Following the murder of Miss Elizabeth Camp in a railway carriage on the evening of the 11th of February, 1897, the police carried out extensive enquiries and followed up numerous clues as they endeavoured to bring the perpetrator of the crime to justice.
The Hull Daily Mail provided readers with an update on the case in its edition of Thursday, 18th February, 1897:-
MISS CAMP’S MURDER
DECEASED’S LOVER GETS A LETTER FROM THE ALLEGED MURDERER
“The police have had handed over to them a letter sent to Mr Berry, the dead girl’s intended, from somebody signing himself “Your Enemy.” It came unstamped through the post, and cost Berry 2d.
It was written by some illiterate person, stating that he did the deed out of revenge, and had escaped right under the noses of the “‘tecs.”
It is regarded as a contemptible hoax.”
THE MAN IN THE ALMA
The newspaper then went on to mention the fact that a potential suspect may have entered the Alma Pub in Wandsworth shortly after having committed the murder:-
“It has been learned that the detectives under Chief Inspector Marshall are now devoting almost their whole attention to the discovery of the man who got off the train on which Miss Camp met her death, and entered the Alma public-house, Wandsworth.
The best description of this man is that he is about 5ft 6in or 5ft 7in tall, has a thin face, not much colour, slight – or, at least, not heavy – dark brown moustache, with a tinge of red in it. He wore a dark overcoat and a bowler hat.
He about forty years of age and is in appearance a man who works hard – probably he is a mechanic or a tailor, his clothes favouring the latter opinion.
TEMPTED BY HER PURSE
The theory that a former lover of Miss Camp committed the crime through rage or jealousy is now abandoned, and the belief that finds most favour is that the murderer had purchased a third-class ticket, but entered the second-class compartment because he saw a woman who was sitting alone, carrying a tempting-looking, long green purse.
The pestle is not turning out so good a clue as was at first supposed. Mortars wear out more quickly than pestles. For this reason, pestles may be seen on barrows and in small shops for sale everywhere for a trifle.
The pestle in Chief Inspector Marshall’s possession is exactly 12 inches long. So far the blood and hair have not been washed from it.”
Throughout the rest of February, and on through March and April, numerous men were arrested by the police on suspicion of having carried out Miss Camp’s murder, but none of these suspects, so it transpired, could be proven to have carried out the crime.
As a result of the ongoing investigation into the murder, the inquest into Miss Camp’s death dragged on throughout the rest of February, on through March and into April.
A BLOODSTAINED VISITOR
At the resumed inquest on Tuesday, 6th April, a barman at the Alma pub provided some information about the suspicious character who had entered the pub on the night of the murder:-
“Herbert Ford, a barman at the Alma public-house, York-road, Wandsworth, deposed that on the evening of February 11th (the night of the murder) a strange man came into the bar and said to the witness, “Can you get me a cab?” This was between half-past eight o’clock and nine. On his front were some bloodstains.
The Coroner:- “Were there any scratches about the man?”
Witness:- “Yes; he had some on the left side of his face and his hands were bloody. He said he wanted the cab to go to Waltham Green to pay some money and added, “I’ll give anything to get there.”
The Coroner:- “Had the man any money?”
Witness:- “Yes; he showed some gold and silver. When asked about the marks on his front he said nothing. He was wearing a moustache.”
The witness was not able to identify anyone in court as the man who entered the public-house.”
Although several men were named as possible suspects at the inquest, none of them proved viable, and, on Wednesday, 7th April, 1897, on the final day of the inquest, the verdict returned a verdict of “wilful murder against some person, or persons, unknown.”
Although the police carried on their enquiries through the summer of 1897, by the autumn of the year they were no closer to catching the murderer than they had been when the crime took place in February.
Gradually, with no new news on the case, the papers began to lose interest.
THE MURDER OF MISS CAMP
LUNATIC SUSPECTED OF THE CRIME
And then, in October, 1897, new evidence led to a flurry of renewed press interest in the case.
The Manchester Evening News reported on the new information in its edition of Saturday, 16th October, 1897:-
“At the beginning of this week, the police authorities were placed in possession of certain facts which seemed to point conclusively to the identity the man who, on the evening of February 11th last, murdered Miss Elizabeth Camp in a second-class compartment of a railway carriage between Hounslow and Waterloo.
The new suspect is a gentleman of good family, who has on several occasions manifested homicidal tendencies, leading on one occasion to his being placed in a private lunatic asylum by his friends.
On the day preceding the murder of Miss Camp the man left his home with a pestle in his possession, returning some days afterwards without the pestle, and failing to give any reasons to account for his absence.
For various reasons, among others, the condition of his clothing, and the description of the pestle found on the line, the man’s relatives at once suspected him of having been concerned in the murder of Miss Camp, and again placed him under control, representing him as a dangerous homicidal maniac. He recovered, however, sufficiently to be able to demand his release from the private asylum in which he had been placed, and this was granted him by the officials.
Subsequently, however, in consequence of another outbreak, it was found necessary to again detain him, and his relatives on a full consideration of the facts, and acting under advice, communicated their suspicions concerning him to the police.
Their object in so doing is to make certain of his permanent detention in a lunatic asylum.
