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A special weekend happy birthday to Dawn and the Camden Town Murder

Robert Wood and the rising sun

So Dawn mentions it’s her birthday. So I think about what sort of graphic goes with “Dawn” and, naturally, the first thing that pops into my head is this little guy, above.

phyllis dimmock

It was drawn by Robert Wood, a young commercial artist, in 1907. It’s a postcard mailed from Belgium inviting a woman named Phyllis Dimmock to a pub called the Rising Sun in the North London neighborhood of Camden Town. Phyllis was described at trial as a prostitute, but she may simply have been extraordinarily liberal with her favors. Also, she collected postcards. Isn’t that nice?

It is signed “Yours to a cinder, Alice.”

On the morning of September 12, Phyllis was found by her common-law husband lying in bed with her throat cut from ear to ear. There was blood in the basin and a straight razor beside it. Her postcard collection was strewn about the room, as if the murderer had tried unsuccessfully to find something. Or really hated postcards.

Later, this card turned up in the back of a drawer. When it was reproduced in the papers, an old girlfriend identified Robert Woods as the author. He talked her out of going to the police and asked her to give him an alibi. She couldn’t resist running her mouth about it, though, and word got out. He eventually admitted being the last person seen with Phyllis on the night of the 11th.

Long story short: tried and acquitted.

His case was argued by Edward Marshall Hall, who went on to be become one of the most famous British barristers, evah. Wood was the first criminal defendant in Britain to give evidence at his own trial and still be acquitted (despite the fact that he didn’t make a very good impression). The case became known as the Camden Town Murder.

The execrable painter Walter Sickert lived in Camden Town at the time and painted several enigmatic, crap pictures of the Camden Town Murder. Several writers — most recently and famously Patricia Cornwell — think Sickert was Jack the Ripper. Which is tosh, rubbish and bullshit.

That makes Wednesday before last the hundredth anniversary of the Camden Town Murder. Happy birthday, Dawn!


Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 22, 2007, 2:43 pm

Me, I think he did it. I believe he was acquitted for the same reason Lizzie Borden was: why, that nice young person couldn’t have done such a thing!

More than you ever wanted to know about the Camden Town Murder here. A shorter, more interesting version was the in Law Gazette, but its archives appear to be buggered for some reason. the Google cached version is here.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 22, 2007, 7:11 pm

Wow, Uncle B! Must be the long link…you got a trip to the filter on that one.

The one he painted for the Fishmongers is pretty good. That study sucks, though. Look at her right eye (the one on the left)…even at this small scale, it’s clearly higher up on her face and focusing on a different spot than her left eye. Very bad portrait mojo.

I think all the cool kids are over on the pee thread, though.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: September 22, 2007, 7:19 pm

Yeah, but I still think there is a strong facial resemblance.

Hey! Have you seen the stuff Lokki has left in here, by the way? Some of it is very… unusual.

Akismet is hospitable, though. Never realised you two were related. Is that another of these Southern things ‘you just have to get used to’ like banjos at the breakfast table?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 22, 2007, 7:27 pm

I don’t visit the spam filter, I just hose it out from time to time.

It’s kind of like a drunk tank.

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: September 22, 2007, 7:31 pm

Just as I suspected! Size (of link) DOES matter to that Akismet bitch!

And happy birthday, Dawn! May you live as long as you like and love as long as you live!

I read that book whats-her-face wrote about Jack the Ripper solved. I thought it was a contrived crock of shit, but am probably wrong. Another author (the book is around here somewhere and I’ll find it if you ask) kinda blew her arguments about Sickert out of the harbor.

Comment from Dawn
Time: September 22, 2007, 10:00 pm

It’s always an honor to get a post dedicated to you and on a weekend at that!

Yours to a cinder,

Comment from porknbean
Time: September 23, 2007, 11:56 am

I hope you had a good birthday Dawn! Get anything good?

Comment from Dawn
Time: September 23, 2007, 12:15 pm

I did get good stuff. My mother-in-law got me a Louis Vuitton wallet to match my purse. It’s the only Fwench thing I LOVE! I share my birthday with another friend so 21 of my closest friends took us to Sushi and then we went swing dancing at the Indian casino. (It’s the only place to dance in our little town) Anyway, we saw drunk, scantily-clad, middle aged women doing things that should never ever be seen in public and laughed ourselves silly.

Comment from porknbean
Time: September 23, 2007, 4:41 pm

Good on your MIL. My husband and I have been married for 21 years and my MIL has never acknowledged that I have a birthday.
I’m glad you had a great time.

Comment from armybrat
Time: September 23, 2007, 6:41 pm

hell, I’d pass out if my MIL even remembered that either one of us have a birthday. She sure as hell doesn’t acknowledge that we’re married.

Comment from Dawn
Time: September 23, 2007, 8:24 pm

My MIL is a lovely person and she is good to my kids.
I get a lot of sympathy points with her cuz I’m an orphan. She doesn’t have to share her son with anyone in my family on holidays.

Comment from nbpundit
Time: September 23, 2007, 9:07 pm

Speaking of postcards…Heh™

Pingback from S. Weasel
Time: September 26, 2007, 9:10 am

[…] I was born so that Stoaty would never again have to observe a minion’s natal day with a post about a one hundred year old unsolved cutthroat murder! […]

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