Do You Know the Name of the Most Prolific Serial Killer in British History?


I came upon an article recently about the serial killer who holds the sad record of murdering the most people in Great Britain.  While your thoughts may automatically turn to someone with the likes of Jack the Ripper or perhaps a European version of Ted Bundy, the criminal who is to blame for around 400 deaths is quite different than that.

Amelia Dyer advertised herself for a good part of the later 19th century as a caring figure who told single, pregnant mothers that she would give their babies a chance at a better life.

Wells Asylum Authorities, 1893

Wells Asylum Authorities, 1893

But instead, once the payment had been made for her supposed adoption services, Dyer strangled the newborns with dressmaking tape and then dumped their bodies in the Thames River.

Dyer reached her chosen act of violence after a couple of other ideas proved less successful.  At first, she suffocated babies at the request of their desperate mothers.  Then, she started taking in infants and drugging them heavily to keep them quiet as she starved them to death.  These acts eventually put her in prison for all of six months, and when she got out she moved forward with her new plan to strangle the babies and then dump their bodies.  She continued these murders for around thirty years.

These murders happened within the world of “baby farming,” which was unfortunately rather commonplace in Great Britain at that time.  Single mothers who had become outcasts from society turned to women such as Dyer to take their children and hopefully place them in good homes.  In most instances, these mothers never knew what happened to their babies once the hand off took place.

Amelia Dyer was hanged for her crimes in 1896 and is just now, with the recent postings online of millions of pages of historic criminal records, that the scope of cases like hers are truly measured and understood.  These records also offer a frank and disturbing look into the world of the poor and those unwanted by society and relates to some policy questions that many countries, including our own, are still trying to answer.


More articles about serial killers:

Texas Filmmaker Searches for Identity of 19th Century Serial Killer

Chicago Sheriff Wants to Dig for More Gacy Victims

Hell’s Belle – The Matronly Face of a Brutal Serial Killer?


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About jchasenovelist

Published thriller author, criminologist, and blogger.
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9 Responses to Do You Know the Name of the Most Prolific Serial Killer in British History?

  1. nycwriter says:

    Thanks for the very disturbing information. It’s so despicable, you wonder how she could have slept at night, but that’s what having no conscience will do for you.


  2. Pingback: The identity of the most prolific serial killer in British history might surprise you – A superb article by my good buddy, author Jennifer Chase | Thomas Rydder

  3. Fascinating – and dreadful. It’s a sad testament to the diversity of mankind that a country as civilized as Britain could have birthed such a monster. But then again, no one has cornered the market on depravity, have they?
    Wonderful job, Jennifer – and duly blogged, tweeted, faced, googled, linked, digged, tumbled and stumbled 🙂



  4. Those with no voice are always the easiest to exploit, abuse and kill. I guess taking the easy way out is nothing new, and it always ends up being the hardest – just look at her face.
    I’m very glad she was hanged.


  5. Pingback: Serial Killers Who Prefer a Partner in Crime | Author Jennifer Chase

  6. Pingback: Serial Killer Put to Death in Missouri | Author Jennifer Chase

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