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  • Why is throat-cutting out of fashion?

    I was just watching on the YouTube “Brief Case” channel an account of the tragic Tennessee murder in 1892 of Freda Ward, just seventeen years old, by her one-time lesbian lover Alice Mitchell, who herself was only nineteen when she cut Freda’s throat in the street with her father’s razor. It was an infamous case at the time for obvious reasons.

    It caught the attention of people back then because it was different, involving as it did two women in a same-sex relationship. This naturally raised a great many eyebrows in those days. However, what caught my attention was not that it was “different,” but quite the opposite: that it was the same as a number of murders back then.

    Specifically, in Britain at least I recall looking through accounts of murders for which the perpetrators were hanged around the turn of the 20th century, and more than once the same type of murder seemed to crop up. A man was jilted by a woman (or possibly by a wife) and he cut her throat, sometimes in the street. The only thing different about Freda’s murder was that her obsessively jealous lover happened to be female.

    I don’t know whether “cut-throat” murders of this kind were equally common in the United States back then. Anyway it does raise the matter of cultural differences in murder methods, which are a matter of place as well as of time. There do seem to be “fashions” in murder. For instance, we all know that guns have been more popular in the U.S. than in Britain, and gun murders have never been very common in Britain even in the days when there was no gun “control,” That’s a matter of “place.” As to matters of “time” and “fashion,” we don’t need reminding about the psycho nutjobs who have been increasingly responsible for mass shootings recently, a trend starting less than forty years ago and gathering speed since. (I exclude Charles Whitman in 1966, Howard Unruh in 1949 and so forth.) It’s a “fashion” we sure don’t need, and besides the loss of life, these wretched psychos are a threat to all of our rights to own and use guns responsibly.

    However, the point I really want to make is about “trends” in murder. I’m only using gun murders as an example because there never used to be so many crazy mass shootings even when guns were more widespread and freely available. I recall for instance the shotgun rampage of Derrick Bird back in 2010--which interested me not least because I’ve driven that lovely road through Cumbria myself a couple of times, once with my wife, with one of the steepest hills in England on it--though Bird didn’t get that far before he stopped. Now any maniac with a shotgun could have done the same thing Bird did at any time in the last century or more. They just didn’t, that’s all. This deplorable “fashion” in mass murder seems to be a modern trend--with a certain amount of copycatting going on, and some nutjobs even seeking to outdo one another in body count.

    Moving elsewhere, a friend of mine with a sister living in Trinidad told me that cutlasses were a popular weapon there! That takes us back to the age of “Pirates of the Caribbean”! Cultural differences again--whether or “place” or “time” is another question--but undoubtedly a cutlass is a deadly weapon.

    However, going back to where I started, while “cut-throat” murders seemed to be commonplace a century and more ago, I just don’t seem to hear of any today. It’s as if throat-cutting went clean out of fashion. Are the days of Jack the Ripper really done? Not, I’m afraid, with those horrendous mutilations. I’m sure we’ll hear plenty more of those inflicted by future sickos. But as for throat-cutting as a method of murder, it seems to me to hve disappeared compared with a century and more ago.

    It seems strange in a way, because throat-cutting has been such a standard method of murder down the ages, recalled in memories of brigands described as “cut-throats” and enshrined in phrases like “cut-throat competition.” But who cuts throats today? We hear of strangling, battering, shooting and stabbing, but seldom of cut throats.

    A seemingly obvious reason might be the absence of the weapon to do the job with. Alice Mitchell borrowed her father’s razor to put a sad end to her girlfriend’s life, and I dare say what was called a “cut-throat razor” was an indispensable instrument in every male household a century and more ago. You can’t stab anyone with such a tool. You can only slice with it. Today by contrast, I don’t have such a thing in my house. It’s hard to kill anyone with a safety razor, no matter how many “Five-Trac” blades it has. As for an electric shaver, the worst we can do is beat someone over the head with it, which won’t do much more than leave them with a bad headache.

