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The Hampstead Murders of 1890

The Hampstead Murders – Part one

As I was reading Egar Allan Poe’s “The Mystery of Marie Roget” which was, to my surprise, very closely patterned after actual events, I was reminded of an incident I ran across while doing some research for Cry of the Peacock. As it seems to fit with the Halloween/Edgar Allan Poe theme of the virtual book launch for Of Moths & Butterflies, I thought I’d post it – in installments.

From Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, Sunday, October 25, 1890




London, Friday.

The Central News says:– About half-past seven o’clock to-night a woman was murdered at South Hampstead. The corpse was discovered under a wall near the junction of Adamson road at Eton Avenue. The head was almost severed from the body, and was immersed in a pool of blood. The deceased was well dressed. She was known to the police as an unfortunate who frequently walked up and down Eton Avenue. The police are prosecuting urgent enquiries, but so far they have not come upon the author of the crime.

Information of the murder was promptly sent to Scotland Yard. Inspector Swanson and several detectives who had been engaged from time to time in the Whitechapel inquiries started for Hampstead, and took charge of the case. They soon found that about the time of the murder a respectably dressed man hailed a cab at the end of Eton avenue, and promised the cabman a double fair if he would drive at full speed to Chalk Farm Station. The cabman did so, and was paid as promised. The man was seen to enter the station and take a ticket. The woman’s body was discovered by two servant girls, whose screams attracted the attention of the policemen on their beat, and of several passersby. All the ground in the vicinity has been thoroughly searched, but no weapon nor anything else likely to serve as a clue has been found. The first doctor who saw the body noticed blood flowing from the side, which fact led at first to the belief that the woman had been stabbed and perhaps mutilated, but a cursory examination did not result in anything to support this theory. People who have seen the body and the scene of the murder are strongly of opinion that the unfortunate victim was seized from behind, and was at once rendered speechless by one large clean cut of a knife, as in the case of the women murdered in Whitechapel. To say that the mysterious East End murderer has resumed his diabolical business is perhaps premature, but none the less there are circumstances that point in the direction of such a theory.

The Press Association says – the body of the woman was shortly after the discovery examined by two medical men, and there was no doubt that a brutal murder had been committed. The woman’s underclothing was marked “P.H.” Another correspondent states that when the body was found the head was covered with the sleeve of a man’s cardigan jacket.

Dr. Powlett Wells said, in an interview, that in all probability the woman’s throat was cut after she had been killed by the terrible blows from behind.

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