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Monday, January 4, 2021

Recycling Victorian Style - The Murder Clues in Hidden in plain Sight

Recycling - Victorian Style - The Murder Clues Hidden in Plain Sight 

C.A. Asbrey

Lizzie Borden

One thing I found in my career as a police officer was that women noticed small details men didn't. It's a generalization, and not true of all women, or all men; but most accept that women in the law take a different approach and broadened the service considerably. It was that instinct which made me spot a few huge lies in the court transcript in the trial of the famous axe murderer, Lizzie Borden. I don't want to litigate the whole case here, just point a few abnormalities which were obvious to me. 

The first thing which caught my attention was Lizzie burning a dress in front of a witness, which was the same colour as the one she had worn on the morning of the murders, Lizzie's sister told those investigating that she had told Lizzie to burn the dress. She went on to confirm and that the Borden women had a habit of disposing of dresses in this manner. 

The reason I think this is a lie is that 19th century women most certainly did not dispose of dresses in such a manner. Not only was Andrew Borden famously parsimonious, it was a staggering waste of useful fabric. Now when I say Andrew Borden was mean, I mean miserly penny-pinching. In the middle of a crushing heatwave they had three-day-old mutton soup for breakfast. The soup was three days old - in a home with only a perfunctory icebox, in which all the ice had melted by the end of the day (according to the testimony of the maid, Bridget). Soup was traditionally made with the leftovers from a roast, and they were often served on a Sunday. There's a good chance the that meat in the mutton soup (being served on a Thursday) was actually a leftover from Sunday. There were reports of people in the family feeling unwell, other than just the maid. It's no great leap to suggest that leftovers kept for far too long in a heatwave might have been the culprit. The doctor did blame food left on the stove for days for illness in the family.   

We are talking about a man who was so mean, he would not even throw out old soup, and will serve it at unconventional times of day, to use it up. Would a man like that really allow his daughters to routinely throw out dresses in a town where the rag and bone collector would be prepared to give cash for rags older than a dress which had been recently in a good enough condition to wear? Seriously? Old clothes were normally mended, handed down to poorer relatives or servants. When gone beyond that stage they were cut down for cleaning rags, scraps used for quilting, shredded to use for stuffing, and even went into hand-made sanitary pads. By the time they got to the rag and bone man they were being sorted by pickers to salvage whatever they could, before being boiled down to make paper. Even buttons were kept and reused. Most households had a big collection of buttons which they used time and time again. The button eyes on homemade toys (more scraps of fabric) were generally the last of a set left, and unsuitable for shirts and the like, as they didn't have enough matching buttons to complete a garment. Nothing was wasted. And it was a remarkable enough act for a friend and neighbour to be taken aback by it. So I ask again, would dresses routinely have been burned? I say not. On top of all that, the dress had only been made three months previously by a local dressmaker. Lizzie contended that she got paint on the dress, so only wore it indoors, yet also complained that it was faded. How did a dress which she never wore outdoors become faded in only three months? The stains were also brown, the colour of dried blood. More than that, it had been completely missed in the police search of the house on the day of the murders. It shows that the police missed far too much. She probably hung a clean dress over it in the wardrobe, and the men just slid through each hanger without looking underneath.

On the night of the murder the constable guarding the house saw a lantern descend the stairs in the dead of night, and watched Lizzie scrub something in the sink. He did not challenge her, but he did record it.

On Saturday night the mayor came to the house and informed Lizzie she was a suspect. On Sunday morning she burned the dress. I contend that she wore that dress to kill Abby Borden, and then handed over another blue dress to the police for examination. It was confirmed at the inquest (all that evidence was excluded from the trial) that Lizzie had changed clothes that morning. A Mrs. Churchill stated that Lizzie lied about which dress she had been wearing. That was also excluded from the trial. Lizzie did something different for the second killing, which I'll go into later.    

