Juan Ignacio Blanco  


  MALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

  FEMALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z




Murderpedia has thousands of hours of work behind it. To keep creating new content, we kindly appreciate any donation you can give to help the Murderpedia project stay alive. We have many
plans and enthusiasm to keep expanding and making Murderpedia a better site, but we really
need your help for this. Thank you very much in advance.










The Radlett murder, also known as the Elstree murder
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Revenge
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: October 23, 1823
Date of birth: December 21, 1794
Victim profile: William Weare (a solicitor and gambler)
Method of murder: Driving the pistol into his head with such force that his brains were literally dashed out over the ground
Location: Radlett, Hertfordshire, England, United Kingdom
Status: Executed by hanging at Hertford on January 9, 1824

photo gallery


John Thurtell's case was considered sensational at the time. It also made history in two significant ways and therefore forms a valuable part of the chronology of capital punishment in Britain.

Thurtell was born on December 21st 1794, son of the then Mayor of Norwich. He seems to have been a fairly wealthy young man and was a gambler. He had a grudge against a fellow gambler, solicitor William Weare, whom he accused of having cheated him of £300 in a game of cards and to whom he now owed, by the standards of the day, this vast sum. A waxwork was made of Thurtell after execution and is shown here.

The murder

Thurtell invited Weare to spend a weekend gambling with him and some friends at a cottage owned by fellow gambler William Probert at Radlett in Hertfordshire and they travelled up from London together in Thurtell's gig on October 24th 1823.

As they neared the cottage Thurtell confronted Weare over his behaviour, outside the Wagon and Horses Inn, in Watling Street, Radlett. He drew a pistol and fired its single shot at Weare's face, the bullet glancing off his cheekbone as the gun had misfired. As shooting had not worked Thurtell set about the now dazed Weare with a penknife and cut his throat. He also rammed the muzzle of the gun into Weare's scull with maximum force, leaving blood, hair and tissue in the barrel.

William Probert and another friend, Joseph Hunt, an actor, helped Thurtell dispose of Weare's body. Initially they put it into a pond in the garden of Probert's cottage but later, under cover of darkness moved it to and threw it into another pond in Elstree, hence why the newspapers dubbed this the "The Elstree Murder".

A labourer found the bloody knife and pistol by the cottage and took them to the authorities and a murder investigation began. As the owner of the cottage, Probert was the first to be questioned and realising his predicament turned King's Evidence against Weare. He also implicated Hunt who was soon arrested and led the police to the body.


Thurtell and Hunt were taken into custody and came up for trial at the January sitting of the Hertford Assizes before Mr. Justice Park. Thurtell was charged with the murder of Weare and Hunt with being an accessory to it. It was virtually impossible for them to get a fair trial for two reasons. Firstly their guilt was seen as self evident by both the press and the public, to the extent that the judge remarked that if "these statements of evidence before trial which corrupt the purity of the administration of justice in its source are not checked, I tremble for the fate of our country."

The newspapers had shown great interest in Thurtell's case and every detail was lapped up by an eager public. Secondly this was to be the last trial in England conducted under the old 16th century principals in which the accused has to defend himself against the prosecution, being allowed only to make a speech after the evidence against them had been heard and not being allowed to cross examine the prosecution witnesses. This was hardly conducive to a fair trial and neither man was represented by counsel.

Thurtell made a lengthy and somewhat rambling address to the court in which he tried to shift the blame for the killing to Probert. He referred to his Christian upbringing and also made references, apparently, to Voltaire and Saint Paul, all of which failed to impress either the judge or the jury. A witness for Thurtell said, "I always thought him (Thurtell) a respectable man." Being asked by the judge what he meant by this he replied, "He kept a gig." Not surprisingly this was not in itself enough to save him and it took the jury just twenty minutes to find both accused guilty.

Mr. Justice Park then sentenced them to death and ordered that Thurtell's body be anatomised after execution, as was the norm at that time for murderers. Hunt's sentence was commuted to transportation for life and he was duly shipped to Australia's Botany Bay where he was to live on for very many years. Thurtell was returned to Hertford prison to await execution. It is noteworthy that even being an accessory to murder carried the death penalty in the 1820's.

The new gallows

Hangings at Hertford were not a frequent event even then. The previous one having occurred in August 1822 when Charles Lee was executed there for burglary. It was thus decided that a new gallows incorporating a proper drop should be built for Thurtell. This design did away with the need for ladders and carts to get the prisoner suspended and was copied for several other prisons round the country, becoming effectively the standard pattern of its day.

