Famous Crimes Overshadowed By Jack The Ripper

In 1888, the East End of Victorian London was terrorized by an unknown serial killer nicknamed Jack the Ripper. While Jack the Ripper is arguably the most notorious serial killer of the time period, there were many other crimes that were overlooked. 

Public and media (newspaper) attention almost entirely followed the crimes and victims of Jack the Ripper, leaving other cases with a lack of coverage. In many of these crimes, eyewitnesses were some of the few sources police could rely on outside of physical evidence for information. If the public was not notified of these crimes, they may not have come forward with potentially helpful information.

Much like in the case of Jack the Ripper, many of the mid- to late-1800s murder cases covered remain unsolved. This includes the West Ham Disappearances and the Thames Torso Murders, in which a number of victims were found near Whitechapel, the location of Jack the Ripper's crimes. However, a few of the perpetrators were found but faced different consequences, such as in the Bermondsey Horror and the Eltham Murder. 

 

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  • The Eltham Murder

    The Eltham Murder
    Photo: Unknown artist / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    In April 1854, Jane Marie Coulson was born in Deptford, an area in the southeast of London. Coulson was 14 years old when she started work as a maid for a wealthy man named Ebenezer Pook. Sometime during her employment, Coulson started a secret affair with one of her employer’s sons, Edmund Pook, who was three years older than her. Pook claimed he could not be alone because he suffered from unexplained “fits.”

    In April 1871, Coulson was fired from her position as a maid for the family. Her employers claimed she was let go because she was unpleasant and lazy. However, she was actually fired because the family had found out about the affair. One of their other children had married below their social standing, and they did not want Pook to do the same with Coulson. Coulson went to live with one of her aunts but continued to send letters back and forth with Pook, one of which stated that she was pregnant. The two made plans to meet, and Coulson told her aunt that Pook was going to marry her.

    On April 25, a police officer found Coulson in critical condition from being beaten. She was taken to the hospital but passed away five days later. However, at the scene of the crime, Coulson said the phrases “Edmund Pook” and “Oh, let me die.” A bloody hammer was found not far from the scene, and the shop seller stated that Pook had bought it. Pook claimed that he was somewhere else and that the blood on his clothes was from biting his tongue during one of his "fits." While he was found guilty by the coroner, he was let off by the criminal court. The judge said that Coulson’s identification was hearsay and that there was not enough evidence. However, the public believed he was freed because of his class and wealth. 
     

  • The Barnes Murder

    The Barnes Murder
    Photo: Unknown Author / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    In 1879, Kate Webster was hired by Julia Martha Thomas, a retired teacher, as a maid. Thomas, however, did not know that her newly hired employee had a long criminal history. The two women quickly found that they did not get along, as Webster thought her employers’ expectations were too high and Thomas thought Webster drank too much. One Sunday in early March, Thomas appeared to be frustrated in church, and Jane Ives, the landlady’s mother, heard a loud thud later that night. Thomas then failed to attend church the next two Sundays, which was very unusual for her. 

    In the following days, Webster met with a man named Henry Porter, who was a broker. She told him that she had recently been married to a man and that one of his relatives had died, which is why they needed his help. Webster also had Porter’s son help her carry a large, heavy wooden box near a river to be picked up. However, before Porter's son was out of earshot, he heard a loud splash. Days later on March 5, the box was found in the river by an employee of a nearby coal mine. The box contained a woman’s torso and legs; however, one foot was missing along with the head.

    Without the head, the remains were unable to be identified. However, those who knew Thomas began to grow suspicious of her whereabouts, and when the landlady went to check on Thomas, she discovered that Webster was pretending to be her previous employer. Police then discovered blood stains and charred bones in the house. According to Webster, the two had gotten in a fight and she had pushed Thomas down the stairs. Then in an attempt to discard the body, she took the limbs apart and boiled them. The same year, on July 29, Webster was found guilty of murder and executed. 

  • The Lambeth Poisoner

    The Lambeth Poisoner
    Photo: Unknown author / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    From October 1891 to April 1892, four young women were found murdered in London. Similarly to Jack the Ripper’s victims, these women were all prostitutes; however, unlike the first case, they were all poisoned. The first victim was 19-year-old Ellen Donworth, who died of strychnine poisoning. 27-year-old Matilda Clover died a week later, but she was suspected to have died from alcoholism. A few months later, Emma Shrivell and Alice Marsh were also poisoned. Police were led to Dr. Thomas Neill Cream after he attempted to blackmail two other doctors. 

    Dr. Cream was born in Scotland in 1850 before moving to Canada, where he would study medicine and pharmaceuticals. Dr. Cream’s first victim was Kate Gardener in 1879, a patient who he claimed died of suicide by chloroform. However, the death was ruled a homicide after another doctor testified that someone could not hold chloroform to their own mouth long enough to kill them. Dr. Cream fled to the US, and by 1881, another of his patients, Daniel Stott, died after taking pills he had prescribed. 