    However, no-one needs a razor to cut anyone’s throat, when there are plenty of nasty sharp kitchen knives around to the job. So I’m reluctant to attribute the decline in cut-throat murders to changing trends in shaving equipment. My guess is something different. If we want a nice piece of steak or a pork pie today, most of us get it from the grocery store. We don’t do what many of our ancestors did back when a majority of us were occupied in agrarian activities: that is, slaughtering hogs and other animals in the farmyard. Most people no longer have the training in throat-cutting activities, any more than most of us know how to hitch a horse to a buggy. As a culture, we’ve “forgotten how to kill,” so to speak--by traditional methods at any rate.

    If anyone has a better idea, I’ll be interested to hear it.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Gordon View Post
    I was just watching on the YouTube “Brief Case” channel an account of the tragic Tennessee murder in 1892 of Freda Ward, just seventeen years old, by her one-time lesbian lover Alice Mitchell, who herself was only nineteen when she cut Freda’s throat in the street with her father’s razor. It was an infamous case at the time for obvious reasons.

    It caught the attention of people back then because it was different, involving as it did two women in a same-sex relationship. This naturally raised a great many eyebrows in those days. However, what caught my attention was not that it was “different,” but quite the opposite: that it was the same as a number of murders back then.

    Specifically, in Britain at least I recall looking through accounts of murders for which the perpetrators were hanged around the turn of the 20th century, and more than once the same type of murder seemed to crop up. A man was jilted by a woman (or possibly by a wife) and he cut her throat, sometimes in the street. The only thing different about Freda’s murder was that her obsessively jealous lover happened to be female.

    I don’t know whether “cut-throat” murders of this kind were equally common in the United States back then. Anyway it does raise the matter of cultural differences in murder methods, which are a matter of place as well as of time. There do seem to be “fashions” in murder. For instance, we all know that guns have been more popular in the U.S. than in Britain, and gun murders have never been very common in Britain even in the days when there was no gun “control,” That’s a matter of “place.” As to matters of “time” and “fashion,” we don’t need reminding about the psycho nutjobs who have been increasingly responsible for mass shootings recently, a trend starting less than forty years ago and gathering speed since. (I exclude Charles Whitman in 1966, Howard Unruh in 1949 and so forth.) It’s a “fashion” we sure don’t need, and besides the loss of life, these wretched psychos are a threat to all of our rights to own and use guns responsibly.

    However, the point I really want to make is about “trends” in murder. I’m only using gun murders as an example because there never used to be so many crazy mass shootings even when guns were more widespread and freely available. I recall for instance the shotgun rampage of Derrick Bird back in 2010--which interested me not least because I’ve driven that lovely road through Cumbria myself a couple of times, once with my wife, with one of the steepest hills in England on it--though Bird didn’t get that far before he stopped. Now any maniac with a shotgun could have done the same thing Bird did at any time in the last century or more. They just didn’t, that’s all. This deplorable “fashion” in mass murder seems to be a modern trend--with a certain amount of copycatting going on, and some nutjobs even seeking to outdo one another in body count.

    Moving elsewhere, a friend of mine with a sister living in Trinidad told me that cutlasses were a popular weapon there! That takes us back to the age of “Pirates of the Caribbean”! Cultural differences again--whether or “place” or “time” is another question--but undoubtedly a cutlass is a deadly weapon.

    However, going back to where I started, while “cut-throat” murders seemed to be commonplace a century and more ago, I just don’t seem to hear of any today. It’s as if throat-cutting went clean out of fashion. Are the days of Jack the Ripper really done? Not, I’m afraid, with those horrendous mutilations. I’m sure we’ll hear plenty more of those inflicted by future sickos. But as for throat-cutting as a method of murder, it seems to me to hve disappeared compared with a century and more ago.

