No one was ever convicted of the murder on a Wandsworth train of Elizabeth Camp.
Was she bludgeoned by a crazed sports journalist who had lived in Walworth and been spurned by a similar-looking woman? JAN BONDESON sifts through the evidence.
Elizabeth Annie Camp, born in 1863, was a barmaid at the Good Intent public house at 24 East Street, Walworth.
An extrovert girl, good looking and curvy, was popular with the customers.
On February 11, 1897, the 33-year-old was returning to Waterloo railway station to be met by her fiance, a childhood friend, the greengrocer Edward Berry.
But instead, she was greeted by the grim figure of death.
The 7.35 train from Feltham stopped at Isleworth and later Putney, Wandsworth, Clapham Junction, Vauxhall and Waterloo at 8.25.
But Elizabeth was not among the passengers. Instead, a carriage-cleaner shouted a dead woman had been found on board – her head wedged underneath a seat, her body stretched on the floor.
Her skull had been bashed with repeated heavy blows, the brain protruding, the blood on the floor still warm.
A witness had seen Elizabeth reading a magazine at Putney; opposite her, had been a man – probably the murderer.
At Wandsworth station, three men and three women had got off; the porter Edward Saunders noted one man was a wild-eyed character, who leapt in a hurry and ran down the stairs two or three at a time.
A short distance at the Putney side of Wandsworth railway station, was a heavy pestle.
It had blood and hair on it. Bar staff at the new Alma public house, opposite Wandsworth railway station, said a scruffy young man with a large brown moustache had come in, shouting he would pay three or four shillings for a cab.
The man bought drinks for the cabman, and several other people.
The barman Herbert Ford noted his coat was ripped all the way down the side.
There were scratches on his face like fingernail marks, and what looked like fresh blood on his shirt and waistcoat.
Scotland Yard detectives believed the murderer was the same person seen who had leapt off the train at Wandsworth.
‘My son has always been weak in the head’
The police knew about Arthur Marshall, 25, the son of a Reading publican, who was a ‘wandering lunatic’.
He sometimes left his home for weeks on end, travelling round the Home Counties by rail, at random.
He was away from home at the time of the murder. He became the main suspect and was arrested at his dad’s pub on February 26.
The day of the murder, Marshall had travelled to Guildford, then to Waterloo.
Arthur Marshall’s mother told police her son had always been weak in the head. He had a mania for travelling on the railways and tramping about the countryside until he did not have a penny left.
Marshall’s statement said he had left home that day and walked to Wokingham to see his brother and sister-in-law, before taking the train to Guildford.
He had tramped about town aimlessly for a while, and bought a large false moustache from a shop – he wanted to enlist as a soldier and to have a more martial appearance.
He had then taken a train to Croydon, before walking into central London.
When shown a portrait of Elizabeth Camp, he declared he had never seen her in his life.
Two workmen from Dartmouth were taken to Reading to see Marshall. They both identified him as a nervous individual who had said he had committed a crime and the ‘tecs were after him.
One of the labourers thought he was joking and asked if it was a ‘Jack the Ripper job’.
The man said it was something to do with a woman.
The manager Mark Bevan identified Marshall as the man at the Alma pub – except that he had then sported a large moustache. But the barman Herbert Ford did not pick out Marshall, who was released and kept under observation almost around the clock.
Marshall was in court for the inquest. His sister Beatrice Marshall said that on February 11, Arthur had left the Turners’ Arms “to enlist in the army”.
He took a bundle of clothes to pawn for travel money. Mrs Marshall attributed his strange behaviour to too much reading and a tragic love affair – Arthur’s girlfriend had fled to America.
Two assistants in a hairdresser’s shop in Guildford said Marshall who bought a false moustache on February 11.
Ralph Bevan, manager of the Alma, had seen the man whose waistcoat was covered with blood, and told the barman not to serve him. He picked out Marshall at Reading, and did so again in court – adding the man he had seen had had a large, bushy moustache.
Walter Neal had picked out Arthur Marshall as greatly resembling the man with blood-stained clothes who stood the drinkers at the Alma four quarts of beer –– although he had a moustache at the time.
The hairdresser Richard Clarke, who had also seen the Alma suspect, did not think Arthur Marshall resembled him – the suspect had had side whiskers and a moustache, Marshall having neither.
The following day, William Ashley, a Bexley labourer, had been ditching in Baldwin’s Park at 2.30pm, when Arthur Marshall, whom he picked out in the inquest, had come up to him, saying he had been walking all night from Dartford.
When he hinted police were after him, Ashley said “What have you been up to, some ‘Jack the Ripper’ game?” “Not as bad as that,” he retorted, “Only a love-letter affair.”
He did not want to go near any village or station, but offered Ashley a sovereign to get him a cab.
That evening, when Ashley read about the murder of Elizabeth Camp, he immediately suspected he had spoken to the murderer and went to the police.
John Acton, another Bexley working man, said a scruffy man with his coat buttoned up had asked him to get him a cab, since was on the run from the police.
