Sir Bernard Spilsbury, the eminent police pathologist worked on all the major murders between the two world wars.
Spilsbury's career began with the case of Dr Crippen,
who in 1910 murdered his wife and buried her in lime, attempting afterwards to escape to Canada with his lover. It is famous as one of the first cases of the telegraph being used to catch a murderer. But it also launched the career of the young Spilsbury who gave vital forensic evidence at Crippen's trial.
Between 1910 and 1947 Spilsbury worked on thousands of autopsies (including those resulting from judicial hangings - often in cases where his evidence had helped to secure a conviction and a death sentence). He even appeared for the defence a few times, but only in Scotland, where his official status as police pathologist in England and Wales was not recognised.
But it's for his evidence for the crown in the sensational murder trials of the times that he is most celebrated. Many of the most horrific cases are a reminder that the general population have always included the mad and the bad and that there was no golden age free from rape, child abuse and brutal murder.
Spilsbury became a legend, almost as much celebrity status as some of the cases he investigated. Even the names popularly given to many of the cases sound quaint although they were usually ferocious in the extreme. In The Brides in the Bath murders,
George Joseph Smith,
showing a singular lack of variation in his technique,
married then murdered three women for their money. In
each case he drowned them within weeks of marriage. The
Brighton Trunk Murders occurred at a time when it became
suddenly fashionable for murderers to deposit their
victim's body in trunks left at left-luggage offices in
London and Brighton. A spate of such bodies were found,
usually prompted by the gruesome reporting of an
unpleasant smell by the cloakroom attendant. In the
strangest case of all a headless torso found in this way
at King's Cross was never identified and nor was her
murderer. In the
Croydon Poisoning Mystery three members of the same family were poisoned, separately and over a period of some years without the murderer ever being caught.