London’s Serial Killers: Why They Were Caught

Sandie Jones, author of The First Mistake, takes us through the dark history of London’s serial killers and lets us know what mistakes they made that led to their capture. Make sure to comment for a chance to win!

With centuries of history to dive into, the U.K. has borne some of the most notorious serial killers the world has ever seen. But it’s the streets of London that have seen the grisliest goings-on. From as far back as the early 1800s, the once poverty-stricken areas either side of the River Thames have witnessed poisonings, stranglings, and deaths by acid bath. The killers were clever and careful, and the police were baffled by the growing list of missing persons. But complacency started to set in—it always does, and thank goodness, for if it weren’t for their slip-ups, the victim numbers would have soared. But what caused their ultimate downfall? I looked into each case to discover their First Mistake…

Thomas Neill Cream (AKA The Lambeth Poisoner)

A physician and surgeon, it is believed that Cream killed his first victim in 1876, although his wife’s cause of death was initially recorded as “consumption.” But in 1879, a woman who he was allegedly having an affair with was found dead in an alleyway behind his offices, pregnant and poisoned with chloroform. Accused of her murder, Cream fled to the U.S, where he is thought to have killed at least another four people.

In 1891, he set sail back to London and settled in Lambeth Bridge Road, but within a year, four prostitutes were murdered after accepting a drink from Cream which was laced with strychnine.

HIS FIRST MISTAKE…was offering an American visitor a tour of where the victims had lived and met their fate. Alerted by Cream’s detailed knowledge of each case, the tourist mentioned it to a policeman and Scotland Yard put him under surveillance.


Mary Pearcey

Although Pearcey was only convicted of murdering her lover’s wife and child, she is suspected of being a serial killer by the suggestion that she may have been Jill the Ripper—the only female suspected of being the notorious Jack the Ripper.

Pearcey invited Phoebe Hogg to her home where she bludgeoned her to death and smothered her eighteen-month-old daughter. Later that same night, she brazenly pushed Phoebe’s pram around the streets of North London, though it is not known whether the child was in it and already deceased or whether the pram was used to transport Phoebe’s body, which was later found under a pile of rubbish in Hampstead.

HER FIRST MISTAKE…was the sheer audacity she displayed by wheeling her murder victims out for everyone to see. Passers-by, suspicious of her behavior called the police who found her home splattered with blood. If we’d had the benefit of DNA testing back then, we would have been able to deduce if Pearcey was, in fact, the Ripper, as stamps licked by the prime suspect were analyzed in 2006 and found to belong to a woman.


John Christie (AKA The Rillington Place Strangler)

Christie admitted that his murderous spree started in April 1943 when he met an Austrian prostitute who, despite being married, he took back to his small flat in Rillington Place. His wife Ethel was visiting friends when he murdered the girl by strangling her and burying her in their back garden.

Over a ten year period, he killed at least eight people including the wife and baby daughter of Timothy Evans, a neighbor in an adjoining flat. Although police searched the house and garden, they didn’t find the bodies that had been stored in an outdoor wash-house, although when they did, during a later search, they arrested Evans. Christie gave evidence against the man in court and he was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging in 1950. It wasn’t until sixteen years later that he was pardoned after Christie admitted to the killings and others since.

For more on this case, check out Death in the Air by Kate Winkler Dawson

HIS FIRST MISTAKE…was subletting his flat because when the new tenants went to hang a bracket on a wall, the wallpaper came away to reveal a hidden alcove, in which three bodies were stacked.


Dennis Nilsen

One of London’s most recent and prolific serial killers, Nilsen murdered at least twelve men by luring them to his flat in Muswell Hill between 1978-1983. His victims were mostly homeless or homosexual, and his subsequent treatment of them was sexually motivated. He admitted to pleasuring himself after the killings and had a macabre fascination with the changing state of their bodies once their lives had been snuffed out. On occasion, he would bathe the bodies, clean and dress them before leaving them in his flat for weeks or months afterward.

When he eventually tired of them, he’d carefully dissect the flesh from the bones and dispose of the remains by burning them on a bonfire or flushing them down the toilet.

HIS FIRST MISTAKE…was calling in a drain clearing company after he and other residents noticed that they were getting blocked. When the engineer opened the drain cover, he discovered it was packed with a flesh-like substance and small bones. On seeing it himself, Nilsen commented that it looked like someone was trying to flush their KFC away.


Amelia Dyer

Perhaps the most distressing of all, the woman known as The Baby Farmer is thought to have killed hundreds of babies who were given up for adoption in the belief that she would care for them. Instead, she accepted the upfront payment and box of clothes that were destined for the pawnbrokers, before tying tape or cord around the youngsters’ necks and disposing of their bodies in the River Thames.

