TRUE CRIME - A SAMPLE ENTRY
Louise Josephine Jemima Masset
The ladies waiting room was situated on platform three, and Miss Biggs stayed in there whilst her friend went into the lavatory at the far end of the same room. Inside the lavatory were two water closets and Mary Teahan tried to gain access to the first of these. Unfortunately, something was blocking her way.
The cubicle was very badly lit but in the darkness, Miss Teahan saw something that looked like a child's face. Such a thing, though, was surely not possible, so the shocked woman assumed that what she had seen was actually another lady, possibly in need of some assistance. Miss Teahan returned to the waiting room, joined Miss Biggs, and together the two ladies walked out on to the platform where they spotted Joseph John Standing, a porter, pushing a barrow. The ladies told him that they thought there was a lady in distress in one of the cubicles.
By the time Bundy arrived at the cubicle, Standing had collected a lamp to provide adequate light in the dark lavatory. To their horror, the men found the body of a small boy, naked except for a black shawl covering his midriff. The boy's head lay towards the passage, whilst his feet pointed towards the water closet. There was a good deal of blood on the child's face and near his head lay a broken clinker brick (a hard brick used as a paving stone). Bundy immediately called for the police and a doctor.
It was 6.55pm by the time Dr James Patrick Fennell made his examination. He confirmed that life was extinct and originally stated that the time of death was at least two hours before. After a subsequent post-mortem examination, he revised his opinion somewhat and said that the boy had died between 2.55pm and 5.55pm, though he thought that death was most likely to have occurred between two and three hours previously, that is between 3.55pm and 4.55pm.
This arrangement had continued until very recently. To begin with, Manfred's mother had visited him every fortnight, but once he was older, these visits had increased to once a week. Every Wednesday, Louise would call at the house and sometimes she would take her son out for a walk. Occasionally, Helen would accompany her and they often went to a nearby park at Tottenham Green.
On October 16th, 1899, a letter, dated two days earlier, and addressed to Mrs Norris, was received at Clyde Road. The letter came from Louise and explained that Manfred's father, who lived in France, had asked that his son be sent over to him to be educated. Louise had agreed to this request and, as a result, she wished to take custody of her son on Friday, October 27th.
On Wednesday, October 25th, Louise had made her usual visit to Clyde Road and final arrangements for the hand-over were completed. Helen Gentle agreed to meet Louise outside the Birdcage public house on Stamford Hill at 12.45pm on the Friday. She did indeed keep this appointment and the last time Helen had seen Manfred alive was when he boarded an omnibus, with his mother, and set off for London Bridge railway station where they would catch the train for Newhaven and then the ferry on to France.
In fact, it was during the early hours of Tuesday, October 31st that the police saw a man arrive at 29 Bethune Road. He went inside the house, only to come out shortly afterwards with Mr Cadisch. The officers decided to follow the two men, a journey that took them to Streatham Road, Croydon.
It transpired that Mr Cadisch's visitor had been George Richard Symes, a gentleman married to another of Louise's sisters, and the two men had returned to Mr Symes' house together. Once the police officers knocked on his front door they found Louise, in a very distressed state, talking to her two brothers-in-law.
According to George Symes, Louise had arrived there at around 11.00pm. She told him that she had seen a newspaper report stating that the child's body found at Dalston had been identified as that of Manfred and adding that his mother was noe being sought in connection with his death. Louise denied any involvement whatsoever in Manfred's death, claiming that someone else had killed him. Now, for the first time, she told her version of what had happened to her son.
Louise confessed that the story of the trip to France was false. She had spent that weekend in Brighton with her lover, Eudor Lucas, but on the Friday had handed Manfred over to two ladies who said they were starting a private school in Chelsea. She went on to make a full statement outlining her version of events.
Louise's statement began by referring to an incident that had taken place on Wednesday, October 4th, when she had visited Clyde Road as usual. As was her habit, she had taken Manfred to Tottenham Green where he fell into play with a little girl she knew only as Millie. Nearby, two women sat on a bench and one of them introduced herself as the mother of Millie. The conversation naturally turned to the children and the women, the elder of whom said that their name was Browning, mentioned that they were thinking of starting a small private school. Louise confessed that she was not entirely satisfied with the education Manfdred's nurse was providing. In reply, Mrs Browning mentioned that a place might be found for Manfred at a fee of £12 per year for his board and lodgings and a further ten shillings a month for his education.
