Studies: Crime

20Jan

Jack the Ripper

The most famous murder mystery of all began on the night of 30 August 1888 when a policeman found the body of Mary Ann Nichols in Buck’s Row, Whitechapel, in London. She had had her throat cut. A week later, ‘Dark Annie’ Chapman met a similar fate near Spitalfields Market. Rumours abounded of a monster on the loose, heightened by the first of many letters delivered to Fleet St and other places from Leather Apron, and later Jack the Ripper.
He advised the next victim would have her ears chopped off. On the morning of 30 September two further bodies were found – Elizabeth ‘Long Liz’ Stride and Catherine Eddowes. Situated within 15 minutes of each other, the former was not mutilated, but the latter was; her ears had also been partially chopped off.
The final victim of Jack the Ripper – a killer who removed organs from his victims in a frenzied manner – was murdered in her room on 9 November. Mary Kelly was different to the rest. She was younger and her body had been mutilated to a much greater extent, even being partially skinned.
Speculation remains to this day as to who Jack the Ripper was. A Jew was suspected when police chief Sir Charles Warren had removed from a wall where a blooded rag was found following the Eddowes murder, the words: ‘The Juwes are not men to be blamed for nothing.’
Others blamed Queen Victoria s grandson, the Duke of Clarence, Warren’s actions suggesting conspiracy to hide the fact. In the 1980s a variation put the killings down to royal physician Sir William Gull and coachman John Netley to prevent a scandal involving the Duke, a shop girl and an illegitimate child, the killings being merely a screen.
Failed lawyer Montague John Druitt made the mistake of drowning himself in the Thames in December 1888, thus guaranteeing his place in the list of suspects. Mary Kelly’s lover, fish seller Joseph Barnett also found himself dragged in for questioning.
In 1995 suspicion fell upon doctor, Francis Tumbelty, who was in London at the time, and murders seemed to follow him wherever he went until his death in 1903.
With the publication of the now infamous diary of Jack the Ripper, suspicion recently fell on Liverpool cottonbroker James Maybrick, who often visited London and was murdered by his wife shortly after the murders. However, the main reason for suspicion is now repeated in Patricia Cornwell’s candidate, artist Walter Sickert. Both Sickert and Maybrick (if he wrote the diaries) had a morbid fascination with the deaths.

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20Jan

Fred and Rose West

On 25 February 1994 police went to 25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester after a tip off that Fred and Rosemary West’s daughter Heather had gone missing. Excavating the house, the bodies of 9 women were found under the cellar, including Heather.
Moving to Midland Rd and a flat previously occupied by the couple, the remains of step-daughter Charmaine were found, and in a field near his home village of Much Marcle they found the bodies of his first wife Rena and child minder Anne McFall. Before commiting suicide in prison, Fred confessed to killing a further 20 women.
Fred met Rose when she was 15 in 1969. Rose claimed to have been raped at 14 and came from a dysfunctional family. Fred came from a brutal family that kept themselves to themselves developing into a petty criminal with a voracious sexual appetite early in life. Later becoming a builder, when he met Rose, they clicked, descending into a life- long sexual fantasy. In this way, Rose would attract young women to the house where they would be raped and then, if they thought they would talk, killed.
Rose was sentenced to life in October 1995. Fred had killed long before he met Rose, and we can argue that the fantasy life she descended into would never have happened if she hadn’t met him.

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20Jan

John George Haigh

Acid Bath Murderer, John George Haigh was brought up by strict Plymouth Brethren parents and told he was the product of evil of the flesh. A workshy conman, he had several spells in prison for petty crime before moving from the North East to London.
Thought to have killed nine people for profit, the first was Donald Mcswann and his parents, selling off their properties. In 1948 he killed Dr Archie Henderson and his wife, again for their property, and also elderly rich woman Mrs Olive Durand-Deacon, who lived in the same hotel as Haigh.
Following up her disappearance, police found dissolved body parts in a vat of acid in his workshop. He had tried to commit the perfect murders, but chemistry failed him. Pleading insanity by claiming to be a vampire, he was hanged in August 1949.

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20Jan

Ted Bundy

The Colorado police were perplexed when they arrested Ted Bundy for the kidnapping of Carol DaRonch. He was a long way from a typical suspect. He had a degree in psychology. However, whilst in custody he was linked to the murder of one Caryn Campbell.
In December 1977, 6 months after arrest, Bundy escaped. He was caught in February 1978, but during his period of liberty he had attacked at least 5 women, 3 of them fatally. By this time, nationwide enquiries had linked him to 19 murders of young women in California, Utah, Colorado and Washington State – as well as Florida where the latest attacks had occurred.
Ted Bundy was sentenced to death and served ten years on Death Row, executed in January 1989. During this time he was studied by psychologists. One of them, a Dr Carlisle, concluded that Bundy was … a man who has no problems, or is smart enough or clever enough to appear close to the edge of normalcy.
Yet in other interviews, a dark personality emerged. He collaborated on a book, claiming total innocence, but speculated freely on the mentality of the serial killer. For motive, he spoke of genuine pleasure in killing and claimed the act must be endlessly repeated to satiate the appetite.
He also claimed that a force existed within the personality of the killer; a form of beast within. This was the real culprit, and existed side by side with the person, allowing the killer to appear normal. To use Bundy’s own words: ‘sometimes I feel like a vampire.’

