Serial killers. This phrase seems synonymous with the United States of America (USA). Two of the most notorious US-based serial killers include David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz, who became infamous in the 1970s in New York City for killing six people and wounding several others; and Ted Bundy, a law student who raped and murdered more than 35 women in six states and managed to escape from prison twice before being executed on January 24, 1989.
A serial killer, defined as “a type of killer who kills a number of people over a long period of time” is “generally male and motivated by a variety of psychological urges, primarily power” (USLegal.com) and are found worldwide. Why they do what they do is not a subject of this post and is way out of my expertise but what I do know is that Jamaica’s own history is haunted by the horrific acts of our own serial killers.
Yes, Jamaica’s past echoes with the acts of several individuals who have been deemed serial killers. Does the name Annie Palmer, the White Witch of Rose Hall, ring a bell? Of course it does! She was never really quiet about her crimes, now was she?
She will be the topic of another post; but, in keeping with the above definition of a serial killer, does the name Lewis Hutchinson sound familiar? I’m sure your history teacher never mentioned him, right?
Lewis Hutchinson, Jamaica’s Earliest Recorded Serial Killer
According to Frank Cundall (1915, pg. 295): “Amongst evil-doers mentioned in Jamaica history, Lewis Hutchinson of Edinburgh Castle holds a high place.” While many may not have heard of Hutchinson’s infamous crimes today, back then he was feared by the whole island. According to Clinton V. Black (1966, pg. 80) Hutchinson was the most feared and hated man of his day and, as stated by contemporaries, “the most detestable and abandoned villain that ever disgraced the human species.”
Not much is known about Hutchinson outside of his crimes but that he was born in Scotland in 1733 and was said to have studied medicine for some time. He came to Jamaica in the 1760s and acquired his property in the Pedro district of St. Ann, which he loftily named Edinburgh Castle.
Edinburgh Castle was in fact “a small, two-storied, square, stone building with two circular loop-holed towers placed at diagonally opposite corners. It had a door at one side of the front angle and another near the front tower on the east side” (Black 1966, pg. 78) and was located on a low hill near what used to be the main road from St. Ann’s Bay to the south-side of the island. The property was a cattle pen, but it seems he actually stocked the pen with stray cattle – stole the cattle! – from neighbouring pens. He owned several enslaved persons, who also did their master’s bidding in these criminal acts.
Two accounts survive of Hutchinson’s crimes: one penned by Rev. George Bridges in The Annals of Jamaica, Vol. 2 (1828) based on testimony from a former Hutchinson slave. The other was written by Annie E. Cork (Cundall 1915, pp. 296-299), the great-great-grand-daughter of Dr. Jonathan Hutton, one of Hutchinson’s neighbours and a survivor of one of his attacks.
The following is an excerpt from the latter account (Cundall 1915, pg. 296):
About the year 1768 there lived at Edinburgh Castle, in the Pedro district of St. Ann, Jamaica, a desperado called Lewis Hutchinson. He owned the property on which he lived, and was said to have been a man of some education but he was the terror of the neighbourhood, and it was not infrequent for a white man to disappear mysteriously, and it would then be said that Hutchinson had made a way with him by shooting him as he passed the ‘Castle,’ which was furnished with loopholes and overlooked the road. But these stories were hard to verify, and such was the unsettled and lawless state of the Island in those days that people preferred to leave Hutchinson alone, rather than attempt to have him arrested.
Travelers had no choice but to use the main road, directly passing Edinburgh Castle, in order to reach their final destinations. According to Rev. Bridges’ account (1828, pp. 162-163), many met untimely ends in their journeys. It seems Hutchinson killed for sport and, as stated in the definition above of a serial killer, seemed motivated by psychological urges and not money:
Yet no traveller who attempted that defile, however poor or wretched he might be, ever escaped the confines of their owner’s narrow territory. The needy wanderer would sometimes call for refreshment at the only habitation which for many miles had cheered his weary eye, but it was the last he was destined ever to behold. The wealthy passenger was alike the mark and victim of his unerring aim from a loop-hole under which he was compelled to pass. A thick-set hedge of logwood had also been so prepared by the road-side, at a short distance from the house, that while he could detain in conversation any one who might pass during the time that he was engaed in his cattle-fold hard by, his slaves from behind the fence could leisurely take aim at the devoted victim. …
To enjoy the gory spectacle, he first dissevered the ghastly head from the palpitating body: his most pleasing occupation was to whet his streaming knife; the gloomy temper of his soul was sated only by a copious flow of blood; and when he could no longer gaze upon the decaying countenance, he placed it high in the air, in the hollow trunk of a cotton tree, where vultures might complete the horrid deed. The mangled carcass was thrown down one of those deep and hollow drains which are peculiar to mountainous countries of volcanic origin, and whose mouths, descending perpendicularly, conduct the torrents which periodically fall to the level of the ocean.
