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The violent deaths of two young women were sensational and achieved great notoriety at the time, the first of which shows the danger of not listening to the saying 'never talk to strangers'.

Irene Munro, was a dark haired and attractive girl of seventeen who lived in London with her mother and worked as a shorthand typist in Oxford Street.

In August of 1920 it was agreed that Irene, who was an independent girl, could have a holiday on her own at the seaside.

Irene looked older than her years, often being taken for in her early twenty's . She had been on holiday alone the previous year at Brighton, where she was born. This year she picked Eastbourne, she set off early from London with no accommodation booked in advance.

It was the height of the holiday season and lodgings were hard to find, but in the late afternoon Irene Munro found a room to let at 393 Seaside. The landlady, a Mrs Wynniatt, said she could have the room at thirty shillings a week from the following day and for that night she could stay at a neighbour's house at Norman Cottages in Wartling Road.

The next morning Irene walked down to the beach across the Crumbles. A young naval stoker, William Putland, who was home on leave in Eastbourne was on the beach, one of a crowd watching a seaplane take up passengers. Putland noticed a girl sitting nearby wearing a green velour coat. The vivid colour impressed itself on his mind and when he saw it again on two later occasions he was sure that it was the same girl. William Putland was to become an important witness to later events.

On the morning of Thursday, 19 August, Irene wrote to her mother telling of a walk to Beachy Head. On the previous day she told her landlady she had walked to Pevensey and also made a trip into town. Mrs Wynniatt had the impression that Irene Munro was a pretty and happy young girl, respectable and sensible. Not, alas, sensible enough as it turned out. For on the afternoon of 19 August Irene left her lodgings for a walk returning after a few minutes to fetch her coat, the green velour. A painter saw the girl walking along with two men. All three walked away in the direction of the Crumbles, a walk from which Irene Munro was never to return.

That night Mrs. Wynniatt stayed up till midnight but there was no sign of her young lodger and she did not return on the following day. The landlady decided Irene must have gone to visit her relatives in Brighton but by Saturday she was feeling more concerned and when her husband saw in the local paper that a woman's body had been found on the Crumbles on the previous day the worried couple went to the police to report their visitor's absence. They were taken to the mortuary where they were horrified to be shown the body of Irene. Her face was badly disfigured by a violent attack but the clothes were unmistakable, especially the green coat.

On Friday afternoon, 20 August, a Mrs. Weller and her thirteen year old son. William, had gone for a walk and a picnic on the Crumbles. William wandered off and running into a small hollow in the shingle he tripped on something and saw to his horror that it was the foot of a woman. Rushing back to his mother he told her what he had seen and they returned to their lodgings.

Their landlady's husband, a Mr Lamb, went back with William and pushed away the shingle to reveal the body of Irene Munro. The boy was sent to fetch the police who found a heavy ironstone brick nearby on which there were bloodstains. More police arrived and a doctor who decided death had occurred some twenty four hours previously. The body was taken to the mortuary and Irene's mother and aunt were contacted and travelled to Eastbourne at the weekend for the awful duty of formal identification.

Scotland Yard were called in and on Saturday, 21 August a Chief Inspector Mercer arrived and visited the scene of the crime. Five men who had been at the ballast workings on the day of the murder told the inspector they had seen two men and a girl walking along the tracks. One of the men had his arm round the girl's waist and all three seemed jolly and laughing'. They had walked on in the direction of Pevensey, the man with the girl carrying a stick.

The labourers were asked to go to the mortuary and all five identified Irene Munro as the girl they had seen. A post mortem examination indicated that a blow had been struck on the face, probably with a stick, producing unconsciousness, the heavy ironstone brick completing the fatal injury. There were no signs of any other assault. All the details were reported in the press and Eastbourne hummed with rumour and speculation.

