No 19 THE MURDER OF JULIA THOMAS

Discussion in 'Non Hampton and Richmond Borough FC related' started by Les 1949, Feb 12, 2018.

  1. Les 1949

    Les 1949 Member

    HAMPTON, AROUND AND ABOUT

    Things you may not know, or didn’t know you knew!

    No 19 THE MURDER of JULIA THOMAS
    Murder, Murder – Jekyll & Hyde Musical, 1990

    Another Richmond Murder! – I know you enjoy them. But this one, in 1879, is unusual, as the murderer was a woman.


    Julia Thomas was a widow aged around 54 and lived in 2 Mayfield Cottages, in Park Road, in Richmond.

    She was a former schoolteacher who, according to comments made at the time, was a woman regarded as ‘eccentric’. She always dressed well and gave an impression of being ‘well-off’. Julia was an inveterate traveller and frequently disappeared for weeks or months at a time without telling any of her acquaintances where she was going or when she planned to return. She liked to have a live-in domestic servant – which gave her an air of importance – but was regarded as a ‘difficult’ employer and her frequent absences meant that she was always looking for a new maid.

    The last maid she ever employed was Kate Webster, aged around 30, she was born in Ireland. Webster had a dodgy past, which obviously Julia knew nothing about. Webster had a chequered history having been jailed for theft in Wexford, aged fifteen. Having left Ireland for Liverpool, she was again jailed for theft, in Liverpool, and was jailed for four years. At some time, Kate married a sea captain called Webster and had four children by him. She then fetched up in Kingston in 1874 but her life of petty crime carried on, spending time ‘at Her Majesty’s Pleasure’ in Wandsworth. Webster then made the acquaintance of Sarah Crease, who was a servant to a Miss Loder. Miss Loder then recommended Webster to her friend Julia Thomas, who, once again, was looking for a servant.

    Thomas took her on, without making any checks on her credentials, on 29th January 1879. This would prove to be a fatal mistake.

    It would seem that the relationship between Mistress and Servant quickly deteriorated. Thomas was very critical of Webster’s work and on 28th February gave her notice to leave. Webster asked to stay on for a few more days until Sunday 2nd March. They apparently had an argument before Thomas went to Evening Service at the local Presbyterian Church. On Thomas’s return from church a full-scale argument ended with Webster throwing her mistress down the stairs and then finishing her off by strangling her.

    Now it gets a bit gory. Webster dismembered the dead woman’s body and then boiled the parts in a copper laundry tub. Bones were also burnt in the hearth. She also cut off Thomas’s head – I said it was gory! Neighbours later reported that they had noticed an unusual smell emanating from the house. Some of the remains were placed in a bag and thrown into the river near Richmond Bridge, only to re-emerge a short while later near Barnes Bridge. Other body parts were distributed in and around Twickenham.

    Webster then attempted to adopt the identity of her mistress, however her deception lasted just two weeks before she was rumbled when she tried to sell Thomas’s house and possessions and she fled back to County Wexford.

    Webster was arrested on 29th March and was returned to London. She stood trial at the Old Bailey in July 1879. The trial lasted six days – the jury was all-female – and she was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. The sentence was carried out on 29th July.

    Julia Thomas’s head remained missing until October 2010 when the skull was found during building works being carried out for Sir David Attenborough!


    The Old Historian
     

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