    It seems strange in a way, because throat-cutting has been such a standard method of murder down the ages, recalled in memories of brigands described as “cut-throats” and enshrined in phrases like “cut-throat competition.” But who cuts throats today? We hear of strangling, battering, shooting and stabbing, but seldom of cut throats.

    A seemingly obvious reason might be the absence of the weapon to do the job with. Alice Mitchell borrowed her father’s razor to put a sad end to her girlfriend’s life, and I dare say what was called a “cut-throat razor” was an indispensable instrument in every male household a century and more ago. You can’t stab anyone with such a tool. You can only slice with it. Today by contrast, I don’t have such a thing in my house. It’s hard to kill anyone with a safety razor, no matter how many “Five-Trac” blades it has. As for an electric shaver, the worst we can do is beat someone over the head with it, which won’t do much more than leave them with a bad headache.

    However, no-one needs a razor to cut anyone’s throat, when there are plenty of nasty sharp kitchen knives around to the job. So I’m reluctant to attribute the decline in cut-throat murders to changing trends in shaving equipment. My guess is something different. If we want a nice piece of steak or a pork pie today, most of us get it from the grocery store. We don’t do what many of our ancestors did back when a majority of us were occupied in agrarian activities: that is, slaughtering hogs and other animals in the farmyard. Most people no longer have the training in throat-cutting activities, any more than most of us know how to hitch a horse to a buggy. As a culture, we’ve “forgotten how to kill,” so to speak--by traditional methods at any rate.

    If anyone has a better idea, I’ll be interested to hear it.
    One of the main accepted methods of killing in Victorian times was by throat cutting. In todays world we see more people dying through stab wound related incidents than by thoat cutting. So the cutting of the throats by Jack the Ripper does not automatically make that a common factor in the killers MO.

    The Whitechapel killer in my opinion knew how to kill using this method and silently and swiftly.

    www.trevormarriott.co.uk

    Comment


    • #3
      Hi Gordon,

      It's worth looking at the nature of the crime. The majority of capital sentences in Britain up to WW2 were crimes of passion, or as the French call them 'Le crimes of passion'. In some cases, an attempt would be made to conceal the crime but often, the killer would just turn themselves in or be very rapidly apprehended. Blood spray being of minor importance, unless a killer has every intention of escaping. In the LVP, particularly Whitechapel, blood staining was a common sight, so again, having blood on your clothes might not shout "murderer".

      So did the prevalence of throat cutting, outside of domestics start to drop as society changed and blood stained butchers became less visible? For the majority of the 20th century, a killer would take care to conceal blood, so premeditated murderers might avoid throat cutting for that reason.

      And obviously nowadays, DNA is vital so I'd imagine a would be killer taking that into consideration.

      It would be interesting to see how many capital crimes of throat cutting were committed by someone unknown to the victim? I think that would give a better view of 'trends'. Or did throat cutting cases drop as the risks of capture increased?

      Hmm.
      Thems the Vagaries.....

      Comment


      • #4
        In a similar vein, axe and hatchet murders used to be a dime a dozen. Every home held one or the other - an axe if you cooked and heated with wood, and a hatchet if you used coal. The Late Victorian also saw a lot of poisonings, and in particular arsenic. That's linked, I'm sure, to the popularity of the product "Rough on Rats".
        - Ginger

        Comment


        • #5
          Hi Ginger,

          You don't need "Rough on Rats" when you have a cat like our Monty. He presented us with a huge, intact dead one this morning, then proceeded to tuck into his usual breakfast before going up to bed for the rest of the morning.

