Motiveless Murders

  1. Eliza Grimwood
  2. Annie Yeats
  3. Kate Dungay
  4. Jane Roberts
  5. Jane Maria Clousen
  6. Elizabeth Camp
  7. Sarah Millson
  8. Mrs. Noel
  9. Mr. G. H. Storrs
  10. Robert Kenyon and William Uttley
  11. The Campden Wonder.

It is pretty safe to assert that in the list of murder mysteries women victims greatly outnumber those of the sterner sex. Those unhappy creatures who are driven to depend for their livelihood by contributing to what is called the “social evil” give ample opportunities to men with abnormal propensities to satisfy their mad lust for blood. “Jack the Ripper” stands at the head of these monsters. The story of his atrocities is one of unmitigated horrors, and does not find a place in these pages. Nor is it necessary to go minutely into the details of the many other sordid tragedies, the motives for which may be assigned to depraved passions and diseased brains. Mystery, it is true, is attached to each, but the surrounding circumstances are very similar in every case and the problem of one is the problem of all. These mysteries belong to a class by themselves and need only be dealt with cursorily.

The murder of Eliza Grimwood, an “unfortunate” of the Waterloo Road, in the early forties may be taken as a representative example. Her movements during the early part of the summer night when she was done to death were brought to light, but the rest is darkness. She was a good-looking, buxom, fresh-coloured young woman, frivolous like many of her sisterhood, and, dressed in a fawn-coloured silk frock, blue bonnet with gaudy flowers and feathers, and with lavender kid gloves on her hands, she strolled into the Strand Theatre at the half-price time. The play was Weller, an adaptation of “Pickwick,” then all the rage, and doubtless, together with the rest of the audience, she laughed heartily at its drolleries.

A dark-featured, well-dressed man, with black bushy whiskers and wearing a broad-brimmed tall hat, sat by her side. They once adjourned to the refreshment bar and returned to their seats. Soon after the play was over a cabman “picked up” a lady and gentleman in the Strand and put them down at the foot of Waterloo Bridge on the Surrey side. The cabman subsequently identified Eliza Grimwood as the woman, and said that the man had dark bushy whiskers and a broad-brimmed hat.

Here all trace of her alive is lost. The next time she was seen she was lying dead in her room, beneath a heap of tumbled bedclothes, her throat frightfully gashed. There were signs of a slight struggle, but the assassin had done his work so stealthily and noiselessly that not a soul in the house heard anything; even the dog in the house had not been aroused. Not the vestige of a clue had he left behind, and it was never known what was the weapon he had used.

All kinds of theories were started, one or two arrests were made on suspicion, but the police found themselves helpless, and the question, “Who killed Eliza Grimwood?”​—​a newspaper headline which faced the public day after day​—​has never found its answer. A grim advertisement marks the closing scene and also the morbid taste of the times. “By order of the administrators of the late Eliza Grimwood,” it began, and went on to announce that the furniture and effects belonging to the murdered woman at 12 Wellington Terrace, Waterloo Road, were to be sold by auction. The “administrators,” whoever they were, saw their way to make a pretty penny out of the depraved curiosity of the public. The catalogues were priced at threepence each, and no persons were admitted unless they could produce one of these vouchers.

Burton Crescent​—​that place of grim memories now concealed under its transformation to Cartwright Gardens​—​was the scene of two mystery tragedies, one of which was closely allied to that of Eliza Grimwood. It can be told in a few words. Annie Yeats, a lonely orphan brought up in an industrial school, had gone the too-frequent way of girls without friends, resources and definite occupation. All that is known of her fate is that one Saturday night she went out with Annie Ellis, a girl friend living in the same house. They met a man whom Annie Yeats appeared to know and the two parted from Ellis, went off together and were seen no more. About three o’clock on Sunday morning the inmates of No. 12 Burton Crescent heard a piercing shriek, but no one heeded. Annie Yeats was subject to hysteria, and a scream from her room was in no way unusual. Shortly there was the sound of stealthy footsteps, but again no one took any notice. In a tenement house full of lodgers it is not etiquette for the occupant of one room to bother about the doings of another. So, as the cry was not repeated and as nothing else occurred, everybody turned over and went to sleep. Annie Ellis and Annie Yeats generally breakfasted together on Sunday morning, and Yeats not making her appearance Annie Ellis entered her room. The bed was empty, and in one corner, as with Eliza Grimwood, the bed clothes were huddled together, a foot with a boot on protruding from the heap. Beneath the clothes poor Annie Yeats was lying dead, strangled by a towel tied tightly round her face over the mouth, the knot at the back of her head. The pitiful story ends here.

The case of Harriet Buswell is a parallel of those of Eliza Grimwood and Annie Yeats. She was of the same class and she was murdered by some unknown man in her room in Great Coram Street, Bloomsbury. So also was Emily Dimmock, who was done to death in her room at Camden Town. In this instance, however, a man against whom there was great suspicion was arrested, but nothing conclusive was proved, and after a long investigation he was released.

The most baffling mysteries are those where there is no apparent motive for the crime. The murder of Miss Camp in a railway carriage on the London and South Western Railway near Wandsworth was very puzzling, but the puzzle belonged to her assailant and not to the crime, as will be seen when later on the story is told. The death of Sophia Money in the Merstham tunnel would have taken its place among the motiveless crimes had it proved that the girl had been murdered. But there was some doubt as to this. The probabilities were equally in favour of an opening of the carriage door, either accidentally or intentionally, with the object, maybe, of escaping the unwelcome attentions of some person in the same compartment. The problem, at any rate, was never solved.

Of apparently motiveless murders three cases of young women victims, all unmarried, deserve careful attention, namely Kate Dungay in Henley Wood, Jane Roberts at Manchester, and Marie Clousen at Eltham. Quite as absorbing and as motiveless are the murders of three married women​—​Sarah Millson in Cannon Street, London; Mrs. Noel at Ramsgate; and Mrs. Reville at Slough. Other mysterious woman murders there are, the perpetrators of which could never be traced, but in these the motives were fairly apparent, and such cases do not fall within the present consideration.