    Dr. Cream was given a life sentence for the murder when Stott was found to have taken three times the recommended amount of strychnine. However, his sentence was shortened to 17 years due to good behavior, and he was released early. This is when he went to London and committed the murders of the four young women. After being arrested, the death of Clover, who was thought to have died from alcoholism, was reopened. Once found guilty, Dr. Cream was sentenced to death on October 21, 1892. 

  • The Bermondsey Horror

    The Bermondsey Horror
    Photo: Unknown Author / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    In the 1840s, a woman named Maria moved to London from Switzerland to work as a maid for the wealthy Lady Blantyre. Due to her position, Maria quickly gained a desire for a wealthy lifestyle. In 1846, she met a man named Patrick O’Connor who worked as a moneylender and she became interested. However, when O’Connor next returned to London for work, she had already started dating another man, Frederick Manning. Despite courting Manning, Maria was proposed to by both men and was forced to choose between them.

    While O’Connor had more money, he was much older than Maria and an alcoholic. On the other hand, Manning promised Maria that he was going to inherit a large sum of money from his mother. In May 1847, Maria and Manning were married. After finding out that Manning had lied about his inheritance, Maria began to have an affair with O’Connor, and he often came over to their house. By 1849, Maria decided she was going to have O’Connor’s money one way or another, and on August 8, she invited him over for dinner once again. 

    When he brought a friend with him to dinner, she invited him to a more private dinner the next day in order to carry out her plans. Maria used a pistol to shoot O'Connor in the head before they sat down to eat; however, the wound did not kill him, so Manning hit him over the head with a crowbar. The morning after, Maria went to O’Connor’s home and stole his watches, cash, and even railway bonds. After going their own ways in an attempt to flee, both Maria and Manning were arrested by police, who had found O’Connor’s body under the floor in their kitchen. The couple was charged with murder and ordered to be executed.

  • The Great Coram Street Murder

    On December 25, 1872, at around 3 pm in the afternoon, the body of a woman was found with her throat cut in the home at 12 Great Coram Street. The 27-year-old (or other times reported as 31-year-old) woman, originally identified as Clara Bruton (her performing name), was later determined to be Harriet Buswell. Buswell had rented the room on the second floor while she looked for a more permanent home. Along with the deep wound in her throat, she had also been stabbed underneath her left ear. The killer had taken all of her money and valuable objects.

    It is believed that around 10 pm on Christmas Eve, Buswell left her room and went to the Alhambra Theater in Leicester Square which was well known as a place of prostitution. After meeting a German man, they both got onto a bus heading towards Hunter Street. Two of the passengers were barmaids that recognized and spoke to Buswell. Despite many people seeing Buswell and the man together, descriptions of the man given to police varied greatly. She returned to her room later that night between midnight and 1 am with the German man after paying rent to her landlady. The next morning, the man left early but Buswell was not seen until her body was found. 

    In January, police received a tip that a group of Germans from the Wangerland ship had come into London for a few days on December 22. After finding the group of men, two witnesses picked out Dr. Hessel, the ship’s chaplain, as the man with Buswell on Christmas Eve. In the trial, Dr. Hessel maintained that he spent the evening ill at the Kroll Hotel with his wife. After many unsure witnesses testified, Dr. Hessel was found not guilty. No other suspects have been named in the case. 

  • The Tragic Case of Richard Dadd

    The Tragic Case of Richard Dadd
    Photo: Henry Hering / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Richard Dadd was an artist born in Kent, England, on August 1, 1817. In 1842, he was invited on trip around Europe and the Middle East with Sir Thomas Phillips in exchange for drawings of their travels. Partially through the trip, Dadd had hit the beginning stages of a psychotic break. While in Rome, Dadd believed he was being watched by the devil and insisted that the pagan gods were correct, not the Christian God. A friend of Dadd’s father, who was a “mad doctor,” advised him that Dadd should be taken to a mental hospital.

    Before this could happen, Dadd asked his father to take a short trip with him to his father’s hometown. While on the trip, the two took a late-night walk in Cobham Park. During their walk, Dadd struck his father on the head, cut his throat, and stabbed him. According to Dadd, he did it as a sacrifice to the god Osiris. After committing the murder, Dadd fled to France. While on the run to Lyon, he claimed the gods demanded another sacrifice, so he attacked another person on the train who later fully recovered.

    Dadd was then arrested and imprisoned after telling doctors he had a duty to kill anyone who could potentially be a demon. He was held in France until he could be extradited back to England 11 months later. Once back in London, Dadd was sent to live at Bethlem Royal Hospital, where his younger brother would later also be admitted. Dadd was a permanent resident of the mental hospital but continued to paint until his death in 1886.