Date Of Execution: 3 Mar 1903
Crime Location: 22 Wyndham Road, Camberwell
Execution Place: Wandsworth
Executioner: William Billington
Edgar Edwards was convicted of the murder of John William Darby 26, Beatrice Darby 25 and 10-month-old Ethel Darby.
He killed them on 29 November 1902 after visiting them at 22 Wyndham Road, Camberwell on the pretence of buying their grocery store. He beat John Darby and Beatrice Darby with a piece of iron and then strangled Ethel Darby.
After he locked their bodies in a room and then arranged for some people to run the shop for him. Then he moved the bodies from Wyndham Road to a property on Church Road, Leyton where he buried them in the garden.
He was later caught when he tried to repeat the process on another grocer who he arranged to meet at Church Road in order to purchase his business. After Edgar Edwards and the second grocer had discussed their business on 23 December 1902 and the second grocer was about to leave Edgar Edwards hit him with the piece of iron but the second grocer managed to get away.
When the police arrived at Church Road Edgar Edwards said that he had been assaulted first by the second grocer and had been defending himself.
When the police investigated the assault on the second grocer they found blood on two pieces of iron when only one had been used in the assault and pawn tickets and eventually the bodies buried in the garden.
The bodies of John Darby and Beatrice Darby had been dismembered.
The piece of iron that had been used was a window sash weight.
Edgar Edwards denied murdering them and blamed another man called 'Lowden', but was unable to substantiate his claim and the medical experts concluded that Edgar Edwards and 'Lowden' were the same person.
He admitted removing furniture in a van from 22 Wyndham Road and obtaining the sash-weights, but he declined to answer questions as to his removing the sacks containing the bodies in the pony-cart and as to his having been seen digging the hole in the garden at 89 Church Road in Leyton where the bodies were found.
A medical report stated that Edgar Edwards had fenced with questions placed with him and had given many inconsistent and untruthful answers. The report also stated that although Edgar Edwards claimed that he was innocent of the actual murder, that he was quite willing and prepared to stand by the penalty awarded by the judge rather than turn informer on his friend 'Lowden'.
It was noted that there was no doubt that since 1888 Edgar Edwards had been a criminal and had spent most of his time in prison, having been last released in November 1902.
The police report noted that the murders were committed with a premeditation and callousness that was truly terrible. The report noted that it appeared that by 28 November 1902 that Edgar Edwards must have been by then in treaty with the Derby's for the purchase of their shop at 22 Wyndham Road as that evening he had called upon the house of the man that he intended to have run the shop for him, telling him that he was anxious to do them a good turn and declared that he had a shop in York Road, Battersea and was going to buy another in Camberwell. It was further noted that on that very night he asked the man to get him a sash weight, which was determined to have been the murder weapon, and that Edgar Edwards later slept at the man's house on the night of 30 November 1902 whereupon the following morning the man gave him the sash weight that Edgar Edwards had asked him to buy and that Edgar Edwards had said, 'That is just the thing for the rope to go through to the door'.
It was noted that however, that at that time Edgar Edwards had been so hard up that he had had to pawn his umbrella for 1/6.
He later left the man's house after making an appointment with the man to meet him at 11.30am at the corner of Wyndham Road but had told him that if he saw him there with a gentleman that he was not to speak to him unless spoken to, it being inferred that if he had not yet murdered John Darby and his family that he did not want the man breaking in and talking about the shop that he was to manage for him.
However, when Edgar Edwards met the man at 12.05pm Edgar Edwards told him that he was going to trade under the name of 'Lowdens' and that he had bought the business from the Derby's and gave the man 30/- after which they ran the business, the man going to the shop each day and being let in by Edgar Edwards until 10 December 1902.
It was further noted that in the meantime following the murders that Edgar Edwards had not been idle and that on 3 December 1902 he had been in negotiations for another house at 89 Church Road in Leyton which he got and later removed furniture and effects from John Darby's residence to on three occasions, 5, 8 and 9 December 1902 by pony and cart and van.
It was then noted that on 6 December 1902, with consummate coolness, Edgar Edwards engaged a man to dig over the garden at Church Road, being so particular about it that not only did he ask for it to be dug over but to also have manure put over it as though he were going to cultivate a garden.
He was then seen soon after digging a deep hole in the garden by his next door neighbour in which it was later determined that he buried the headless and dismembered bodies of his victims, it being noted that it was thought that he had dismembered the bodies in order to enable him to place them in the sacks he had used.
It was also noted that when Edgar Edwards had first spoken to the man that was to run the shop, as well as a woman who he invited to come over to the shop, that he had told them both that there was one room that they were not to go into, which the police stated indicated that he had from the first contemplated not only the murder of the Darby family, but also the concealment of their bodies in one of the rooms in the house until he could finally dispose of them.
It was also noted that his assault of the second shopkeeper who survived and who brought about the investigation that resulted in Edgar Edwards's arrest had similarly been equally premeditated. It was said that as soon as Edgar Edwards got to Church Road that he seemed to have busied himself with negotiations for a further business and to have thought of the use of the same weapon as in the previous murders as it was heard that on the night of 9 December 1902 that he had instructed another man to buy a sash weight for him and which the man had purchased and given to Edgar Edwards.
The police report stated that Edgar Edwards's actions in the perpetration of the crimes certainly gave no indication of insanity and it was further reported that the medical evidence found no signs of insanity and noted additionally that Edgar Edwards made no attempt to feign insanity. The report stated that Edgar Edwards's attention to detail in the concealment of the crime, in the loading and unloading of the cart, in the preparation of the holes in the garden to bury the bodies, indicated that he had known what he was doing and was not insane and that he was driven by nothing other than a cold-blooded desire to kill and take possession.
The man that Edgar Edwards had had run the shop for him had lived in Elstead Road, Rodney Road.
His wife said that she had known Edgar Edwards just on five years by the name of Glanville.
She said that he came to her house on Friday 28 November 1902, noting that some years had elapsed since she had seen him, and said that he asked her if her husband was in. She said that she told him that he was not, but that if he called back later he would be. She said that Edgar Edwards told her before he went off that he had come to see if he could do her and her husband a good turn but didn't say what it was.