A very similar one was used at York Castle from the mid 1820's. Construction began before the trial, so certain was everybody of the outcome! Mr. Nicholson, the Under Sheriff of Hertfordshire supervised the work and the gallows consisted of a "temporary platform with a falling leaf (single trap door) supported by bolts which could be withdrawn in an instant" so launching the criminal into eternity, as was the contemporary expression.

The substantial cross beam was supported by two equally substantial uprights, about 8 feet high. The enclosure beneath the beam consisted of boards 7 feet high and dovetailed into each other so that there were no gaps (through which the body could be viewed). It was 30 feet long and 15 feet deep with a short flight of steps up to the platform at the back leading directly from the prison door.

The whole gallows was painted black and presented "a very gloomy appearance". The walls of the platform rose approximately 2 feet above the platform so the bulk of the prisoner's body was hidden from view after the drop. The outer enclosure was for the javelin men who stood guard at hangings to prevent escape or rescue attempts.


James Foxen, the hangman, arrived from London on the Thursday and made the usual preparations.

Thurtell dressed for the occasion and was described as being "elegantly attired in a brown great coat with a black velvet collar, light breeches and gaiters, and a fashionable waistcoat with gilt buttons".

A little before 12 noon on Friday the 9th of January 1824 Foxen pinioned Thurtell's hands in front of him with handcuffs (unusual) and he was then led from his cell to the accompaniment of the tolling prison bell and the prison chaplain reading the burial service.

A few moments earlier he had confessed his guilt to the chaplain. He mounted the five steps slowly but steadily and positioned himself on the trap. Here Foxen removed his cravat and loosened his collar.

When Thurtell had finished praying Foxen drew the white cotton cap over his head and placed the noose around his neck. the Governor of Hertford Gaol and the Chief Warder both shook hands with him, before Foxen adjusted the noose. Wilson said "Good bye Mr. Thurtell, may God Almighty bless you" to which Thurtell replied "God bless you, Mr. Wilson, God bless you." At two minutes past midday, on the signal from Mr. Nicholson, the Under Sheriff, Foxen drew the bolts and Thurtell dropped into box like the trap with a crash.

It was reported that his neck broke "with a sound like a pistol shot" but this is most unlikely as he would certainly not have been given sufficient length of drop for this to occur. It is probable that the reporter who made the statement got confused by the sound of the falling trap doors. However by the standards of the day Thurtell died easily and was not seen to struggle.

After hanging the customary hour his body was taken down and sent to London for dissection in Surgeon's Hall in accordance with his sentence. A wax work of him was made and exhibited in Madame Tussauards.

The new gallows had been designed to be quickly dismantled and was taken back into the prison after the execution. It was judged to be a success and considerably speeded up the process. It was to be used for a further 14 hangings up to 1838, including two double executions for burglary later in 1824 and a treble hanging in 1838, when three men were executed for murder. After that there were no more public hangings in Hertfordshire and it was to be 1876 before the next execution occurred - out of the public gaze and utilising Marwood's "long drop" method. The concept of carrying out hangings at midday was quite common at this time as it allowed more time for the public to assemble to watch the proceedings.


William Probert, although escaping prosecution over Weare's murder, was to be convicted horse stealing the following year and he was hanged by Foxen on the 20th of June 1825 outside Newgate with three other men.


The Radlett murder, also known as the Elstree murder, was a notorious murder committed in Radlett, Hertfordshire, England, in 1823. The victim was killed in Radlett and the body eventually disposed of in a pond in Elstree.

It gained a great deal of attention from the press and public at the time, and seventeen books were written about it in the following year, as well as other books since, and several stage plays. It is commemorated by the following rhyme:

They cut his throat from ear to ear,
His head they battered in.
His name was Mr William Weare,
He lived in Lyons Inn.

The killing

William Weare was a solicitor and gambler. His killer was John Thurtell (1794-1824), a sports promoter, amateur boxer, a former Royal Marine officer and the son of the mayor of Norwich. Thurtell owed Weare a gambling debt of £300, an immense sum of money at the time. Thurtell believed that Weare had cheated him of the money.

Whatever the truth of this supposition, when Weare demanded payment Thurtell chose to murder him rather than pay up. He invited Weare to join him and his friends - Joseph Hunt, a tavern landlord, and William Probert, a former convict and alcohol merchant - for a weekend of gambling at Probert's cottage in Gill's Hill Lane, Radlett. On October 24, 1823 they journeyed from London in Thurtell's horse-drawn gig, but Weare was killed in a dark lane just short of their destination.

