Historic British Murder Research

Was your ancestor a murderer, victim or witness?

Illustrated Police News - Saturday 09 July 1892

above: Illustrated Police News – Saturday 09 July 1892 (header: “Armed burglars, murder of a policeman near Carlisle” – November 1885)

A unique historic British murder research service. Searching and identifying cases between 1750-1950.

Old murder cases have always received extensive historic news coverage.  These timeworn events have left behind a fascinating insight into lives, relationships and communities.  The archive and court records attached to each event along with the statements from witnesses are frequently revealing.  If your ancestor was a victim or a perpetrator then it is quite likely that you will discover a lot more background information about the person.  If you are searching for a witness or someone connected to the crime then it is possible that the coverage will expose some background of the person.

Much the same as today media coverage of these very serious crimes were at times shrouded in editorial sensationalism that in itself is fascinating to read and decipher.  The lack of current available technologies used today in comparison with murder cases before 1950 is alarming.  Evidence was frequently flimsy and I’m sure that a significant number of the people that were sent to the gallows possibly shouldn’t have received the death sentence.

Old British Murder is a unique investigation service.  I have been researching and writing about British murders for a great many years – of course no one case is ever the same and each story is exceptional.

Illustrated Police News - October 21 1893

Illustrated Police News – October 21 1893

It’s often said that there is nothing like a good murder to beef up the British press and this was certainly the case during the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian Times.  The newspapers and the ‘Penny Dreadfuls’ were full of amazing and overblown stories that thrilled and scared its hungry audience.

Dangerous Justice – Flimsy Evidence

Tragically, behind many historic murder cases lie the shadow of the fall guy.  The desperate innocent individual who ultimately died for no reason. A great many people were accused and sent to the gallows on very thin and flimsy evidence. In retrospect many were quite likely wrongly convicted of the crime of murder. Shockingly an equal number could well have escaped trial and the rope as the finger of suspicion was diverted.

Staffordshire Advertiser - Saturday 09 November 1799

Staffordshire Advertiser – Saturday 09 November 1799

Apart from actual witnesses there was, compared to today’s detective work, very little to go by.  It wasn’t until much later on that the police could actually tell the difference between animal blood and human blood.  The fingerprint process was not developed.  As for DNA, that of course that would not appear until well into the future.

In many ways our ancestors lived through what was perhaps a more dangerous and more crime ridden time than today.  Murder, or death in suspicious circumstances, was fairly commonplace.  You can actually see by reading the newspapers how much violent crime there was.  Some of it very well reported to almost iconic status, and much of it quite under covered.  Here at Old British Murder I am looking into not only the high profile cases but also those that received lesser coverage.

Ian Waugh
Old British Murder