The murder of Maud Marsh

Chapman now needed a barmaid and in August 1901 he saw an advertisement placed in a newspaper by an 18-year-old Maud Marsh, who was seeking such a position. Chapman replied to the advert and a few days later Maud, accompanied by her mother, came to be interviewed. In reply to Mrs Marsh's questions about his status, Chapman told her that he was a widower, and when he said that Maud would be expected to live on the premises, Mrs Marsh wanted to know who else was resident in the building. She was reassured to learn that Chapman had let off some of the upstairs rooms to a family, and with her mother's approval Maud then took the job. At 15, she had gone into service as a housemaid, but after working for two families in that capacity Maud had become a barmaid at a pub in Croydon. It was when she lost her job there that she advertised for a similar position and ended up at The Monument.

Chapman immediately took a fancy to Maud and even delayed her coming to The Monument until he could evict the family living upstairs. From the day that she arrived at the pub, Maud and Chapman were the only residents in the building. From the start Chapman pressed his attentions on her and there is every reason to believe that these were not unwelcome to Maud, but remembering her mother's advice she kept him at arms length. However, when he proposed, she accepted and they became engaged. What this meant to Chapman was, he hoped, easy access to Maud's favours without the necessity of having to bother with yet another charade of marriage, but to Maud it meant only that they were engaged and that sharing the same bed would have to wait until after the ceremony.

In the middle of September she wrote a desperate letter home in which she said: 'George says if I do not let him have what he wants, he will give me £35 and send me home . . . but I am still engaged . . . and if he does not marry me I can have a breach of promise, can't I?' Her mother replied straight away, telling Maud to come home, but she received another letter from her daughter in reply saying that everything was all right again and that she and Chapman would cycle out to Croydon on Sunday to visit them. This they did, and to prove his intentions were honourable Chapman showed Maud's mother and father a draft will that he had drawn up in which she would inherit £400 when he died.

On Sunday, 13 October, Maud and Chapman put on their finery and leaving Maud's younger sister in charge of the pub, they set off to get married at the Roman Catholic church in Bishopsgate Street. At 1 p.m. they returned and broke the news that they were now Mr and Mrs Chapman. Maud's mother arrived from Croydon; not unexpectedly, was non-plussed at the news and asked Maud to show her the marriage certificate. Maud told her that Chapman had put it away with his papers, and her mother did not press the point. In any case she accepted that they were married and stayed for a meal. Whatever reservations she had were gradually allayed over the next few weeks as it became apparent from Maud's letters that her daughter was very happy. As time went by, the Marsh family came to accept Chapman and made frequent visits to The Monument. Maud's father sometimes helped in the bar.

Chapman, meanwhile, had thought up a new scheme to make some quick money. He decided to insure The Monument and burn it down. The lease had almost expired, which did not give him much time to plan a proper job. He made it seem such an obvious case of arson that in the end the insurance company refused to pay up. In fact he had completely emptied the premises of furniture and valuables before he lit a fire in the basement of the building. The Morning Advertiser reported the incident rather too libellously, with the result that they were issued with a writ by Chapman. This was withdrawn when the police started to investigate the fire but no official action followed and the incident blew over.

Just before Christmas, Chapman secured the tenure of a much more important public house, The Crown, at 213 High Street, Borough. This was a larger pub much frequented by medical students from the nearby Guy's Hospital; it even had a billiard room. Chapman must have felt he was finally having some success in life. Then Maud became pregnant, but in April he persuaded her to let him carry out an abortion by syringing her womb with a dilute solution of the disinfectant phenol (then known as carbolic acid).

Around this time Chapman found himself in the newspapers once again, although this time he was the victim of a crime rather than its perpetrator. A commercial traveller, Alfred Clark, had come into The Crown accompanied by Matilda Gilmor. They were a pair of confidence tricksters and their scam was to sell stolen shares in the Caledonian Gold Mining Company. These shares were virtually worthless and so far they had not found a buyer for them. Chapman knew Matilda by sight and very soon he was in conversation with the couple. Impressed by what they told him, he agreed to pay £700 for the shares and secured the deal with a deposit of £7. He then withdrew the remainder of his money from his bank, but before he handed it over he wisely made some enquiries about the Caledonian Gold Mining Company and discovered its shares were worthless.