She’d cruelly tell the parents’, many of whom were hoping to reclaim their children once they were in a better position, that everything was fine. On one occasion, when a mother visited, she was shown a baby who she knew not to be hers because it didn’t have a birthmark on its hip.

HER FIRST MISTAKE…was wrapping a tiny corpse in paper that identified her and gave an address. When the “package” was found floating in the Thames, it was enough evidence to put Dyer under surveillance.


Listen to an audio excerpt of The First Mistake now!

The First Mistake by Sandie Jones Review

About The First Mistake:

From Sandie Jones, the author of the Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club Pick and New York Times bestseller The Other Woman, comes an addictively readable new domestic suspense about a wife, her husband, and the woman who is supposedly her best friend.

THE WIFE: For Alice, life has never been better. With her second husband, she has a successful business, two children, and a beautiful house.

HER HUSBAND: Alice knows that life could have been different if her first husband had lived, but Nathan’s arrival into her life gave her back the happiness she craved.

HER BEST FRIEND: Through the ups and downs of life, from celebratory nights out to comforting each other through loss, Alice knows that with her best friend Beth by her side, they can survive anything together. So when Nathan starts acting strangely, Alice turns to Beth for help. But soon, Alice begins to wonder whether her trust has been misplaced . . .

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of The First Mistake by Sandie Jones!

To enter, make sure you’re a registered member of the site and simply leave a comment below.

The First Mistake Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at beginning at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) June 11, 2019. Sweepstakes ends at 2:29 p.m. ET June 25, 2019. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

Learn More Or Order A Copy


  1. Anne

    Enthralling and intriguing thriller. Thanks.

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    would love a copy

  3. Carol

    Looks like a great read!

  4. Gilbert Bardsley

    Enjoyed “The Other Woman”…looking forward to the new book!

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  7. theresa n

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  8. Karen Visco

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  9. Patricia Reed

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  10. John Smith

    What dreadful killers!

  11. Rebecca

    Reading even briefly about the crimes sent shivers up my spine. Looking forward to “The First Mistake.”

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  13. Valeria Carcana

    I loved the Other Woman!! An excellent read. I can’t wait to read The First Mistake!!

  14. Cherei McCarter

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  25. Karen Parisot

    Fascinating story.

  26. Susan Stickney

    Interesting! I have never heard of these killers before today.

  27. Trisha

    Sounds Awesome

  28. Beverly

    Book sounds interesting. Would love to read

  29. Laurie Peterson

    Intrigued, going on the TBR list

  30. carloshmarlo

    Great true stories! It is a fact that all killers who get caught have made a similar mistake. These days it would be even harder with so much CCTV coverage and camera phones everywhere. Thanks for the chance to win a copy of your new book, I’m really looking forward to it.

  31. Pearl

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  35. Kimberly

    I can’t wait to read this one. I loved Sandie Jones’ first novel and this one sounds just as good.

    • Trisa Butler

      This article is both interesting and terribly morbid. But considering the lives and pursuits of those it covers, how could it be otherwise? I always appreciate learning bits of history (so many people and cases I’d never heard of–excepting very little about Mary Pearce), but some are harder to take in.
      I’d love a chance to read The First Mistake! If the careful detail and wonderful writing of this article are testaments to your storytelling skills, I’m in for a real treat! Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy!

  36. Brandy Ybarra

    An interesting article and an interesting sounding book. Would love to read a book on them, too!

  37. Misch Brannock

    looks really good

  38. Samara Gluck

    I love books on serial killers!

  39. Laurie Sandretto

    Thank you for the article.

  40. ItsMeMel

    I’m dying *poor choice of words*. I’m incredibly excited and hoping! What an awesome chance to be able to read this. I read “American Murder Houses” as an ARC and it was awesome. Thank God I’m not a serial killer, lol, however I have a fascination with the subject matter. My hope, even at me age, is to go back to school for Criminal Psychology/Criminal Forensics and Profiling. Winning this would be awesome!! A read to feed the hunger to get into the minds of, to learn the details of, to put the brain to work and to just enjoy….as morbid as that last comment seems, it’s just a fascination on the subject. Thank you so much for the chance. *Crossing fingers* Thank you!!

  41. Earl Messer

    If this is anywhere near as good as The Other Woman then it will do very well. I can’t wait to read it.

  42. Ivy Truitt

    Sounds like a good read. Learned something with the article, wasn’t aware that test had proven the saliva on the stamps belonged to a woman. Interesting…..

  43. Janeen Phillips

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  44. Anita

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  45. Laura McDonald

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  46. Rena

    Interesting article.
    And I would love to win a copy of this book!

  47. Tiffany

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  48. Kathy Bergeron

    Eager to try this author!

  49. Vicki Andrew

    interesting reading about the killers and their mistakes, the book sounds like an interesting read. TY

  50. MaryC

    On my library’s wait list – would live to in a copy.

