While researching my history of law enforcement articles I realised I was more fascinated (as I’m sure many of us are) by crimes than by law enforcement, so I have decided to do a series featuring (in)famous crimes and criminals, some of which you may have heard of, and others you may not. The series will focus on English crimes and criminals primarily, because that’s where I’m from, but will also feature other countries as I discover them.
First up is what is known as the Bermondsey Horror, which was one of the earliest cases investigated by the detective branch that was formed in London in 1842.
The name given to this crime by the media of the time suggests multiple victims, yet that is not the case for there was only one victim, Patrick O’Conner, who was murdered on 9th August 1849.
Patrick O’Conner was a ganger at the London docks and a money-lender who made a significant amount of money through charging excessive interest. He was murdered by Marie Manning, with whom he was involved, both before and after she married, and by her husband Frederick.
The exact nature of the relationship between Marie Manning (born Marie de Roux in Lausanne, Switzerland) and Patrick O’Conner is unknown, but O’Conner was not a stranger at the Mannings’. On the evening of the 9th August 1849 he went to the Mannings’ for dinner, during which he was murdered by Marie and her husband and buried under the kitchen floor.
The details of how O’Conner was murdered, and his body subsequently discovered by the police, are unknown now but his body was found by the police on 17th August. At that time a search was begun for the Mannings, who it transpired had killed O’Conner in order to rob him, of money, railway shares and property holdings; Marie went to his house on both the day of his murder and the day following to steal from him.
Following the theft the Mannings double-crossed one another, with Marie coming away in possession of the greater share, and went their separate ways. Marie was captured in Edinburgh, where she was attempting to exchange some of O’Conner’s properties, while Frederick was caught on Jersey.
The trial was unexceptional, as was the case itself; it’s entirely possible that the
Bermondsey Horror would have slipped out of the public’s, and history’s, notice were it not for the presence of Mr Charles Dickens at the public hanging of the Mannings. Dickens wrote to The Times newspaper following the execution to decry the wickedness and levity of the mob that joined him in bearing witness.