For generations Darkey Kelly was knows in Dublin’s folk memory as the woman who was burned at the stake for witchcraft after she accused the Sheriff of Dublin, Luttrell, of fathering her baby. However, new research has revealed that she could have been Ireland’s first serial killer and the story of witchcraft is completely false.
Darkey Kelly was executed for the murder of at least five men. Their bodies were found in a brothel she owned in Dublin.
It had been thought that she was executed for witchcraft in 1746 but new research has shown that she was executed in public on January 7, 1761. This week marks the 250thh anniversary of her public burning at the stake. She was partially hanged and then publicly burnt alive on Baggot Street, in Dublin city center.
The producer of “No Smoke Without Hellfire” a community radio show on Dublin’s South 93.9 FM plans to tell the story on his show today. He told the Evening Herald newspaper that he and fellow research Phil O’Grady had made these new discoveries having read contemporary newspapers in the National Archives.
He said “This series debunks the tale, passed on down the centuries, that Simon Luttrell, known as Lord Carhampton, was the principle cause of her execution."
The old story goes that Darkey Kelly (whose name was Dorcas Kelly) ran the Maiden Tower brothel, in Copper Alley, off Fishamble Street. She became pregnant with the child of Dublin’s Sheriff Simon Luttrell, a member of the Hellfire Club. She demanded financial support from him.
Until now the story told was that he had responded by accusing her of witchcraft and killed her baby in a satanic ritual. The body was never found. Darkey was then burnt at the stake.
Contemporary newspapers revealed that Dorcas Kelly was accused of killing shoemaker John Dowling. Investigators then found the bodies of five men hidden in the vaults of her brothel. After her execution prostitutes rioted on Copper Alley.
McLoughlin said “Women in 18th-century Ireland were second class citizens and the execution of prisoners reflected that blatant sexism.
"Men found guilty of murder were just hanged, whereas women were throttled first, then burnt alive."

The site where it was thought Darkey Kelly had been executed next to the Walls of Dublin