The Greedy Serial Killer Who Murdered Many Across the World
His last words were, ‘I am Jack…’ Was he confessing to the Whitechapel murders?
On 15th November 1892, Thomas Neill Cream stated, “I am Jack…” Some would presume this was an admission that he was Jack the Ripper. He said this as he hung from the gallows at Newgate Prison. The claim has largely been disproved. Records show Cream was in prison during the Ripper killings. The claims are also unsubstantiated by those who witnessed his execution. Only the executioner would admit to hearing this.
Despite this, though, Cream is still a fascinating serial killer in his own right. A murderer who claimed victims on both sides of the Atlantic.
Thomas Neill Cream
Cream was born in Glasgow in May 1850. His family moved to Quebec in 1854, where he attended McGill University and graduated in 1876. He wrote his final thesis on chloroform.
In 1876, Cream performed an abortion on a young lady called Flora Brooks. He was the father of the baby. When she started to become unwell, her father questioned her and discovered the abortion and the doctor behind the trouble. He demanded Cream married his daughter. Held at gunpoint, he had no choice but to oblige.
Still, the wedding was short-lived. Shortly after, Cream travelled to London to train at St Thomas Hospital in London. He obtained his qualifications as a physician and surgeon there. Flora would die from consumption in 1877. Later, police would suggest that she was one of Cream’s first victim’s; before leaving, he had prescribed her some tablets to take.
Having returned to Canada after his training, he allegedly had an affair with Kate Gardener in 1879. She was found dead in an alley behind his offices. She was pregnant and poisoned with chloroform. After being accused of this murder, Cream once again moved this time to the United States.
Cream started a practice in Chicago, close to the red-light district. Here he set up a practice performing illegal abortions to prostitutes. In 1880 another body would be connected to Cream, this time that of Mary Ann Faulkner, although he was suspected, there was not enough evidence to charge him.
In December of the same year, Miss Stock would die after Cream had offered her treatment. This was one of his first ventures into blackmail and extortion as he accused pharmacist Frank Pyatt of the murder, demanding money for his silence.
Whilst in Chicago, Cream would be accused of killing two further victims with strychnine poison. He was arrested alongside Julia A Stott, who was his mistress. She had procured poison to aid Cream to kill her husband. When faced with prison, Stott turned state witness and testified against Cream. He was sentenced to life imprisonment at Joliet prison.
Incarceration should have been the end of the killing, but Governor Joseph W Fifer commuted Cream’s sentence in July 1891. It is widely thought that Cream’s brother bought his freedom with a large bribe. Ripperologists who believe Cream was Jack the Ripper will argue he was released before this date, fled to London and started killing in Whitechapel.
Using money from his father’s death in 1887, Cream sailed to England and took lodgings in Lambeth, London. In October 1891, Cream was a drug addict and needed to start killing again.
Women were his preoccupation and his talk of them far from agreeable. He carried pornographic photographs, which he was ready to display. He was in the habit of taking pills, which, he said, were compounded of strychnine, morphia, cocaine, and of which effect, he declared, was aphrodisiac. In short he was a degenerate of filthy habits and practices. — Aquaintance at the time
Ellen Donworth accepted a drink from Cream and died of strychnine poisoning three days later. During her inquest, a letter written to the coroner by Cream would offer the killer’s name for £300000. At the same time, a second letter sent to the owner of WH Smith would accuse him of the murder, demanding money to keep silent.
A couple of days after this twenty-seven-year-old prostitute, Matilda Clover, would become ill and die. Initially, her death was credited to her alcoholism and natural causes. Cream wrote to Dr William Broadbent, accusing him of the murder and demanding money. Broadbent forwarded the letter to Scotland Yard.
In 1892, Cream attempted to poison Louise Harvey; she became suspicious of the pills he prescribed her and threw them in the River Thames. Failing to kill Harvey, Cream went to the flat of two prostitutes, Alice Marsh and Emma Shrivell. He offered them both Guinness and left before the poison took their lives.
Capture and Trial
Cream had drawn attention to himself through his letter writing. In one of the letters, he referred to the death of Mathilda Clover, which had been stipulated a death from natural causes. The police started to put the pieces together.
Shortly after suspicions were raised, Cream offered an American policeman a tour of the victims’ homes for the killer labelled the ‘Lambeth poisoner.’ The policeman mentioned this to an English colleague who found the detailed knowledge suspicious.
The police contacted their American counterparts and put Cream under surveillance. They discovered Cream’s previous conviction for poisoning, and arrested him on 3rd June 1892 for Mathilda Clover’s murder. He was formally charged on the 13th with the murders of Clover, Dunworth, Marsh and Shrivell, the attempted murder of Harvey and extortion.
His trial lasted four days; after twelve minutes of deliberation, the jury found him guilty, and the judge sentenced him to death by hanging.
Was Cream Jack the Ripper?
Cream was a highly intelligent serial killer, although not likely Jack the Ripper. It would be doubtful for a killer to poison his victims and then escalate to mutilating victims to return to poisoning. The only similarities between the two murderers was the letter writing.
Cream likely had a much higher victim count than those he was charged with. His wife is one name that police could add to his victims. In addition to the number of convicted murders, he committed historians also suggested that he was responsible for over five hundred illegal abortions, many that ended in tragedy. Cream is a serial killer who operated across countries and whose kill total will never be known.
If you enjoyed this article this is one of the stories I share in my book - The A-Z of British Serial Killer which you can find here.
Neat that there's a Canadian connection to one of the Ripper contenders.
We don't have many serial killers in Canada, but when they show up, they're memorable.