“I am Jack––” Lambeth poisoner not Whitechapel killer

On this day in London’s history… the 15th of November 1892 saw Dr Thomas Neill Cream executed for murder. The Scottish doctor allegedly said “I am Jack ––” just before he was hanged. However, he is not a candidate for the Whitechapel murders as he was out of the country at the time they occurred and, in any case, his murder method of choice was poison.

Cream, who studied in Canada and then went to London, was forced to marry a woman when she became pregnant; he moved back to Canada, and then returned to the UK when his wife died in suspicious circumstances. He spent some time in Scotland until a woman with whom he was associated was found dead, pregnant and poisoned, in an alleyway, at which point he crossed the Atlantic once more, this time to Chicago.

There, Cream had an affair with a married woman, poisoned her suspicious husband and then was sentenced to life imprisonment after his lover turned state’s evidence. He was released after ten years, returned to the UK and proceeded with a career of carrying out illegal abortions and poisoning prostitutes. This ten-year span covers the time period of all the Ripper murders as well aslater killings over which there is some debate.

The over-confident doctor was caught when he tried both to frame innocent men for the Lambeth murders; in the process he exhibited knowledge of one murder that had not been considered a suspicious death and the police put two and two together.

The name Lambeth is thought to come from ‘lamhithe’, meaning the lamb harbour: either a place where lambs were loaded and unloaded, or just a muddy wharf.

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