Writer’s first novel inspired by chilling story of Victorian serial child killer

PUBLISHED: 14:06 12 January 2018 | UPDATED: 14:06 12 January 2018

Eithne Cullen has written her debut book called The Ogress of Reading with help from Barking and Dagenham's Pen to Print scheme

Eithne Cullen has written her debut book called The Ogress of Reading with help from Barking and Dagenham's Pen to Print scheme


A South Woodford author inspired by the real life case of a serial child killer has released her debut novel.

Eithne Cullen’s story The Ogress of Reading is part fact, part fiction, and tells of the chilling case of Amelia Dyer, who admitted 400 murders of young children in the 1890s.

Despite the shocking nature of her crimes, Amelia Dyer is still relatively unheard of, something that Eithne, 60, is keen to change.

“Jack the Ripper killed five people, and everyone has heard 
of him. Dyer killed hundreds,” she said.

The horrifying tale centres on the then widespread practice of baby farming, where people were paid to adopt children born out of wedlock, a terrible shame in Victorian times.

However, Amelia did not 
raise the children as promised. Instead she started to drown them in a river.

A police investigation ensued, leading to Amelia admitting her crimes and being executed in Holloway prison, which is where Eithne, of High View Road, picked up on the story.

She said: “I was doing some research on dangerous women 
in Holloway prison when I 
came upon the story which fascinated me.”

Although the retired English teacher has always written 
poetry and taken part in creative writing classes, this is her first published book.

Her efforts were greatly helped by Barking and Dagenham Council, and in particular its Pen to Print scheme.

Run by the council’s library service, the scheme is aimed at anyone interested in poetry, short stories, play writing or novels.

Eithne was given a mentor to help with her work, and credits the scheme as being a big 
help to her efforts.

She is now writing her second book, about obsessive love, entitled Never Not in my Thoughts.

Her advice to anyone interested in writing is, if they have the time, to “go for it”.

Eithne will be launching her book at Barking Library on Thursday, January 18. Free tickets can be obtained from

The Ogress of Reading is published by New Generation Publishing and is available from Amazon, priced £6.99 in paperback or £4.99 for an ebook version.

Anyone interested in the Pen to Print project can find out more at

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