Suspicious deaths and abortions in London, 1933–53
in Murder Capital
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Chapter Four argues that the Metropolitan Police investigations of deaths as a result of abortions reveal a network of secrets operating in the capital, characterized by covert referrals, hidden letters, clandestine visits and private rooms in which the operations took place. Coroners’ reports, police files, newspaper articles and criminal depositions reveal glimpses of the lives of women seeking abortions, of the motivations of abortionists and how the two found each other through complex networks of referrals that spread across the United Kingdom. Police files provide a compelling geography of criminal abortion focused on the districts of London north of the river, and taking place in borrowed flats, rented rooms, hotels and in doctor’s surgeries. Suspicious deaths as a result of illegal abortions rose significantly during the Second World War, reflecting men’s wartime absences, women’s need to work, an increase in extramarital affairs and the difficulties of raising children under wartime privations.

Murder Capital

Suspicious deaths in London, 1933–53

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