– Joseph Barnett

Joe Barnett continues to be a popular suspect among Ripperologists, and on the surface I can understand why.  He was a local man who fitted the general description of the various witnesses (Barnett was thirty at the time of the murders, 5ft 7in, medium build and had a moustache), and he once had a relationship with one of the victims, Mary Kelly.  He also fits some of the psychological profile attributed to serial murderers.  However, I have major issues with Barnett being the Ripper (or even, as some have suggested, merely Mary Kelly’s killer).

First of all, he fits the serial killer profile only superficially.  Most of the similarities (such as absent father, being a local, right age) can be attributed to a great deal of men living in the area, and therefore aren’t enough to hang guilt on him (but yet don’t exclude him entirely).  He wasn’t known to be violent, nor had a history of criminal behaviour, as is often the case with serial murderers.  In fact, by all accounts, he was kind to Mary, visiting her often and giving her money whenever he had some to spare – this even after they were no longer living together as lovers.

The theory of why he supposedly killed a handful of prostitutes is, to me, ludicrous, to say the least.  If he was so desperate to get Mary off the streets, to stop living a life of prostitution, then why go to such lengths as to mutilate the bodies after they were already dead?  Surely simply killing them would have been enough (and even then, strangulation or stabbing would do the trick, as opposed to throttling, then cutting the throat – often down to the vertebrae).  It simply doesn’t tally that a man, with no known history of violence, would not only decide to kill strangers simply to scare his prostitute girlfriend, but would do so by committing such deviant acts in which there was a high chance of getting caught – after all, why hang around any longer than need be?  No, what Jack did to those poor women smacks of a lust-murderer, as there was no practical reasons to cut up the women and then take various parts of the body, other than for the thrill of it.

This further applies to the theory that Joe only killed Mary in a fit of anger and jealously.  I’ve never read an account of a murder by a spouse or relation that didn’t involve some obvious signs of that anger or jealously – usually in the form of multiple stab wounds, strangulation, or severe beating.  There was none of this present in the murder of Mary Kelly.  She was systematically butchered, stripped of flesh, her internal organs taken out and placed at various points around the body and on a nearby table.  Now if Barnett had killed Mary in a fit of rage, then where were the signs of that rage?  Kelly wasn’t stabbed fifty times and her head cut off – her breasts were sliced off in circular cuts (a very deliberate act that showed her killer enjoyed what he was doing); her thighs were stripped of flesh; she was gutted, and her face hacked beyond recognition.

Now, this facial mutilation is often trotted out by ‘Barnettists’ as a sign that the victim was known to the murderer, as often in the cases of homicide in which the killer and the victim are known to one another, there is often facial mutilation present.  However, what they fail to remember (conveniently?) is that the facial mutilation is usually the most severe aspect of the murder.  Usually there is little or no bodily mutilation, but heavy facial mutilation.  The killer does this so the person they’re killing/have killed becomes dehumanised, and it makes the act more bearable.  In the case of Kelly, her face was just as mutilated as the rest of her body.  Her killer didn’t necessarily know her; he simply wanted to destroy her whole body, face included.

I simply can’t envisage a man such as Barnett (again, with no known history of violence) who snaps and kills his ex-girlfriend, decides to then hang around for an hour or so to methodically cut up her body, carefully slicing her breasts and thighs, ripping out her internal organs and then leaving her lying there, mutilated, for all to see, for no discernable reason.

No, whoever killed Mary Kelly was a deviant psychopath who enjoyed not so much the killing, but the mutilation.

Furthermore, Barnett was the one who came forward the following morning, after learning of Mary’s death, and told the police who he was.  Strange behaviour for a man who, only hours earlier, butchered the woman he loved beyond recognition.  Barnett was subsequently interviewed for hours by the police (which included Inspector Abberline), and was then released, the police satisfied he had nothing to do with her murder.

I would expect a man who had never killed before and who had brutally killed and then mutilated someone he cared about to break down at some point and confess – if not the following day, then perhaps the following week, or months, even years later.  This never happened.  And what’s more, Barnett lived for another forty years after Mary’s murder, and was married, and there were never any reports of him being violent to his wife, or of confessing to her of his murderous past, or committing another murder like the one that occurred that night in November 1888.

I simply don’t believe that Barnett was the man known as Jack the Ripper, nor did he murder his once-lover Mary Kelly in a fit of rage and jealousy.

