Camden Town Murder

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Robert Wood, the acquitted defendant

The Camden Town Murder was a murder which took place in Camden Town, London in 1907. Robert Wood, an artist, was tried for the murder of prostitute Emily Dimmock and acquitted after a brilliant defence by Edward Marshall Hall.[1][2]

On 11 September 1907, Emily Dimmock (known as Phyllis), a part-time prostitute cheating on her partner Bertram Shaw, a railwayman, was murdered in her home at Agar Grove (then 29 St Paul's Road), Camden, having gone there from The Eagle public house, Royal College Street.[3] After sex, the man had slit her throat open while she was asleep, then left in the morning.[1] On the 12th, Shaw returned home during the evening to find his room locked. He borrowed a key from a neighbour, and upon entering found Phyllis lying naked on the bed, throat cut from ear to ear. It was a savage but skillful attack on her from the nature of the wound. Nothing much had been taken from the flat, and the motive was a mystery; the case quickly became a sensation.

After initial difficulty, the police investigation led by Inspector Neill centred on Robert Wood, an artist. Wood was in a relationship with Ruby Young, who recognised his handwriting on a postcard found in Dimmock's room. Wood was put on trial for the murder, during which Marshall Hall displayed the kind of effective and dramatic cross-examination that he was known for. Marshall Hall was convinced of Wood's innocence, and also of the fallibility of the prosecution case. The judge Mr Justice Grantham departed from the pro-conviction stance he was expected to take mid-summing up, and made it clear he thought the jury should acquit. They did, after retiring for 15 minutes between 7.45 and 8pm.[2]

The artist Walter Sickert adopted the phrase The Camden Town Murder for a series of etchings, paintings and drawing in 1908-9, in each of which the subjects are a clothed man and a nude woman.[3] A television series, Killer in Close-Up, dramatised by George F. Kerr, featured the case in the episode "The Robert Wood Trial". The episode was produced by Sydney television station ABN-2 and broadcast on 4 September 1957. More than thirty years later, the court case featured in an episode of the BBC series Shadow of the Noose in 1989, with Jonathan Hyde as Marshall Hall, and Peter Capaldi as Wood.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Januszczak, Waldemar. "Walter Sickert - murderous monster or sly self-promoter?" The Times, 4 November 2007. Retrieved 13 September 2008.
  2. ^ a b Edward Marjoribanks, Famous Trials of Marshall Hall, Penguin, 1989. ISBN 0-14-011556-0
  3. ^ a b Wendy Baron, Sickert: paintings and drawings, Yale University Press, 2006, ISBN 0-300-11129-0, p.73