In Victorian England, fishing all manner of filth, detritus and human body parts from the Thames River in London was not such an unusual affair. Used for centuries as a dumping ground and waste disposal, it became so bad by the mid 19th Century that it was renamed “The Great Stink”. In 1879, a coal porter pulled out an old wooden box and unearthed one of the more macabre treats the river has tossed up over the years when he opened it to discover a heavily mutilated body. The mutilations might have been somewhat notable, but far more so was the killer, who once tracked down was found to be a woman, a fact that rocketed it straight into the spotlight of public attention.

O’Donnell, Elliot (1925) Trial of Kate Webster. W. Hodge, London, UK.
Court Transcript (1879) Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 8.0, 30 June 2021), June 1879, trial of CATHERINE WEBSTER (29) (t18790630-653).
Fuller, Katie Lisette (2009) Victorian airbrushing: cultural, physical and artistic representations of upper-class women of then and today. Graduate Theses and Dissertations, 11105. Iowa State University, USA.
Wilkes, David (2011) Cut up and boiled to feed street children: Horrific fate of Victorian murder victim whose skull was found in David Attenborough’s garden. The Daily Mail, 6th July, 2011, London, UK
The Execution of Kate Webster and its Lessons. South Wales Daily News, p.2, 30th July 1879, Wales, UK.
The Barnes Mystery. Wolverhampton Express and Star, p.3, 12th March 1879, Wolverhampton, UK.
Mysterious Package from the Thames. The Daily Review, p.3, 11th March 1879, Edinburgh, UK.
Extraordinary Discovery. The Nottingham Evening post, p.3, 10th march 1879, Nottingham, UK.
Home News. Paisley & Renfrewshire Gazette, p.2, 8th March 1879, UK.

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