Historic criminal trials go online
Criminal trials in England dating back to the 18th century, including the infamous "Jack the Ripper" suspect, are to go online for the first time Monday, a website said.
The website said it is publishing 1.4 million documents on trials, verdicts and sentences including executions handed down to criminals in England and Wales from the late 18th through the 19th centuries.
Files include the trial of Roderick McLean who attempted to assassinate Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle with a pistol in the late 1800s, according to genealogy website Ancestry.co.uk.
Other legendary criminals include Dr Thomas Neill Cream, hanged in 1892 for poisoning several people and who allegedly confessed to being Jack the Ripper, although he was in prison at the time of some of the gruesome killings.
The fate of Isaac "Ikey" Solomon, considered to be the inspiration for author Charles Dickens' character Fagin in "Oliver Twist," is also recorded.
"This collection will be of great use to social historians as they contain a variety of in-depth information about crime and criminals in England and Wales during a period of great poverty, change, and ultimately, reform," managing director of the site Olivier Van Calster said.
The documents include 900,000 sentences of imprisonment, 97,000 transportations, some to British colonies at the time such as Australia, and 10,300 executions, including a boy aged just 14.
The death penalty was imposed for crimes ranging from stealing anything worth more than five shillings (30 pounds today or 35 euros), theft of livestock, poaching of rabbits and cutting down trees.
Being caught at night with a blackened face was also a capital offence, because authorities assumed that the accused was a burglar.
By the 1860s, executions by hanging had become a popular event, with people coming from far and wide to view them, and the wealthy even hiring balconies of houses and pubs to get a better view.
"These registers testify to the fact that crime and punishment was and always will be a controversial subject," said Van Calster.
"They also highlight the often colourful nature of crime, and in particular how creative criminals could be, even in less sophisticated times."
The records, published in a collaboration between the website and Britain's National Archives, are available to subscribers of the site.