Date: 16 Apr 1936
Place: 47 Lexington Street, Soho
Marie Jeanet Cousins was murdered in Lexington Street, Soho, on 16 April 1936.
The police were called to her flat, situated on the second floor at 47 Lexington Street, W1, at 9.45pm on 16 April 1936 where they found her body lying face downwards on the floor in a room used as a kitchen and bedroom.
She had died from asphyxia following strangulation and had a handkerchief or neckerchief tied tightly round her neck.
Marie Cousins was born in France on 30 December 1892 and had arrived in England in the year 1920. She married an Englishman at Dartford in Kent on 2 January 1924, but he left her in May 1925 and he later died in Dartford Infirmary in 1929. Since then, Marie Cousins had been employed in domestic service at various West End restaurants, and up until the time of her death she been employed as a daily servant by a barrister-in-law at 12a Savile Row, W1.
She was described as a woman of good character and it was said that there was no evidence that she had at any time ever been a prostitute.
During the latter part of 1930 she had been unemployed when she met an Italian man who was employed as a cook. They became friendly and decided to live together, first at 14 Old Compton Street in Soho, and then later at the flat at 47 Lexington Street.
The Italian man was married but had separated from his wife, who was still in Italy, many years earlier. He had had two sons, one of whom, a 16-year old, had been living with him and Marie Cousins at 47 Lexington Street.
The flat consisted altogether of three rooms on the second floor, and the amount of rental was £1. 7. 6d. per week. One of the rooms was situated at the front of the building and had a separate entrance. Another door on the same landing gave access to the two rooms occupied by Marie Cousins and her partner. There were also rooms on the third floor which were occupied during the daytime by a tailor and his workpeople.
The front room was furnished and sublet by Marie Cousins and various people had occupied it during intervals of more or less short duration, paying £1. 2. 0d per week for rent. The building had a common entrance, the door of which during the daytime was left open, however, it was closed each evening at about 6pm, after which time the tenants admitted themselves with a key.
The door giving access to the rooms occupied by Marie Cousins was secured by an ordinary box-lock and Marie Cousins, her partner and his son all had a key each. At the time of her murder, the front room had been occupied by a woman who was a prostitute.
Marie Cousins's partner was employed at the Florence Restaurant on Rupert Street, W, as a cook and had left home as normal on 16 April 1936 at 9am and had returned again at 3.05pm. He then left the flat again and went back to work at about 4.30pm, arriving at the restaurant at 4.50pm where he was seen by several fellow employees. He was still at work when he was later called after Marie Cousins's body was found dead in the flat.
Marie Cousins attended her work each day at Savile Row at 8am and left at 1pm. She would always return at once to the flat and on 16 April 1936 she spent some time in the afternoon there with her partner.
The partner's son was employed at the San Marco Restaurant in Mayfair Place, W1. He worked throughout the day and it was he who discovered the body of Marie Cousins when he returned home at 8.45pm. He said that he found the door locked and Marie Cousins's key was later found on a ledge on the stairs. The son then called on a man who was in the rooms upstairs and then went for a doctor at 84 Dean Street who attended immediately.
Marie Cousins had been in the flat at 4.30pm when her partner had left her there and she was later seen by the prostitute from the other room at 5pm who said that she spoke to her.
It was heard that when Marie Cousins was at home she was in the habit of wearing the neckerchief, a black satin band or a man's tie round her forehead, tying it at the back of her head. Her partner said that she had not been wearing the neckerchief when he had left her but said that he did see it lying on a suitcase or trunk at the flat. The prostitute said that Marie Cousins always wore either the neckerchief, black satin band or man's tie but could not definitely say whether Marie Cousins had been wearing anything of the kind when she had last seen her at about 5pm.