Now the hunt was on and the trail led inexorably to two young men, both residents of Eastbourne William Thomas Gray and Jack Alfred Field. On 24 August they were arrested and interviewed by the police. Gray was twenty eight and married to a local girl. Field was a younger man of twenty, discharged from the Navy and had previously been in trouble with the police. Both were out of work and constantly together, sharing a liking for bars and the cinemas and casual flirtations. Where they got the money for this easy life nobody knew.

Witnesses came forward linking the two men with Irene Munro and when interviewed by the police both Field and Gray told roughly the same story, saying they had spent Thursday together, meeting a friend called Maud at Pevensey Castle.

They denied knowing Irene Munro or going on the Crumbles, Gray saying that 'he had never been there in his life'. Suspicion of the pair remained as although the railway labourers were unable to pick out either man at an identification parade. Their friend, Maud, flatly denied meeting them at Pevensey on the Thursday afternoon that the murder took place as all that day she was in the house where she was employed as a servant. This fact was corroborated by her fellow workers.

On 26 August Field and Gray were released but the police now found more witnesses who had seen the trio together on the day of Irene's death, including the young naval stoker, William Putland, with the young girl's brilliant green coat providing a strong clue. Field and Gray were arrested again and charged with the murder on 4 September. Two days later the adjourned inquest resumed and gave a verdict of 'wilful murder'. Both men pleaded not guilty and were committed for trial at the next assizes.

On 13 December, 1920, their trial began at the County Hall, Lewes, before Mr. Justice Avory and lasted for five days.

Counsel for the Crown prosecution included Mr. Curtis Bennett KC and Mr C F Gill KC. Field was defended by Mr J D Cassels and Mr G P Robinson, Gray by Sir Edward Marshall Hall, KC and Mr. John Flowers. These were all illustrious names in the courts of the time and an indication of the sensational aspects of the case. The defence were financed by the magazine John Bull.

The case for the prosecution was based on circumstantial evidence. No one had seen the crime committed and both the accused continued to plead not guilty but a stream of witnesses were called to give evidence. The brilliant Marshall Hall made the point that many of the witnesses were uncertain as to the description and colour of clothes, but the tide was turning against Field and Gray. Before being charged with the murder both had attempted to join the army. They had concocted the alibi concerning Maud Baxter and more damningly, Gray had tried to persuade another inmate while in Maidstone Prison awaiting trial, to help him establish another alibi for 19 August.

Field was the only witness for the defence. He denied much of the evidence already heard but acknowledged that he and Gray had agreed together to say Maud Baxter had been with them at Pevensey. He said they knew they could not prove where they were. Shown a walking stick he admitted it was one that belonged to his father but said he had not used it for at least a fortnight before the murder. Gray did not give evidence.

In his summing up, Mr Justice Avory said that there was no doubt that Irene Munro had been murdered. The joint charge meant that the men were acting together and it was immaterial which man had actually committed the violence. Dealing with the question of motive the judge said it could have been robbery or to combat resistance to an attempted assault.

The jury retired at four minutes past two and returned an hour later with a guilty verdict for both men but with a recommendation for mercy on the grounds that they believed the crime was not premeditated. Neither of the accused had anything to say in mitigation and formal sentence of death was passed by the judge.

This was not quite the end of the dreadful story. An appeal was heard in January, 1921, before the Lord Chief Justice and two other judges. Both Field and Gray spoke on their own behalf, each man saying that the other had confessed to the crime, each man also saying that they had not been there at the scene. These further statements conflicted once more with their own previous statements and that of witnesses. The appeal was dismissed.

At Wandsworth Prison on 4 February, 1921, Field and Gray met their death by hanging.

No one will ever know what actually happened on that hot Thursday afternoon so long ago. Neither Field or Gray gave themselves the relief of true confession but only tried to implicate the other. Irene Munro had been careless, gone for a walk in a lonely place with two men who were strangers, and she was robbed of her young promising life.

. . . .