The portrait of the man has been, we are informed, identified under circumstances which make it clear that he corresponds in appearance with the suspected person who was seen on the night of the murder to leave the train by which Miss Camp travelled at one of the stations between Hounslow and Waterloo.
It is suggested that he spent the days following the murder and prior to his return home in travelling about the country, and Inspector-Detective Marshall, of Scotland Yard, and Superintendent Robinson, of Waterloo Station, are at present out of London endeavouring to trace the new suspect’s movements.”
THE CAMP MURDER – SENSATIONAL DISCOVERY
The South Wales Daily News, on Monday, 18th October, 1897, provided more details on the latest facts:-
“Some excitement was caused in Hounslow and the surrounding district on Friday by the statement that the Scotland Yard and railway authorities had reopened the investigation into the circumstances attending the murder of Miss Camp in a second-class carriage on the London and South-Western Railway.
The local police were on the alert all day in expectation of a visit by Chief-Inspector Marshall to the district, in which the unfortunate young woman was last alive on the night of the tragedy. It is believed, however, that beyond an exchange of messages the local authorities were not in any way affected by the renewed activity of the Criminal Investigation Department.
One fact of sensational interest has, however, come to light, which may possibly account for the rumoured reopening of the case. It gives also some indication as to the nature of the fresh clue, and as to the direction that the inquiries would take.
During the examination of the second-class carriage in which Miss Camp’s body was found, pieces of a torn-up letter were discovered in the window socket of the door. These were carefully put together, and the main matter of the document was found to be pretty well intact. The headlines and the signature were, however, missing.
The paper was much stained with blood, but the authorities were able to decipher the handwriting, which was that of a man, sufficiently to find out that it referred to a meeting with the deceased, to permission that was to be obtained from the matron of a certain hospital to go out, and, most of all, to a serious disagreement between the parties.”
THE MURDER OF MISS CAMP
The St James’s Gazette, on Wednesday 20th October, 1897, reported on the direction the police investigation was taking:-
“It is reported from Penzance that the clue on which Chief Inspector Marshall and Superintendent Robinson are working in regard to the murder of Miss Camp is an investigation of the movements and of certain circumstances in connection with a gentleman in a good position who is a lunatic.
This gentleman lived in Penzance with his wife for some months, and the principal suspicious circumstance is that he was seen at Penzance with a pestle in his possession.
The efforts of the detectives have been to obtain information as to whether the pestle in their possession is that which the gentleman had at Penzance.
It is now pretty well certain that it is not the same, for the lady who saw the gentleman with the instrument fails to identify it and expresses the opinion that it was a smaller one.
The man, whose home is close to the scene of the murder, is stated to have left Penzance on the morning of the murder, but it is not known that he got further than Bristol. The police are investigating his movements in that city.”
IT CAME TO NOTHING
However, just as with all the other suspects, this seeming breakthrough came to nothing and, as 1898 began, the murderer of Miss Camp was still at large.
Indeed, the murder, just like the Jack the Ripper Whitechapel murders, remains unsolved.
THE POLICE CHIEF’S REPORT
The Metropolitan Police most certainly appear to have believed that the unidentified man seen in the Alma pub was the perpetrator of the crime.
Indeed, in his report of criminal statistics for the year 1897, published in November, 1898, the Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Edward Bradford, specifically stated that, had his force been alerted to the murder sooner, the killer would undoubtedly have been captured:-
“During the time that thus elapsed the murderer was drinking in a public-house, but the opportunity of taking him red-handed was lost, and evidence was afterwards lacking to justify an arrest.”
RAILWAY POLICE INDIGNANT
However, as was reported by Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper on Sunday, 27th November, 1898, the fact the Metropolitan Police Commissioner had seen fit to criticise the handling of the initial investigation by the officers of the South Western Railway Police, did not go down too well with that police force:-
“The Commissioner’s direct reflection upon the S.W.R. police has been received by them with disappointment and indignation, as, in their opinion, giving a false impression of the part they played in connection with the murder of Miss Camp.
It is pointed out that everything was done by the railway police that ought to have been done when the tragedy was discovered. The porter who opened the carriage door and found Miss Camp’s body under the seat thought at first it was a case of suicide, and that she might still be alive and capable of resuscitation. It was for that reason that the body was conveyed to St. Thomas’s Hospital.
THE METROPOLITAN POLICE NOTIFIED
As soon as the doctor there certified that the young woman was dead, an L-division constable who was on duty at the hospital gates was informed of the tragedy. That officer then stripped and examined the body in the mortuary and reported the case to Kennington-lane police-station.
Not till the next morning at nine o’clock, say the railway police, did Scotland yard commence investigations.
Overnight Superintendent Robinson, of the railway, was called by wire from a dinner up the line, and spent the whole night at Hounslow prosecuting inquiries, and, early in the morning, he had several of the deceased girl’s relatives interviewed.
THEY DISCOVERED THE PUB CLUE
It was the railway police who discovered the public-house clue to which the Commissioner referred, but they deny having kept back any information from Scotland Yard.
In these circumstances, it is not surprising that they resent the course taken to excuse the Metropolitan Police by gratuitously heaping blame on them.
It does not appear, either, that the railway police know who the murderer is, as Scotland Yard claims to do.”