Saturday, 29 December 2012

Today in the Pace case: 29 December 1927

Thursday, 29 December 1927: Fred Thorne, a friend of Harry's visits Rose Cottage, finding Harry to be ‘very much altered and very ill’.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Today in the Pace case: 27 December 1927

Tuesday, 27 December 1927: Dr. William Du Pré, prevented by snow the previous day, finally attends to Harry, finding him suffering from severe abdominal pain and vomiting. He diagnoses gastric influenza.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Today in the Pace case: 26 December 1927

Monday, 26 December 1927: After Harry's turn for the worse on Christmas Day, on Boxing Day, Beatrice walks miles through deep snow to see the family doctor, William Du Pré. She tells him about Harry’s outburst the previous day and says he is suffering from stomach pains, ‘feverish headache’ and shivering. The deep snow, however, prevents Du Pré from attending Harry.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

'A fascinating snapshot of interwar England'

I am very pleased to see that The Most Remarkable Woman in England has been named by crime novelist Nicola Upson as her 'favourite read of 2012' at the Faber website.

She has some very kind words for my book:

Just for once, my crime book of the year isn’t a novel, but a factual account. In 1928, a quarryman called Harry Pace died of arsenic poisoning and his wife, Beatrice, was tried for his murder. John Carter Wood’s account of the case and trial has it all: suspense; surprise; and a searing account of one woman’s life, marriage, and journey from poverty and obscurity to celebrity and notoriety. Wood is brave enough to allow much of an incredible story to tell itself through newspaper accounts, letters and Beatrice’s private papers, and the book is all the richer for it. And because it’s a true story, he has no choice but to include some of the more incredible plot elements that a novelist might lose courage with! A fascinating snapshot of interwar England, brilliantly brought to life.

Many thanks to Nicola Upson for her enthusiasm!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Christmas at Rose Cottage

While something like this belongs on the Pace case 'timeline' series that I've been maintaining (and which will shortly be revived for another year of marking key events in the case), I presume that most of you will be doing other things on Christmas Day than reading this blog. (I know that I will be...)

So, I thought I would offer the following brief excerpt from the book, which has a definite Christmas connection, even if it's far from being filled with Christmas cheer.

To briefly set the scene: in December 1928, Harry Pace was ill at home, having returned from the Gloucester Royal Infirmary in late October. His condition appears to have been somewhat improving after his return.


On Christmas morning, [Harry's eldest daughter] Dorothy had, as usual, gone to light the fire in her father’s room. He told her not to bother as he would be coming downstairs. Putting the firewood into the grate, she noticed a bottle and placed it on a chest of drawers. Beatrice went upstairs to ask Harry about it, and Dorothy heard him reply, ‘I don’t know nothing.’

With [younger daughter] Doris’s assistance, Harry came downstairs for the first time since returning home. Rather than a joyful occasion, however, a terrifying scene unfolded. As Dorothy explained, her father, ‘in one of his tempers’, grabbed the tongs from the kitchen fireplace and attacked Beatrice. Dorothy intervened, and Harry, thwarted, bashed in the fireguard before sitting down.

After a pause, he took a straight razor from the cupboard and told his family to ‘clear out’ or else he would kill them. The two boys fled, and Beatrice sent Doris to fetch Joseph Martin, a neighbour who lived a couple hundred yards away.  Harry had ‘cooled down’ by the time Martin arrived, and he then returned to his room.  He would never again leave it alive.

Harry cried bitterly that afternoon and begged for his wife’s forgiveness. His condition, meanwhile, worsened, and on Boxing Day, Beatrice walked miles through deep snow to [family doctor William] Du Pré. She explained Harry’s outburst and said he was suffering from stomach pains, ‘feverish headache’ and shivering. The snow prevented Du Pré from attending until the next day, when he found Harry suffering from severe abdominal pain and vomiting.

He diagnosed gastric influenza. 

Du Pre's diagnosis, as described in the book, would not hold up for very long.

In that spirit: Wishing you all a happy (and, above all, peaceful and healthy) Christmas!

(Passage taken from The Most Remarkable Woman in England:Poison, Celebrity and the Trials of Beatrice Pace, pp. 15-16.) 

