The plot of Edinburgh's Jigsaw Murders in the 1930s seems 'far fetched' today

Date31 May 2021
Publication Date31 May 2021
AuthorProfessor David Wilson
He then disposed of their mutilated remains in a ravine close to Moffat in the Borders, which later became known locally as "Ruxton's Dump".

Mumbai-born Ruxton dismembered the bodies into 70 different pieces and wrapped them up in rags and newspapers.

Professors Sydney Smith and John Glaister used their forensic skills to identify the victims and Ruxton as their killer as the doctor had also removed their eyes, teeth and fingertips.

The case became known as "The Jigsaw Murders" as Smith and Glaister had to reassemble the bodies of the two women found at the same crime scene, something which had never been attempted before.

And it became obvious from the cuts to their torsos that the killer must have had some medical knowledge.

Jeremy Craddock's book, The Jigsaw Murders, has just been published but I feel Tom Wood's Ruxton: The First Modern Murder is unsurpassed as a piece of true crime and a narrative that engages the reader's attention.

Wood – one of Scotland's most experienced operational police officers – is an expert on serious and violent crime and was deputy chief constable and director of operations of Lothian and Borders Police, reports the Daily Record.

He was also in command of the linked murder investigation into the deaths of a number of young women – including Helen Scott and Christine Eadie, in the so-called "World's End Murders".

Before he retired, Tom inherited papers from the estate of long-retired detective John Sheed, who was also a decorated World War I hero. Those papers formed the backbone to his book.

Wood thinks of the murders of Isabella and Mary Jane as "modern" and a "turning point" because catching their killer "mainstreamed forensic science into policing".

In its wake, every police force then started to employ modern methods of investigation, such as photography and fingerprinting.

Photography proved to be crucial in the Ruxton case, as superimposed photographs of the women taken when they were alive matched perfectly with the two skulls that had been recovered. The trial of Ruxton was a sensation at the time and was widely reported by the press.

That in turn helped cement forensic science into the public's consciousness – so much so that day-trippers would head for Moffat and Ruxton's Dump in the hope of finding more body parts.

I saw this phenomenon many years later in Ipswich when a bus pulled up in a lay-by near a spot where police had discovered the body of a young woman that had been murdered.

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