          Love,

          Caz
          X
          "Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious." Peter Ustinov


          Comment


          • #6
            The decline in throat cutting almost certainly has to do with the modern ready availability of better, less personally messy methods. Guns. The cost of a knife was certainly a driver, and it seems clear that knives were used to stab as much as slice in those days....see Martha Tabram. But they were cheap, easy to hide and use. I think Throat cutting likely had its beginings from the butchering of animals in early civilizations. And it was used because it failitated the draining of most the blood.
            Michael Richards

            Comment


            • #7
              My 2 cents is simply a sign of the times. Cutting someone's throat can be a very messy business. Not only does the victim's blood go everywhere but there's always that slight chance of the killer cutting themselves and leaving evidence behind. Not to mention that unless you're wearing a head to toe covering of some kind you're getting some on you. So I think it's just advancement in crime scene investigations, changes in the dynamics of the times as it relates to how they effect the reasons people kill people in the first place; and so on

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Trevor Marriott View Post

                One of the main accepted methods of killing in Victorian times was by throat cutting. In todays world we see more people dying through stab wound related incidents than by thoat cutting. So the cutting of the throats by Jack the Ripper does not automatically make that a common factor in the killers MO.

                The Whitechapel killer in my opinion knew how to kill using this method and silently and swiftly.

                www.trevormarriott.co.uk
                Evidence Trev?

                As an ex murder squad detective yourself, you will appreciate that with only 90 cases brought to trial for murder in 1888, either the police were very bad at catching these throat-cutting murderers that were rampaging all over England and Wales. Or perhaps the incidence of murder might have been a little over sensationalised by the press of the time? The popualtion was 27m. That's 0.00033%.

                Click image for larger version  Name:	image_21015.jpg Views:	0 Size:	205.0 KB ID:	757374

                What would be handy to know is how many unsolved murders were there in 1888 to add to the list of prosecutions? Then what is the breakdown of how they were murdered? All indicators from other sources thus far points to poisoning being the most popular method. Many toxic chemicals were freely available and easy to administer.

                Even of those caught and brought to trial, the type of murders they were accused of committing were not broken down by method.

                I am completely open to you showing me the statistics you must clearly have to substantiate this claim of yours.
                Last edited by erobitha; 05-06-2021, 09:17 PM.
                "When the legend becomes fact... print the legend"
                - The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by erobitha View Post

                  Evidence Trev?

                  As an ex murder squad detective yourself, you will appreciate that with only 90 cases brought to trial for murder in 1888, either the police were very bad at catching these throat-cutting murderers that were rampaging all over England and Wales. Or perhaps the incidence of murder might have been a little over sensationalised by the press of the time? The popualtion was 27m. That's 0.00033%.

                  Click image for larger version Name:	image_21015.jpg Views:	0 Size:	205.0 KB ID:	757374

                  What would be handy to know is how many unsolved murders were there in 1888 to add to the list of prosecutions? Then what is the breakdown of how they were murdered? All indicators from other sources thus far points to poisoning being the most popular method. Many toxic chemicals were freely available and easy to administer.

                  Even of those caught and brought to trial, the type of murders they were accused of committing were not broken down by method.

                  I am completely open to you showing me the statistics you must clearly have to substantiate this claim of yours.
                  There are no specific references as to how many of the 90 cases shown were as a direct result of throat cutting but as I stated it was one of the most frequently used methods.

                  In support of that you just need take a look at the Whitechapel murders and the connecting murders and attempted murders in 1888/89/91 most had their throats cut, and not all by the same perpretator. So it is fair to say that throat cutting was a common method used to kill, but poisoning was another common method used

                  www.trevormarriott.co.uk

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Trevor Marriott View Post

                    There are no specific references as to how many of the 90 cases shown were as a direct result of throat cutting but as I stated it was one of the most frequently used methods.

                    In support of that you just need take a look at the Whitechapel murders and the connecting murders and attempted murders in 1888/89/91 most had their throats cut, and not all by the same perpretator. So it is fair to say that throat cutting was a common method used to kill, but poisoning was another common method used

                    www.trevormarriott.co.uk
                    That's still not evidence. Jack on his own obviously contributed to the increased murders with throat cutting, by virtue of killing at least 5 with that method.

