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  • A 'Burning' Question

    Hi again everyone.

    Could I have your opinions on the matter of the fire please.

    Do you think it was purely for illumination? What time do you see it being lit and, considering the reported ferocity, how long it would have burned? Would there be a smoke issue with burning clothing? With the lack of man-made materials, and the voluminous sizes of the dresses and skirts at the time, how easy would it be to incinerate such articles without smothering a fire. Would burning such fibres create a massively intense heat/fire, and how easy would they burn?

    And lastly how much would this intense heat affect the core body temperature of the laid open body? Would it keep it warmer for longer, or would it have a desiccating effect on the corpse and make estimated time of death a nonsense?

    Thanks in advance or your theories.

    Regards

    PB

  • #2
    I was reading Chris Scott's book on MJK a few days ago and began to think about this very subject.

    One issue that is, I think, often overlooked is the size of the grate.

    It was an iron kitchen range, in which the actual fire was very small. When I was young we had one - mother baked superb bread in the side ovens - but you certainly could not have burned clothes in it. I attach some pictures (the third pic is of a typical example and the fourth is one of Jane Coram's excellent reconstructions).

    I think the accumulation of ash may have relate to nights previous to the murder, also the melting of the solder around the kettle spout.

    It is possible that the bonnet was burned to provide some warmth or light (it was November after all).

    On the whole - and I have wrestled with this for years - I think (currently) there was actually little that was sinister about the fire. But that is far from a final conclusion and could easily be changed were a convincing explanation to emerge or new evidence to appear.

    Phil
    Attached Files

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    • #3
      Hi Red Knight

      As you might guess this has certainly been debated before! There are a couple of good threads below in the Victims>Mary Jane Kelly section...

      http://http://forum.casebook.org/showthread.php?t=6601

      http://forum.casebook.org/showthread.php?t=5534

      I have a feeling there are others elsewhere on the site, but can't find them at present...hope they're of interest

      Hi Phil

      That's a nice clear sketch of MJK's fireplace there, and does as you say confirm it's a hob grate or open range type affair...crucial I think to understanding the draughting arrangements (which in turn determine whether clothing dumped on the fire would extinguish it, damp it (ie slow it), or merely burn.

      My own belief, with this arrangement (because the fire basket is raised) would be that it would freely burn at first but as more clothing was added and the ashes/debris settled there would be a damping effect, in that the burn would become slower...in right-pond parlance, the fire would "stay in" longer...hence the heat in the ashes next day...

      All the best

      Dave

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      • #4
        Thank-you guys. I know finding something fresh for these forums is going to be a challenge, but i'll try!

        Brilliant pictures - it's always difficult to picture just how incredibly tiny the place was.

        Incidentally is that a sink/wash type area I can see to the rear at the right of the fireplace? Is there any mention of an area where the Ripper could have cleansed himself before leaving, or did he venture out a stinking bloody mess?!

        Cheers

        PB

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        • #5
          No sink or tap...the only source of water is outside.

          All the best

          Dave

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          • #6
            Victorian washstands often had a bowl and jug - matching if you could afford it - on it. Mary must have had something similar even if chipped old and odd (in the sense of not matching). I say must because practicality suggests she could bring water in from outside to wash.

            But I think if there had been bloodstains around any of the washing equipment, we'd have heard about it.

            Phil

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            • #7
              Absolutely Phil...It was the Jug and Ewer (in my house it still is!)...Bloodstains on/in that would've been a giveaway...

              All the best

              Dave

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              • #8
                I just thought I'd mention that it doesn't take a lot of heat to melt solder. The fact that the spout had come off probably doesn't so much mean that the fire was especially hot, as that the flames were high. Normally, the flames wouldn't come above the grate, but is something were placed on the grate, instead of below it, you'd have high flames. Or if the kettle were knocked on its side, and the killer didn't notice.

                The spout being melted off says less about the temperature of the fire than about the probability that someone was shoving things onto the grate without paying much attention to exactly what the result was.

                The killer was probably excited, and working hard, and that by itself will keep you warm. What exactly was the exterior temperature that night?

                Heat speeds up rigor. We talked about that in another thread.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Cogidubnus View Post
                  Absolutely Phil...It was the Jug and Ewer (in my house it still is!)...Bloodstains on/in that would've been a giveaway...

                  All the best

                  Dave
                  Assuming that they were there after the murder, and not pawned sometime before or smashed in a previous 'row'.

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                  • #10
                    Would it be worth pawning something like that? Unmatched sets that weren't in great condition probably didn't bring in a lot of money, and having something in the room to keep water in was important. Aside from the fact that if you were trying to cook, or you wanted a cup of water to drink, you couldn't keep running out to the tap, having a jug of water inside was your fire extinguisher if a stray spark jumped out of the fireplace.