The following Wednesday, October 11th, Louise again took Manfred to the park and again met up with the Brownings. Further discussions on the new school took place, and finally Louise agreed to place Manfred in their charge. Arrangements were made to meet at London Bridge railway station at 2.00pm on October 27th, when she would hand over Manfred and £12 in cash.
Louise now had a problem. She had no wish to hurt Helen Gentle's feelings and so concocted the story of sending Manfred to his father in France. However, since she would have to spend some time away from home, in order to support this story, she would take the opportunity to travel down to Brighton and enjoy a short break.
The police listened patiently to this story but still felt that they had enough evidence to hold Louise on a charge of murder. She again vehemently denied playing any part in Manfred's death.
The trial of Louise Masset opened at the Old Bailey, before Mister Justice Bruce, on December 13th, 1899. The case for the prosecution rested in the hands of Mr Charles Matthews and Mr Richard D Muir, whilst Lord Coleridge and Mr Arthur Hutton defended. The proceedings lasted until December 18th and, at first glance, the evidence against Louise seems overwhelming.
To begin with, it could easily be shown that Louise and Manfred had travelled to London Bridge station, as she had indicated. Helen Gentle had seen her board the horse-drawn omnibus outside the Birdcage public house. Thomas Bonner had been the conductor on that bus and he told the court that according to his records, his vehicle had left Stamford Hill at 12.48pm. He remembered a woman and child sitting together and saw them get off at London Bridge at approximately 1.35pm. Bonner had been unable to positively identify Louise but had been shown a picture of the dead boy and swore that it was the same child.
The next sighting of a mother and child had been made by Georgina Worley, an attendant in the waiting-room on the South London line at London Bridge. She put the time at 1.42pm, and said that the couple remained in the waiting room until around 2.30pm. Georgina had spoken to the woman, who explained that she was waiting for someone to arrive at the station. She was unable to state with certainty that the woman was the prisoner, but she believed that to be the case.
There were in fact two ladies waiting-rooms at London Bridge station and the attendant on duty in the other one, the first-class waiting room, was Ellen Rees. She had only come on duty at 2.30pm, on the 27th, and said that shortly afterwards, at about 2.40pm, a woman and child had come into her room. Ellen Rees particularly remembered the child because he was crying. She asked the woman what was the matter with him and was told that he was missing his nurse. Ellen then asked how old the boy was and the woman said that he would be four next April. Finally, the woman said that she would go and buy him a cake and the two walked off in the direction of the refreshment room. It was then about 3.00pm.
So far, little damage had been done to Louise's story. She agreed that she had travelled to London Bridge and had first gone into Miss Worley's waiting room, where she said she had arranged to meet Mrs Browning at 2.00pm. When the two ladies had still not appeared by 2.30pm, Louise recalled the other waiting room and thought that they might have been waiting in the wrong one all this time. She had spoken to the attendant in that second room and had left there around 3.00pm. It was fifty-five minutes later that the ladies finally appeared, apologised for being so late, and took charge of Manfred. Louise was then just in time to catch the 4.07pm train to Brighton.
The first real problem came with the remainder of Ellen Rees' evidence. She went on to say that she had seen Louise again, at 6.50pm, and this time she was alone. By then, Louise was in a lavatory and asked Ellen for a towel so that she could have a wash. Later she asked her what time the next train to Brighton was and Ellen told her that it was due to leave at 7.20pm, advising her that she should hurry if she wished to catch it. In fact, the train was actually due at 7.22pm, and actually left a couple of minutes late. Ellen Rees last saw Louise at 7.18pm, as she left the waiting room to catch the Brighton train. Since then she had attended an identification parade and picked out the prisoner from a number of other women.
