Safe as Houses: 57 Andrew Street, Windsor
It’s one thing to be known as one of Australia’s first serial killers, but it’s quite another to be suspected of being the most infamous of all time.
While it’s a source of much debate, there’s some very compelling evidence linking the murder that occurred at 57 Andrew St in the Melbourne suburb of Windsor to possibly the most notorious unsolved serial killings, those of Jack the Ripper. While Jack the Ripper’s identity has never been definitively proven, it was known beyond doubt that the perpetrator who murdered Emily Lydia Mather in a rented Windsor home and buried her body beneath the hearthstone in one of the bedrooms was her husband, Frederick Bailey Deeming.
Deeming was born in Leicestershire, England, in 1853. From an early age, he turned to a life of petty crime. One could charitably have called Deeming a cad. He used a variety of aliases and spun elaborate lies as he travelled the world conning people out of money. He graduated to murder, at latest, around July of 1891. It was then that he cut the throats of his wife Marie and the couple’s four children, ranging in age from nine to 18 months. They would later be found buried beneath a concrete floor in a rented residence in Rainhill, England. It was many months before they were discovered, and by that time Deeming was already a household name for his deeds at 57 Andrew St.
While still married to the wife he would soon murder, Deeming began courting Emily Mather. A short time after he murdered his wife and children, he married Emily and the two set sail for Australia. It didn't take long for Deeming to grow tired of his new bride. Their wedding took place on 22 September 1891, and by Christmas Emily would be dead.
Deeming and his wife arrived in Australia on 15 December 1891 and settled in the house on Andrew Street in Windsor. He paid his rent a month in advance, giving the owner the name Mr. Drewn. His tenancy would be remarkably brief. Somewhere between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, he cut Emily’s throat and fractured her skull with blows to the head. He secreted her body under the hearthstone in one of the bedrooms.
57 Andrew Street, Windsor. Source: Google Earth.
Emily wouldn’t be found until the 3 March, when the home’s new tenant complained of a “disagreeable smell” that quickly became overpowering once the hearthstone in the house’s second bedroom was removed. Police recovered the body, and soon identified the victim as the wife of a man giving his name as Mr. Williams. Deeming, calling himself Williams, made the mistake of drawing suspicion by auctioning off what appeared to be wedding gifts.
Police finally caught up to Deeming in Western Australia, where he was using the name Baron Swanston and attempting to woo yet another young lady with his matrimonial intentions. From his capture on 12 March 1892, it would be a brief two months and 11 days before he was hanged for his crime.
It was in the aftermath of the trial that journalists and law enforcement officials began to draw parallels between Deeming and the modus operandi of the Whitechapel murderer, Jack the Ripper. The very few eyewitness accounts of Jack the Ripper describe him as nearly identical in appearance to Deeming, and evidence suggests that Deeming would have had the opportunity to commit the crimes.
Whether or not Deeming was one of history’s most famed killers, there’s no denying the brutality of his crimes. A house still stands today at 57 Andrew Street in Windsor. It’s difficult to say how much, if any, of the structure dates back to the time of Deeming’s residence. Newspaper sketches from the time of the trial certainly bear a resemblance to the structure that now stands there, and CoreLogic has no data on when the home was built. It does, however, reveal that the house was last sold in September of 2012, fetching a premium price of $1,625,000. One can only hope the new owners were meticulous in inspecting the hearthstones.
Each week, Safe as Houses looks at some of Australia's most notorious murders, and the effect those killings had on real estate values.