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The murder of Elizabeth Camp, 1897

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  • The murder of Elizabeth Camp, 1897

    Elizabeth Camp was murdered on 11 February 1897 on a train travelling from Hounslow to Waterloo. A useful account of the murder and investigation by William Owen Gay, formerly chief constable of the British Transport Police, is available online:
    http://www.btp.police.uk/about_us/hi...#elizabethcamp

    No one was ever charged with the murder, though a recently discovered article by Frederick Cunliffe-Owen (as "Ex-Attache"), published in the Butte Weekly Miner on 2 December 1897, claimed that the killer had been identified as a barrister, had also murdered Emma Matilda Johnson near Windsor in September the same year, and was likely to be discreetly committed to Broadmoor. As late as 1906 a soldier in South Africa confessed to the murder and was brought back to England, but it was said that he did so only to draw attention to a sentence of imprisonment that he had received for a military offence [Daily Mail, 6 April 1906].

  • #2
    The murder of Elizabeth Camp was referred to by Anderson, as reported in the Daily Chronicle of 1 September 1908, as one of two examples of how the limited legal powers of the police to secure evidence hindered investigations (the other example being the Ripper case).

    "Look at two notable cases that I had to deal with. There was the murder of that unfortunate young lady, Miss Camp, in the carriage on the South Western Railway. She was brought into Waterloo, and was then taken to St. Thomas's Hospital. No one thought it necessary to inform the head of the Criminal Investigation Department, and it was only by accident that I heard of it several hours after it occurred. As a matter of fact, a constable happened to see the body being taken through the streets, made inquiries, found there had been a murder, and being an intelligent fellow, he at once reported it to his superiors. But before I knew of it, all the evidences had been destroyed, and the body had been removed.
    "In France the doors of the carriage would have been sealed, it would have been run into a siding or an engine shed and a guard would have been placed there to see that no one disturbed the body or anything else.


    Similar complaints by Anderson about the conduct of the railway police are to be found in Hargrave Lee Adam's, Murder By Persons Unknown, p. 139 (1931). (Thanks to Stewart Evans for sending copies of this account.)

    Scotland Yard eventually took the case in hand. The late Sir Robert Anderson was Commissioner at the time. He subsequently described to the writer what he termed the very foolish, dilatory and slipshod manner in which the railway police handled the matter. They made no direct and official communication with Scotland Yard at all, he declared. The police got to know of it through the astuteness of a constable who, while on duty, saw the ambulance on its way to the hospital, discovered that it contained the body of a murdered woman and made a report of it. By the time Scotland Yard got to work upon the case all the available clues had been obliterated or obscured, and the whole occurrence was "in the air." Under the circumstances, was it any wonder, argued Sir Robert, that it became an unsolved mystery!

    On the following page, without explicitly attributing the material to Anderson, Adam mentions such clues as there were, including this one:

    A man was seen to hurry precipitately through the barrier at Wandsworth, and afterwards was supposed to have been seen in a public-house near the station. He was very agitated and pulled out a purse, which had bloodstains upon it - a curious thing for a murderer to do. Nothing came of this supposed clue.

    In fact, this appears to combine two separate accounts - one of a man who was seen getting off the train at Wandsworth, whose description was circulated by the police [Arthur and Mary Sellwood, The Victorian Railway Murders, p. 125 (1979)], and another concerning a man who was supposed to have been seen in a pub in Vauxhall.

    Comment


    • #3
      It's interesting that in an article published in the Sunday Chronicle of 15 October 1905, based on an interview with "a well-known Scotland Yard detective" (or "official"), the Camp murder is also coupled with the Whitechapel murders, in a discussion of cases in which it appears that "[the police] have utterly failed ... when as a matter of fact we have morally succeeded". (It's possible that this article, or at least part of it, was based on material that had originally been published much earlier, as the Whitechapel Murders are referred to as having happened "during the last decade".)

