"Lambeth Poisoner"

10/21/2009

Thomas Neill Cream was born in Glasgow Scotland May 27, 1850. At the age of 4 his father moved the family to Canada where he opened a prosperous lumber mill. His siblings eventually joined their father in the family business but Thomas was more interested in scholarly pursuits. Thomas dreamed of becoming a doctor and in 1872 he attended McGill College in Montreal from which he graduated with honors.

While attending McGill Cream met Flora Elizabeth Brooks. Teenage daughter of wealthy hotel owner, Lyman Henry Brooks. He seduced her and soon found himself cast in the unwanted role of father-to-be. Cream convinced Flora to allow him to abort the baby and nearly killed her in the process. When Flora's father learned of the abortion he showed up at Cream's residence brandishing a shotgun and forced him to marry Flora on September 11, 1876.

Cream had big plans for himself and they did not include remaining shackled to a woman he did not care for. The following day while most couples are enjoying their honeymoon Flora woke up to an empty bed and a note from Cream on the pillow next to her promising that he would keep in touch.

Cream fled to London, England and attended St Thomas Hospital Medical School. The glittering social life proved to be to much of a lure for Cream who more often than not could be seen courting wealthy young women rather than attending to his studies. He failed to earn his certificate. Cream moved to Edinburgh Scotland and completed his studies at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons.

In August of 1877 Flora contracted bronchitis and died from what was assumed to be consumption. But not everyone was convinced that her death was anything but natural. Prior to her demise Flora admitted to the town's physician, Dr Phelan, that she was taking medicine that her husband had sent her. The doctor managed to extract a promise from her that she would not take anything else unless he prescribed it but by then it was too late. Dr. Phelan was never able to obtain any of the medication for examination and an autopsy was not performed.

As for Cream, he no longer had to pretend that he was unmarried. He returned to Canada in 1878 and set up his practice in London, Ontario. He opened a small shop above a clothing store and specialized in obstetrics. Cream's career was quite promising until he derailed it in May of 1879 when the body of a young woman was found in the outhouse in the alley behind his shop. She was identified as Kate Gardner and the overwhelming scent of chloroform wafting from her made it quite simple to surmise cause of death. When the authorities questioned her roommate, Sarah Long, she confided to them that Kate had gotten herself in "the family way" and had gone to the new doctor to seek an abortion.

A Coroner's inquest was held at which time Cream admitted Gardner had come to his office but he refused to give her the drugs to induce an abortion and went so far as to suggest her death had been a suicide.

The Coroner disputed Creams theory stating that her face had been badly scratched implying force. Secondly it would have been impossible for her to hold a chloroform-soaked sponge over her nose long enough to cause her own death. She would have passed out before then.

Her death was ruled a homicide by person unknown. Although Cream was able to escape a murder indictment his reputation had been ruined. He pulled up stakes and decided to try his luck in the United States.

Cream ended up in Chicago, Illinois where he began the unsavory practice of terminating pregnancies for prostitutes. It wasn't long before one of those prostitutes ended up dead. When Mary Anne Faulkner was found dead in a tenement apartment police eventually tied her to Cream and he charged with murder. He managed to again avoid the executioner because he had the good sense to hire a suave and persuasive attorney who was able to convince jurors that Cream tried to save the unfortunate woman after a midwife botched her abortion.

Within a year Cream would again find himself on the wrong end of a murder charge and because of his own stupidity even Johnny Cochran would not have been able to get him off.

In addition to performing illegal abortions, Cream manufactured his own special concoction of anti-epilepsy drugs. One of his patients was Daniel Stott, a retired railroad agent. Since he was for all intents and purposes an invalid, he would send his beautiful young wife, Julia, who was 30 years his junior to collect his medicine. Her visits to Cream became more frequent and it soon became obvious to her husband that they were having an affair. On June 14, 1881 Cream mixed an extra special concoction for Mr. Stott, including a liberal dose of strychnine and he died within a half an hour of consuming it.

His death was originally attributed to epilepsy and would have never been questioned if Cream hadn't grown nervous. He attempted to divert any possibility of suspicion falling on him in the death of Stott by trying to implicate the pharmacist. Cream sent several telegrams to the coroner's office claiming that the pharmacist had mixed strychnine with Cream's concoction causing Stott's death. Cream's telegrams raised enough suspicion to have the district attorney order an exhumation of Stott's body. And just as Cream had implied, Stott's stomach contained a lethal dose of strychnine.

