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Historical Unsolved Murders in England

Unfortunately, a countless number of murders have gone unsolved by authorities all over the world. Some of these cases get little or no attention, while others grab and hold the attention of the public for decades or longer. England has had its fair share of these infamous historical unsolved murders. The following are only three of many unsolved murder cases that have occurred in England. Among them are some of the most infamous murders the world has ever seen.

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Historical unsolved murders such as these are not likely to ever be solved. However, they will be remembered for as long as people continue to be fascinated with crime, unsolved crime, in particular. Beneath you’ll find three of England’s murders that as of today, never have been solved.

The Jack the Ripper Murders

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Jack the Ripper is the name given to the man who is probably the most infamous serial killer of all time. The unsolved murders committed by Jack the Ripper are among the most gruesome that England has ever seen. The killings occurred well over 100 years ago and yet this brutal killer’s nickname is as well known as that of some modern celebrities. He operated in Whitechapel and the surrounding London, England districts in 1888.

Jack the Ripper was described by witnesses as being a Caucasian man of average height. He was well dressed, when he was spotted. He likely had a working knowledge of human anatomy and was possibly a surgeon (or had some knowledge of surgical procedures). He was between 20-40 years of age. He is typically credited with five murders (all female prostitutes), but he may have committed more or less. There is no way of ascertaining the exact number. The following are the five murders widely accepted as his doing:

  • Mary Anne Nichols was murdered on August 31, 1888. Her throat had been slashed twice. Her stomach had been sliced open and she had several other blade wounds on her abdomen.
  • Annie Chapman was murdered on September 8, 1888. Her throat was slashed twice. Her stomach was ripped open. Her uterus, a large portion of her bladder and vagina were removed.
  • Elizabeth Stride was murdered on September 30, 1888. Her throat was sliced open once. She was still alive when she was discovered. The general consensus is that the Ripper was interrupted whilst killing her.
  • Catherine Eddowes was murdered on September 30, 1888, as well. Her throat was cut twice and her eyelids were cut open. Her right ear and her nose were removed, along with her left kidney and most of her uterus.
  • Mary Jane Kelly was the last of the known Ripper murders. She was mutilated far worse than any of the other women that he killed. She was murdered on November 9, 1888. Her throat was slashed twice, so brutally that the wound reached her spine. Her face was rendered unrecognizable by the murderer’s blade. The contents of her abdominal cavity had been emptied and strewn about her. Her breasts were removed and the flesh from the tops of her thighs had been removed all the way down to her femurs. Every one of her limbs had been mutilated in some way.
TIP: For those interested, you can read more on Jack the Ripper’s murders and victims, in one of the best Jack the Ripper reference sources available, the book: The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Sourcebook: An Illustrated Encyclopedia (US) (UK) by Keith Skinner and Stewart P. Evans.

Bella in the Wych-Elm

Bella in the Wych-Elm is the moniker given to the victim of an unsolved murder that occurred in the English Midlands in 1941. Her body was found in a hollow wych-elm in Hagley Wood on Hagley Estate on April 18, 1943. Four teenagers were looking for birds’ nests and thought that the wych-elm would be a good place to find them. What they wound up finding was a nearly complete human skeleton with some remnants of rotting skin and hair still attached to the skull.

The police arrived on the scene the following day (it took the boys some time to work up the nerve to share what they had found, as they had been trespassing when they found the body). The police found the skeleton, as well as a wedding ring, a shoe, clothing remnants and a hand that was buried near the wych-elm. She had very noticeable dental work and distinctly crooked teeth.

Investigators determined that the woman had been dead for 18 months or more. She was approximately 35 years of age, at the time of death. She was five feet tall and had brown hair. There were no signs of violence, aside from the severed hand. However, the woman did have a piece of taffeta crammed into her mouth. It was decided that she must have choked to death.  

Police distributed descriptions of the murdered woman and her dental work, but nothing came of it. Missing persons reports were checked, but no descriptions matched. It is thought that the woman must have been from another area, why she was in the Hagley Woods, will probably never be known. Strangely, two men had heard a woman screaming in the Hagley Woods in July of 1941. The police had investigated the noise, but had found nothing.

Bella got her moniker shortly after the investigation into her murder began. Some suspicious graffiti began showing up around Christmas of 1943. The first read, “Who put Luebella down the wych-elm?” This was odd because it obviously referred to the dead women, but her name was unknown. Was someone aware of her identity or was it just some twisted prank? Other variations of the graffiti were also found, such as “Hagley Wood Bella” and “Who put Bella in the wych-elm.” The person or persons who wrote these were never found. It is still unknown whether her name was really Bella. Without her identity, it was impossible to find the murderer.

TIP: A small book has been released in the summer of previous year (2016) on this case, called Bella In The Wych Elm: In Search Of A Wartime Mystery (UK).

Rose Harsent

Rose Harsent was a servant at of William and Georgeanna Crisp’s. She lived with the family in Peasenhall Village in Suffolk. Her body was found at the residence by the woman’s father on the morning of June 1, 1902. Her throat was slashed and there was evidence that the murderer had tried to set her body on fire. She had been dead roughly four hours. She was twenty-three years old when she was murdered. She was also pregnant, a fact which no one close to her was aware of until after the postmortem examination.

Upon inspection of Rose’s room, a note was found. It was addressed to Rose and spoke of a proposed midnight meeting the night before. It was soon discovered that the author of the letter was a neighbor of the Crisps’ named William Gardiner. William Gardiner was a prominent member of a local Methodist church, a Sunday school teacher, a husband and a father of six. What was he doing arranging a clandestine meeting with his neighbor’s servant? Was he the father of the victim’s unborn child? Did he murder Rose Harsent?

Police found William’s letter very suspicious and so he was arrested and tried for the crime. He denied showing up for the meeting and his wife claimed that he was home in bed the entire night. The case went to trial twice. Both times it resulted in a hung jury. Finally, the prosecutors decided that the case could not be won. William was released, having neither been convicted nor acquitted of the murder of Rose Harsent.