Elizabeth Prater

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Witness at Mary Jane Kelly's inquest.

Born Eliza Sophia Wickes in 1842, Holborn, London. Had two children by a man named Elder, Charles (b.1868) and Kate (b.1869). It is unclear whether Eliza and Mr Elder were married, or indeed what became of him.

Married William Prater (b.c.1830), a boot machinist, in Shoreditch in 1873 and it appears they already had one child, Elizabeth (b.1872). Recorded as living at 8 Blossom Street, Norton Folgate in 1881, Eliza later stated that her and William separated c.1883. However, a second son, Thomas (b.1884), is known, suggesting (along with other evidence) that the Praters separated and got back together more than once.[1]

In her initial statement taken on 9th November 1888, Mrs Prater was described as living at '20 room 27 Dorset Street' (this should be 26 Dorset Street as it was a room above Kelly's). At about 9.00pm on the 8th November 1888, she went out, returning at 1.00am of the 9th. She stood at the bottom of Miller's Court for about thirty minutes during which time she spoke to John McCarthy; apart from that, she saw nobody pass up the court. She then went up to her room and to bed. Between 3.30 and 4.00am, she was awoken by her kitten 'Diddles' walking across her neck and at that moment heard screams of murder, about two or three times, in a female voice. She did not take much notice as such cries were frequent.

At 5.30am she left Miller's Court, seeing nobody except two or three carmen harnessing horses in Dorset Street. She went to the Ten Bells for some rum. She returned to her lodgings and went to bed without undressing. She slept until 11am.

Mrs Prater gave further information at the inquest on 12th November 1888. Her reason for standing at the end of Miller's Court at 1.00am was that she was waiting for a man who lived with her, but he did not turn up. She also said that on the stairs to her room, she usually noticed a glimmer of light through the partition of Mary Kelly's room, but could not say if there was any light in the room as she went up the stairs at 1.30am. She did not hear any singing all night. She believed the cries of 'murder' would have happened after 4.00am as the lodging house light was off, and that the cries were in a faint voice, but quite near.

The sound of somebody crying 'murder' was also mentioned by Sarah Lewis who said she heard a single cry at just before 4.00am.[2]

Mrs. Prater was interviewed by a Star reporter the following day and claimed to have seen Kelly' body in situ:

"She lived in No. 13 room, and mine is No. 20, which IS ALMOST OVER HERS. She was about 23 years old. I have known her since July - since I came to lodge here. She was tall and pretty, and as fair as a lily. I saw her go out in the shell this afternoon, but the last time I saw her alive was at about nine o'clock on Thursday night. I stood down at the bottom of the entry, and she came down. We both stood talking a bit, thinking what we were going to do, and then she went one way and I went another. I went to see if I could see anybody." Mrs. Prater adds with frankness, "She had got her hat and jacket on, but I had not. I haven't got a hat or a jacket. We stood talking a bit about what we were going to do, and then I said, 'Good night, old dear,' and she said 'Good night, my pretty.' She always called me that. That," said Mrs. Prater, "was the last I saw of her." Then Mrs. Prater breaks down, and commences to sob violently. "I'm a woman myself," she says, "and I've got to sleep in that place to-night right over where it happened." Mrs. Prater saw the dead and mutilated body through the window of Kelly's room, which it is to be remembered was on the ground floor. The pump stands just by there, and Mrs. Prater took advantage of a journey for some water to peep through the window for which, when the door was broken open, the curtains were torn down. She says, "I could not bear to look at it only for a second, but I can NEVER FORGET THE SIGHT of it if I live to be a hundred." [3]

In 1891, Mrs Prater was recorded as living back with her husband at 8 Blossom Street[4], however it appears to have been a short-lived reconciliation. Kathleen Blake Watkins ('Kit'), a journalist from the Toronto Mail, visited Miller's Court in February 1892 and Prater was back living there, albeit in a different room. Whilst talking to Watkins, she mentioned how she had heard Mary Kelly "crooning to herself through the night", a fact noticeably absent from the statements she made back in 1888. 'Lottie', the woman living in Kelly's old room at that time had been living at the other end of the court in 1888 and also claimed to have heard the singing.[5]

Elizabeth Prater attended Mary Kelly's funeral on 19th November 1888.


  1. A Cast of Thousands, Chris Scott (Apropos Books, e-book 2004)
  2. Kelly inquest papers - MJ/SPC, NE1888, Box 3, Case paper 19 (London Metropolitan Archives)
  3. The Star, 10th November 1888
  4. Census reports 1891
  5. Toronto Globe and Mail, 30th August 1988