And let's take a look at the rags soaking in the pail in the cellar. Those rags were homemade sanitary pads - which proves that the women in the household did use scraps of material in such a way. It's corroborating evidence that they used fabric like the rest of the women in society at that time, and that the dress burning wasn't usual. Whilst menstruating, Victorian women kept a pail, usually somewhere men rarely went, like the pantry or a corner of the kitchen. It contained a solution of cold water and bicarbonate of soda (great for getting blood stains out, try it.). As women's cycles tend to match up when living together, they would generally soak used pads for days, then at the end they would get boiled up in a copper for re-use next month. Hygiene standards were different back then. It was not seen as disgusting. It was seen as a good soak for stain removal. It was common practice. There was a privy in the cellar.

Such a bucket of bloody rags appeared the day of the murders, and the maid expressed surprise at finding it. Bridget's initial interviews say that periods finished the day before the murders, and that the bucket should have been gone as she'd washed everything the day before. That would indicate that it did not fit with the usual menstrual cycles of the household. The doctor did confirm that Lizzie was menstruating, but there's zero evidence that he really did examine her. She came from a wealthy, church-going family, and doctors of this period were notoriously prudish about examining women intimately. He was also a family friend. The male investigators never looked further at the collection of bloody rags, taking her word for it that it was menstrual blood. A blood speck on her petticoats was said to come from a 'flea bite' - Victorian code for a spot of menstrual blood. There were no tests to establish more that at the time, and they had no way to test whose blood it was.    

Under examination, the speck was on the outside of the petticoat, and not the inside where it would be expected to be. But why would there be blood there when her period finished on Wednesday, and the maid had already washed up everything in the pail? 
Bridget Sullivan

I have first hand experience of reactionary male reactions to menstruation. When my work took me around the world, I found that simply scattering a few sanitary products over my case meant that customs men were less interested in touching my case. The women smiled and examined the case as usual. They knew what I was doing, and found it amusing.  I wasn't smuggling, but it did mean I often cleared customs a lot quicker. The Victorian reaction would have been more extreme.

Looking at the floor plan, the guest room is next to Lizzie's bedroom. The doors to Abby and Andrews room was kept locked and connecting doors were blocked by furniture. Access to Abby, working in the guest room, would have been easy from Lizzie's room. Lizzie had a washstand and bowl in her room. It would have been easy for her to go back to her room, change dresses, wash, then take the bloody rags to the cellar knowing the maid was outside. There was nobody else in the house at that time. 

So as not to shock people, here is a link to a colourized version of the crime scene. The coat can clearly be seen above Andrew Borden's head.  (You may need to copy and paste the link into a browser.)

  Let's look at one more clue in the crime scene pictures. Andrew Borden was known to love his special overcoat, which was styled a 'Prince Albert Coat.' He was proud of it, and hung it by the door every time he came in, and replaced it the reefer jacket he wore indoors. He was identifiable in the area by it being his constant companion. There's no evidence that he wore it that day, the temperature was eighty-three degrees, but the area does get very humid, making the heat feel more intense and cloying than the temperature would imply. Whether he wore it or not, would he really have used it as a pillow? His head is already resting on at least one pillow. Did he need to use his prized coat this way? Wider shots show other cushions on other chairs. Why not use one of those? Underneath the coat you can see the newspaper he'd been reading, neatly folded. The coat isn't. Would a man known to be fastidious care more about his newspaper than his beloved coat? Clothes were expensive items in the 19th century, and a laundress was more likely to be targeted for robbery for the clothes she washed, rather than her meagre earnings (according to contemporaneous records). I contend he'd have been a lot more careful with it - and killers also make mistakes. This coat was one of them.

Clothes were only used as extra bed covers by the poor, as they had nothing else to add. That does not describe the Bordens.

letter to a local newspaper dated June 16, 1893 (The Knowlton Papers, page 250, HK235) signed "Concord, N.H. for Justice, suggests that the coat was used as an apron. Who was that really from?  Lizzie was 5'4" and her father was 5'11". That means that a coat which reached his knees would have been at least seven inches below her knee. Put on backwards it would have offered a great deal of protection from blood splatter. If he hadn't worn it, the coat would have been available for both murders, meaning that a few rags to clean the face and hands would have been sufficient but in the first murder the lower part of Lizzie's dress (and the petticoat which had a blood speck) would have been exposed. It is possible that Lizzie did not anticipate the amount of blood which would splatter on her her for the first killing, and made sure she protected her clothing for the second murder. Tellingly, the coat was not produced in evidence, or on the list of clothing buried with him. Where did it go after it was photographed above his head? Nobody knows. With the coat as protection, and standing behind the arm of the sofa (The point of assault - tests say the blows would take in the region of ten seconds) while striking the blows, most of the assailant's body would be protected.

