This site aims to reflect major incidents, including murders, that have happen in the Vauxhall area. Over the years there have been many murders in the area but thankfully most murderers are brought to justice. Our thanks go out to all those who work in the Metropolitan Police - not just the brave policemen and women but also their administrative and backup staff.

We start off this page with details of the murders of three Police Officers:

From the morning report from the Union Hall Police Office, Southwark of 1831."James WOOD with having on the 14th inst in the parish of Lambeth, feloniously, unlawfully and maliciously stabbed, cut and wounded one William BALFOUR, a constable in the execution of his duty with intent to maim and disfigure him with intent to resist the lawful apprehension of himself."

PC 114 'V' Charles NICHOLS was found murdered in South Lambeth Road, Vauxhall on 29th January 1842, his face 'disfigured as if from severe violence'. No one was ever brought to justice for his death.

In May 1851, PC 77 'L' Henry CHAPLEN (warrant Number 24774) on duty in Vauxhall Walk about 1.15am, came across a group of drunken persons, and asked them to move on. At this time, one of the men struck the constable in the mouth with a hand held brick. PC Chaplen managed to strike the assailant on the head with his staff, but was himself struck on the head by another brick thrown by the man's associate and was kicked while on the ground. PC 219 'L' Edward Newton. on an adjoining beat witnessed the incident and came to his assistance only to be struck on the head himself by a flying brick. The men were eventually apprehended by PS Venns and PC 148 'L' Thomas Streumes. PC Chaplen was taken to the 'Queens Head' Public House where a doctor was called and then taken home to Barrett Street, Lambeth. (now northern end of Vauxhall Walk) before eventual being conveyed to Guys Hospital, where he died at 5.15am. His widow received a �400 gratuity from the Commissioners.

Both PC Nichols and PC Chaplen are buried in St Marks churchyard, Kennington. The latter bearing a weather-worn inscription on his gravestone: 'Cruelly murdered in the execution of his duty in Vauxhall Walk'.

With grateful thanks to John Ross, Curator Crime Museum,
of the Metropolitan Police Service for his help and suggestions.

Kenneth Erskine - The Stockwell Strangler

Image Source Erskine was a 24-year-old sexual psychopath who preyed on the elderly and became known as the �Stockwell Strangler�. On 7th April 1987 the body of 78-year-old, retired schoolteacher, Miss Eileen Emms was found in her home. In June there were three more murders, 67-year-old Mrs Janet Cockett, 84-year-old Valentine Gleim and 94-year-old Zbigniew Stabrawa.

In July three more elderly people were strangled in their homes. These were 82-year-old William Carmen, 74-year-old William Downes and 80-year-old Mrs Florence Tisdall. In none of the cases had there been a struggle and they were no signs of any forced entry. It looked as though their attacker had got in through unsecured windows. In some of the cases the victims had been robbed.

In the early hours of 27th June 73-year-old Frederick Prentice was awoken by sounds of someone entering his bedroom. He switched on the light and told the intruder to get out. He was then attacked and was being strangled when he freed one hand and pressed the alarm at the side of his bed. His assailant ran off.

A pathologist involved in the case reported that, from the pattern of injuries, it looked as though all the killings were linked. It appeared that the killer had knelt on the victim�s chests, had placed his left hand over the mouth and had used the right hand to throttle the victims. In four of the seven cases the victim had been sodomised after death. Forensic scientists discovered a single hair at the scene of Emms� killing and found shoe marks that matched at three of the scenes.

At the scene of the Cockett murder fingerprints were found on a displaced plantpot and there was a palm print on the wall of the Downes� kitchen. The prints were found to belong to Kenneth Erskine who had a criminal record for burglary. But Erskine�s whereabouts were not known. It was discovered that he was collecting Social Security payments and a watch was kept at the office where he signed-on. When he appeared he was duly arrested.

At an identity parade Erskine was recognised instantly by Frederick Prentice. Examination of Erskine's building society accounts showed that during the three months of the murders he had paid in around �3,000, including �300 the morning after the Carmen murder. The old man was known to have kept about �400 in cash in his bedroom.

A hairdresser told police that she had been approached by Erskine who had requested that she bleach his head and pubic hair. She had agreed to the former but had refused the latter request. She said that while he was sitting waiting for the bleach to take effect he had taken the bowl with the bleach and had applied it to his pubic region. He had also tried to bleach his eyebrows and had got some of the chemical into his eyes and needed help in washing it out. DNA fingerprinting with swabs taken from the Downes murder indicated that Erskine could have been responsible but they could not prove it conclusively.