A second murder took place on the Crumbles in 1924 and was known for years afterwards as 'The Bungalow Murder'. A few cottages, once Occupied by coast guards, stood isolated on the beachland at the border of Eastbourne and Pevensey. One, called the Officer's House, was a neat whitewashed building and in the spring of 1924 was leased for two months at a rent of three and a half guineas a week to Patrick Herbert Mahon, a man of thirty four, using the name of Wailer.

Mahon had taken on the bungalow ostensibly as a romantic hideaway fohimself and his mistress, Emily Kaye, and on 7 April 1924 Emily traveled to Eastbourne and moved into the bungalow believing that this was the start of a new life with her lover.

Oddly enough she was also a shorthand typist but unlike Irene Munro she was not a foolish young girl but a woman of thirty seven, tall, fair-haired and coolly attractive. A thoroughly nice person according to a cousin who said a better girl never lived'.

However, the warning bells had not rung for Irene Munro and they did not ring for Emily Kaye. She worked for a firm of accountants in London and had met Patrick Mahon who often called at her office and soon began an affair with him. She knew he was married but believed he would leave his wife and that they would start a new life together. She also knew by chance that Mahon had previously been in prison for a bank raid but she was pregnant and very much in love with the dark good-looking Irishman. She readily agreed to leave her job and embark on the venture he proposed.

Unfortunately for Emily she did not know that Patrick Mahon was an indefatigable and practised womaniser with an unsavoury past which included fraud as well as the bank raid which had landed him in prison for five years.

He had married a young Irish girl when he was twenty one and his wife, Mavourneen, had stood by him when he was imprisoned. Now Mahon was involved with a woman who did not take the affair lightly, who was pregnant, and who expected him to leave his wife. He was in a fix.

Having installed Emily in the Crumbles cottage Mahon continued to go home to his wife most days during the week. True to form he struck up a new acquaintance with a young woman at Richmond, an Ethel Duncan. Never one to miss another romantic interlude he arranged to take her out to dinner during the following week.

On 11 April Mahon returned to Eastbourne and moved Emily's large travelling trunk to the bungalow. He then returned to London, apparently to make arrangements to secure a passport but on Saturday, 12 April, he went to an ironmonger's shop in Victoria and bought a large cook's knive and a tenon saw.

He returned to Eastbourne and Emily, and the two were together in the bungalow for the next three nights.

On Tuesday evening, 15 April, Emily Kaye met her fate. Afterwards Mahon swore that her death was an accident, the result of a quarrel about their future and that she had fallen heavily and hit her head.

Mahon dragged the body into the spare bedroom and locked the door. The next day he returned to London, met Ethel Duncan and took her out to dinner. Incredibly he invited her to spend the coming Easter weekend with him at the bungalow on the Crumbles, to which the unsuspecting girl agreed.

On the morning of Good Friday Mahon was back in Eastboume and a further horror began. He dismembered Emily's body with the saw and knife bought in London and the dreadful parcels were put in Emily's trunk in the spare bedroom.

In the evening Mahon met Ethel Duncan at Eastbourne station and they spent the weekend together at the bungalow. Ethel saw the trunk in the spare bedroom and Mahon said he was it was full of valuable books he was looking after for a friend. While she was there he screwed up the door. Ethel Duncan did not find his behaviour suspicious and on Easter Monday she returned to her home in London.

During the following week Mahon built a fire in the sitting room grate and burned Emily Kaye's head, which had been severed from the body. Other parts followed, disposed of in the same way, then the torso was further dismembered and boiled in stewpans in the kitchen so that they could be cut into smaller pieces. Mahon put most of these last remains into a Gladstone bag and threw them from the carriage window of a train when he later travelled to Waterloo Station in London.

It was then that he made the first and only mistake in his cold and methodical plans. He left the Gladstone bag at the left luggage office at Waterloo station and while he was away from home on the weekend of 25 April his wife searched the pockets of his suits and found the cloakroom ticket.

Mavourneen had been worried by his absence over the two previous weekends and believed he might be frequenting racecourses and returning to his old ways. She said nothing to her husband but enlisted the help of a private investigator, John Beard.

