The Most Gruesome Murders In London's History

London, one of the oldest cities in the world, has a storied history of gruesome crimes and murders. From the real Jack the Ripper to the fictional Sweeney Todd, murder and mayhem are an integral part of the history of London. It's been the home to serial killers, poisoners, and those who neglect and torture. It's where creepy historical murders occurred and where infamous murderers lived. And while Jack the Ripper might be the city's most well-known killer, there are countless other nasty English killers who stalked the streets of London.

  • The Killing Of Julia Martha Thomas
    Photo: Anonymous / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    The Killing Of Julia Martha Thomas

    The Barnes Mystery case is one that involves revenge, stolen identity, and an alleged pregnancy. 

    In 1879, Kate Webster, a maid living in London, killed her employer, Julia Martha Thomas, by shoving her down the stairs. 

    Before the body was found in the river, Webster posed as Thomas. She fled London, but she was arrested in Ireland and shipped back. After she was convicted of killing Thomas, she claimed she was pregnant to avoid the death penalty, but it was a lie. The night before she was killed, she confessed to killing Thomas after the two got into a heated argument.

    Just to add another twist, the head of Thomas was found in 2010 on property owned by Sir David Attenborough, the star of Planet Earth

  • The Blackout Ripper's Spree
    Photo: Royal Air Force recruitment photograph / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    The similarities to Jack the Ripper gave Gordon Cummins the nickname "Blackout Ripper" during his spree killing in 1942. Over the course of six days, he killed four women and attacked two more. 

    The abuse was so severe and revolting that one of the pathologists examining a victim described Cummins as "a savage sexual maniac."

    Luckily for the police, Cummins was interrupted while attacking Greta Hayward by a delivery boy. He left his gas mask behind at the crime scene, and being a Royal Air Force serviceman, the mask's container had his ID number on the side. 

  • The Lambeth Poisoner's Overdoses
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Thomas Neill Cream was an international killer, taking lives in Chicago, Canada, and London in the 1880s. Known as the "Lambeth Poisoner," the Scottish-Canadian serial killer claimed multiple victims by poisoning them with strychnine.

    Cream was a doctor who studied the effects of chloroform while in medical school. He began killing in 1879 - his first victim was a patient of his who died behind his office from an overdose of chloroform. He evaded conviction and moved to Chicago, where he began killing again. He was convicted of murder there and served 10 years in prison. Upon his release, he moved to London.

    In London, he killed four young sex workers with overdoses.

    There were rumors that he confessed to being Jack the Ripper, but those were discredited, as he was in prison during some of those killings.

  • The London Burkers' Body Snatching

    In Victorian England, medical researchers were known to purchase bodies illegally, especially scientists working at universities. This was a specialty of The London Burkers, a gang of body snatchers in the early 19th century. The gang consisted of John Bishop, Thomas Williams, Michael Shields, and James May, and according to Bishop's confession, they stole between 500 and 1,000 bodies to sell to anatomists. But it was the murder of a 14-year-old boy that gained them notoriety. 

    In 1831, Bishop and his crew tried to sell a body that was a little too fresh. After they tried to sell the 14-year-old's body - later dubbed The Italian Boy - to the King's College School of Anatomy, faculty at the school realized the boy had been murdered. Later, Bishop confessed to taking the boy, drugging him with rum and laudanum.

    Bishop and Williams were hanged for the murder with a crowd of 30,000 watching. 

  • The Mysterious Dismembered Torso
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    The Mysterious Dismembered Torso

    When an arm showed up in the Thames River in 1888, some wrote it off as a bad prank by medical students. But when a torso and a left leg were found nearby, it became clear it wasn't a joke. 

    Upon closer inspection of the body, it appeared as though the uterus had been removed. It also appeared that whoever dismembered the body used a tourniquet, a sign they knew what they were doing. 

    The other limbs and the head were never found. In an ironic twist, Scotland Yard, the police headquarters in London, happens to be built on top of the site where the torso was discovered, but it still remains a mystery. Although the body was discovered around the same time as the Jack the Ripper killings, police said there was no connection.

  • The Ratcliffe Highway Murders
    Photo: G. Thomson / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    The Ratcliffe Highway Murders

    The Ratcliffe Highway murders claimed the lives of seven, including that of an entire family in 1811. Timothy Marr, his wife Celia, their three-month-old son, and James Gowan - a shop assistant working for the Marrs - were murdered inside the Marr house located off Ratcliffe Highway. They were discovered by one of their servants. 

    The city was terrified that the killer would strike again, and they were right. Less than two weeks later, again on Ratcliffe Highway, John Williamson, and his wife, Elizabeth, as well as a servant named Bridget Anna Harrington, were all found dead.

    A man named John Williams was arrested for the murders and hung himself in his cell.