Mary Pearcey’s crimes were so horrific that she’s been suspected of being Jack the Ripper, says JON REES
On the evening of 24th October 1890, a woman’s body was found on a rubbish heap at Hampstead, London.
The woman skull had been crushed and head nearly severed from her body.
Half a mile away, a black pram was found with its cushions soaked in blood and in Finchley the body of an 18-month-old baby was found, smothered.
This horrific crime shocked London and this horror would only increase that this brutal murder was committed by a woman.
On the day of her murder, the victim (Phoebe Hogg) had visited the home of her friend Mary Pearcey in Kentish Town, with her young baby (also named Phoebe) at Mary’s request for afternoon tea.
At approximately 4pm, neighbours heard shouting, screaming and the sound of glass breaking and violence.
Some reports state that Mary was later seen pushing a black pram through the streets that evening and others state that she would accompanied Phoebe’s sister to identify the bodies and became hysterical, denying the body was that of Phoebe.
Three days later when police came to search the house, they found blood stains on the walls, on clothing and on cutlery.
When asked for the source of the blood Mary replied that she “’had a problem with mice and was trying to kill them”.
Sir Melville Macnaghten – who was Chief Constable of the Metropolitan Police at the time – paints a very different picture of Mary.
He claims that while her house was being searched she calmly sat playing the piano and when questioned about the blood she chanted “Killing mice, killing mice, killing mice”.
At her trial, Mary continually protested her innocence but she was nonetheless convicted of murder and sentenced to death by hanging.
The night before her death, she reportedly instructed her solicitor to place a notice in a Madrid newspaper reading “MECP last wish of MEW, have not betrayed MEW” – the meaning of this message has never been deciphered.
James Berry would carry out the execution on the 23rd December 1890 and he later reminisced she was the calmest person he had on his scaffold, and also that she made a last minute confession before her death.
What was the motive behind the murder?
The motive for the murder seems to have been a love triangle.
Mary was in love with Frank Hogg, Phoebe’s husband, with whom she had previously had an affair and was known to be jealous of Phoebe’s relationship with Frank.
What we will never know is whether Mary killed Phoebe Hogg and baby Phoebe in a fit of rage or if the murder was cruelly premeditated.
Immediately after the trial Madam Tussauds commissioned a waxwork of Mary Pearcey and purchased the bloodstained pram and contents of the kitchen to put on display. Over 30,000 people came to see the exhibit when it opened.
Such were the horrific nature of Mary Pearcey’s crimes, she has even accused of having committed the murders of Jack the Ripper in the East End two years previously. There is no actual evidence to link her to these though, only pure speculation.
Such is the memory and legend of Pearcey’s murders that her ghost has been said to still walk the streets of London.
Her ghostly apparition, in blood stained clothes has been reportedly said to push a black pram through the streets and sometimes walk out into traffic before vanishing.
Yet these sightings have apparently occurred around Whitechapel, several miles away where she committed her crimes and disposed of the bodies.