Researching the Babbacombe Murder

This work is about the murder case, the now exposed cover-up and three failed attempts to hang John Babbacombe Lee who took the blame for murder and became an international celebrity. Here revealed are those connected with the case and those who would rather not be associated. Exposed is the panic that raged like wildfire through the Home Office and the British establishment when Lee was returned, alive, to his cell after attempts to execute him failed – an overwhelming fear of a crisis that involved the intervention of Queen Victoria. Also an investigation through public records of Lee’s bizarre life before, during and after a life sentence in prison.

With a vast growing archive of fascinating documents, this website exposes the reality behind a Victorian murder, a world famous botch at the gallows, the ruthless cover-ups, no forensic evidence and the blatant lies in a race to quell panic in the British Victorian establishment – all based on decades of research and hard facts.

The aim of this is to find out not only who actually killed a near bankrupt Victorian spinster, but why she was murdered. To expose those responsible for the alarming range of covers-ups and lies. So, the mystery, until recently, isn’t at the gallows in Exeter but in the hands of the person (or persons) who ended the life of this 68 year old woman 130 years ago.

This really is as near as you will ever get to the actual events as they unfolded all those years ago. Some of this work features detailed archive painstakingly transcribed from photocopies from the originals. The language and spelling has remained exactly as it was written down (in some cases, exactly as it was spoken) more than 120 years ago. The person who uttered the words, the courtroom clerk, the lawyer, the house maid, the politician, the policeman, the dozens of ordinary Victorian folk who were witnesses and, of course, the central figure in all this, John Lee. They would never have dreamed that their words would have been immortalised yet alone placed on this powerful and incredible vehicle we call the internet.

The only known photograph of Jessie Bulled (exclusive to this website) discovered by Ian Waugh in June 2012).

John Lee married Jessie in 1909. John Lee had deserted her in Lambeth Workhouse, pregnant in 1911. Her truly sad story is currently unravelling – here. If you know anything about Jessie please contact Ian Waugh here. Right: The only known photograph of Jessie Bulled (exclusive to this website) discovered by Ian Waugh in June 2012).

Bill Brown a retired Devonian farm labourer speaking in 1975. His family were closely connected to John Lee and his parents: “John Lee wasn’t guilty of the murder he was guilty of a cover-up that’s the only thing you can say about it anything like that when everybody was panicking frantically well anything can happen. Everybody was trying to clear themselves and John was in it and how would anybody react?”

Torbay Historian, the late John Pike, researched and wrote extensively on the case: “I have now reached the conclusion, quite definitely in my mind that the full facts did not reach the court at the time of the case. I think that Lee was there on the night, I think he was involved but I am quite definite in my opinion that he did not strike the fatal blow.”

Ian Waugh – Historic Researcher. “Since the 1990’s I have endeavoured to put the record straight. By using only factual archive I am stripping back and completely re-investigating the case and those behind it. My aim has been to dispel rumour and expose the facts. A great many researchers, record offices and archives have assisted me with this work and for that I am very grateful. A few individuals, even more than 130 years after the murder, refuse to assist or comment. Their silence and a decision to hide certain facts speaks volumes”.

Putting the record straight

There was no ‘royal connection’. Princess, later Queen Victoria never met Emma Keyse or her mother. A letter from ‘The Royal Archives’ at Windsor lays to rest certain fantasies built up over the years and confirms some truth.

If you’ve heard about The Man They Could Not Hang and a little about John ‘Babbacombe’ Lee these pages might put you in the picture – if you hear stories of Lee walking the streets of Newton Abbot with rope marks around his neck, please take it with a large pinch of salt. About this work .