September 28th marks the anniversary of the death of Dr George Billing.
Dr Billing was a registered medical practitioner at 121 Church Street, Blackpool, personal physician to the Mayors of Blackpool and the towns pathologist.
George was born in Manchester and his father, John was a surgeon. He went to Liverpool to become a medical student and by 1876 he’s a surgeon’s assistant living in Lord Street, Southport. In the 1901 census he states he is a physician and surgeon.
His name might have been lost in history if it wasn’t for his involvement with the infamous ‘Brides in the Bath’ murders’, for Doctor Billing examined Mrs Alice Smith (née Alice Burnham) not once but twice, both in life and posthumously!
At the insistence of her nefarious husband Alice was taken for a consultation with the good doctor, where Billing noted “She was a short, pale woman and extremely fat. I examined her tongue which was rather foul, dirty and coated, I believe she was suffering from nothing more than constipation.”
Their next meeting was at the Smiths Regent Road lodgings, where Dr Billing had the unenviable job of freeing the body of Alice from the confines of the tub she had been drowned in.
The next day, after a thorough post-mortem examination, he ruled her demise as an unfortunate misadventure and it was recorded as accidental death due to drowning.
In a strange twist of fate Alice & Dr Billing are buried just yards apart in Layton Cemetery.
There are a few of us graveyard detectives who have our own suspicions about the post mortem on Alice Burnham carried out by Billing, particularly his decision that her death was the result of a “tragic accident”. The substantial amount of money Smith stood to gain and the two life insurances he had taken out on Alice should she pre-decease him ought to have raised at least some concern! Smith’s exoneration also meant he was able to continue with his villainous ways and subsequently go on to murder his third victim Margaret Lofty.
Billing was also called to the aid of at least one other Layton Cemetery resident, Edward Dewhurst. In 1906, 37 year old Edward worked at the Willow Pattern Shooting Gallery, by Blackpool’s Big Wheel.
After a customer (James Johnson) took an interest in a particular rifle, Edward invited him to examine it further as it ‘was not loaded’ before proceeding to fix the range’s targets. Unbeknownst to Edward a single bullet had become trapped in the firearm, which went off, the bullet striking him in the neck. Dr Billing attended the tragedy but was unable to save Mr Dewhurst who died at the scene.
After his death George left £17044 3s 8d.
His last address was listed as 25 Park Rd. Blackpool.