Greater London Murders 6


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.



6 thoughts on “Greater London Murders 6

  1. Hi Mercy!
    This book seems interesting! Even if, I agree with you, it’s a pretty morbid topic; I like to read about past crimes and misteries. I don’t know if in Spain it’s the same, but here in Italy these kind of TV programs are becoming pretty popular and there are even two channels dedicated to crime stories, both fictional and real! I wonder why someone should be so interested in reading or watching show talking about bad things happened to someone else, but I guess that’s the human nature!

    • I like to read about crimes and mysteries. Maybe I’m a bit morbid, but I love detective and crime novels. And this book about real crimes has also been interested to read.
      We don’t have those shows you mention. I guess there must be a channel with programmes like that, but they’re not popular.

      • I too love crime and thriller stories, actually! I’m more interested in the investigation rather on the violence, though. If in a movie or a tv show, there’s too much gratuitous violence I usually stop watching it; lately it happened to me also with a book…the story was kind of interesting, but the author kept killing people and whole families (it was set during a war in Russia) so I got fed up wth it.
        Some of the crime programs here are Italian, but there are also a lot tv shows imported from the United States! Theoretically it shouldn’t be very relaxing to watch them, for a woman living alone, but I actually enjoy them. More often than not I think…why do the Americans are so naive? Why is it so simple to enter in someone’s else home? But also, the easiness they can own guns it’s something I still don’t understand and it scares me a little, to tell the truth.

  2. I like detective novels and films, but not the ones which are too gory and violent. I’m against all kinds of violence, and naturally, I’m against guns or all kinds of weapons. I don’t understand America’s attitude, especially as I wouldn’t feel safe knowing anybody could own a gun and hurt me. It’s difficult for me to understand that strong attitude towards arms considering how from time to time we hear terrible news about people dying when some unstable individual decides he wants to shoot some innocent people.

  3. I wholeheartedly agree with you. I too can’t understand how, in the face of so many mass killings, especially against children and students, people still believe give everyone free access to a firearms is the right way to control violence. Let’s make a comparison with cars: in the States to drive them you’ve to be at least sixteen, you’ve to pass an exam and they (I suppose) don’t have to have a medical condition that make driving dangerous for you and the others. Why for the guns shouldn’t be the same? I’m really baffled about this! But I think some of our American friends won’t share our opinion…

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