The Double Murder at Chislehurst – November 1880

For Chislehurst Chillers, with a pinch of salt by Richard Warren

Joseph Waller, aged 24, made a full confession.

He acknowledged that his victims had done him no harm, but had instead befriended him, and he had been employed by Mr. Ellis on several occasions.


He had been turned out of ‘The Five Bells’ where he had caused a disturbance, and then, after wandering around for a while, with a loaded revolver in his pocket, and resting some time in a pig-sty, he was tempted  by an uncontrollable impulse, to do some desperate deed.

He fired a shot behind the gamekeeper’s cottage (pictured as it is today, below), and then told him there were poachers about. Mr. Ellis got dressed, took his truncheon and lantern, and went out. They went about ¼ mile along a path through the woods, and then Waller shot him in the head, and finished the murder with the old man’s truncheon, although he pleaded with him. The truncheon was made like a flail, with a flexible end, and it broke in two.

Waller picked up the gamekeeper’s belt and lantern, and the handle part of the truncheon, and went back to the cottage. He told Mrs. Ellis to get up and dressed because her husband had been injured in a fight with poachers and needed her. He led her away through the woods in the opposite direction, and shot her and beat her to death with the broken truncheon.

The police were alerted by the farmer who had seen the defendant in his pig sty, and they went to his home to arrest him on a charge of trespass, but he told them about the murders, and they found the bodies in the wood. Mrs. Ellis’s fingers were broken, and her husband’s horribly smashed, for, though old, he was an active and determined man.

The police believed that Waller was a ‘ne’er-do-well’ and had planned the attack because Mr. Ellis hadn’t employed him that winter.

Waller had been a police constable for 2½ years, but was dismissed for disorderly conduct at the police station.

When he was brought to court, a huge crowd gathered and nearly lynched him. His mother, with great difficulty and danger, fought her way through the crowd to his side, refusing to leave him.

The funeral was well-attended; Earl Sydney and Mr. Berens, Mr. Ellis’s employer, were among the mourners. At the funeral, there was an eager demand for photos of the cottage and memorial cards which were being sold.