Noted: Review of recent police-history books

For those of you interested in the history of the British police -- an issue to which the Pace case is, of course, closely related -- there is a good review of four recent books on that topic at a German history site (the review, however, is in English). 

One of them is Joanne Klein's Invisible Men, which I also reviewed (as noted on this blog).

Another is Haia Shpayer-Makov's Ascent of the Detective, which I will soon be reviewing for Reviews in History.

Monday, 10 December 2012

The word from the Literary Review: 'A splendid piece of historical detective work'

In the current (Dec-Jan) issue of the Literary Review (yes, they of the famous 'bad-sex in fiction' awards) historian Dominic Sandbrook (whom you might know from his recent book and BBC series on the 1970s) says some very nice things about The Most Remarkable Woman in England.

Unfortunately, the review isn’t among those available online; however, here are a few short excerpts.

Today, of course, Beatrice Pace is almost completely forgotten. It is to John Carter Wood’s credit, therefore, that in this splendid piece of historical detective work he not only brings her story alive but casts new light on the life of England in the 1920s, a land desperate to return to normality after the First World War, but terrified of the demons lurking in the attic. This was a society drenched in celebrity and obsessed by murder, especially within families.
Like Kate Summerscale’s prizewinning book The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, Wood’s account is an engrossing exercise in historical reconstruction, slowly peeling back layer upon layer of the story of Harry and Beatrice Pace. Cleverly, he does not give us too much information at the start. Like the readers of a detective novel—and like the readers of the newspapers that reported the Pace case with such breathless excitement—we are made to wait for new disclosures that cast an entirely new light on Harry’s death. But this is far more than a true-crime thriller.

Wood’s achievement is to use the case to explore the troubled world of the mid-1920s, a period when, as the Daily Herald remarked, ‘nine people out of ten follow the meagre official details and the billowing rumours of an actual murder mystery more eagerly and breathlessly than the most devoted detective “fan.”’ In particular, Wood shows how Fleet Street seized upon the case as a commentary on the shifting gender roles of an age when flappers and suffragettes were challenging assumptions about feminine passivity.
Wood thinks the jury came to the right verdict, though it is a measure of his immaculately researched, fluently written and utterly compelling book that he allows readers to come to their own conclusions. For my own part, I rather think there was more to Beatrice Pace than met the eye. Who really killed Harry Pace? You had better read the book and decide for yourself. 

That last bit sounds right to me.

And, you know, I believe Christmas is coming.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

On the radio in Ireland

After receiving an email and having a quick telephone conversation, it looks as though I'm going to be interviewed tomorrow about The Most Remarkable Woman in England by Sean Moncrieff on Ireland's Newstalk 106-108 FM.

The live interview should, I'm told, take place at about 4pm GMT.

Even if you're not in Ireland, of course, you can listen along online.

[UPDATE]: for those who might have missed it, you can hear the interview here (from 6:40).

Thursday, 22 November 2012

New review in the Times Higher Education

There is a very positive review of The Most Remarkable Woman in England in today's Times Higher Education.

Along with providing a good summary of the main contents, June Purvis observes:

The Most Remarkable Woman in England is an intriguing book. It not only raises pertinent questions about the use of "evidence" to build a criminal case but also reveals how debates about gender roles, domestic violence and justice for the poor erupted at one particular cultural moment in inter-war Britain.

And she concludes:

This book will be an invaluable aid to those interested in the history of criminal justice and British society in the 1920s.

I would only note a minor misstatement early on in the review: it was not 'nearly five decades' after the case that I became interested in it, rather nearly eight.

Five decades after the case I was still in primary school.

At that point, I had still given little thought to becoming a historian. My interests were focused elsewhere.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Today in the Pace case: 16 November 1890

16 November 1890: The date of birth of Harry Pace.

The only image of Harry Pace that was published  by the press in 1928. 

Saturday, 27 October 2012

The Most Remarkable Woman in the Guardian

In today's Guardian, there's a very thoughtful review by Tessa Hadley of The Most Remarkable Woman in England.

It opens like this:

Sometimes life is better than fiction. Is there any novelist who could have got this extraordinary story so perfectly right, inventing it: the violence at the heart of it, the suspense, the succession of revelations, the passions so raw and inchoate that they have a mythic force? And then there's the grand sweep of the narrative, beginning in the bleak poverty of an obscure cottage in the Forest of Dean, acted out finally on the national stage.