Andrew normally hung his coat in the hall closet, and put on his house jacket. (Very normal at the time, Shirt sleeves were seen as common. Underwear was unthinkable.) It would have been easy for Lizzie to take that coat, put it on backwards, walk into the living room and bludgeon her father while standing behind the arm of the sofa. The coat was then bundled untidily near his head, hoping that the bloodstains would be assumed to have come from the head. The door to the dining room was right behind her, leading to a back door. Looking at the plot plan it was easy for her to go to the barn to clean up. Only her hands and face would have been exposed in the attack. The maid's room was attached to the kitchen by the back stairs. Using the barn meant that her cleanup was not in danger of being interrupted by the maid coming to use the most commonly-used water closet in the house. She was seen coming from the barn.

Nobody buys Lizzie's excuse for being in the barn - eating pears and looking for fishing weights. It was reportedly very hot, and dusty, enough in there for the police to note that she never left footprints (while they did), and the order in which she did things varied in different accounts. In her account she was rummaging through rubbish and eating fruit. Her hands should have been grubby with dust and juice. They were spotless. She claims she never washed her hands, but she must have. Nobody seems to have looked at the obvious reason for going to the barn. There was a water pump in there on the ground floor. That's where she cleaned up, and she had to admit to going to the barn as she was seen by the local ice cream man, Hyman Lubinsky. There's a good chance she also saw him, and knew she had to account for why she went there. That's why she didn't leave footprints in the dust in the loft. She was on the ground floor, washing under the pump, and disposing of the weapon. She didn't lie about going to the barn. She lied about why she went there. And she probably knew she had to. There was also an old privy, with a cesspit beneath, in the barn. The perfect place to dispose of an axe. The police say it was searched, but they missed the dress - and that wasn't at the bottom of a vault filled with faeces.    

The timescales are all dependent on us accepting both Bridget's and Lizzie's accounts. What if there was an argument between Abby and Lizzie, or an anticipated fight, and that's why the servant was sent outside to wash the windows? Victoria Lincoln, the late novelist, and neighbour of the Bordens, wrote that Abby was due to go to the bank to sign a deed for a farm that day, something which angered Lizzie. Families didn't like to argue in front of the servants. Abby was hit by a frenzied eighteen blows. That's the work of someone seriously worked up, and literal overkill. The killer definitely wanted to make sure Abby Borden was dead. The attack on Andrew Borden was also furious, but not quite as much. He had only ten wounds. Still far more than required, but the killer definitely wanted to make sure they were dead. Twitching may have made the killer continue to thrash out until convinced. 

But experience tells me not to accept Bridget's testimony. There's a lot she's not saying, and reading her testimony, prevarication seems to be her modus operandi. 19th century poor Irish people were culturally prone to mistrusting the law, due to their history of injustice in their homeland. Even having fellow Irishmen as officers didn't help too much. Those in charge still reflected the protestant oppressors of the old country. When asked about what dress Lizzie wore that morning, Bridget talks in general terms about what Lizzie often wore, but not that day. Her reaction to the killings is unusual too. 

Do we really believe that two women finding a relative's bloody body, after an obviously violent attack had the reaction they describe? Did Lizzie hate her stepmother so much she overlooked calling out for her at all? The servant never thought to look for her mistress either, and if that was a matter of emotional upset, why didn't they both run for help? I've arrived at crime scenes where grown men were at a neighbour's house because they thought a burglar was still in their home. For Bridget to leave Lizzie there alone, while she went for help, just doesn't fit, even with her sitting on the doorstep. This was an axe-maniac at large. Neither woman acted in a normal way. They knew they weren't going to be next, and where it doesn't show in their words, it certainly shows in their actions. One vital thing Bridget told the police is that she heard Lizzie tell her father that Mrs. Borden had received a note and had gone out. We know that is absolutely untrue as she was already dead. Lizzie clearly wanted to stop her father from looking for her stepmother. We also know that Abby's body was visible from the stairs Lizzie descended, as that is how the body was found.