She said that he came again that night at about 9pm by which time her husband was home and said that he told her husband in her presence that he had come to see if they would go and manage a business for him and said that her husband told him that he would and then asked him what sort of business it was.
She said that Edgar Edwards then asked her husband if he could get him a sash-weight that he wanted to sway the door with at York Road, Battersea, noting that he had not at that time told them where he was living.
She said that she didn't see Edgar Edwards again until Sunday 30 November 1902 when he came by at about 8.30am and talked over the matter of the business he was going to buy but did not say where it was. She said that he stayed all day, having breakfast, dinner, and tea with them and that he read the paper till it got late and then asked her husband if they could make it convenient for him to stop all night as he had missed the last bus to Victoria Park. She said that she agreed and laid a bed down on the front room floor for him.
She said that the next morning, 1 December 1902 they got up and had a wash and then had breakfast together and that Edgar Edwards then asked her husband if he would mind her pawning his umbrella as he was short of cash and he wanted a clean collar and a shave before going to the bank as he could not get any money there before 10am and that she then took the umbrella and pawned it at Thompson's in East Street for 1s 6d and then bought Edgar Edwards a collar and brought the rest of the money and the pawn ticket back and gave them to her husband who then gave them to Edgar Edwards. She later produced the pawn ticket, noting that she had pawned the umbrella under the name of Fowler.
She said that her husband then asked Edgar Edwards whether the sash-weight that he had bought for him would do and said that Edgar Edwards replied, 'Yes, it will do nicely'. She said that she saw the sash-weight wrapped up in paper.
She said that at 9am 1 December 1902 as Edgar Edwards as leaving that he asked them if they knew Wyndham Road and that when they told him that they did that he told them to meet him at the corner of Wyndham Road at 11.30am, noting however that if they saw him with a gentleman that they were not to speak to him until he spoke to them after which he went out taking the sash-weight with him.
She said that they went to Wyndham Road at 11.30am and waited until 12.05pm at which time they saw Edgar Edwards come from 22 Wyndham Road wearing a white apron and with his shirt sleeves rolled up. She said that he told them that he was very sorry that he had kept them waiting, but that he had been running about settling the matter with Mr Darby.
She said that he then took them to the front door of 22 Wyndham Road and asked them what they thought of it and said that her husband told him that he thought that the shop was all right but that it was in a rough neighbourhood.
She said that they stayed at the shop for about ten minutes and that Edgar Edwards then told them that they had better go back and see their baby, have some dinner, and then return to the shop by 1pm or 1.30pm. She said that they then left the shop about 12.15pm and returned about 1.15pm, but couldn't get in. She said that they tapped at the door but got no answer and so they waited about ten minutes after which they saw Edgar Edwards coming from the Camberwell Road end of Wyndham Road as he passed Albany Road and that he then let them into the shop by the back door and then through a little scullery into the shop parlour.
She said that Edgar Edwards then told them to get their things off and see about getting into the shop and that he lent her husband 30s to get his things out of pawn as well as 2s 6d and the pawn ticket to get the umbrella which she had pawned earlier.
She said that they opened the shop between 1.50pm and 1.55pm and kept it open until 6pm, during which time she thought that Edgar Edwards stopped in the parlour. She said that at six o'clock he told her husband to shut the shop as he thought he would close earlier that day with it being the first and that they did so and then all three went away together. She said that he shook hands with them and then told them to be there about 7.45am next morning and that they then went over to the other side of the road.
She said that they went back the next day, 2 December 1902, arriving at about 7.45am whereupon Edgar Edwards let them in and that they kept the shop open all day till 10pm when Edgar Edwards let them out and that that was the order of events each day until 10 December 1902 on which day Edgar Edwards let them in in the morning. She said that Edgar Edwards later went out between 9am and 9.30am and told them that if any travellers called that they were to leave their lists and prices and that he would be back about 11am, but said that he never came back.
She said that she didn't know where Edgar Edwards lived and didn't know the address 89 Church Road, Leyton. She said that during the ten days that they were at the shop that they never went upstairs as Edgar Edwards had told them not to on 1 December 1902, as the Darby's furniture was locked up there
She added that she remembered a pony and cart and a van coming to the shop.
She also said that she saw Edgar Edwards write a document on 8 December 1902 which was the agreement and terms on which they were engaged which was made up in the name of Louden, noting that Edgar Edwards told them that he was going to trade as William Thomas Louden.
She said that when Edgar Edwards called on them that he was renewing an old friendship and that there did not appear to be an air of mystery about the business. She said that he told them that he was buying a business and that it was to be settled on 1 December 1902 and that it did not seem extraordinary to her that a man who said he was buying a business should be in need of 1s 6d and wanting to pawn an umbrella, noting that Edgar Edwards had said that he had run short of cash and could not get to the bank until ten o'clock.
She said that Mr Darby's name was not over the shop and that she thought the name up was Pearce and that Edgar Edwards had made no secret of John Darby's existence or of his having been the proprietor of the shop and said that he mentioned John Darby's name quite openly and said he was buying the business off him.
She said that whilst Edgar Edwards had been at the shop that he had been writing letters in the shop parlour most of the time although she said that she didn't know what he was writing but said that he seemed to do a good deal of writing. She said that she didn't notice anything about his demeanour although did say that he was always pacing up and down and was extremely restless.
She said that she had not had a business to manage before although had served in business places.
She added that she did not notice a blood stain on the shop ceiling and that whilst there they could have gone upstairs if they had wanted to noting that were left alone at the shop a great part of the time.
She said that whilst they were managing the shop that customers were coming in and out all day and that several of them asked for John Darby who been carrying on the business almost up to the day they went there and that Edgar Edwards didn't seem anxious when people asked for him.
The woman's husband, who was a hunchback, confirmed what his wife said about Edgar Edwards visiting them and asking if they were interested in running the shop.