The rest is certainly also worth your time, and the review also features a wonderful photo of part of the crowd gathered outside the Gloucester Shire Hall upon Beatrice Pace's acquittal.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Today in the Pace case: 24 October 1927

Monday, 24 October, 1927: Harry Pace is released from Gloucester Royal Infirmary after a little over two months' stay. He returns to his home, Rose Cottage, where he is tended to by Beatrice.

Today in the Pace case: 24 October 1889

24 October 1889: The birthdate of Beatrice Pace (or, as she was known then, Beatrice Martin).

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Today in the Pace case: 23 October 1909

23 October 1909: Beatrice Martin and Harry Pace were married at the Monmouth register office.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Most Remarkable Woman's Hour

I will be appearing tomorrow (Wednesday, 17 October) on BBC Radio 4's programme 'Woman's Hour' to talk about The Most Remarkable Woman in England.

The programme will be available live ('Woman's Hour' is broadcast between 10 and 10.45am GMT) online via the BBC website. If you can't make time to listen live, however, it will be available on the iPlayer soon after broadcast.

I've had some very nice chats with the show's producers in recent weeks and am looking forward to the interview and meeting host Jenni Murray!

[UPDATE]: Here's a direct link to my segment (or, 'chapter') on the show.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The Most Remarkable Woman in England: Available in the UK, US and Europe


"Such a page turner."

"Absolutely fabulous." 

These are a few of the verdicts that I have received in emails from British readers of my book, The Most Remarkable Woman in England: Poison, Celebrity and the Trials of Beatrice Pace.

So, I'm pleased to announce that, just over a month after its UK release, the book is now available in the US/Canada and in continental Europe.

In the UK, details and ordering information for the reasonably priced paperback edition are available direct from Manchester University Press. It is also available--at various discounts--from online retailers such as, Blackwells and Waterstones, as well, of course, via ordering through your local bookshop.

In the US, the book is being distributed by Macmillan and is available directly from them. Or, of course, from Amazon, other on-line retailers or, again, via ordering through your local bookshop. For the moment, it may be that US orders take a bit longer than would be ideal. Keep in mind that the book is from a university press based in the UK.

But the best signal for them to stock up is to get your orders in.

If you're looking for more immediate gratification, there is already a fair amount of information on the case on this blog, and you may also wish to 'like' The Most Remarkable Woman in England at its Facebook page: if so, please encourage your friends to do the same!

I will be posting updates here and at the Facebook page of any reviews or commentaries on the book and of any future book-related events and developments.

And if you do enjoy the book (which I hope very much), I encourage you to say so via online reviews, comments in social media (Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, etc.), blogs you may contribute to, and, of course, in that trusty old means of communication: conversation. As a book from a university press, word-of-mouth advertising (amplified electronically) is going to make all the difference!

Monday, 24 September 2012

Scenes from a remarkable book launch

A little over two weeks ago, the third British Crime Historians Symposium was held at The Open University in (ever-scenic) Milton Keynes.

I was very pleased that the conference organisers had put together a triple book-launch event, co-sponsored by Manchester University Press, for The Most Remarkable Woman in England, Rosalind Crone's Violent Victorians and Janet Clark's The National Council for Civil Liberties and the Policing of Interwar Politics.

A few photos from the evening:

Here, first, a stack of most remarkable women... to some violent Victorians and ardent civil-liberties activists.

I'm pleased to say that all three stacks became significantly smaller in the course of the evening...

...through sales such as this one.

All three of us were very honoured that Clive Emsley, emeritus Open University professor and, as noted at the conference, doyen of police history, agreed to introduce our books in his inimitable style.

During Clive's talk, my crime-historian colleagues listened attentively while gathered strategically near the wine table....

...where Clive and I, of course, then joined them.

It was through a happy coincidence that three OU-connected books on criminal justice history were released by the same publisher in time to be introduced at  the conference.

Many thanks to Manchester University Press for contributing to the event and my former Open University colleagues for the great organisational work in putting the event together!

Friday, 31 August 2012

The Most Remarkable Woman: Now Available (in the UK)

The day is finally here!