After Lizzie 'discovered' her father she sent Bridget for help. She did so, but on her return, the doctor and another neighbour are already there. At this point Lizzie then tells Bridget that she heard her stepmother coming back, and asks her to check upstairs. When could Lizzie have heard her come back in? And if she did, why not shout for her to get out to safety when there's an axe murderer in the house? It's an obvious lie. We also know Mrs. Borden never left the spare room alive, killed before she could go anywhere. Not one single neighbour saw Mrs. Borden leave, and no note was ever found.

The witnesses saw the body from under the bed from the staircase. The same staircase Lizzie had walked down and paused on to laugh at the maid struggling to unlock the door when Mr. Borden came home.            

View of the spare bedroom from the staircase. Abby Borden' body was clearly visible.

Link to Bridget Sullivan' testimony. You may have to copy and paste:

Lizzie's lawyer paid the maid, Bridget Sullivan a sum of money to return to Ireland, which she did, quickly leaving the Borden home, and their employ. The  amount was not disclosed. She later travelled back across the Atlantic. Some say she went to Canada, but whatever route she took, she ended up in Anaconda, Montana.  She kept the name Sullivan as she married a John Sullivan (no relation, it's a very common name). As a retired woman she lived with her niece, who was the mother of the local Deputy Sheriff. It's worth noting that the younger Bridget had declared that her grandfather had died, and she'd inherited a small fortune. $1,000 in 1892 - worth $28,562.42 today. Genealogists have been unable to find any such relatives. That may seem a small sum to us, but to someone who lived on very low wages, and who would have been lucky to own more than two pairs of shoes, it would have been an unimaginable fortune. Many would suggest it was a payoff for the loyal servant who reportedly left the house on the evening of the murders carrying a parcel. Others would beg the question as to why any sum of money needs to have the proviso that a key witness needed to leave the country. Bridget also showed up at the trial in expensive new clothes. Who paid for those?            

Andrew and Abby Borden

The book, "A Private Disgrace", was written by Victoria Lincoln, who lived next door to the Bordens. In it she says that when the maid, Bridget Sullivan was ill in later life she asked an old friend, Minnie Green, who was also originally from Ireland, to visit her in her new home in Montana. That friend hadn't previously known that Bridget was involved in the Borden case. Bridget told Minnie of her fondness for Lizzie, considering her put-upon, and often taking her part in family disputes, and bringing her sweet treats. She also disclosed that she'd been less than candid in her evidence. Bridget extracted a promise that Minnie would never reveal what she'd been told. Minnie kept her word until after Bridget died, when she revealed to the local librarian that Bridget had helped cover for Lizzie. There are no details as to what exactly was lied about.  

Both Lizzie and Bridget's testimonies changed from the inquest the police reports, to the inquests, and subsequently to the jury, a point worth noting.  Also, those of you who know me, know that I generally contend that the last person to see the victim is usually the killer. It's just the way it so often is. Sure, they'll lie about details, timescales, and even what they did, but crucially, Lizzie Borden admitted to being the last person to see both victims alive, and was also seen walking from a place she could have safely cleaned up. Re Abby, Lizzie said at the inquest of the pillow slips, the last thing to be done to make up the guest room. "She had done that when I came down."

She then goes on to prevaricate and obfuscate, but she crucially placed herself with the victim, where she died, and as the last person to see her alive. Abby never made it out of that room after making the bed. Lizzie confirms the bed was just made when she saw her last.    

The same with her father :

Q. "When you went out to the barn, where did you take your leave of your father?" 

Lizzie. "He had laid down on the sitting room lounge, taken off his shoes, put on his slippers, and taken off his coat and put on his reefer. I asked him if he wanted the window left that way."

Q. Where did you leave him?

Lizzie: "On the sofa."

Q: "Was he asleep?"

Lizzie: "No sir."

Q: "Was he reading?"

Lizzie: "No, sir."