Candidacy of Joseph Barnett: ** (out of 5)

Published on November 7, 2010 at 11:04 am  Comments (11)  

11 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’m still not convinced he didn’t do it to stop the woman he loved being a prostitute. he destroyed her body, so no one else could have it. the attacks to the face, the breasts, are intimate. His anger is at her, not the other women he’s killed off to scare her. Extreme measure to kill someone to make a point, but imagine living in that era trying to keep your life in order in a chaotic society? Why did he come forward? Because he knew they had nothing on him at all and couldn’t prove anything.

  2. Joseph Barnett is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt !!! The act of totally destroying Mary Kelly’s physical existence is purely “personal” and carried out with only “revenge” in mind. She didn’t take heed of the previous Ripper killings perpetrated by Barnett as a “warning” for her to end prostituting herself and after her continual emotional taunting of someone who once loved her dearly, he finally decided to end his killing spree, which obviously failed to change her ways, the only way he knew how and that was by his last resort of totally destroying the subject of his emotional frustrations. I’m sure that if he could have had it any other way and was not continually belittled by the one person he truly loved and did not want to share with every other man looking for a prostitute, then Jack the Ripper would never have existed. The severity of his mutilations was indeed horrendous, but they were done with the purpose of instilling such fear and panic into Mary Kelly that she would be too scared to walk the streets for a living – at least until he was able to regain employment and support her financially as he had so kindly and willingly done before he lost his job in July, 1888.

  3. I think he’s a very convenient candidate in terms of profiling and circumstancial evidence but as the OP mentioned, the fact that considerable time and effort was put into mutilation strongly suggests that these were no crimes of passion. The main objective here was to dismember and remove organs for personal, psychological, sexual gratification and a lot of risk was taken in doing so. Even if Joseph Barnett was the killer (which is highly improbable) he murdered to get his next fix, not because he was some crazy, jealous lover trying to dissuade a flame from turning tricks. This is not only a ridiculous reason for such serial killings but a man who is a sexual, serial murder doesn’t just stop and live 40 more years without a relapse. If Barnett was the killer, he would have fallen off the wagon at some point. Furthermore, he had an alibi. Some people suggest that this alibi put his whereabouts elsewhere for 4:00am but that Jeannette was seen alive by wirnesses at 9:00am. However, I personally think the coroner’s report would stand up in court a lot stronger than the testimony of a couple of alcoholic busybodies. Serial killers are cool, calm, collected and rational to the point that some even micromanage the tiniest aspect of their lives to maintain their mask of sanity. This isn’t the hallmark of a man who murdered his lover in an uncontrollable bout of rage and jealousy.

    • Hi Skyler,

      Thanks for your comments (and sorry about the late reply). I agree with you wholeheartedly. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. What most Ripperologists aren’t even looking at is the fact that working so many years as a fish porter you can’t get the smell out of your hands and that is why no fingerprints were ever discovered years
    later on the Ripper letters and or envelopes, had the police smelled
    fish if was all over for Barnett.

  5. I have to commend you on a very nice article; it is well written, and I do not use those words cheaply. You made very sound arguments.

    • Thank you, Vince.

    • Well Vince, not only did I study the case for years but Barnet was out of
      work some time also enough to not only travel around England but send letters and a telegram to the police. He was fired and who owned
      and or ran the fish business where he worked? Some Jewish? maybe he he dud write that note on the wall? Certainly he was unfavored by Kelly for Jewish lady roommate by Kelly plus she was returning to to prostitution to pay her rent so those two could have set him off immensely and opportunity is no.1 among serial killers and he knew that
      night and that apartment so……………..and he knew the area and the
      police beats also? I have more of course but you surprised me I had not gotten any re-plies and no preparation for a reply but I’dd bet a billion that it was Barnet I’m that confident it was him and acting alone.

      • Appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts, Melvyn. I don’t believe Barnett was JtR (or responsible just for Mary’s murder). But I’m curious – do you think Barnett was responsible for the other canonical JtR murders, or just Mary’s?


      • Like I say Brett I believe Barnet was Jack the Ripper thers something also about blood work such as a fish porter so he lost it and started killing and later re-gained the saw the blood once again. I forget what they call that and he kept sending letters for 10 years as he dud bit
        want to get caught and to satisfy his killing crave as much as possible since he had that job and got a new relationship.

  6. The only certainty is Jack was homicidal! Barnet, driven by rage seems churlish..Kosminski ..not mad enough! And so on…Its maddening that we will never truly know!

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