George Chapman (murderer)

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George Chapman
George chapman illo.jpg
Illustration of George Chapman from a newspaper
Born Seweryn Antonowicz Kłosowski
(1865-12-14)14 December 1865
Nagórna, Congress Poland
Died 7 April 1903(1903-04-07) (aged 37)
HM Prison Wandsworth, London, England, UK
Cause of death Hanging
Other names Ludwig Schloski
Criminal penalty Death
Victims 3
Span of killings
Country England
Date apprehended

George Chapman (14 December 1865 – 7 April 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 police officers suspected him of being the notorious serial killer Jack the Ripper.

Early life[edit]

Chapman was born in the village of Nagórna, (now part of Koło), in the Warsaw Governorate of Congress Poland.[1] According to a certificate found in his personal effects after his arrest, he was apprenticed at age 14 to a senior surgeon, Moshko (Mosze) Rappaport, in Zwoleń, whom he assisted in procedures such as the application of leeches for blood-letting.[1] He then enrolled on a course in practical surgery at the Warsaw Praga Hospital.[1] 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 nurse, or doctor's assistant in Warsaw until December 1886.[1] He later left Poland for London, though the time he arrived at London has never been reliably ascertained. Witness testimony at his trial seems to indicate that he emigrated to London in 1888.[2] During his stay in the East End he had married a young Polish girl, Lucie Badewski in 1889 and had two children with her[3] and soon afterwards was confronted because of this by his original Polish wife.[2]

Crimes and execution[edit]

Chapman took at least four mistresses, who posed as his wife. Three were poisoned to death by him.[4] They were Mary Isabella Spink (1858 - 25 December 1897),[5] Bessie Taylor (died 14 February 1901)[5] and Maud Marsh (died 22 October 1902).[6] He administered the compound tartar-emetic to each of them, having purchased it from a chemist in Hastings, Sussex.[7] Rich in the metallic element antimony, improper usage of tartar-emetic causes a painful death with symptoms similar to arsenic poisoning.[7]

His motives for these murders are unclear. In one case, his victim left him a legacy of £500, but he gained nothing from the other two victims.[8]

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.[6]

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 19 March 1903 and hanged at Wandsworth Prison on 7 April 1903.[6] Immediately following his death his widow Lucie Kłosowski married Frank Szymanski in April 1903.[9]

Jack the Ripper suspect[edit]

George Champman

One of the detectives at Scotland Yard, Frederick Abberline, is reported to have told George Godley,[10] the policeman who arrested Kłosowski: "You've got Jack the Ripper at last!"[11] In two 1903 interviews with the Pall Mall Gazette, Abberline spelled out his suspicions, referring to Kłosowski by name.[12] Abberline thought Chapman was Jack the Ripper because during the "Jack the Ripper" frenzy he had closely interviewed his first "wife" since arriving in England, Lucie Badewski, and she had told him that her husband often used to go out during the night for hours on end.[2]

Speculation in contemporary newspaper accounts and books has led to Chapman, like fellow serial killer Thomas Neill Cream, becoming one of many suspects in the infamous Jack the Ripper murders of 1888. As far as is known, Chapman was not a suspect at the time of the murders. Chapman was a later surname borrowed in 1895 from one of his common-law wives whom he did not poison — (Sarah) Annie Chapman (not to be confused with the Jack the Ripper victim of the same name).[13]

Recent writers are divided about whether Chapman should be regarded as a serious Ripper suspect. Philip Sugden considered that Chapman is the most likely candidate among known Ripper suspects, but that the case against him is far from proven.[14] However John Eddleston rated Chapman at only 2 ("a remote possibility") on his 0 to 5 rating of Ripper suspects.[15] Paul Begg only dealt with Chapman briefly, and evidently did not regard him as a serious suspect.[16]

The case against Chapman rests mainly on the point that he undoubtedly was a violent man with a misogynistic streak. He was known to beat his common-law-wives and was prone to other violent behaviour. While living in the US, Chapman allegedly forced his wife, Lucy Klosowska, down on their bed and began to strangle her, only stopping to attend to a customer who walked into the shop which adjoined their room. When he left, she was said to have found a knife under the pillow. He reportedly later told her that he had planned to behead her, even pointing out the spot where he would have buried her and reciting what he would have said to their neighbours.[17]

Chapman had arrived at Whitechapel roughly around the time the first murder took place.[2] His description matched the man seen with Mary Jane Kelly (the fifth victim of the "canonical five") and the murders stopped when he left for the US.[2] It has even been suggested that he carried out a Ripper-style killing in New York City, the murder of Carrie Brown,[14] but recent research suggests he did not reach the US until after this murder.[18]

However, there is a lack of any hard evidence that would link Chapman to the Ripper murders. The main argument against treating him as a serious Ripper suspect is that it would be unusual for a serial killer to change his method of killing, from mutilation to poisoning,[16] although some authorities have cast doubt on whether this is as unusual as is supposed.[19] There is also some doubt about whether he could speak English at the time, as the Ripper would have had to, and whether as a recent immigrant he would have had the intimate knowledge of the Whitechapel district that the Ripper seems to have had.[2][15] The Ripper appears to have selected victims who were previously unknown to him, while Chapman killed acquaintances, and although Chapman did live in Whitechapel it was not particularly near the scene of the murders.[15]

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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Philip Sugden, "The Complete History of Jack the Ripper", p.441
  2. ^ a b c d e f Peter De Loriol (2010). Murder and Crime in London. History Press Limited. p. 61, 62. ISBN 978-0-7524-5657-7. 
  3. ^ Severin Antoniovich Klosowski on - pay to view
  4. ^ Philip Sugden, "The Complete History of Jack the Ripper" p. 458
  5. ^ a b Philip Sugden, "The Complete History of Jack the Ripper", p.445
  6. ^ a b c Philip Sugden, "The Complete History of Jack the Ripper", p.447
  7. ^ a b Philip Sugden, "The Complete History of Jack the Ripper, p.444
  8. ^ Philip Sugden, "The Complete History of Jack the Ripper", p.462
  9. ^ Marriage of Frank Szymanski and Lucie Kłosowski in the England & Wales, Free BMD Marriage Index, 1837-1915 - pay to view
  10. ^
  11. ^ Philip Sugden, "The Complete History of Jack the Ripper", p. 439
  12. ^ Philip Sugden, "The Complete history of Jack the Ripper", pp.440—441.
  13. ^ Philip Sugden, "The Complete History of Jack the Ripper, p.443
  14. ^ a b Philip Sugden, "The Complete History of Jack the Ripper", p.465
  15. ^ a b c Eddleston, John J Jack the Ripper: An Encyclopedia
  16. ^ a b Begg, Paul Jack the Ripper: The Facts
  17. ^ Philip Sugden, "The Complete History of Jack the Ripper", pp. 449-50
  18. ^ Vanderlinden, Wolf, "The New York Affair - Part 3" Ripper Notes #19 (July 2004) ISBN 0-9759129-0-9
  19. ^ John Douglas, "American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology", p.169