LEYTON GARDEN HORROR.
FAMILY BUTCHERED AND BURIED.
STRANGE DISCOVERY OF THE CRIME.
A crime recalling in its ferocity many crimes of the Deeming murders, came to light on Tuesday at Leyton, when the police found buried in the garden of 89, Church-road, the dismembered bodies of a man, woman, and a child. The victims were identified as: - William John Darby, 26, grocer, lately residing at 22, Wyndham-road, Camberwell; Beatrice Darby, 23, his wife; and their little girl baby of ten weeks. The occupier of the house in Church-road, Leyton, was a man named Edgar Edwards, 34 years of age, tall and dark, with a strong Scotch accent, and described as a grocer.
The story of the discovery has some strange features in it. On Dec. 23 an elderly man of the name of Garland was found suffering from severe injuries in Church-road. He managed to indicate that he had been attacked by Edgar Edwards. On Christmas eve, accordingly, this man was charged at Stratford police-court with assault, but as Garland was then in West Ham Hospital and too ill to appear, the magistrate remanded Edwards in custody. The latter volunteered the statement that he had only acted in self-defence, being first attacked by Garland; but this was regarded as curious, since he, a man of vigour, was without scratch, and Garland, on the contrary, a man of years and rather feeble, was so badly hurt. The police visited the house of Edwards, and, finding no one there, naturally turned to the neighbours. These, among other statements, mentioned as curious that considerable gardening operations had been going on for some weeks at the rear of No. 89, which has a piece of garden.
When the police searched the house they found amongst other articles a stout box which appeared, judging from the stains it bore, to have served the purpose of a table, and a number of letters which had reference to the business of a grocer named Darby, and further cards bearing Darby's business address. There was in the house a black mongrel dog, whose conduct attracted the attention of the police to the garden itself. The animal has since been recognised as the dog which belonged to the Darbys. A sharp pointed stick plied with vigour soon brought to light a spot where the soil seemed soft and pliable, and it was here that excavations were begun. At a depth of about five feet the police unearthed six sacks, containing the three bodies, which appeared to have been placed in the pit in two rows of three each. The bodies proved to be those of a man, woman, and child, and were terribly mutilated, the limbs being hacked off. The cause of death was apparent in the gaping wounds at the top of each of the skulls of the adults. A blow from some heavy blunt instrument had smashed the bone as one would smash an eggshell.
The features of the murdered persons were all well-preserved, and they did not appear to have been dead more than four weeks. The spot where the bodies were unearthed was, roughly, about the centre of the garden, movements of which would be visible to the neighbours on both sides. One incident related by the neighbours is believed to have some connection with the crime. There are three dogs in kennels at the back of No. 89, and within a radius of 200 yards. In fact, the sleeping quarters of one of these animals is not more than a few yards from the scene of the interment. One night, about a fortnight ago, all three, beginning about midnight, kept up a furious and continuous barking for some time.
IDENTIFICATION OF THE VICTIMS.
The business cards and other facts led to the identification of the bodies on Wednesday, and shifted the crime to Camberwell, for Mr. Darby was easily ascertained to have been in business at 22, Wyndham-road. This place was untenanted, and the police promptly forced an entrance. One room in the house bore evidence of having been the scene of a struggle. Blood was found on the floor, and in another part of the house the investigating party came across a heavy leaden sash weight. A portion of the cord to which it had been attached was still hanging to the thin end of it, and the heavier end was bespattered with congealed blood and hair.
Then piece by piece the following story was constructed: - Mr. and Mrs. Darby had been the tenants of the Camberwell shop for about 12 months, No. 22 standing at the corner of a narrow thoroughfare, known as Crown-street. The Darbys' immediate predecessor was a man named Pearce, whose name is still to be seen over the door. After a time Mr. Darby thought he would sell his business. He advertised it for sale in the following terms: -
GROCERY. - General and Provision; genuine business for disposal; doing 8 pounds to 10 pounds weekly; has done 18 pounds; price 60 pounds, all at, or close offer. - 22, Wyndham-road, Camberwell.
Several answers were received, and one of those who called in reply was the man in custody, now known as Edwards, although he then styled himself Londonen. After some discussion an arrangement was come to, with the result that Edwards entered into possession of the premises and contents, inclusive of the household furniture. After this date the neighbours have no definite recollection of seeing the young couple again. When the landlord called he found a hunchback, named Goodwin, in possession. The bailiffs were put in on a question of rent, and when they left the furniture was removed. The neighbours seem to have associated the disappearance of the Darbys with a question of debt, and there were some unkind remarks as to the Christmas club, into which customers had paid small sums of money. Edwards and the hunchback were seen to drive a covered van to the shop, and lift into it some furniture and a couple of boxes which were supposed to contain crockery ware. The window of the Plough and Crown beerhouse overlooks the backyard of 22, Wyndham-road. A sister-in-law of the licensee happened to be at the window, and she observed the two men at work removing the household furniture and effects. After that the little shop remained untenanted.
