We get to the end of the book, and I have to say it’s been an interesting read even though the topic was quite morbid.
The next case is also of domestic nature. William and Sarah Wittman were a married couple who quarrelled too often. One night a distressed Wittman, with blood running down his face, knocked at his neighbours’ door to tell him his wife had stuck him twice with a poker and he had shot her dead in a moment of “provocation”. Between 6pm and 7pm on the night of 12 December, he and his wife had been sitting in the back parlour in conversation when he had mentioned the fact she had been in bed with another man the previous night – that man being William Prosser. On his mentioning this, she jumped up enraged, and seized the poker, which was in the fireplace, and inflicted the blows to his head.One of his guns was standing loaded in the corner of the back parlour – which she seized and he took hold of to prevent firing it at him – and in the struggle the gun went off.
The next crimes the book describes are the ones performed by Jack the Ripper. I have read quite a few books about this mythical murderer, so I knew the facts that the book tells us about. Even though the facts are quite grisly, I have always found the time frame, background, and everything related to the crimes. Attacks ascribed to Jack the Ripper typically involved female prostitutes who lived and worked in the slums of the East End of London whose throats were cut prior to abdominal mutilations. The removal of internal organs from at least three of the victims led to proposals that their killer had some anatomical or surgical knowledge. Rumours that the murders were connected intensified in September and October 1888, and letters were received by media outlets and Scotland Yard from a writer or writers purporting to be the murderer. The “From Hell” letter received by George Lusk of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee included half of a preserved human kidney, purportedly taken from one of the victims. The public came increasingly to believe in a single serial killer known as “Jack the Ripper”, mainly because of the extraordinarily brutal character of the murders, and because of media treatment of the events. Five victims—Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly—are known as the “canonical five” and their murders between 31 August and 9 November 1888 are often considered the most likely to be linked. The first two cases in the Whitechapel murders file, those of Emma Elizabeth Smith and Martha Tabram, are not included in the canonical five. Kelly is generally considered to be the Ripper’s final victim, and it is assumed that the crimes ended because of the culprit’s death, imprisonment, institutionalisation, or emigration. The Whitechapel murders file does, however, detail another four murders that happened after the canonical five: those of Rose Mylett, Alice McKenzie, the Pinchin Street torso, and Frances Coles.
The next crime is quite enigmatic. William Barber, a chemist, had struck up some friendship with Arthur French and his wife Annie Mary. It seems that William might have been having an affair with Annie Mary. One day he sent his errand boy to deliver a message to Mrs French. The woman then was found in Barber’s place, unconscious, and then died the next day from morphine overdose. Chemist’s assistant William Barber was arrested a week later and claimed she must have taken the drug herself. He was charged with murder but the case was thrown out by the Grand Jury.
Another domestic crime is that of Charles Bravo. He was fatally poisoned with antimony in 1876. The case is still sensational, notorious and unresolved. The case is also known as The Charles Bravo Murder and the Murder at the Priory. The poisoning of Charles Bravo occurred four months into the marriage. Bravo’s death was drawn out, lasting from two to three days, and painful. It was particularly notable that he did not offer any explanation of his condition to the attending doctors. One hypothesis is that Charles Bravo was slowly poisoning his wife with small cumulative doses of antimony, which explains the chronic illness that she suffered from since shortly after their marriage. While treating himself with laudanum for toothache before going to bed he mistakenly swallowed some. Their housekeeper Mrs. Cox reportedly told police that when they were alone together, Charles had admitted using the tartar emetic on himself; but he later changed his statement, perhaps to deflect suspicion from himself to Florence. Other investigators have offered different suggestions as to what happened to cause the poisoning, including suicide, murder by the housekeeper Mrs. Cox (whom Bravo had threatened to sack), murder by Florence, and murder by a disaffected groomsman whom Bravo had discharged from employment at The Priory.
The last crime in the book is the assassination of a Prime Minister in 1812. Spencer Perceval was shot dead by John Bellingham. The assassin was a merchant who believed he had been unjustly imprisoned in Russia and was entitled to compensation from the government, but all his petitions had been rejected. Bellingham was found guilty and sentenced to death.