      "The murder of Miss Camp on the London and South-Western Railway has been recalled by the most recent railway tragedy. In that case there was no conviction; not even an arrest.
      "We went very near to an arrest there - how near the public will never know. Perhaps you have heard, however, that there is an official record that conviction, or even arrest, was impossible owing to a certain man who was seen drinking in a public-house near Vauxhall Station not being traced at once. The detectives engaged would have done better if they had been communicated with earlier. As it happened necessary evidence was lost through delay.


      The "official record" referred to here is presumably the Metropolitan Police Commissioner's report for 1897, the relevant part of which was quoted by the Standard of 26 November 1898 as follows:

      In the case of Elizabeth Camp, found murdered in a London and South-Western Railway carriage at Waterloo on the 11th of February, the body was removed from the Railway Station to St. Thomas's Hospital, and from thence, after a medical inspection, it was sent to the mortuary, the police remaining in ignorance that any crime had been committed. During the time that thus elapsed the murderer was drinking in a certain public-house, but the opportunity of taking him red-handed was lost, and evidence was afterwards lacking to justify an arrest.

      Comparing this with Anderson's other remarks quoted above, it seems likely that as the head of the CID, he was responsible for these comments in the report.

      Comment


      • #4
        But what was the truth of the matter?

        Certainly the railway police resented what they saw as the attempt to blame them for the failure to discover the culprit. According to a report in Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper of 27 November 1898 they received the comments in the Commissioner's report "with disappointment and indignation, as, in their opinion, giving a false impression of the part they played in connection with the murder of Miss Camp." After a detailed rehearsal of the circumstances, the article concludes:

        It was the railway police who discovered the public-house clue to which the Commissioner referred, but they deny having kept back any information from Scotland-yard. In these circumstances it is not surprising that they resent the course taken to excuse the Metropolitan police by gratuitously heaping blame on them. It does not appear, either, that the railway police know who the murderer is, as Scotland-yard claims to do.

        As for the story about the man seen in the pub, the later claims are not borne out by what the police said at the time. According to a report in the Times of 13 February 1897:

        Superintendent Robinson [of the South-Western Railway police] added that there were a number of stories going about of men being seen leaving different stations with cut hands, but that the police attached little importance to them. With regard to the statement that a man left the train at Vauxhall with blood on his clothes and that he called at a publichouse and asked for some spirits the closest inquiries had failed to confirm it.

        It seems that in fact this was nothing more than an unsubstantiated rumour, so it is disquieting to find it being emphasised as crucial evidence in the Commissioner's report the following year.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Chris View Post
          No one was ever charged with the murder, ... As late as 1906 a soldier in South Africa confessed to the murder and was brought back to England, but it was said that he did so only to draw attention to a sentence of imprisonment that he had received for a military offence [Daily Mail, 6 April 1906].
          Just to correct one point - the soldier, James Thornton, was actually charged in 1906, but the police quickly satisfied themselves that his confession was "a tissue of falsehoods" [The Times, 6 and 13 April 1906].

          Comment


          • #6
            .

            Hi Chris,
            I really must thank you for posting the link to these stories. While I realize you are interested in the Elizabeth Camp murder, I enjoyed the other stories also. I have a lot of household chores to perform today. I've been doing some chores, reading a story, doing some more chores, reading a story......

            Thanks for making today more bearable!

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Brenda View Post
              I really must thank you for posting the link to these stories. While I realize you are interested in the Elizabeth Camp murder, I enjoyed the other stories also.
              I'm pleased to hear that you found them interesting. However, I must admit that my own interest is not so much in the murder itself as in what Anderson (and the unnamed "well-known detective" were up to).

              One other small detail of interest is that in its report of the investigation into James Thornton's confession in 1906, the Times [13 April] describes Chief Inspector Froest of Scotland Yard and Superintendent Robinson of the South-Western Railway Company's police as "the officers who conducted the Camp murder investigation."

