"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.



On the night of July 1, 1997, the fire department responded to a 2-alarm fire in the 2100 block of 50th Ave in Oakland, California. Just moments earlier a woman ran from her burning house; the bottom of her dress ablaze. One of her neighbor's poured water on the woman's legs and called 911.
The woman identified herself as Stevie Allman, 52, an unemployed secretary. She had suffered first- and second-degree burns to her arms and legs. She told authorities that she suspected the fire had been set by drug dealers she had crossed.
An investigation as to the cause of the fire proved it was indeed arson and fire officials confirmed that they had been to the same residence twice before for firebombs that had been set off outside of the home.
Allman was also known to the Oakland Police. For over a year she had been secretly video taping drug dealers doing business on her street and she passed the tapes, along with tips, to the police.
When news surrounding the events of the third firebombing became public knowledge, Allman was hailed a hero and an anti-drug crusader. The lure of the ovewhelming media coverage proved too strong for Ms. Allman. She issued two statements from her hospital bed in which she condemned the drug dealers whom she claimed no doubt intended to murder her.
Police vowed to apprehend those responsible for what was described as a "cowardly act." Then Govenor Pete Wilson offered a $50,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators. A donation was set up in Allman's name to help cover her hospital costs and local contractors offered to rebuild her home.
Shortly after her appearance on television police would receive their first hint that things weren't as they appeared. Police were alerted that there were two women living in the house not one and one of them was missing.
Tips poured in from neighbors and Allman's oldest sister, Leotta Belleville, that the woman claiming to be Stevie Allman was in reality her younger sister, Sarah Mitchell.
The sisters had been living in the same house for twenty years and the two were often mistaken for twins as they closely resembled each other. But there the similarities ended.
Whereas Stevie was a quiet, somewhat reclusive secretary, Sarah had a history of drug and alcohol abuse and had been arrested for prostitution and fraud.
The police reopened the investigation and decided to search the home again in order to find clues as to the whereabouts of Stevie Allman. Officers searched the house with a dog and came upon a charred freezer that had been sealed with duct tape close to the point of origin of the fire. When officers opened the freezer they immediately uncovered the dismembered and decomposed body of who would be later as Stevie Allman.
Mitchell was arrested after she cashed the check made out to Allman consisted of donations received while she was in the hospital. When police confronted her with the fact that her fingerprints proved that she was Sarah Mitchell she admitted to impersonating her sister.
Police surmise that Mitchell had been assuming Allman's identity for almost two years. Mitchell's siblings confirmed this fact when they told police that Mitchell had been stealing from them for years. She had also posed as Stevie at least once before that the family knew of when she used Stevie's identity to cash a stolen inheritance check. Further investigation revealed that Stevie had last been seen alive in April of 1997 and when questioned by family members Mitchell would tell them that Stevie was in Lake Tahoe or Reno looking for a new home for them.
Stevie was about to cut Mitchell off. She was through with Mitchell stealing from her and was no longer willing to support her. Mitchell was about to lose her gravy train. Mitchell apparently bludgeoned Stevie while she slept and stuffed her dismembered body into the freezer. She then tried to cover up the murder by burning down the house and blaming it on drug dealers. Mitchell then assumed Stevie's identity in order to gain the deed on Stevie's house and access to her trust accounts.
Sarah Mitchell was convicted of first-degree murder with the special circumstance of financial gain. She was spared the death penalty when the jury recommended life in prison without the possibility of parole.


Marie Alexandrine was a woman with passable looks and big dreams. She was born in 1877 in Liege Belgium. At age 33 she settled into the role of a virtuous and proper housewife when she married Charles Becker, a cabinetmaker.

By age 53 she was thoroughly bored with her staid lifestyle. One day when she was out buying vegetables at a street stall, she was propositioned by a smooth-talker named Lambert Bayer. The sexual attraction between the two was immediate and they were soon engaged in a passionate affair.

Marie Alexandrine eventually grew tired of pretending to be the faithful wife. She wanted to flaunt her relationship with Bayer openly. So she decided that the only way to be free to live as she wanted was to get rid of her husband. Her drug of choice; Digitalis. Charles Becker was dispatched to the hereafter with a lethal dose in his cup of tea.

Marie Alexandrine collected on Becker's life insurance policy and after observing the proper period of mourning she married Lambert Bayer.

And again it was not long before married life palled. Unfortunately for Bayer it was sooner rather than later. For Marie Alexandrine their relationship no longer held the same appeal as it did when they were involved in an illicit affair. Less than two months after the wedding, Bayer was dispatched posthaste; but not before making sure she was named as sole beneficiary in his will.

If Marie Alexandrine had been a pragmatic female the money that she received from her spouses would have been enough to allow her to live quite comfortably for her remaining years. How ever she was far from pragmatic. She fantasized about a life of luxury and decadence and she was determined to live out her fantasy.

Her nights were spent in dance halls and nightclubs surrounded by men half her age. And it was not unusual for her to buy sexual favors from these men.

In order to maintain some semblance of respectability, Marie Alexandrine opened a small couture dress shop in a fashionable district of town in the hopes of attracting the grand dames of society.

Unfortunately her fortune could not keep pace with her extravagant expenses and though popular, her dress shop did not generate enough income to continue her elevated lifestyle.

Marie Alexandrine had to come up with another scheme and quick. In early July 1935 one of her friends, Marie Castadot began suffering from nausea and dizziness. Marie Alexandrine graciously offered to care for her. Not surprising under Marie Alexandrine's ministrations Madame Castadot became gravel ill and by July 23rd she was dead.

It was not long before she was again searching for more victims. Through her store Marie Alexandrine became acquainted with a number of society's matriarchs. By earning their implicit trust she was able to arrange for private showings in their opulent homes. When the inevitable refreshments were served she would whip out her ever-present vial of digitalis and managed to slip a lethal dose in her hostess' tea. As the victim lay dying Marie Alexandrine would help herself to anything of value that she could stuff in her pockets before she summoned help.

Though she was never got red-handed eventually her actions aroused enough suspicions and the police received anonymous letters accusing her of being involved in the deaths of several elderly women.

But it was her own mouth that would cause her downfall. When a friend complained about her aggravating husband, Marie Alexandrine offered to supply her with a powder that would leave no trace. Appalled the woman went to the police and this latest incident along with the letters were enough for them to launch an investigation. With each suspicious death looked into the police noted that they all had one thing in common, they were in the company of Marie Alexandrine during the last hours of their life.

When the police arrived at Marie Alexandrine's residence they searched her rooms. They found clothing, jewelry, and personal items belonging to the victims. They also discovered her vials of digitalis. Marie was taken into custody immediately and the bodies of several of her victims were exhumed. They found high levels of digitalis in all.

During her trial witnesses testified how she would attend the funerals during the day and by nightfall she would be in the nightclubs spending the money she had stolen from them. She failed to show any remorse about the murders going so far as to make scandalous statements as to how her victims looked when they died. She was convicted of murder and fortunately for her she was spared the death penalty because Belgium rarely executed women. Died in prison during World War II.

For over two years Marie Alexandrine Becker poisoned at least 10 victims. Many fear that her deadly spree claimed many more before she was caught.