Unsolved Murders

Archibald Wakeley

Age: 33

Sex: male

Date: 24 May 1906

Place: 76a Monmouth Road, Westbourne Grove, Bayswater, London

Archibald Wakeley was found dead in the lavatory at his artist’s studio.

He had been beaten over the head and died from several skull fractures which were stated could not have been self-inflicted. The police said that from the blood marks that they thought that he had been hit when he was standing in the WC facing the seat.

The murder weapon was not initially found, but it was thought to have been a hammer that it was later found hidden behind a bookshelf at the studio.

He was found by the caretaker at 8am dressed in his pyjamas and his body had been covered with a counterpane that had been taken from the studio upstairs.

Archibald Wakeley had dined out earlier on on the evening of his murder with his sister after which he had returned to his studio around 11pm.

When the doctor was called, he said that he thought that Archibald Wakeley had been murdered at least five hours before he saw him. He said that there were a great number of wounds on his forehead and some very serious wounds to the back of his head, and that nearly every wound had caused a skull fracture. the doctor said that great force must have been used and that his assailant must have been in a condition of absolute frenzy. He said that he thought Archibald Wakeley had died after the first blow and that twenty of his wounds had been caused after his death.

It was noted that the position of Archibald Wakeley's body was peculiar inasmuch as it was lying absolutely prone on the back, whilst some of the more serious wounds were on the back of his head. It was said that the wounds to the back of Archibald Wakeley's head could not have been inflicted whilst his body was in the prone position and that it was thought that in all probability  that the first blow had been struck to the back of his head after which he had fallen with his shoulders against the wall. It was said then that when his death ensued his head would have fallen forward and that the other blows would have been inflicted whilst he was in that position. It was also thought probably that his legs were pulled and that his body was then brought down to the floor.

It was noted that immediately at the back of his head, the wall was much spattered with blood.

It was also noted that Archibald Wakeley had some peculiar marks on his left thigh, a series of minute punctures forming little curved lines about an inch in length with the distance between each puncture being about an eighth of an inch, being regular in form, such as a dot, dot, dot. The doctor said that they were little cuts that could have been produced by something like a needle. When the coroner asked the doctor whether he knew of an instrument that might have caused them, he said that he did, but that he thought that it would be better not to disclose that fact at that time, but left that decision to the coroner. He noted that they were not serious cuts, but that they were most significant.

The doctor said that he thought that  Archibald Wakeley might have been reading in bed at the time, or on the bed as the light was still burning in his room and there was a book beside the bed, and that he might have heard something and gone out to investigate. He said that in all events, that Archibald Wakeley met his death where he was found as it was the only place where haemorrhage had occurred and there was no evidence of a struggle in the vicinity.

The studio measured 20 feet by 30 feet and had a bed in one corner and a suit of pyjamas on the bed although the bedclothes were missing. It was noted that a halfpenny was all the money that was found in the studio although there were some silver candlesticks.

Archibald Wakeley was an artist but had not yet achieved eminence. He had joined the studio at 76a Monmouth Road about two years earlier, sharing it with another artist, an Oriental painter, who had been there for 30 years.

It was suggested that his assailants were burglars and that they were attempting to make their way through into the Provincial Bank building next door but that he had disturbed them.

The lavatory that he was found in was in a passage with a short flight of stairs leading to the studio that he shared with the fellow artist. Both artists had used a common door which was ordinarily kept locked.

The police found a bottle of port on the table and a glass with some orange peel in it in the studio.

There was no evidence that the place had been ransacked or anything stolen, and it was noted that Archibald Wakeley's coat and vest were found hanging on a hook in his own apartment with money and a watch in his pockets untouched.

The police also found a number of letters in his studio which had the corners torn off as if to preserve the addresses. One of the letters still had an address, that of a Trooper with the Squadron Royal Marine Guards, Hyde Park. There were also a number of sketches of soldiers at his flat.

Keys were also found on a windowsill about 500 yards from Archibald Wakeley's flat, one of which, a Yale key, fitted his private house.

Inside his room, close to the door, there was a small picture of a lady which was thought to have been important as it was quite a new picture and the back had only been partially nailed on.

The police also found a hammer with blood on the head that had been secreted behind some books on the top shelf of the bookcase. It was noted that there had been blood on the handle, but that that had recently been wiped off. It was noted that there were no stains on the shelf or the books and it was noted that the hammer exactly fitted the injuries to Archibald Wakeley's head.

The ground floor was occupied by a firm of solicitors.

A man who lived in Westbourne Park Crescent said that on the evening of the murder he was with a lady who he had since married by the time of the inquest, at about 11.15pm when he saw Archibald Wakeley come up with a Horse Guardsman and go through a door leading to the studio. He said that when they went in the soldier stood back somewhat as if hesitating before he entered. When questioned about the soldier, he said that he was certain that he had belonged to the Horse Guards Blue and said that he had been wearing a peaked cap, a blue tunic and a white belt. however, he said that he had been standing some little distance away and that he could not see the soldiers face.

