This Day In History: The Boston Belfry Murderer Kills For The First Time (1864)

In the 1870s a serial murderer was on the loose in Boston MA.  Long before the Boston Strangler, there was the Boston Belfry murderer. We often think that serial killers are a modern phenomenon but in fact, this is not the case. On this day, Bridget Landregan was found beaten and stabbed to death in Dorchester, a wealthy suburb of Boston. The killer was according to some witnesses was seen with the dead girl and he was apparently attempting to sexually assault the body. The crime shocked Boston and received widespread media attention.  The witnesses could not tell the police much about the killer other than he was dressed in black. Bridget was to be the first victim of the killer who was to become known as the Belfry Murderer. There was another vicious attack on another young girl. The killer clubbed a young girl by the name of Mary Sullivan to death in 1874.   Later there was to be a second victim of the killer, when on the same night as the Sullivan murder, another girl, Mary Tynan was killed. She was later able to provide some details about her attacker, but she died later of her injuries.   It appears that he was wearing distinctive opera-style clothing and dressed in a black cape.  Soon suspicion fell on Thomas Piper who was the sexton a local Baptist Church and a well-liked figure in the community. He was seen as a very respectable man and no one suspected him of any crime. He was known for his penchant for wearing dark capes especially.

Boston in the 1870s

There was to be one other murder, that of  five-year-old Mable Jones. Piper was seen in the company of the girl and he was seen taking her to his local church and into the Belfry. He murdered the girl after he sexually assaulted her and afterward he smashed her skull in. The police found the girl’s body and they had no doubt that Pipper was the killer. He became known as The Boston Belfry Murderer,”  after the location of his last murder. Mabel Jones was found in the Belfry of the Church where Piper worked. After his arrest, he confessed to four killings and he was tried and convicted of the crimes. Piper was sentenced to die for his terrible crimes. He made a confession under interrogation but he later retracted his confession. He was sentenced to die but once again admitted the crimes on the day he was executed.   Pipper was hanged in 1876 in Boston.