His trial opened at the Old Bailey on 12th January 1988. Erskine faced seven counts of murder and one of attempted murder. He pleaded not guilty but the jury did not believe him and he was found guilty on all eight counts. Erskine was given seven life sentences for the murders and twelve years� imprisonment for the attempted murder. The judge recommended that he should serve a minimum of forty years, the longest period of detention ever recommended.

With grateful thanks to for a great site and premission to use their text and image.

Rachel Dobkin - Another Victim of the Blitz?

On July the 17th 1942 a workman who was helping to demolish the badly bomb-damaged Vauxhall Baptist Chapel in Vauxhall Road, Kennington (now Kennington Lane), prised up a stone slab and found beneath it a mummified body. The immediate assumption was that the remains were either of an air raid victim or had come from the old burial ground underneath the church, which had ceased to be used some fifty years before. When the church had been bombed on the 15th of October 1940 more than a hundred people had been killed in the conflagration and the area around the chapel had been the target of a number of Luftwaffe raids between that time and March of 1941. Nor was it the first body that the workers had come upon while demolishing the chapel. Nevertheless, routine was followed, and the police were called in, arriving in the persons of Detective Inspectors Hat ton and Keeling, the bones being removed to Southwark Mortuary for examination by pathologist Dr Keith Simpson.

Simpson immediately suspected foul play. In trying to raise the bones, the skull had become detached and Simpson realized that the head had already been cut from the body. In addition to this, the limbs had been severed at the elbows and knees, flesh had been removed from the face, the lower jaw was missing and the bones were partially burnt. An obvious attempt had been made to disguise the identity of the corpse. Dr Simpson obtained the permission of the coroner to take the remains back to his laboratory at Guy's Hospital for a more detailed inspection. Returning to the crypt of the church in a vain attempt to find the missing limbs, Simpson noticed a yellowish deposit in the earth, subsequently analysed as slaked lime. This had been used to suppress the smell of putrefaction, but it also had the effect of preventing maggots from destroying the body. Examining the throat and voice box, Simpson detected a blood clot, strongly indicating death due to strangulation. The next task was to discover the identity of the victim. The body was that of a woman aged between forty and fifty, with dark greying hair, was five feet one inch tall, and had suffered from a fibroid tumour. Time of death was estimated at between twelve and fifteen months prior to discovery. Meanwhile the police had been checking the lists of missing persons, and noted that fifteen months previously Mrs Rachel Dobkin, estranged wife of Harry Dobkin, the fire watcher at the firm of solicitors next door to the Baptist Chapel at 302 Vauxhall Road, had disappeared. An interview with her sister elicited the information that she was about the right age, with dark greying hair, was about five feet one tall, and had a fibroid tumour. She also gave police the name of Mrs Dobkin's dentist, Barnett Kopkin of Stoke Newington, who kept meticulous records and was able to describe exactly the residual roots and fillings in her mouth. They matched the upper jaw of the skull.

Finally, Miss Mary Newman, the head of the Photography Department at Guy's, super- imposed a photograph of the skull on to a photograph of Rachel Dobkin, a technique first used six years earlier in the Buck Ruxton case. The fit was uncanny. The bones found in the crypt were the mortal remains of Mrs Rachel Dobkin.

Rachel Dubinski had married Harry Dobkin in September 1920, through the traditional Jewish custom of a marriage broker. Within three days they had separated, but unhappily nine months later a baby boy was born. In 1923 Mrs Dobkin obtained a maintenance order obliging her husband to pay for the upkeep of their child. Dobkin was always a spasmodic payer, and over the years had been imprisoned several times for defaulting. In addition, Mrs Dobkin had unsuccessfully summonsed him four times for assault. However, it must be said in mitigation of Dobkin's actions that she habitually pestered him in the street to get her money, and it should be remembered that she was still demanding cash in 1941 when the 'child' was twenty years old and hardly a dependant. Dobkin was to hint later that she was also blackmailing him over some undisclosed indiscretion at work.

On Good Friday, the 11th of April 1941, Dobkin and his wife had met in a cafe in Kingsland Road, Shoreditch, near to where he lived in Navarino Road, Dalston, E8. They left at 6.30 and she was never seen alive again, though he claimed that she had boarded a No.22 bus to visit her mother. Next day Rachel's sister reported her missing to the police, implicating Harry Dobkin in the process. Because of the priorities of war, Dobkin was not interviewed about the disappearance until April the 16th. On the night of the 14th a small fire had broken out in the ruined cellar of the Baptist Church. This was peculiar, because there had been no air raids and the blaze was only noticed at 3.23am by a passing policeman. When the fire brigade arrived Harry Dobkin was there, pretending to put it out. He told the constable that the fire had started at 1.30am and that he hadn't bothered to inform the authorities because there was little danger of the fire spreading. There was a serious air raid on the next night, so the incident was quickly forgotten. Dobkin was interviewed twice more about his wife's disappearance and a description and photograph were circulated by the police but no further action was taken.

