, they remained on cordial terms, to the point that when he got a new job, he offered financial assistance to Mary.

Witnesses confirmed Barnett's claims, who had seen the couple drinking in a tavern in the company of Julia Venturney, another resident of Miller's Court. This information supported the man's story that the unstable couple was in the process of reconciliation.[4][5]

In the subsequent judicial survey conducted after the murder of Mary Kelly, he was called to the stand as a witness. Once there, he said he recognized his former lover, despite the dire state of the body, by the shape of her eyes and ears. After that statement, Barnett supplied to the justice most of the few information known about the life of the unfortunate woman.[6][7]

Connection to Jack the Ripper[edit]

Even though the contemporary investigators did not suspect that this individual had consummated any murder, in more recent times he was accused of being the sordid killer by more than one scholar. The suspicions initially fell on Joseph Barnett in 1972 when, in an article edited by True Crime magazine, former British detective Bruce Paley suggested that he was Jack the Ripper.

Years later, in a book published in 1995 titled "Jack the Ripper: The Simple Truth", that same author resumed the theory by adding new speculation to endorse the candidacy of the fish porter from the Billinsgate Fish Market.[8]

Essentially, said writer proclaimed that Barnett passionately loved his girlfriend Mary Jane Kelly, and was desperate to get her away from prostitution and alcoholism. In order to frighten her so that she would abandon her dissolute existence, and in order to permanently settle in with him, he devoted himself to brutally decimating her colleagues.

Barnett also used to read the press reports to his partner, and she frequently asked him if that had captured the perpetrator. The plan seemed successful, as the frightened young woman stopped walking the streets for a while. But at the end of October, Mary went on to share her room with another prostitute named Maria Harvey, with whom Paley suggested Kelly had a lesbain relationship. This situation stoke the ire of Barnett, who decided to leave her after a fiery fight on October 30, 1888.[9]

According to this theory, after some frustrated attempt at reconciliation, Joseph arrived unexpectedly the night of November 9 to his former lover's room. And soon after, the final arguing began. Noting the definitive rejection from Kelly, and taken over by uncontrollable jealousy and rage, he proceeded to kill her as well.[10]

A number of arguments have been highlighted in support of the hypothesis that blames Joseph Barnett for the murders, namely:

1) He would have kept the key to the room he shared with Kelly and, after completing the homicide, went out and locked the door using that key, which had not been lost, as he falsely claimed.

2) His physiognomy resembled the person who was described accompanying some victims before their; above all, age and height match.

3) He dwelt in the center of the Whitechapel district in 1888, when the crimes occured.

4) He most likely met other of the murdered women, who would've let their guard down in his presence, a circumstance that explains why they did not defend themselves when he attacked them, because the man was familiar to the patrons when he was one of their boyfriends.

5) It was learned, and he admitted it himself to the authorities, that days before the murder, he had quarreled with Mary Jane Kelly.

6) It was speculated that Catherine Eddowes suspected he was the killer, as the told one pensioner. Her murder could've been consummated to eliminate a dangerous witness.

7) After Annie Chapman's death, an envelope that belonged to Barnett was found in the courtyard of Hanbury Street, who could've have lost it when he committed the murder.

8) He was of Irish origin, so he could've written the "From Hell" letter addressed to George Lusk, which contained idioms from that language.

9) As a fish porter, he filleted fish and possessed an appropriate weapon that matched the knife with which the killer inflicted the cuts to his numerous victims.

10) On September 30, 1888, on the night of the "double event", the escape route taken by the murderer lead to Barnett's home. He could've even washed his bloody hands in a fountain near Miller's Court, where he lived at the time.

11) A tobacco pipe of his was found on the scene of Mary Jane Kelly's murder. If he had taken all of his belongings a few days before and no longer returned to the place, as he said, it is not explained why this object was there.

12) He had a reason to perpetrate the excesses of Jack the Ripper. He was not alienated or psychotic, but an intelligent and cunning individual who - precisely because of these characteristics - the police never managed to catch.[11]

Comparison of Barnett's psychological profile and the FBI's profile of the murderer[edit]

Joseph Barnett Psychological profile of the murderer
1 Barnett was 30 in 1888, white, and spent his entire life in Whitechapel and the surrounding area. White, between 28 and 36 years old, living or working in the Whitechapel area.
2 Joseph Barnett's father died when his son was only six years old. In childhood, the father figure presumably was absent or passive.
3 Barnett worked in a fish market, and was undoubtedly experienced in cleaning and filleting fish, and handling a knife. The killer probably had a profession in which he could freely experience his destructive tendencies.
4 Barnett was interrogated for four hours after Kelly's murder, but the police seemed satisfied with his testimony and subsequently did not appear to suspect him. The killer probably stopped killing because he was arrested for another crime, or because he felt close to being discovered.
5 According to contemporary news, Barnett repeated his last words spoken by his interlocutor at his interrogation. This could be an indication that he had echolalia or some other speech impediment. The killer probably had some kind of physical defect, which very often generated frustration, anger or disappointment.

See also[edit]


  1. Alan Moore, Eddie Campbell, From Hell (cómic), Editorial Planeta De Agostini, Barcelona, España (2003), apéndice de notas, comentario de viñetas de págs. 322-323.
  2. Colin Wilson, Robin Odell, Jack el Destripador: Recapitulación y veredicto, Editorial Planeta, Barcelona, España (1989), pág. 270.
  3. Joseph Barnett, en wiki- casebook- org
  4. Gabriel Pombo, Jack el Destripador: La leyenda continúa, Montevideo, Uruguay (2010), págs. 105-108.
  5. Gabriel Pombo, Jack el Destripador: La leyenda continúa (reedición ampliada, en google libros), editorial Torre del Vigía, Montevideo, 2015, ISBN 978 9974 99 868 1, pág 71-77.
  6. Stewart Evans, Keith Skinner, The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Sourcebook, Editorial Constable and Robinson Ltd, Londres, Inglaterra (2001), págs. 409-410.
  7. Trevor Marriott, Jack the Ripper: The 21ts Century Investigation, John Blake Publishing, Londres, Inglaterra (2007), págs. 259-262.
  8. Bruce Paley, Jack the Ripper: The Simple Truth, Editorial Headline, Londres, Inglaterra (1995).
  9. From Hell, obra citada, apéndice de notas, comentario de viñetas de págs. 323-325.
  10. Jack el Destripador: Recapitulación y veredicto, obra citada, págs. 272-273.
  11. Frederick Walker, Casebook Jack the Ripper: Joseph Barnett.

Extenal links[edit]

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