Book tells gruesome story of double murder of mum and baby in Camden Town
- Credit: Archant
It is an attractive but unremarkable terraced house in a quiet Camden Town backstreet, with nothing much to distinguish it from the neighbours.
But the inconspicuous appearance of 2 Ivor Street masks a gruesome secret – it was the scene of one of Camden’s most grotesque crimes more than a century ago.
On October 24 1890, 24-year-old Mary Pearcey brutally murdered her lover’s wife and baby within the property’s four walls.
The chilling details are revealed in a new book identifying London’s so-called “murder houses” – homes which have witnessed terrible crimes and still stand today – and telling their grisly stories.
Crime history writer Jan Bondeson – a consultant doctor in his day job – spent 15 years researching and writing the book, Murder Houses Of London.
He focused on houses because he wanted a “new and fresh angle” on exploring London’s blood-soaked past.
Among the 163 properties featured, Dr Bondeson, a consultant rheumatologist in Cardiff, says 2 Ivor Street is “high on the list” of London’s most notorious “murder houses”.
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He said: “It’s one of the most notorious of all because of the brutality of the crime and because it was committed by a woman as well, which is quite rare.”
Pearcey’s crime stemmed from her relationship with a married man called Frank Hogg, who lived with his 32-year-old wife Phoebe and their 18-month-old daughter, also named Phoebe.
“Mary Pearcey found this very hard to accept”, said Dr Bondeson.
“One day, she invited Phoebe Hogg round to her property and stated she should bring her little baby along.
“Phoebe went over to her rival’s house, and in there Mary Pearcey beat her to death and killed the baby as well.”
After murdering Mrs Hogg, Pearcey dismembered the corpse and placed the remains in the baby’s pram.
She then wheeled the pram through the streets all the way up to Belsize Park, where she tipped the mother’s mangled corpse onto a heap of rubbish near the junction of Adamson Road and Crossfield Street.
The dead girl, who may have been smothered, but could have died from suffocation under her mother’s corpse, was found in Finchley.
“She left the pram behind,” Dr Bondeson said.
“It had been quite overloaded with all the body parts and had broken.”
Dr Bondeson said police “quickly realised the part played by Mary Pearcey” after the bodies were found.
When they visited 2 Ivor Street – though the street was then known as Priory Street – she claimed there was blood splattered on the walls because she had been killing mice.
She denied murder, but was convicted and then executed just two months after the killing, on December 23.
“Many people found it barbaric to execute an attractive young woman, but then the crime had been a dastardly one,” Dr Bondeson said.
The house was later thought to be haunted and a priest was called in to perform an exorcism.
Dr Bondeson added: “A murder house is as good as any other house – but if you’re timid and afraid of ghosts, it may not be ideal.
“The house still looks pretty much unchanged, but with a bit more vegetation in the front garden than in 1890.
“It’s just an ordinary house today.”
n Murder Houses of London is published by Amberley Publishing. The October issue of Fortean Times magazine includes a feature on reports of ghostly phenomena at 2 Ivor Street and other “murder houses”.