The prostitute said that when she saw Marie Cousins, Marie Cousins had intimated to her that she would like her to go out with her that evening. However, the prostitute said that she was expecting a man that evening who lived at 14 Raverley Street in Bow, to visit her for the purpose of having sexual intercourse, and that, as she didn't want Marie Cousins to know that she was using the room for that purpose, she made an excuse and didn't agree to accompany her and remained in her room.
The police report noted that when Marie Cousins was found dead she had been wearing the same shabby overall that she had been wearing when the prostitute spoke to her and stated that as such, it would appear that Marie Cousins didn't leave the flat after speaking to the prostitute.
The prostitute that had lived in the other room had made the acquaintance of the man that she was seeing on 16 April 1936 in Hyde Park about six weeks earlier and he had since visited her regularly every Thursday. He had appeared each Thursday in the street outside prior to entering the house and on 16 April he had waited outside until he was observed by the prostitute at about 6.35pm. The man said that he had actually arrived at 6.15pm on 16 April and had waited twenty minutes in the street. The police report noted that there was no doubt that Marie Cousins had been in her room, either alive, but more probably dead, at the time that the prostitute and the man were in the adjoining room. It further stated that there appeared to be no doubt that the prostitute had been in her room, either alone, or with the man when Marie Cousins was murdered, but stated that it was more probable that she was alone at that time.
The police report noted that there was only a wooden partition between the two rooms occupied by the prostitute and Marie Cousins, but that the prostitute had said that she didn't hear any noise of any kind but had also said that she had had her wireless receiving set in operation at the time which the report stated was a possible explanation for her not hearing anything but also noted that there was also no sign of a struggle having taken place that would have caused a noise either.
When the police examined Marie Cousins, they found that her clothing was somewhat disarranged, but not so as to suggest that an attempt had been made to rape or indecently assault her. The medical examination also didn't disclose any signs of interference of that nature.
There was a small quantity of blood on the floor beneath her face that had come from the inside of her nose from a small cut there.
It was noted that there was no sign of robbery or other motive, or of any suspicious character having been seen anywhere near the place. As such, the police report stated that it was clear that she had been murdered by some person that she knew and that had been to her place before.
The police checked for fingerprints but found none.
They said that it was difficult to discover a motive for the murder, especially as there was no suggestion that the murderer was casually brought into the house from the street as might have been the case had Marie Cousins been a prostitute.
The police said that they were satisfied that the man that was Marie Cousins's partner had no connexion with the murder at all and said that neither he, nor his son had any knowledge of Marie Cousins having had any liaison with any other persons. It was said that Marie Cousins seemed to have had very few friends and it was thought that her chief confident appeared to have been the prostitute staying in the adjoining room, who it was noted, on account of her deceit, Marie Cousins may well have regarded as a respectable woman.
It was noted that the prostitute had taken possession of the room at about the end of January 1936 and that it was her practice to visit Marie Cousins in her rooms frequently during the daytime and have long conversations with her. The prostitute said that Marie Cousins was of a superstitious disposition and believed a good deal in dreams and omens. She said that about a week before her death, Marie Cousins had told her that she was afraid of a 'Jew man' who she said had at one time been in a good position and good to her. However, the prostitute said that Marie Cousins went on to say that the man was now making demands on her for money and that he might call at the flat. The prostitute said that Marie Cousins asked her to be on the qui vive in case the man did call and as such, in the event that he did, it was arranged that Marie Cousins should drop a cooking utensil or something of the sort on the floor of the cupboard in the partition of their adjacent rooms in order to attract her attention. She said that it was agreed that if that did happen that she would enter Marie Cousins's room, which they thought would have the effect of preventing any possible assault. However, the prostitute said that no such signal was ever given, and the police noted that no further details could be obtained regarding the man's identity or find any evidence to suggest that he had visited the house.
The prostitute also said that on a subsequent occasion Marie Cousins had asked her to accompany her to the Astoria Cinema in Charing Cross Road in order that they might stand together in the queue prior to Marie Cousins entering to see the show. The prostitute had said that Marie Cousins did that out of fear of violence by the 'Jew man', but later agreed with the police that she had only formed that impression and that Marie Cousins had not mentioned anything of that kind.