Chapman went to the police and reported the fraudsters. He also told the police that he had paid them £700 for the worthless shares. The couple were arrested when they went to hand over the shares to Chapman and they appeared in court at the Newington Session in June 1902. Chapman went into the witness box for the prosecution and Maud supported his story. Although Clark's defence counsel tried to break Chapman's version of events, they failed: the jury found Clark guilty and the judge sentenced him to three years in jail. Matilda was acquitted. As it happened, Chapman was able to supply the police with a list of the numbers of the notes of the money he had withdrawn from the bank. When he was arrested later in 1902, some of the notes were found in The Crown. Alfred Clark received a free pardon in December of that year.

Although Maud had stood by her 'husband' while he perjured himself in court, her misplaced loyalty was not to stand her in good stead. Her position at The Crown was already being undermined by a new barmaid who was taken on in June 1902. Florence Rayner had been a midday regular at the pub for some time when one day Maud asked her whether she would like a job there as a barmaid earning five shillings per week and full board included. She agreed and relieved Maud of working over the lunch period, enabling her to do her domestic chores and prepare a meal, so that she and Chapman could eat together when the pub closed during the afternoon. Within a fortnight Chapman was on very friendly terms with Florence although his advances towards her had not gone beyond the odd furtive kiss.

When Maud discovered what was going on there was the inevitable row between them, in which Maud threatened to leave him, and to which Chapman replied that if she went out that day then she could stay out for ever. Unfortunately for her she stayed. Shortly after the row, Maud went down with a bout of sickness and diarrhoea, but not before she dismissed Florence from their employ.

By thwarting Chapman in his attempt to replace Maud as his partner, Maud had in fact sealed her own fate. By the middle of July, Chapman had begun to poison her with antimony potassium tartrate. After several bouts of vomiting and diarrhoea, alternating with constipation, she was persuaded by her sister to seek medical advice. Unlike his two previous partners, Maud had very close family ties, and especially with her sister Alice and mother. In the end it was their concern that proved to be Chapman's downfall, although it did not save her life. In July, Alice's action earned Maud a temporary reprieve. Despite Chapman's protestations that he did not want Maud to go to hospital, because of what the doctors might do to her, Alice insisted that she must see someone about her illness. To placate Chapman, they promised to go first to a doctor round the corner from the pub, but when they did not find him at his surgery, Alice insisted on taking her sister to Guy's Hospital, and there she left Maud waiting to see a doctor.

Maud was so ill that she fainted in the hospital waiting room but the doctor who examined her diagnosed nothing serious enough to warrant admitting her and sent her home. Another dose of poison was administered shortly after her return, which sent her hurrying back to the hospital and this time she convinced the hospital of the seriousness of her condition: Maud was admitted and remained in Guy's Hospital for the next four weeks. Maud's symptoms at the beginning of her stay in hospital were a high temperature, rapid pulse, diarrhoea, vomiting, and abdominal pains which came with great severity at times. For two weeks she showed little change but on 10 August she began noticeably to improve; her temperature began to fall and after another ten days she was pronounced fit enough to leave. The doctor in charge, Dr Targett, thought she had had peritonitis.

Maud returned to The Crown, and for a month she was fit and well until Thursday, 7 October. The new routine at The Crown was for Maud to serve in the bar at midday and to have a late lunch by herself. On that day some potatoes were kept aside for her from the food eaten by Chapman and two other employees. When Maud came to eat them later that afternoon they made her sick and she felt so bad that she went to bed. The next day her sister Louisa called but found her vomiting and having diarrhoea. The final attack on Maud had begun. The next two weeks of her life are much better documented that the last days of Chapman's other victims. From what happened at The Crown we learn how he carried out his poisoning, and he knew that the poison he was using would enable him to evade detection. About this time he boasted to one of his customers that he could give a person 'a little bit like that [indicating a pinch between his thumb and forefinger] and 50 doctors would not find out'. The fact that he had got away with murder twice, the second time under the noses of four medical men, three of them specialists, may only have served to convince him that antimony was the perfect poison.

The rest of that week saw Maud no better and on Friday Chapman went round to Dr Stoker's surgery asking for some medicine to stop her vomiting and diarrhoea. It was on this visit that he confided in the doctor that he and Maud were not really married. The doctor gave him a stomach mixture consisting of chalk, bismuth, and opium. He put her on a light diet, and called to see her the following day, Saturday, 11 October, and found her still very ill. Maud asked him if it was peritonitis again, and was reassured to hear that it wasn't. The following day the doctor found her much improved and for Sunday lunch she had pork, potatoes, greens, bread, and ginger beer. Chapman waited until teatime to strike again, and by 5.30 p.m. she was vomiting copiously. Chapman had opened a bottle of champagne during the course of the evening and gave some to Maud, but when Louisa tasted it she found it tasted odd and said so, whereupon Chapman emptied the bottle into the chamber pot.

