THE CASE OF HARRY DOBKIN AND THE BODY IN A CHAPEL

By Tim Lambert

Harry Dobkin murdered his wife in 1941. In 1920 Harry married a woman named named Rachel Dubinski. Since they were both Jewish the marriage was arranged in a traditional way by a marriage broker. However the marriage was disastrous. The pair soon separated but Rachel was pregnant and she had a son. In 1923 Rachel obtained a maintenance order against Harry. Although they were separated he was supposed to pay her money each week. However Harry Dobkin had difficulty making the payments. Rachel kept badgering him for money and they had many rows. Then in 1941 Harry got a job as a fire warden (it was a time when the Germans were bombing London and other British cities). On 11 April 1941 Harry Dobkin met Rachel at a cafe in London. They left in the evening and Rachel disappeared. Her sister reported her missing. Harry Dobkin was interviewed but claimed he had parted from his wife on the evening of 11 April and had not seen her since. At that time the Germans were bombing London and many people disappeared in explosions so it looked like Rachel Dobkin might have been one of them.

However on 17 July 1941 workmen were demolishing Vauxhall Baptist Chapel in Vauxhall Road, Kennington, London. In the cellar one of them lifted a heavy stone slab. Under it was a human body. The head had been severed but was still present but the arms were missing from the elbows and the legs from the knees. There were still pieces of flesh attached to the body. A pathologist examined the body and estimated she had been dead between a year and 18 months. But the chapel had been bombed almost 2 years before so obviously she was not the victim of German bombing. The woman was aged between 40 and 50. He estimated she was about 5 feet and one inch tall. The thyroid cartilage in the woman's throat was broken indicating she had been strangled. (There was a blood clot showing it was broken before she died). The victim matched the description of Rachel Dobkin who vanished in April 1941. The lower jaw had been removed but the upper jaw was intact. The police were able to identify the victim by her dental records. The police were also able to superimpose a photo of Rachel Dobkin onto the victim's skull showing it was her.

Harry Dobkin had obviously murdered his wife and buried her in the cellar under a Baptist Chapel. He was tried and found guilty of murder in November 1942. Harry Dobkin was hanged in Wandsworth prison on 7 January 1943.

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