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John Merritt - The Thames Torso Killer?

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  • John Merritt - The Thames Torso Killer?

    Hi all,

    I've been reading the fantastic 'The Secret of Prisoner 1167' by James Tully and I think James Kelly makes a really interesting suspect. However I have seen some argue that if JtR and the Thames torso murderer were the same person, it would rule out Kelly as he would've been 13 during the two Battersea torsos and in Broadmoor during the Rainham torso.

    So I decided to start searching for an explanation on who the Thames Torso Killer could be. After hours it seems like I was no closer to finding any clues. I had searched every corner of the internet including looking at William Bisgrove the escaped prisoner who was thought to be behind the Battersea torsos by the news as they happened just after his escape (funnily enough the police thought there was a possibility James Thomas Sadler was actually Bisgrove!) but could find no further evidence.

    But then I remembered something that bothered me in the book. Even if it was you're best friend who had been imprisoned for murder, would you as a law abiding citizen put yourself at risk to assist them in escaping and put your own freedom at risk? May I introduce you to John Merritt.

    Born in 1844 and living at Clarendon Square, now know as Polygon Road, John Merritt's job at the time of the Ripper killings was a cab driver, a crucial aspect I will come back to later. He met a young James Kelly who had just arrived from Liverpool and was obviously either a great influencer or manipulator as he got the extremely devout catholic Kelly to turn to alcohol and prostitutes (a small side note is being manipulative is a common trait amongst serial killers).

    It has been theorised that there is a small possibility the Thames Torso Killer could've acted as a mentor for JtR and taught him knife skills and it's obvious that throughout Kelly's life he and John Merritt remained extremely close with John potentially filling the role of a father figure that had been absent from Kelly's life (A connection between the two killers would also explain the reason for Lipski being at both the Pinchin Street torso and it's involvement in Strides murder).

    However apart from his involvement with Kelly what else makes me suspicious about John Merritt? Well I was looking at records and discovered between 1860 and 1888 he possibly got married 13 times! Now it could easily be fewer as there were two other John Merritt's who fit the age range living in London during that time period but there is still an high amount of excess marriages. This leads credence to the theory that there reason the heads were removed from the torsos were due to them having a connection with the killer and if they were identified they could lead the police back to him. Therefore an uxoricidel serial killer would have every reason to ensure the heads aren't found and the bodies aren't identified.

    To add to this the dates of the marriages aligned with being before and after many of the torso murders. For example John Merritt got married again two months after the 1884 Tottenham Court Road and Bedford Square torso was discovered and also married again later the same month the Whitehall Mystery was discovered. There are also more alignments of dates.

    Two things this also shows is that to most people he was what you would call an 'Average Joe' and a could easily be a supaficatial charmer as he was able to remarry multiple times. Both these traits are also common in serial killers.

    So now I was very interested in the possibility that John Merritt could be the Thames Torso Murderer so I decided to look at where he lived on a map. I was surprised at what I discovered. First was for the 1884 Tottenham Court Road and Bedford Square Mystery the house where John Merritt lived was within five minutes walk away from the two locations they were found. However that doesn't explain the locations of the other torsos.

    Now this next part requires some assumptions but what was known for a fact was John Merritt was a cab driver, most likely of a Hansom cab. If you look at where he lived on the maps I have attached below there is a direct single street route from Euston Station to Battersea Park, something I could easily see a cab driver offering. If you were a serial killer wanting to distance yourself from a body I would imagine you'd put it as far away as you can so disposing of the dismembered body parts at the end of your route would make sense. Alternatively I was unable to find any records of where Merritt was living in 1873-4 so he could've been closer to the location.

    Too add to this, being a cab driver would be the perfect cover for hiding the parcels many of the dismembered body parts were wrapped in then stopping to leave them in various locations without raising suspicion. This would also explain how the Thames Torso Killer was able to move over a larger area of London than JtR due to having the means to do so.

    One other thing I would like to add is upon his return to Broadmoor in 1927, Kelly avoided talking about Merritt despite their very close relationship, why? Could it be because he knew of Merritt's killings but due to his loyalty he was known for refused to expose his mentor?

    Now one of the biggest problems with this theory is Merritt's lack of evidence that Merritt had the skills to dismember but hopefully I will be able to find a record which shows his job before he was a cab driver. However, now this could easily be a different John Merritt so this is to be taken with a pinch of salt, I did find a record where a John Merritt listed his last job as previously being a grainer who did fit our John Merritt's timeline. A grainer was some who used a knife to carefully remove all hair / fur from animals. If this was the John Merritt we're looking at it would suggest at least some skill with a knife.

    I do have other theories on some others aspects other the torso murders and John Merritt's involvement which mainly concerns explanations for Elizabeth Jackson and why the Pinchin Street torso is mutilated but I won't add them here as I feel too much speculation is involved.

    Now I know this is all currently circumstantial at best but I hope one day in the not too distant future once this horrible virus is gone I can go an scour the archives looking for more evidence.

