1858: William and Daniel Cormack, for murdering John Ellis 1945: Bruno Dorfer and Rainer Beck, Wehrmacht deserters

1936: Buck Ruxton, red stains

May 12th, 2013 Meaghan

(Thanks to Meaghan Good of the Charley Project for the guest post. -ed.)

On this date in 1936, Buktyar Rustomji Ratanji Hakim, also known as Buck Ruxton, was hanged in Strangeways Prison for the murder of his common-law wife, Isabella, and their maid, Mary Jane Rogerson.

A general practitioner of Persian descent, Ruxton was born in India and moved to the United Kingdom in 1930 to set up practice in Lancaster.

He met a married Englishwoman, Isabella Van Ess, and took up with her after her divorce. Although they never legally married and Ruxton actually already had a wife he’d left behind in India, they lived as man and wife and had three children, and she took his last name.

Ruxton had a reputation as a good doctor and a compassionate one who waived his fees for indigent. He wasn’t nearly as good a husband as he was a physician, however: he was extremely jealous of his charming, sociable wife and continually accused her of infidelity with little actual evidence of it.

The neighbors overheard violent arguments, and Isabella would occasionally take the children and leave, seeking refuge at her sister’s home. At one point she reported her husband to the police for domestic violence, but they paid little attention to her complaints.

On September 15, 1935, Ruxton flew into one of his rages, stabbed his wife five times in the chest, beat her and strangled her with his bare hands. He battered the maid to death as well, since she had been unlucky enough to witness it. A clever little rhyme memorialized the story, one of its various versions is printed below:

Red stains on the carpet, red stains on the knife
For Dr. Buck Ruxton had murdered his wife
The maid servant saw it and threatened to tell
So Dr. Buck Ruxton, he’s killed her as well

Ruxton dismembered both bodies in the bathtub and dumped the parts in a stream near the Scottish border, over a hundred miles from Lancaster. There were thirty pieces in all, leading the press to call the case the “Jigsaw Murders.”

In an effort to hinder identification, Ruxton removed the victims’ teeth and skinned their faces. This turned out to be too clever by half: once the bodies were found in late September, the precision of the cuts told authorities that the killer was someone with anatomical knowledge and surgical skill, which narrowed the suspect pool considerably.

This filter, combined with the realization that one of the newspapers Ruxton used to wrap up some dismembered bit was a special edition copy sold only in Lancaster and Morecambe, led the cops to Ruxton and not many others. It wasn’t long before the pieces — sorry — fell into place.

Meanwhile, exciting new forensic techniques, helped firm up identification of the corpses: authorities superimposed a photograph of Isabella over one of the skulls and found a dramatically jury-friendly visible match.

Isabella Ruxton, in life and death.

Forensic entomology (in this case, the gross but useful technique of checking the age of the maggots infesting the corpses) helped pinpoint the date of death.

Ruxton was arrested on October 13, nearly a month after the double murder.

The Ruxtons’ charlady told the police that on the day Isabella and the maid disappeared, Ruxton came to her house early and told her not to come in to work. The next day, when she arrived at the Ruxtons’ house, she found it in a state of disarray with the carpets removed and a pile of burnt material in the backyard. A neighbor couple also had helpful recollections: Ruxton had persuaded them to come and help out at his house, saying he’d cut his hand while opening a can of peaches and he needed to clean up quickly because decorators were coming over. They scrubbed his walls and he gave them some bloodstained carpets and clothing.

Given all this evidence, there was little Ruxton’s defense attorney could say for him.

The defense tried to challenge the identification of the bodies, but the superimposed skull picture was quite convincing. Ruxton admitted his guilt prior to his execution and signed a short confession. He was hanged in spite of a petition with 10,000 signatures asking for mercy.

The Ruxton case, a smashing tabloid hit in its day, has been the subject of its own book, T.F. Potter’s The Deadly Dr. Ruxton: How They Caught a Lancashire Double Killer. It’s also featured in many general true crime books, including Colin Wilson and Damon Wilson’s Crimes of Passion: The Thin Line Between Love and Hate, Colin Evans’s The Casebook of Forensic Detection: How Science Solved 100 of the World’s Most Baffling Crimes, and Harold Schechter’s A to Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers.

Also on this date

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Doctors,England,Execution,Guest Writers,Hanged,History,Murder,Notable Sleuthing,Other Voices,Racial and Ethnic Minorities

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7 thoughts on “1936: Buck Ruxton, red stains”

  1. Fiz says:

    Very well done, Meagan. Did you know that the Ruxton’s eldest child became a pathologist?

  2. Meaghan says:

    No, I did not. That’s very interesting. Kind of like how Madelyn Murray O’Hare, the woman who founded American Atheists and got prayer removed from public schools, her son became a minister.

  3. Fiz says:

    Now I did not know that, either! Ruxton’s eldest child was a girl and it was she who became the pathologist. I would like to find out more but I feel they deserve their privacy. Also, Ruxton’s lawyer adopted the children and brought them up.

  4. Meaghan says:

    Which reminds me of another bit of crime/adoption trivia, re: Diane Downs. It was a famous case in Oregon in the eighties; she shot her three children because she wanted to be with her boyfriend and he didn’t want kids. One of the children died but the other two survived and told on her. After Diane was sent to prison, the prosecutor adopted her surviving kids.

  5. Fiz says:

    It was so wonderful of Fred and his wife. It gave those poor children a break they would never have had otherwise. Do you know Diane keeps trying to get out and her father has a website rapping Ann Rule over the knuckles? How anyone could believe Diane’s nonsense is beyond me, especially after what she claimed about her father in court!

  6. Meaghan says:

    I’ve seen Diane’s site, yeah. I met Ann Rule at a book signing once and she talked about “being sued by convicted murderers for defaming their reputations.”

    Diane’s first parole date is next year, I think. I highly doubt she’ll get out.

  7. Sondra Sadeh says:

    I red Diane downs story and actually met her daughter in a bar in Eugene Oregon. Crazy.

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