Unsolved Murders

Mabel Elizabeth Escott

Age: 32

Sex: female

Date: 25 Sep 1928

Place: Villiers Street, Strand, London

Mabel Elizabeth Escott died from an illegal operation.

She was a school teacher from Newport.

She had told her family on 14 September 1928 that she was going to a wedding and would be back on 16 September. None of her family knew about her condition. Later on 17 September she sent a telegram that read 'Detained. Slightly unwell. Don't worry. Writing. Mabel'. Soon after they received a postcard that read 'Dear all of you, So sorry if you have been anxious about me, especially as I have not been anxious about myself. Now 6pm I have been sufficiently in possession of my senses to realise something was up. I thought I had better let you know before I went daft, or anxious. I do not know how long I shall be here. The crisis was over yesterday, but I do not know of what. I never reached the wedding feast. Do not worry at all. Visitors not allowed until next week. All details later. Nothing to worry about. Mabel.' Her family said that they heard nothing again until 25 September when they got a message from the police to say that she was dead.

The Coroner said in a hearing behind locked doors that she had apparently been carrying on with at least two men. He said 'There seems to have been a conspiracy to keep the cause dark, so it is a very serious one'.

A farmer from Pennyhill in Holbeach admitted that although he was married that he had had improper relations with Mabel Escott but absolutely denied that he had asked anyone to perform an illegal operation. The Coroner severely questioned him and at one point rebuked him for 'standing like a stuffed pig'. He said that he had met her while he was staying at the Bedford Hotel in London for five days. He said that she later wrote to him about her condition. He said that he met her in May, August and September 1928. In September he said that he met her in Turner's Hotel in Guildford Street, Russel Square in order to talk things over and that they had separate rooms.

Another man, a student from India said that he had also had relations with Mabel Escott and said that he had been willing to marry her but said that when he heard of her condition he felt deceived.

A widow from Wandsworth said that she had met Mabel Escott for the first time in August 1928 at Turner's Hotel after being requested to do so by her cousin, the farmer from Pennyhill. She said that the farmer told her that Mabel Escott was in a certain condition as a result of her association with the farmer. She said that when she later met Mabel Escott who was ill in bed Mabel Escott  at the Villiers Street hotel she asked her to meet another woman underneath the clock at Charing Cross Station and that she then gave the woman the number of the room at the hotel where Mabel Escott was. The Coroner then said 'I have never heard such a bare faced lie in my life. You know you have made a statement to the police?', and the woman said 'I am sorry, but it is true'. She then said that she and the farmer then took the woman to see Mabel Escott and that she and the farmer then left the woman and Mabel Escott alone in the room and went out for about an hour. The Coroner then said 'You went out very conveniently'.

The inquest heard that the day Mabel Escott was taken ill a doctor came at about 9.30am and used an instrument on her and that she died the next day.

The woman admitted that in her statement to the police she had lied and said that she had only met Mabel Escott once when in fact it was about three times. The Coroner read aloud from her statement 'Nothing was said to me about her condition' and said 'That was a lie was it not?' and the woman replied 'Yes'. The Coroner then said 'Do you mean to suggest to me seriously that this girl lay the whole afternoon in this condition and never said anything about it to you?' and the woman replied 'Not a word'. The Coroner then said to her 'Explain to me why, when you first met Miss Escott, she should tell you she was pregnant?' and the woman said 'I could not tell you' and the Coroner replied 'Oh yes you can. There is only one reason. She is unmarried, of a respectable family, and has been got into trouble by your so-called cousin. Did not she ask you to help her to get rid of it?'. The woman replied 'Certainly not'.

The woman was further questioned by the Coroner about the disparity between her statement and that of her cousin, the farmer, and the woman exclaimed, excitedly thumping the edge of the witness box with her hand, 'I tell you, sir, I did not get there (Charing Cross) until after seven o'clock. Oh, why don't you believe me?'. The Coroner then questioned the woman about £40 that the farmer had given her and said 'He was skulking in the background and letting you take all the blame?' and the woman replied 'Absolutely. I have taken the blame of the whole thing. I have lost my position; I have lost my name; I have lost everything'.

The woman left the witness-box after three and a half hours questioning.

A doctor from Bernard Street in Russel Square said that Mabel Escott had consulted him in early August as to her condition at his surgery. He said that she came as a stranger and did not leaver him her name. He said that her heart was in a bad state and that she could not give birth to a child with safety to her own life and that something might have to be done to get rid of the pregnancy. The Coroner said 'If you go about talking to unmarried pregnant ladies like that, many of them might develop heart disease'. The doctor said that he was later called to see Mabel Escott in September 1928 and found that she had had a miscarriage. He said that the farmer's cousin was there as well as another woman and got the idea that the other woman had at one time described herself as Mabel Escott's aunt and that at another time the farmer's cousin had described her as a friend of hers' He said that he visited Mabel Escott the following morning and the other woman was still there.

The doctor said that Mabel Escott told him that she had had a long railway journey and had been taken ill and that he came to the conclusion that it could all have been natural because of her heart. He said that he saw her again the next day and that he asked her 'Has anything illegal been done to you?' and that Mabel Escott had replied 'No, doctor, nothing has been done to me'.

The Coroner asked the doctor if it was not uncommon for women to ask a doctor to help them when they were pregnant and the doctor said 'I agree. I have had my surgery full of them since this case started and letters from all over Great Britain.'

When the Coroner summed up he said that the jury might despise the farmer's cousin as a contemptible person and that he himself would apply the same epithet to her. He said that she had proved herself by her own evidence to be a clever, cool, calm, calculating liar, fitting her story like a jigsaw puzzle, to which every piece that fitted was a lie'. He said that he could see no evidence that either the farmer or his cousin had aided or procured a person to commit murder and the jury returned a verdict of 'murder against some person unknown'.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Dundee Evening Telegraph - Thursday 25 October 1928

see Nottingham Journal - Thursday 11 October 1928

see Leeds Mercury - Friday 19 October 1928

see Aberdeen Press and Journal - Friday 19 October 1928

see Leeds Mercury - Friday 26 October 1928

see Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail - Friday 28 September 1928

see Boston Guardian - Saturday 06 October 1928