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AWFUL STARVATION MURDER.

ONE OF ENGLAND'S MOST CRUEL CRIMES

HALF -WIT WOMAN AND BABY TORTURED TO DEATH— PERPETRATORS EXPOSED BY MEREST CHANCE—LUST FOR GOLD CONSPIRACY ALL BUT SUCCEEDED—HEARTLESS CRUELTY TO

HELPLESS BABE,

(By PHYLLIS LEWIS.)

Fate Takes a Hand

When Louis Staunton walked into the p OS t office of the small town of Penge, Kent, England, he paid no attention to a man who was purchasing stamps. It was not to be expected that he should, for he had become a widower not an hour before and had entered, indeed, to inquire as to where he should register his wife's death. Thus he did not notice that the man started and stiffened to attention when he mentioned that the dead woman's E aine was Mrs. Harriet Staunton. Nonetheless, the man who had listened so attentively to Louis Staunton, although personally unknown to him, was a Mr. Casabianca, husband of the late Harriet's sister. Tor months, Harriet's family had J>een asking news of her, but it was sheer chance that had led Mr. Casabianca to the towa of Penge that day and into the post office. And had Louis Staunton entered one minute earlier, or one minute later, cue of the most horrifying murders in the listory of crime would have remained for ever hidden. Harriet, heiress t-o a rich aunt, Lady jjivers, had married against her family's wish some two years before; Though beautiful and rather winning, she was jorely afflicted, for she had never been jjormal mentally. Therefore her mother, a Sirs. Butterfield, regarding Louis as a fortune hunter, refused her consent. To prevent the marriage indeed she had gone to the length of trying to have Harriet declared insane and made a ward in Chancery. She failed and Harriet married Louis. Harriet had been enchanted not only with Louis, but with his entire family, which consisted of his brother, Pat, Pat's wife Elizabeth, and Alice Bho'des, Elizabeth's sister. Their combined influence had fanned Harriet's fury against her mother, so that Louis experienced no difficulty in alienating her from her family and forbidding them the house. When Harriet's baby was born a year later, she was already disillusioned, for Alice Jthodes had become mistress of the house, and Louis' illicit passion for her kept him fast in her toils. Conspirators Act. Shortly after the birth of the baby, Jjouis, Alice, Patrick and Elizabeth made the first move In the conspiracy that was to bring about that for which they all longed—the death of Harriet and the subsequent enjoyment of her fortune. They managed to spirit her to Cudham, in Kent, where stood the sinister house in which fhe was to become a helpless prisoner at the mercy of the merciless. "The Woodland" was the new home of Patrick Staunton, and it was here that the scheme their perverted minds had devised was to crystallise. Louis himself did not live at "The Woodlands," for he had rented a small house nearby, where he could revel undisturbed in the blandishments and caresses of Alice Rhodes, who passed herself off as his wife. They were strange hosts, the Patrick Stauntons and •"The Woodlands" was a strange homestead, mysterious and dreadful, hidden by & thick plantation that made a symbolically black spot on the smiling countryside. Here Harriet was put into a garret, where three trestles flung across a board formed her bed, and the tiny window was darkened so that should any curious stranger attempt to peer in, it would be impossible to discern what was going on behind the four walls that must have seemed to her a coffin in which she was buried alive.

Alice Rhodes, who was about to become the mother of Louis Staunton's child, was introduced to the doctor as a young married friend of Harriet, who would help nurse her. All four conspirators gave an artistic display of grief and anxiety. Not one of them, however, had the courage to remain at the bedside. She was spared the last ordeal, and died with none but a, kindly nurse to watch her passing. Prom the viewpoint of the Stauntons all had gone well. Not a single mistake had occurred, not a circumstance had arisen to compromise them. And then— Pate, Chance, call it what you will—had stepped in and ruled that Louis Staunton should walk into the post office at the very moment that Mr. Casabianca was there, so that this gentleman, the one man in the world from whom Louis would most have desired to keep Harriet's death secret, heard the news from Louis' own lips. Inquiries soon disclosed the frightful truth, and England was electrified by the trial of Alice Rhodes and the Stauntons. Alice Rhodes' baby had been born in prison while she was awaiting her trial, and Elizabeth Staunton also became a mother while under remand. All four prisoners were found guilty. The case is rendered the more singular by the fact that the tragedy was brought to light only by a coincidence that was, perhaps, the one and only catastrophe that the murderers could not have foreseen. It suggests the warning thought that a, Power, not earthly, intervenes sometimes directly to visit punishment, swift and sure, upon those who bear the brand of Cain. -(Anglo-American N.S. Copyright).