The police report further stated that it was difficult to imagine that anybody would have made a sudden and murderous attack upon a defenceless woman in consequence of a refusal to meet such demands as were alleged.
It was noted that the prostitute and Marie Cousins had gone to Marlborough Street Police Station on 14 April 1936, and that before leaving to go at 6pm, Marie Cousins had written a note for someone that she had been expecting to call. The prostitute said that Marie Cousins didn't tell her anything about her business with the man but said that when they returned half an hour later the note was still there, and that Marie Cousins had said, 'Oh! He has not been', and then, without further comment, turned and left the house. The prostitute said that the note had been left behind a gas pipe outside of Marie Cousins's door where it could easily be seen and said that it read, 'Mr, Shall not be long. Gone to Marlborough Street'. The prostitute took the note which she gave to the police after Marie Cousins was murdered. The police said that they tried to identify the man who was named in the note but could not. The name was a well known Jewish surname.
The police report stated that there was only one person that they thought really came under any suspicion, and that was a 28-year old clerk that had once lived in the adjoining room, but at the time of the murder was living at the Trafalgar Hotel, 37 Craven Street, WC. He had been employed as a clerk by the Denard Manufacturing Company Limited, gown manufacturers, at 65 Margaret Street, W1, earning approximately £3. 0. 0d per week. It was stated that he had taken the spare room that the prostitute later moved into, on 16 October 1935. Whilst the clerk was working at the Denard Manufacturing Company he met an 18-year old youth from Edinburgh with whom he became friendly. At the time of the investigation the youth had returned to Edinburgh where his parents lived.
The police report stated that there was abundant evidence that the clerk was a sodomite and it was heard that he had persuaded the youth to live with him in his room at 47 Lexington Street. The youth admitted to the police that he had committed buggery with the clerk on many occasions and also spoke of visits by soldiers in uniform to the clerk’s room.
It was then stated in the police report that sometime in January 1936, following a visit by a soldier who was not identified, Marie Cousins had gone in to clean the room and make the bed and had discovered stains on the bed linen that had been caused by human excreta and vaseline. The prostitute who related the story to the police said that Marie Cousins told her about the discovery and told her that she had left the clerk a note in the room complaining about the condition of the bed. However, the prostitute said that after the note had been left, the clerk, or the youth, or both of them had evacuated in a pail in the room and poured the contents on the sheets in the bed and covered it over with the other linen, after which they both left the house for good.
The prostitute said that Marie Cousins told her that the liquid contents of the pail had penetrated to the mattress and that she was seeking payment by the clerk to the extent of £2. 10. 0d for damages. The prostitute said that she accompanied Marie Cousins to the clerks place of work at Denard Manufacturing Company where demands for payment of the money were made under threat of complaint to the police and the courts.
The police report stated that Marie Cousins went to various county courts and to Marlborough Street Police Station in March 1936 with a view to obtaining a summons against the clerk but said that it did not appear that she had succeeded as so far as they knew, no court proceedings were ever taken. The police report stated that Marie Cousins went to Denard Manufacturing Company at 65 Margaret Street several times to see the clerk and that on the occasions that she failed to see him she left notes or letters written on the subject which she either placed in the letter-box attached to the street door or pushed under the door of an office where the clerk was employed. It was also heard that Marie Cousins also made verbal enquiries for the clerk with other people in the building and on one or two instances had told them of the nature of her complaint and had expressed the view that the clerk and the youth were 'Nancy Boys'. It was also heard that Marie Cousins had gone to 7 Oakley Square, NW1 where she had made a complaint to the youth's sister regarding the matter.
During their investigation the police found two letters that the clerk had written to the youth in Edinburgh that referred to the matter as well as two letters that he had written to Marie Cousins which Marie Cousins had given to the prostitute when she had asked her to try and obtain a summons against the clerk, the object being to afford some proof, at least, that the clerk had corresponded with her on the subject.
