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Body Snatchers, Bethnal Green
Body Snatchers, Bethnal Green
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Body Snatchers, Bethnal Green
The cottages of Bishop and Williams, the Resurrectionists, in Nova Scotia Gardens, supposed burkers of the Italian Boy. John Bishop and Thomas Williams were hanged at Newgate on 5th December 1831 for the murder of Carlo Ferrari.

Resurrectionists, resurrection men, body snatchers and grave-robbers are all terms for people who stole the corpses of the dead for profit. The Murder Act of 1752 allowed corpses of executed criminals to be used for medical dissection. But as research and training increased demand for bodies outstripped supply and criminals stole corpses to sell to medical men who asked few questions. Overcrowded graveyards with shallow graves and poor security aided grave-robbers. People feared their dead relatives would be stolen and mutilated. In December 1831 John Bishop, Thomas Williams and James May were executed for murdering a fourteen year old boy named Carlo Ferrari. Bishop and May befriended Ferrari, and drugged and drowned him at the cottages shown here. They tried to sell the corpse to several medical contacts but were arrested when staff at King's College became suspicious about the cause of death.

Bishop, Williams and May were known as the London Burkers after the notorious Edinburgh pair Burke and Hare who killed the living to sell their bodies rather than stealing corpses.
Body snatching and burking were ended by the 1832 Anatomy Act. This allowed anatomists to acquire sufficient unclaimed corpses from hospitals and workhouses and from the poorest families who could not afford funeral costs.
London Metropolitan Archives
Lysons' Environs of London