England · Executions

Man executed for murder of a family to steal their business

March 3, 1903
London, England
Edgar Edwards is hanged for the murder and dismemberment of a married couple and their infant daughter

Edgar Edwards, one of five assumed names, had acquired a fair amount of wealth by contacting those wanting to sell their businesses or other property, killing them, and taking the titles to their shops without payment. He was suspected in killing at least 15 in this manner before meeting with William (26) and Beatrice (25) Darby.

The Darbys owned a grocery business they were interested in selling. In late 1902, Edwards visited the Darbys at their home/shop, and, once alone with Beatrice and Ethel (10 months old), beat Beatrice with an iron sash-weight (a bar of iron around 5-10 pounds, used to balance sash windows). Beatrice was beaten hard enough to leave blood splatter on the ceiling, and a trail of blood indicated she had tried to reach a window to call for help while hunched over, probably to shield her daughter. Her screams brought William running, who was beaten to death with the same instrument on the stairway landing. After her parents were killed, Ethel was strangled with a handkerchief.

After Edwards had killed the Darby family, he dismembered their corpses in the kitchen over “hours, probably days” with a wood saw he found in the home. Altogether, the Darbys were cut into 33 pieces and placed in six sacks. Edwards placed the body parts in wooden grocery crates, had them moved to his rented home 15 miles away, then buried the pieces in his garden during the night. He cleaned the crime scene to the best of his abilities, told neighbors the Darbys had sold their store and moved away, and employed a friend to run the shop.

Not long after the Darby murders, Edwards attempted his scheme with another grocer — and retired prizefighter — named John Garland. He struck Garland over the head with another sash-weight, though Garland managed to escape out his front door and call for help before fainting in the street. Police, suspicious after learning of the Darbys’ sudden disappearance after selling their business to Edwards, investigated Edwards’ home and found the dismembered remains. Reportedly, the Darbys’ dog had followed Edwards to his home and was found whining at its owners’ makeshift grave.

Edwards was tried, convicted, and executed by hanging within four months of the Darbys’ murders.


Clipping: Sunday Star Illustrated Magazine. February 22, 1903

Sources:
“Edgar Edwards.” British Executions. Accessed: March 3, 2019. http://www.britishexecutions.co.uk/execution-content.php?key=100&termRef=Edgar%20Edwards
“1903 VINTAGE NEWSPAPER SERIAL KILLER EDGAR EDWARDS SAW MURDER AS FINE ART.” Worthpoint. Accessed: March 3, 2019. https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/1903-vintage-newspaper-serial-killer-1928762875
“English-American Murder Trials.” Calgary Herald. April 27, 1903
“A London Murderer.” The Baltimore Sun. February 15, 1903

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