On the 26th of August 1942, Dobkin was interviewed for the first time by Chief Inspector Hat ton, and escorted to the church cellar, where he vehemently denied any involvement in his wife's death. He was then arrested for her murder.

The trial of Harry Dobkin opened at the Old Bailey on the 17th of November 1942, with Mr Justice Wrottesley presiding and Mr L.A. Byrne prosecuting. Dobkin's counsel, Mr F.H. Lawton, spent most of his efforts trying vainly to challenge the identification evidence. The prisoner's appearance in the witness box left the jury unimpressed, and it took them only twenty minutes to arrive at a verdict of guilty. Before his execution Dobkin confessed to his wife's murder , claiming that she was always pestering him for money and he wanted to be rid of her for good. On the 7th of January, 1943, Harry Dobkin was hanged behind the walls of Wandsworth Prison.

Text Source is believed to be the Murder Club Guide to London
edited by Brian Lane 1988

Dr Cream - The Lambeth Poisoner

Dr Thomas Neill Cream was born in Glasgow on 27th May 1850 and graduated in medicine from Canada's McGill University in April 1876. Shortly after graduation he was forced into a shotgun marriage to Flora Brooks but left unannounced the next day! He returned to the UK to study surgery at St Thomas' Hospital but failed the entrance requirements so took a job as an obstetrics clerk. While in London he sent his wife some pills and she died in suspicious circumstances. Cream was accepted by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Edinburgh and licensed in midwifery. In late 1878 he returned to Canada and set up practice in London, Ontario. Here he was implicated in the murder of a new patient Kate Gardener. Gardner was unmarried and pregnant at the time and had gone to Cream for an abortion, she was later found dead in a nearby woodshed which smelled strongly of chloroform. At her inquest Cream admitted having been consulted by Gardner but said he had refused to help with the abortion and suggested she must have taken her own life. As there was no bottle found near the corpse, and the face was badly scratched as though she had been trying to remove a mask or pad, the inquest ruled that she had been murdered. Cream was not tried due to insufficient evidence but his reputation was ruined so moved to Chicago in August 1879 to practice as a physician. Cream was cross-eyed and had a bizarre, self-destructive personality. He was quickly suspected by the Chicago Police of being an illegal abortionist. In 1880 he was charged with the death of an abortion patient Mary Ann Faulkner but was got of by a clever lawyer. Cream also marketed his own anti-pregnancy pills and one patient, Ellen Stack, died of strychnine poisoning but again Cream was not brought to justice due to lack of evidence. In 1881 he almost got away with poisoning Daniel Stott, the husband of his mistress. But Cream felt compelled to contact the District Attorney maintaining that the chemist had laced the pills with strychnine. The DA exhumed the body and Cream being implicated was charged with murder. At his trial he received a life sentence but as a result of bribery he ended up serving only ten-year prison term in Illinois Joliet State Penitentiary .

On his release in July 1891 and after a brief period in Canada with his relatives he moved back to the UK. From September 1891 he lodged at 103 Lambeth Palace Road, where he resumed his deadly career. Despite a three month trip back to Canada in the six months to 12th April 1892 he had murdered four prostitutes Ellen Dosworth, Matilda Clover, Emma Shrivell and Alice Marsh. Going under the name of Dr Neill of St Thomas' Hopsital in his usual attire of a top hat and a silk lined cloak Cream would befriend his victims and offer medication laced with strychnine, supposedly to clear up rashes or spots. Cream again incriminated himself. He blamed the murders on Walter Harper a medical student and fellow lodger and wrote to Harper's father demanding �150 to destroy some supposed evidence. He also pestered the police with his theories as to the murderer and even wrote under different pseudonyms to a coroner implicating Harper and Frederick Smith M.P. . Smith also received a letter asking for �3000 to destroy some supposed evidence. Other blackmail letters were sent to Dr William Broadbent of Portland Square and Lord Russell. Cream using his false name Neill got chatting with a former New York Detective John Haynes at a photographic studio. Haynes became worried by the amount of detail that Cream was relaying about the murders including the names of two victims that had not been associated with the poisonings. The next day Haynes spoke to his Metropolitan Police friend Inspector Patrick McIntyre about Neill/Cream. Cream was followed and the Police sent enquiries to Canada and Chicago. One of the 'new' victims mentioned by Neill/Cream was Louise Harvey but Harvey was not dead for she had sensed that there was something wrong with Cream and only pretended to swallow the pills he had given her.

