Skull solves 1879 murder riddle
Published 05/07/2011 | 16:15
A skull unearthed in David Attenborough's garden has solved a gruesome 132-year-old murder riddle.
Remains found during excavations at the natural history film-maker's property were confirmed as those of Julia Thomas, a wealthy widow chopped up and boiled by her housekeeper in 1879.
Detectives were finally able to close the case after a coroner formally recognised the skull and delivered a verdict of unlawful killing.
Chief Superintendent Clive Chalk, of Scotland Yard, said: "This is a fascinating case and a good example of how good old-fashioned detective work, historical records and technological advances came together to solve the 'Barnes mystery'."
The discovery was made in October last year by workmen building an extension at Attenborough's home in Richmond, south-west London.
Mrs Thomas, 55, who was twice widowed, died from asphyxiation and a head injury, West London Coroner Alison Thompson confirmed.
The skull was identified after officers reviewed records of the murder, along with census records and radiocarbon testing.
Planet Earth star Attenborough's excavations took place 100 yards from where Mrs Thomas was pushed down the stairs and strangled by maid Kate Webster.
Mrs Thomas' remains were boiled by her killer who gave the dripping to local children to eat.
A box containing human flesh was found in the Thames days after the killing and Mrs Thomas' foot was found on an allotment.