Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageSkull found in David Attenborough's garden solves 1879 mystery

By Kev Hedges     Jul 5, 2011 in Crime
A skull, dating back to 1879, has been unearthed by construction workers building an extension in Sir David Attenborough's garden. The finding, in the broadcaster and naturalist's back yard, solves a 132-year-old murder mystery.
The Victorian murder mystery, known as the Barnes Mystery, began when wealthy widow, Julia Martha Thomas was murdered by her 29-year-old servant and housekeeper Kate Webster. Ms Webster had been fired by the eccentric 55-year-old widow because she had spent too much of her time drinking in a public ale house called The Hole In The Wall. Webster was a petty thief and had served time in London's Wandsworth Prison previously for stealing from several of her former employers.
During the last few days while Webster was working her notice period, she became embroiled in another argument with her employer. It was then that Webster was alleged to have pushed Mrs Thomas down the stairs and strangled her before chopping up the body with an axe. At her trial, she claimed to have accidentally pushed her down the stairs. The prosecution alleged that she strangled her then dismembered her body, cutting her feet off and decapitating her victim, before dumping the parts in the River Thames. Some of the flesh was discovered in a box a few days after the murder on the banks of the famous London river. One of her feet was unearthed a few weeks later in a nearby allotment. The flesh was boiled and fed to street children as dripping. The hungry urchins were told by Webster it was "pig lard".
The head was never found - until last October. Scientists then got to work on the skull with census records and radiocarbon testing which confirmed on Tuesday that the skull was indeed that of Julia Martha Thomas, reports AFP
Kate Webster was found guilty of murder and mutilation and ordered to be executed. She was eventually hanged in London at Wandsworth prison. Richmond borough police commander Chief Superintendent Clive Chalk said: "This is a fascinating case and a good example of how good old-fashioned detective work, historical records and technological advances came together to solve the 'Barnes mystery'".
The Barnes Mystery is one of the longest cold case murder mysteries to have been solved in the UK. Despite extensive attempts by police scientists and detectives, no family of Mrs Thomas could be traced.
More about Kate Webster, David attenborough, barnes mystery
More news from
Latest News
Top News