The first letter was dated 19 March 1936 and read: 'Dear Madam, I am sorry I was not able to call as arranged last evening, but business made this impossible, as regards this evening I have already made my plans so once more shall not be able to call. Perhaps you could call on me tomorrow night at 6 o/c at the above address when I shall be in, but to call before that time will be useless as I have to go out on business. Hoping this will be convenient to you'.
The second letter was dated 21 March 1936 and read: 'Dear Madam, If you will let me know the amount you are wanting I will see what I can do for you in the next few days. I enclose an envelope for your reply as it is useless to keep calling with the hope of seeing me. As soon as I hear from you I will give the matter my immediate attention'.
The police also found a note written by the clerk on a piece of the Star Newspaper, taken from the 16 March 1936 issue, that read, 'Called but no one at home, will call Wednesday 5.30pm'. It was said that the note was tucked behind a gas pipe outside the door of Marie Cousins's room, presumably on 16 March 1936.
The police report stated that there was no doubt that the clerk had called in the evening of 16 March 1936 and that it was thought to have been as a result of Marie Cousins and the prostitute visiting his work place earlier that day. They added that it at least showed that the clerk had been to 47 Lexington Street at least once after having given up the room. They also stated that the time shown was also of considerable significance.
The first letter that Marie Cousins sent to the clerk, which was undated, read: ' Thanks for your letter but owing to your own arrangements I have lost two evenings work but I shall not waste any more time over this matter. If it had not been for your letter this morning I was going to Portland Street Court putting in damages for £2. 10. 0. as I find I cannot get the mattress under. I shall not wait after Wednesday. So, if you care to call and see me any time after five. Trusting you will see to this as I cannot wait any longer as the bed is not fit to lay down'.
The second letter which also didn't have a date read:, 'Dear Mr. Seeing you have not keeped to your word Wedsday 5-30 as arranged. Will you kindly call & see me as soon as you can, as I cannot waste any evenings waiting for you any longer as I have my work to see to. So hoping you will oblidge me by making it about six tonight when you finish your business. If not I shall come again to see you because you know very well what mess you have left the beds in. If not I shall take it to Court tomorrow Friday because myself I shall not need a Solicitor'.
The police report stated that the reference to Wednesday, spelt Wensday, and the time, 5.30, was very significant, particularly if it could be said that the Wednesday referred to was the day before the murder. The report stated that Marie Cousins had invited the clerk to her rooms and at the same time had threatened him in the event of failure to see her with court proceedings. The police report then stated that if the subject of the complaint and the threat to expose him in Court if he did not pay, together with the fact that the clerk had been short of money were considered, the motive, if it were assumed that the clerk was responsible for the crime, was abundantly plain.
When the police examined the clerks movements they found that he usually started his duties at 65 Margaret Street at 9am and would leave at 5pm. The report also noted that, bearing in mind the unpleasant nature of Marie Cousins's visits to his work, that it was significant to note that the clerk had invited Marie Cousins to call upon him at 6pm, a time that the rest of the people at the company would have left.
As such, the police report stated that if the second letter had been dated that it would have afforded considerable corroboration to the suspicion directed against the clerk.
The police stated that when they examined the clothes that the clerk had been wearing on the day of the murder, they could find no bloodstains, hair or other material to connect him to the murder. They also noted that there was also a total absence of evidence at Marie Cousins's flat to connect anybody with the crime.
The police said that when they went to find the clerk they determined that he had gone to his place of work at 9am on 16 April 1936 but that he had left without permission and before doing so he had stolen a blank cheque from a book that was the property of his employer. They said that the clerk could not be found at his lodgings at 37 Craven Street, nor in his usual haunts. They said that a few days later murder photographs of Marie Cousins were published in the newspapers together with an appeal for any person with knowledge of Marie Cousins to come forward, but that that proved futile.