He said that Edgar Edwards asked him to get the sash weight, saying that he wanted a weight with a hole in it to hold a cord and that he got him one from a shop in Portland Street, Walworth on 29 November 1902, saying that it was 5½lbs. A plumber's foreman that sold the weighed verified that he had sold him a sash weight similar to one later found and said that it was very exceptional for them to have had one in stock at all.
The man that had bought the sash-weight said that Edgar Edwards had promised to call that day but that he didn't call until the following day, 30 November 1902 when he stayed all day and that the following morning he asked for the sash weight which he gave him and then arranged to meet them at the corner of Wyndham Road at about 11.30am.
He sid that they then started to run the shop and that Edgar Edwards said that they could only use the shop and shop parlour as all the things were locked up. He said that on 5 December that Edgar Edwards said, 'Do you know where to get a pony and cart, I want to go to market?', and that he told him that he knew of several and then got a pony and cart for him from Waterloo Street, Camberwell, and drove it round to the side gate of the shop. He said that he got there after 4pm and that when he did Edgar Edwards said, 'Go into the shop', which he did. He said that the cart was at the gate for about ten minutes and that he then saw Edgar Edwards drive past the shop about 4.30pm with the cart loaded with something all covered over and that he came back at about 8pm with nothing in the cart except a plane. He said that he said to Edgar Edwards, 'You have left something in it' and said that Edgar Edwards replied, 'Never mind, I shall want the cart again tomorrow'.
The man said that he then took the cart back to where he got it and that on 8 December 1902 that Edgar Edwards told him that he wanted a van. He said that he went to get a van but found that they didn't have one and returned to tell Edgar Edwards who then said that he would make do with a cart which he then went and got. He said that he got the cart at about 10am and again left it at the side door and said that Edgar Edwards again told him to go into the shop which he did. He said that he later saw Edgar Edwards drive away with the cart at about 11am with something in it covered over with something dark. He said that Edgar Edwards had told him that he had wanted the cart to take things to the market and that when he had returned at about 4pm it was quite empty and that he afterwards took it back to the yard.
He said that when he took the cart back Edgar Edwards told him that he would want a van for the morning which he got for him and left by the side door. He said that before he went that Edgar Edwards said to him, 'If you see a respectable young fellow I can do with him, but don't bring a rough fellow' and that he brought a young fellow with him and that the young fellow and Edgar Edwards brought some furniture and a bath out of the house. He said that he was in the van at the time and could not pack it quick enough for him. He said that there were no boxes or trunks and that the bath had something like crockery in it, but it was covered over with something dark which Edgar Edwards and the young fellow lifted up into the van noting that he thought that it was heavy.
He said that Edgar Edwards then sent the young fellow into the shop and then said to him, 'If you drive through here you will come to Newington Causeway railway arches, I will be there as quick as you' and that he then drove off in the van, arriving about ten minutes before Edgar Edwards. He said that when he met Edgar Edwards that Edgar Edwards said to him, 'You had better get up again and follow me' and that Edgar Edwards then walked off along the pavement but that he could not get through as quick as he could because of the traffic. He said that Edgar Edwards kept about twenty or thirty yards in front of him and that when they got to London Bridge Edgar Edwards said to him, 'Go down Fenchurch Street, down on the left, not too far down'. He said then, that as he was going to pull up in Fenchurch Street that Edgar Edwards said, 'A little further' and that he then got to Aldgate Church where there was a lot of traffic which he took about fifteen minutes to get through whereupon Edgar Edwards then pulled him up and said, 'Get down, you have got some money, and get back to the shop as quick as you can, take the bus at Cornhill to Camberwell', after which Edgar Edwards drove the van straight off. He said that he then went back to the shop and that later at about 7pm he got a telegram that read, 'come at once, Harry, Whitechapel Church'.
He said that he then went off at once and after arriving at the church waited for about fifteen minutes before Edgar Edwards arrived. He said that Edgar Edwards then said to him, 'You have arrived, you have done it quick enough, did not you give orders at the place where you got the van that I wanted it for the day. I have had no light, and have had to put it up for the day at some livery stables because I have not got a lamp'. He said that he then said to Edgar Edwards, 'Get a Chinese lantern' and that he then went into the stables and got a lamp and drove home, noting that Edgar Edwards told him that he had to meet someone at Aldgate. He said that he then took the van back to where he got it noting that there was nothing in it.
He said that the next morning, 10 December 1902 that he met Edgar Edwards just after 9am and that he told him, 'If anyone calls I shall be home at eleven o'clock, and if any travellers come don't take their lists in without them leaving their price list', however, he said that Edgar Edwards never came back.
He said that he didn't know where Edgar Edwards went or anything about the house that he had taken in Leyton.
He noted that on 6 December that by Edgar Edwards's orders that he pawned a box of books for him that he said John Darby had left him as he had been short of cash and later sent him out to pawn another box of books but said that the pawnbroker would not take them. He noted that he got 3s on the box and that the pawnbroker's shop had been at the corner of Albany Road. He said that Edgar Edwards later gave him a small parcel and said, 'Take this to a pawnbroker's in Walworth Road' and that when he got there the pawnbroker opened the parcel and he saw that there were two rings in it and that the pawnbroker said to him, 'Tell your governor they are metal', but said that he got 22s for them.
He noted that Wyndham Road was about fifteen or twenty minutes’ walk from his house in Elsted Street.
He added that Edgar Edwards had previously told him that the Darbys still had their furniture in the house, but that he had taken the shop and said that he had helped Edgar Edwards to take away the furniture because he was in his service and acted as his servant, adding that he did not say the furniture belonged to the Darbys. He said that Edgar Edwards told him, 'The Darbys' things have not gone away yet, so don't interfere or go upstairs'. He said that they could have gone upstairs if they wanted to but that they had obeyed his orders and that they didn't go upstairs until the brokers arrived on 10 December 1902.
When he was cross-examined at the trial, he said that he did not know why Edgar Edwards told him to drive to different streets with the furniture and that he didn't notice anything in Edgar Edwards's manner that was timid or fearful, saying that he spoke quite openly about the Darbys. He noted that one morning Edgar Edwards had said 'If you had not gone so early last night, Mr Darby came just as you had gone home'.