On 1 May they went together to Waterloo and retrieved the Gladstone bag. Beard was no fool and although the bag was locked he probed into one end and found something that prompted him to call Scotland Yard. When the police arrived they took a small piece of cloth from the bag which revealed human blood. Mavourneen was sent home, still unaware of the find, to return the cloakroom ticket to Mahon's suit.

Now a trap was set. Two detectives kept watch on the left luggage office and on 2 May Mahon collected the bag prior to another trip to Eastbourne. As soon as it was in his possession the police pounced and Mahon was taken to Cannon Row police station and confronted by the Contents which included a few pieces of blood stained clothing, a large Cook's knife and a canvas tennis racket bag with the initials E B K.

He remained cool and told the police he supposed 'he had carried meat home for the dogs' in the bag, but finally after hours of interrogation he admitted the death of Emily Kayc and his disposal of the body.

Two police inspectors were sent to Eastbourne to the Officer's House and what they found there was a scene described by the experienced Home Office pathologist, Bernard Spilsbury, as the most gruesome he had ever come across. There was a terrible stench in the small bungalow as four parcels still remained in the trunk in the bedroom.

The presence of the police and the pathologist soon became known and while Spilsbury made his painstaking study of what was left of poor Emily Kaye, a task which took eight hours, a crowd of horrified people gathered outside.

On the following Tuesday Mahon was charged with murder at Hailsham magistrates court and the next day an inquest was held at the bungalow, attended by Mahon at his request.

A thousand sightseers surrounded the building, booing and jeering as the accused man was led in under heavy police escort.

Strenuous efforts to find other parts of the body were made but despite searching nearby areas and digging up the garden of the cottage, nothing was found. The inquest resumed in May and Patrick Mahon was sent for trial at Lewes Assizes on 15 July.

Sir Henry Curtis Bennett led for the prosecution and Mr J D Cassels defended Patrick Mahon. The unfortunate Ethel Duncan, considerably distressed, spent an hour in the witness box and maintained she had seen nothing to arouse her suspicion during the weekend she spent with Mahon. As the trial continued and the macabre story unfolded two jury-men collapsed. They were replaced and Mahon gave evidence for more than five hours.

The story he told was of a woman infatuated with him and one who had drawn him reluctantly into an affair. He told the court on the evening of Emily's death they had a furious quarrel and according to him he was attacked by his lover.

At this point he broke down in tears and still sobbing went on to relate that in the struggle they fell and Emily's head hit the coal scuttle. This, he said, must have caused her death and, because he was in a state of fear and shock he remembered little of the next hours except that he went outside. When he returned he panicked and decided to conceal everything.

At the end of this dramatic story Mahon's counsel asked him: "Did you desire the death of Miss Kaye?" Mahon, calm again, replied: "Never at any time".

The defence did its best to plead that Mahon was the victim of extraordinary circumstances rather than cold hearted murderer, but members of the jury, who had no knowledge of his previous record, were not convinced. The cause of death given by the accused man was refuted by the pathologist who said a fall on a coal scuttle would not have caused injuries that would have had such a rapidly fatal result.

Most damning of all for the jury's opinion of Mahon's character was his assignation with Ethel Duncan, at a time when he had a wife and child at home and a mistress in a bungalow at Eastbourne. He was found guilty of murder.

The bungalow on the Crumbles became a strange tourist attraction when the lease was taken over by a group of entrepeneurs of doubtful taste but sounds business instinct. Visitors were charged a shilling each for guided tours of the cottage and as the queues increased cold drinks were served from the front gate. There was considerable local protest and for two weeks the bungalow was closed, only to open again with the entrance fee increased tols 2d as coachloads of the curious continued to arrive.

Before his execution on Wednesday 3 September Mahon wrote a kind and loving letter to his wife from his cell. Mahon's wife remained loyal to the end !

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