Although the Kemp Street trunk murder has already been documented on this website, if you will excuse the pun, “I’m going to add a bit more meat to the bone.” You can read about the first Brighton Trunk Murder here and how in 1831 the evil John Holloway murdered his wife Celia and buried her in a trunk on the slopes of Prestonville at Lovers Walk. Over 100 years were to pass, before in 1934 Brighton was to become the scene of two more trunk murders.
The First Discovery, 17th June 1934
The timing of two discoveries in 1934 differs from when the murders occurred, so which is considered the second and third trunk murder depend on your point of view. The discoveries happened in quick succession, the first when on the 17th of June an “offensive smell” was traced to a plywood trunk in the cloakroom at Brighton Station. The trunk was removed to the police station and when opened the torso of a woman was revealed, the missing head and limbs had been sawn off! Quick detective work followed, instructions were issued to cloakroom attendants throughout the country. The next day a suitcase was opened at King’s Cross Station, it contained a pair of legs, severed above the knees.
Words Ending in ‘Ford’
Home Office pathologist Sir Bernard Spilsbury (he had been knighted in 1923) was called to Brighton on the 19th June. The following day he examined the legs in London, they were found to match the Brighton torso. Spilsbury established that the woman had been in healthy condition and looked after her appearance. She was around 5 feet 3 inches in height and was between 4 to 5 months pregnant. Death had occurred around the 4th June, and dismemberment directly afterwards; which showed no signs of any surgical skills. The torso had been wrapped in brown paper and tied with six yards of Venetian blind cord. Blood had soaked through the paper half obliterating a word written in blue pencil that ended in ‘ford’. Spilsbury was also able to establish that she was around 25 years of age, and this was a significant factor when related to the 3rd Brighton trunk murder.
Significance of Olive Oil
The legs found at King’s Cross had also been wrapped in brown paper and newspaper saturated in olive oil, which was sometimes used by surgeons to stop profuse bleeding. From one piece of paper a wine glass full of oil was extracted; it was not considered likely that restaurants or cookshops would stock it in such quantities, at a time when everyone cooked in lard, and olive oil was almost unheard of!
Routine police work began with house to house enquiries in close proximity to Brighton Station. Number 52 Kemp Street just off Trafalgar Street, was one of the many addresses visited, however, both the owner and the tenant were away. Intending to return later, the police began looking at missing persons, and one who soon came to light was Violet Saunders.
Divorcée Violet Saunders was a “professional dancer” who had adopted the name Violette Kaye. She had been missing from her basement flat at 5 Park Crescent, which she shared with ex Soho bouncer Tony Mancini, since early May. Mancini was soon tracked down and was interrogated at Brighton Police Station on the 14th July. He was able to provide proof that Violette was at least 40, while the cloakroom remains were those of a woman of about 25, so he was soon released. Mancini must have breathed a huge sigh of relief as he left the station, knowing what he knew regarding number 52 Kemp Street.
The facts and photos for this article have been taken from the book, Bernard Spilsbury, His Life and Cases, by Douglas Browne and Eric Tullett. Part II to follow soon.