August 13, 1915
Maidstone, Kent, England
Serial bigamist and murderer George Joseph Smith is hanged
Smith had found a career in marrying women bigamously, clearing out their savings, then skipping town only to assume a new name and begin the process anew. Somewhere along the line, Smith realized he could make even more money from his serial marriages by taking insurance policies out on the lives of his wives and murdering them.
The beginning of the end for Smith came when he drowned his new bride Margaret Lofty in December 1914. The cause of death was determined to be accidental and Smith, using the name John Lloyd, disappeared soon after. The story caught the attention of Charles Burnham whose daughter Alice died in a remarkably similar way the year before. Burnham sent clippings of the murders to Scotland Yard whose detectives were able to link the two to yet another murder, that of Beatrice “Bessie” Mundy who was found dead in her bathtub in 1912.
During Smith’s investigation, several victims came forward stating how their “husband” had defrauded them. In total, Smith had been married at least eight times including the three murdered wives. The first marriage was never annulled or terminated and was the only legitimate union.
At trial, pathologist Frederick Seddon proposed a theory speculating Smith had grabbed the feet of his victims as they bathed, quickly yanking them underwater. He suggested the sudden rush of water into the victims’ noses would result in them losing consciousness quickly, allowing for speedy and effortless murders.
The jury took 22 minutes to convict Smith. His final words to his executioner were simply “I am innocent.”