Dr. Buck Ruxton and the Jigsaw Murders

Photos from Episode 57 “Doctor Ruxton and the Jigsaw Murders”

In Episode 57 we took a look at a case from 1935 that helped pave the way for Forensic Science. What’s a police force to do when they find numerous bundles of random body parts? Piece them back together and get to the bottom of it, that’s what.

The Main Characters

The Discovery of Disturbing Packages

On the morning of September, 29th, roughly one hundred miles north of Lancaster, a young woman named Susan Johnson was enjoying a peaceful walk along the Gardenholme Linn stream. She stopped along an old stone bridge and looked down at the running water. There, near the base of the bridge, she noticed something wrapped, like a package, lodged against a large rock.

Innovative Ideas

Investigators used the technique of forensic anthropology to identify Mrs. Ruxton’s body. They were able to x-ray the human skull and superimpose the image onto a photograph of the woman. A professor working on the case had also been able to create exact replicas of the feet found in the stream. Using a gelatin-glycerin mix, the feet fit perfectly into shoes that the two women had worn in life.

The Crime Scene

The bathtub that Ruxton used for the crimes was later used as a horse trough by the mounted police division at Lancashire County Police headquarters. It’s currently on display at the Lancashire Police Museum at Lancaster Castle.

The Story that Gripped a Nation

The gruesome murders of Isabella and Mary Jane captured the headlines in 1935 and 1936.


Over 10,000 signatures had been collected in and around Lancaster with residents urging clemency for Ruxton. Despite this, he was hanged at HM Prison Manchester on the morning of May 12th, 1936. The man that oversaw his execution was Albert Pierrepoint. Pierrepoint was an English hangman who went on to execute between 435 and 600 people in his 25-year career.

The day after his execution, a Sunday newspaper published a brief handwritten confession written by Ruxton. His instructions to the newspaper were that the letter should only be opened if he was indeed executed. If he was acquitted, he wanted the letter returned, unopened.

Listen to Episode 57 ‘Doctor Ruxton and the Jigsaw Murders’

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