Police photo of Amelia Dyer after being arrested in 1896
She was dubbed the ‘Angel Maker’, a prolific serial killer responsible for the murders of around 400 babies, horrific crimes that sent a shock wave through 19th century Britain
Amelia Dyer preyed on the down-on-their-luck, desperate unmarried mothers who paid her to have their children adopted in the naive belief she would find them a better life.
But there would be no fairytale endings, instead this despicable woman simply took the money before strangling the helpless infants with dressmaking tape and dumping their bodies in the River Thames
For over 30 years Dyer was able to conduct her grisly trade with apparent impunity. Little wonder that she is now believed to be Britain’s worst ever serial killer.
Her crimes have come to light once again after more than 2.5million criminal records from between 1770 and 1934 were placed online by the National Archives.
The intriguing records chronicle the crimes and punishments of some of the worst murderers and villains ever to roam these lands. But even among this company of loathsome individuals Dyer stands apart.
She began to conduct her grisly trade in Bristol in the late 1860s, opening a house of confinement in the suburb of Totterdown where she took in unmarried pregnant women who had nowhere else to go.
Some would ask her to smother their babies at birth, crimes that went unchallenged as Victorian doctors were unable to tell the difference between suffocation and still-birth.
A cell and the galleries at Newgate prison where Amelia Dyer was jailed before her hanging in 1896
Then Dyer moved began offering a fostering service, which involved her simply drugging the babies with laudanum, a powerful opiate, to keep them quite while she slowly starved them.
This went on for almost a decade until she was found guilty of infant neglect and sentenced to paltry six-months in prison.
By the time she came out she had a developed a new business plan. The logic was simple; why deal with all the bother of actually looking after the children when she could offer a one-off full adoption service and simply kill them.
She moved to Reading and soon found her services in high demand – eyewitnesses reported seeing as many as six babies a day coming into her home.
An artist’s drawing of three people being hanged outside Newgate prison where Amelia Dyer also met her end
Police would later find evidence of around 20 children who had been entrusted to her care in the two months before her arrest.
She was finally arrested following the discovery of the body of an infant in the reeds of the Thames. An address on the parcel paper led the police to her rented terraced house..
Inside her house of horrors they were met with the stench of rotting flesh emanating from the kitchen pantry and from a trunk under her bed.
They discovered baby clothes, vaccination papers as well as letters and receipts for her newspaper advertisements offering adoption services.