There were other indications that Louise had arrived in Brighton long after she had claimed. Alice Rial was a chambermaid at Findlay's Hotel, situated at 36 Queen's Road, Brighton. She testified that it was 9.45pm, when Louise checked in, giving her name as Miss Brooks and reserving a second room for her brother who was to arrive the following day. Louise was also seen by the hotel's proprietor, John Findlay, who confirmed that it was quarter to ten when she arrived. The next day, Mr Brooks, who was of course Eudor Lucas, arrived and occupied the room next door. The two guests paid their respective bills on the Sunday but a couple of days later, whilst cleaning out the rooms, Alice Rial found a pair of toy scales. These were identified by Helen Gentle as a pair she had purchased for Manfred and handed over to Louise on October 27th. Further damning evidence had come from Brighton. Eudor Lucas had arrived at Brighton, by train, at 2.30pm on Saturday, October 28th. Louise had met him there at that time. Just ten minutes later, Annie Skeats, an attendant in the ladies waiting room at Brighton, had found a brown paper parcel. She took the parcel to the cloakroom but when it was not claimed, it was forwarded to London Bridge station where it was opened. The parcel contained a child's jacket and frock and though some of the trimmings had been removed, Helen Gentle was able to identify the items as those Manfred had been wearing when she handed him over to his mother. Furthermore, it could be proved that the wrapping paper used on the parcel had been given to Louise by Miss Gentle on the 27th, as the brown paper was torn and matched exactly a tear in another piece still at Miss Gentle's home.
When Manfred's body had been found he was naked except for a black shawl thrown over him. Evidence was now called which seemed to link that shawl directly to Louise.
Maud Clifford was a sales assistant at McIlroy's draper's shop at 161 High Street, Stoke Newington. She testified that on October 24th she had sold a black shawl to a lady fitting the prisoner's description. The shawls had only been in stock for about a week and Maud recalled the customer insisting that the shawl had to be black. Maud had also attended an identification parade and picked out Louise but said that she could not swear absolutely that this was the woman.
Ernest Hopkins Mooney was the manager of that same draper's shop and he said that on October 16th he had purchased fifteen woollen shawls from his supplier. Only three of those had been black and only one of those black shawls had been sold. He produced the two remaining shawls in court and agreed that they matched exactly the one found on Manfred's body.
The prosecution suggested that the motive for Manfred's murder was that he was an encumbrance to the continuing relationship between Louise and her lover, Eudor Lucas. Eudor told the court that he now lived at 23 Mildmay Grove, Stoke Newington, but had, until recently, lived next door to Louise at 31 Bethune Road. Eudor was French, and since Louise was half-French it was perhaps natural that they should get on well, despite the fact that she was thirty-six and he had only turned nineteen in November.
Continuing his evidence, Eudor said that he had first met Louise in September, 1898, but they had only been walking out together for the past three or four months. At Whitsuntide in 1899, he and two friends had gone, with Louise, to Brighton for a weekend break. On that occasion they had also stayed at Findlay's, but nothing improper had taken place between them.
The friendship had continued to develop, and about two or three months after this, Louise had told him about Manfred. Eudor had thanked her for her candour and told her that it made no difference to their relationship, but he asked her not to mention the child again. He was certainly not distressed by the knowledge that she had given birth to an illegitimate son and they continued to grow ever closer. They had not, though, at any stage, discussed marriage.
On either Tuesday, October 24th, or possibly the next day, Eudor and Louise had met at Liverpool Street station and she had told him that she intended to go down to Brighton on the following Friday. He said that he would like to go with her but would be unable to get down to the coast until the Saturday. He went on to tell her that he would catch the train that arrived at 2.00pm,m and she informed him that she would be catching one at around 4.30pm on the 27th. They agreed to book in as brother and sister, under a false name, and he next saw her at Brighton station on the Saturday afternoon.
Eudor confessed that he and Louise had first had sex that same evening, in Brighton, and although they had booked separate rooms, they had actually only used one. They travelled back to London together on the Sunday, arriving home at Bethune Road at a few minutes before 9.00pm. Throughout the entire time they were together Louise was in her usual spirits and gave no indication that there was anything wrong.
Another suggestion made by the prosecution was that Manfred may have been a financial concern and that Louise may have killed him in order to save Helen Gentle's fees. This motive was largely negated by the evidence of Louise's sister, Leonie Cadisch.
Mrs Cadisch confirmed that Louise had lived with her since August 1898. She knew about Manfred of course, and the arrangements made with Miss Gentle for his care and upbringing.
In fact, Leonie had issued a guarantee to Miss Gentle that she would pay the thirty-seven shillings if Louise should ever default. However, Leonie had never been called upon to make the payments for her sister. Furthermore, Louise lived at number 29 without any charge, and all the money she earned from her private pupils was for her own use. Leonie also believed that Manfred's father supported the boy financially, though Louise had never actually revealed who he was. In short, Louise had no financial concerns.
