Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Ratcliffe Highway Murders

Moving Forward

Book cover: The Maul and the Pear Tree
Book cover: The Maul and the
Pear Tree

De Quincey himself supposedly witnessed the public alarm, although James and Critchley accuse him of having an "opium-stimulated" perspective on it. Various rewards were offered by three different parishes for information, including two offers of 50 pounds — the highest reward ever offered to date in such a circumstance. Now, with two such cases so close in time and geographical area, it appeared that London had a mass murderer on their hands who had repeated his crimes and who might do so again. People were tense with fear and anticipation, purchasing locks at great expense to keep intruders out and wondering about their neighbors.

All of the area's newspapers gave these crimes considerable space for some three weeks. A coroner's inquest was called in the Black Horse tavern across from the Kings Arms. John Turner was now in a better state of mind to offer his report, and this time he was believed. His testimony is recorded in full in The Maul and the Pear Tree. He entered the place around 10:40, he said, and went to his room on an upper floor. He heard Mrs. Williamson lock the door. Then he heard the front door bang open "hard," and Bridget shouted, "We are all murdered!" Mr. Williamson followed this with "I am a dead man." As he lay in bed listening to this, Turner heard several blows. He also heard someone walk about with shoes in which he believed there were no nails (which was significant, because the shoeprint outside was from a shoe made with nails). After a few minutes, he arose and went to see what had occurred.

He heard three drawn-out sighs. As he silently crept down, he saw that a door stood open and a light burned on the other side, so he peered in and caught a glimpse of a tall man leaning over Mrs. Williamson. Turner estimated him to be six feet tall and said he was wearing a Flushing coat. The man appeared to be going through the victims' pockets. Turner saw only one man before returning up the steps and contemplating what he should do. He tied two sheets together in his bedroom and lowered himself out of the house, lest he too became a victim. He knew that Williamson's watch was missing, he continued, and he described it. He also said he had no recollection of an iron bar in the tavern such as the one that was found being inside the house. The conclusion was that it must have been brought there by the killer.

After him came those who had seen the corpses. The surgeon who had examined the bodies also gave his report. That person gave a full description of the wounds. The jury listened to all of this and returned a verdict of willful murder by a person or some persons unknown. No one was surprised. But everyone wanted the perpetrators caught as soon as possible.

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