The Serial Homicide Case of the Day, from "Hunting Humans, the Encyclopedia of 20th Century Serial Killers" , by Michael Newton
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Smith, George Joseph
An habitual criminal, born in January 1872, Smith was sentenced to eight years in a British reformatory at age nine. In 1896, he drew another year for receiving stolen goods, and was released in 1897. Smith celebrated the turn of the century with a two-year sentence for theft, hitting the streets again in October 1902. Discarding his first wife (and sometime criminal accomplice), Smith spent the next decade perfecting his technique as a matrimonial swindler. The risks were minimal, and they would be reduced to nothing, Smith decided, if his wives were not alive to testify against him.
Using the alias of "Williams," Smith married Beatrice Mundy in July 1912, a bigamous union made null and void by the fact he had never divorced his first wife. The honeymoon was still in progress when Smith called on Dr. F.A. French, insisting that his bride undergo treatment for "fits." Beatrice staunchly denied any symptoms of illness, but Dr. French was summoned to their residence three days later, by a note from Smith reading: "Come at once. I am afraid my wife is dead." French found Beatrice in the bathtub, her face partially submerged, and while he noted that the water was clear -rather than soapy - the doctor ignored his suspicions, certifying death by natural causes.
In October 1913, Smith spoke with an annuity insurance agent, discussing a planned investment of $2,500. Smith promised to have the money before his birthday, in January, and he promptly set about stalking a new victim to make up his cash shortage. He met Alice Burnham at Portsmouth, in November, and they were married days later, the bride taking out a $5,000 insurance policy on the afternoon before their wedding. Six weeks later, in Blackpool, Alice was "accidentally drowned" in the bathtub of their rented flat, and Smith collected her insurance money in time to follow through on his investment scheme.
In December 1914, posing as "Joseph Lloyd," Smith was married to Margaret Lofty, in Bath. They went to London the same day, and Smith returned from an early outing next day to find his bride dead in the bathtub. He was arrested on suspicion of murder when police learned his true identity, and they discovered Smith had also lied about his wife's lack of life insurance. He was expecting some $3,500 at the time of his arrest, for a total of $18,000 collected in the past two years.
The defense presented no evidence when Smith went to trial, charged with three counts of murder, in June 1915. As the prosecution rested its case, Smith rose and shouted, "I don't care whether you sentence me to death or not!" Convicted of all three "brides-in-the-bath" murders, he received the maximum penalty, and was hanged on August 13, 1915.
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