24 April 1892
The Melbourne Butcher's History Without a Parallel in Criminal Annals
WHAT HIS DEFENSE WILL BE
It Will Be Claimed That He is Moved By a Desire to Kill Which He Is Unable to Restrain - Is He the Ripper?
When the trial of Deeming comes on at Melbourne, Australia, it will be watched more closely than that of any criminal ever tried in British or colonial courts. There has been no effort on the part of Deeming's counsel to disprove that he committed the crimes charged to him, and it is believed there will be none made. They will rely upon their skill in advancing the somewhat novel theory that their client is a moral monstrosity ruled by an irresistible desire to take human life, and for which, owing to an incident of his birth, he should not be held logically or morally responsible.
There now seems a fair prospect of clearing up the mysterious Whitechapel crimes. Many people who have followed all the dates given in what is known of the incidents in Deeming's history are nearly convinced that the same hands that did the ghoulish work at Rain Hill and Melbourne, wielded the knife which accomplished such murderous execution in the slums of Whitechapel.
Deeming stands almost without a peer in the history of the world's noted criminals. Whether or not it is proved that he is the fiend who perpetrated the Whitechapel crimes, his record equals that of any monster of whose acts civilization has record. Deeming was taken into custody about six weeks ago at Melbourne upon information furnished by the occupants of a house in Windsor, a suburb of that city, which he had just vacated. The new tenants found the floor of the fireplace in bad condition. Workmen sent to mend it noticed an odor and tore up the cement. Under it they found the body of a woman, who was identified as Deeming's wife. The skull was fractured and the face beaten in. The throat was cut so that the head was almost severed from the trunk. The body was in a night gown, and was wound tightly from the neck to the ankles with heavy cord.
This woman was a Miss Mather, whom Deeming had married in Liverpool during the previous September. The facts telegraphed back to England and recalled to the people of Liverpool the mysterious disappearance of another woman, who had visited Deeming at Denham Villa, in Rainhill, a fashionable suburb of Liverpool, shortly before he married Miss Mather.
Appreciating the curious tendency of criminals to repeat their crimes in identical detail, the Liverpool police decided to dig under the fireplace of the Denham Villa. But little of the cement had been removed when an unmistakable odor was perceived. Just under the cement they came upon the bodies of three children. Two of them had been apparently between five and seven years old. Their throats were cut and the bodies were dressed only in night shirts, which were crusted with blood and dirt. Just beneath them lay a body of a girl of about 12 years, clothed only in a night shirt. There were no wounds on the body, and the police say she was strangled.
Some two and a half feet beneath the cement, and further from the wall, was found the body of a tall woman. There was an end of rope around her neck and her throat was cut. A baby's body with the head crushed in was still in her arms. Mother and baby had been wrapped up tightly in an eiderdown quilt, which was wound with heavy cord at the neck and ankles. The woman wore a wedding ring and guard, silk underclothing and silk stockings and fine boots.
Deeming, or Arthur Williams as he then called himself, arrived in Rainhill early in July last, and took a suite of rooms at the Commercial hotel. He showed large sums of money, and had a free and easy air. He is described as about 45 years old, with a heavy dark moustache, high cheek bones and a sallow skin. He spoke rapidly and not as an Englishman. He wore his hair rather long, his clothes fitted his body rather loosely, and he walked with a long, heavy stride.
He was supposed to be a Yankee, or a Canadian, but nothing positive could be learned as to his former life. He was a capital story teller, and in conversation betrayed a wide experience in the colonies and on the continent. His two peculiarities were that he would never talk about his own affairs and would never allow himself to be photographed.
He soon rented Denham Villa, met and married Miss Mather, a local belle, and carried her off to Australia, whence she wrote back to her mother the most enthusiastic accounts of his affectionate devotion. On Dec. 15 both he and her daughter wrote to Mrs. Mather, dwelling upon their mutual happiness. Within 10 days, or before Christmas, the young wife's body was under the fireplace and Deeming was off paying court to a girl of 19 who, her parents say, was considering his proposal of marriage when he was arrested for murder.
Just who Deeming is still remains a mystery. He is alleged to have confessed to two of the mutilations attributed to Jack the Ripper (which he now denies), has been circumstantially accused of murders, robberies and swindling in the four quarters of the globe and it is not unlikely that the digging up of the fireplaces of the various other houses he has successively occupied may disclose as long and ghastly a series of wife murders as those attributed to his legendary prototype.
If it has no other effect, his career should at least discourage confiding young ladies from hasty unions with fascinating but unauthenticated strangers.
The investigation before the coroner at Melbourne resulted in holding Deeming for trial on the charge of murdering his wife. The closing scenes of the trial were of a very unusual character. While the coroner's jury were out deliberating on this verdict, Deeming laughed and chatted with his counsel, and frequently asked about the cause of the jury's delay, saying that he could arrive at a conclusion in much less time than they had consumed.
The murderer's lawyers have made public the line of defense which they will adopt. It is extraordinary. The claim will be set up when Deeming is put on trial for his life, that he is a moral monstrosity; that he was born with an irresistible desire to kill, which sprang from the fact that shortly before his birth his mother was frightened at the butchery of an animal, and she received an impression which was imparted to her offspring and marked him a criminal for life.
The trial will attract the attention of the world and furnish a problem for alienists to solve.