John Darby's brother said that he was acquainted with John Darby's handwriting and when he examined a paper that was title Exhibit 27 at the trial that was found by the police in the back parlour of 22 Wyndham Road he said that he thought that it looked like an imitation of John Darby's handwriting. The paper read:
22, Wyndham Road, Camberwell, S.E., December 1st, 1902, Received of Mr. William Thomas Louden the sum of thirty pounds (£30), as a deposit, and in part payment of the sum of fifty pounds (£50). for the purchase of the grocery and general business carried on at 22, Wyndham Road, Camberwell, S.E., with all the goodwill, fixtures, fittings, utensils, and stock in trade of the same. This deposit is made subject to landlord's approval of the purchaser as tenant.
A baker that lived in Harris Street, Camberwell said that he had been in the habit of serving the Darbys at 22 Wyndham Road and said that he last served them with bread on 1 December 1902, at 8.20am at which time he saw John Darby. However, he said that when he called back later in the day that he saw the wife of the couple that Edgar Edwards had set up to manage the shop.
A woman that lived at 20 Wyndham Road next door to 22 Wyndham Road which was a corner house, said that she had been in the habit of dealing with John Darby and that her sister's birthday was on 1 December 1902 and that she remembered going into the shop at about 11am on that day and having a conversation with him. She said that when she went back at about 1pm she found the door shut and that when she called again at about 5pm she saw the new couple that were managing it for Edgar Edwards.
The woman said that she thought that John Darby and his family had been in the shop for seven months and a fortnight and that she knew them quite well, but had not known them before they had arrived at the shop.
A pawnbroker whose shop was on Camberwell Road at the corner with Albany Road said that on 1 December 1902 that he took into pledge a gold watch and chain and a mounted coin on which he advanced £7. He said that he could not recognise the man that pledged them but produced a counterfoil to the man and said that it was signed W. T. Louden and that it had been signed in his presence.
He said that later, on 6 December 1902 that he took a parcel of books into pledge from the man that was running the shop and advanced 15s noting that the pledge was in the name of Charles Darby and that he handed the pawn ticket to the man that was running the shop.
Beatrice Darby's sister lived in Catford and said that she last saw her and her family alive in the middle of November 1902, noting that they had only one child, Ethel Darby, who was born on 28 September 1902. She said that they lived in 22 Wyndham Road quite alone.
She said that on 29 November 1902 that she received a letter from her sister and that she wrote her a reply by return of post but didn't get a reply and said that on 3 December 1902 that she went to 22 Wyndham Road arriving at about 6.45pm.
She said that she went into the shop and saw the couple there that Edgar Edwards had managing it who told her that Edgar Edwards had bought the shop and that he would be coming soon. She said that she could not understand it and so decided to wait for Edgar Edwards to arrive and when he did she talked to him for nearly an hour, saying that she could not understand how the shop was sold so quickly, although she said that she did know that her brother-in-law was planning on selling it.
She said that Edgar Edwards said to him, 'Oh, I first negotiated with Mr. Darby on Saturday morning. I was so satisfied with the business, I have paid £30 on deposit, and if Mr. Darby comes in I will settle with him then'. She said that John Darby was expected every moment and asked her to have a chair. However, she said, 'No, thank you', noting that she had already waited some time and then said, 'I cannot wait any longer', and said that Edgar Edwards told her that he could not understand why John Darby had not been in.
She said that she told Edgar Edwards that she had come in answer to her sister's letter and said that Edgar Edwards then said to her, 'Oh, yes, they had a little baby, had not they?', and that he thought that Beatrice Darby was a very nice Lady. She said that she then asked, 'Where have they gone, did not they leave any address?', and said that Edgar Edwards replied, 'They did not leave any address, they were simply going to friends'.
Beatrice Darby's sister said that she left the house about 8.30pm or 8.45pm and that later, on 29 December 1902, in consequence of a police telegram, that she went to 89 Church Road, Leyton where she went all over the house to view the furniture, wearing apparel and movables there, most of which she said she recognised as having belonged to her sister and her husband, noting in particular a brown overcoat that had belonged to John Darby and two gold rings that had belonged to Beatrice Darby.
She said that she later went through a list that the police provided her with and said that with the exception of a few articles that she marked, she recognise everything as belonging to her sister.
She said that later on 31 December 1902 that she went to the mortuary at Leyton where she was shown three bodies which she identified as Beatrice Darby, Edgar Edwards and Ethel Darby.
She noted that when she had first gone to the shop that she had been there for about 45 minutes before Edgar Edwards arrived and said that when he arrived that he did not shake hands with her and said that he flushed when she told him that she was Beatrice Darby's sister and that she had come to see her. However, she added that beyond that that he had not seemed to have been anxious to get her to go. She added that Edgar Edwards was not with her all the time that she was there, saying that he was in and out of the shop parlour.
She said that Edgar Edwards didn't offer to take her upstairs and that when she asked him whether they had taken their furniture that he had said, 'No, it is locked up upstairs'. She added that Edgar Edwards told her that John Darby had been there the night before but said that when she left she didn't make arrangements to come back again, saying that she thought they had gone to her father's or to John Darby's father's.
She said that Edgar Edwards told her that he was certainly going to see John Darby at the end of the week to settle up the matter of the money but didn't say where he was going to see him.
She said that when she left the house she had no suspicion that a terrible thing had happened and didn't realise or know why Edgar Edwards became flushed when she spoke to him, saying that it might have been from walking, or a lot of things. She added that when he was talking to her that he was pleasant and affable and that she didn't notice any fear in his manner.
A lecturer at St. Mary's Hospital said that on 4 January 1903 that he visited 22 Wyndham Road with the police and examined some stains there on the floor, walls, and window upstairs. He said that on the right of the fireplace in the front room, upstairs, there were several blood stains which had been projected from a living artery or arteries, and facing towards the fireplace, noting that they had been projected from left to right. He said that they were entirely on the right side of the fireplace and there were also several underneath the mantelshelf, but none on the top of it. He said that having regard to the stains on the mantelshelf, the person was probably sitting on the left side of the fireplace, facing the window at the time they were caused.
