Elizabeth Anne Camp: The Murder on the Hounslow Express #RealCrimeFriday

11 February 1897, train has arrived at Waterloo Station. A carriage cleaner is walking along the train’s second class compartment, when they see a pair of legs protruding from beneath a seat. Upon closer inspection they find the body of a woman, Elizabeth Anne Camp, housekeeper of the Good Intent public house, in Walworth, South London.

Her head has been badly bludgeoned, and the furnishings of the carriage are covered with her blood. Her body is taken to St. Thomas’ hospital, where a little later it is identified by Edward Berry, Elizabeth’s fiancé who was waiting to meet her at the station.

A murder investigation is set up immediately. The medical report concludes that the victim was killed by repeated heavy strikes to the head with a blunt instrument. Her pockets were rifled through, and her green purse and a ticket are said to be missing, therefore the motive is considered to be robbery. Elizabeth’s sister, who accompanied her to the station, is positive that the compartment was empty when Elizabeth entered it.

This is confirmed by a porter who was helping them with some packages.

This sketch from the Penny Illustrated Paper reveals the discovery of Elizabeth's body
This sketch from the Penny Illustrated Paper reveals the discovery of Elizabeth’s body

The police conduct a patient and methodical search of the line from Hounslow to Waterloo. On the embankment between Putney and Wandsworth, they find a chemist’s pestle, which is used for pounding chemical substances. The instrument is stained with blood, and has hairs stuck to it. The doctors say that this could be the weapon that inflicted the injuries. The discovery of the pestle leads to the belief that the discovery of the killer would soon follow. Alas this was not the case.

Berry is questioned closely, but his story holds. The landlord at the Good Intent, where Camp worked, denies a rumour that she spurned his attentions. A London barman named Brown, who had previously been engaged to Camp, has a solid alibi. Her brother-in-law is also questioned, being asked to give details of his movements on the night before the murder. He is a suspect as it appears Elizabeth was lending her relatives money, but his alibi is found to be sufficient.

A Victorian pestle and mortar
A Victorian pestle and mortar

The case causes a sensation, as is typical for railway murders. This creates the problem of a huge number of rumours surrounding the case. One is of a man seen running from Vauxhall station, his hands dripping with blood. Another is of an incredibly nervous man walking into a pub, and hurriedly asking for brandy, but trembling so much that he could barely lift the glass to his lips.

The Police themselves have their own suspect. A pastry-cook named Burgess had joined the train at Chiswick. He told police that at Wandsworth a man had left in a hurry. The man was of medium height, aged around 30, with a dark moustache, and wore a top hat and frock coat. This description is confirmed by two porters, but the man is never traced.

After questioning a number of suspects, and following several lines of enquiry, the police are unable to find a perpetrator. On the final day of the adjourned inquest the jury return a verdict of “wilful murder against some person or persons unknown.”

Despite having their suspicions the police are unable to connect any of the suspects to the murder or to the weapon, and the crime remains unsolved.

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