On December, 20th, 1881, seven-year-old Georgina Ann Moore went missing as she made her way to school in Pimlico in West London.
Despite huge efforts by the police, no trace of her could be found, until, at the end of January, 1882, her body as found in the River Yalding in Kent. It was more than evident that she had been murdered, and the crime truly shocked the people of Victorian Britain.
National outrage increased dramatically when, in the weeks following the murder, a suspect was arrested and a sordid web of adultery and deceit began to unfold.
On 18ty February, 1882, The Penny Illustrated Paper provided readers with the known facts about the case:-
THE MYSTERY OF GEORGINA MOORE’S DISAPPEARANCE
“The fiction of the stage and the novel has once again been eclipsed. What has come to be known as “The Pimlico Mystery” transcends in horrors the most realistic stories and dramas of Zola and Wilkie Collins.
Here, in cold blood, has been perpetrated a murder, the diabolical nature of which must have occasioned a painful sensation in every British household. This terrible domestic tragedy has now reached a stage which renders it expedient to review the sad circumstances of the case in the order in which they startled the town.
THE MOORE FAMILY
Mr and Mrs Moore are humble people, who came up from their native place in Devonshire five or six years ago, and have no relatives and few friends in London. They are honest, sober folk, the father being a carpenter who has been for some time in the employment of a firm in the west end of London.
Their family consisted of two children only – the child Georgina, who has come to an untimely an end, and whose age was seven and a half years, and a little boy who is younger.
For six months past, the family have lodged at No. 105, Winchester-street, Pimlico, one of those small stuccoed houses with pretentious pillared porticoes which extend in such distressing regularity in various directions throughout that labyrinth of new streets.
THE DAY OF HER DISAPPEARANCE
From this house the child set forth as usual on the morning of Tuesday, December 20th, for the girls’ school of the United Methodists’ Free Church in Westmoreland-street, nearby. she never returned to her home; but she was seen again, safe and well, at midday at No. 7, Westmoreland -street, where the mother happened to be staying that day on a visit.
The child here had her dinner with the mother and her hostess, and, at half-past one in the day, she left to return to the school.
She was not accompanied any other person; but danger or mishap could reasonably have been expected, for she was bright and intelligent little thing, known for her punctuality and diligence in learning at her school lessons; and among the most puzzling features of the case is the fact that, far from her having any long journey to make, the school building was only next door to the dwelling which the child had dinner at with her mother and friend.
Certain, however, it is that the child never appeared at the school again.
A DESCRIPTION OF THE GIRL
Georgina Moore was tall for her age, her complexion was very fair with bright colour, hair golden with fringe on forehead, eyes (full) blue.
Her dress was dark blue serge frock, dark ulster with two rows of black buttons, white straw lint trimmed with black velvet, dark blue knitted stockings, button boots.
The police authorities at Scotland Yard from the first did all in their power to bring about the discovery of Georgina Moore.
Mr. C. E. Howard Vincent (who has recently been indisposed, we regret to hear, in consequence of the pressure of public duties) and Chief Superintendent Williamson went thoroughly into the case; and it was assuredly from no lack of personal exertions on the part of the zealous officers of the Criminal Investigation Department that the “Pimlico Mystery” was not elucidated earlier.
BARGEMAN PINHORN FINDS THE BODY IN THE MEDWAY
Imagine the suspense of Mr. and Mrs. Moore during the week that elapsed between the sadly memorable 20th of December and Monday, January 30th, when the body of their little daughter was found in the River Medway.
Alfred Pinhorn, of the barge Maidstone, explained to the Coroner’s jury at the Yalding Railway Inn, on February 1st, how he came across the corpse.
It was quite by accident.
Pinhorn said he was on his barge on the Monday afternoon in question, proceeding up the river towards Tonbridge. When near Hampstead Lock, he struck the barge-pole – called “the beam” – in the bed of the river, and, pulling it out, he found the dead body of a girl transfixed on the iron spike.