He added that there were several bloodstains at two different levels on the wall between the fireplace and the window, which also had all been projected from an artery or arteries during life. He said that those on the lower level were simply a continuation of the spurts or stains on the fireplace whilst those on the higher level must have been caused while the person was standing up.
He said that he also found bloodstains on the window sash and on the lower part of the window blind, and that there were also a few bloodstains on one of the lowest panes of the window, and the lowest part of the blind along with two very large stains on the floor, one in front of the fireplace and the other in front of the left window.
He said that outside the door at the head of the staircase there was a small landing with three doors opening from it and that on the outer side of the door of the front room there were several blood stains which had been projected from arteries or an artery, during life. He added that on the outer side of the door of the bedroom facing the front door there were also blood stains, that had been projected from an artery or arteries during life and which had been slightly washed.
He said that the stains on the front-room door came on it when it was closed or partly closed, but in all probability closed and that on the floor of the back bedroom there were two large stains, more or less covered over by means of ink.
He said that when he removed some of the panels of the doors of both rooms and a pane of glass and examined them by via chemical and microscopical means, he found that they all contained evidence of having mammalian blood on them that had been shed around four or six or eight weeks earlier.
He said that he also saw two sash-weights, one of which, Exhibit 5 had been the one used to commit the murders, noting that he had been informed that it had been brought from 22 Wyndham Road. He said that on the hanging end he found a quantity of a dark red stain that he found to consist of mammalian blood and which on 5 January 1903 he determined was from four to six weeks old and that sticking to it by one end was a single hair that he preserved after which he requested the police bring him samples of the hair from the heads of John Darby and Beatrice Darby with which he compared with the single hair from the sash-weight and found that it was exactly similar to the hair of John Darby.
He said that on 6 January 1903 that he received a saw from the police that he understood had been found at Wyndham Road and that when he examined it on the 9 December he found a few stains of mammalian blood on it
The lecturer later received a scarf that was found in the back bedroom at Wyndham Road and a shoe which was found in a cupboard in the front room. He said that the scarf was simply saturated with mammalian blood that was from five to seven weeks old and that and on the inner side of the heel of the shoe there was one blood stain that was also from five to seven weeks old
On 4 January 1903 he went to Carter Street Police Station where he was shown a book case or wardrobe and said that on the right edge of which, about 15 inches from the top he saw some hair sticking in a dark clot which he removed. He said that when he examined the clot he found that it consisted of mammalian blood that was between four to six weeks old along with hair that was identical with John Darby's
He also later saw the top of a round table that had some stains on it and had two pieces of the table sawn away and examined them and found that they were blood stains
The lecturer also examined a hair net on 4 January that was found in the front room of 22 Wyndham Road in which he found some hair and a comb and said that when he compared them with samples he had been given found that they were similar to that of Beatrice Darby's.
The landlord of 22 Wyndham Road was an ironmonger that had lived in Camberwell Road. He said that John Darby was a tenant in the premises and that he last saw him on Saturday 29 November 1902 at about 10pm, and said that John Darby made an appointment with him to meet him on Monday evening 1 December 1902 at his ironmonger's shop but said that he didn't come. He said that he then went down to 22 Wyndham Road to see John Darby and collect his rent but said that John Darby was not there and that he instead met Edgar Edwards who he told he had come to collect the rent and said that Edgar Edwards told him that he was the purchaser of the shop, and that he had paid a deposit for the premises. He said that when he asked to see John Darby that Edgar Edwards told him that he was not there and that he then said to Edgar Edwards, 'I had an appointment with Mr. Darby for Monday evening between 6 and 7'. He said that Edgar Edwards then said that he could not understand why it was not kept, as he himself had made an appointment with John Darby and he had not kept that either.
The landlord said that he went to 22 Wyndham Road from day to day and that on occasions he was there twice a day. He said that on 3 December 1902 he went there and told Edgar Edwards that he could not become his tenant and told him that he had no right to pay the £30 deposit and that he would not take it unless he saw John Darby. He said that to the best of his belief Edgar Edwards told him that he had seen John Darby at 10pm on the Thursday night and that when he asked him why he had not brought him over to see him, Edgar Edwards said, 'Because it was too late'. However, he noted that he had previously told Edgar Edwards that if John Darby came by that he was to bring him round no matter what time it was.
He said that he then put the matter into his broker's hands and that on 10 December 1902 made a distraint for rent after which the furniture was seized and he locked the house up.
He noted that the debt due to him was £2 18s 4d but that he did not know the amount of the property taken away saying that that was for the bailiff to account for, noting that the bailiff cleared everything away with the exception of a few oddments including the sash-weight.
When he was cross-examined at the trial he noted that Edgar Edwards was always ready to see him and said that he saw no reason not to accept him except that he had not been introduced by John Darby, adding that if John Darby had been round to see him that he had no reason why he shouldn't accept him.
An estate agent that lived in Camberwell Road said that on 10 December 1902 that he received orders from the landlord to distrain for rent at 22 Wyndham Road and that he went there that day and left a man there in possession. He said that he then went back the following day and went upstairs where he found the door to the front room locked. He said that he forced it and that when he went in he found a bookcase and table there which he took possession of.
A clerk to Messrs Bassett, house agents, of Lea Bridge Road said that they had instructions to let 89 Church Road, Leyton and that on 3 December 1902 Edgar Edwards called, giving the name of Edgar Edwards, 5 Barnsbury Road, Islington. He said that he asked for references and that Edgar Edwards gave him two names to whom they wrote. He said that he wrote to the references and got two replies back, the first being from 22 Wyndham Road, dated 2 December 1902 and signed Wm Darby which stated that Edgar Edwards had been a tenant of his for nearly two years, whilst the second was signed G Barton, 230 Graham Road, Hackney, and which stated that he had known Edgar Edwards 3½ years. He noted that both letters were type written, including the signatures. He said that Edgar Edwards called again on 5 December 1902 and said that he told him that he could have the house and gave him a note. He said that Edgar Edwards told him that he should like to get in by Saturday, 6 December 1902.