Thurtell shot Weare in the face with a pistol, but this failed to kill him. Weare escaped from the carriage but did not get far before Thurtell caught up with him. As Weare lay injured on the ground, Thurtell slit his throat with a knife before driving the pistol into his head with such force that his brains were literally dashed out over the ground.

Assisted by Hunt and Probert he hid the corpse in a pond near to the cottage. This hiding place was judged to be too unsafe for Probert, however, and the body was later moved to another pond in Elstree. By this time both murder weapons had already been found, as Thurtell had left them behind on the road. The pistol was one of a pair, the other one still being in Thurtell's possession. The three culprits were quickly identified and caught. Hunt himself led the authorities to the body.


Thurtell, Hunt and Probert were indicted for murder. The foreman of the grand jury which indicted them was William Lamb, who as Lord Melbourne would later become the prime minister. They were tried at Hertford Assize Court. Even though Hunt had provided the greatest cooperation to the authorities, nevertheless it was Probert who was offered the chance to save himself by turning King's evidence: giving evidence against the other two in exchange for his freedom. Hunt was tried as an accessory to murder; his defence counsel was Frederic Thesiger, a future lord chancellor (head of the English judiciary).

The murder and the ensuing trial attracted unprecedented publicity, to the point where questions were raised as to whether the defendants could possibly have a fair trial. Construction of the gallows was begun even before the trial started. The trial judge, Mr Justice Park, lamented: "if these statements of evidence before trial which corrupt the purity of the administration of justice in its source are not checked, I tremble for the fate of our country." Nevertheless he allowed both Thurtell and Hunt to be convicted.

Thurtell and his associates’ actions pursuant to the murder were as widely reported and commented upon as the crime itself. Having temporarily disposed of Weare’s corpse, "the trio entered the house, Hunt was introduced to Mrs. Probert, directions were given to cook some pork chops for supper, and then Thurtell took the two men to the field, where they rifled the body, and left it lying enveloped in the sack. After supper a jovial evening was spent, Hunt sang several songs over the grog, and Thurtell gallantly presented Mrs. Probert with the gold chain he had taken from the body." A contemporary street ballad, The Hertfordshire Tragedy, did not fail to emphasize the particulars:

Although his hands were warm with blood,
He down to supper sat,
And passed the time in merry mood,
With drink and songs and chat.

The singing in particular commanded attention. In discussing post-homicide cold-blooded tranquility, H.B. Irving (a Victorian barrister), author of the Book of Remarkable Criminals remarks, “Such callousness is almost unsurpassed in the annals of criminal insensibility. Nero fiddling over burning Rome, Thurtell fresh from the murder of Weare, inviting Hunt, the singer and his accomplice, to ‘tip them a stave’ after supper . . .” Nor were the proceedings of the trial lacking in amusement, supplied generously by Hunt’s testimony in court. Hunt was questioned about the supper indulged in immediately after the murder took place: “Was the supper postponed?”—“No, it was pork.”


John Thurtell was sentenced to death, and was hanged on January 9, 1824, aged 33. Having always denied his crime, he finally admitted it on the gallows.

On the day after his death, Thurtell's body was dissected (this was a standard part of the sentence for murderers at the time). A waxwork model of his body was displayed in Madame Tussauds for around 150 years. Although Thurtell had been surprisingly popular and had received some public sympathy, some of his relatives still chose to change their names to avoid the disgrace of being associated with him.

Joseph Hunt was also sentenced to death, but in belated recognition of his cooperation with the authorities his sentence was commuted to transportation to an Australian penal colony for life. He was taken to Botany Bay, where he completely rehabilitated. After serving his time as a prisoner, he gained his freedom and started a new life in Australia, marrying and raising two daughters. He eventually became such a respected man in his community that he actually became a police constable. He died in 1861.

William Probert was never punished for his role in Weare's death. However the reports of his involvement in the newspapers meant that he was reviled by everybody and he became a social outcast. Unable to find work, he resorted to crime to support himself and his wife, and in 1825, at the age of 33, he was hanged at Newgate Prison for stealing a horse worth £25 from one of his relatives.


Besides the gruesome details of the killing, the murder was also sensational at the time because it exposed the seedy London underworld of gambling and amateur boxing to a public which had previously been rather ignorant of it. As more and more details were published of the underworld which the likes of Thurtell and Weare had inhabited, there were increasing calls for something to be done about it.

