Nervous boys said they saw the spectre…Part two

Here is part two of the extract from Jan Bondeson’s book, Doctor Poison.

A young boy is poisoned in school by a wicked doctor. The alleged subsequent haunting by the child forces the school to close. And the headmaster is in ruins.

Last week saw Dr Lamson poison the boy and flee to France. But he returned soon after to face the music. Here is part two – The Aftermath

When Percy had been autopsied, samples of various organs had been kept for analysis, however, and the forensic scientists found that he had been poisoned with the uncommon vegetable toxin aconitine.

This sealed the fate of Dr Lamson.

He was found guilty of murder, sentenced to death, and executed at Wandsworth Prison on April 28 1882.

During his acrimonious and wasted life, the doctor had accomplished some good but also much wickedness; short and evil had been his days, as he stood on the scaffold counting one or two more seconds, the longest-lasting in his life, waiting for the drop to open.

The police detectives, and even Lamson’s barrister Montagu Williams, felt certain that Dr Lamson was a double murderer, having poisoned both his brothers-in-law for the sake of profit.

Comparing his murderous career with those of the prolific medical killers Palmer and Pritchard, it indeed seems likely that Dr Lamson murdered Hubert John as well, and got away with it.

As a military surgeon, he had seen that life was cheap, with the wounded soldiers dying like flies.

Now both Hubert and Percy were invalids, crippled by tuberculosis and scoliosis, worthless and parasitic existences whose sufferings should be put an end to, he must have reasoned, like hastening the death of a badly mutilated soldier.

Perhaps the greatest mystery in the Lamson case is why he did not wait until he had Percy under his influence at the Chichester hotel, where the invalid could be given some ‘medicine’ with complete security, before Lamson signed the death certificate himself.

At Blenheim House School, all was not well after the execution of Dr Lamson.

Many parents objected to keeping their sons in a notorious murder school, and although the headmaster Mr Bedbrook tried to convince them that there were no longer any murderous doctors on the premises, dosing the boys with noxious chemicals, he was soon in serious difficulties due to the lack of pupils.

It did not help that there were rumours the ghost of Percy was haunting the school.

Nervous young boys swore that they had seen his spectre, and heard the whirring of the wheels of his spectral wheelchair.

The murder school was still Blenheim House School in 1884, but by 1888, it had become St George’s College; it was still operational as late as 1894.

In the end, Mr Bedbrook had to lease the school to King’s College, London, as a boarding-house for boys, but the deal was a very unfavourable one, and poor Mr Bedbrook had lost his livelihood.

In 1898, he took King’s College to court for allegedly breaking the original agreement, but lost his case and was condemned in costs.

In the end, Mr Bedbrook had to take a job as an assistant in a boot shop to provide his wife and five children with food on the table.

To earn a meagre living, he sold footgear to the former pupils he had once taught Latin and Greek.

In the summer of 1921, when William Henry Bedbrook went bathing at Southsea, he was swept out to sea and drowned miserably.

‘Famous poisoning case recalled – Aconite in Dundee Cake for Schoolboy!’ exclaimed the Dundee Evening Telegraph, reporting on the sad demise of the 75-year-old former schoolmaster.

His wife Rose survived him until 1928, and he is likely to have descendants alive today.

The haunted murder school no longer stands, having been destroyed many years ago.

There may be some truth that Lamson thought the aconitine was an untraceable poison, but nevertheless, he had taken one risk too many and this would lead to his downfall.

Through his escalating morphine abuse, George Henry Lamson had created a fearsome Golem in his own image, a perfectly amoral creature capable of killing with coolness and premeditation.

This once brave and promising young doctor had become both Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, both Frankenstein and murderous Monster, as he sped towards his doom from Wimbledon’s haunted murder school on a Highway to Hell.

This is an edited extract from Jan Bondeson’s book Doctor Poison (Troubador Publishing 2021).



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