A woman that kept a newsagent's shop at 230 Graham Road, Hackney said that she had lived there for five years and knew nobody by the name of G Barton. She said that they did take in letters, but said that she did not remember any letters arriving in that name.
A man that kept a newsagents at 5 Barnsbury Road said that he also took in letters for strangers and said that he received two letters addressed to Edgar Edwards but said that nobody called for them and that he later gave them to the police.
A woman that lived at 22 Grafton Terrace in Hampstead said that she had known Edgar Edwards for 15 years by the name of Owen and had a 14-year-old son by him. She said that he came to see her on 26 November 1902 having not seen him for about five years. She said that she saw him again on 27 and 28 November and said that she told him that he had taken a shop and bought some furniture for it and that on 28 November he told her that he wanted her to come and look after it, saying that he was going to open it on 29 November and that there were rooms upstairs but that there was one room that she would not be able to go into. She said that he made an appointment for her to go to the shop, but that he later sent her a telegram saying that he could not go.
She said that in consequence of a telegram that he sent her on 10 December 1902 that she went to meet him at Broad Street Station at about 8pm and said that he told her that he was going to show her his house at 89 Church Road, Leyton. She said that they stayed there that night and that the next day she looked over the house, going into the front and back bedrooms but said that she did not go into the room on the stairs. However, she said that later that evening when it was dark that she did open the door to the room on the stairs but didn't go inside. She said that Edgar Edwards had been with her at the time but didn't think that he said anything, noting that she thought it was because he didn't know. However, she said that when she went into the back bedroom Edgar Edwards said, 'Come out, there is nothing there for you to see'. She noted that she saw a box in there. She said that she later left the shop and left Edgar Edwards at Broad Street, noting that nothing was arranged about meeting again and that she never saw him again. She noted that he had told her that he was going to finish furnishing the house and that when he was finished that she was to go there.
A 12-year-old boy that lived in at 59 Crown Street, Camberwell with his parents said that his house faced 22 Wyndham Road and that one evening, he thought it was 8 December 1902, he returned home from school at 4.30pm and saw a pony and trap at the side gate of the house. He said that he normally had tea when he got home after school and said that it was before he had tea. He said that he saw a hunchback and Edgar Edwards there and saw two sacks put separately on the trap. He said that he did not see what was in them but said that Edgar Edwards carried them out and that they looked heavy.
A man that lived at the Working Man's Home in Commercial Street said that he had known Edgar Edwards for fifteen years and that on 9 December 1902 he met him at the corner of Osborn Street and saw him go into the post office. He said that he followed him in and then saw him write a telegram and hand it over the counter.
He said that Edgar Edwards told him to stop a minute or two and he would speak to him and then told him that he had sent a telegram to tell somebody to come and fetch the van home, as he said a policeman or somebody had stopped him and wanted to know where his light was, and that he had put the van up at some stables somewhere handy, but did not say where. He said that Edgar Edwards then asked him how long he thought it would take people to come over from Camberwell and said that he thought that it would be at least a couple of hours and so they went to have some drinks together to pass the time until he thought the people would have come for the van.
He said that whilst they were drinking that Edgar Edwards said to him, 'I will give you 1s to get me a sash weight in the morning'. He said that later, at the last house that they had a drink in he said, 'They have turned up it is all right, they have taken the van on' and that they then went to a doctor's in Leman Street where Edgar Edwards got his hand dressed after which they arranged to meet next day at Bethnal Green Junction. He noted that Edgar Edwards gave him 1s to get the sash weight, which he got, saying that it was like a 5lbs one that he was later shown.
He said that when he met him the following morning at 10.45am at Bethnal Green Junction that they got a train and went to Stratford and then walked to Leyton. He said that Edgar Edwards wanted him to clean some windows and that they then went to 89 Church Road. He said that when they got there that he put the sash weight down on the cupboard but said that whilst he was cleaning the windows that he didn't notice any of them that had a sash weight missing.
He noted that whilst there that he also saw a man digging in the garden and said that when they parted later that evening that Edgar Edwards gave him a brown overcoat, saying, 'Put that on'.
He said that when they got to the station and Edgar Edwards was booking to Liverpool Street that he gave him 1s 6d. He noted that before they got to the station that Edgar Edwards had given him a suit of clothes to pawn. He said that Edgar Edwards tied them up himself and that he pawned them at the pawnbroker at 344 High Street and that he later gave Edgar Edwards the money and the pawn ticket but said that Edgar Edwards told him that he might as well keep it. He said that the next day they went back to Leyton where he finished cleaning the windows and also cleaned the bath and water closet.
A labourer that lived at 79 Church Road, Leyton said that Edgar Edwards and another man came to his house and asked him to do some digging at 89 Church Road, stating that Edgar Edwards asked him to do the garden plainly all over which he did from bottom to top. He said that he worked there on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday and that on the Tuesday at about 12am that some goods arrived in a little pony cart. He said that there were about half a dozen boxes with old books and one box with old clothes in it and that he helped to carry them in. He said that one of the boxes, a basket box, was very heavy but that he could not see what was in it and said that Edgar Edwards didn't say what was in it.
He said that Edgar Edwards came with the next lot in a little pony and van and that the load included two wooden boxes and a big tin trunk which he carried upstairs. He said that when he said to Edgar Edwards, 'That one is very heavy', referring to the tin trunk, that Edgar Edwards replied, 'Oh, that is only valuable crockery'.
A woman that lived at 91 Church Road, Leyton, next door to 89 Church Road, said that she remembered some furniture arriving at 89 Church Road and saw the gardener helping to unload it. She said that whilst she couldn't fix the date, that she recalled about a week later being at her bedroom window at the back of the house and seeing Edgar Edwards digging a hole in his garden. She said that it was a round hole and that he was standing in it. She said that she could only see his head from the window and that the next time she looked out the next day or two the hole was closed up. She noted that when she saw him digging the hole that at that time she didn't know that he was her next door neighbour until he came and told her so.
