31 MAY 1930, Page 26

A Ghastly Trial

The Trial of George Chapman (Severin Klosowski). Edited by Hargrave L. Adam. (William Hodge. 10s. 6d.) THE first proved victim of that Polish rascal known to legal history as the antimony-poisoner, George Chapman, was a Mrs. Shadrach Spink, wife of a porter on the Great Eastern Railway, who drank and had blonde bobbed hair, the latter being a somewhat unusual feminine feature at the end of last century. Klosowski, alias Chapman, had been in this country for about six years, having come from Warsaw, where he had been a surgeon-barber, at the time when he met Mrs. Spink. Here in England he was a plain barber, or perhaps not so plain, for many women before Mrs. Spink had fallen under the spell of his charm ; indeed, at one time in Whitechapel two admirers both claimed to be his legal wife. That was all over.- He no longer married the women whom he enticed into his- clutches, but took them for a drive instead and then announced to their friends that they were man and wife. Mrs. Spink had quarrelled with her husband ; so Chapman stepped into the breach and annexed both her and her dowry of £600. Together they bought a barber's shop at Hastings.

Among those who came to the shop was a chemist from whom the barber bought an ounce of tartar-emetic, signing the poison register with his usual name of George Chapman. The Chapmans then left Hastings and took the lease of a public-house in London, off the City Road. Here it was that Mrs. Spink began to suffer from vomiting and abdominal pains. She grew worse, and died on Christmas Day, 1897. Her death was certified, oddly enough, to be due to phthisis, and she was buried in a common grave at Leyton, eighteen feet deep, with seven other coffins above her.

A few months later Chapman advertised for a barmaid, and chose a certain Bessie Taylor, with whom he went through a form of marriage. In February, 1901, after complaining for some time of agonizing stomachaches, and growing thinner daily, she also diedfrom " exhaustion " the doctors said—and was buried at Lynn, with the following inscription on her coffin, believed to have been composed by her husband

" Farewell my friends, fond and dear, Weep not for me one single tear. For all that was and could be done You plainly see my time has come."

A few months later Chapman found another barmaid, who also died of cramp and sickness. But this time the doctor attending her refused to grant a death certificate. After a post mortem Chapman was arrested on October 25th, 1902, and paid the penalty for his crimes the following spring.

The trial took place on March 16th, 1903 ; the delay having been caused by the exhumation of the corpses of Chapman's wives, which were all found to be in a remarkable state of preservation. Now antimony, the chief ingredient of tartar-emetic, has this embalming qualiti ; and large quantities of the poison were found in the bodies of all the deceased. There was never any doubt of the verdict. Mr. Justice Grantham castigated the doctors who had made such erroneous diagnoses. To the prisoner he said : ' It is not necessary for me to go through the harrowing details of the case or refer again to the frightful cruelty of which you have been guilty in murdering year by year women on whom you have gratified your vile lust. I have but one duty to perform— that of sentencing you to death."

After his execution rumours began to spread that he had been Jack the Ripper." Although in all human 'probability the Ripper's identity will now never be proved,• there is at least circumstantial evidence that he was Klosowski.

The mutilations were all purposeless, as to a certain extent the proved poisonings were. In each case, except one (where the murderer had been disturbed), the bodies that the Ripper cut open and dissected in a particularly revolting way must have been attacked by a man who had skill, strength and anatomatical knowledge. Furthermore, the murders began just when Klosowski arrived in England, and ended when he left for America in 1890 ; but similar crimes were committed there until 1892, when Chapman left again for England. Finally, the one person who had seen the Ripper talking to one of his victims shortly before her death gave in evidence a faithful portrait of Chapman. We should have thought, however, that modern handwriting experts could settle the question by a microscopic comparison of Klosowski's hand- writing with the extant postcards of the " Ripper."

It is almost unnecessary to say that this volume has been ably edited by Mr. Adam ; for the publisher of this series chooses his editors with great judgment. We congratulate Mr. Hodge on the fiftieth volume in a notable series, and Mr. Adam on an exceptionally interesting book,