Meanwhile Harriet's family, intensely anxious, was trying to trace her, and incidentally, Mrs. Butterfield had run across Alice Rhodes, and had noted with grave misgiving that she was wearing a' brooch that was a favourite jewel of Harriet's. Eventually, Mrs. Butterfield, possibly through following Alice, discovered that Harriet was at Cudham, and made a desperate effort to see her. She was famed out of the Staunton home however, but even in her fear-ridden imaginings, she never pictured anything so grim and frightful as the tragedy that was befalling ler daughter only a few yards from where she stood. For the Stauntons were killing Harriet and her baby, but murdering her teo slowly and carefully that the doctor who would be needed later to give death certificates would not note any symptom which did not come under "general Ability." For Harriet and her baby were being made to die, die gradually, inch by inch—through starvation. Patrick, curiously enough, ill-treated Harriet more brutally than did her husband. She was forbidden to leave the garret on any pretext whatever. At first, poor, pretty, feeble-minded creature that she was, she tried to rebeL She got so far as .the top of the staircase, when the burly Patrick dashed up and dealt her a blow that rendered her unconscious. Pat beat her frequently but this did not cause her the anguish she suffered when he strnck her baby. The baby became so thin that its spine threatened to break through the skin. The sinister Patrick (who called himself an artist) declared that this "wouldn't do." And so daily he ttould strap down the wailing little creature to a board that had once been 511 easel. In the depth of winter it was covered only by a torn shawl.

Baby Cruelly Treated. The Stauntons, of course, could not have carried out their scheme had they had servants. They dispensed, therefore, paid help, and "gave a home" to a poor relation, sixteen-year-old Clara wown. To Clara, as was afterwards brought out in Court, Harriet would sob out impassioned and piteous pleas for tood for her baby, and for anything, even a bone to gnaw, to stay the pangs of °wn hunger. Clara, terrified, dared accede. More than once this young Pn had fled into the plantation in the Qeacl of night, barefoot and clad only in oer nightdress, to escape the fearful Kenes that were enacted in Harriet's P rr fr or Patrick, disturbed sometimes ?f th e sound of Harriet's weeping and i ®. baby's cries, would enter and thrash ®°tu his victims. But perhaps the worst pni Te the dying woman had to "(lurei was the constantly repeated question of Patrick Staunton, usually accompanied by a jeering laugh. "Well, Harriet, you hungry yet?" iliA a """bile, the baby became so di v Stauntons took it to a Lonn.hospital, where it died almost at once. r eir , story was so plausible that it no suspicion. When Harriet heard rW j i a by was dead, the shock renton i con d'tion critical. The Staun--Iyho were not prepared for her to so soon, were badly frightened, and. owing her the comfort of warmth and j l i"- for the first time in many a long j_-y * ne d to tempt her to eat. But Harinto M i S -, near another world to be fm.ij an - v longer in this, and she Trti rs°k "^ n a Panic, the Stauntons, i ° "'d not wish her to die in the house fJX the - v hoped to keep her death the knowledge of her family, and tt °I'anted1' an ted to show that she had received arf, medical care should the occasion tV 6, realised that they must operate lr w ell-thought-out plan in a hurry, p 1113 the dying woman v.'as rushed to l f e ' a larger town than Cudham, where nliv • - k lodgings, took in the leading rri Slc ''an, and engaged a trained nurse. y a£ sured the doctor that Harriet had (V U a Patient of a Cudham man. Dr. m" y bo, of course, had never heard hm, L ex ' s tence), but that they had ought her here that she might receive wor e care.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/AS19300823.2.153.13

Bibliographic details

AWFUL STARVATION MURDER., Auckland Star, Volume LXI, Issue 199, 23 August 1930, Supplement

Word Count
1,575

AWFUL STARVATION MURDER. Auckland Star, Volume LXI, Issue 199, 23 August 1930, Supplement

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