As you can see, she left him exactly as the crime scene pictures show, just as she did with her stepmother. She places herself with both victims at the point of their death. To any student of criminology, that is very pertinent. Ask any detective what they would think of the main suspect placing themselves at the point they were killed and you'll get a reaction. That alone doesn't prove guilt, but is very compelling. When placed alongside all the other evidence, it's very unlikely she'd have gotten away with it today. Even without modern forensics, a properly controlled crime scene, and thorough search would have made a huge difference. The police failed massively.

Both Lizzie and Bridget's testimonies changed from the inquest the police reports, to the inquests, and subsequently to the jury, a point worth noting.         

I could go through the all evidence, bit-by-bit, but I think it's already out there. I just wanted to post why I think Lizzie Borden was as guilty as hell. People told barefaced lies, which would never have been accepted by female prosecutors, or investigators of any gender, today. 19th century men accepted them because they could not conceive of an upper-class, church-going, monied, white female hacking anyone to death. The system did not want to hang one of their own. When the verdicts were announced there was violence in the streets. The working people of the area absolutely could see that a female could commit such a crime. The verdict was greeted by protests divided by class, religion, and race. Andrew Borden's insistence on saving money meant that his daughters did not live among the wealthy protestants. They lived in an area full of immigrants and Catholics. The police were largely Irish, and treated with disdain by the rich. Many accounts show Lizzie being distant, or even rude, to men whom she considered to be beneath her when questioned.

It didn't take long for this attitude to spread throughout the growing Irish community, and discord at the way a rich suspect was being pandered to, as opposed to the way their women were dragged to court. Disquiet grew. Lizzie was portrayed as virtuous, stable, and religious, where local businessmen had a different experience with her, and allegedly had thefts hushed up by the family. The notion of her being portrayed as a  'Protestant nun' (a contemporary term for rich women who were unable to marry because suitors would be socially beneath them) inflamed a community who knew, and did business with her. They did not see her that way at all. They thought she stole from them, and treated them with disdain. 

Let's look at Lizzie's character. She was indulged by her father and sister, but he was emotionally distant. She was rumoured to have been involved in a number of thefts, both in shops, and from the Borden household. She was arrested for theft in later life in Rhode Island. Lizzie was the baby of the family, and looked after by her older sister who promised their late mother she would always care for her sister. She was described as a dominating personality with a haughty air, and a tendency for massive sulks. There can be little doubt that money was the motive for the murders, and that Lizzie wanted what she wanted - and when she wanted it. The tantrum Lizzie threw in a pharmacy when refused prussic acid, is another telling character indication. She wasn't afraid to break rules to get her way. In papers released by her lawyer, she was seen to be emotional and very connected to her father, but he was remote and distant. No doubt some darker secrets would be unearthed by the press if this happened today, but there have been cases of parents killed by selfish children seeking financial freedom and suffering from affluenza. The White House Farm murders, and the Menendez brothers leap immediately to mind - and Andrew making a will had been discussed just the night before at dinner with Andrew's brother-in-law.    

The poorer people in the town saw the rich circling wagons to protect one of their own, and they were angry. The upstart Irish immigrants were those investigating the WASP woman who represented what some people thought the country should be - and they found her wanting. The first suspect identified by Lizzie herself was Portuguese. (He was cleared of any suspicion.) The rich sent Lizzie the same message when she was found innocent, but their usual method was a death by a thousand cuts. She could not possibly be hanged, but they had no intention of welcoming her back to the fold. Lizzie had no invitations, she was not welcome, and societies for which she was a patron asked her not to attend. She socialised in theatrical circuits out East, which resulted in further scandalous accusations, and her sister moving out. These people were not friends. They were curious about her infamy. She had moved to the wealthy area, but nobody wanted her there. The newly-named Lizbeth Borden lived an increasingly isolated life.

When Lizzie died, nobody came to the funeral. Nobody. The singer was paid, and told to sing the song Lizzie had asked for in her will to no-one but the funeral director. Lizzie did itemize in her will that certain people should attend. When they showed up the next day, they were told she was already buried the day before. Nobody can tell us why that happened, but it would seem that the people of Fall River might not be prepared to hang a rich white woman, but they were fully prepared to hang her out to dry for eternity.