Monday, 13 October, was the first anniversary of Maud and Chapman's 'wedding' but Maud was too ill to want to celebrate. From that day forward, she became progressively worse. The vomiting and diarrhoea continued and were again accompanied by stomach pains and leg cramps. By Wednesday she was unable to keep any food down and the doctor said that she must now be fed anally. Chapman asked one of his regulars, a Mrs Toon, if she would nurse Maud and feed her. The nature of the latter task made her decline the offer. Chapman found others equally reluctant to do the job so he had to do it himself. Mrs Toon did agree to nurse Maud each evening until the pub closed its doors and she went home at 1 a.m.

Mrs Toon found Maud very thirsty but the drinks she was given brought no relief - she vomited after most of them. Nor was the anal feeding successful - it too was quickly expelled. Maud refused to have Dr Stoker's medicine, saying that it only served to make her worse. Chapman made himself responsible for all Maud's needs and was never out of her sight for more than a few minutes. He insisted that all that she ate and drank must only be given by him. Maud's father called to see her on Saturday evening and found this behaviour of Chapman rather suspicious, saying that he would call in a second opinion if she showed no improvement by Monday. Maud, however, showed signs of improving as she had the previous Saturday, suggesting that over the weekend Chapman was too busy in the bar to devote any time to poisoning her.

Sunday found Maud well enough to have some rabbit for lunch, a meal that she believed was responsible for the recurrence of her symptoms later that day. A servant who ate some of the dish was also sick. The Marsh family organized themselves to attend to Maud and her mother arrived at The Crown on Monday morning to find her daughter very ill and complaining of excessive thirst and pain in the lower abdomen. She had been given brandy and soda to drink by Chapman but each time she had some she vomited it back. Martell's three star brandy no less.

Dr Stoker called and finding that Maud was much weaker he took her mother to one side and confided that her daughter was probably dying. He discussed the wording of her death certificate with Mrs Marsh, and possibly confided in her that Maud was not married to Chapman. At nine o'clock the next morning, Tuesday, 21 October, Maud's father went to see his own doctor Dr Grapel, and asked him to go and see his daughter that day. This he did, and arrived about 3.30 in the afternoon. Dr Stoker, who had already called about midday, was sent for and together the two doctors examined the sick woman. Dr Grapel found her pulse quick but her heartbeat strong. Her appearance was jaundiced, her skin sallow, and her breathing shallow. She was now in a semi-coma. The doctors agreed that it was probably a case of food poisoning and arranged to meet again the following evening.

Later in the day, Maud began to improve and when her father called to see her after work, he found her feeling better and more cheerful. He told Chapman that he thought she would pull through, to which Chapman replied ominously: 'She will never get up no more.'

Maud was not much better by the evening and her mother stayed the night again. The nurse left at 1 a.m. and Chapman brought up a large glass of brandy for Maud and put it by her bed in case she needed a drink during the night. For a while Maud slept, but at 3 a.m. she awoke and her mother gave her some of the brandy with soda. Shortly afterwards she vomited it back. At 5 a.m., Mrs Marsh, worn out after two days of nursing Maud, decided that she too was in need of something to sustain her and had a drink of the brandy, adding some ice and water to it. Within minutes she too was vomiting and during the next two hours she needed to go to the lavatory six times.

Maud's mother put two and two together and decided that the brandy was suspect. She asked Mrs Toon to taste it, and this she did but found it too strong and said it burned her mouth. The two women did not have time to take any action, however, because Maud had a fit shortly after Mrs Toon's arrival. One of her arms had turned a deep red colour and her lips had gone a dark grey. A severe uterine discharge occurred. She was now sinking fast but about noon she regained sufficient consciousness to realize that her end was near. 'I am going', she whispered to Chapman and the two women, to which he replied: 'Where?' Then with a last gasp she bade him goodbye. It was 12.30 p.m. Overcome with emotion, Chapman burst into tears, but then found enough inner strength to pull himself together and half an hour later he opened The Crown as usual. Dr Stoker called at 3 p.m. and finding Maud dead, he refused to sign a death certificate, saying that he intended to perform a private post-mortem. Maud's mother had said the previous day that she wanted this to be done if Maud were to die.

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