    If you want to learn more about James Kelly as a suspect buy Tully's book, it's amazing!

    Image A: where Merritt lived in relation to 1884 Tottenham Court Road and Bedford Square Mystery.
    Image B: where Merritt lived in relation to Battersea Park

  • #2
    Image A
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    • #3
      Image B
      Attached Files

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      • #4
        Hi Astatine,

        Thanks for the information on John Merritt. I found it interesting.

        A couple of items of interest that you might check out. First, Mary Shelley's family home was at 29 Polygon Buildings. As we know, the thigh from Elizabeth Jackson was thrown into the garden of the Shelley estate in Chelsea. Second, I never really followed up on this but a man named James Kelly was living at #2 Harvey's Buildings, Strand in an 1891 census. That was also the address of John Arnold and William Wallace Brodie. The former (Arnold) cropped up in the Pinchin torso case and the latter (Brodie) in the Alice McKenzie case.

        Food for thought.
        Last edited by jerryd; 12-31-2020, 04:28 AM.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Astatine211 View Post
          Hi all,

          I've been reading the fantastic 'The Secret of Prisoner 1167' by James Tully and I think James Kelly makes a really interesting suspect. However I have seen some argue that if JtR and the Thames torso murderer were the same person, it would rule out Kelly as he would've been 13 during the two Battersea torsos and in Broadmoor during the Rainham torso.

          Fair do's

          So I decided to start searching for an explanation on who the Thames Torso Killer could be. After hours it seems like I was no closer to finding any clues. I had searched every corner of the internet including looking at William Bisgrove the escaped prisoner who was thought to be behind the Battersea torsos by the news as they happened just after his escape (funnily enough the police thought there was a possibility James Thomas Sadler was actually Bisgrove!) but could find no further evidence.

          But then I remembered something that bothered me in the book. Even if it was you're best friend who had been imprisoned for murder, would you as a law abiding citizen put yourself at risk to assist them in escaping and put your own freedom at risk? May I introduce you to John Merritt.

          Ok then, do go on.

          Born in 1844 and living at Clarendon Square, now know as Polygon Road, John Merritt's job at the time of the Ripper killings was a cab driver, a crucial aspect I will come back to later. He met a young James Kelly who had just arrived from Liverpool and was obviously either a great influencer or manipulator as he got the extremely devout catholic Kelly to turn to alcohol and prostitutes (a small side note is being manipulative is a common trait amongst serial killers).

          It has been theorised that there is a small possibility the Thames Torso Killer could've acted as a mentor for JtR and taught him knife skills and it's obvious that throughout Kelly's life he and John Merritt remained extremely close with John potentially filling the role of a father figure that had been absent from Kelly's life (A connection between the two killers would also explain the reason for Lipski being at both the Pinchin Street torso and it's involvement in Strides murder).

          Right so. Not straying from the book, I can live with that. Doesn't make Merritt the Torso killer, but hey.

          However apart from his involvement with Kelly what else makes me suspicious about John Merritt?

          Not much?

          Well I was looking at records and discovered between 1860 and 1888 he possibly got married 13 times! Now it could easily be fewer as there were two other John Merritt's who fit the age range living in London during that time period but there is still an high amount of excess marriages.

          Possibly. You need to clear up who's who before you start stating he's some "black widow" wife killer. Remarrying wasn't uncommon in a time where mortality was high. You need to pin point your Merritt.

          This leads credence to the theory that there reason the heads were removed from the torsos were due to them having a connection with the killer and if they were identified they could lead the police back to him. Therefore an uxoricidel serial killer would have every reason to ensure the heads aren't found and the bodies aren't identified.

          Well, yes, can't argue that removing a head makes identification harder, and as such, linking to the killer. Which is what actually happened in the torso cases. That said, the face was left intact in one case. Bizarre.

          To add to this the dates of the marriages aligned with being before and after many of the torso murders. For example John Merritt got married again two months after the 1884 Tottenham Court Road and Bedford Square torso was discovered and also married again later the same month the Whitehall Mystery was discovered. There are also more alignments of dates.

          Any dates will align. Don't start seeing patterns that aren't there. You've already said you can't identify which Merritt's which. It might be a staggering piece of new information, but until you've sorted out exactly when the relevant Merritt married and remarried, it's pure speculation. Also, you need to clearly establish what happened to his wife(wives). Did they divorce? Die in childbirth?

          Two things this also shows is that to most people he was what you would call an 'Average Joe' and a could easily be a supaficatial charmer as he was able to remarry multiple times. Both these traits are also common in serial killers.

          Again, you don't know how many times he remarried, or why.

          So now I was very interested in the possibility that John Merritt could be the Thames Torso Murderer so I decided to look at where he lived on a map. I was surprised at what I discovered. First was for the 1884 Tottenham Court Road and Bedford Square Mystery the house where John Merritt lived was within five minutes walk away from the two locations they were found. However that doesn't explain the locations of the other torsos.