The trooper whose name was on the letter was found and said that he had met Archibald Wakeley about four months before his murder in Hyde Park. He said that Archibald Wakeley had asked him if he wanted a cigarette and that as they went on through the park he had enquired whether he had anything to do and that when he told him that he had not, Archibald Wakeley invited him to his studio. The trooper said that he went to Archibald Wakeley's studio and had a drink of port wine and was there for about an hour, arriving at about 12 midnight and leaving at about 1am.

The trooper said that Archibald Wakeley asked him whether he wanted his portrait painted and said that he invited him to make arrangements to have it done.

When asked to account for his movements on the night of the murder, he said that he had gone out at 8pm with some other troopers in the park where he had met a young lady and had gone for a walk with her, returning to barracks at about 10.30pm. He said that he had not spoken to Archibald Wakeley since their first meeting but that he had seen him once in the park since but didn't speak to him. He said that he didn't keep his appointment to have his portrait painted. When he was asked how he had spent his time with Archibald Wakeley whilst in the studio, the trooper said that Archibald Wakeley showed him some pictures, but added that Archibald Wakeley had proposed something that to him was distasteful and that that was the reason why he didn't keep the appointment.

The artist that Archibald Wakeley shared the studio with said, 'I know nothing at all to suggest personal enmity or revenge. Moreover, the blunt instrument which must have been used must have been carried by the men with them, and there is the further reason for believing that burglars must have been trying to break through to the bank, in the fact that the bank manager is away at the present time, and no doubt they were aware of his absence from the premises. Mr Wakley had a great number of friends, who often visited him here, but so far as I know he had no enemies. No doubt, if I had been sleeping here the same night I should have been murdered too, unless, hearing some unusual noise I had barred the door and opened the window to shout for the police'.

However, it was also suggested by other parties that the motive for his murder had been personal revenge and not the work of burglars. It was said that it appeared to be beyond doubt that the murderer did not enter the studio from the back of the premises. It was then added that those engaged in business on the premises had left shortly after 6pm and that Archibald Wakeley's fellow artist had left at 7pm. As such, it was said that it seemed probable that the assailant had entered the house by means of a duplicate key between 7pm and 11pm and had secreted themselves away on the premises. It was said that that point was supported by evidence from a woman who lived in a house opposite who said that as she was taking a cup of tea before going to bed at about 11pm, long after the fellow artist had left and before it was thought that Archibald Wakeley had returned to the studio, that she had seen a small light on in the window to the right of the studio, indicating that some other person was there.

When the coroner summed up at Archibald Wakeley's inquest, he said that were grounds for suspecting burglary or that he had met his death at the hands of some ruffian.

When the foreman of the jury returned, he said that two jurymen were in favour of a verdict of wilful murder whilst thirteen were in favour of murder alone, noting that there was a dispute over the word 'wilful', adding that they had thought that it was probable that some provocation may have driven the murderer practically insane for the time of the attack and that as such there was a difficulty in returning a verdict of wilful murder.

As such, the coroner returned a verdict of, 'Murder with a hammer by some person or persons unknown'.

It was noted that a strange message was later found in a bottle in the River Thames which ran, 'I do hereby swear that I murdered Archibald Wakeley at Westbourne Grove, not a soldier, but as I am dead, or rather will be when message found, I will not let an innocent man suffer for my doings. If you go to No. -- Praed Street, Paddington, you will find a full confession and reason for deceased's death'. The note was signed. It was reported that the finder of the message immediately communicated with the local police who in turn informed the police at Paddington and that inquiries were accordingly being made, but nothing more is known about the message.

Archibald Wakeley's funeral took place at Kensington Cemetery in Hanwell. His body was enclosed in a coffin of polished oak and conveyed to the cemetery from Paddington by road followed by a mourning coach and a private carriage. The lid to his coffin bore the simple inscription on a brass plate, 'In loving memory of Archibald Wakeley, who passed away on 23rd May, 1906'. It was noted that there was no reference to his age. The gates to the cemetery were closed to the public at the time and there were very few people about.

In 1905 Archibald Wakeley had had a picture in the Academy. The following year, 1906, he sent two up. The first was entitled, 'The Sleeping Beauty' which was accepted. The other, 'The Dreams of Youth' was rejected. It had shown a girl just verging on womanhood, dreaming of what the future had in store for her and underneath it were the following words: 'Alas, that youth should vanish with the rose. That youth's sweet-scented manuscript should close'.

*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.

see www.murderresearch.com

see London Daily News - Wednesday 06 June 1906

see Leeds Mercury - Tuesday 05 June 1906

see Sheffield Evening Telegraph - Thursday 24 May 1906

see Dundee Courier - Wednesday 06 June 1906

see Nottingham Evening Post - Tuesday 05 June 1906

see Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 05 June 1906 (includes drawing of Archibald Wakeley)

see East Anglian Daily Times - Wednesday 06 June 1906

see Brecon County Times - Friday 01 June 1906