THE BODY RETRIEVED
His mate, Swain, helped him to get the body out. A piece of wire was wound thrice round the waist; and at the end of the wire was attached a brick, stamped with a crown and the letters TYNEE.
The apparent age, the correspondence in every little detail of the child’s clothing with the description in the police handbills offering £40 reward for Georgina Moore’s discovery, and even a similarity, dimly traceable, in the features to those of the photographic portrait, caused the police authorities to telegraph immediately for the father, who, upon his arrival at Yalding on Tuesday week, at once identified the remains as those of his child.
That a most cruel murder had been committed was beyond question. The neck bore strong and distinct dark lines, showing that the child had been strangled before being thrown into the river.
MRS ESTHER PAY SUSPECTED
Mrs. Esther Pay, who was on Tuesday week arrested at Yalding, near the spot where the body was discovered, was living at the time of the child’s disappearance in Westmoreland-street, some twenty doors or so only from the school.
It seems right to say that the Moores seem to have entertained, no suspicion of this woman. They had lodged at one time, and for as long a period as two years, in the house of the Pays, and they had left them it, is alleged, upon ground more than likely to have excited jealous feelings in the mind of the mother of the child.
The house in which the Pay’s live is a quiet two-storied house, let out in part to lodgers, and it is to the eye the last place in which it would be easy to conceal and keep prisoner an intelligent child.
Here, moreover, Mrs. Pay continued to live quietly week after week during the excitement; and more than once she ventured to call upon Mrs. Moore since the child’s disappearance, professing sympathy and sorrow for her loss.
SHE DOES A FLIT
But about a fortnight ago Mrs. Pay flitted. She took with her openly a portion of the furniture – her husband, who works at night at a neighbouring wheel maker’s, being then absent.
The rumour is that, though this step was without his knowledge or consent, Mr. Pay declined to trouble himself about his partner, professing to be glad to be rid of his bargain.
However this may be, the discovery has since been made that Mrs. Pay had, in the first instance, gone no further than to a lodging of her own in a neighbouring street, where her furniture, it is believed, still remains.
THE ARREST OF ESTHER PAY
Nothing more, however, seems to have been seen of her for some days, till she was on Tuesday week discovered to be staying with friends at the obscure little Kentish village where the body of the child had been identified just before.
We now come to Wednesday, February 1st, when Esther Pay, aged thirty-five, described as a fine-looking woman, married, and living at 51, Westmoreland-street, Pimlico, was charged before Mr. Partridge, at Westminster Police Court, on suspicion of causing the death of Georgina Moore.
An active and efficient officer of the Criminal Investigation Department, Inspector Henry Marshall, said that he had arrested Mrs. Pay on the Tuesday in a cottage at Yalding.
In a bag of hers he found a copy of the Penny Illustrated Paper, containing the above reprinted portrait of Georgina Moore.
He also discovered a piece of paper on which were what he believed to be blood-stains; likewise a somewhat familiar letter written by Mrs. Pay to Mr. Moore.
HER MOTIVE WAS JEALOUSY
The Inspector’s evidence proved another curious fact – that during the railway journey to London, and before, the prisoner repeatedly wished him to invite Mr. Moore to ride in the same carriage with them, and that she more than once let drop words intended to implicate the father in the murder of his little girl. For instance, Mrs. Pay said to Inspector Marshall, “Well, don’t feel surprised if he bolts, and then you will find that the most guilty party is gone.”
Mr. Partridge:- “You are sure she said the most guilty?”
The Witness:- “Oh, yes. We were not alone during any part of the journey.
Later on, she said, “This child has been killed out of spite to Moore, for he has served women very badly, and one that I know worse than me, and has served me bad enough. Why don’t you discover them? Then you may get on the right track. One can only die once, and I shall not die a coward. That is all.”
THE FUNERAL OF GEORGINA MOORE
A remarkable demonstration took place in Pimlico, last Saturday afternoon, at the funeral of the murdered child.
