Amelia Dyer
Amelia Dyer Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

Criminal records dating from 1770 to 1934, placed online by the National Archives, have revealed the name of one of Britain's worst ever serial killers - Amelia Dyer. The data released by the National Archives consists of more than 2.5 million criminal records and includes some of the worst murders.

Dubbed 'Angel Maker', Dyer was responsible for the deaths of some 400 babies that she took from their mothers, promising to give the children better lives. For 30 years, Dyer kept taking children from desperate single mothers, who gave her money to have their children adopted by good families. However, rather than looking for good families for the children, Dyer simply strangled them with dressmaking tape and disposed of their bodies in the Thames.

Dyer began her murderous spree in the 1860s in Bristol, where she masqueraded as a friendly face to desperate, unmarried and pregnant women. It must have been fairly easy for her early in her criminal career, for Victorian medicine practices were not yet capable of detecting the difference between, for example, suffocation and still-birth.

As times changed though, Dyer too evolved... and a far grislier and horrible method of execution surfaced - starvation. It is believed she drugged the babies with laudanum (a powerful opiate) and then starved them.

This continued for a decade, until she was caught and served a six-month jail sentence.

That didn't stop her.

She returned with a vengeance... and a new plan. She moved to Reading and opened an adoption agency and business was soon booming. Witnesses from the era have been quoted as saying as many six babies entered her agency in a day.

Dyer was finally caught, again, when the body of an infant was recovered from the Thames and the address of her agency was found. Inside, police found several incriminating pieces of evidence and a search of the Thames uncovered 50 bodies. Dyer's remark: "You'll know all mine by the tape around their necks."

She was finally killed - death by hanging - in London in 1896.

And according to information from her file, the description of her last moments goes like this: "On account of her weight and the softness of the textures, rather a short drop was given. It proved to be quite sufficient."