Turning to the story of Manfred being sent to France, Louise had first mentioned this on October 18th, but had only filled in the details a week later, on October 25th. Leonie agreed that Louise had arrived home at around 9.00pm on the Sunday and that she had been as calm and collected as usual. Leonie said that she had never seen the black shawl before and though she was not an expert, did not even think it was a new one. As for the clinker brick found near Manfred's body, it was true that there were similar bricks in her garden, but there were similar bricks in many gardens in the area. Added to that, no bricks were missing from her garden, except for some taken away by the police during their investigation.
Louise entered the witness box to give evidence on her own behalf. She repeated her story about handing Manfred over to a woman she knew as Mrs Browning, at London Bridge, and added that her original plan had been to travel with the boy to see the school and see that he was settled in. Once the ladies turned up, Louise pointed out that she now only had minutes in which to catch her train, and so would not now be able to go with them to Chelsea. She handed over her son, the parcel of clothing, and £12 in gold and asked for a receipt. One of the women said she would go and get some paper and ink from the refreshment room, but they had not returned by the time her train was due to leave. Louise was not unduly concerned, though. They seemed to be eminently respectable ladies, and she did have their address at 45 Kings Road, Chelsea. Unfortunately, police investigations had since shown that this address was occupied by a respectable dairyman, Henry Willis, who had never heard of either Louise or the Brownings.
Louise maintained that she had caught the 4.07pm train to Brighton, arriving there at about 6.55pm. Leaving her Gladstone bag at the left luggage office she had gone for a walk down to the sea front. She had thought about taking a walk along the pier but it was a rather damp day, so instead she went to Mutton's, a restaurant on Kings Road, where she had something to eat before walking down to the shops in West Brighton. Later she returned to the station to collect her bag before checking into the hotel. She was certainly not in London as late as 7.18pm, when Ellen Rees claimed she had seen her.
Medical testimony was given by Dr Fennell and Dr Thomas Bond. They agreed that the cause of death was suffocation. It appeared that the clinker brick had been used to stun the child before a hand had been placed over his mouth until he stopped breathing. Dr Bond added that in his opinion, the most probable time of death was some two hours before discovery, placing it at around 4.30pm.
In the event, the jury took just thirty minutes to decide that Louise was guilty as charged. Louise again said that she was innocent, but Mr Justice Bruce then donned the black cap and sentenced her to death.
Was Louise Masset guilty of the murder of her son? Before we go into that in detail, let us first see if all the evidence is as strong as it first seems.
The most damning witness was undoubtedly Ellen Rees, who claimed that she had seen Louise as late as 7.18pm on October 27th. Mrs Rees had picked Louise out at an identification parade, and wore glasses to make her identification. She admitted that she had not been wearing those glasses at work on October 27th, but added that she only needed them for reading. When then did she wear them at the identification parade? She wwasn't reading anything there. Furthermore, Mrs Rees had seen a photograph of Louise in her local newspaper, even before she came forward to talk to the police. She also admitted that as many as 200 women passed through her waiting room on an average day, many of them with children. There was also the suggestion that Inspector Forth may have assisted Ellen Rees by standing close to Louise in the line up. He denied any such impropriety, but all this does, at the very least, reduce the efficacy of Mrs Rees' testimony.
Maud Clifford and Ernest Mooney, the witnesses who had identified the shawl, gave conflicting evidence. At one stage Mr Mooney said that he had never seen such a pattern before, but he then went on to say that such a shawl could be purchased just about anywhere.
Then there is the possibility that Louise had been telling the truth all along. There is agreement that Louise was certainly at London Bridge, with Manfred, until around 3.00pm.
Louise herself said that this was the case, and that testimony is confirmed by Thomas Bonner the bus conductor, and Georgina Worley and Ellen Rees.
It had taken Louise forty-seven minutes to get to London Bridge from the Birdcage public house. We know that she was certainly at the station until around 3.00pm. Assuming that she had then travelled straight back to Dalston, catching another omnibus, she could not have arrived there until about 3.47pm at the very earliest. This, of course, fits in with the medical evidence, but we then have to allow for a return back to London Bridge. Louise could not have arrived back there until around 4.45pm at the very earliest. Therefore, if she caught the 4.07 train to Brighton, as she claimed, she must have been innocent.
It was whilst the trial was actually taking place that a new potential witness came forward. Henry James Streeter was a waiter at Mutton's restaurant situated at 81-84 Kings Road, Brighton, and he had been working on Friday, October 27th. He particularly remembered the day as the weather had been very poor. As a result, business was bad and he had only served two customers all day. One was a man but the other was a woman dressed in black. The woman came in at 6.00pm and stayed for forty-five minutes. He and Mr Mutton, the proprietor, both believed that they could positively identify the woman if they saw her again. Of course, if this woman were Louise, than it would prove that she was in Brighton long before 7.18pm.
