The Naked City Feb 7 2010
THE KILLING KIND
Historian claims two of history’s most respected medical researchers were serial killers.
British historian Don Shelton, in research just published by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, suggests that the acclaimed fathers of obstetrics, William Hunter and William Smellie, were also serial killers. Shelton’s report makes a convincing case that the two renowned anatomists contracted henchmen to abduct and deliver women who were in advanced stages of pregnancy, with the purpose of generating a steady supply of medical specimens for their studies. The two men worked separately, and were driven by ambition and rivalry. The women they obtained were experimented upon while either freshly dead, or while unconscious, with fatal results. The killings allegedly occurred in London in two stages, the first lasting from 1749 until 1755, and the second from 1764 to 1774. In total, Shelton estimates there were thirty-five to forty victims, plus their unborn fetuses.

Despite Shelton's takedown of two highly respected medical figures, there has been surprisingly little resistance to his assertions so far. Researchers of the 1700s usually obtained medical specimens from hospitals or morgues, and were known to employ graverobbers as well. But such specimens would have been diseased, aged, or physically damaged, whereas Hunter and Smellie would have needed young, physically fit subjects. According to Shelton, this prompted them to employ henchmen who most likely supplied bodies via “burking,” a technique named after serial killer William Burke, in which a person is slowly suffocated, thus leaving no damage to the cadaver and no detectable signs of foul play to alert police. Shelton's exhaustively researched study allegedly proves that no other method could have produced the steady stream of healthy mothers-to-be Hunter and Smellie desired. When interviewed about his claims by England’s Guardian newspaper, Shelton admitted they were shocking, but quoted Sherlock Holmes: “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, is the truth.”     

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