Jane Maria Clouson was born in 1854 in Deptford, London. Little is known about Jane before she began working for Ebenezer Pook, who owned a printing business, as a maid in his household. She was 14 when she took up the position. Ebenezer had several children, including an Edmund Walter Pook, who reportedly suffered from fits and couldn’t be left unsupervised. Edmund began having an affair with Jane, and whether it was consensual isn’t known. Around April 1871, Jane was dismissed by Ebenezer, because her affair with his son had been discovered. Edmund’s older brother had already married beneath him, and Ebenezer was determined to not see another son of his make this mistake.
Jane found shelter in her Aunt Elizabeth’s home. Letters were passed between Jane and Edmund, where in one she confessed that she was pregnant with his child. None of these letters survive. Edmund arranged to meet with her in Blackheath, presumably to discuss their child, but what followed was tragedy.
In the morning hours of April 26th, 1871, Jane was found beaten, bleeding, and barely conscious in Kidbrooke Lane, Eltham, London. Before she passed away, Jane managed to say the name of her attacker, “Edmund Pook.” She also said, “Oh, let me die,” having given up on this life. It seemed obvious who had murdered Jane.
Evidence against Edmund was also damning. A man matching Edmund’s description was seen running from the road with bloodstained clothes. A blood-covered hammer had been found a mile from the scene, and a shopkeeper attested to selling a similar hammer to Edmund days prior. Seven witnesses also attested to seeing Jane and Edmund together on Kidbrooke Lane. On July 10, a murder trial was held at the Old Bailey with Edmund as the accused murderer.
Despite the obviousness in who committed the crime, the judge presiding over the trial decided that the statements Jane made before her death, in which she identified her attacker, were hearsay and therefore inadmissible. The letters between Jane and Edmund arranging the meeting could not be located, and other evidence brought forth by the prosecution fell under speculation. Edmund was found not guilty.
Newspapers had reported Edmund as guilty before the verdict had even been reached. A crowd had gathered outside the courthouse on the final day of the trial, and when the acquittal was announced to those on the street, outrage sparked. This was carried through to the wider public who believed Edmund had been found not guilty because of his social class, family connections, and fortune. Eventually, Edmund and his family fled London and changed their names to escape the harassment they endured from the people and the press.
For some years after her murder, it was claimed Jane’s spirit haunted Kidbrooke Lane. Several patrolling policemen and latenight wanderers reported seeing a woman in a white dress with rivulets of blood streaming down her face. Her ghostly cries echoed through the lane, fading into grumbles and groans as she slowly died. Her ghost left Kidbrooke Lane when it was eventually built over.
Jane was 16, pregnant and brutally murdered by Mike Guilfoyle
THE MURDER OF JANE CLOUSON: THE ELTHAM MYSTERY from The Dark Histories Project
Pretty Jane and the Viper by Paul Thomas Murphy
Rivals of the Ripper: Unsolved Murders of Women in Late Victorian London by Jan Bondeson
The true story of Jane Clouson, by her cousin by John Hancock (Jane Clouson’s 1st Cousin,
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