The man talked confusedly about enlisting in the army and Acton said “But surely, you have never been a soldier!” and the man had replied “No – something worse than that! It’s something through love!”
When Acton, too, formally identified Arthur Marshall as the man he had spoken to, the suspect burst into tears and sobbed bitterly.
Lily Munn, the postmistress at Wilmington, Kent, testified that on the evening of February 12, a strange-looking man had brought a parcel, which he had asked her to address for him, since he knew that detectives knew his handwriting.
She pointed out this man as Marshall, adding that the parcel had been sent to Mrs Marshall at the Turners’ Arms in Reading.
On the morning of February 13, Thomas Redward, a carpenter at Kensal Rise, had spotted in his back garden an intruder – who had begged for mercy, saying police were on his track.
In court, Redward identified the lunatic as Arthur Marshall.
‘I never saw that woman! It’s an unknown person altogether’
When he was called as a witness, prime suspect Arthur Marshall gave his address as the Turner’s Arms.
Two years ago, he had been employed as a sports journalist, living in Walworth, but he did not know East Street nor been inside the Good Intent.
The coroner then produced two tickets for goods that Marshall had pawned with a pawnbroker in East Street.
The suspect maintained a sullen silence. Having pawned a bundle of clothes before setting out on his journeys on February 11, he had done so in the false name of Arthur Rider; but could not say why.
He had gone to see a friend named Jones, who had refused to give him a reference for the Army Service Corps.
He had bought a third-class ticket from Woking to Charing Cross, but disembarked at Guildford, where he had tramped around for a while.
Again for no particular reason, he had gone into a barber’s shop and bought a dark false moustache for sixpence.
Marshall was handed a photograph of Elizabeth Camp. He turned away his head and exclaimed “Oh, no; I never saw that woman! I shall not look at it. It is an unknown person altogether.”
He was then given a photograph of his own former sweetheart, who had left him and gone to America. The coroner asked: “Do you mean to say, that you do not recognize a resemblance between these two persons?”
Marshall swore he had never seen Miss Camp in his life. He said he had taken a train from a provincial station outside Guildford into Croydon, and then tramped to Woolwich, but he had not called at the recruitment office.
At New Cross, someone had told him detectives were on his tail, and this had made him greatly alarmed.
His evidence then became an unintelligible jumble.
He had only worn the false moustache for a few moments, before throwing it away. He then shouted “I was never on the South-Western line any of those days!”
The coroner reminded him that this had not been the question. Marshall turned to the jury to point out that he had never travelled second-class in his life, and that he had never seen that Miss Camp in his life.
The jury began asking him questions, but he said his memory was poor, and he was frightened of the detectives.
“Come now,” said the coroner, “You’re not at all so stupid as you pretend to be.” Marshall denied having read any newspaper articles about the murder of Elizabeth, but newspapers from the days after the murder, with long reports of how Elizabeth Camp had met her death, were in his bedroom.
He described having tramped through Blackheath and Camberwell to reach the Kennington Oval, where he took a cab to Waterloo.
He walked over Waterloo Bridge, into Oxford Street, and then to Kensal Rise and Willesden, where he threw away the false moustache.
The jury withdrew for five minutes, before returning a verdict of murder against some person or persons unknown – Arthur Marshall could return to Reading a free man.
The finding of the pestle established that Elizabeth Camp was murdered between Putney and Wandsworth.
A railway porter and another witness had seen him leave the train at Wandsworth.
Seconds later, a man with badly blood-stained clothes and scratches on his face, appeared at the Alma tavern, asking for a cab .
The identity of the man at the Alma is crucial.
One of the four Alma witnesses picked out Arthur Marshall with certainty, although he lacked a moustache, and another did so in a tentative manner; two other witnesses failed to recognize him.
Why did Arthur Marshall hint to complete strangers that detectives were after him?
The Alma tavern suspect had been keen to get a cab; so had Marshall when he spoke to the workmen in Bexley.
He was clearly the main police suspect mentioned in the Police Commissioner’s report for 1898.
Sir Melville Macnaghten, in his memoirs, was right to suggest Marshall should have been equipped with a false moustache for the identity parade.
Still, there was nothing to suggest that he had ever known Miss Camp, no evidence linked him to the pestle, and he had no previous convictions.
Why would a frequent traveller got a fixed idea that he should kill a woman, and buy the false moustache and the pestle in Guildford?
When he sees an unprotected woman in a second-class carriage, he is struck by her likeness to his own faithless fleeing girlfriend.
He attacks her in a paroxysm of murderous rage, before he leaves at Wandsworth in a great hurry, aghast at what he had just done.
His next coherent thought concerns getting a cab at the Alma tavern.
Arthur Marshall, the main suspect in the murder of Elizabeth Camp, has dodged the internet genealogists; his habitation has become the air, but I would doubt if he ever was the best condition’d creature imaginable.
This is an edited extract from Jan Bondeson’s book Rivals of the Ripper (Paperback edition June 2021).