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Letter written by Dr Neill Cream while in police custody, England, 1892

Known as the ‘Lambeth Poisoner’, Dr Neill Cream (1850-1892) was convicted and hung for the murders of four prostitutes on 15 November 1892. One of a small number of high profile Victorian killer doctors, strychnine was his weapon of choice. At the time, the drug was used in small doses as a stimulant and a laxative and was commonly found in physicians’ medicine chests. The letter shown in this photograph was written by him on 16 August 1892 while in police custody, a month before his trial. Sent to his fiancée, Laura Sabbatini, it protests his innocence. Cream is famously said to have claimed to be the infamous Jack the Ripper when he was executed in Billingsgate, London, supposedly uttering the words “I am Jack…” as the rope went taut. This was unlikely to have been true as he was imprisoned in Chicago, Illinois, for another murder at the time of the Ripper murders.

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Glossary: strychnine

A naturally occurring drug derived from trees. In small doses strychnine functions as a central nervous system stimulant, but in higher doses it is extremely poisonous.

Glossary: laxative

An agent that acts to encourage evacuation of the bowels

Glossary: letter - correspondence

Pieces of correspondence that are somewhat more formal than memoranda or notes, usually on paper and delivered.