              I haven't seen Froest referred to in contemporary reports of the investigation (the Metropolitan Police officers mentioned there are Chief District Inspector Marshall and Chief Inspector Robinson). But if Froest was involved, I suppose he might be a candidate for the "well-known detective" of the 1905 Sunday Chronicle article - having also been involved in some aspects of the Ripper investigation. But of course we have no indication so far that anyone in the CID apart from Anderson gave credence to the story of the man in the Vauxhall pub.

              Comment


              • #8
                Many thanks to Debra Arif for letting me have some further information that shows things were rather more complicated than I had assumed - when the inquest was resumed on 6 April, after the discovery of a new suspect, Arthur Marshall, several witnesses gave evidence about a man seen on the day of the murder at the Alma Tavern in Wandsworth [The Standard, 7 April].

                In fact it appears that there were two separate stories of men seen in pubs that day - one in Vauxhall and the other in Wandsworth.

                The story of a man with blood stains on his clothing who left Vauxhall Station and then went into the Elephant and Castle was more widely reported, but on the same day the first reports appeared it emerged that the man had been traced and eliminated from the inquiry [Glasgow Herald, 13 February]. He was later interviewed by the press [Reynolds's Newspaper, 14 February] and at the inquest on 30 March, Sergeant Robinson confirmed that he had proved he had no connection with the murder [The Star, 1 April] - though I wouldn't have guessed this from Superintendent Robinson's statement reported by the Times on 13 February that "the closest inquiries had failed to confirm it [the Vauxhall story]."

                By comparison, the Wandsworth story seems to have gone almost unreported before the appearance of the witnesses at the inquest in April. I can see only one report of it in Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper of 14 February, and another in the same newspaper of 21 February. But evidently the police did take it seriously.

                Obviously this puts quite a different complexion on things regarding the reliability of Anderson's statements about the murder, and the question of whether he was the only police officer who gave credence to the story.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Debs also pointed out that Macnaghten, in Days of My Years (1913), recounts the story of Elizabeth Camp, including the Alma Tavern episode:

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Chris View Post
                    ... a recently discovered article by Frederick Cunliffe-Owen (as "Ex-Attache"), published in the Butte Weekly Miner on 2 December 1897, claimed that the killer had been identified as a barrister, had also murdered Emma Matilda Johnson near Windsor in September the same year, and was likely to be discreetly committed to Broadmoor.
                    What "Ex-Attache" wrote about the murder of Elizabeth Camp was this:
                    "... it is likewise to Broadmoor that will be consigned without trial the well-born and hitherto successful member of the bar whose homicidal mania has now been ascertained by the police to have led him to perpetrate the mysterious murder of Miss Camp, on the Suburban London railroad, last spring, and likewise to put to death in an equally unaccountable fashion a young woman whose body was found some six weeks ago at Windsor. It is probable that his true name will be kept from the public precisely in the same way as that of the author of the "Jack the Ripper" series of murders."

                    Remarkably, confirmation that the police really did suspect a barrister who was later a patient in a lunatic asylum came over 40 years later in an "impromptu address" given at a meeting of the Medico-Legal Society on 26 May 1938 by L. A. Weatherly, and subsequently printed in the Medico-Legal and Criminological Review, vol. 6 (1938), p. 365. Lionel Weatherly was an eminent psychiatrist who had been the proprietor of Bailbrook House, a private asylum near Bath (http://bathclinicalsociety.org/weatherly.html ).

                    As explained in his account below, shortly after the admission of the barrister, Weatherly was visited by two commissioners who had been notified by Scotland Yard that his patient was the murderer of Elizabeth Camp. Weatherly investigated, and apparently succeeded in establishing an alibi for his patient! (With regard to the final paragraph, it's not clear whether Macnaghten was really referring to Weatherly's patient. If so, he must have muddled up two suspects, as Arthur Marshall, the man with the false moustache, was clearly a different man.)