          Now this next part requires some assumptions but what was known for a fact was John Merritt was a cab driver, most likely of a Hansom cab. If you look at where he lived on the maps I have attached below there is a direct single street route from Euston Station to Battersea Park, something I could easily see a cab driver offering. If you were a serial killer wanting to distance yourself from a body I would imagine you'd put it as far away as you can so disposing of the dismembered body parts at the end of your route would make sense. Alternatively I was unable to find any records of where Merritt was living in 1873-4 so he could've been closer to the location.

          Too add to this, being a cab driver would be the perfect cover for hiding the parcels many of the dismembered body parts were wrapped in then stopping to leave them in various locations without raising suspicion. This would also explain how the Thames Torso Killer was able to move over a larger area of London than JtR due to having the means to do so.

          OK. You've established that a cab driver might offer the service of going from a train station to a destination. In London no less! Was he carting about corpses with his passengers? If not, the "route" thing is irrelevant. He could dump them anywhere. Also, body parts were found thrown over a garden wall. And in Scotland Yard.

          Being a cab man could potentially give cover to hiding to parcels of people. So could working for Pickfords. Or being a cat's meat man.


          One other thing I would like to add is upon his return to Broadmoor in 1927, Kelly avoided talking about Merritt despite their very close relationship, why? Could it be because he knew of Merritt's killings but due to his loyalty he was known for refused to expose his mentor?

          Or, he had more pressing issues.

          Now one of the biggest problems with this theory is Merritt's lack of evidence that Merritt had the skills to dismember but hopefully I will be able to find a record which shows his job before he was a cab driver.

          Right, your straying well into dangerous territory here. You've got no facts, at all, to show his anatomical abilities. But if you look hard enough, you'll find something. Don't make the facts fit the theory. Seriously, don't.

          However, now this could easily be a different John Merritt so this is to be taken with a pinch of salt, I did find a record where a John Merritt listed his last job as previously being a grainer who did fit our John Merritt's timeline. A grainer was some who used a knife to carefully remove all hair / fur from animals. If this was the John Merritt we're looking at it would suggest at least some skill with a knife.

          Too late. You've gone and done exactly that.

          I do have other theories on some others aspects other the torso murders and John Merritt's involvement which mainly concerns explanations for Elizabeth Jackson and why the Pinchin Street torso is mutilated but I won't add them here as I feel too much speculation is involved.

          Now I know this is all currently circumstantial at best but I hope one day in the not too distant future once this horrible virus is gone I can go an scour the archives looking for more evidence.

          If you want to learn more about James Kelly as a suspect buy Tully's book, it's amazing!

          Image A: where Merritt lived in relation to 1884 Tottenham Court Road and Bedford Square Mystery.
          Image B: where Merritt lived in relation to Battersea Park
          Sorry if I come across a bit acerbic, but your letting your imagination run away here. You've not even identified which Merritt your looking at, and you've already started piecing together the details of his life as a serial killer and dismemberer. Because he knew Kelly. And drove a cab. The problem is, with that type of approach you'll see proof anywhere and everywhere, because you've already reached the conclusion. It's just a case of bolstering it with whatever. Keep researching, keep posting your findings, just try not to get carried away.
          Thems the Vagaries.....

          Comment


          • #6
            Being a cab man could potentially give cover to hiding to parcels of people. So could working for Pickfords
            Are you Swedish Astatine.
            Regards

            Herlock



            Chairman of the National Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To The Old Established Theories.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Al Bundy's Eyes View Post

              Sorry if I come across a bit acerbic, but your letting your imagination run away here. You've not even identified which Merritt your looking at, and you've already started piecing together the details of his life as a serial killer and dismemberer. Because he knew Kelly. And drove a cab. The problem is, with that type of approach you'll see proof anywhere and everywhere, because you've already reached the conclusion. It's just a case of bolstering it with whatever. Keep researching, keep posting your findings, just try not to get carried away.
              Thank you for the breakdown! I agree with everything you said I will make sure to follow it for future research and ideas. I do wish marriage certificates had some more details on them but hopefully I'll be able to find more evidence to this theory. Going over some stuff again today I definitely think the grainer is the correct John Merritt as he is the only one in London who was born in the same year. That being said there is much much more evidence needed and identity's being sorted out like you said before this theory can be class as anything of the loose speculation. Once again thanks for taking the time for the in depth breakdown. Happy new year!

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Herlock Sholmes View Post

                Are you Swedish Astatine.
                Nope from a small city called Nottingham
                ​​​​​​Also happy new year!
                Last edited by Astatine211; 12-31-2020, 07:47 PM.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Astatine211 View Post

                  Nope from a small city called Nottingham
                  ​​​​​​Also happy new year!
                  Ive been to Rock City a couple of times.

                  Happy New Year to you too
                  Regards

                  Herlock



                  Chairman of the National Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To The Old Established Theories.

                  Comment

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