One history of illegal activity. She was

One of the most notorious and brutal crimes of nineteenth century England was the murder of Julia Martha Thomas by her maid, Kate Webster. Julia Martha Thomas was a widow in her fifties who lived in Richmond of southwest London. While searching for a maid to employ, Mrs. Thomas made a mistake that would cost her her life. She hired Kate Webster without first looking into her background and was completely unaware of her criminal history (Strange). When Kate began working, she and Mrs. Thomas often got into quarrels with one another which eventually became very severe. One afternoon, in a drunken rage, Kate not only killed, but dismembered and fed parts of her mistress’ corpse to street children. Known as the Richmond Murder, this gruesome case changed the way people thought during the Victorian Era, and a recent finding has made it relevant again. In 2010, an astounding discovery solved the crime which had been a mystery for 131 years. Only about fifteen percent of murders during the Victorian Era were committed by women, however they are often the most horrific and ruthless (White). The homicide of Mrs. Thomas was described in the press as “one of the most sensational and awful chapters in the annals of human wickedness (Mulcahy).” The actions of Kate in the Richmond murder attracted huge public interest and greatly influenced Victorian society. She changed the way women, as well as lower social classes, were looked upon.Prior to the murder, Kate Webster had a history of illegal activity. She was born in 1849 in County Wexford, Ireland. (Mulcahy). Kate began stealing at a very young age and gained a reputation as a thief. She was caught and put in jail for larceny when she was only fifteen years old (Donaghy). Her time in prison didn’t have any effect on her as she returned to theft upon her release. Kate later moved to Notting Hill and had a relationship with “Mr. Strong,” who had abandoned her when she became pregnant. Unfortunately, becoming a mother didn’t improve her criminal actions and she continued robbing. She tried to steer clear of the police and used many different aliases. Kate claimed that she was “forced into crime” because she had been “forsaken by him Strong, and committed crimes for the purpose of supporting myself and my child (Mulcahy).” Because Kate was regularly imprisoned for her crimes, a friend of hers named Sarah Crease took the responsibility of caring for her son during these periods. When Kate was once again released from prison, a woman named Miss Loder referred her for a job to Julia Martha Thomas. Miss Loder had employed Kate for temporary work in the past and she knew Mrs. Thomas was in search of a charlady, so the two were introduced to one another (Gruesome). Mrs. Thomas would soon make a decision that would have her killed.When Julia Martha Thomas met Kate, she was at once interested in hiring her, and did not inquire about her character or her history. On January 29, 1879, Kate began her work as a servant. Not long after, the two began to get into many arguments with one another. Mrs. Thomas had a reputation for being a harsh employer who couldn’t keep her maids for long (Black). Kate would later say, “At first I thought her a nice old lady…but I found her very trying, and she used to do many things to annoy me during my work…” Mrs. Thomas, on the other hand, believed Kate had a “high and mighty” personality and said she would often stumble home drunk and violent. The daily quarrels between the two women became very serious to the point that Mrs. Thomas asked friends if she could stay with them because of Kate’s unpredictability. She claimed, “she was afraid to be alone with the Irish woman who was very fond of drink.” Mrs. Thomas finally had enough and gave Kate her notice to leave on February 28th. In her last ever diary entry, she recorded, “Gave Katherine warning to leave,” (White) but Kate was able to convince Mrs. Thomas to stay an extra three days. On March 2nd, Kate’s final day, the two got into a massive fight before Mrs. Thomas went to church. Members of the church recalled her appearing very agitated during the service and claimed she had even left early to deal with Kate. However, when Mrs. Thomas arrived back at her house, her fate awaited her.As Mrs. Thomas was walking upstairs, she was murdered by Kate who had been in a violently drunk (Mulcahy). There’s a discrepancy as to how she was killed because reports include two different stories. It was initially said that she was beaten with an axe, but Kate’s later confession stated that she threw her employer down a a flight of stairs and choked her to death (Donaghy). After Mrs. Thomas was murdered, Kate knew she needed to eliminate the evidence. She took her remains into the kitchen and began to dismember the body. Using a razor, she severed the head and cut all of the remaining body parts into small pieces. Next, she filled the laundry copper with water and began to boil Mrs. Thomas’ fat, which she later fed to some young children on the streets. A detective who later investigated the case stated, “A few days after the murder, some boys said that Kate Webster had offered them some food and said ‘here you go lads, I’ve got some good pig’s lard which you can have for free.’ The boys ate two bowls of lard, which was unfortunately Mrs Thomas.” The following day, Kate Webster placed all of the dismembered body parts into a box, except for the head and foot, which were too large to fit. Pretending to be a lady in need, she persuaded a neighbor to help her toss the box into the Thames River (White). Kate believed her job had been done and that she was cleared from ever being a suspect. The very next day, the box of remains was uncovered and reported to Barnes police station (Mulcahy). The body parts were examined, but it could only be determined that they were from a human female. The head, however, hidden someplace different, was not discovered while Kate was alive as she did not reveal its location before her death. In 2010, a coroner ruled that a skull, found while excavating a pub in David Attenborough’s garden, belonged to Julia Martha Thomas. It was discovered in Richmond less than 100 yards away from where Mrs. Thomas was killed (Head). After Mrs. Thomas was murdered and her remains cleared out, Kate began to impersonate her mistress and continued to live at her home. She wore her clothes as well as her jewelry and dealt with tradesman posing as her. Kate planned put the house up for sale and began to sell Mrs. Thomas’ furniture to a local publican named John Church. When delivery men arrived to collect the furniture, they mentioned to a neighbor of Kate’s that they were working for Mrs. Thomas and had pointed out Kate. The neighbor, who had already been suspicious. notified the cops and Kate immediately fled (Donaghy) to Ireland where she stayed with her uncle in County Wexford (Strange). The police put out a “wanted” notice throughout Ireland and Kate was quickly tracked down and arrested (Strange). She was brought back to England and as she was transported, many crows formed to watch (Donaghy). When Kate returned, her trial was set for July 2nd at the Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey in London (Black). By the time it began, public interest had grown significantly. The London Times stated that when Kate made her first appearance in court, she was greeted by “an immense crowd around the building… and very great excitement prevailed.” (Mulcahy) On the fourth day of her trial, the future king of Sweden, Crown Prince Gustav, had even visited (Donaghy). Kate had pleaded not guilty to the murder charge as well the various charges of theft. Without the knowledge of where the head was, the prosecution was difficult. It was hard to prove that the remains discovered were positively those of Julia Martha Thomas. However, there was plenty of other evidence and several witnesses who testified (Mulcahy). After a six-day trial, the jury considered the case and pronounced Kate Webster guilty. When the judge had asked if there was any reason why Kate shouldn’t receive the death penalty, she falsely pleaded that she was pregnant. After it was discovered that this had only been a lie, she was sentenced to be hanged. Kate attempted to incriminate three other people, but was unsuccessful and the death penalty was proceeded with. (Black) Kate Webster’s execution took place at Wandsworth prison (Mulcahy). Right before she was killed, she finally confessed her guilt and described her actions both during and after the murder. She was then hung by William Marwood and the crowds applauded and celebrated.The Richmond Murder had a considerable social impact on both Victorian Britain and Ireland. Kate Webster’s actions during the homicide as well as after were very influential. Within only a few weeks of Kate’s arrest, and even before she had gone to trial, Madame Tussauds, a museum, made a wax statue out of her and displayed the “Richmond Murderess” for the public to view. Kate’s trial was a sensation and was widely reported in the press (Revolvy). While it was ongoing, it was celebrated by street ballads, which were musical narratives set to the tune of popular songs. One ballad was titled “Murder and Mutilation of an Old Lady near Barnes” and was written shortly after Kate’s arrest. The day after Kate’s execution, there was an auction of Mrs. Thomas’ property. Huge crowds of people attended and everyone wanted a souvenir. People who couldn’t buy any property would take pebbles and twigs from the garden. Repulsion against Kate was developed because of her attempts to pretend to be Mrs. Thomas. Victorians believed that she had diminished middle-class identity because she impersonated a woman of higher-class which she was not part of. It was also claimed that Kate Webster had violated the expected standards of women during the era because females were generally seen as moral, passive and physically weak or restrained, none of which were traits Kate possessed (Revolvy). The Richmond Murder had a considerable social impact during the nineteenth century. Society was revolted by Kate Webster because of her behavior which diminished middle-class identity as well as violated the expected standards of women (Revolvy). During the nineteenth century in England, crime became a significant aspect of Victorian life as crime levels rose sharply. In current times, crimes are constantly be committed all around us. With each new day, laws are broken, and criminal behavior continues to influence society.