This sinkhole became known as “Hutchinson’s Hole.”
Whatever drove his need to kill, he did what many other serial killers after him achieved: drove fear into the rest of the population. Not even Dr. Hutton’s report to the officials about Hutchinson’s attack on him, while on his way along the route to join his wife and daughter in Kingston, persuaded the officials to step in and apprehend Hutchinson.
It was not until his cold-blooded murder of John Callendar, a young English soldier who bravely volunteered to bring in Hutchinson, witnessed by several white persons, did the officials decide to act. There was an instant uproar from the rest of the country when it was found out Hutchinson had killed Callendar, and there was a great cry for Hutchinson’s head. The government had no choice but to authorise his immediate arrest.
Learning of the decision to arrest him, Hutchinson abandoned Edinburgh Castle and fled south to Old Harbour to escape by sea. The Royal Navy, however, was watching the island’s ports of entry and exit and, led by Admiral Rodney (his statue now stands in Spanish Town Square) Hutchinson’s get-away vessel was intercepted. Desperate to escape, Hutchinson made a last ditch attempt to escape by leaping overboard; but, according to Black (1966, pg. 85) ” in this too he was thwarted for, we are told, his flaming red hair betrayed his presence even when he dived and he was eventually rescued by men from the warship, taken into port and later sent on to Spanish Town for trial.”
Hutchinson pleaded not guilty to the charges laid against him; but the evidence was too overwhelming (Cundall 1915, pg. 298):
The castle was searched and forty-three watches were said to have been found there, besides quantities of clothing and many other articles, showing that Hutchinson had committed most, if not all, of the murders with which he was popularly credited. His unfortunate slaves, to whom, as may be supposed, he had been friendly, came now gladly and told all that they know about his proceedings, and shows what he used to do with the bodies of his victims, which had hitherto been a puzzle.
During the trial it was also found out that Hutchinson was not alone in these acts but had a group of like-minded individuals who participated and watched enthusiastically. One such of Hutchinson’s cronies, a planter named James Walker, was found guilty and condemned to death for the murder of William Lickley.
Hutchinson was eventually found guilty of the murder of John Callendar and hanged in Spanish Town on March 16, 1773. It is said that he left funds to inscribe the following epitaph on his tombstone:
Their sentence, pride and malice, I defy;
Despise their power, and, like a Roman, die.
This was never inscribed.
The ruins of Edinburgh Castle still remain today and is listed among the Jamaica National Heritage Trust’s (JNHT) historic sites of interest. However, it is said that people in the neighbouring community stay far from the place as the ghosts of his murdered victims roam the ruins, especially at night.
Until next time…
Black, Clinton V. (1966). Tales of Old Jamaica. Kingston: Carlong Publishers Caribbean Ltd.
Bridges, Rev. George Wilson (1828). The Annals of Jamaica, Vol. 2. London: John Murray, Albemarle-Street.
Cundall, Frank (1915). Historic Jamaica. Kingston: Institute of Jamaica.
JNHT (2011) Edinburgh Castle. [Online]. Available from: http://www.jnht.com/site_edinburgh_castle.php. [Accessed 14 August 2011].
Tortello, Dr. Rebecca. Lewis Hutchinson: The Mad Master. [Online]. Available from: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/pages/history/story0036.htm. [Accessed 14 August 2011].
USLegal.com (2011). Serial Killer Law and Definition. [Online]. Available from: http://definitions.uslegal.com/s/serial-killer/. [Accessed on 14 August 2011].
Wikipedia.com (2011). List of Serial Killers in the United States. [Online]. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_serial_killers_in_the_United_States#Unidentified_serial_killers. [Accessed 14 August 2011].