Read an Excerpt
It is a sad fact of life that while many marriages end in the divorce courts, some also wind up before the criminal courts as murder trials. The most common of these cases are the murders of husbands by battered wives who have had enough, and can see no other way out. The murders of the wife-bashers and rapists who had it coming anyway. But you won’t find any of those cases here.
Till Death Us Do Part is about the more sensational and unusual of wedlock homicides. It’s about people who allegedly once loved each other, and yet one of them – or in one case, both – ended up deceased by heinous means. This book is about the callous, unusual, barbaric and bizarre side of murder in marriage.
All but one of the couples in the stories were actually married. The odd one out was a defacto couple who had been together long enough to qualify as married anyway by today’s standards. Maybe if they had have been married they wouldn’t have wound up here. When her old man repeatedly refused to marry her, The Black Widow took to him with a boning knife, stabbed him to death, skinned his corpse, cut his head off, cooked it in a pot with some fresh garden veggies and served it up to the kids for dinner. Not for the squeamish or faint-hearted, that one.
All of the stories but one are Australian. Who Killed the Crewes? is from New Zealand (with Australian involvement) and is arguably the most unusual matrimonial mystery murder case in history. In 1970 a couple disappeared from their blood-splattered farmhouse leaving their infant child in a cot. Their bodies were found months later, and a man was charged with their murders and sent to prison for life. It should have been the end of it, but it was just the beginning…
This book is unique in that it covers wayward wedded cases from all walks of life – from colonial times to as recently as 2004, when the last two of the murderous trio from The Sex Goddess were sentenced to lengthy jail terms for the barbaric murder of an innocent housewife.
Downtrodden Elizabeth Scott may have participated in the murder of her drunken, abusive husband in a bush shanty in colonial Victoria in 1863 to become the subject of The Last of Lusty Lizzie. A beautiful young English girl who was married at the age of 14, her story can perhaps elicit some sympathy. Not so the cold-blooded case of a multi-millionaire businessman, in another century and another culture, in Unholy Matrimony. He had his wife murdered by a hitman while she was asleep in bed – and while he himself was lying alongside her!
The only thing that stopped police from arresting the businessman sooner for the contract killing of his wife was that the investigators found it hard to believe that anyone could be that callous.
Tasmania’s contribution is The Mad Scientist. This is the story of one of Australia’s most eminent academics, Dr Rory Jack Thompson, who, in 1983, after a long custody dispute over their two children, completely lost the plot and cut most of his wife’s body into small pieces and flushed them down the toilet.
But of all Australia’s wife killers, the title of the most evil would undoubtedly go to serial killer Frederick Deeming, the subject of The Baron of Death, who killed in England and Australia and didn’t hesitate to murder his own children rather than leaving a living witness.
So ghastly were Deeming’s crimes that they made headlines throughout the world. And at one stage it was even seriously considered that he could have been that most evil serial killer of them all – the Whitechapel Killer, Jack the Ripper. The Whitechapel murders had occurred only a few years earlier and Deeming was reputed to have been in London at the time.
Lovers of Australian true crime that is stranger than fiction will find it hard to go past The Bizarre Case of Ziggy Pohl. Although it is unique in Australian law and often referred to as a warning to novice lawyers – ‘remember the Ziggy Pohl case’ – this is the first time that this story has ever been published in its entirety.
While on the road freelance carpentering, kindly German immigrant Ziggy Pohl called into his Queanbeyan home for lunch to find his wife dead – strangled – on the bedroom floor. Ziggy rang the police and, faced with a mountain of circumstantial evidence, was charged with her murder and ended up in jail for life. Then a miracle happened.
I feel sure that lovers of Australian true crime will enjoy these stories and the many others in Till Death Us Do Part for their uniqueness and wealth of new information. But be warned. If you’ve been playing up, the next time your partner gives you a good once-over, check out what they are reading. If it’s this book – you could be in a bit of trouble.
Paul B. Kidd