Wednesday, April 27, 2011

May 23, 1892 --- Deeming Meets a Noose

After a last cigar and a swig of brandy, Frederick Deeming, a con-man and killer notorious on three continents, is hanged in Melbourne, Australia. Deeming had been charged with the murder of his wife whose body was found cemented in the kitchen hearth. When the London correspondent for an Australian paper went to Deeming's former home in Rainhill, near Liverpool, to find out more about the man, he noticed a newly-cemented hearth in the farmhouse kitchen. Imagine the horror when police dug out the bodies of Deeming's first wife and their four children.

Born in Kent, Deeming married a Welsh woman named Mary James who followed him to Sydney and later, South Africa. Tiring of his ill-treatment and his failed schemes, she returned to England. In 1890, Deeming left Capetown in rather a hurry; legend had it he fled a murder charge. Home in England, posing as a wealthy rancher from the veldt, he soon married again. But Mary tracked him down and he served a brief jail term for bigamy. Once freed, and now styling himself a military man, he married Emily Mather of Liverpool. When Mary reappeared, this time, Deeming silenced her and his children forever.

With Emily, he left for Australia but within weeks of their arrival, he killed her. He was engaged again, calling himself Baron Swanston, at the time of his arrest. At his indictment, he told the magistrate, "You can put it in your pipe and smoke it." He vowed, if found innocent, to leave the courtroom and drown himself within 24 hours in the Yarra River.

The defense - not without reason - claimed Deeming was insane, a victim of "instinctive criminality" he kills from "uncontrollable impulses." The jury had none of that, nor did the Privy Council in London which refused to commute the sentence. The Spectator dismissed him as "a perfectly rotten man." Crowds flocked to see his Rainhill kitchen at Madame Tussaud's Chamber of Horrors.

Whilst in prison, Deeming had claimed to be Jack the Ripper; a vainglorious boast since he had been in jail at the time of the murders in '88. Nonetheless, a popular street ballad of the period went:
On the 23d of May, Frederick Deeming passed away
This is a happy day, an East End holiday,
For the Ripper's gone away.
An Australian police photograph of Deeming

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