The case retained notoriety throughout the century. Like many others, Sir Walter Scott visited the spot of the murder a few years after it took place. In his diary he wrote of the "labyrinth of intricate lanes, which seemed made on purpose to afford strangers the full benefit of a dark night and a drunk driver, in order to visit Gill’s Hill, famous for the murder of Mr. Weare . . . The principal part of the house is destroyed, and only the kitchen remains standing. The garden has been dismantled, though a few laurels and flowering shrubs, run wild, continue to mark the spot. The fatal pond is now only a green swamp, but so near the house, that one cannot conceive how it was ever chosen as a place of temporary concealment for the murdered body. The dirt of the present habitation equals its desolation . . . [t]he landlord had dismantled the place because no respectable person would live there."

Another distinguished essayist, Thomas Babington Macaulay, acidly remarked: "There is a possibility that Thurtell may have killed Weare only in order to give the youth of England an impressive warning against gaming and bad company. There is a possibility that Fauntleroy may have forged powers of attorney, only in order that his fate might turn the attention of the public to the defects of the penal law. These things, we say, are possible. But they are so extravagantly improbable that a man who should act on such suppositions would be fit only for Saint Luke’s [a mental asylum]."


  • Wratten, Donald (1990). The Book of Radlett and Aldenham. Quotes Ltd, 132. ISBN 0860234649


John (alias "Jack") Thurtell, born 21 December 1794, in England, and hanged January 9, 1824, at Hertford, was the "black sheep" of the Thurtell family. He was the second surviving son of Thomas Thurtell, a prominent member of Norwich City Council, Norfolk, and (from 1828) Mayor of Norwich, and Susanna Browne.

The notorious Jack Thurtell became the subject of numerous books, articles, and plays. Much of what follows is taken from the 1987 book by Albert Borowitz, The Thurtell-Hunt Murder Case, Dark Mirror to Regency England.

Military Record

On 8 May 1809, at the age of 15, John Thurtell received a commission in Company 99 of the Royal Marines, based at Chatham, and was transferred a month later to HMS Adamant, the flagship of Rear Admiral Sir Edmund Nagle. After a few cruises in the eastern approaches to the Channel, Adamant was ordered to the Forth and lay moored in Leith Roads for several years, doing nothing.

In July 1810 Lieutenant Thurtell was peremptorally discharged 'at the personal order of Nagle's successor, Rear Admiral William Otway, for some misconduct the nature of which is unknown'. However, he can't have been discharged absolutely from the service, as on 7 November 1811, he joined the 74-gun HMS Bellona (presumably still as a Marine). 'Despite its warlike name, the Bellona saw little more action than the Adamant. In early 1813 the ship proceeded to St Helena to pick up a convoy of East Indiamen returning from the Orient.'

When Thurtell's name became notorious a decade later, it was often asserted that he and his shipmates of the Bellona participated in the storming of the port of San Sebastián [on the north coast of Spain]. Eric Watson, however, found that on August 1, 1813, when San Sebastián fell, a muster of the ship was called at St Helen's on the Isle of Wight and that it cruised near San Sebastián a few days after hostilities had ended.

In early September the Bellona chased a brig of war and a schooner; the brig escaped, but the unarmed schooner was captured as a prize of war. These bloodless encounters with the enemy were apparently the only basis for Thurtell's later claims of gallantry under fire.

The Young Businessman

Jack resigned his commission as second lieutenant in June 1814 (when peace was signed) and in the following year, when he reached the age of 21, his father set him up in business as a manufacturer of bombazine, a twilled silk dress fabric, in partnership with one John Giddings (or Giddens). At this point he became interested in prize-fighting and formed a friendship with a prize-fighter who had moved to Norwich from London. When Jack himself went to London he hung out 'amongst other sporting characters' (according to Pierce Egan) 'at the various houses in London, kept by persons attached to the sports of the field, horse-racing, and the old English practice of boxing. He was well known to be the son of Alderman Thurtell, of Norwich, a man of great respectability, of considerable property, and likewise possessing superior talents. John Thurtell was ... viewed as a young man of integrity.'

Unfortunately, Jack then blotted his copybook by going into London to collect several thousand pounds for goods sold to a firm there, which he owed to creditors of the partnership in Norwich, and claiming on his return that he had been robbed of the money by footpads. The creditors didn't believe him, despite his displaying bruises, a black eye and a cut on the head, and the Thurtell-Giddings partnership went bankrupt in February 1821, being unable to obtain any more credit.

