Crime: Manslaughter and Murder

Shoreditch is an area inhabited by Middle to Lower Class civilians. There would be, no doubt,  some level of crime in the area, such as theft, slavery and more importantly, murder and manslaughter.

In the East End, the most infamous of all criminals of the 19th Century was Jack the Ripper, however, Shoreditch had its own infamous murderers, most notably the London Burkers, a group of criminals who were body snatchers. Body snatching involved digging up freshly buried corpses and selling them on to medical institutes for research and dissection purposes. However, as a result of lack of corpses, thus a high demand for them, John Bishop and Thomas Williams (thought to be the “protagonists”) began to murder innocent civilians, basing their crime on the infamous “Burke and Hare” duo in Edinburgh. Eventually, in November 1831, a worker at King’s College was suspicious of a corpse that was brought to them and so, brought police investigations in, leading to their execution on 5th December 1931. These infamous murderers claimed they had sold up to 1000 corpses, however, never stated the exact amount of people who they had murdered.

It was not uncommon for murder to occur at least once a year in Shoreditch, statistics shows that from the Medical Officer of Health that from the years 1880 until 1915, there were 43 cases of homicide. This means that on average there would be at least 1 death every year. In the 1864 report, the MOH states that “child-murder is a frequent crime”. This was easily backed up in the future statistics whereas the rate of homicide for those under age 5 from 1880 until 1915 was 18 out of the 43. Furthermore, in certain years such as 1880, 1907 and 1913, there were 2 children under the age of 1 who were murdered. These statistics show us how terrifying it was in Shoreditch for its residence, even with the fear of death from disease, there was also a fear of becoming the next victim. An interesting factor in these statistics was next most likely death of homicide, being the age group from 25 to 35 – a total of 14 deaths out of the 43.

Overall, Shoreditch experienced a great deal of murder and manslaughter throughout the 19th Century with no surprise, for it was in the East End of London, well known for the mysterious murders by the serial killer, Jack the Ripper. It would also come to no surprise as much of Shoreditch’s residences were filled with middle to lower class citizens. What came to a surprise however, was the copycat murderers, London Burkers and the age of death as a result of homicide.

Sources:

King’s Collection: http://www.kingscollections.org/exhibitions/specialcollections/charles-dickens-2/italian-boy/murder-discovered
Medical Officer of Health (all reports from 1848 – 1939): http://wellcomelibrary.org/moh/search/?terms=homicide&place=Shoreditch&startYear=1848&endYear=1939

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