One of England's most gruesome murder puzzles that stumped detectives for more than 130 years has finally been solved. A severed head, which was found in the back garden of David Attenborough's Richmond home, has been confirmed by police forensic scientists to be that of Julia Martha Thomas who was killed by Katie Webster in 1879.
The slaying of Julia Martha Thomas in 1879 has finally been solved and brings to an end one of most gruesome murders in English history. Using the latest forensic technology, investigators were able to confirm that the severed head found in the garden of David Attenborough's Richmond home is that of Julia Martha Thomas.
The murderer was Katie Webster, a servant who was employed by Julia Martha Thomas. Katie Webster who had previously been convicted for theft and drinking offenses was employed by Thomas but their relationship became soured as Webster constantly was drunk and was found at the pub. One a Sunday in 1879 after mass a fight broke out between the two and Webster threw Thomas down the stairs before strangling the last breath out of her. Webster then cut up the body limb by limb, even feeding some of the body to children, claiming it was pigs lard. She then threw the rest of the corpse into a box and sailed it down the Thames but the foot and head would not fit. She buried at the foot in an allotment and the head in the Richmond garden.
Webster was tried for the murder of Julia Martha Thomas in 1879 and was hanged but it was the gruesome nature of the story that fascinated people. But Ms Thomas' head was never found. The final twist came in October last year when workmen building an extension on TV naturalist Mr Attenborough's home made the grisly find as they dug his back garden.
The skull was sent to forensic officers who used radio carbon testing alongside census data to confirm the skull's true identity. After the inquest, coroner Alison Thompson ruled that Mrs Webster had died of asphyxiation and blows to the head.