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Thames Torso Murders

Back in the 1800s there were a series of murders that were never solved. Some of them were thought to be connected, others although similar were not thought to be connected. In each of these murders a torso was found, which is why these were called the Thames Torso Murders. Below you'll find information on the four cases thought to be connected, but also those that weren't.






The Canonical Four

The four connected are the Rainham Mystery, the Whitehall Mystery, the murder of Elizabeth Jackson, and the Pinchin Street Torso Murder.


Rainham Mystery

Throughout May and June 1887 a number of body parts were discovered around London, starting with workers finding a bundle containing a female torso in the River Thames. More remains were found and to be from the same victim. A police surgeon was able to reconstruct the body, minus the head and upper torso. After the reconstruction medical experts concluded that the while the body had not been dissected for medical purposes, a degree of medical knowledge had been necessary to perform the dissection.


Whitehall Mystery

More than a year later, between 11th September and 17th October 1888, the dismembered remains of a woman were discovered at three different locations in London, including the future site of Scotland Yard - police headquarters. The torso was matched by police surgeon Thomas Bond to a right arm and shoulder that had been discovered on the shore of the Thames in Pimlico on 11th September. On 17th October, with permission from police, a reporter used a dog to help find a left leg, that was cut just above the knee and buried near the construction site.


Elizabeth Jackson

On 4th June 1889 a female torso was found in the Thames. More body parts were found in the Thames over the following week. A report in the London Times on 11th June said that the remains found so far "are as follows: Tuesday, left leg and thigh off Battersea, lower part of the abdomen at Horsleydown; Thursday, the liver near Nine Elms, upper part of the body in Battersea Park, neck and shoulders off Battersea; Friday, right foot and part of the leg at Wandsworth, left leg and foot at Limehouse; Saturday, left arm and hand at Bankside, buttocks and pelvis off Battersea, right thigh at Chelsea Embankment; yesterday, right arm and hand at Bankside."

At the inquest it was said "the division of the parts showed skill and design: not, however, the anatomical skill of a surgeon, but the practical knowledge of a butcher or a knacker." A knacker is a person responsible for the removal and cleaning of animal carcasses.

There was great similarity between the cutting up of the remains and those found in Rainham, and at the new police building site. On 5th June the London Times reported that "in the opinion of the doctors the women had been dead only 48 hours, and the body had been dissected somewhat roughly by a person who must have had some knowledge of the joints of the human body." The victim was about 8 months pregnant at the time of her death. Though the head was never found the victim was identified as homeless prostitute Elizabeth Jackson from Chelsea.


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Pinchin Street Torso Murder

On 10th September 1889 a police constable found the headless and legless torso of an unidentified woman under a railway arch at Pinchin Street, Whitechapel. There was extensive bruising about the victim's back, hip, and arm indicating she was severely beaten shortly before her death, which had occurred approximately one day prior to the discovery. The abdomen had been mutilated, much like the victims of Jack the Ripper, but her genitals were not wounded. The age of the victim was estimated at 30-40 years. Despite searches of the local area no other sections of the body were found and the victim's identity remained a mystery.


Other cases that could be connected:


Battersea Mystery

Two unsolved murders that took place in London in 1873 - 1874.
On 5th September 1873 the left quarter of a woman's trunk was discovered by a police patrol near Battersea. Later a right breast was found at Nine Elms, a head at Limehouse, a left forearm at Battersea, a pelvis at Woolwich, until almost a complete body of a dismembered woman had been found. The nose and chin had been cut from the face, and the head had been scalped.
The corpse was reconstructed by a police surgeon but the victim was never identified. The case remained unsolved despite a £200 reward being offered for information.

In June 1874 a dismembered female body was found in the Thames at Putney. The corpse lacked head, both arms and one leg, and had been treated with lime before being thrown into the river. The case remained unsolved.

Tottenham Court Road and Bedford Square Mystery

The Times reported on 24th October 1884 that the remains of a woman had been found. The discoveries included: a skull, with flesh still attached, a chunk of flesh from a thighbone.


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Near to Tottenham Court Road, in Bedford Square, a woman's arm was found in a parcel. The arm was tattooed suggesting it belonged to a prostitute. A torso was found in a parcel by a police constable as he passed 33 Fitzroy Square five days later. The parcel was thought to have been dropped between 10:00 and 10:15.

The two mysteries remain unsolved.


There was speculation at the time of the Torso Murders that they could've been victims of Jack the Ripper, but experts dispute this saying the m.o. (modus operandi) doesn't match the Ripper killings.


Thoughts on the Thames Torso Murders

It definitely sounds like they were all connected so I can see why people thought they were. The fact that these killings seemed to take place over more than a decade is concerning. Was it a serial killer? Did he terrorise women for the entire time?
I read there were also similar killings in Paris in 1890, and in Colorado, US. Did the killer travel and continue his killing? 

What I find interesting about this case is that it's still a mystery. There are so many questions left unanswered.

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