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Thomas Griffiths Wainewright


Wainewright The Poisoner


October 1794
Kill Total: 2 + ?

Kill date:


Kill Place:





Victim: George Griffiths       Mrs Abercromby Helen Abercromby

Unknown prisoner






Case No:  








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Wainewright was brought up by his Grand-Father, after being orphaned. The young Wainewright had a good upbringing, coming into contact, through his uncle, with some of the best artists and authors of the time. His uncle, Dr. George (Ralph) Griffiths was the then editor of the "Monthly Review". Wainewright went to art school where he showed a talent as a draughtsman, but, at this early stage in his life was showing signs of being maladjusted. He joined the services, but soon left with a taste for whisky, and had become a hypochondriac.
In his house at 48, Great Marlborough Street, he begun to paint, and even had some exhibitions. He discovered he had a talent as an art critic. He met Wordsworth and William Blake, and many other celebrities of the time. Wainewright made a living from selling painting and the occasional shady art deal, this gave him an income of around 175 a year, hardly enough to support his extravagant lifestyle, but certainly not enough for a married man.

1821, he married, shy and poor Frances Ward. By forging the signature on some shares given him by his uncle Wainewright managed to get 2,000 from the bank of England. This was not enough to cover debts and keep him in the manner to which he become used to. In 1828 Wainewright and his bride convinced uncle George Griffiths to let them come to live with him at Linden house. Linden House was a huge property, sitting in two acres of grounds off Chiswick High Road, the site today of Linden Gardens. A year later uncle George suddenly died, Thomas Wainewright inherited, and once again some debts were paid off. Next Wainwright invited his mother-in-law and two sisters-in-law to move into Linden house.

Soon after this one of the girls, Helen, had a healthy life insurance taken out on her life, When Wainewright tried to increase the insurance to 5,000 in 1830, his mother-in-law, Mrs. Abercromby objected, she died very suddenly in great pain from a mysterious illness. Once she was out of the way the insurance on Helen was increased to 20,000.

It must of hurt Wainewright that he stood to gain nothing financially from the mother-in-laws death. Then suddenly at only 21 years old Helen Abercromby took mysteriously ill, she died in extreme pain on 21st December 1830. The insurance company also saw the death as mysterious and refused to pay out, Wainewright promptly borrowed 1,000 and instructed a solicitor to sue the insurance company, he then disappeared to France. For the next five years Wainewright moved around France, he spent some time in prison, and it is probably no surprise that a man he shared lodgings with at one time, died suddenly in great pain from a mysterious illness, Wainewright inheriting 3,000 as the only beneficiary.


Returning to England in June 1837 he was immediately arrested for the forgery to get the shares paid out some ten years previous. His attempt to sue the insurance company had failed, and now known by the Nickname "Wainewright the Poisoner" he appeared at the Old Bailey on a charge of forgery.


He was found guilty and was sentenced to transportation to Van Diemen's land (Tasmania) for life. Unlike many other he survived transportation and died in the prisoner hospital in Hobart in 1852 aged 58. Interestingly while awaiting transportation in Newgate prison he confessed to the murder of Helen Abercromby, stating that her thick ankles offended him! Also, while in Newgate it is reported that an actor and author by the name of Charles Dickens was sitting chatting with some chums, he noticed the presence of Thomas Wainewright and was heard to shout "By God it's Wainewright", the party of literary chums were horrified to find one of their number amongst the scum of London.

There is a discrepancy in the writings on this case. In some instances Wainwright was raised by his Grand-Father, in others by his uncle. there are also two names, George Griffiths, and Ralph Griffiths, which seem to be used interchangeably. Extensive research has failed to find the correct state of affairs.




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