A pawnbroker at 2 Merrow Street, Walworth Road said that on 6 December 1902 that two gold rings were pledged with him by the man that Edgar Edwards had had run his shop. He said that the rings were pledged in the name of WJ Darby, 22 Wyndham Road.
The assistant to another pawnbroker at 344 High Road, Leyton said that on 10 December 1902 that a suit of clothes was given to him by a man for which he issued a ticket and that on 20 December 1902 that he also took in a clock and an ornament that was pledged by Edgar Edwards.
When John Darby's brother examined a watch and books that had bene pledged at pawnbrokers he identified them as belonging to John Darby. He also identified the unit of clothes and the clock and ornament that were also pawned as having belonged to Edgar Edwards.
He also produced some letters that were written by Edgar Edwards.
A handwriting expert was called to examine Exhibits 8 and 9 which were proved by the man that Edgar Edwards had had manage his shop to have been written by Edgar Edwards in his presence. The handwriting expertsaid that he compared them with the contract note for the gold watch and chain and which was signed WT Louden and stated that in his opinion that the signatures in each document were in the same writing.
A business transfer agent in Lavender Hill said that on 3 December 1902 that Edgar Edwards called on him, giving him the name of William Darby of 22 Wyndham Road, Camberwell and told him that he wanted to buy a stationery and tobacconist's business and said that he gave him several addresses and that he later received a card from him on 8 December 1902.
Edgar Edwards later came into contact with the grocer, who was an elderly man, and who he attacked at his house on 23 December 1902.
The grocer had carried on his business at Jodrell Road in Victoria and it was reported that in December 1902 he had become desirous of disposing of it and advertised it and on 18 December 1902 Edgar Edwards went to see him about it. The grocer said that the 'taking price' for the business was £80 and said that on 22 December 1902 that he received a letter from Edgar Edwards making an appointment to see him at his home at 89 Church Road at 11am but said that he received the letter too late to make the appointment, but said that he received another letter the following day saying that Edgar Edwards wanted to take the business and made another appointment for 23 December 1902 at 11am.
The grocer said that he had gone to Edgar Edwards house at Leyton by appointment to discuss selling his business to him, noting that he was with him for several hours. He said that Edgar Edwards paced about a great deal and apologised for keeping him waiting but said that there was nothing in his manner to cause him to fear him in the slightest. However, he said that Edgar Edwards then attacked him, saying that the attack was absolutely unprovoked and took place in a moment, saying that Edgar Edwards gave him a very severe blow that almost knocked the senses out of him and which was followed by a number of blows that rained down upon him whilst he was on the ground. He said that in another moment Edgar Edwards might have killed him and said that at the end of the attack that Edgar Edwards tried to force a handkerchief or cloth into his mouth. However he said that Edgar Edwards was almost exhausted by the force of his own blows and had begun to show signs of fatigue but said that he was able to get away.
He said that during all the time that they had been talking that he had seen Edgar Edwards toying with the sash-weight that was wrapped up in paper but that he didn't think for a moment that he would hit him with it.
He said that when he was first struck that he had had his hat on but could not say when he lost it.
When the grocer was struck he was just about to leave 89 Church Road and had been trying to open the door but said that the latch was stiff and that as he was trying it he was hit from behind on the back of the head and fell to the ground. He said that whilst he was on the ground that Edgar Edwards rained more blows on him with his supposed roll of paper and almost exhausted himself with the force of the blows. The grocer said that he tried to protect himself and got to his feet and then seized Edgar Edwards by the coat collar. He said that after he had received about a dozen blows that Edgar Edwards tried to put something in his mouth like a handkerchief. The grocer said that he then made a desperate resistance as he knew he was being murdered and said to Edgar Edwards, 'Don't murder me, what have I done?'. However, he said that he at last managed to smash both of the glass door panels and called for assistance and the door opened but that he could not remember what happened after that.
The grocer was later seen sitting outside 89 Church Road sitting in a chair with blood freely flowing from his head by a policeman and when the policeman asked him how he came by his injury he told them and the police called at 89 Church Road and after getting no response they forced an entry.
The police report noted that there could be no doubt that Edgar Edwards intended to murder the grocer and that had the door panels been made of wood instead of glass that he would have unquestionably succeeded. The police report stated that they then expected that Edgar Edwards would have gone to the grocer’s address at 1 Jodrell Road in Victoria and murdered his wife and then probably buried them both in the same hole that he had buried the Darby family. The report stated that they thought that Edgar Edwards would have then removed some of the grocer's furniture to 89 Church Road where he intended to live with his woman friend.
After Edgar Edwards was arrested on 23 December 1902 he was taken to Leyton police station where he was charged with maliciously wounding the grocer. When he was searched the police found a pawn ticket and when they went back to 89 Church Road and searched the premises they found more pawn tickets in a case bearing the name of Darby. When the police went back to question Edgar Edwards over the pawn tickets they asked him if he was Darby and he replied, 'No, that is a friend I am buying the business for', meaning the grocer's business.
On 29 December 1902 the police took Beatrice Darby's sister to 89 Church Road to look at the clothing and furniture which she identified as belonging to John Darby and Beatrice Darby.
The police then went to 22 Wyndham Road where they found the sash weight on the mantelpiece in the back room with a quantity of what appeared to be blood and hair on one end and which they took away for examination. They noted that when the sash weight was found the blood on it was slightly damp and said that it had not been washed.
They then found some blood stains in the front and back room.
The police found the remains of the victims on 30 December 1902 after examining the back garden at 89 Church Road, stating that they found a soft place and that when they dug down to a depth of about 4ft 6in they found six sacks and a bundle and sent for a doctor to examine them.
It was reported that whilst the police had been searching 89 Church Road that the neighbour that had seen Edgar Edwards digging the hole had become suspicious and had reported her suspicions to the police as they were making their investigation, drawing their attention to the garden area.
It was said that the garden had been extensively dug up 'to lay out flower beds'.