Mr Streeter and Mr Mutton took their evidence to a solicitor, who contacted Louise's defence team. They did not see fit to call either man at the trial. Only later, after Louise had been sentenced to death, were any real efforts made to test this potential evidence. Louise was simply asked what she had eaten in the restaurant. She couldn't remember and made two statements, giving slightly different versions. In the first, she said she had had two slices of hot meat with gravy and vegetables, bread and butter, and either ale or beer, costing a total of two shillings and sixpence. In the second she omitted the bread and butter and said that she believed it only cost one shilling and ninepence. Neither agreed with the books at the restaurant, which indicated that the woman who had dined there had eaten bread and butter and enjoyed a pot of tea. As a result, the testimony was dismissed as irrelevant and neither potential witness was allowed to see Louise.
There were other potential witnesses who were never called by the defence. David Taylor lived in Holywell Lane, London, but on October 27th, he was on a bus at the corner of Bishopsgate Street and Cornhill at around 3.45pm. He saw two women with a child and noted that the child seemed to be very fidgety and petulant.
More importantly, John Hughes-Ellis was on a bus which stopped at London Bridge station between 3.15pm and 3.30pm on the 27th. He saw two women with a child that seemed unwilling to be with them. The younger woman picked up the child and sat opposite to Mr Hughes-Ellis. The times of these two sightings do not, of course, agree with those given by Louise herself, since she said she did not hand Manfred over until just before 4.00pm. However, Mr Taylor admitted that he may have misjudged the time.
There was other evidence too, which was never passed on to the defence. At the end of 1899, a letter addressed to Louise was delivered to Newgate prison. Dated December 26th it read; "The women of Chelsea must keep out of sight but they are not anxious to hang you. If the porter (a porter) at Dalston Junction would speak he could tell who he saw at 4.45 there. Anyhow, put this in your lawyer's hands - it may save you." The letter was never passed on by the authorities.
Of course, all of this may be totally valueless. The letter was most likely a hoax but there are only two alternatives. Either Louise was guilty, or she was innocent. Which of the two is the more likely scenario?
The only possible motive for Louise to kill her son was that Manfred was a burden either financially or to her ongoing relationship with Eudor Lucas. There was no evidence whatsoever that Louise was in trouble financially, and Eudor swore that they had never spoken of marriage. Louise, then, had no real motive for the murder.
Putting this to one side, if Louise were guilty, then she travelled all the way into central London so that she could be seen by witnesses at London Bridge station. She then travelled back to Dalston Junction, apparently without being seen by any other bus conductor or passenger, killed her son in the lavatory, stripped him naked and threw her new shawl over the body, even though it might be linked directly to her. She then went back to London Bridge, again without being seen by any bus conductor, railway employee or passenger, and allowed herself to be seen again by Ellen Rees. She then caught a later train to Brighton and tried to manufacture an alibi by saying she had arrived earlier and eaten at Mutton's. This same, cool killer then left some of Manfred's clothing in the ladies waiting room at Brighton station, thus linking herself directly to the crime.
The alternative is that Louise was innocent and was therefore telling the truth. The child was collected, just before 4.00pm, taken to Dalston, and murdered by the Brownings. The clothing was taken from the body and parcelled up with the other clothing that Louise had handed over to them; a parcel given to her by Helen Gentle. The following day, one or both of the killers took a trip to Brighton and dumped the parcel in the waiting room at the station. After all, Louise had told the Brownings that she was travelling to Brighton and children were being murdered for much less than £12 in gold. As for Louise not recalling what she had eaten at Mutton's, it must be remembered that she did not know she would need an alibi and she was being asked to recall something she had eaten some two months before.
It has been said that Louise confessed her guilt before her execution. Even here there is further doubt. Some reports state that just before the trap was sprung at Newgate she said; "What I am about to suffer is just, and now my conscience is clear." Other sources say that the supposed confession took place the night before her execution and consisted of just the words, "What I suffer is just."
If the words were uttered, in any form, they could just as easily have been those of a mother expressing her guilt at handing her beloved Manfred over to his real killers. What is not in doubt is that Louise was hanged at Newgate prison on January 9th, 1900, by James Billington and William Warbrick.