PRISONER IN COURT.
At Stratford police-court on Wednesday Edgar Edwards, 34, a grocer, of 89, Church-road, Leyton, was charged, on remand, with unlawfully and maliciously wounding John Garland, by striking him on the head with a piece of iron, and inflicting grievous bodily harm, on Dec. 23. There was a further charge as follows: - "Feloniously killing and slaying William John Darby, aged 26, Beatrice Darby, his wife, aged 28, and Ethel Beatrice Darby, aged ten weeks, on or
about Nov. 23, supposed at 22, Wyndham-road, Camberwell."
As soon as the charge had been read by Mr. M. Chapman, the prisoner exclaimed, "Sure, sir, there is some great mistake."
Detective-inspector Collins stepped into the witness-box and said the charge as made out was one of murder, and he therefore asked that the prisoner be remanded on the original charge, that of wounding. He said that the whole facts would be laid before the Public Prosecutor. The bodies, said the Inspector, were found buried in the garden of a house occupied by the prisoner, and evidence would be adduced that in the house was found furniture and effects of the deceased persons. The bodies, added the inspector, were cut into eight pieces, and were in six sacks. The child appeared to have been strangled by something tied round its neck, and a bloodstained weapon was found in the house.
Mr. Chapman: You ask for a remand?
- Inspector Collins: Yes, sir.
Mr. Chapman then remanded the prisoner, who was at once removed.
THE ARREST OF EDWARDS.
It was on Dec. 23, that Garland called at the cottage in Church-road, Leyton. The man Edwards was in at the time, and he admitted him. It is stated that he came in response to an advertisement in reference to the sale of a grocer's business of which he is the owner. Both men proceeded upstairs, where they had an interview. It did not last long. At its conclusion both started to come downstairs, Garland being in front. While descending in the manner described, Garland alleges that he received a blow
on the head from behind. At all events he was seriously injured. He did not, however, lose his presence of mind, although nearly stunned by the blow. He dashed down the remainder of the stairs shouting for help, and made a rush to open the front door. His cries for assistance were heard by a coal carter named Smith. He is in the employ of Messrs. Chandler and Son, whose business premises adjoin Worcester-villas. Smith, jumping from his vehicle on hearing cries of "Murder!" made a dash for the front door of No. 89. Finding it secured, he put his fist through the panel with the intention of pushing back the catch. Just at this moment the door was suddenly opened from within, and Garland, his face covered with blood, rushed out. He was weak and faint from loss of blood. A chair was procured, upon which he was seated. Many of the neighbours assisted in bandaging his wounds. Meanwhile the alarm had spread to the back of the house. Garland's cries had reached the stables of Messrs. Chandler. Several of the workmen rushed out and went towards the garden of No. 89. Edwards at this juncture made his appearance, but on seeing the men he returned to the house. The police were summoned, and a constable, entering by the back, proceeded upstairs, where he found Edwards in the apartment which served as a bedroom.
THE HOUSE AT LEYTON.
The accused's house at Leyton is just on the fringe of a well-populated district, is in a quiet lane, and overlooks some fields, and the garden in the rear is divided from the neighbouring gardens by open palings. At the further end of the terrace is a coal-yard. For some months No. 89 stood empty. It belongs to Mr. Bassett, a well-known auctioneer and house agent at Leyton, and to him Edwards at the beginning of December applied for the tenancy. He said he had kept a grocer's shop in Barnsbury-street, Islington, and he gave as reference, Mr. Darby, of 22, Wyndham-road, Camberwell. Mr. Bassett received a letter signed William John Darby, which was so satisfactory that Edwards was accepted as tenant. That this was a forgery is now clear. Mr. Bassett employed no sub-agent as has been erroneously reported.
On a Friday Edwards engaged an elderly man named Rawlings to dig the garden, and while he was so employed one day Edwards drove up in a cart drawn by a small pony. The vehicle had railing round it, and looked like a village butcher's cart. From this Edwards took a box, which he carried into the house. The following Monday he came again in the same cart, and brought with him six boxes. They were of the kind in which plums are usually sold, and were packed tightly with books, so much so, that many of the volumes overlapped the tops of the confining boxes.
