Unsolved Murders

Esme May Masters

Age: 35

Sex: female

Date: 17 May 1957

Place: Bygholm, Hurst Lane, East Molesey, Surrey

Esme May Masters was killed in her home.

Her husband was tried but acquitted at the Surrey Assizes at Kingston on Thursday 4 July 1957. He admitted that he had stabbed her but said that she had attacked him and he had not known what he was doing.

It was reported that the all-male jury found that he had stabbed her accidentally and found him not guilty of both murder and manslaughter. When the man was discharged from the dock there was a loud applause from the public gallery.

When the judge summed up he said, 'He had a great deal to put up with from his wife, probably a good deal more than any of you would have put up with. He was sorely tried by her conduct but forgave her again and again. Look at the knife. It is a large, sharp and dangerous knife. That sank to the hilt twice in the body of this woman, there is no dispute that the hand that held the knife was the hand of her husband'.

Esme Masters's husband was a company director. He said that Esme Masters had left him many times and that at the time there was a divorce case pending in which he had petitioned on the grounds of adultery and she alleging cruelty. The court heard that when Esme Masters finally returned to Hurst Lane that she did so on the grounds that she would have her own bedroom, a car and a £10-a-week allowance which her husband agreed to.

However, the court heard that when Esme Masters returned home in the early hours of 17 May 1957 from a trip to London that she was in 'a horrible mood'. Her husband said that she swung a suitcase at him and kicked and punched him. He said that he fell to the floor and was seeing stars and that his head was swimming and that he felt something which he then grasped and then made pushes against her with his right hand, but had not realised that he was grasping the knife.

When Esme Masters's husband was asked in court whether he had intended to kill Esme Masters, he replied, 'No, never'.

In his statement to the police on 17 May 1957 Esme Masters's husband said:

'Last night, my wife, Esme, came home at about 2am. This was much later than I expected. I was in bed at the time and I was awakened by a car pulling up outside our house and seeing lights. My wife did not have a key so I got up and opened the front door.

I asked why she had been so late and we began to argue in the kitchen. She had a case with her which I took hold of and a struggle took place for it. My son, aged 12, came down to the kitchen and saw us. My wife went up to the front bedroom.

My other son, aged 9, was in my bed and I told him to go out.

An argument started between my wife and I and a scuffle. My wife locked the bedroom door. In the argument, my wife tried to swing the case she was holding at me. I was not hit but I fell backwards. I don't know how it happened but the wardrobe door (opposite the bedroom door) came open and a knife I had there fell on the floor. It was usually in a sheath, I made it at Hawkers in 1940, but I can't remember taking it from the sheath. I found the knife under my hand. I made several stabbing jabs towards my wife as she was standing up and I didn't realise I had stabbed her until I saw the blood on her left side. She fell down. I was on the floor, having fallen down when I found the knife under my hand, so that my wife was above me, no that's wrong I had risen up by then. When I saw her go down on her knees I knew I had hurt her and I dropped the knife. I saw her sagging. I caught her and laid her down on her side. I opened the bedroom door and saw a man and the housekeeper standing there. I told the housekeeper to send for the doctor and an ambulance.

I tried to help my wife by holding her in my arms and by trying to stop her tongue from falling back into her throat. A long time passed until a mobile policeman came to the house, just before the ambulance, by which time I believed she was dead. I told him she was dead and I had killed her'.

Esme Masters was found lying on the bedroom floor fully dressed with blood coming from her right chest.

Esme Masters's husband was a decorator and a company director with a decorating firm that had shops in Kingston and Tolworth.

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

see find.galegroup.com

see National Archives - ASSI 90/88, ASSI 36/230, DPP 2/2674

see "No. 10, Downing Street Door Damaged." Times [London, England] 18 May 1957: 4. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 29 May 2016.

see Daily Mirror - Thursday 04 July 1957

see Londonderry Sentinel - Saturday 18 May 1957

see Birmingham Daily Post - Saturday 18 May 1957