"When life was nasty, brutish and short". Bridget O'Donnell joins Peter Moore to discuss Victorian true crime.
Crime writer Peter
Guttridge talks to two authors about Victorian true crime.
While working on a
documentary about sex trafficking, BBC producer/director Bridget O’Donnell came
across a Victorian incident that piqued her curiosity: why should an Irish
policeman take up a private investigation on a brothel madam in Chelsea? Her researches uncovered
an amazing story, which she now tells in Inspector Minahan Makes a Stand.
In Victorian London,
the age of consent was just thirteen. Unwitting girls were regularly enticed,
tricked and sold into prostitution. Disgraced for testifying against a violent
colleague, Irish inspector Jeremiah Minahan was transferred to the backwater of
punishment. Here he met Mary Jeffries, a notorious trafficker and procuress who
counted Cabinet members and royalty among her clientele. Within days of
reporting Jeffries, Minahan was unceremoniously forced out of the Metropolitan
Police. So he turned private detective, setting out to expose the peers and
politicians more interested in shielding their own positions (and peccadilloes)
The findings Minahan revealed
in 1885 sparked national outrage: riots, arrests, a tabloid war and a
sensational trial . . . other secrets were so fearful he took them to his
grave, where they remained – until now. This is the true tale of a man caught
between a corrupt English Establishment and his own rebel heart: a very
Victorian scandal, but also, a story for our times.
The crime that
journalist and writer Peter Moore chronicles in Damn His Blood reveals an equally
unlovely side of 19th century England. One summer’s day in 1806 a
rural vicar was particularly brutally murdered – shot, then beaten to death and
his body set on fire. The case gripped everyone from the Home Secretary down
and investigations persisted for nearly a quarter of a century before the whole
gruesome truth was known.