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20Jan

Oscar Slater

Mystery surrounded the battering to death of 82 year old Marion Gilchrist in her Glasgow flat on 21 December 1908. Her maid Helen Lambie returned to find a neighbour investigating a noise. A man walked calmly out of the flat as they went in. A cheap brooch had been stolen, but not her valuable diamonds.
Five days later, police identified German Jew and gem dealer Oscar Slater as prime suspect. He had pawned a similar brooch and had cleared off on the Lusitania. Arrested in New York, his Scottish trial resulted in conviction.
Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fought for Slater’s innocence when he discovered the brooch had been pawned a fortnight before the woman’s death. But Slater still served 18 years, finally receiving £6,000 in compensation. Conan Doyle was convinced a prominent Glaswgian was the real killer, rather than the known womaniser and gambler, Slater.

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20Jan

Great Train Robbery

The Great Train Robbery happened when a gang stopped and descended upon the Glasgow to London mail train at Bridego Bridge, Bucks, at dawn on 8 August 1963. Organised by small time crooks Bruce Reynolds and Thomas Wisbey, they used army lorries and dressed in balaclavas for the raid, disappearing to nearby Leatherslade Farm to lie low. But it didn’t go accorder to plan.
Train driver Jack Mills fought back, being coshed over the head. But the biggest mistake was not sweeping clean the farm when they left. Police found fingerprints of all the gang.
Although netting over £2 million the gang was rounded up over the next couple of years. Buster Edwards escaped abroad, but eventually came back. Many got 30 years. One – Ronnie Biggs escaped from prison, gaining Brazilian citizenship by getting a woman pregnant and having a son. Biggs finally came home in 2000 for hospital treatment.

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20Jan

George Joseph Smith

Brides in the Bath killer George Joseph Smith was hanged in 1915 for murder.He had married three wives, taken out insurance and then murdered them by ‘accidental drowning.’
A petty thief, his first victim was Beatrice Mundy whom he married in 1910. Two years later they exchanged wills and she died a couple of days later. In 1913 he married Alice Burnham, moving to Blackpool before her ‘accident’ in December.
A man who murdered only for profit, his final victim was Margaret Lofty, whom he married in 1914 and she was dead shortly after a move from Bath to London. Alice’s father read of this further death and alerted the police, Smith being arrested in February 1915.

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20Jan

Beverley Allitt

Nurses have been known to become serial killers. Consider Beverley Allitt. Working in a Grantham children’s ward in 1991, within a week, baby Liam Taylor died. Over the following months, four babies would die in all, with 24 incidences of cardiac arrest or respiratory failure.
One of these was Paul Crampton, 5 months old. When his blood was analysed, it was high in insulin. Checks showed that Beverley Allitt had been on duty during all the attacks and she was arrested. Remaining in Rampton Mental Hospital, Allitt suffers from Munchenhausen’s Syndrome by Proxy, where her need for attention results in her hurting, first, herself, and then others.

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20Jan

Bluebeard

The bald, bearded Frenchman Henri Landru fascinated the French public after capture in 1919. Known as Bluebeard, his sexual appetite led him to entrap women through advertisements, promising to marry them. Getting them alone, he would have sex with them, defraud them of their money then kill them.
He came unstuck when he turned up at the family home of a Mme Buisson with a note demanding her furniture. The family contacted the police and Landru was followed to his villa in Gambais. They found a notebook listing 200 women, most of whom had disappeared. Found guilty of ten murders, he went to the guillotine in 1922.

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20Jan

The Black Panther

As well as the act of murder, society has a fascination with the killer’s psychology. Typical was British killer Donald Neilson, known as The Black Panther. Going on a crime spree which resulted in 17 sub-post office robberies, during which three people were killed, he kidnapped 17 year old Lesley Whittle from Kidderminster in January 1975, for a $50.000 ransom.
Her naked body was found hanging from a wire in drains near Kidsgrove in March. Neilson was arrested whilst loitering in Nottingham in December, and a search of his Bradford home revealed guns and black ski hoods.
Married with a daughter, Neilson’s mother had died young. In the army for the Kenyan Emergency, he adopted survivalist ways. This, combined with his inability to settle into civilian life, led to a hatred of society, of which his crimes were an expression.

TRUE CRIME

I, CRIME WRITER
by Anthony North
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Flash Fiction in crime genre
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