The police stated that they later found out that the clerk had been frequently associating with various male employees of Messrs. Austin Reed, the outfitters of Regent Street, and spending a good deal of time with them at a number of public houses in the West End. THe police said that they interviewed the men and as a result they found the clerk at the Sutherland public house in Vigo Street at 6pm on 24 April 1936.
The police said that by that time they found that the clerk had forged and negotiated the cheque that he had stolen from his employers and he was arrested on a charge of forging and uttering the cheque and taken to Vine Street Police Station where he was then interrogated about the murder.
During the interrogation, the clerk said that he had been employed by Denard Manufacturing Company Limited since 8 July 1936 as a clerk earning, at the time he left, £3. 0. 0. per week. He said that he arrived at his firm's premises between 9am and 9.30am on 16 April 1936 and that he remained there until 9.30am when he left. He said that before he did so he took a cheque from the book. He then gave details of his movements during the day, but it was impossible to verify in detail the actual truth of what he had said. He admitted that he had been in the neighbourhood of Charing Cross Road round about the time when the murder was committed but spoke of a visit to a cinema and to a Lyons teashop during the crucial period, and the police report stated that there was no way to prove that he was telling the truth.
The clerk went on to say that during the evening he had made a tour of public houses and had gone to the Angel & Crown public house in Warwick Street at 6.30pm where he met two of Austin Reeds employees who knew the clerk as Peter Graham. He said that he later left the pub with the two men at 7.20pm and walked off to Piccadilly Circus where they separated, the clerk going off on his own. The clerk said that he then stayed at a boarding house at 36 Waterloo Road. The police report noted that the clerk had been away from his rooms at Craven Street for no apparent reason since the previous Saturday. The report concluded that they were unable to discover that the clerks conduct was other than normal on 16 April 1936.
The clerk denied that he had seen any account of the murder in newspapers, although admitted that he purchased the Daily Telegraph and also an evening paper every day. He also denied that he had ever heard of the case.
When the police interviewed one of the Austin Reed employees that the clerk said he had met in the Crown & Angel pub he said that they had met up again the following day, 17 April 1936, during which time he said that the murder was mentioned by another man. The Austin Reed employee said that the clerk then said, 'I happen to know the flat next door', and that when another person said, 'I suppose you didn't do it?', that the clerk had replied, 'Don't be bloody silly'. However, the police report stated that if that were true then it showed that the clerk had been lying to them when he had told them that he had not heard of the case.
During the police interrogation, the clerk said that he went again to his place of work on Friday 17 April at about 9am, and that he left again at 9.30am and didn't return that day, adding that he took another cheque before he left that he had made payable to S Simons for the sum of £9. 17. 10, forging the name of his employer. He said that two cheques made payable together for that amount in favour of Simons and signed by his employers had been left in his charge some days previously, the amount being due to Simons for work done in the manufacture of gowns and which should have been handed to Simons. However, the clerk said that he negotiated the cheques and kept the proceeds, and that it was to make up the deficiency that he tendered the forged cheque to Simons.
The clerk said that he went again to his employers on the Saturday, 18 April at about 10.30am and remained for half an hour, and then went again on the Monday, 20 April 1936 at 8.20am and remained for ten minutes during which time he stole another cheque which he made out for the sum of £4. 0. 0. in favour of himself and then forged the signature of his employer after which he negotiated the cheque.
