The Cannon Street Murder
It was a case which, for a few short weeks, shocked the whole of London. A seemingly innocent old housekeeper had been brutally murdered. The motive was unclear. After all, Mrs Sarah Millson was far from rich. Plus, she had no enemies anyone could think of. By all accounts, the elderly widow lived a quiet life on Canon Street, in the heart of London. Slowly, however, new details started emerging, shedding new light on the 1866 killing.
Though she was elderly, Mrs Millson was still employed as a housekeeper. She lived above her employer’s premises on Canon Street and was there almost every night. On the evening of April 11, 1862, she heard a knock on the door. She went down and, upon opening it, was mercilessly bludgeoned to death. Investigators arriving on the scene found huge amounts of blood. They also found a crowbar lying nearby. Despite the fact it was clean of bloodstains, the police believed this to be the murder weapon.
Before long, the London police had identified a prime suspect. William Smith was well known to them. He was a petty criminal with a long history of crimes and misdemeanours. His fate looked sealed when a witness came forward claiming she had seen him on the scene at Cannon Street on the evening in question. Smith was brought before the Old Bailey court. But then, his defence team revealed that the witness may have been bribed by the police to give her evidence. What’s more, Smith had a solid alibi. The case against him collapsed and he was set free. Mrs Millson’s murder was simply added to the huge list of unsolved crimes in Victorian London.
More recently, however, historians have found proof that Mrs Millson may have been the victim of blackmail. The records show that she was a bigamist: she had left one husband and then married another. All the evidence suggests that an unknown man – or woman – was blackmailing her, threatening to reveal her secret unless she paid up. Could it be that she finally refused to give in to blackmail and ended up paying the ultimate price?