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Chris View Post
                      It's interesting that in an article published in the Sunday Chronicle of 15 October 1905, based on an interview with "a well-known Scotland Yard detective" (or "official"), the Camp murder is also coupled with the Whitechapel murders....)

                      [I]"The murder of Miss Camp on the London and South-Western Railway has been recalled by the most recent railway tragedy. In that case there was no conviction; not even an arrest.
                      The reference is the murder of Mary Sophia Money in the Merstham Tunnel in September 1905. It was never officially solved, though the behavior of her brother Robert Money leading to bigamy, mass murder and sucide in 1910 suggests he might have been responsible, but was not adequately looked at by the authorities in 1905.

                      At one point (while reading about Ms Camp) I considered that since she was a barmaid, and died in 1897, her killer might have been pub owner George Chapman (not using his normal poisoning methods). But why would he have wandered about with a heavy pestle in his pocket? Just on the chance he could use in on woman in trains?

                      Jeff

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                      • #12
                        Another reference to a suspect in the 'South Western Railway murder case of 1897,' most likely Arthur Marshall, appeared in Sir Robert Anderson's 1904 book Pseudo-criticism, or, The higher criticism and its counterfeit - Page 15

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                        • #13
                          Clearly Macnaghten and Anderson have two different versions of events.

                          Macnaghten writes that the false moustache was bought a few days before the murder, that identification of the suspect had entirely failed and
                          he also confuses the two separate suspects.

                          Anderson's argument seems to be that the suspect was singled out from 12 others in an identity parade but the witness wavered in his identification because the man was clean shaven, whereas the man seen in the Alma had a thick moustache. This could be rectified by police evidence that the suspect had purchased a false moustache shortly before the murder.

                          So, if I am understanding Anderson's version correctly, if the prime suspect had been arrested and gone on trial and prosecution tried to disprove this alibi it would have rendered the identification useless as the identification rested on the suspect purchasing and wearing a false moustache when he committed the murder? And that's why there was no arrest or trial?
                          Last edited by Debra A; 09-10-2010, 10:51 AM.

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                          • #14
                            Hi Debra,

                            As I see it, the Anderson explanation is that the "fake mustache" alibi would have not been needed because of the issue of the distance between the barber shop and the railway station was too far to make the train (at least this is how I read it). The problem with this kind of evidence is it is after the fact and it is also totally vague. Anderson does not give the precise distance, how far the suspect would have had to walk, the time he bought the false mustache and the time the train left (the latter is actually easy to find out from other sources). It also does not take into account if the suspect took a hansom cab to the station or ran or walked. Typical Anderson to me - he is so sure of his own opinion he doesn't realize how feeble his facts really are when presented. The kindest thing to say is that Anderson actually had better information in the file on the Camp case than he presented in the article

                            Jeff

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                            • #15
                              Hi Jeff,
                              Thanks for your thoughts on this.
                              Yes, it's frustrating that none of the actual details of the alibi are explained and no reason is given on why at least an attempt on disproving the alibi could not be made.
                              I still get the impression that they needed Marshall to have been at the shop as the ID would not stand up otherwise. For police, Marshall had to have bought a false moustache as the Alma public house witness who vaguely recognised him was only doubtful because he was clean shaven at the ID.
                              For police to prove he wasn't at the shop at the time he said he was and witnesses saw him, to fit in with him catching the train, would mean that the evidence of him buying a false moustache would have to be dropped, and then the ID fails too, as he needed to have been wearing a fake moustache.
                              ...my head's spinning now!

                              The main thing I found interesting is that both Macnaghten and Anderson's accounts of the same story are similar in that they both seemed to be saying the murderer was known to police but not arrested or convicted. Macnaghten's account is somewhat different to Anderson's though, he seems to remember the details differently, eg. the day the moustache was bought. He also obviously mixes up two different suspects in his account too and finishes the tale with the suspect ending up in an asylum shortly after the murder.

                              Anderson is also sure the murderer was known to police but says he probably escaped the gallows on a point of law.

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