That same year, his brother Tom Thurtell, who had started out as a farmer, also went bankrupt. He owed 4000, but half of it was to his father. He attributed his bankruptcy to the poor state of the land he took on, bad crops and excessive taxation.

The "Swell Yokel"

Around this time, the brothers, both undischarged bankrupts, moved to London, though much of what they "did" seems to have been done by Jack alone, often using Tom's name, so, apart from his stint in prison, Tom may never actually have lived in London. He went back to Lakenham as soon as he could.

In March 1822, Jack arranged for Tom to be thrown into the King's Bench prison for a debt of 17. This appears to have been an attempt to get Tom's bankruptcy discharged by taking advantage of 'the act for the relief of insolvent debtors'; it was an unsuccessful move, so Jack withdrew the complaint and Tom was released in April 1823 after 14 months in jail.

In the meantime, Jack had taken the lease of the Cock tavern in the Haymarket in Tom's name, but seems to have run it himself. Tom's credit may have been better than Jack's because he only really owed money to his father. In fact, Tom seems to have been pretty much a pawn in Jack's plans.

Jack Thurtell had an interest in several gambling houses and a tavern called "The Black Boy". Being himself an excellent amateur boxer, he trained and managed prizefighters.

As a sideline the Thurtells decided to embark on a method of fraud, the "long firm" scheme, in which goods are bought for credit and sold for cash and then the promissory notes given to the suppliers are dishonoured at maturity. It looks as if the whole point of leasing the Cock Tavern was to raise about 450 for the original investment in bombazine for the warehouse by selling off the contents of the cellar.

At the end of 1822 they insured a warehouse full of their bombazine goods with the County Fire Office for 1900, swiftly transferred the stock elsewhere and sold it at a discount. The warehouse was then completely destroyed by fire on 26 January 1823, Jack Thurtell having arranged for alterations to be made to it beforehand so that no-one could see the fire inside until it was too late. Various people noticed that the remains of the warehouse seemed to contain no burned bales of silk and the joinery work he had commissioned shortly before, which seemed to have no purpose other than to prevent the fire from being seen by the nightwatchman, struck people as very suspicious. The County Fire Office refused to pay the claim, and Tom Thurtell sued them. He won his case in June 1823, but Barber Beaumont, managing director of the County Fire Office, refused to pay out and procured an indictment against the Thurtells for conspiracy to defraud the insurance company. [Tom Thurtell apparently went to prison for fraud in 1824, after Jack was hanged, and served 3 years.]

A number of reports as to the fraud case appeared in The Times.

On the Run

At this point (for lack of the expected 1900) the finances of the Thurtell brothers collapsed yet again and they had to abscond from the Cock Tavern 'not only to excape its final collapse under a mountain of unpaid bills but to avoid arrest on the conspiracy charge, which appeared imminent because of their inability to raise bail'. They went into hiding at the Coach and Horses in Conduit Street.

By this time, Jack Thurtell appeared to be suffering from 'an observable disintegration of his personality' (although he had always had a spectacularly explosive temper) and spent most of his time brooding on his wrongs and his grievances against all the people he felt had done him an injury, most particularly (according to Joseph Hunt) the ex-waiter and cardsharp William Weare, 'who in cheating him at cards had not only stolen his money [200] but had made him the laughingstock of London's gamblers'.


Jack decided to exact revenge. On 24 October 1823 he lured Weare out of London to spend a shooting weekend at the house of a friend, Bill Probert, at Radlett in Hertfordshire. Another friend, Joe Hunt, had agreed to help to murder Weare, and he and Probert were supposed to be following close behind Jack and his victim. In the event, however, they got cold feet and delayed so long on the road from London that, by the time they finally arrived in Radlett late in the evening, Jack had already committed the murder. At the bottom of Gills Hill Lane, after firing a shot that apparently missed, he had killed Weare by smashing in his skull with the muzzle of his pistol. Probert and Hunt merely had to help him to get rid of the body. Having dumped it overnight in a pond in the grounds of Probert's house, Gills Hill Cottage, they finally disposed of it in another pond beside the road to Elstree.