Lizzie Borden's grave marker
I'll leave you with a fight witnessed by the Police Matron, Mrs. Hannah Reagan, in Lizzie's jail cell. She never forgot that Lizzie said to her sister, "Emma, you have given me away, haven’t you?”

They demanded a retraction when this was reported in the press. Mrs. Reagan refused. Why would she lie?



“She hasn’t got the combination to the safe,” said the manager. “You can scare her as much as you want. We all know you’re not gonna use that gun on us.”

Rebecca’s breath halted as she felt a careless arm drape around her shoulder.

“I don’t need a gun to hurt someone. Give us the combination.” The manager remained mute and turned his face away. “Your call, sir.” He pulled Rebecca around to face him as she gasped in alarm. “Just remember who you’ve got to thank for this, ma’am.”

He pointed over at the manager, who refused to meet her eyes. “That man right there.”

“Anything that happens to her is down to you. Not me,” said the manager.

Rebecca felt herself dragged from the room by one arm. She was pulled into the office next door and pushed against the wall. The man walked over and pulled down the blind before returning to her. Her breath came in ragged pants of fear. “Please, no. Don’t.”

He leaned on the wall, a hand on either side of her head, and pressed his face close. “You were gonna hold this place up. Are you some kind of idiot?”

She blinked in confusion. “Huh?”

The man pulled down his mask, revealing the face of the fair man who had walked into her office looking for Fernsby. “Don’t lie to me, honey. You had the same idea as we did— look at Meagher’s bank account to see where he gets his money. We’ve watched you march up and down outside this place all day, like you were on sentry duty, while you built up your courage. You even got in the way of us doin’ it. What the hell is goin’ on in your head? How dumb can a woman get?”

“You? Here?” She couldn’t quite decide whether to stop being scared or not.

“Yeah. Me.” He indicated with his head. “Now, Nat’s in there, and he needs the combination of the safe. It’s too new and sophisticated for him to crack the combination. You and me need to put on a bit of a show to make sure the manager gives it up.”

“You’re not robbing the bank?”

Jake huffed in irritation. “Try to keep up, Becky. I need you to scream for help so the manager gives Nat the combination to the vault. We want Meagher’s records too.”

She shook her head. “Me? I can’t scream.”

“What do you mean you can’t scream? All women can scream.”

“I can’t. I’m just not made that way.”

He frowned. “Look, Becky. If you won’t scream, I’m gonna have to make you. Let’s do this the easy way, huh?”

“Please, help! Noooo.”

Jake frowned. “You call that screamin’? That’s useless.”

“I told you. I can’t.”

Jake flicked up an eyebrow. “Last chance, Becky.”


“Nope.” A gloved hand reached up to her hat as his eyes glittered with mischief. “Don’t say you weren’t warned, sweetheart.” 







  1. Wow, Christine, what a fascinating assessment of this infamous crime. I've never watched the movie let alone read any books, but did know vaguely of her crime. After reading your examination of the facts, I definitely want to read more. about this crime. I tend to agree with you about the police's disregard to the facts, after all, women in those those times were not given the respect they were due for their intelligence. Thank goodness that attitude has improved...but still not enough. I could say more, but don't want to antagonize men with fragile egos. As always, I enjoy your posts, Christine. I enjoy a good crime/legal thriller.

  2. Thanks. I truly cannot see that anyone else had the motive, means, and opportunity to commit these murders. There is so much more evidence, but it would fill a whole blog, let alone a post.

  3. You really are meant to write historical crime fiction -- your attention to detail on both counts is remarkable! Great post.

    1. Oh, thank you so much! That's an incredible compliment, especially from someone as knowledgeable as you.

  4. Your process is fascinating to me. Thank you for such an in-depth look at the evidence or lack thereof. It's your attention to the details that are so evident and makes your stories all the richer. Doris

    1. Thank you so much. There is so much I left out. I do wish the present owner of the house had allowed the remains of the cesspit to be examined before the barn was recently demolished. I'm sure the axe went down there. That's what I'd have done with it.

  5. I didn't know you used to be a police officer, Christen. I'm impressed. What a dangerous job. How long did you work in the police department? That's such a great background for becoming a mystery writer.

