I was born in Lancaster, UK and because of that I’ve always had an interest in Dr Ruxton and the crime he committed back in 1935, as kids we heard stories of where his bath ended up and thought they were old wives tales but as I got older I found it to be crazy but true!
Buck Ruxton was born in Bombay, India as, now forgive me for this but I’m going to give it a whirl, Bukhtyar Chompa Rustomji Ratanji Hakim in 1899 and belonged to a fairly wealthy Parsi family. He, with the help of his family studied at the University of Bombay and qualified as a doctor in 1922 and a surgeon shortly after.
In 1925 as per the Indian culture, he married in an arranged agreement but for one reason or another the couple didn’t get on and the marriage quickly dissolved. A year later in 1926, Bukhtyar had moved lock stock and barrel to Edinburgh in Scotland.
He was keen to fit in to the British way of life and due to this he changed his name legally via deed poll to Buck Ruxton. Whilst working in Edinburgh, Buck met a young married woman called Isabelle Kerr, she was legally wed to a Dutchman but their marriage had broken down irretrievably and a her and Buck started dating.
The ease in which she left her husband was going to affect Buck’ thinking later on in their relationship.
By 1928 Buck had grown bored of life in Scotland and decided to head south, so with Isabelle, he moved to London, they never legally married due to Isabelle still officially being married to the Dutchman, she did, however take on the role of his common-law wife and took his name to go with the title.
Buck was working for a doctor in London and in 1929 Isabelle gave birth to their first child, a daughter who they named Elizabeth. Life seemed to be perfect for the couple…and then
For no known reason, in 1930, Buck and Isabelle decided London wasnt for them and they moved north to the county of Lancashire and more specifically to the town of Lancaster.
He setup a practice in the centre of town at 2 Dalton Square facing a statue of Queen Victoria which had been erected 11 years earlier. It was a beautiful tall Victorian building and perfect placement for a doctors surgery.
Buck became a popular figure in Lancaster, often taking up practices of locals, 1930 was 18 years before the National Health Service was established and therefore patients had to pay for their treatment.
Treatments were not cheap and Buck often waived* medical fees for the less well off, and therefore made himself even more popular
By 1931, Isabelle and Buck were going through a rough patch in their marriage, Buck was a quiet guy, kept himself to himself and was considered as well to do by his peers. Whether it was prior to their bad patch or their way of trying to fix things, Isabelle became pregnant and gave birth to their second child, a little girl who they named Diane.
Isabelle was the extreme opposite, she was brash and loud and loved the social life, and she was a lady who everyone considered attractive. Buck and Isabelle attended an annual ball for the mayor at Lancaster Town hall and while Isabelle danced, laughed and socialised with a number of men, Buck was sat in a corner, quietly sulking*
Having their second child didn’t help Buck with his paranoia about his common law wife he had suspicions that Isabelle was cheating, Buck started thinking about how easily she left her first husband and because Isabelle and Buck were not officially and legally married his growing suspicions created an uneasy tension in the marriage.
By 1932 things were becoming unbearable for Isabelle and she attempted suicide using an inert gas to asphyxiate herself, shockingly she was pregnant at the time of this attempt, the attempt failed and she had a miscarriage.
1933 arrived and things had got better in the Ruxton household and once again Isabelle was pregnant, she gave birth to their third child, a son, who they called William. Buck had decided it would be a good idea to bring some help in to assist Isabelle with the three children, so he hired a live-in housekeeper, her name was Mary Rogerson. In the 1930’ it was fairly common for the middle and upper classes to hire help, especially to look after the needs of the children.
The arguments has started again and this time they were getting wild, both would have fits of rage and Buck would often go into hysterics thinking that Isabelle was being unfaithful to him, he was becoming more and more paranoid as the days and weeks would pass.
Due to these constant arguments, Isabelle had on occasion taken the three children back up to her old home in Edinburgh, each time, Buck would call Isabelle, promising things would be better and asking her to return home, which she did. Buck seemingly could not handle the idea that Isabelle would leave him.
Later in 1933 things had got worse in the Ruxton household, Isabelle had been to Lancaster Police to report that Buck had started beating her, something that Buck denied whilst offering up the fact that Isabelle had been unfaithful to him. (I find this a strange thing to say as it sounds like he is trying to justify something that he denied doing?) Within a day or so of making this complaint, Isabelle had returned to Buck.
