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The Brighton Trunk Murders: Bodies in Boxes – A Chilling Tale of Mystery and Horror


The Brighton Trunk Murders, a series of chilling discoveries made in the late 19th century, continue to haunt the annals of British crime history. The story, shrouded in mystery and horror, captivated the Victorian public and remains a source of fascination and intrigue even today. The grisly nature of the murders, coupled with the perplexing lack of a clear perpetrator, cemented this case in the collective memory of the nation. This blog post will delve into the details of the Brighton Trunk Murders, exploring the chilling discoveries, the suspects and theories, and the enduring impact of this dark chapter in history.

Table of Contents

  1. The Discoveries and Early Investigations
  2. Suspects and Theories
  3. The Investigation of Amelia Sach
  4. Lasting Impact and Legacy
  5. FAQ
  6. Conclusion

The Discoveries and Early Investigations

The Brighton Trunk Murders began with a chilling discovery on July 31st, 1887. A porter at Brighton Railway Station, named George Baxter, stumbled upon a trunk left abandoned on the platform. Curiosity overcame him, and he opened it, revealing a horrific sight: the body of a woman, wrapped in brown paper and covered with a piece of black material. The discovery sent shockwaves through Brighton, as news of the murder spread like wildfire.

The police were immediately called to the scene. Initial examination revealed that the victim had been strangled and the body was badly decomposed, making identification challenging. Further investigation uncovered a crucial detail: the trunk had arrived at the station via a train from London, indicating a possible link to the capital.

The discovery of the first trunk was only the beginning. Just a few months later, on November 6th, 1887, another trunk containing a woman’s body was found abandoned in a similar location at the railway station. Again, the victim had been strangled, and the body was in an advanced state of decomposition. This time, the trunk was marked with the initials “A.M.W.”, a clue that eventually led to the identification of the victim as Alice M. Wheeler.

The discovery of a third trunk, containing the body of Frances Coles, in February 1888, further heightened the public’s fear and paranoia. The trunk, found in a London railway station, was marked with “F. Coles,” confirming the victim’s identity. However, it became evident that the victims had been chosen strategically, with no apparent connection between them beyond their untimely demise.

The police faced a significant challenge. The lack of forensic technology available at the time, combined with the fragmented nature of the discoveries, hampered their investigation. Despite their efforts, no significant leads emerged, and the perpetrator remained elusive. The Brighton Trunk Murders became a chilling mystery, with the public increasingly fearful and the authorities struggling to find answers.

Suspects and Theories

The lack of a clear suspect led to a flurry of speculation and theories. Early suspicions centered on individuals who had connections to the victims. However, these leads proved inconclusive, leaving investigators with a frustrating lack of concrete evidence.

The public, gripped by fear and fascination, coined the term “Brighton Trunk Murderer” to describe the unknown perpetrator. This moniker solidified the image of a sinister, calculating individual who seemed to operate with impunity, disappearing without a trace after each gruesome act.

Theories about the killer’s motive ranged from personal vendettas to a possible connection to organized crime. Some speculated that the victims might have been involved in prostitution, making them vulnerable targets. However, the lack of a common thread linking the victims and the absence of a known motive presented a formidable obstacle to the investigation.

The Brighton Trunk Murders became a symbol of the anxieties of Victorian society. The era was marked by rapid social and economic change, with crime and violence increasingly prevalent. The unsolved nature of the case served as a stark reminder of the vulnerability of individuals in a society struggling with new challenges and fears.

The Investigation of Amelia Sach

As the investigation progressed, suspicion eventually focused on a woman named Amelia Sach. She had been known to frequent the same establishments as some of the victims and was believed to have been involved in prostitution. Sach’s financial troubles and potential association with organized crime added to the suspicion surrounding her.

Evidence linking Sach to the murders was circumstantial but compelling. Witnesses reported seeing her near the locations where the trunks were found, and inconsistencies in her alibi cast further doubt on her claims of innocence. The prosecution argued that Sach had a motive for killing the victims, potentially to silence them or for financial gain.

Sach’s trial in 1889 drew immense public attention. The prosecution presented their case based on the circumstantial evidence and the inconsistencies in Sach’s alibi. However, the defense argued that the prosecution’s case was built on flimsy evidence and hearsay, insufficient to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Ultimately, the jury found Sach not guilty.

The acquittal of Amelia Sach did not bring closure to the Brighton Trunk Murders. The public remained divided, with some accepting the jury’s verdict while others continued to believe in Sach’s guilt. The case continued to haunt the investigators and the public alike, with no clear answers about the identities of the perpetrator or their motives.

Lasting Impact and Legacy

The Brighton Trunk Murders remain a chilling testament to the power of mystery and the enduring fascination with unsolved crimes. The case highlighted the limitations of forensic science in the late 19th century, highlighting the need for advancements in investigative techniques. The murders also served as a stark reminder of the vulnerability of individuals in an era of rapid societal change.

In a modern context, the Brighton Trunk Murders continue to resonate with the public’s fascination with serial killers and true crime. The case serves as a reminder of the ongoing struggle to understand the motives of criminals and the complexities of human behavior.

The case has inspired numerous fictional accounts, adding to its enduring legacy. It has also prompted continued research and analysis by historians and criminologists, seeking to shed more light on the details of this enigmatic and disturbing chapter in history.


What happened to Amelia Sach?

Amelia Sach was acquitted of the Brighton Trunk Murders in 1889. She was released from custody and disappeared from public view. There is no definitive information about her fate after the trial. Some speculate that she may have changed her name and continued to live a life outside the scrutiny of the authorities, while others believe she may have ultimately faced a less fortunate end.

Were there any other suspects in the case?

While Amelia Sach was the primary suspect, other individuals were also investigated during the course of the investigation. However, no definitive evidence linked any other suspects to the murders, and none were ever charged.

What was the forensic technology like in the 19th century?

Forensic technology was limited in the 19th century. There were no DNA tests or sophisticated fingerprinting techniques available. The primary methods used for identifying victims and analyzing crime scenes included physical descriptions, witness testimonies, and basic fingerprint analysis.

How did the public react to the murders?

The Brighton Trunk Murders caused widespread fear and panic among the public. The discovery of the bodies in public places like railway stations made people feel vulnerable and uneasy. Newspaper accounts of the murders fueled public anxieties, adding to the sense of unease and fear.

How does this case compare to other unsolved murders of the Victorian era?

The Brighton Trunk Murders share similarities with other unsolved murders of the Victorian era, such as the Jack the Ripper case. Both cases involved multiple victims, a lack of a clear motive, and the elusiveness of the perpetrator. However, the Brighton Trunk Murders differed in the method of disposal, utilizing trunks as a means of concealing the bodies and transporting them across different locations.


The Brighton Trunk Murders remain a chilling mystery, a testament to the enduring fascination with unsolved crimes and the complexities of human nature. While the case remains unsolved, it continues to spark curiosity and debate, reminding us of the ongoing struggle to understand the darker aspects of our collective history. The victims’ stories, along with the chilling details of the crimes, serve as a stark reminder of the vulnerability of individuals and the enduring mystery of the human psyche.

Despite the lack of a definitive answer, the Brighton Trunk Murders continue to inspire discussion and investigation, prompting ongoing attempts to piece together the details of this tragic and perplexing case. As we delve into the history of this haunting chapter, we are left to ponder the enduring questions: who was the true perpetrator, and what motivated them to commit such unspeakable acts? The Brighton Trunk Murders, a chilling reminder of the capacity for darkness within humanity, continues to captivate and haunt us even today.