    As I read through your investigation process, I have to say, you're conclusions were very persuasive and reasonable. You've certainly convinced ME. I have seen a program on TV in which they attempted to clear Lizzy of the murder and place blame on the maid, but I see you have thoroughly gone over the evidence and piece by piece created a more convincing argument that Lizzy committed the murders, had plenty of motivation, and the others were complicit after the fact.

    What a great blog you wrote. I wish you all the best...

    1. Thanks, Sarah. Yes, I was a police officer in Scotland, and was taught to assiduously follow the evidence to its conclusion. Too many discard pieces of evidence which don't suit the conclusion they want. I don't work that way. On top of that, with cold cases, it's vital to look at the main players down the years, as very few people actually can shut up about covering up a crime for very long. The maid lied about how she inherited the money she came into. She told people she lied for Lizzie too. More than that, Lizzie's sister lived with her for years, until Lizzie told her something which shocked her so much she left the house immediately, and sought help from the local minister in a panic. The minister told her that she could never return to live with Lizzie under any circumstances - and she never did. The sister who had acted like a mother to her, never spoke another word to her again. There has been much speculation over what could have happened. I never bought the shock at Lizzie's lifestyle as being enough for such a dramatic exit, as Lizzie had been indulging herself that way for a while. Coupled with the evidence collected from people who later spoke to the maid, it can only really have been a confession. Nothing else could make her sister flee the home right away like that. It's very possible that Lizzie's sister swallowed down her doubts for years through loyalty, and Lizzie eventually told the truth. Most will confess eventually to someone close. I've seen family unable to accept the truth. It's common. Nobody else gained as much from those murders as the Borden girls. One of them was at the scene of each murder, and only one of them talked about her sharp axe a little more than a week before to other witnesses. People always tell someone. This IS just a cold case after all.

  6. A compelling blog, Christine. Lizzie was clearly a piece of work.
    I wish more women had been part of the Yorkshire Ripper investigation - I'm sure their insight would have been invaluable.

    1. Thank you. Fundamental mistakes were made during that enquiry. It truly was a culture clash between modern methods, and old-fashioned culture of the lead detective's ego ignoring evidence which didn't fit his theory. I was actually in the police when The Ripper was arrested, although in a different UK nation. Although women had been on the police since WW1 in the UK, it wasn't until 1978 they did the same job. Women were in a department on their own, with distinct duties. It took at least a decade before change started to filter through to the upper ranks. On top of that, modernisation, computerisation, and methods of accessing criminal intelligence, are constantly improving. Thankfully lessons were learned. Yes, Lizzie was an interesting psychological case. Despite their fall out, Emma Borden left money to Lizzie if she pre-deceased her. Lizzie actively said she didn't see why her sister needed anything from her, and left nothing. It seems she was very unforgiving of Emma leaving. Writings from the family Emma went to live with show that they were long-established family friends and very close to the Bordens. When Emma left, she was basically with extended family, whereas Lizzie was shut out. Even Lizzie's real mother's family seems to think she did it and drifted off.

  7. Wow! So interesting to read all the details and your process of evaluating them. Thanks for sharing this.

  8. I'm always blown away by the facts you unearth. How do you find such detailed accounts? I love the angle that a woman would have ferreted out the truth where men of the time were reluctant. I've always been intrigued by this case and I've read many accounts of it over the years, and yet it never occurred to me that she wouldn't have burn a dress that could still be used for rags. Brilliant! Recently while cleaning out a closet I put well-past it's prime shirts and my husband who is also known for his frugality, scolded me about throwing away something that we could still use as a rag. I really enjoyed this post, Christine. I learned a lot and it was very thought-provoking.

    1. I'm so glad you agree. Fabric was way more expensive in the 19th century, yet even we wouldn't throw away the fabric in a full-length, full-skirted dress in this day and age. I also remember the rag and bone men who gave money for cloth, bones, and general junk we were throwing out. He came around on a cart with a horse. I sound so old, but in Scotland that's how it was done right into the '70s. No Victorian would have burned that dress, or her father's coat. The coat disappeared, unmentioned in reports, funeral clothes, or police reports; despite featuring large in the photographs. I'm willing to bet that if he was exhumed, Lizzies father was buried with the coat. Clever, sneaky Lizzie.