Cream was initially charged with attempted extortion and a mass of evidence, including seven bottles of strychnine, was collected from Cream's lodgings. He was subsequently charged with the murder of Matilda Harper. The jury only took 12 minutes to establish his guilt and he was hanged on 15th November 1892. At the moment the trap door opened under him Cream made a false confession to being Jack the Ripper, but he was in a Canadian prison at the time of those murders.

The Crime Library Website

Dr William Chester Minor & The O.E.D.

William Chester Minor was born in Ceylon, in June 1834 to New England Congregationalist missionaries. Minor was a clever sensitive lad who painted, played the flute, and spoke several languages but kept having "lascivious thoughts" about the local girls so he was sent 'back' to America when he was 14 to live with an Uncle. He went on to study medicine at Yale and became a surgeon in the Union Army in 1863. In May 1864 he was at the Battle of the Wilderness (notable for the horrible casualties suffered) and it is thought that the exposure to the full horrors of war including the burning alive of hundreds of soldiers, horrific casualties and mutilations triggered his mental illness. As part of his duties he was forced to brand the letter D on the face of an Irish deserter, a member of the Fenian Brotherhood, and this incident caused him a great deal of mental torment. It is thought to be the basis of his paranoid delusions about the Irish that were a major feature of his later madness.

At the end of the American Civil War Minor saw duty in New York City but he was strongly drawn to the red light area of the city and spent increasing amounts of time and money on prostitutes. By 1867, his behavior had come bizarre and the Army transferred him to a remote post. By 1868 Minor showed growing signs of mental instability, and placed in St. Elizabeth's Hospital, the U.S. Government Hospital for the Insane. After 18 months he was allowed to resign his commission on the grounds of "incapacitated by causes arising in the line of duty" and started to receive an Army pension.

He was discharged from the hospital in 1871 and came to London as part of a vacation. Here he resumed going with prostitutes and at the same time his paranoia returned with a vengeance. He became obsessed with the idea that the Irish were going to punish him for the branding he carried out during the war. He took to carrying a loaded gun for his own protection. Early on the 17th February 1872 after returning home late at night he woke up believing that someone was trying to get into his room. He chased after the intruder and shot at a man in the street. George Merritt, a 34 year old stoker at the Lion Brewery, was working an early shift starting at 2am and was walking down Belvedere Road when Minor fired four shots two of which entered his neck. Merritt was declared dead on arrival at St Thomas' hospital.

On the afternoon of April 6, 1872 Dr. William Chester Minor was judged not guilty on grounds of insanity, and was detained "until Her Majesty's Pleasure be known" as a "certified criminal lunatic" at the Asylum for the Criminally Insane in Broadmoor, Crowthorne, Berkshire. Minor was allocated two rooms in the 'swells block' at Broadmoor and was allowed books and painting materials.

Merritt's wife Eliza was left with seven children ranging from 18 years to 12 months to bring up with another on the way. Times were very hard for her and her children but wealthy Minor helped out financially and Eliza even asked to visit Minor in Broadmoor. This highly unusual request was granted and following an experimental visit she started visiting him monthly and even undertook to collect books from various London bookshops for him.

These visits did not last very long as Eliza took to drink but seemed to have greatly helped Minor as it gave him a new occupation. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) editor Dr James Murray had an eight page flyer (a letter) inserted into several new books appealing for new readers to find words and quotations for the dictionary. One of these flyers found its way to Dr Minor in Broadmoor, perhaps in one of the books that Eliza brought him. He began reading and collecting books and turned one of his rooms into his library. This he put to good use, as he became a principal contributor of sixteenth and seventeenth century quotations to the first edition of the OED for over thirty years. Minor always signed his letters in the same way: Dr W.C. Minor, Broadmoor, Crowthorne, Berkshire and initially the OED editor, Dr James Murray, was unaware that Minor was insane but after many years he started regular visits to Minor in Broadmoor.

By 1902 Minor's mental health had deteriorated and he cut off his penis in an act of self-mutilation, which he thought would stop his lascivious thoughts. In 1910 following strong representations from Dr Murray, the US Consulate and others, the then Home Secretary, Winston Churchill, signed the necessary papers to allow Minor to return to the mental hospital in the USA. He died of complications arising from pneumonia on the 26th March 1920 in an old peoples home in New Haven, Connecticut, having been discharged from hospital shortly and is buried at Evergreen Cemetery New Haven. The last psychiatric diagnosis on Minor was that he suffering from dementia praecox or schizophrenia.