                    And that's aside from the fact that even though people didn't bathe like we do know, they did wash their faces and hands when they were visibly dirty, and women who were menstruating needed to be able to do some minimal washing, and washing of clothes.

                    The rent was so far in arrears, that MJK must have had some other arrangement with McCarthy to get credit. Maybe it was sex, or maybe it was sweeping up the office. Or maybe he couldn't in good conscience toss her out while the Ripper was at large, and she was taking advantage of it.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I just had another thought. Everyone presumes that JTR must have been covered in blood, but the fact is, that other people who do work that you would think might leave them covered in blood, don't end up that way. Surgeons, even ones who work in ERs, don't emerge from scenes all bloody, and even EMTs don't get bloody, even going into scenes when they don't know exactly what to expect. Slaughterers and butchers don't get especially bloody, and to the extent they do, it's usually from brushing us against a carcass, not from blood spurting or splattering.

                      It's because people who are professionals know what they are doing.

                      So maybe JTR didn't come fully-fledged out of nothing. He may have done what a lot of serial killers did, and started with animals, or he may have killed women elsewhere before showing up in the East End. If so, he may have ben able to do what he did without get any really noticeable blood on himself.

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                      • #12
                        With that small room in Miller's Court though, Rivkah, the amazing thing is that he didn't step in blood and leave gory footprints everywhere.

                        Was there not a large pool of blood under the bed? He must have been very lucky (or careful) to avoid treading in it. (Although I am not a strong supporter of MJK as a Ripper victim, I note there was an absence of blood on the door or along the corridor at 29 Hanbury St too.)

                        Your examples of professionals are fine, Rivkah and i bow to your greater knowledge, but with respect they work in conditions designed to minimise bloodiness and promote efficiency in their work. They have space, the body etc is at a convenient height...

                        In Miller's Court the murderer was working across a bed, from one side only, or actually having to kneel on the bed and over the corpse. I really don't see how he could have escaped some bloodstains.

                        On the kettle spout

                        Chris Scotts writes (p76) that the type of low-grade solder used in cheap tin ware is somewhere above 118 degrees Celsius (i.e. only 18 degrees higher that that of boiling water) so MJK could have melted the solder by accident in the course of normal life. (Tin melts at 232 degrees Celsius.)

                        Finally, in such a small room, I wonder whether the kettle might have been on a moveable (hinged) arm with a hanging hook, so that it could be pushed over the fire when hot water was required and pulled back to pour it out.

                        Phil
                        Last edited by Phil H; 06-21-2013, 07:02 AM. Reason: to remove duplicated words.

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                        • #13
                          I just happened to think of something. Forget the murder for a moment, Kelly would have needed light and heat in the normal course of her life. It's November, and getting chilly. She (and perhaps others) is bringing clients back for sexual activity, not sessions of bridge. I really doubt she was the sort of housekeeper that cleaned out the grate and scrubbed it spotless every morning.

                          What does KELLY plan to burn in the grate for HER heat and light? What did she do the night before?
                          Last edited by C. F. Leon; 07-03-2013, 04:57 PM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Hullo CFL

                            Originally posted by C. F. Leon View Post
                            I just happened to think of something. Forget the murder for a moment, Kelly would have needed light and heat in the normal course of her life. It's November, and getting chilly. She (and perhaps others) is bringing clients back for sexual activity, not sessions of bridge. I really doubt she was the sort of housekeeper that cleaned out the grate and scrubbed it spotless every morning.

                            What does KELLY plan to burn in the grate for HER heat and light? What did she do the night before?
                            Potentially nothing. Or. Perhaps she was the one who burned the clothes? Some people go without when they can't afford it.
                            Valour pleases Crom.

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                            • #15
                              That makes me wonder about the chemise-- not what you'd sleep in on a cold night, which makes me wonder either if she was expecting someone, or if the killer dressed her in it. But then, I don't know just how cold the night was.

                              18C is a pretty big difference. I don't think just boiling water in the kettle would tend to melt the solder. If it did, then people who did repair work wouldn't use it, because people would complain.

                              It might have been the wrong solder to repair that kettle, though. If the spout was heavy, you would need to use solder that wouldn't even soften when water boiled, of the spout would fall off. Was the kettle made that way, or had it been broken and repaired? I seem to remember that it was originally one piece, but the spout broke off, and it was repaired, but I can't find it now.

                              Regarding the blood-- blood is not water. It will clot and dry, and not spread over as big an area as other liquids.

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