The coffin was placed in an open car, and a crowd of over two thousand people assembled in the neighbourhood of the residence of the parents in Winchester-street.
On the father being seen to enter one of the mourning coaches he was groaned and hissed at, and a large force of police, under two inspectors, had great difficulty in protecting him from personal violence at the hands the mob.
A strong cordon of constables was obliged to be formed round the vehicle, and they accompanied the cortege in this manner to the place of interment at Brompton Cemetery, the mob augmenting along the line of the route and continuing their demonstrations.
The scene within the cemetery was shocking and scandalous, and so threatening was the attitude of the crowd that the police took the responsibility of locking Mr. Moore in the chapel, and he was unable to go to the grave or return with the other mourners. He was not released to proceed home until after dark, when the crowd had dispersed.
MR. MOORE’S STATEMENT
The father of the deceased states that, although he had suffered a good deal from the exhibition of public feeling against him since the Police-Court proceedings, still he was sure that nothing that the prisoner could say could affect him.
It was true he had been to Yalding, but not for two years, and neither the accused nor he endeavoured after the arrest to engage in conversation at the railway station.
Moore states that he accompanied the prisoner to London Bridge on the night of Saturday, the 28th ult. He did not believe that the prisoner going Yalding until after he saw her take her ticket at Charing-cross for that station. He wanted to know whether she was really going out of London, and he accompanied her in the train as far as his destination.
Nearly all the way she was talking about Georgina, and she begged of him to write and let her know if any information was obtained concerning her. In fact, ever since the girl was missing she had professed the greatest anxiety about the fate of the child – of whom she said she was very fond and frequently she had been or had sent twice a day to make inquiries.
The deceased had often been out walking with the accused, and if she had met her and asked her, his daughter would, no doubt, have gone off anywhere with her.
The little girl had an elder brother, but Mrs. Pay had never manifested the same interest in that child.
MRS. PAY AND GEORGINA MOORE
The industrious collectors of information for the Press – a hardworking fraternity, whose zeal is scarcely rewarded as well as it ought to be – had made it clear, days before, that there would be evidence of the gravest importance forthcoming at the Westminster Police Court on Wednesday.
But it may deemed of most interest to put this intelligence in a narrative form.
Good grounds are adduced for the supposition that Georgina Moore was murdered at Yalding, on the evening of the day she left her home.
The date of the murder is fixed in a singular manner – viz., by the partially-digested food found in the stomach. The mother remembers that the little girl partook heartily of bread and milk for breakfast, and at dinner time ate freely of currant-pudding. Food of an exactly similar character was found by the doctors who made the post-mortem examination.
The mother can also state that the child had not taken her clothes off and redressed, because she dressed the child on the morning of December 20th, and the fastenings and method of arranging the apparel had not been disturbed.
SEEN BY SEVERAL WITNESSES
Early in the afternoon in question, the murdered child is alleged have been seen by some of her playmates and acquaintances in company with the prisoner in the street in Pimlico – and a constable named Hill also saw the little girl with a woman whose face he did not see, but who corresponds in height and other particulars with the accused.
MRS. PAY’S MOVEMENTS
At the interviews Inspector Marshall had with her prior her arrest she only accounted for her time on the afternoon and night of December 20th by stating that she was with her sister-in-law, Mrs. Rutter, walking about Fulham, Hammersmith, and the King’s-road, Chelsea, looking at the shops.
She could not name any particular place where they had been to, nor where she had had dinner.
Mrs. Rutter only gave a vague corroboration of the prisoner’s story.
The prisoner did not get home until nearly midnight on the night of December 20th, and she then said that she was wet through with rain, and was very tired.
A SAD STORY
The cause of the death of the child, according to the medical report furnished to the police, was strangulation.
Truly this “Pimlico Mystery” is one of the saddest stories that have ever been revealed in Modern Babylon, whose dark secret will, it is to be feared, will never be wholly divulged.”