  51. Cynthia Hunt

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  54. Barbara Lima

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  55. Charlotte Orth

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  56. Beverly Laude

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  57. Amanda Wilcox

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  58. jeni brasfield

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  59. Penni

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  61. Rho

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  62. cathy j

    This would be great summertime reading!

  63. Vicky Bair

    Interesting article on the Serial Killers “First Mistake”. I would love a chance to discover Sandie Jones a new to me author. Thank you

  64. Susan

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  65. Susanne Troop

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  66. Daniel Cuthbert

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  68. Kathy Robello

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  69. Dan Carr

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  70. Dana Damato

    If this story is anything like the researched serial killers, it’s bound to be chilling!

  71. julie pearson

    Wow! This book sounds very intriguing.. Going on my to be read list

  72. Susan T.

    Wow! I didn’t know any of these stories and they are appalling. As a true crime fan I mean that in the best way! I also didn’t realize the possible Ripper DNA from the stamp came back as female!!!

  73. Katherine Turcotte

    On how I adore a great mystery. My First Mistake sounds like a great read!

  74. Catherine Myers

    very interesting

  75. Amanda - Devouring Books

    I’ve been hearing so much about this book lately!

  76. Jackie Wisherd

    Would love to read this book and share at my mystery book club. Sounds like a good one.

  77. Denise Fox

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    • Lynn Pallaske

      An awesome book with so many first mistakes

  78. Susan Morris

    Is she really your best friend?? Can hardly wait to find out!

  79. Michelle Caniglia

    Right up my Reading Alley ~

  80. Daniel Weber

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  82. downeaster

    I loved her first book. Looking forward to reading this one

  83. Lisa

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  84. Margaret E

    Perfect cottage-dock reading for this summer (assuming it stops raining long enough to HAVE a summer).;)

  85. Diana Hardt

    Sounds like a good book. Thank you for the chance.

  86. C

    I’ve been wanting to read this!

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  88. Kay Bennett

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  89. Barbara Bibel

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  90. Ruth

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  91. Carolyn Y

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  92. Pattie Salter

    I am always curious about the mind of serial killers. The behavior is so far outside my comprehension. I would love a copy of this book.

  93. Angela Walker

    I enjoyed The Other Woman, looking forward to The First Mistake

  94. bill norris

    looks awesome

  95. Gail Coulson

    I run a mystery Book Club at our local library and this sounds like it might be a good book for our group.

  96. Anh N.

    Thank you for the giveaway. It would be a great summer read.

  97. Gail Coulson

    I run a mystery book club at our local library and this sounds like it might be a good book for us.

  98. Michelle Willms

    I am looking forward to reading to this! I’m already filled with questions, and I don’t even know what’s happening.

  99. Suzan philipsen

    I would love to read about these marvellous stories

  100. Mary Costea

    Wonderful author.

  101. aechilton

    Looks promising. Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy!

  102. Samantha Gass

    I’ve heard really great things about this book!

  103. Jamie Gillespie

    This book sounds amazing! I would LOVE to win a copy. Thanks for the chance!

  104. Jevon guidry

    Would love to win copy.i like mystery /thriller books

  105. Michael Carter

    Yes, please enter me in this sweepstakes.

  106. Jana

    How creepy!

  107. sue

    Sounds like a great read!

  108. Shelly Garnett

    Thanks for the chance

  109. Amy Miller

    I know I will love this!

  110. Cathy Wilcox

    Oh my goodness, The First Mistake is a must read. It sounds like an awesome book!!

  111. Darlene Slocum


    Amazing! I would love to read this.

  112. Dan

    Wow I want to read it

  113. Emma Cazabonne

    I love it that Domestic thrillers are the big trend these days, they offer so interesting plots, and this one as well! Thanks for the chance to win it

  114. joel timmons

    Love a. Good. Dark. Crime. Thriller. Cant. Wait. To. Read

  115. Pamela

    Enjoyed the brief stories of London’s infamous serial killers. I will go a step further and say some of those killers were not very bright!

  116. Paul Gada


  117. Karen H.

    I need a book with some good twists.

  118. ViolinGeek

    Sounds like a winner!!

  119. Chris

    This book sounds amazing! Can’t wait to read it

  120. Stephen Cooper

    Definitely looking forward to reading this.

  121. PJ Gaumond

    This book definitely sounds like something I would love.

  122. Carole Knoles

    Interesting article!

  123. Amanda B.

    Those cases were all super creepy! Looking forward to reading the new book!

  124. Martha Merder

    Love a good mystery!

  125. Eowana Jordan

    Mysteries are my favorites! My first mystery I read as a child was a Box Car Children book. When I became school librarian, I always encouraged the children to discover mysteries.

  126. BETTY VINCENT - 789

    These stories facinate me!

