THE BODY SHOP
Isn't this graphic? Just shows the films don't always exaggerate.
A letter to the Times from F.M. refers to three men - Cornelius Fitzgerald, described as 'an Irishman of respectable appearance'; Robert Self, a one-legged, 35-year-old ex-soldier; and George Betts, a 'shabbily dressed man' – who appeared before the magistrates at Greenwich.
All three men had been arrested early the previous morning. At Deptford, two policemen, James Jefferies and Luke Kenney, had noticed a cart being driven very slowly and two men walking on each side of the horse. The constables recognised the men as notorious resurrectionists (body-snatchers). The policemen sent for help and then took the cart and the men to Greenwich police station.
When the cart was examined it was found to contain the bodies of two old men. Almost at once word was out that the two dead men had been 'burked' (murdered preparatory to sale to a medical school). A crowd of thousands assembled at the police station, demanding that the three 'Burkites' be let out so that they could attend to them. Eventually, late at night - it was still Friday - the three prisoners were escorted by 40 police and taken before the magistrates at Deptford. As they passed, the mob hurled stones and bricks and missiles of every kind at them. It was only with difficulty that the prisoners were brought into the room with the magistrates. The magistrates then remanded the prisoners until the corpses could be identified.
The next day (Saturday, 14 April), the bosun of the Justitia, a convict ship lying off Woolwich, identified both bodies. They were both of convicts, one aged 84, the other 65. They had died on board on the Thursday night. They had, he said, been speedily interred at Plumstead and just as speedily dug up by the three men who, later that morning, had been arrested. Now the magistrates ordered the bodies to be interred once more and the prisoners were again remanded.
On Monday morning (16 April), Jefferies and Kenney were again patrolling the area where they had been on the previous Thursday. Yet again a cart came past and yet again they stopped the driver. Looking inside, the policemen saw the same two corpses which had been disinterred a second time. This time a man named Hollis was charged.
The prisoners were removed to Maidstone gaol and appeared at the next Assizes.