October 24, 1890
The body of Phoebe Hogg is found, her neck nearly severed from the body
A passerby happened upon Phoebe’s form, and initially mistook her for a person sleeping off an excess of alcohol. After walking a while, the man wondered if the person had been sick and needed assistance, and retraced his steps back to her body. He quickly realized she was dead rather than asleep or ill, and police were notified. No clear motive could be readily ascertained, but it was noted the decedent’s finger showed she had markings denoting she should have a wedding ring, though it was conspicuously missing.
Phoebe’s sister-in-law Clara Hogg visited the morgue, suspecting the undefined deceased woman was the missing Phoebe. Accompanying her was a family friend, Mary Pearcey. Pearcey had lived with John Charles Pearcey and eventually took his surname “without benefit of clergy,” and when the couple separated due to her continued infidelities, she kept the name. Pearcey and Frank Hogg had been romantically involved during the time he and Phoebe Styles were also intimate. When Phoebe delivered Frank the news she was expecting their child, Frank hastily married Phoebe. He continued his relationship with Pearcey, however, and was in possession of a key to her apartment.
Pearcey begrudgingly followed Clara to the viewing of Phoebe’s body. The deceased woman’s face was bruised, and while Clara immediately recognized her sister-in-law’s clothing, Pearcey insisted, “come away, Clara, it isn’t her!” Despite Pearcey’s protests, Clara informed police the corpse was indeed that of Phoebe Hogg, and mentioned the Hoggs’ 18-month-old daughter, Phoebe Hanslope Hogg, was missing.
During investigation, police questioned Pearcey in her apartment. The kitchen was bloody, in disarray, and held two knives and a heavy poker; all three instruments were blood-stained. When asked how the room came to be in such a state, Pearcey responded, “killing mice, killing mice, killing mice.”
Police questioned neighbors, as well, and learned that Phoebe visited Pearcey shortly before her body was discovered. Neighbors had heard glass shattering and called to Pearcey to inquire if she needed assistance. When they received no reply, the neighbors brushed off the noise as an object falling in a nearby corner store which was undergoing construction. Police also learned a pram (baby stroller) was left in Pearcey’s hallway during roughly the same time, then suddenly disappeared.
Pearcey — who was wearing both her own and Phoebe’s wedding rings at the time — was arrested based on the circumstantial evidence against her. Shortly thereafter, the body of baby Phoebe was found. Her body showed no external signs of violence and it was suspected Pearcey smothered the baby before putting her into the pram and wheeling the corpse to the dump site.
Pearcey was convicted of the murder of both Phoebe Hoggs. She was hanged on December 23, 1890, her last words being, “My sentence is a just one, but a good deal of the evidence against me was false.”
Levins, Peter. “Case of the Absent Wedding Ring.” The San Francisco Examiner. July 11, 1948
“Execution of Mrs. Pearcey.” The Standard [London, England]. December 24, 1890
The Bristol Mercury. December 23, 1890
“The Hampstead Tragedy.” The Illustrated Police News. December 6, 1890
“The Hampstead Tragedy.” The Newcastle Courant. November 1, 1890