"Come and give me a hand," Edwards said. Rawlings assisted to carry the six boxes into the back room, and then resumed his labours in the garden, which he manured very thoroughly. On the Tuesday Rawlings was anxious to complete his task. Edwards, however, had the keys of the house, and he did not put in an appearance at his customary hour. Accordingly, Rawlings relinquished thoughts of gardening for the day and went out with his dealer's cart. He returned in the afternoon, and on reaching No. 89 found Edwards already there. He had come this time with another vehicle. It was something like a grocer's cart or van, with a tilt or covering of white cloth enveloping its top. There was no name on the cart, to which was harnessed a chestnut horse. Edwards was alone, and at his request Rawlings assisted him to unload the contents of the vehicle, which consisted of household furniture and a few personal effects. These, which were of the most modest description, consisted chiefly of a bedstead, some bedding, a chair or two, and a looking-glass. All these articles were taken to the front upstairs room and placed there. This was the only furnished apartment in the house. After this neither Rawlings nor the other neighbours saw much of the new tenant of No. 89.
A blind was put on the back window on the first floor. Those in front of the house possessed venetian blinds, which were never drawn. As for the back windows on the ground floor, brown paper was made to serve as covering. Edwards did his own cooking, using a wood fire, and making personal excursions to the grocer's shop close by to purchase bread and milk.
Visitors to No. 89 appear to have been few. The neighbours remember but two, one of whom was the man Garland. The other was a lady, well-dressed and pretty. She was attired completely in black, and wore a black, smartly-trimmed sailor hat. She called at the cottage one afternoon soon after Edwards entered into possession. She remained a short while inside, went out and returned after the lapse of a few minutes. She has not been seen at the cottage since. A woman's black skirt has, it is stated, been found at the Leyton cottage. Mrs. Darby's relatives, who have examined it carefully, assert positively that it did not belong to the dead woman. The waist measurement of the garment, they say, is too small for Mrs. Darby, who was plump and robust looking. Its original owner consequently would have been a thinner woman. The woman seen at 22, Wyndham-road, after the disappearance of Mr. and Mrs. Darby, was Mrs. Goodwin, the wife of the hunchback.
PRISONER AND THE HUNCHBACK.
James Goodwin is also known as Meader, and he is said to have known Edwards for many years. According to the Daily Mail Edwards and the hunchback Goodwin were schoolfellows 30 years ago. They attended the Fellows-street school in Hackney-road, and also went to the same Sunday school. The prisoner's father then kept an oil-shop in Hows-street, Kingland-road. Goodwin himself, however, states that he is not sure of the man's name. He was accosted by him as an old friend five years ago while standing with a barrow in Shoreditch, and he said, "It's Harry Glanwell." The prisoner sought him out in that name on Nov. 28, but he says that he thinks his real name may be Smith. Between these two occasions, Goodwin avers, he had neither seen the accused man nor known anything of him. Edwards, or Glanwell, came to his house in Elsted-street, by the Rodney-road police-station, Walworth, and asked his wife if her husband was still "street working." He said, "I've come to see if I can do you a bit of good. Perhaps it will be an opening for you." He then proposed that she and her husband should give their house up and go into a shop he had taken to manage it for him. They did not actually move into the Wyndham-road house and shop, but they undertook to keep the shop open from eight o'clock in the morning until 10 o'clock at night. Edwards, so far as they knew, slept on the premises, for he "let them out" every night and let them in every morning from Dec. 2 to Dec. 10 inclusive.
THE MURDERED WOMAN.
Mrs. Darby's maiden name was Beatrice Kingswood. Previous to her marriage, about 18 months ago, she was employed as an assistant at Mr. Rollinson's furniture warehouse at Blackheath-hill, Greenwich. Mr. William Kingswood, of
Lethbridge-road, Lewisham-road, Greenwich, is a pensioner of the London County Council, having been for 40 years stoker at the Deptford pumping station, under the old Metropolitan Board of Works. His daughter, about the beginning of December, wrote to her sister, Mrs. Baldwin, and asked her to go over and see the baby. Mrs. Baldwin replied that she would be over in a day or two, and went. When she got to the shop there was a man behind the counter, and when she asked where Mrs. Darby was he replied that she was out. He added that he had bought the business, but the furniture belonging to the Darbys had not been removed. Mrs. Baldwin, after waiting an hour or two to see if her sister would return, went home and wrote to her sister, but received no reply. Finally, she went again and found the shop shut.
For about three weeks nothing was heard, until last Monday, when a policeman brought some articles of jewellery, which the deceased woman's sister at once identified as part of her sister's property. As a result, Mrs. Baldwin went across that day to Leyton, and a large amount of property was there identified by the two sisters - Mrs. Baldwin and Miss Kingswood. Included amongst them were the deceased woman's wedding ring and a number of her wedding presents, including one from Mr. Rollinson.