Unfortunately for the success of his project, Jack had not covered his tracks very well. Firstly, Weare's associates in London knew that he had intended to spend the weekend in the company of Jack Thurtell and raised the alarm when he failed to reappear. Secondly, on the night of the murder Jack had stashed the murder weapon in a hedge and was not able to find it the next morning before it was discovered by some roadmenders and handed to the authorities. When enquiries were made about the disappearance of Weare, the matching pistol of the pair (which he had recently bought) was found in Jack's lodgings. Thirdly, for his trip to Radlett, Jack had made the mistake of hiring a gig drawn by a very distinctive iron-grey horse with a white face, which meant that several people remembered seeing it and it was possible to establish who the occupants had been. Finally, the fact that Probert and Hunt had not actually been involved in the murder itself meant that as soon as they realised that they were coming under suspicion they both turned King's Evidence and told the authorities everything they knew.

Probert was granted a pardon but Hunt, who had told lies in an attempt to conceal the fact that he had originally agreed to help in the murder, was refused a pardon, found guilty of being an accessory after the fact and transported to Australia. In fact, until the last moment, he was convinced he was going to share Thurtell's fate and wrote a farewell letter to his mother, as reported in The Times, 13 Jan 1824. In the event, he survived until 1861 in Bathurst, NSW, where he married a doctor's widow, had two children and became a pillar of the local community. His descendants in Australia are now numerous.

Trial and Dispatch

Jack Thurtell, as described in the Borowitz book, was intelligent and very well spoken and always described his mother as very loving. At the time of the trial , he swore that he was innocent, but he later stated, "I am quite satisfied, I forgive the world; I die in peace and charity with all mankind. . . I admit that justice has been done me." (This is from the 1824 book by Pierce Egan Account of the Trial of John Thurtell and Joseph Hunt and Recollections of John Thurtell quoted in the Borowitz book). The Egan piece elicited an irate response, published 12 January 1823, from John Barber Beaumont, the managing director of the County Fire Office who was pursuing the fraud allegation regarding the Thurtell brothers' warehouse fire.

Thurtell seems to have expected his trial to be delayed so that he could call three more witnesses who had been intimidated, he claimed, by prejudicial press reports. In the end, his side of the story was never fully told and has largely to be reconstructed from the evidence of Probert and Hunt. In the Albert Borowitz book, there is a pencil sketch of Thurtell's profile made during the trial by W. A. Mulready; it is reproduced here.

Jack Thurtell was hanged at Hertford jail on 9 January 1824. His partner in crime, Joe Hunt, also gave his own account of Thurtell's last days, which was published in The Times.

There is a great deal of information on John Thurtell, including various books. There were also Broadside Ballads written about him as a "Caution to the Youth of Great Britain". William Makepeace Thackeray, was quoted as referring to the case as a "godsend" to journalists. Murder was rare in Regency England, and this was an extremely brutal murder committed by the son of a prominent merchant and Mayor of Norwich. The crime was also used as a cautionary tale of the story of a respectable young man who had gone to London and become involved with boxing and gambling, which were two of the unlawful pleasures of England at that time. The case has been called England's "most literary murder", with wide coverage in the press, poetry, plays, stories, books, and even the internet from 1823 to the present. Lurid scenes such as "the use of a ghost-faced horse to drive the gig on the night of the murder, a double water burial, an uncanny nocturnal disinterment, and a suspicious wife spying on the division of the criminals' spoils" (quotation from the Borowitz book) gave the murder "concrete visual images".

Some details of Jack Thurtell's life are given in the Dictionary of National Biography. A wax figure of him was displayed in Madame Tussaud's for about 150 years (see image above). It is said that Thurtell's features were modelled by Madame Tussaud herself, so the figure has not been melted down but put into storage.


According to the above-mentioned interview in The Times, Jack was fully expecting that the "process of dissection" would be carried out after his death - indeed the law required it - and hoped that what was left of him would be interred in a tomb over which his mother could shed a tear. The Times of 13 Jan 1824 carried a report of the public viewing of his corpse. His skeleton, so far as we know, is still at the Royal College of Surgeons, London.

In the old days in England, it was customary after some of the more spectacular executions for the criminals not only to be publicly dissected but for their skins to be flayed from their corpses and tanned like cowhide. Two famous murderers who received this treatment were William Burke, the body snatcher, and Corder of the "Red Barn". Corder's skin, or part of it at least, was used to bind a two-volume account of his trial. His skin was sold at private auction, and someone bought a big enough piece to have a tobacco pouch made. (Crimes And Punishment: The Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia, Volume 17).

Burke's skeleton is still standing in the Anatomical Museum of Edinburgh University, while those of Corder, Jonathan Wild, and Eugene Aram are kept along with that of John Thurtell at the Royal College of Surgeons in London.



home last updates contact