True Crime Sunday: Kate Webster

Welcome back to True Crime Sunday! This week we’re taking a look at the case of a made who killed her employer in Victorian England. This one is on the gruesome side.

Kate Webster was born in 1849 in Killann, Ireland. When she was growing up, she had a reputation for thievery and spent time in jail for larceny. When she was released from a four-year sentence in 1868, she decided to move to London for a new start.

In January 1879, she started working for Julia Thomas Richmond. It didn’t take long before Webster’s employer started to complain about her work. Soon after starting, she was fired, her employment set to end on February 28, but Webster asked for it to be extended to March 2.

After notice was given, the women argued and Webster ended up throwing her employer down a flight of stairs. She then strangled and dismembered her. Webster attempted to boil Mrs. Thomas to make it more difficult to identify her. She packed up the remains and threw them in the Thames with the exception of the head. That was disposed of elsewhere. The body was found the next day, but not yet identified.

After the murder, Webster took on her former employer’s identity. She dressed in Mrs. Thomas’ clothes and jewelry and went to visit some former neighbors. She told them she was Mrs. Thomas now. The ruse ended in March 1879 when a suspicious neighbor asked some delivery men what they were doing, and they answered they were working for Mrs. Thomas and pointed her out. The neighbor alerted authorities and Webster fled.

She was soon captured at a relative’s farm in Killann, Ireland.

Webster’s trial started on July 2, 1879. It was quite the spectacle and attracted a number of people, including Crown Prince Gustav of Sweden. Webster entered a plea of not guilty. During the trial she tried to shift the blame to acquaintances and made the claim that she was pregnant in order to save herself. Her claim was found to be false and she was found guilty and sentenced to death.

She was set to be hanged on July 29, 1879. The night before, she finally confessed to the murder, though she showed no remorse. Webster made history by being the only woman hanged at Wandsworth Prison in London.

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