18 months or so had passed without any major incidents in the Ruxton household, until May 1935 when PC Norman Wilson had been called following a rather heated argument between Buck and Isabelle. During his questioning of Buck, PC Wilson was quite shocked to hear Buck state “Sergeant, I feel like murdering two persons, my wife is going out to meet a man” this again was an odd thing to say even in anger and I am sure if said in this day and age would end up with the person being taken into custody. Further to this statement Mr Ruxton also stated to the officer that he wanted to apply for a court summons against a man who had enticed his wife into an affair.
In early September of 35, Isabelle decided to travel up to Edinburgh to visit one of her sisters, she arranged to go with a local Lancaster family called the Edmondsons (nowadays, everyone in Lancaster and Morecambe has heard of the Edmondson family). The Ruxtons and the Edmondsons were friendly, Buck felt maybe a little too friendly as he believed there may have been something going on between Isabelle and Robert Edmondson and they were using this time away to be together. Due to the daily needs of his medical practice, Buck remained in Lancaster.
Bucks paranoia and hysteria had built up to ridiculous levels, he could not get the thought of his Isabelle in the arms of another man out of his head, it had created such an anger in him that he got to a point of no return.
On September 14th 1935 Isabelle left Buck in Lancaster to visit Blackpool and to see their annual illuminations light show, she planned on meeting her sisters there, after a few hours of stress free fun with her family, Isabelle returned to Lancaster around 11:30pm.
Upon her return, or possibly in the early hours of September 15th, Buck strangled Isabelle with his bare hands before allowing his full rage to take over by viciously stabbing and beating the lifeless body of his wife and the mother to his children. The Ruxtons live-in housekeeper, Mary Rogerson, may have witnessed the murder or simply because Buck needed her silence, he killed her too. Shockingly, this all occurred whilst the three Ruxton children were asleep in their beds.
In the morning, Buck calmly took the three children to a friends, who was a dentist in nearby Morecambe and when he returned to the family home at 2 Dalton Square he started to dismember the bodies in the family bathtub, he expertly cut and mutilated the two corpses which experts later suggest would have taken him around eight hours.
Once Buck had completed his gruesome butchery, he took the 70 pieces and wrapped them up into packages using newspaper amongst other things and travelled over 100 miles to Scotland and dropped them into the River Linn.
Buck travelled back to Lancaster and seemingly carried on his usual routines, telling anyone who asked that Isabelle had left him again.
Two weeks later on the morning of September 29th 1935, a lady called Susan Johnson was leaning over a stone bridge near Moffat in Dumfriesshire, she happened to notice a package in the water that was lodged against some rocks, on closer inspection, Ms Johnson noticed that protruding from the package was a rotting human arm.
She immediately ran home and contacted the Dumfriesshire Constabulary to report her findings, they dispatched officers to the scene and a search ensued covering the stream and ravines nearby, they found four further bundles, two of which contained two severed human heads.
Each package that they found contained a horrific selection of human remains, bones, limbs and large pieces of flesh and all in an advanced stage of decomposition. The discarded remains had been wrapped in clothes, a bed sheet, pillowcase and several newspapers. It may have been 1935 and the communications technologies were not as advanced but this story broke world wide and the press dubbed them the “Jigsaw Murders”.
Two of the countries eminent forensic scientists were called and they made there way to Moffat mortuary where on the 1st October, they were presented with the gruesome evidence to process. Professor John Glaister Jr was the drawing quick and precise conclusions about the 70 pieces of human bone and flesh that had been found.
He had made several deductions with regard to the remains, namely that they were of two female victims of different ages and heights and more importantly they had been dissected by a highly skilled person who would have had anatomical knowledge, Professor Glaister stated that the mutilation and scarring on the victims had been carried out using a surgical blade and that the perpetrator had done an extensive job.
The killer had made physical and dental identification almost impossible by removing several teeth, ears, eyes, skin, lips and some soft tissue had also been stripped from the heads of the victims. The victims finger tips had been removed along with areas of the body that may have had surgical scars or vaccination marks. All the flesh from one of the victims legs and the thighs of the other had also been removed.