When the divisional police surgeon for the district arrived at 89 Church Road he found six sacks containing the dismembered bodies of a man and woman, noting that the heads and limbs had been cut off. He said that he also saw the body of a child which was intact.
He said that the heads were quite recognisable and that the cause of death was due to injury to the heads in the cases of the man and woman, and in the case of the child to strangulation, there being a handkerchief tied tightly round its neck.
He said that there were extensive fractures to the skulls of the man and woman and that he thought that there had been three or four blows delivered and that the face of the woman had been smashed in.
He noted that there had been a blow on the back of each of their heads but that they were not of a serious nature and might have been caused in falling and that the serious blows had been struck from the front.
He said that their bodies had been dismembered with a saw.
He said that in both the cases of John Darby and Beatrice Darby that their causes of death had been from a blow which had been delivered from the front but could not say whether or not it was the first blow. He noted that the blows were undoubtedly tremendous and ferocious.
When the police examined 22 Wyndham Road in more detail on 30 December 1902 they found among other things a hair-net and a comb lying on the floor which were taken away for examination and also noticed that there was blood oozing through the ceiling of the shop from the floor above.
Parts of the wall paper, the floor, and the door panels were also taken away for examination.
Edgar Edwards was charged with murder on 31 December 1902. The inspector said, 'Now, Edgar Edwards, otherwise Louden, you will be charged with the wilful murder of William John Darby, Beatrice Darby, and Ethel Beatrice, their child, on or about November 29th, supposed to be at 22, Wyndham Road, Camberwell' to which Edgar Edwards replied, 'My dear Sir, I know nothing about it'. After he was charged he said, 'Good goodness'.
When he was taken to the court and the charge was read over by the Chairman of the Bench Edgar Edwards said, 'Surely, Sir, there is some great mistake'.
When Edgar Edwards was examined by a medical officer at Brixton Prison where he had been detained since 24 December 1902 the medical officer said that he found nothing to indicate insanity.
When they further examined 89 Church Road on 8 January 1903 they found three keys in a dressing table drawer in the front room and when they took them to 22 Wyndham Road on 10 January 1903 they found that they fitted the door leading from the front to the back parlours and also the door leading to the stairs and that another key fitted the front bedroom door.
When the police went back to 22 Wyndham Road on 30 January 1903 they found a silk scarf in a grate in the back bedroom, an empty ink-bottle in the back room and ink stains on the floor under which there were blood stains. They also found two saws covered up in the shop with newspaper and a lady's shoe, the other of which was found at 89 Church Road.
At his trial at the Old Bailey Edgar Edwards refused to plead guilty or not guilty and was said to have feigned insanity. It was heard that when the Clerk of Arraigns read out the indictment and put the question to Edgar Edwards, 'Are you guilty or not guilty?' that Edgar Edwards made no reply. His solicitor then went up to him and had a whispered and rather animated conversation after which he was asked again but again Edgar Edwards still didn’t answer and instead looked about him in a vacant manner, not seeming to understand the nature of the interrogation. He was asked a third time with the same response and after some more conversation with his solicitor he was asked a fourth time and replied, 'You have no business to ask such a question’. When the Clerk told him that he had to answer 'Yes' or 'No', Edgar Edwards said, 'All stuff is nonsense'. Then after a short wait the Judge said, 'Enter a plea of not guilty'.
A plea of insanity was later submitted by his defence but Edgar Edwards was convicted on Thursday 19 February 1903. After he was convicted he said, 'Now get on with it as quick as you like'. It was said that after the judge put on the black cap and passed sentence and came to the final words, 'May the Lord have mercy on your soul' that Edgar Edwards burst into a demoniacal laugh said, 'Right you are, Ha ha!'. He was said to have been still shouting as he was led below.
It was said that after he was convicted that he abandoned his pretence to madness and later became more resigned. He also wrote out a confession that encompassed many pages of foolscap which was written on the Sunday and was in the hand of the Home Secretary on the Monday in which he claimed that another man had committed the murders and that he had not been aware of the intent to murder but that he had been an accessory to the fact. He said that he thought that they were only planning a robbery and that the murder had only followed as the result of resistance after which it was necessary to hide the crime. It was noted that only two men knew the full content of the confession, the Home Secretary and the minister of religion who had attended him. It was noted that the clergyman that had attended Edgar Edwards had said that he believed Edgar Edwards's story. However, his sentence was not interfered with.
Edgar Edwards was executed on 3 March 1903 at Wandsworth. It was said that Edgar Edwards had walked unassisted to the scaffold and although pale, had not faltered. He was said to have had a fairly good night but to have hardly touched his breakfast.
His trial was said to have cost £2,000.
The location of 22 Wyndham Road, a corner house by Crown Street, was demolished but the plot can be seen as green space adjacent to Wyndham & Comber Estate along Wyndham Road and round into Crown Street. The current row of addresses end at 32 Wyndham Road. 59 Crown Street, which once faced 22 Wyndham Road, has also since been redeveloped.
89 Church Road has also been demolished although houses from the period still exist running up to 75 Church Road.
Following his execution Edgar Edwards's brain was examined to see if there were any abnormalities to account for the murders or insanity but it was found that his brain was fine and very well developed with no evidence of any injury or any constitutional disease to it.
see Bruce Herald, R?rahi XXXIX, Putanga 148, 30 Pipiri 1903, Page 6
see National Archives - HO 144/542/A53222
see Pageant Of Murder by TCH Jacobs p15-24
see Penny Illustrated Paper - Saturday 10 January 1903
see St James's Gazette - Tuesday 03 March 1903
see Portsmouth Evening News - Thursday 19 March 1903
see Illustrated Police News - Saturday 24 January 1903
see Illustrated Police News - Saturday 10 January 1903
see Illustrated Police News - Saturday 24 January 1903
see Norfolk News - Saturday 07 March 1903
see Leeds Mercury - Thursday 15 January 1903
see Waterford Standard - Wednesday 04 March 1903
see Illustrated Police News - Saturday 24 January 1903
see Evening News (London) - Wednesday 07 January 1903