After receiving several requests, I have decided to reinstate my weekly blog. I hope to use it as an opportunity to publicise my own work and raise issues of interests to other writers and readers. All comments and feedback are welcomed.
As some of you know my main project is a full-length book describing attempts to find the identity of Mary Jane Kelly who was killed by Jack the Ripper on 9 November 1888. As I attempt to make sense of all the information I sometimes contribute to threads on Jack the Ripper forums. An excellent place to share and debate findings. This week I commented on the Mrs Rees thread.
In Ripperologist 160 I published an article about John Rees, the only Welsh contemporary who claimed to know Mary Kelly. His father-in-law Doctor John Morgan Hopkins was acquitted of murdering a woman called Emily Cope who visited him for an abortion in 1884. The father of the child was Andrew Francis Bayntum, described in the press as a married dentist. I have now discovered that Bayntum’s wife filed for divorce after he left her and fled to Bath in 1878. He appears in the 1881 census with Emily Morris, posing as his wife, and a new-born daughter.
The same census lists John Morgan Hopkins with two daughters but, at that time, he was estranged from his family and there is no record of either Barbara or Mary being born. Mary married Rees and was convicted of procuring an abortion in 1888. Barbara Louisa Hopkins married in London in 1882 to Andrew Burch Watson. In 1887 a widow called Barbara Louisa Watson appears on two banns for marriage, with two different men, within a three-month period at a Poplar Church. Neither marriage was registered. If she was the same woman as Barbara Louisa Hopkins, then she could not have been Mary Jane Kelly whose movements are known from April 1887 onwards.
Paul Williams is an author of fiction and non-fiction including Jack the Ripper Suspects: The Definitive Guide and Encyclopedia. During June and July, he will be donating royalties from copies sold in Australia to The Black Dog Institute.