The police stated that when they first saw the clerks employer about the clerks movements on 16 April, the employer had said that the clerk had left 65 Margaret Street with him at 5pm. However, it was heard that the clerk would not agree to that and the police later stated that they found that the employer was incorrect and that he was referring to the Wednesday 17 April 1936. The employer later said that he had found the clerk at the office at 65 Margaret Street at 10.15am on the Thursday 16 April 1936 and said that the clerk had told him that he was not feeling very well and that he had to see a firm of solicitors in relation to some bankruptcy proceedings. The employer said that the clerk left at 11.30am and later called at 1pm and told him that he had to be at the bankruptcy court for the hearing of the bankruptcy proceedings. The employer said that the clerk then called again at 4pm the same day and told him that he didn't feel very well and intended to go home. The employer said that the clerk telephoned again at 7.45am on the Monday 20 April 1936 at his private house and told him that he had to see a doctor and that he would be attending the office at Margaret Street at about 10.30am that day. The employer said that the clerk did not arrive and that he had not seen him since.
The employer said that he had no knowledge of the theft of the cheques at the time but later in the day he received a notification of it from the manager of the Lloyds Bank at 121 Oxford Street.
The police noted that the clerk admitted that everything he told his employer in the conversations on the telephone was entirely untrue but did not say why he told the lies. However, the police report stated that in all probability the clerk was expecting his employer to discover the forgeries, or even that he had some intimation from his employer that the police were making enquiries for him, either in connection with the cheques, or possibly even the murder. It was noted however, that one way or another, the clerk did not go back to 65 Margaret Street again.
When the clerk was arrested and interrogated he was charged with forging and uttering the cheques. A while later other charges of embezzlement were preferred against him in relation to offences committed in May 1935 whilst he was working for the Southgate Burial Board as a clerk. It was heard that monies were received in payment for the graves of the dead and that the books of the board were mutilated and destroyed sufficiently to provide a charge of falsification of accounts and in such a way as to cause great confusion in the allocation of the graves. It was said that as a result of the clerks conduct that it was not possible to say in what grave any particular body was interred during the period that he had had control and that an exposure in the courts would undoubtedly have led to the matter being ventilated and a probable scandal.
The police later traced the clerks wife who said that they had only lived together for a short time and that she had left him on account of his failure to provide for her as well as his violent conduct. She said that he was frequently assaulted very violently and that the clerk on occasions knocked her down and then would pick her up and knock her down again.
The police report stated that it was impossible to say on what date the final correspondence or conversations took place between the clerk and Marie Cousins, but said that the evidence that they had showed that the last of such matters occurred about a month before Marie Cousins died. However, the police report did state that they knew that Marie Cousins and the prostitute had gone to Marlborough Street Police Station to seek advice on the matter of the mattress as recently as Tuesday 14 April 1936. As such, the police report stated that it was well within the limits of probability that Marie Cousins had been still pursuing her claim right up till the time of her death, a possibility that would appear to be a probable motive for the clerk to have murdered Marie Cousins.
The police report then stated that the character and general conduct of the clerk compelled suspicion but that there was no evidence upon which he could be charged.
The report stated that Marie Cousins partner and his son could definitely be absolved from suspicion and said that there was no suspicion that could be attached to any other known person.
However, the report noted that the enquiry was left somewhat in the air by the failure to trace the Jewish man that Marie Cousins had left the note out for when she had come to the Marlborough Street Police Court on 14 April 1936. It was suggested that the note might have been addressed to a tradesman, but exhaustive enquiries failed to produce him.
The police report also concluded that the 'Jew man' referred to by the prostitute had not been traced either and that they could find no one else who had any knowledge of such a man.
The police report stated that the fact that Marie Cousins's partner, son and the prostitute were far from being intelligent and that that had added to the difficulties of the case. They said, 'We appear at the moment to be at a dead end and, apart from the suspicion directed against the clerk, the case is a complete mystery. Such further enquiries as seem possible are still being made in the hope of finding a solution but with no real prospect of success'.
The police report also noted that the press was reporting that Marie Cousins had been associated with Max Kassel, 'French Fifi', and other notorious undesirables of French origin and that she had been murdered because she knew too much. However, they stated that there was not an atom of truth in the reports which they stated were libellous and false in their entirety.
see National Archives - MEPO 3/1706
see Western Morning News - Wednesday 10 June 1936