The Servant Girl Annihilator was a serial killer who murdered eight people (seven women and one man) in Austin, Texas, between 1884 and 1885. Most of the women were Black servants, though two were upper-class white women. The victims were attacked while they were asleep in their beds, dragged outside, and murdered with an ax. In addition to the eight who were killed, several others were injured but escaped. The killer's true identity has never been uncovered, but there are several theories about who it may have been.
This list is full of Servant Girl Annihilator theories, including one connecting him to voodoo magic, and others to another notorious unidentified murderer, Jack the Ripper.
It Was Jack the RipperPerhaps the most famous theory about the Servant Girl Annihilator is that it was another unidentified murderer, Jack the Ripper, while he was visiting America. Author Shirley Harrison argued that James Maybrick, a British cotton merchant who often traveled to the US for business, was both the Servant Girl Annihilator and Jack the Ripper. The Texas murders took place three years before Jack the Ripper began killing in England.
A Malay Cook Was The Culprit
In 1888, an Austin newspaper reported that a Malay cook who was a suspect in the Jack the Ripper murders also worked at a hotel in Austin in 1885. Most of the Austin murders took place near that hotel, and the murders stopped after the cook left the city.Even more surprising: when this cook left Austin, he traveled to London and was a suspect there in the Jack the Ripper murders, leading some to believe the cook committed both sets of crimes.
The First Victim's Boyfriend Was The KillerMollie Smith was the first victim of the Servant Girl Annihilator. Her boyfriend, Walter Spencer, was arrested and charged with her murder, despite the fact that he was seriously injured by the perpetrator on the night she was killed. Spencer's arrest could have been the result of racial prejudice in the post-Civil War deep South. He was acquitted of the murder.
An African-American Cook Committed The MurdersAn African-American teenager named Nathan Elgin was suspected to be responsible for the murders. Elgin was missing a toe on his right foot, and the police found footprints at one of the crime scenes which showed that the killer was also missing a toe on his right foot. Elgin was never tried because he was killed by a police officer after attacking a young woman for no apparent reason, but the Servant Girl Murders stopped after his death.
There Were Two Different KillersCriminologist Scott Bonn has looked at the information on the Servant Girl Murders and concluded that the crimes were probably not all committed by one person. He says that serial killers usually do not kill victims of different races and social classes. The last two victims - "respectable" white women - are simply too different from the other six.
There Were Three Different KillersProsecutors in 1886 ran with the multiple killer theory and charged Jimmy Phillips and Moses Hancock with the murders of their respective wives. The prosecutors alleged that the two men had killed their wives in such a way that everyone would think the notorious serial killer was responsible. Hancock was released after a mistrial due to a deadlocked jury, and Philips was convicted but then had his conviction overturned for lack of evidence.