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Dr. Thomas Neill Cream

Dr. Thomas Neill Cream (1850-1892)

Born in Scotland in May of 1850, Cream was the oldest of eight brothers and sisters. The family moved to Canada four years later. On November 12, 1872, Cream registered at McGill College in Montreal as a medical student. He would graduate with honors on March 31, 1876.

Soon after, he was to meet a Flora Elizabeth Brooks, whose father own a prosperous hotel in Waterloo. She soon became the victim of an unwanted pregnancy, and Cream took it upon himself to perform his own abortion, nearly killing Brooks. Her father was understandably enraged, and insisted they marry, which Cream did on September 11, 1876. The next day he left for England, where he registered as a graduate student at St. Thomas's Hostpital in London. He also obtained a qualification from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons at Edinburgh.

Cream returned to Canada a few years later, and, undaunted by his previous mishap, began a career as an abortionist. His reputation was quite promising until the body of a young chambermaid named Kate Gardener was discovered at Cream's office, a bottle of chloroform lying beside her. Luckily for Cream, he was not charged with murder, despite the harrowing evidence against him.

Perhaps finally rustled by his near-escape, he took his business into Chicago, but his murderous tendancies again began to show. In August of 1880, Julia Faulkner died under mysterious circumstances, and Cream was arrested on charges of murder -- he escaped conviction again.

When Cream wasn't murdering women and aborting babies, he took it upon himself to market his own person elixir to combat epilepsy, and soon acquired quite a following by a number of patients who swore by the treatment. One of them, a railway agent named Daniel Stott, made the mistake of sending his wife to Cream's office for regular doses of the drug. Julia Stott received much more from the good Doctor than just medicine on each of her visits, and when her husband finally became suspicious of the affair, Cream decided to add a bit of strychnine to the medicine. Mr. Stott died on June 14, 1881, and had it not been for a move of grand stupidity by his killer, Cream would have gotten away "Stott" free.

Originally, Stott's death was attributed to epilepsy, but for some reason Cream wrote to the coronor stating that the pharmacist was responsible for his death, and requested an exhumation. The coronor dismissed the letter, but the D.A. went on a limb and ordered the body to be exhumed -- strychnine was found in his stomach and Dr. Cream's luck finally ran out. He was imprisoned in the Illinois State Penitentiary at Joliet.

Dr. Thomas Neill Cream

Although it was a life sentence, Cream was released on good behavior on July 31, 1891. He took a quick trip to Canada to collect an inheritance of $16,000 and left for England, eventually to end up in the South London slums.

Only two days after his arrival, he met a prositute named Matilda Clover, who was later to die from nux vomica poisoning. The same fate befell an Ellen Donworth. But as in his first two murders, Cream was uncharged.

After a short break from his murders (and an even shorter attempt at love with a woman named Laura Sabbatini), Cream was to poison two women: Alice Marsh and Emma Shrivell. He would again have escaped detection, had it not been for another unexplicable action: he took it upon himself to accuse his neighbor of the two murders, even going so far as to try his hand at extortion. He said that he had incriminating evidence again a Joseph Harper, and that for no less than 1,500 pounds he would not share his knowledge with the police. Harper refused, and Cream soon lost interest in the attempt.

Yet he refused to forget about the murders -- he soon bragged to others about his vast knowledge on the two murders, even going so far as to take a John Haynes on a tour of the murder scenes! He then did the same to a Mr. McIntyre, who turned out to be a police sergeant, and began surveilance on the doctor. Furthermore, a P.C. Cumley (who had seen Cream with the two girls on the night of their deaths) happened to come upon this "tall gentleman with cross-eyes and bushy whiskers" and also began to watch him. His attempts to blackmail Harper were soon revealed to police, and Cream was finally arrested.

He was charged and found guilty of the death of Matilda Clover, and was sentenced to hang on November 15, 1892. It was there that he would perform his last (and perhaps most inexplicable) action -- he is said to have uttered "I am Jack..." as the noose fell taut and squeezed the life out of his body. As the Ripper murder scare was still in full force, the immediate assumption was that Cream had confessed to being Jack the Ripper.

The execution of Dr. Thomas Neill Cream

Here, and only here, is his connection to the case.

According to Donald Rumbelow, in The Complete Jack the Ripper, the fact that Cream uttered these words (an event which was sworn to by the hangman) should be suspicious, since the new Commissioner of the City of London Police, Sir Henry Smith, had attended the hanging. He was later to have boasted that he knew more than anyone else about the Ripper case in his autobiography, and yet no mention is made of this occurrence.

Even more damning is the fact, often quoted, that Cream was serving a prison sentence from 1881 to 1891 in Joliet, Illinois. Most claim, therefore, that he could not possibly have been the murderer, as all murders were committed in 1888.

Yet a good Ripper theory dies hard, and new theorists proposed that Cream actually had a double. The two would help each other by the one being in prison while the other was free committing crimes, using his double's prison sentence as an alibi. Those who support this theory believe this is evident early on in Cream's criminal career, when brought into court on charges of bigamy. He was advised to plead guilty, but refused to do so, claiming he was serving a prison sentence in Sydney at the time. Sure enough, the prison was asked if someone fitting his description was indeed there and they replied in the affirmative. In his biography, Marshall Hall (who defended Cream) is said to have believed that Neill Cream had a double in the underworld and they went by the same name and used each other's terms of imprisonment as alibis for each other.

Therefore, while Cream was in Joilet prison, his double would have been able to commit the Whitechapel crimes -- on the day of his execution, Cream knew he had no chance for survival and decided to free his double by confessing to his crimes.

Dr. Thomas Neill Cream's handwriting.

It is also theorized that the corruption which ran rampant in the prisons of Chicago resulted in Cream's being released as a result of a bribe, allowing himself to commit the murders in Whitechapel while the crooked officials swore he was still in prison. Proponents also claim his handwriting (seen at right) matches the handwriting of two of the Ripper letters.

Also neither of these theories can be truly disproved, most refute the theory on grounds that Cream, like Chapman, was a poisoner, not a mutilator. It would make little sense for him to poison his victims before 1888, suddenly go on a murderous and vicious mutilating spree in that year, and then revert back to poisoning his women. His prison sentence adds only more fire to the arguments of the skeptics.


Dr. Thomas Neill Cream
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Related pages:
  Neill Cream
       Authors: Obituaries - Donald Bell 
       Message Boards: Dr. Thomas Neill Cream 
       Press Reports: Fort Wayne Weekly Sentinel - 11 January 1902 
       Press Reports: Qu'Appelle Vidette - 21 July 1892 
       Press Reports: Times - 12 March 1985 
       Press Reports: Ubyssey - 2 February 1979 
       Press Reports: Washington Post - 21 October 1910 
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