Thames torso killer ‘overshadowed by Jack the Ripper’ says author Sarah Pinborough

Author Sarah Pitborough at Wapping

Author Sarah Pitborough at Wapping - Credit: Archant

Sarah Pinborough has been walking the streets along the Thames in the footsteps of the notorious Victorian ‘torso’ killer who rivalled Jack the Ripper.

Author Sarah Pitborough at Wapping

Author Sarah Pitborough at Wapping - Credit: Archant

She has an appetite for horror as an escape from her own real fear of death.

The Ripper’s trail of murders in the Whitechapel of 1888 are well documented.

But Sarah discovered virtually nothing has been published about the mayhem the Thames torso killer created between 1886 and 1902—overlapping the Ripper, but without the publicity or historic following.

Yet both serial killers—the first ever to be profiled by police—remain undetected well over a century later.

So the former English schoolteacher who once ran a sleazy Soho strip club in her 20s set about writing ‘Mayhem’, her 12th novel, a story with a supernatural twist that uses real characters from the hunt for the Ripper.

Her hero is the real Dr Thomas Bond, police surgeon engaged in both Ripper and Thames torso serial killings.

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“I couldn’t believe there could be six murders at the same time as Jack the Ripper that also went unsolved,” the 41-year-old blonde explains.

“But the Torso murderer has been forgotten by history, a cold, much more isolated killer who didn’t court the press.

“I found it quite disturbing that he severed his victims’ heads and limbs and kept them, then dumped the torsos in the river.

“Jack by contrast was the flamboyant eye-catching ‘look at me’ killer who left his victims in situ, with their heads.”

Only one torso victim was ever identified, Elizabeth Jackson, from her clothing. All the victims of both killers were women.

“My fascination for horror is because I’m terrified of dying,” Sarah tells you. “Horror is a way of exploring death without having to go through it yourself.”

One torso was discovered in a vault of the old Scotland Yard that was being built—so the Metropolitan Police headquarters were erected on the site of an unsolved murder, she points out.

Sarah uncovered Dr Bond in Scotland Yard’s archives, the world’s first-ever criminal profiler on serial killers who was called in for both Jack the Ripper and the Torso killer—but neither were ever caught. He was at the crime scene of Ripper victim Mary Jane Kelly in Whitechapel and some of the torso recoveries along the Thames.

Sarah’s Dr Bond joins forces with a Ripper suspect, Polish barber Aaron Kosminski living in the slums of Whitechapel, who in real life ended up in a lunatic asylum. Kosminski had been committed to the Mile End Old Town workhouse because of his insane behaviour, hearing voices, with a paranoid fear of being fed by others.

But in Sarah’s version, he joins Dr Bond to track the torso killer.

“It’s not so much about whodunit, more an explanation of the psychy,” she explains. “You find out who the killer is half-way through, then why he did it.”

The History graduate’s fascination with the psychology of murder isn’t through academic study.

“I’ve just been out with a load of men,” she confesses. “Men think women are mental—but it’s the other way round.”

Other novels under Sarah’s belt include ‘Poison’, also published this year, a retelling of Snow White.

“It’s quite filthy, I’m told,” Sarah confided. “I thought it was tame.”

She has penned several horror, supernatural and adult fantasy novels “with weird plots”.

The Foreign Office diplomat’s daughter went to a girls’ boarding school until she was asked to leave at 16—which she says might explain her fascination for horror.

Seven years on and Sarah is running one of the original table dance strip clubs in Soho’s Denman Street before it burned down.

Then she took up teaching kids in a tough secondary school in Luton, where she became head of English before hanging up her gown and chalk to go full-time into writing mysteries.

Sarah returned to the East End last night to launch ‘Mayhem’ at Wapping’s Prospect of Whitby, close to where much of the novel is set.

She has also written an episode for BBC’s ‘New Tricks’ TV crime series and has a film shortly going into production—a horror movie, of course.

Mayhem, by Sarah Pinborough, published by Jo Fletcher Books at £14.99.