Eastbourne was traditionally a favoured retreat for rich widows, and in the mid-1950s there was an investigation into the deaths of 300 of these wealthy widows sparked by an anonymous letter suggesting that the women were the victims of a fraudster. During the investigation, bodies were exhumed and more than 400 wills were examined. The Leader-Post reported that the women may have “fallen under the spell of a man with hypnotic powers”, in fact a hypnotist was questioned during the course of the police investigations. In 1957 the trial took place of an Irish-born GP suspected of persuading wealthy widows to leave him money in their wills, and he was found not guilty, but was eventually convicted for forging of prescriptions, false statements and other misdemeanours. Unbelievably, he was later allowed to resume his work as a general practitioner in Eastbourne. There is a school of thought that the deaths were acts of euthanasia rather than any attempt on the part of the doctor to profit from the wills of the ladies in question. However, others regard him as the forerunner of the latter-day mass murderer Harold Shipman.
For a list of events in Eastbourne, see here.
Map of the area.
|Photo by Raymond Knapman, via Wikimedia Commons|