Cream had one major problem though. He did not know when to quit ( a fact that would ultimately lead to his final downfall). Thinking himself safe he actually identified himself as the writer when he sent the telegrams. Cream literally wrote himself into a conviction for murder. He was sentenced to life at Joliet State Penitentiary. Unfortunately for his future victims, his life would not end in that American prison. Thanks to corrupt politicians and prison officials Cream walked out a free man 10 years later after purchasing a pardon. He eventually returned to England and the slums of South London with a new practice and a new name, Dr. Thomas Neill.

His first known victim was 19-year-old prostitute Ellen "Nellie" Donworth. Prior to her death witnesses placed Nellie with a well-dressed gentleman. She would later be found lying on the bed of her rented room convulsing and writhing in agony. She would tell police that the man gave her something to drink with some white stuff in it. Nellie died on the way to the hospital. A postmortem exam revealed a lethal dose of strychnine in her stomach.

One week later Matilda Clover, 27, a prostitute and alcoholic, returned to her rented room with a well-dressed gentleman. Around 3 am the household was awaken to the sound of ear splitting screams. Matilda was found convulsing on her bed. She claimed a man gave her pills and had poisoned her. Unfortunately her death was attributed to excessive drinking and no autopsy was performed.

Lou Harvey was in search of a client for the night. When Cream approached her and introduced himself she agreed to accompany him to a hotel where they remained until the following morning. Before parting company the arranged to meet again later that evening for drinks. Cream gave Lou two capsules that he claimed would improve her complexion and insisted that she take them in his presence. Lou instantly became suspicious and pretended to swallow the pills and when Cream was not looking tossed them away. Her instincts saved her life.

Cream's last know victims were 21-year-old Alice Marsh and 18-year-old. He spied them in St. George's Circus and accompanied them to their residence and promised to give them pills to keep them from contracting sexual diseases.

By 2:30 the following morning, both women were convulsing and screaming in agony. Alice Marsh lived long enough to tell police a tall well-dressed man gave them pills.

During his killing spree Cream set in motion the series of events that decide his fate. Cream decided to try his hand at extortion. He flooded the city with letters accusing wealthy, prominent people of the murders he himself had committed. He offered to destroy the proof against them if they were willing to pay for it. This time at least Cream had the sense not to sign his own name to them.

So sure was he that he was not going to get caught, Cream befriended John Haynes, a New York detective who was now living in London. When the talk between the two men turned to the murders of the prostitutes Haynes was surprised at the amount of knowledge Cream had about the case. Cream had even brought up the names of two women that had not been named in the newspapers, Matilda Clover and Lou Harvey. One night after they had met for supper Cream took Haynes on a tour of the murder spots. Cream's detailed description of the murders left Haynes in no doubt that he was face-to-face with the man who had committed the murders. So Haynes relayed his suspicions to a friend of his, Inspector Patrick McIntyre, who worked at Scotland Yard.

Police soon launched an investigation and began tailing Cream. They soon found out that he was in the habit of visiting prostitutes. They had also obtained copies of his handwriting and had matched it to the blackmail letters that had been turned in to them. His passport which contained the named Dr. Thomas Neill had been forged and he was in reality Dr. Thomas Neill Cream from Canada. Further investigation uncovered the mysterious death of his wife, suspicion of murdering prostitutes, and his conviction of murder in the United States. The body of Matilda Clover was exhumed and the results led to the arrest of Thomas Neill Cream and the charge of murder.
Dr. Cream went on trial on October 17, 1892. Throughout the start of the trial Cream maintained his innocence. He showed little emotion in court convinced that he would be cleared of the charge. That is until the prosecution uncovered the most damning piece of evidence against him. When the bailiff called Lou Harvey to the witness box, Cream's composure cracked.

The trial lasted 5 days and when the case was turned over to the jury it took just 10 minutes to return with a guilty verdict.

On November 15, 1892 Dr. Cream was hanged at Newgate Prison. What happened next would spark a heated debate for years to come. As the trap door sprung open Cream is purported to have shouted "I am Jack..."before the snapping of his neck cut off the conclusion of his boast.

This led to the immediate supposition that Cream was confessing to being Jack the Ripper. A highly unlikely fact seeing that he was in Joliet at the time. Also Cream was a poisoner while Jack was a mutilator. Nevertheless Dr Thomas Neill Cream's remains on the long list of suspects thought to have been Jack the Ripper.



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