Still another episode of the LADY KILLERS series from Britain in the early 1980s. This one dealt with a woman who only committed one murder in her career, but it was so horrific in it's ferocity that she is suspected (by some - not everyone or the majority of criminal historians) as possibly having been Jack (or in this case "Jill") the Ripper.
Mary Eleanor Wheeler is unique among Victorian killers in that she was the daughter of a murderer. Her father Thomas Wheeler was hanged for a murder committed in a burglary in 1880. As a child her mother took her to visit her father before his execution. That it had no affect on her own fate may help make one question how really effective the death penalty is as a deterrent. However, the killing she committed was due to intense jealousy that finally exploded - can one really count on any deterrence on emotional problems like that?
Mary Wheeler eventually became a prostitute, and took on the name of one Pearcey (the man she was currently living with). In 1889 - 90 she met a fellow named Frank Hogg. From everything I have read about Hogg there was absolutely nothing that made him remotely fascinating. Yet she found that she had competition from one Phoebe Styles for Hogg. It was an intense competition, but Phoebe won it (she got pregnant). Frank married her and they had a baby girl, also named Phoebe.
Phoebe was aware that Mrs. Pearcey hated her, but for some unknown reason Pearcey invited Mrs. Hogg to her home on October 24, 1890 for tea. Tragically Mrs. Hogg took baby Phoebe with her in her perambulator. What happened in Mrs. Pearcey's home is unknown, but it is believed the two rivals got into a real argument, it led to blows, and Mrs. Pearcey just lost control. She literally battered Phoebe Hogg to death. Subsequently she transported the body in the perambulator (putting it over baby Phoebe's body - thus smothering the baby) and transporting it at night across Hempstead until she dropped it at an isolated spot (and dropped the baby's body off a bit away). Reports of the discovery of the victim's body the next day suggested it was another Ripper murder, and that rumor (as mentioned before) has lingered to this day around Mrs. Pearcey.
The Hogg family were worried when Phoebe and her baby failed to return, and the discovery of the dead bodies made the police visit Mrs. Pearcey's home. They found the kitchen splattered with blood. When they asked Mrs. Pearcey for an explanation she was playing the piano in the living room - and she told the police she had been killing mice (the title of the episode). The police arrested her.
It was a slam-dunk case. There was never any doubt about her guilt, even if the degree of ferocity seemed remarkable. F. Tennyson Jesse's chapter about Mrs. Pearcey in MURDER AND IT'S MOTIVES ("Murder From Jealousy") has suggested that if Mrs. Pearcey had been in cahoots with a male partner in the murders (i.e. Frank Hogg) she might have been given a prison sentence, and the man would have hanged. But Hogg had not been involved, and the authorities did not have any alternative men to consider.
She was executed December 23, 1890, leaving some cryptic messages in some Spanish newspapers suggesting she knew secrets but would not reveal them. But nothing has ever come up suggesting what she could have known.
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