18 April 1930 – Henry Colin Campbell

An American doctor with an unfortunate beside manner found himself in the hot seat today in 1930.

Of course he wasn’t even a doctor. Henry Colin Campbell was a con man, an engineer, a publicity man and a bigamist who prayed on widows for their wealth. He’d stalk singles clubs in pursuit of suitably vulnerable targets or even run classified ads in the personal columns brazenly listing his sleazy requirements i.e. ‘widows with no children’.

And that’s how he met his victim – Mildred Mowry.

Money to burn

Despite already being married, he shacked up with Mowry and then promptly killed her to get his hands on the paltry sum of $1,000 in investments. To cover his tracks, the unscrupulous snake even doused her with petrol and set fire to her body. This earned him the nickname the ‘torch murderer’. She was eventually found shot and charcoaled beside a road in New Jersey. When the authorities caught up with the rotten seed, he pleaded insanity.

During the trial, Campbell never denied any of the crimes. Instead he tried to blag that he was suffering from amnesia. But when the murder weapon turned up at his house and his statement at the time of arrest was read out, he looked as guilty as sin.

At least so thought the jury and they sentenced him to death for murder. There was no messing. They even recommended that he never be considered for mercy or leniency – a damning judgement indeed.

But that wasn’t the end of it. There’s also continuing doubt as to whether he just had the one victim. A governess posted in New York is said to have disappeared off with a doctor she met through a dating agency. Beginning to sound familiar? Sure enough, not only that, but her $7,000 savings disappeared along with her. Thing is she eventually turned up by the side of the road, shot and burned just 15 miles up the road from where Mowry had been dumped…

They flicked the switch on 61-year-old Campbell on this day in 1930, thus putting an end to his deception.

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