                    Where in numbers are those "connected" and "attempted" murders by throat-cutting? I have looked, and I can't see that data.
                    "When the legend becomes fact... print the legend"
                    - The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by clark2710 View Post
                      My 2 cents is simply a sign of the times. Cutting someone's throat can be a very messy business. Not only does the victim's blood go everywhere but there's always that slight chance of the killer cutting themselves and leaving evidence behind. Not to mention that unless you're wearing a head to toe covering of some kind you're getting some on you. So I think it's just advancement in crime scene investigations, changes in the dynamics of the times as it relates to how they effect the reasons people kill people in the first place; and so on
                      I make you right. It was a messy business. There are throat cuts that spray blood everywhere, and there are throat cuts that require precise cuts to bleed the individual to death in a matter of seconds, without aerial blood spray. It takes a certain amount of knowledge to know the difference.

                      Going from stabbing in the neck (Tabram) to then bleeding his victims out with precise cuts across the left carotid artery (all C5) either shows rapid knowledge improvement, or Tabram was not his victim. I find the theory he learned from his mistakes a strange one. You don't go from someone who killls in a frenzy of stabbing, to precision cuts from one murder to the next. I find it more likely he already had the knowledge, but his first kills were more likely via strangulation. Probably on impulse. But you would expect to then see some kind of post-mortem curiosity (rasied skirts, breasts exposed etc). At that stage he realises he needs more intimacy, and therefore he needs the kills to be quicker too. He can use his knife next time and that technique he was taught to kill quickly, and then use it to really explore.

                      That's my theory anyway.
                      Last edited by erobitha; 05-07-2021, 06:31 AM.
                      "When the legend becomes fact... print the legend"
                      - The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by erobitha View Post

                        That's still not evidence. Jack on his own obviously contributed to the increased murders with throat cutting, by virtue of killing at least 5 with that method.

                        Where in numbers are those "connected" and "attempted" murders by throat-cutting? I have looked, and I can't see that data.
                        Between Sept and Dec 1888 there were 10 recorded attacks on females which involved the use of a knife.

                        4 of these were attributed to the Ripper however, I only subscribe to 3 being carried out by that killer.

                        Then you add Mckenzie and Coles who both had their throats cut again possibly not ripper related

                        Knife crime was as prevelant then as it is today the only difference is that in todays world more people die as a result of being stabbed than having their throats cuts, which proves my point

                        www.trevormarriott.co.uk

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by erobitha View Post

                          That's still not evidence. Jack on his own obviously contributed to the increased murders with throat cutting, by virtue of killing at least 5 with that method.

                          Where in numbers are those "connected" and "attempted" murders by throat-cutting? I have looked, and I can't see that data.
                          Here you go, erobitha.

                          I feel sure Trev must have been around when Colin Roberts used to post on this very subject, yet still we get misleading claims that anyone out at night risked having their throat slit by one of the many knife-happy thugs who routinely prowled the streets.

                          The following was posted by Colin back in 2014 and is pretty definitive:

                          Originally posted by Colin Roberts View Post
                          Registered Deaths of Female Adults, Classified as 'Murder', by way of 'Knife'

                          In Accordance with the Forty-Forth through Fifty-Third Annual Reports of the Registrar-General of Births, Deaths, and Marriages in England:


                          Registered Deaths of Female Adults (Ages 20 - xx) throughout England, Classified as 'Murder', by way of 'Cut'/'Stab': 1881-1890 (Click Image, to Enlarge in flickr)

                          Registered Deaths of Female Adults (Ages 20 - xx) throughout England, Classified as 'Murder', by way of 'Cut'/'Stab'
                          1881: 4
                          1882: 3
                          1883: 7
                          1884: 6
                          1885: 1

                          1886: 2
                          1887: 2
                          1888: 2
                          1889: 5
                          1890: 5

                          ---

                          Range: 1 - 7
                          - Mid-Range (i.e. 'Range Mid-Point'): 4.00

