Murder of Elizabeth Camp, 1897
When Elizabeth Camp's body was found badly beaten in a train
carriage, a massive investigation was launched.
A gruesome discovery
On Thursday 11 February 1897, Edward Berry, a fruiterer living
in East Street, Walworth, waited on the platform at Waterloo for
the 7.42pm train from Hounslow.
He was expected to meet his fiancée off the train and they were
going to discuss arrangements for their wedding. At 8.25pm the
train arrived and passengers alighted. Berry saw no sign of the
He was turning to leave the platform when he saw a commotion
outside a compartment some distance down the train. Porters,
various railway officials, and finally some police officers arrived
and, curious, Berry asked what was going on. He was told that a
body had been found underneath the seat of a second class
A carriage cleaner, walking along the train, had seen some legs
protruding from beneath a seat and found the body of a woman. It
was found to be the body of Berry’s future wife, Elizabeth Annie
Camp, housekeeper of the Good Intent public house at
The body was taken to St. Thomas’s Hospital and a little later,
Berry formally identified it. The cause of death was plain enough;
the woman’s head had been badly smashed and there was blood all
over the furnishings.
A murder investigation was taken up immediately by
Superintendent Robinson of LSWR Police and Chief Inspector Marshall
of Scotland Yard. The medical report concluded that the victim had
been killed by heavy blows to the head with a blunt instrument.
There were no signs of sexual interference but Camp’s pockets
had been rifled and the motive was therefore considered to be
robbery. Reconstruction of the circumstances suggested that she had
put up a brave fight for her life.
Camp, a well-built woman, 33 years old, has paid a visit to her
sisters in Hounslow earlier that afternoon.
She stayed at Hounslow for two hours and then went to the
station, where she boarded a second class compartment on the 7.42pm
train. Her sister, who accompanied her to the station, said
afterwards that she was positive the compartment was empty when
Camp entered it. This was confirmed by a porter who had helped them
with some packages.
A search of the compartment after the discovery of the crime did
not help a great deal. A broken umbrella belonging to Camp and a
pair of bone cuff links were the only objects found. The articles
missing, and never found, were a green purse containing a small sum
of money, and a ticket, which Camp was known to have had when she
boarded the train. The primary task of the police was to search the
line from Hounslow to Waterloo.
Discovery of the weapon
This was done patiently and methodically. On the embankment
between Putney and Wandsworth, the officers found a chemist's
pestle, an implement for pounding chemical substances. The pestle
was stained with blood and there were hairs adhered to it. The
doctors said that the injuries could have been inflicted with it.
It was not tested for fingerprints because at this time this
science was in its infancy.
The case caused something of a sensation as railway murders usually
do and there was a crop of rumours including one which proclaimed
that a man had been seen running from Vauxhall station with blood
dripping from his hands.
As the police continued with their enquiries, Elizabeth Camp’s
brother-in-law was asked to give a detailed account of his
movements on the night of the murder. Some significance seems to
have been attached to the fact that Camp had been lending her
Witnesses were found who could give a clear picture of Camp’s
private life. Enquiries about the origin of the pestle also proved
A mystery unsolved
The police were not without a description of a suspect. A
pastry-cook named Burgess had joined the train at Chiswick and told
the police that at Wandsworth a man had left very hurriedly. The
man was of medium height, aged about 30, with a dark moustache, and
wearing a top hat and frock coat. Two porters confirmed this
description but the man was never traced.
Despite questioning a number of suspects, and following
severally lines of enquiry, the police were unable to find the
perpetrator. On the final day of the adjourned inquest on 7 April,
1897, the jury returned a verdict of: “wilful murder against some
person or persons unknown.” The police had their suspicions but
they could not connect any of the suspects with the weapon or with