THE POSTCARD MURDER: A Judges Tale by Paul Worsley QC | Blog Tour Extract | @midaspr

Published by Pilot Productions
Available in Ebook and Paperback (14 November 2019)
280 pages

ABOUT THE BOOK

It may be of some satisfaction to you, Gentlemen of the Jury, to know that you have been engaged in one of the most remarkable trials that is to be found in the annals of the Criminal Courts of England. Mr Justice Grantham, Judge at the Old Bailey.

This is a vintage whodunit set in Edwardian London at a crossroads in time, as social revolution and psychiatry posed new questions for the Law and for the first time the Media were co-opted to run a killer to ground.

The year is 1907: 22-year-old Emily Dimmock lies murdered in her Camden Town flat, her head all but severed from her body. With not a thread or stain or fingerprint to point to the perpetrator, a young artist is manoeuvred into the shadow of the scaffold.

The tale is told verbatim by witnesses presided over by the author, who draws on his own experience as a Judge at the Old Bailey to get inside the mind of the outspoken but irresolute Mr Justice Grantham. The result is as compelling today as it is definitive of the era in which the murder was committed.

The book is illustrated with two maps and 27 photographs, 10 of which are in full colour.


My thanks to Martina of Midas PR for the invitation to take part in the tour. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to fit in a review of this which is a shame as I love true crime and this looks particularly good however I will be buying a copy and reading at my leisure.

To give you a flavour of the book, I have a very tempting extract to share.


CHAPTER TWO

The Discovery

My clerk – John – sits on the Bench in Court with me and acts as my indispensable general factotum. He has for reasons best known to himself kept newspaper cuttings relating to every murder case I have tried. This case was no exception. He put together a whole scrapbook devoted to the articles, lurid and otherwise, relating to what became known as the Camden Town  Murder.  The  discovery  of  the victim was reported in the Daily Mail of Friday 13th September, 1907.

Among the news headlines that day appeared the usual society gossip – those mostly reassuring snippets which suggest that all is well with the world. It was reported that the Lusitania was travelling on its maiden voyage from Liverpool at near record-breaking speed towards New York; King Alphonso of Spain was recovering from an operation on his nose; the Czar’s Imperial yacht Standart had run aground on submerged rocks at Hango. But there – tucked away at the bottom of the page– appeared a much more sobering and intriguing report. It carried the heading:

Mysterious Crime:  Woman found murdered at Camden Town

‘A terrible tragedy was discovered yesterday morning at 29 St Paul’s Road in Camden, the victim being a young woman of about twenty-two years, named Mrs Shaw, who had lived at that address for a few months. Mrs Shaw, an attractive young woman, lived with her husband in two rooms. The latter is engaged on the Midland Railway, as a restaurant car attendant. On the previous evening he accompanied a train out from London to Sheffield, returning from that place yesterday morning. When he went away he left Mrs Shaw in the best of health and there was no indication that there was anything amiss. On his return yesterday morning Mr Shaw was surprised to find the door of the front room locked. He borrowed a key from the landlady who followed him through. In the parlour they saw all around them evidence of a rapid search through the drawers which had apparently all been hurriedly ransacked since their contents were strewn about the floor. Folding doors lead to the bedroom. In the lock of the door there was usually a key. But that too was missing. Frantic knocking failed to produce a response. Bert Shaw, now thoroughly alarmed, smashed the wooden panels in the bedroom door. To his surprise he found the place in a state of great confusion with blood in several places. He stepped into the room and saw that the bedclothes were huddled together in a heap. On the floor there was a pool of blood, which had trickled down towards the skirting boards. He rushed to the bed. He tore aside the  sheets and discovered the dead body of his wife, completely naked, lying face down. There was a gaping wound, which had been inflicted to the throat, the fatal thrust having almost decapitated the head off the trunk. The bed was soaked with blood. Although the venetian blinds were drawn, a few shutters had been half opened. Through the gaps filtered a gleam of sunshine. The shaft of light was directed to a sewing machine on top of which lay a postcard album partly open with some of its contents scattered on the floor. The presence of the album in the bedroom with some of the postcards torn out puzzled Bert Shaw. It was usually kept on a small table in the front room, being a treasure highly prized by his wife. He made a quick search of the bedroom and parlour and found a number of things had been taken. A gold watch, cigarette case in silver with his initials stamped on it, a silver curb chain with a small glass charm and a purse had all disappeared. Later it was discovered that the wedding ring and keeper belonging to his wife was also missing. Yet, on top of the chest of drawers were two gold rings. There was a washstand in the bedroom, which contained a water basin. On the back of a chair was a damp flannel petticoat, which had traces of blood. On the wooden rack of the washstand a white towel was folded, clean and dry. Remains of a meal, probably supper, still lay on the table in the parlour. There were four empty stout bottles and two plates, two knives and two forks and a few dishes, which suggested his wife had had a visit or to supper. Shaw called the doctor and the Police.’

Such was the dramatic revelation of the murder of Emily Dimmock, otherwise known as Mrs Shaw. It certainly caught the public imagination. There was much speculation about what sort of man could commit such a crime. After all, she was done to death in her own home for no reason that could be ascertained and where she appeared to have put up no struggle. Surely the murder must have been committed by someone that she knew, trusted and perhaps had even allowed into her bed.

At this stage there was no hint of the true facts that were about to be revealed to a voracious public.   Only when the police learnt that many men had been welcomed to her bedroom did the enormity of the investigation hit them. They had to widen their net to include all those who had associated with her in the days leading up to her death. That was going to be quite a challenge.

Notes:
St Paul’s Road is today named Agar Grove; it runs east of Royal College Street. Both are close to Camden Road railway station

A keeper ring is a close fitting ring of simple design worn to keep a more valuable ring securely fixed on the finger

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

His Honour Judge Paul Worsley QC retired in 2017 as a Senior Judge at the Old Bailey and lives in North Yorkshire. His career, which spans forty-five years in the Criminal Law, began in 1970 after reading Law at Oxford University. He first practised at the Bar from Chambers in Leeds, appearing in many murder cases, often characterised by the rural area in which the crimes took place. In his first such case, when he was still a Junior, he secured the release of a farmer’s son who shot dead both his parents: they had treated him as a slave and made him sleep in the dog kennel. Six years later, he appeared for Yvonne Sleightholme, who famously went blind after being arrested for shooting dead her ‘love rival’ in a remote Yorkshire farmyard.

In 1990 he was appointed a Queen’s Counsel, thereafter defending and prosecuting in many murders on the North Eastern Circuit and in London, and successfully prosecuted ‘Wearside Jack’ (John Samuel Humble), who derailed the Yorkshire Ripper Investigation after sending hoax letters to the investigating officer, claiming to be the Ripper. By the time he was brought to justice, his identity had remained a mystery for over twenty-four years.

Paul sat as a Recorder for many years before becoming a full time Judge, sitting at Middlesex Guildhall, now the site of the Supreme Court in London, and for ten years in Court No 1 at the Old Bailey, scene of The Postcard Murder trial.

Following his retirement, he has sat as a Judge in the Cayman Islands and came out of retirement briefly when invited to sit at York and Durham. ‘The Postcard Murder: A Judge’s Tale’ is his third book; the first two – ‘The Mango Monkey’ and ‘The Adventures of Cato the Cayman Cat’ – were written with his six grandchildren in mind.

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