Murderpedia

 

 

Juan Ignacio Blanco  

 

home

last updates

MALE murderers

by country

by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
   

FEMALE murderers

by country

by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
   

 

 

 
 

Thomas W. PIPER

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

   


A.K.A.: "
Boston Belfry Murderer"
 
Classification: Child killer
Characteristics: Rape
Number of victims: 2 - 4
Date of murders: 1873 - 1875
Date of birth: 1849
Victims profile: Young girls
Method of murder: Beating with a blunt object
Location: Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Status: Executed by hanging on May 26, 1876
 
 

 
 

Thomas W. Piper was indicted for the murder of Mabel H. Young in June 1875, tried for the offence in December 1875, but when this trial resulted in the disagreement of the jury, was again tried on 31st January 1876. Five-year-old Mabel had attended the church Sabbath-school with her aunt on May 23rd, 1874, but after the class she disappeared. The little girl was later found, badly beaten and the church sexton, Piper, was arrested and charged with the crime. She died from her injuries a day later.


December 5, 1873: The Boston Belfry Murderer kills his first victim

Bridget Landregan is found beaten and strangled to death in the Boston suburb of Dorchester. According to witnesses, a man in black clothes and a flowing cape attempted to sexually assault the dead girl before running away. In 1874, a man fitting the same description clubbed another young girl, Mary Sullivan, to death. His third victim, Mary Tynan, was bludgeoned in her bed in 1875. Although she survived for a year after the severe attack, she was never able to identify her attacker.

Residents of Boston were shocked to learn that the killer had been among them all along. Thomas Piper, the sexton at the Warren Avenue Baptist Church, was known for his flowing black cape, but because he was friendly with the parishioners, nobody suspected his involvement. But when five-year-old Mabel Young, who was last seen with the sexton, was found dead in the church's belfry in the summer of 1876, Piper became the prime suspect. Young's skull had been crushed with a wooden club.

Piper, who was dubbed "The Boston Belfry Murderer," confessed to the four killings after his arrest. He was convicted and sentenced to die, and he was hanged in 1876.


Thomas Piper - The Boston Belfry Murderer

Before the Boston Strangler terrorized his hometown in the early 1960's, Thomas Piper, a young church sexton of a local Baptist church, was the scourge of the aristocratic town when he committed a series of vicious sex slayings. Sporting a long black opera cloak, his crimes actually caused high-society men all over town to cease wearing the garment during the period of the infamous rape-murders.

On the night of December 5, 1873, Piper attacked a girl named Bridget Landregan as she passed some bushes along a road laced in snow. Piper leaped from the bushes and bludgeoned the young woman to death, but was unable to perform any acts of sex on the body when he was scared off by a passing couple. The couple reported the description of the culprit to the police, having labeled Piper as a "dark, bat-like figure."

That same night, Piper struck again as he attacked another girl. This time he did rape her and beat her senseless. She survived and was able to give a description her assailant even though the police came no closer to capturing the lunatic.

Piper would claim three more young women before being brought to justice. His modus operandi remained the same in every instance. He would surprise a lone, youthly woman and rape her before beating her to death with a blunt object. After he had committed three murders, the police officially began the hunt for the caped perpetrator. The city itself became a haven of panic and hysteria. The chief of police ordered that all men seen wearing opera cloaks were to be stopped and questioned for suspicion of being the so-called "Boston-Belfry Murderer." It wasn't long before most men ceased wearing opera cloaks altogether.

The fourth and final murder was that of a five-year-old girl named Mabel Hood Young in 1875. The injuries to the body were the same as the other girls; rape or sexual assault followed by a severe beating with a blunt instrument. This time however, the killer was caught. Piper had been identified as the murderer when he was seen by several witnesses taking the little girl to the tower in the Warren Avenue Baptist Church, where the body was found.

Piper, 26, was arrested and confessed to her murder as well as to three others and a number of rapes. His trial was short and he was convicted of the murder of Mabel Hood Young and sentenced to hang. Since, his conviction and sentencing, Piper retracted his confession and maintained that he was innocent. However, once the day of the hanging arrived he once again admitted his guilt, perhaps as a way of finding forgiveness for his appalling crimes.


SEX: M RACE: W TYPE: T MOTIVE: Sex.

MO: Rape-slayer of young girls, one in the church where he served as sexton

DISPOSITION: Hanged, 1876.


Warren Anatomical Museum Catalog Number 8209:
 

Portion of fractured skull from victim of the "Boston Belfry Murderer."

Mabel Hood Young, a five year old child killed in 1876, was the last victim of the Boston serial killer known as the 'Bat' and the 'Boston Belfry Murderer.'  Mabel's broken and battered body was discovered in the belfry of the Warren Avenue Baptist Church where she had been beaten and her skull crushed by blows from a wooden bat.  Donated sometime after 1876 by Dr. B. E. Cotting, the specimen above is from Mabel's cranium showing the depressed comminuted fracture of the cranial vault, and the linear fracture through her parietal bone on both sides.

Thomas Piper, a well-respected sexton at the same church was arrested and tried for Mabel's murder.  He was also the main suspect in the gruesome murders of three other women.  During the trial, Piper's defense attorney claimed that Mabel had not been struck by a bat, but had been killed when the trap door leading to the church belfry fell on her head.  The prosecuting attorney brought Mabel's skull and a replica of the trap door into the courtroom to demonstrate that the fractures present on the skull could not be replicated with a single blow from a trap door.  Based on this early use of forensic science, Piper was convicted and sentenced to death.  He subsequently confessed to all four murders and was hanged in 1876.

The case is published in full in several issues of the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal (April 1876 and June 1876).

 

 

 
 
 
 
contact