Another Odious Smell
Another Odious Smell.
The Murder of Violet Kaye
The Brighton Trunk Murders are the stuff of legend, two unrelated murders of two women whose remains were left in trunks in 1934. On 17 June a woman’s torso was found in a trunk at Brighton Station’s left-luggage office by a railman. The legs were found at King’s Cross the next day but the head and arms, however, were never recovered and the identities of the victim, a young pregnant woman, and her murderer were never discovered. Four weeks later, on 15 July, after a tip-off from the Daily Express the police discovered the complete corpse of 41-year-old prostitute Violet Saunders in a trunk at 52 Kemp Street. Although the first murder was almost certainly unrelated to the second, it did lead to the discovery of the second trunk murder.
Order of events
17 June 1934 Trunk containing arms and a torso found at Brighton Railway Station
18 June 1934 Trunk containing two limbs found at Kings Cross Railway Station
15 July 1934 Violet Kaye’s body found at Mancini’s lodgings 52 Kemp Street, Brighton
17 July 1934 Mancini charged with the murder of Violet Kaye
10 December 1934 Mancini’s trial begins at Lewes Assizes
14 December 1934 Mancini found not guilty
Born in 1908 Mancini was a violent, unpredictable, petty criminal and fairground boxer who in his early days worked as a heavy for the London Gangster ‘Harry Boy’ Sabini. In May he was working at the Skylark Café between the piers as a cook, waiter and handyman.
Violet Kaye (Saunders)
Violet Saunders, who preferred to be known as Violet Kaye, was a former music-hall dancer who by the age of 41 was a prostitute with alcohol and drug related problems. In spite of one failed marriage and fading looks she still managed a brisk trade.
In March Mancini and Violet were living as husband and wife at 44 Park Crescent, just off the Lewes Road in Brighton. He pretended to be a clothes presser whilst she brought her clients back to the flat. Possibly because of complaints from neighbours the couple were forced to move home on a regular basis, at least a dozen times in the past six months.
With Violet safely working from home Mancini was able to meet up with the shadier characters of the town’s criminal fraternity and of course the local women, which did not go down well with Violet who was 17 years his senior, worryingly insecure and increasingly turning to the bottle.Things came to a head on Thursday 10th May when Violet, somewhat the worse for drink, turned up at his place of employment. Mancini cooked her a meal, however it was no long before Violet, suspicious of the waitress Florence Attrell’s intentions towards Mancini, caused a scene and promptly walked out. Violet wasn’t seen again. Mancini told friends she had gone to Paris, sent her sister a telegram saying that she had taken a job abroad and even gave Florence some of her clothes and belongings before taking her out on a couple of dates. In reality Violet was dead, killed by a number of blows to the head and lying wrapped in bed clothes at the bottom of a cupboard in the flat.
Mancini realised that it was time to pack up Violet’s body and move house. He purchased a trunk for 7s 6d, dumped Violet’s decomposing body in, strapped it up, loaded it on a cart and paid a man called Caplin to help him push it up to number 52 Kemp Street by Brighton Station. He placed the trunk at the bottom of his bed, covered it with a cloth and used it as a coffee table. He lived with the putrifying corpse for two months in spite of the smell and the leaking body fluids.
Kaye’s absence had been noted by police and Mancini was questioned. Apparently panicked, he went on the run. Whilst investigating the earlier unsolved trunk murder, police searching premises close to the station were alerted by a tip-off from a painter and decorator working at the house that there were obnoxious smells emanating from the basement. Investigating further they stumbled on Violet’s remains. When the police later picked up Mancini, he told them that he had discovered her dead on their bed apparently killed by one of her clients and, panicking, hid the body in the trunk. His story began to unravel when police later discovered the charred remains of a hammer in his basement.
This nasty, violent murder of a local prostitute would probably never have captured the public’s imagination had it not occurred almost simultaneously with the discovery of the body parts found in trunks at Brighton and King’s Cross Stations. Maybe the trunk would not have been discovered so soon had the police had not been investigating these earlier crimes. However what really sealed Mancini’s place in criminal history and the minds of Brighton residents today is that he was, in the face of all the evidence against him, found not guilty!
Later, at his trial Mancini asserted Violet had died in a drunken fall. Of course she did! Fortunately for him, the greatest advocate in England, Norman Birkett, took up his case, and made an impassioned argument on his behalf. Mancini’s case was simple. He did not fetch the police when he found Kaye dead, he said, because ‘Where the police are concerned, a man who’s got convictions never gets a square deal.’ Mancini also said he bore no ill will against Violet. I did not kill her, he said. ‘Strange as it is, I used to love her’.
In 1976 Mancini admitted to the News of the World that he had murdered Violet. The headline read ‘I’ve Got Away With Murder’. He explained that during a blazing row with Kaye she had attacked him with the hammer he had used to break coal for their fire. He had wrestled the hammer from her, but when she had demanded it back, he had thrown it at her, hitting her on the left temple. A prosecution of Mancini for perjury was considered but rejected due to lack of corroboration. However, over the years in various interviews with journalists and in conversations with friends and relations he retracted his admission of guilt and changed his story a number of times.
Based on Trunk Murders by David Rowland
Historical consultant David Rowland
www.amazon.co.uk/ David – Rowland
The Brighton Trunk Murder – Part One
The Brighton Trunk Murder – Part Two
Inside the Black Museum Trunk Murders