Saturday 24th February 1872


A dreadful tragedy was enacted in Belvedere-road, near Hungerford-bridge on Saturday morning last, whereby a respectable man was shot dead in mistake for another man. The murderer is William Chester Minor, aged 37, described as an American physician, residing at 41, Tenison-street, York-road, Lambeth. He was charged at Southwark Police-court in the afternoon, when the main evidence was given by Police-constable 236L, who said, that a little after two o'clock on Saturday morning he was on duty in Belvedere-road, when he heard a report of fire-arms. He proceeded in that direction and saw the prisoner coming on the opposite side of the road. He went over to him and asked him who it was that had fired. He said he had, and, asking him who he fired at, he said, "A man. I should not be such a coward as to shoot a woman." Witness seized him and took the revolver produced from his right hand; it was quite warm. He then took him to the station-house, and on the way met another constable, whom he directed to Tenison street, where he found the deceased lying near the wall of the Lion Brewery Stores, bleeding from wounds in the throat. Another constable came up, and they took the body to St. Thomas's Hospital, when he was found to be dead.

The examination at the police-court was continued on Monday when Mr. De Tracey Goued, of the American Bar, and Mr. John Nunn, Vice-consul of the United States, were present; but upon being asked, the prisoner said he had no wish for their services at present. The landlady of the house in which he lodged was called, and spoke as to his general conduct since he took the apartments on the Wednesday after Christmas. She heard him come home about one o'clock on Saturday morning and go to his room, and about a quarter to two heard him go out; she had not heard him go out of a night before. His room was generally unlocked, except when he was at home; never saw any weapon about the room. Ellen Henderson, living at 19, Tenison-street, stated that about two o'clock on Saturday morning she heard four shots fired in rapid succession; one, two-one, two. Saw a constable running down the street, and directed him to the spot whence the sound of the shots came. The most touching point was when Eliza Merritt, the wife of the deceased man, was giving her evidence. On being sworn she said - I live at No.24, Cornwall-cottages, Cornwall-road. My husband had worked for thr Lion Brewery about eight years. He was 34 years of age. On Saturday morning a little before two o'clock he was roused up as usual to go to his work, and he immediately got up and dressed himself. He was in his usual health. He struck a light when he went out and said "good bye," as usual. For the last three weeks he had gone out at two in the morning. I heard nothing more of him until half-past seven, when I was told he was shot. Between two and three in the afternoon I went to see him at the hospital. I have seven children. The eldest is 18 and the youngest 12 months old, and I expect to be confined with another very shortly. My husband had 24s. a week. Our large family kept us very poor so I am now in deep distress.

Sergeant Steggles, Acting-Inspector at Tower-street Police-station, recalled, and said that after his examination on Saturday he went to the prisoner's lodgings and found two large portmanteaus. In them he found seven or eight American coins, five bank notes of 20 livres each, a box containing bulleted cartridges (Ely's make), and five others were handed to him by Mrs. Fisher, who took them from a coat pocket in the room. He found a United States surgeon's diploma, appointing him assistant-surgeon to the army, dated 1866, and a captain's commission, dated 1867. He also found a letter of introduction, signed by J.W. Johnson, addressed to Professor Rood, Sheffield Scientific School, Yale College, Newhaven, Connecticut. He found in the room several water-colours in various stages of completion. After the prisoner was removed from the dock, Mr. Nunn, the Vice-consul, returned into court, and said he had had some conversations with the prisoner, who told him the gold watch and chain were heirlooms in his family, and wished them to be given up to him. Mr Partridge desired the inspector to deliver them up to Mr. Nunn.

The inquest on the body was held on Tuesday, when, after hearing the evidence substantially the same as that given before the police magistrate, with the addition of that by Mr. Williams, one of the hospital house surgeons, who said that either of the two wounds to the neck, produced by bullets, was sufficient to account for death, the jury returned a verdict of Wilful Murder against the prisoner, and the coroner made out his warrant accordingly.

Subscriptions have been set on foot on behalf of the family of the murdered man, and while the Rev. H.W. Bateman, vicar of St. John's, Waterloo-road, states that general subscriptions will be received by him at 158, Stamford-street, or by the secretary to the Lion Brewery Company, Belvedere-road. Mr. Nunn makes as appeal to Americans in London on behalf of the family.

At the inquest the 24s. allowed to the jury were at once handed over to the family.

Further Reading: 'The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Love of Words', by Simon Winchester. [In the US this book is sold as The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary]

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