In 1838, Eliza Grimwood was murdered in a house of ill-fame at number 12 Wellington Terrace, Waterloo Road. Her throat was cut. Dickens wrote up the story in Three Detective Anecdotes as the tale of The Countess. Inspector Field of Dickens’s article On Duty with Inspector Field investigated, and the case demonstrates the painstaking search for evidence. A sharp-eyed policeman found a pair of man’s gloves under the pillow. They had a distinctive smell of sulphur – a cleaning agent. The hunt was on to find out who had cleaned the gloves. The police visited the eight or nine glove cleaning establishments and finally discovered the owner of the gloves. But he was innocent, having simply left the gloves at the lodgings Eliza shared with her cousin. Eliza, rather house-proud, it seems, kept them for her servant to clean the stove with, and, according to Dickens’s version of the story, tidying the room for a visitor, put them under her pillow. We’ve all done it – shoved away an offending article when someone calls. Not that we expect a murderer. Who was that visitor?
He was never found and there was no evidence to convict the only suspect, the man with whom Eliza Grimwood lived, one George Hubbard.
The coroner’s jury returned a verdict: ‘against some person or persons unknown’.
Ah, the old adage: cleanliness is next to godliness. Well, it was, in a rather unexpected sense, for poor Eliza Grimwood, though she did not expect to meet her maker so soon.