1930s crimes – the jigsaw murders


Innovative forensic techniques helped solve the murders of Isabella Kerr and her maid Mary Jane Rogerson in a case which gripped the nation in 1935.

On 19th September 1935 a tourist looking down from a bridge in Moffat, Dumfriesshire made a gruesome discovery – a human arm sticking out of the water. A police search of the ravine revealed 30 human body parts wrapped in newspaper.

One of the newspapers was a special edition of the Sunday Graphic that was only sold in the Morecambe and Lancaster areas which helped narrow the search for the murderer. By studying the list of subscribers Inspector Jeremiah Lynch of a Scotland Yard identified Buck Ruxton as a prime suspect.

Buck Ruxton, born Bukhara Rustomji Hakim, was a well respected doctor working in Lancaster. His common-law wife and their 20 year old maid had been reported missing since 15th September by the women’s families who didn’t accept any of Ruxton’s explanations which included Isabella leaving him for another man and Mary going away to have a baby.

Ruxton’s relationship with Isabella had been a tempestuous one. He was jealous of the attention she received from other men and suspected her of being unfaithful. She had reported him for assault in the past.

The bodies were reassembled and a new forensic technique was used, superimposing a photograph of the suspected victim’s face over the skull. The approximate date of death was determined by calculating the age of the maggots on the bodies. A dentist also gave evidence to confirm their identities.

At the trial it was suggested that Ruxton strangled Belle in a jealous rage because he believed she was having affairs. Mary the maid witnessed the murder or perhaps she discovered the body so to keep his secret safe he strangled her too. He then chopped up the bodies in his bathroom, wrapped them in newspaper, put them in the boot of his car and drove through the night to find a remote spot where he could dispose of them.

He had claimed to be in Settle at the time of the murder but unluckily for him on his way back from Dumfriesshire he had knocked over a cyclist in Kendal and been stopped by police who took down his registration number. He would not have had to go through Kendal on his way back from Settle but it would be a logical place to have passed through if driving down from Scotland.

Ruxton was found guilty and hanged. For a while his waxwork was exhibited at the Madam Tussaud Chamber of Horrors.












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