George Chapman


George Chapman

Birth name: Seweryn Antonowicz Kłosowski

Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Poisoner
Number of victims: 3
Date of murders: 1897 - 1902
Date of arrest: October 25, 1902
Date of birth: December 14, 1865
Victims profile: Mary Spink / Elizabeth Taylor / Maud Marsh (his mistresses)
Method of murder: Poisoning (antimony)
Location: London, England, United Kingdom
Status: Executed by hanging at Wandsworth Prison on April 7, 1903

George Chapman (December 14, 1865 - April 7, 1903) was the English name taken by serial killer Seweryn Antonowicz Kłosowski. He was originally from Poland but later relocated to England, where he committed his crimes. He was convicted and executed after poisoning three women, but is mainly known these days because some authorities suspected him of having been the notorious serial killer Jack the Ripper.

Early life

Born in 1865, in the village of Nargornak, occupied Poland, he trained as a surgeon from 1880 to 1887, then he moved to London sometime in 1887 where he eventually took the name George Chapman. Because he failed to fully qualify as a doctor, he started working at a barber's shop, eventually running his own hairdressers by 1889. Also that year, he married a fellow Pole, Lucy Baderski. Chapman already had a wife in Poland, and although she came to England to try to reclaim her husband, she gave up and returned home after Chapman and his new bride had a baby, who subsequently died in infancy. George and Lucy Chapman briefly lived in New Jersey, although they returned sometime in 1892.

Crimes and execution

Chapman took several mistresses, who often posed as his wife, three of whom he subsequently poisoned to death. They were Mary Spink (died December 25, 1897), Elizabeth Taylor (died 14 February 1901) and Maud Marsh (died 22 October 1902). He used a substance called antimony, which causes a painful death with symptoms similar to that of arsenic poisoning.

His motives for these murders are unclear. In one case he stood to inherit £500, but there was no inheritance from the other two. As he was never legally married to his "wives" he could have got rid of them without going to the trouble of murdering them.

Suspicions surrounding the death of Maud Marsh lead to a police investigation. It was found that she had been poisoned, as had the other two women whose bodies were subsequently exhumed.

Chapman was charged only with the murder of his final victim, Maud Marsh. He was convicted on March 20, 1903, and hanged at Wandsworth Prison on April 7 that same year.

Was he Jack the Ripper?

One of the detectives at Scotland Yard, Frederick Abberline, is reported to have told the policeman who arrested Chapman: "You've got Jack the Ripper at last!" Speculation in contemporary newspaper accounts and books has led to Chapman, like fellow killer Dr. Thomas Neill Cream, becoming one of many individuals cited as a possible suspect in the infamous Jack the Ripper murders of 1888. He was at one time Abberline's favored suspect. One recent writer, Philip Sugden, considers that Chapman is the most likely candidate among known Ripper suspects, but the case against him is far from proven.

The case against Chapman rests mainly on the point that he undoubtedly was a violent man with a misogynistic streak, capable of carrying out the apparently motiveless murders of women. Although he is known as a poisoner and not a mutilator, Chapman was known to beat his "wives" and was prone to other violent behavior; once during a fight with his actual wife, Lucy Klosowski, he forced her down on their bed and began to strangle her, only stopping to attend to a customer who walked into the adjoined shop he owned. When he left, she found a knife under the pillow, and he later told her that he had planned to kill her, even pointing out the spot where he would have buried her and reciting what he would have said to their neighbors.

In some other points he does fit the likely profile of the Ripper, e.g. he was living in Whitechapel at the time of the murders, and he probably did have some medical knowledge.

It is even suggested that he may have carried out a Ripper-style killing in New York City, the murder of Carrie Brown, but recent research suggests he did not reach the United States until after this case.

However, there is a lack of hard evidence against Chapman. Some criminologists have doubted his potential as a Ripper suspect on the basis of the known psychological motivations and behaviour of serial killers. Normally, serial killers select a single method of murder (e.g., stabbing, strangulation, poisoning) as well as associated rituals (e.g., torture, mutilation, and so forth). As such, it is generally considered unlikely that a serial killer would go from butchering and disembowelling victims to the less physical method of poisoning. Also, most scholars believe that Jack the Ripper selected victims who were previously unknown to him, while Chapman killed acquaintances.


The Complete History of Jack the Ripper by Philip Sugden, ISBN 0786702761

Chapman, George

Chapman, whose real name was Severin Klosowski, was 38-years-old and the son of a Polish carpenter. After moving to England, in 1888, he took up employment as a barber's assistant in the East End of London.

In 1889 he got married and moved to America but it didn't work out and he separated from his wife and moved back to London in 1895 where he lived with a married woman named Isabella Spink. He used her money to buy himself a pub in the City Road. Mrs Spink died in December 1897 after an illness with symptoms that included abdominal pains and vomiting.

In 1898 one of his barmaids, Bessie Taylor, became his mistress. Everything was fine but then three years later in February 1901 she developed similar symptoms to Mrs Spink and died. Soon another barmaid, Maud Marsh, was employed. She developed abdominal pains and vomiting and she died on 22 October 1902.

Her mother was highly suspicious and told the doctors that she thought poisoning might be involved. With this accusation the doctor had no other choice but to refuse to issue a death certificate and to order a post-mortem which when it was conducted revealed antimony poisoning. The bodies of the other two women were exhumed and examined. It was found that they, too, had died from antimony poisoning.

Chapman was tried at the Old Bailey and it took the jury only 11 minutes to find him guilty after it was shown that he had purchased tartar emetic from a local chemist. Although he seemed to think nothing about causing the death of other people he was far from calm when the death sentence was passed on him almost collapsing in court. When his final moment arrived he had to be partly carried to the gallows and held in place until the job was done. He was executed on 7 April 1903 by William Billington.

Klosowski, Severin Antoniovitch


AKA: George Chapman


DATE(S): 1897-1902

MO: Profit-motivated poisoner of common-law wives; suspect in 1888 "JACK THE RIPPER" case.

DISPOSITION: Hanged April 7, 1903.

George Chapman with wife Bessie Taylor

George Chapman with wife Maud Marsh