Pub: Drama Llama Press
Johnny Gill, a young seven-year-old from Bradford, comes from the poor end of town. Despite being poor, his family are tight-knit, loving and well-respected within their community. One foggy morning, just a few days after Christmas, Johnny’s mother sees her son off from the front door as he climbs into the milk wagon of William Barrett. As Mary Ann Gill waves goodbye to her eldest son that morning, she has no idea that this will be the last time she will see him. Johnny doesn’t come home for his lunch and his mother starts to worry about him. The family search frantically for him for three days and nights. They search Manningham, and wider Bradford until someone finds him early on the Saturday morning, just meters from their home. His little body has been hacked up, drained of blood, thoroughly washed, his organs displaced and his intestines are draped around his neck eerily similar to the murders that have been happening in London done by Jack the Ripper. Several letters were sent by Jack stating that he would murder a little boy soon. After the murder another letter was sent stating that he had been up to Bradford. However, was this murder committed by the infamous Jack the Ripper? There are other clues involving Masonic rituals found in a local house at the same time of Johnny’s death that point to the possibility that it was. And yet, William Barrett was the last one to see Johnny. The modus operandi could well be a copy-cat murder. In addition, William Barrett isn’t saying much.
Little Johnny Gill is a well brought up eight year old. He loved nothing more than that working with the milk man, William Barrett, and when one day he doesn’t return from his job, his mother quite rightly becomes frantic.
The murder of little Johnny is a brutal read, with Jack the Ripper at large,the police and the local community wonder if this is who has murdered the poor lad.
The setting of Victorian England is well presented in this awful tale, and the reader is transported to a time of poverty, and hard work. Kathryn McMaster is a wonderful story-teller and this historical true crime is brilliantly told.
It is quite easy to become engrossed in the court room drama, and even though it tells of an horrendous savagery against a small child, it is truly gripping.
I could imagine the ‘Carnivale’ atmosphere of the time and the police investigation is eloquently told.
This for me is a must read for any fan of of true crime and fictional horror. It is a sad and emotional read, but it is also a fabulous whodunnit for those who love working out a good mystery.