‘In short, he was a degenerate of filthy habits and practices.’
Between October 1891 and April 1892, a series of murders in London racked the city with a terror reminiscent of the fear surrounding Jack the Ripper’s murders, just three years earlier. Once again, the victims were prostitutes, but this time the method was poisoning.
Dr Thomas Neill Cream (27 May 1850–15 November 1892), also known as the Lambeth Poisoner, was a Scottish-Canadian serial killer, who claimed his first proven victims in the United States and the rest in Great Britain, and possibly others in Canada.
Born in Glasgow, Thomas Cream spent his early years in Canada. In 1876, he came to London to study medicine at St Thomas’s Hospital
It is believed Cream killed his first victim in 1876, although his wife’s cause of death was initially recorded as, consumption. But in 1879, they found a woman who knew him dead in an alleyway behind his offices, pregnant and poisoned with chloroform. Accused of her murder, Cream fled to the US, where he is thought to have killed at least another four people.
In 1891, he set sail back to London and settled in Lambeth Bridge Road. But within a year, four prostitutes were murdered after accepting a drink from Cream, which was laced with strychnine.
Women were his preoccupation and his talk of them far from agreeable. He carried pornographic photographs, which he was ready to display. He was in the habit of taking pills, which, he said, were compounded of strychnine, morphia, cocaine, and of which effect, he declared, was an aphrodisiac. In short, he was a degenerate of filthy habits and practices.
Creams big mistake and ultimate downfall was his greed. He tried to blackmail just about everyone he came across. In the end he came unstuck when he wrote to police accusing two respectable London doctors of murdering several women, including the case of Matilda Clover. Police investigated and quickly cleared the two doctors, but their attention was now on Cream.
Police quickly realised that the letter writer was who the press were calling ‘The Lambeth Poisoner.’ Cream also met a New York policeman who was on holiday in London, Cream gave him a tour of the ‘Lambeth Poisoners’ victims’ houses. When the man repeated the story to a London policeman, Cream had virtually sealed his own fate.
The London police put Cream under surveillance, where they learnt about his habit of visiting prostitutes. They also contacted the Chicago police, they learnt of his conviction for murder by poison.
According to Creams executioner, James Billington, Cream’s last words, before being interrupted by the noose, were:
‘I am Jack…’
The implication that Dr Cream was Jack the Ripper. This would have been impossible because Cream was still in Joliet Prison in 1888 when the Whitechapel murders took place. Some still believe this theory, saying Cream had a double serving his prison sentence. More likely the quote was a hoax perpetrated by the executioner.
Newgate Prison, London
His trial lasted from 17th to 21st 1882 October that year. After a deliberation lasting only 12 minutes, the jury found him guilty of all counts, and Justice Henry Hawkins sentenced him to death.
Less than a month after his conviction, on 15 November, Cream was hanged on the gallows at Newgate Prison, London. As was customary with all executed criminals, his body was buried the same day in an unmarked grave within the prison walls.
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