George Chapman (murderer)

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George Chapman
George chapman illo.jpg
Illustration of George Chapman from an old newspaper article
Born (1865-12-14)December 14, 1865
Nagórna, Congress Poland
Died April 7, 1903(1903-04-07) (aged 37)
Cause of death
Hanging
Other names Ludwig Schloski
Criminal penalty
Death
Killings
Victims 3
Span of killings
1897–1902
Country England
Date apprehended
1903

George Chapman (December 14, 1865 – April 7, 1903) was a Polish serial killer known as the Borough Poisoner. Born Seweryn Antonowicz Kłosowski in Congress Poland, he moved as an adult to England, where he committed his crimes. He was convicted and executed after poisoning three women, but is remembered today mostly because some authorities suspected him of being the notorious serial killer, Jack the Ripper.

Early life[edit]

Chapman was born in the village of Nagórna, near Koło, Congress Poland. According to a certificate found in his personal effects after his arrest, he was apprenticed at age 14 to a provincial feldsher (a sort of nurse-practitioner) in Zwoleń, whom he assisted in procedures such as the application of leeches for blood-letting. He then enrolled on a course in practical surgery at the Warsaw Praga hospital. This course was very brief, lasting from October 1885 to January 1886 (attested to by another certificate in his possession) but he continued to serve as a male nurse, or doctor's assistant in Warsaw until December 1886. He later left Poland, although the year in which he came to England has not been ascertained. Witness testimony at his trial seems to indicate that he emigrated to London in 1888.[1] Whilst his stay in the East End of London he had married a young Polish girl, Lucie Badewski and had one child with her and soon afterwards was confronted because of this by his "original" Polish wife.[1]

Crimes and execution[edit]

Chapman took several mistresses, who often posed as his wife, three of whom he subsequently poisoned to death. They were Mary Spink (died December 25, 1897), Bessie Taylor (died February 14, 1901) and Maud Marsh (died October 22, 1902). He administered the compound tartar-emetic to each of them, having purchased it from a chemist in Hastings. Rich in the metallic element antimony, improper usage of tartar-emetic causes a painful death with symptoms similar to arsenic poisoning.

His motives for these murders are unclear. In one case, his victim had given him £500, but he gained nothing from the other two victims.

Suspicions surrounding Marsh's death led to a police investigation. It was found that she had been poisoned, as had the other two women, whose bodies were exhumed.

An indictment for murder could contain only one count and Chapman was therefore charged only with the murder of Maud Marsh. He was prosecuted by Sir Archibald Bodkin and the solicitor-general, Sir Edward Carson, convicted on March 19, 1903, and hanged at Wandsworth Prison on April 7, 1903.

Jack the Ripper suspect[edit]

One of the detectives at Scotland Yard, Frederick Abberline, is reported to have told George Godley,[2] the policeman who arrested Klosowski: "You've got Jack the Ripper at last!"[3] In two 1903 interviews with the Pall Mall Gazette, Abberline spelled out his suspicions, referring to Klosowski by name.[4] Abberline thought he was because during the "Jack the Ripper" frenzy he had closely interviewed his first "wife" since arriving in England, Lucie Badewski, she had told him that her husband often used to go out during the night for hours on end.[1] Furthermore, Chapman had arrived at Whitechapel roughly around the time the first murder took place.[1] His description matched the man seen with Mary Kelly (one of the Jack the Ripper victims) and the murders stopped when he left for America.[1] However, there were two unsolved questions that caused doubt on whether Chapman was Jack the Ripper.[1] Speculation in contemporary newspaper accounts and books has led to Chapman, like fellow serial killer Thomas Neill Cream, becoming one of many individuals cited as a possible suspect in the infamous Jack the Ripper murders of 1888. In The Complete History of Jack the Ripper, Philip Sugden argued that Chapman is the most likely candidate among known Ripper suspects, but that the case is far from proven.[5] As far as is known, Chapman was not a suspect at the time of the murders either under his proper name, or as "Ludwig Schloski", a name he was using in London. Chapman was a later surname borrowed from one of his common-law wives whom he did not poison — Annie Chapman (not to be confused with the Jack the Ripper victim of the same name).

The case against Chapman rests mainly on the point that he undoubtedly was a violent man with a misogynistic streak. Chapman is known as a poisoner and not a mutilator, but was known to beat his common-law wives and was prone to other violent behaviour. In one incident often used as an argument to link him to the Ripper crimes, while living in the United States, Chapman allegedly forced his wife, Lucy Klosowska, down on their bed and began to strangle her, only stopping to attend to a customer who had walked into the adjoining shop he owned. When he left, she was said to have found a knife under the pillow. He reportedly later told her that he had planned to kill her, even pointing out the spot where he would have buried her and reciting what he would have said to their neighbours.[6]

It is even suggested that he may have carried out a Ripper-style killing in New York City, the murder of Carrie Brown,[5] but recent research suggests he did not reach the United States until after this incident.[7]

There is a lack of any hard evidence that would link Chapman to the Ripper murders. Most scholars also believe the Ripper selected victims who were previously unknown to him, while Chapman killed acquaintances. In Jack the Ripper: An Encyclopedia John Eddleston rates Chapman at only 2 ("a remote possibility") on his 0 to 5 rating of Ripper suspects. He argues that although Chapman did live in Whitechapel it was not particularly near the murders, and as a 22-year-old immigrant he is unlikely to have had detailed knowledge of the area which the Ripper seems to have had.[8]

Chapman's story was dramatised twice by Towers of London. Firstly in 1949 in Secrets of Scotland Yard as George Chapman... Poisoner, Publican and Lady Killer and then again in a 1951 episode of The Black Museum entitled "The Straight Razor". Both conclude with a brief argument for Chapman's identity as Jack the Ripper.

A biography of Chapman was published by the Hastings Press in 2014: Wojtczak,H, "Jack the Ripper At Last? The Mysterious Murders of George Chapman". [9]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f The two unsolved questions that have never been answered to support the theory that Chapman was Jack the Ripper is whether or not he could speak English when he arrived? Could the murders change so drastically from physical mutilation to poisoning? Peter De Loriol (2010). Murder and Crime in London. History Press Limited. p. 61, 62. ISBN 978-0-7524-5657-7. 
  2. ^ http://www.casebook.org/police_officials/po-god.html
  3. ^ Sugden, p439.
  4. ^ Sugden, pp440—441.
  5. ^ a b Sugden, p465.
  6. ^ Jack the Ripper, the most famous serial killer of all time - The Crime library
  7. ^ Vanderlinden, Wolf, "The New York Affair - Part 3" Ripper Notes #19 (July 2004) ISBN 0-9759129-0-9
  8. ^ Eddleston, John J. Jack the Ripper: An Encyclopedia
  9. ^ http://www.hastingspress.co.uk/chapman.html

References[edit]