  127. Jill K. Porco

    Looks like a great read!

  128. Suzanne

    really interesting history- is the mistake a repeat?

  129. Rose Jones

    Sounds very interesting.

  130. Victoria Howery

    Looks fantastic!

  131. Janet Gould

    fascinating read, can’t wait for the book.

  132. Margaret Benzer

    I love books that have the main character questioning the loyalty of their friends. So much like real life. I can’t wait to read this book.

  133. Ronald Roseborough

    Mystery in the foggy streets of London. count me in.

  134. Margot Core

    Fascinating, I had never heard of Dennis Nilsen. So many criminals so little time!

  135. Janet

    I need to put this on my summer must read list.

  136. SF Manning

    Sounds pretty nifty.

  137. Trisa Butler

    This article is both interesting and terribly morbid. But considering the lives and pursuits of those it covers, how could it be otherwise? I always appreciate learning bits of history (so many people and cases I’d never heard of–excepting very little about Mary Pearce), but some are harder to take in.
    I’d love a chance to read The First Mistake! If the careful detail and wonderful writing of this article are testaments to your storytelling skills, I’m in for a real treat! Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy!

  138. Trisa Butler

    This article is both interesting and terribly morbid. But considering the lives and pursuits of those it covers, how could it be otherwise? I always appreciate learning bits of history (so many people and cases I’d never heard of–excepting very little about Mary Pearce), but some are harder to take in.
    I’d love a chance to read The First Mistake! If the careful detail and wonderful writing of this article are testaments to your storytelling skills, I’m in for a real treat! Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy! ^_^

  139. Jackie

    I’d love a copy ,please and thank you.

  140. Cynthia Grissinger

    Looks interesting. would love to win a copy

  141. Geraldine Luke DeAnda

    Always on the alert for the next ‘best’ read. THE FIRST MISTAKE appears capable of fulfilling my search. Would welcome winning a copy.


    I like the story line and would like to read this book.

  143. Amy Drees

    Nothing like a serial killer history for warm summer nights’ reading. I would love a copy.

  144. Christian Mericle

    I would love to own a copy!

  145. Christal M

    Looks like a great read

  146. Barbara Fish

    I would really like to win this one.

  147. Patricia Swayne

    I would really love to read this because I love stories like this. Getting into the criminal mind as to why they kill. What made them to it. I would love to own a copy of this.

  148. Dan Carr

    Logged in now, this is my comment…

  149. Carolyn

    What a great article and am looking forward to reading The First Mistake!

  150. Angeline Reeks

    Looking forward to reading this!

  151. Deborah D

    These stories are awesome.

  152. Gilbert Miller

    I can’t wait to read this one

  153. Tracy

    This story sounds very exciting and just what I need in my life right now.

  154. Eunice Coorlas

    Looks like a riveting read…and, I loved The First Mistake.

  155. L

    Sounds like a great read! Love the post and the recap of these past cases and all their first mistakes.


    thanks for chance to read a creeper

  157. Linda Block

    Our book club would love to read and discuss this book, thanks for the giveaway!

  158. Jess

    Congrats on your new book! Can’t wait to read it!

  159. Brenda N

    Sounds like an exciting book!

  160. TruBrit

    This was a really interesting article, and I enjoyed the was Sandie pointed out each mistake! The Other Woman was a great read, and I’d love to read The First Mistake!!

  161. Jeanette denning

    Oh man ,I want this one , looks and sound so good .let me read 💙💛💛💣💋💋💋

  162. Keri Justice

    I cannot wait to get my hands on this book and read it!!

  163. Brenda Jann

    Fascinating time period.

  164. Amanda - Devouring Books

    This looks amazing!!

  165. Dawn Newsome

    Sounds like a great read. Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy.

  166. Kate Jordan

    So many killers seem to get caught because they can’t shut up (thank goodness). I’m so looking forward to this book and finding out what this character’s mistake was!

  167. Charlene Roberson

    The Other Woman kept me totally confused and I am looking forward to Her First Mistake!!


    Looking forward to reading this book

  169. Daniel M

    sounds interesting

  170. Tracy Wirick
  171. Tracy Wirick

    I would love to read this book and review it! My favorite genre is true crime and historical crime. Thanks so much for the wonderful opportunity!

  172. Johannah Brookwell

    Sounds like something I would LOVE!!

  173. Karen Terry

    Would love to win.

  174. Karen Hester

    interesting approach to true crime

  175. Zara Heflin

    Interesting read! Also, I read The Other Woman and could not put it down. The new book sounds great!


    Cant’ wait to read and share this book with Senior Center

  177. Sue Hooley

    Sounds intriguing.

  178. Kara Lauren

    Sounds great!

  179. Martha Stellmach

    What an awesome book!

  180. Linda Haas

    Sounds like a very interesting book. I’d love to read it.

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