                          - Median: 3.50

                          - Mean (i.e. 'Average'): 3.70

                          - Year, in which We are Most Interested (i.e. 1888): 2.00


                          Registered Deaths of Female Adults (Ages 20 - xx) throughout England, Classified as 'Murder', by way of 'Cut'/'Stab': 1881-1890 (Click Image, to Enlarge in flickr)

                          ---

                          In Accordance with the Forty-Forth through Fifty-Third Annual Reports of the Registrar-General of Births, Deaths, and Marriages in England:


                          Registered Deaths of Female Adults (Ages 20 - xx) throughout England, Classified as 'Murder', by way of 'Cut Throat': 1881-1890 (Click Image, to Enlarge in flickr)

                          Registered Deaths of Female Adults (Ages 20 - xx) throughout England, Classified as 'Murder', by way of 'Cut Throat'
                          1881: 3
                          1882: 0
                          1883: 2
                          1884: 5
                          1885: 3

                          1886: 3
                          1887: 9
                          1888: 15
                          1889: 6
                          1890: 7

                          ---

                          Range: 0 - 15
                          - Mid-Range (i.e. 'Range Mid-Point'): 7.50

                          - Median: 4.00

                          - Mean (i.e. 'Average'): 5.30

                          - Year, in which We are Most Interested (i.e. 1888): 15.00


                          Registered Deaths of Female Adults (Ages 20 - xx) throughout England, Classified as 'Murder', by way of 'Cut Throat': 1881-1890 (Click Image, to Enlarge in flickr)
                          Note that these figures are for cases 'throughout England'.

                          Love,

                          Caz
                          X
                          "Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious." Peter Ustinov


                          Comment


                          • #14
                            And there's more...

                            Originally posted by Colin Roberts View Post
                            Registered Deaths of Female Adults, Classified as 'Murder', by way of 'Knife' Cont.

                            In Accordance with the Forty-Forth through Fifty-Third Annual Reports of the Registrar-General of Births, Deaths, and Marriages in England:


                            Registered Deaths of Female Adults (Ages 20 - xx) throughout England, Classified as 'Murder', by way of 'Cut'/'Stab' (Blue) / 'Cut Throat' (Red): 1881-1890 (Click Image, to Enlarge in flickr)


                            Registered Deaths of Female Adults (Ages 20 - xx) throughout England, Classified as 'Murder', by way of 'Cut'/'Stab' (Blue) & 'Cut Throat' (Red): 1881-1890 (Click Image, to Enlarge in flickr)


                            Registered Deaths of Female Adults (Ages 20 - xx) throughout England, Classified as 'Murder', by way of 'Cut'/'Stab' or 'Cut Throat': 1881-1890 (Click Image, to Enlarge in flickr)

                            Registered Deaths of Female Adults (Ages 20 - xx) throughout England, Classified as 'Murder', by way of 'Cut Throat' or 'Cut'/'Stab'
                            1881: 7
                            1882: 3
                            1883: 9
                            1884: 11
                            1885: 4

                            1886: 5
                            1887: 11
                            1888: 17
                            1889: 11
                            1890: 12

                            ---

                            Range: 3 - 17
                            - Mid-Range (i.e. 'Range Mid-Point'): 10.00

                            - Median: 10.00

                            - Mean (i.e. 'Average'): 9.00

                            - Year, in which We are Most Interested (i.e. 1888): 17.00


                            Registered Deaths of Female Adults (Ages 20 - xx) throughout England, Classified as 'Murder', by way of 'Cut'/'Stab' or 'Cut Throat': 1881-1890 (Click Image, to Enlarge in flickr)
                            Love,

                            Caz
                            X
                            "Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious." Peter Ustinov


                            Comment


                            • #15
                              The above posts can be seen in context here, from around October 18, 2014:

                              https://forum.casebook.org/forum/rip...-victim/page17

                              Love,

                              Caz
                              X
                              "Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious." Peter Ustinov


                              Comment

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