The wicked boy: the mystery of a Victorian child murderer

"This is a hopeful story – albeit about as terrible a crime as we can imagine": Kate Summerscale talks to Matt Elton about her new book exploring a case that shocked Victorian England – a young boy's murder of his mother – and its echoes in 21st-century fears...

Kate Summerscale. (Photo by Fran Monks)

This article was first published in the May 2016 issue of BBC History Magazine 

What is the case that your new book follows, and why did it interest you?

The book follows the story of two boys: Robert Coombes, who was 13 years old, and his 12-year-old brother, Nathaniel. In the summer of 1895 they were seen wandering around east London, and said that their mother had gone to visit family in Liverpool; their father was away at sea. After 10 days an unpleasant smell began to emanate from the house, and neighbours became uneasy.

Want to read more?

Become a BBC History Magazine subscriber today to unlock all premium articles in The Library

Unlock now