Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Sweeney Todd

"Pie Filling"

"Oh, those delicious pies," wrote Prest (who probably sampled one or two in his time). "There was about them a flavour never surpassed and rarely equaled; the paste was of the most delicate construction, and impregnated with the aroma of delicious gravy that defied description."

Barbers in Sweeney Todd's day were more than just hair-cutters and shavers. Their trade extended into all sorts of medicinal acts, and a sick person was just as likely to seek treatment from a barber as from a doctor. All that anatomy training came in handy for Sweeney Todd, who having dumped a victim from his barber chair, would race down to the basement with just a dim oil lamp to guide him and proceed to process the victim for disposal.

First, Todd would strip the valuables from the body taking time to slit the victim's throat if necessary and then he would remove the deceased's clothing. Working quickly to avoid the problems associated with rigor mortis, Sweeney Todd would disjoint the limbs and sever them from the body, taking time to remove the skin, which was unusable for pies. Then, in the dank cavern, in just the flickering light of his oil lamps and candles, Todd would gut his poor victim like a hunter dresses a deer. All of the meat would be stripped from the bones, which he would pile off to the side, and the vital organs that would be ground up for pie fillings and the fresh meat would be boxed for delivery to Mrs. Lovett. The bones he would scatter amid the remains in the catacombs, where they were virtually indistinguishable from the bodies of persons who had died a more natural death.

No one believes that Mrs. Lovett was solely responsible for baking her renowned meat pies. A 1924 account states that she had a hired girl and a male pie maker who helped with the preparation. It was unlikely that either of them suspected where Mrs. Lovett's meat supply came from, and C.W. Biller, in that 1924 biography, asserts that anyone who began to suspect "they, too, became pie filling."


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