The anatomy department at Edinburgh University had been able to deduce using the maggots and pupae in the decomposing flesh that the bodies must have been disposed of after September 17th.
The police of Dumfriesshire Constabulary were pretty confident early on that the victims were not local women, where the parts had been found, in the River Linn, this is a tributary, which is basically a stream that flows to a larger body of water. They surmised that a local would know that a few miles away was the Annan River and had the pieces been dumped here, the likelihood is that the rains would have washed them away into the Solway Firth and onto the Irish Sea where the chances of discovery would have been extremely slim.
This lead the police to believe that the killer had very little local knowledge, Linn was very close to a road running from England into Scotland and therefore a theory started emerging that the killer may had travelled up simply to dump the remains.
Then of course, they looked at what the body parts where wrapped in, the newspaper was the Sunday Graphic which was a national tabloid and therefore available throughout the UK. The killer would have thought that wrapping the body parts into a national newspaper was an astute move, unfortunately, Buck’ luck was running out, this edition of the Sunday Graphic was a special souvenir edition that was printed and circulated solely in the Morecambe and Lancaster area on the 15th September. The police now had a geographical lead.
The police were now concentrating their efforts on any missing person reports in the Lancaster and Morecambe area between September 15th and 19th.
It was reported that on September 24th Buck had apparently visited Lancaster Police Station telling them that his wife, Isabelle had once again left him, he also made a visit to the parents of the housekeeper Mary Rogerson spinning a tail that she had become pregnant and had left with Mrs Ruxton to get an abortion, it was of course a ruse but believable in Britain at the time as abortions were illegal.
By October the 1st Mary’s parents visited Buck to find out where Mary was and what was happening, at this point Buck gave them a differing story to the pregnancy, they became suspicious and decided to file a missing persons report with the police.
For the police, things were rapidly falling into place, for Buck things were falling apart!
The police visited the Rogersons asking if they could identify any of the clothing that the body parts had been wrapped in when they were found in Moffat. Mary had recently repaired a blouse and when shown the clothing her father immediately recognised it as he noticed the repair on the armpit, he stated that he had last seen her wearing that blouse on September 14th.
Other clothing used as wrapping including children’s rompers had been identified by a friend of the family as something they had purchased the previous year, you have to remember that mass marketing of products wasn’t a thing back in 1935.
The police were now becoming increasingly suspicious of Buck, they combined these reports of the clothing along with Buck’ report of his wife’ dissapreance on the 24th September, at this point the police spoke with one of Buck’ cleaners who provided several damning pieces of evidence:
On September 15th Buck had told her not to bother coming to work until the day after and when she did arrive for work the next day the house was a mess, carpets had been removed, there was a pile of burned fabric in the garden, this was later found to be victims clothing, the bathtub was also covered with a huge yellow stain, this was extremely similar in colour to iodine, which is used to clean surgical implements. On top of this, Buck had specifically asked her to clean the bathtub.
Buck’ neighbours, Mr & Mrs Hampshire also confirmed that Buck had given them a blood stained suit and some carpets to keep on the understanding that they needed and would be washed.
Bucks luck had finally run out!
Buck was arrested and taken into custody charged with murdering his housekeeper Mary Rogerson. A month later fresh charges would be brought, using world first anthropological methods, scientists where able to superimpose one of the skulls found in the River Linn to a photograph of Isabelle Ruxton and therefore he was charged with both murders.
At the trial Buck did not behave very well, breaking down into fits of hysterics and crying and so he was unable to give clear responses to any of the questions that he was being asked. A jury took just an hour to find him guilty and he was sentenced to be executed by hanging.
Prior to and during the trial Buck had pleaded his innocence to anyone who would listen, however he later sent a confession to a Sunday newspaper I am unsure if it was the Sunday Graphic but that would have been rather fitting under the circumstances. The confession was printed the day after he hung.
The confession stated “I killed Mrs Ruxton in a fit of temper because I thought she had been with a man, I was mad at the time. Mary Jane Rogerson was present at the time, I had to kill her”
Buck Ruxton was executed on the morning of May 12th 1936 by world renowned hangman and executioner Albert Pierrepoint.
The bathtub in which Buck had mutilated the corpses of the two women had been removed from the house for evidence and is now being used as a water trough for Lancashire Constabulary for horses.