The post-mortem examination of the remains took place in the mortuary at the back of the town hall, Leyton, on Thursday. It was made by Dr. Jekyll and Dr. Sandimans, of the West Ham Hospital. The body of the woman was that of a fine muscular female. The body of the man showed him to be of slight physique. The baby was a remarkably fine child. On the right temple of both the man and the woman was a great gash, which leads to the conclusion - owing to the similarity of the wounds - that the pair were simultaneously attacked. The whole frontal region of the woman's skull was also smashed in, and she had two severe wounds on the back of the head, also a bruise over the right eye. The forehead of the man bore three gashes in the flesh, and triangular fractures of the skull corresponding with the exterior wounds. There were also severe injuries over the eye. The baby had a bruise on the right temple, insufficient in itself to cause death, but sufficient to produce unconsciousness. Round the poor child's throat was tightly knotted a man's cambric handkerchief. It bore no name or distinguishing mark, and was neatly and evenly folded in three rolls, tied twice round the neck, and fastened in front of the throat in what is known as a "granny" knot.
The theory which the post-mortem examination suggests is that the crime was committed not while the family were in bed, as had been supposed, but during the day or evening. In support of this it is also pointed out that Mrs. Darby's hair was found fastened up as women usually wear it during the day, and that the baby wore its ordinary day garments.
THE INQUEST OPENED.
The inquest on the victims was opened at the Leyton town hall on Friday morning by Dr. Alexander Ambrose, the coroner for the metropolitan division of Essex.
The police were represented by Superintendent Pryke, local Detective-inspector Collins, who has charge of the case, Detective-sergeants Friend, Noel, and Savage, Sub-divisional Inspector Jenkins, and Inspector Young.
The coroner at the outset remarked that he only intended to hear evidence of identification, and then to adjourn to enable the inquiries to be completed by the police. He added that he had received notification from the governor of Brixton prison that Edwards did not wish to attend.
The one witness called was Alice Elizabeth Baldwin, a respectably-dressed lady, who said she resided at 31, Glenwood-road, Catford. She had identified the body of William John Darby as that of her brother-in-law, aged 26 years.
The Coroner: What was he?
Witness: A grocer.
Where did he live? - 22, Wyndham-road, Camberwell.
You identify the woman as your sister Beatrice Darby? - Yes.
How old was she? - Twenty-eight years.
And wife of William John Darby? - Yes, sir.
What is the baby's name? - Ethel Beatrice.
And the age? - Ten weeks.
This concluded the evidence, and Dr. Ambrose delivered the following notable comment: - There is one thing I would like to do before we go, and that is, to appeal to the Press. They have always upheld the standard of education and morality in this country, and the Press here is infinitely better than it is on the Continent, and I would appeal to them to abstain from publishing with minuteness the horrible and gruesome details of the case. I suppose the whole of the Press is represented, and I feel that if they agree among themselves they could advance the general good much better by not publishing all those gruesome details.
The inquiry was then adjourned till Wednesday, Jan. 21.
After the inquest it transpired that articles belonging to the Darbys had been pawned in Greenwich, Woolwich, Camberwell, Catford, Leyton, and Stratford. With reference to this matter Detective-sergeant Friend, an astute officer of the C.I.D. stationed at Leyton, accompanied by Mrs. Baldwin, sister of Mrs. Darby, visited Mr. Brassey's, a pawnbroker, of High-street, Stratford, where she was shown an umbrella which she at once identified as having belonged to her sister; this was pawned on Dec. 17 for 2s. 6d. in the name of "Edwards."
It has also transpired that a couch belonging to the Darbys, which was missing, has now been found in a second-hand auction room at Camberwell, and stained with blood and hair, and it is surmised that Mrs. Darby was killed on this couch.
Mr. Angus Lewis, the Assistant-Director of Public Prosecutions, has had the details of the tragedy placed before him, and has now practically taken over the conduct of the case. Edwards first wrote about Darby's business at Camberwell on Nov. 26, and either that day or the next he saw Goodwin or Meader, and made arrangements with him to take over the management of 22, Wyndham-road.
Helping them to fix negatively the actual date of the alleged murder of the Darbys, the police have discovered a traveller who called at 22, Wyndham-road on Dec. 1, and saw Mr. Darby there. Thus the date alleged in the charge against Edwards - viz., Nove. 29 - has to be amended.
With the remains in the garden were discovered sacks of clothing much stained and torn. In one cuff of a shirt was a spring stud corresponding to one subsequently found in the room at 89, Church-road, where Edwards had been sleeping.
In the local directory of Leytonstone for 1901 and 1902 the name of the murdered man Darby appears as keeping a china shop at 365, Leytonstone-road, and he is still well remembered by many of the present local tradesmen. His mother, a widow, lives at Woolwich-road, where for a number of years she has carried on a coffee-house.
Source: Lloyd's Weekly News, January 4, 1903, Page 5