By Kate Summerscale
From the across the world bestselling writer, a deeply researched and atmospheric homicide secret of past due Victorian-era London
In the summer time of 1895, Robert Coombes (age thirteen) and his brother Nattie (age 12) have been noticeable spending lavishly round the docklands of East London -- for ten days in July, they ate out at espresso homes and took journeys to the beach and the theater. the lads advised pals that they had been left domestic by myself whereas their mom visited relations in Liverpool, yet their aunt used to be suspicious. while she ultimately compelled the brothers to open the home to her, she came across the badly decomposed physique in their mom in a bed room upstairs. Robert and Nattie have been arrested for matricide and despatched for trial on the previous Bailey.
Robert confessed to having stabbed his mom, yet his legal professionals argued that he used to be insane. Nattie struck a plea and gave facts opposed to his brother. The court docket heard testimony approximately Robert's serious complications, his fascination with violent criminals and his ardour for 'penny dreadfuls', the pulp fiction of the day. He appeared to consider no regret for what he had performed, and neither the prosecution nor the protection may well discover a reason for the homicide. The pass judgement on sentenced the thirteen-year-old to detention in Broadmoor, the main notorious felony lunatic asylum within the land. but Broadmoor grew to become out to be the start of a brand new existence for Robert--one that may have profoundly surprised an individual who suggestion they understood the depraved Boy.
At a time of significant tumult and uncertainty, Robert Coombes's case crystallized modern anxieties concerning the schooling of the operating periods, the hazards of pulp fiction, and evolving theories of illegal activity, formative years, and madness. With riveting element and wealthy surroundings, Kate Summerscale recreates this negative crime and its aftermath, uncovering a unprecedented tale of man's ability to beat the prior.
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Additional info for The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer
Enquired Mr Robertson. Robert pulled a gold watch from his pocket and consulted it. ‘About an hour and a half ago,’ he said. Mr Robertson asked who was with their Ma. Robert jerked his thumb behind him, in the direction of the house. ’ suggested Mr Robertson. Amelia England was the Coombes family’s neighbour on the other side, and a close friend of Emily Coombes. ‘No,’ said Robert. ’ The boys set out for Lord’s. • • • Robert and Nattie were among more than 12,000 people to travel to St John’s Wood that Monday to watch the Gentlemen v Players match, the fixture of the season at the most famous cricket ground in England.
John Fox visited two pawnbrokers, one for each watch. At George Fish’s shop in the Commercial Road the boys waited outside while Fox went in to pledge the American-made gold-plated watch. The manager, William White, had difficulty with the catch, but once Fox had shown him how to open it he offered a ten-shilling loan against the watch’s value. He issued a square pasteboard ticket bearing a description of the pawned item, attached a duplicate to the watch and entered in his ledger the name and address that Fox gave him: Robert Coombes, 35 Cave Road.
They were well ahead. Robert and Nattie made their way back again to East London, but instead of going straight home they headed for the new Theatre Royal in Stratford, two miles north-west of Cave Road. The play they watched that evening, Light Ahead, told the story of a man framed for murder by a shipyard employee who had turned forger, bigamist and killer. The theatrical newspaper The Era observed that the show would appeal to ‘the pit and gallery’, a working-class audience such as that found in Stratford, but pronounced it ‘a straggling, uneven piece’ that ‘proceeds on its course for a considerable time with no light ahead whatever as to how it is to turn and in what manner it will end’.