Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Something wicked lives in Staffordshire

Although I would be hard pressed to point it out on a map, the English county of Staffordshire has put itself on the map with numerous fascinating crimes over the past century. Many of these cases have been researched and gathered in the book Staffordshire Murders by Alan Hayhurst. I was thrilled to locate this book recently in my beloved local used bookstore.

The book begins with the sad story of Christina Collins from 1839. Christina's husband had obtained work in London, and sent her money to join him there. She only had enough money to travel via the canal system on narrow boats. Apparently, the crew of the boat was drunk the entire time and nearly all of them attempted to molest Christina in some way. She never made it to London. After a few days aboard the boat, her corpse was fished out of the canal. There is a detailed review of the subsequent trial and outcome, as well as the author's own commentary on the tragedy.

Some of the other interesting cases covered in the book include Dr. William Palmer (The Rugeley Poisoner), Maltese-born rowdy George Semini, and child killer Raymond Morris. There are many interesting photos throughout the book, including contemporary photos, death certificates, and modern photos of how crime scenes look today. At the back of the book is a bibliography with not only book and newspaper sources, but also National Archives files that were consulted.

Final Verdict for Staffordshire Murders: Four Gherkins, for being a well-researched look at some unsavory history

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