Today marks the official UK release of The Most Remarkable Woman in England: Poison, Celebrity and the Trials of Beatrice Pace. (The book will be available in the US/Canada from 2 October. I'll keep things updated here with any further information.)

Details and ordering information for the reasonably priced paperback edition are available direct from Manchester University Press.

The book is also available--at various discounts--from online retailers such as, Blackwells and Waterstones, as well, of course, via ordering through your local bookshop.

Any messages of the '(almost) out of stock' variety should be taken with a grain of salt: the books have been printed and should either be in or on their way to the relevant warehouses. At most, a little patience might be required at the start.

I will continue to keep making updates here at the blog in the coming months, and please, if you have questions or comments please let me know at the address listed to the right.

You may also wish to 'like' The Most Remarkable Woman in England at its Facebook page: if so, please encourage your friends to do the same!

And if you do enjoy the book (which I hope very much), please say so via online reviews, comments in social media (Goodreads, etc.), blogs you may contribute to, and, of course, in that trusty old means of communication: conversation. As a book from a university press, word-of-mouth advertising (amplified electronically) is going to make all the difference.

Finally, if anybody does run across commentary on the book, I'd be happy if you let me know.

Now: get reading!

Friday, 24 August 2012

Should any further introduction be needed...

Regular readers of this blog will have a pretty good idea of what The Most Remarkable Woman in England is about.

However, should anyone be looking for a succinct introduction (or seeking a quick refresher), Manchester University Press has posted a brief introduction today on their blog.

It's worth reading!

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Today in the Pace Case: 19 August 1927

Friday, 19 August 1927: After nearly a month of abdominal pains and partial paralysis Harry Pace is admitted to the Gloucester Royal Infirmary.

Shortly before, the Pace family's local doctor, William Henry Du Pré, and another physician, Ram Nath Nanda, had diagnosed the sick man as suffering from 'peripheral neuritis'.

Harry is so weak that he needs to be carried in a blanket to the car that will take him to hospital.

Friday, 17 August 2012

First confirmed sighting of the Most Remarkable Woman in England

Thanks to the Twitter activities of my editor at Manchester University Press, I can share the first confirmed sighting of The Most Remarkable Woman in England.

I think it looks excellent.

And it will, of course, look even better up close, i.e., when you have it in your own hands.

Information as to its availability to follow.

But it's very exciting to know that it finally exists in physical form!

Today in the Pace case: 17 August

Friday, 17 August 1928: It is reported in several newspapers—such as the Evening News, Daily Chronicle, Daily Mail, Daily News and Daily Telegraph—that Scotland Yard is reopening its inquiries into the death of Harry Pace.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Today in the Pace case: 12 August

Sunday, 12 August 1928: The sixth part of Beatrice’s serialised memoir appears in the Sunday Express, titled 'The Beginning of a New Life'.

My housekeeping money used to very between 15s. and £1 a week. Sometimes it was 10s., and sometimes it was nothing. And on that I had to feed Harry, myself, and the children. Most of the money used to go on tea, sugar, bread, milk, lard to fry in and sometimes a little butter for the bread. I and the children used to live almost entirely on boiled potatoes and friend onion, while I took care that Harry used to have bacon, eggs and cheese. (Sunday Express, 12 August 1928, p. 12.)

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Today in the Pace case: 5 August

Sunday, 5 August 1928: The fifth part of Beatrice’s serialised memoir appears in the Sunday Express under the title 'A Talk to Those About to Marry'.

I try to think of what I felt as a young girl married to such a man, and when I think of it now, as a woman of thirty-seven, I wonder how it was that I stuck it for so long. Week in, week out, month in, month out, year in, year out—nothing but work, meals, rows, and beatings. [...]

There was the continual trouble of getting food, and of seeing that Harry had the best of anything that was in the house. I knew that when he came home from work he would be hungry and tired, and probably in a bad temper, and I was always on the watch to please him.

Sometimes, when I would see him coming over the fields with that walk that I knew meant a thrashing for me, I would go to meet him, and tell him of something special that I had got for his supper.

It used to happen, now and again, that by doing that I escaped a beating, and it used to happen that sometimes I did not. [...]

Pancakes were the great things to put him in a good temper, and whatever were my housekeeping difficulties, I nearly always contrived to have in the house materials for making them. If I felt trouble in the air (like our dog, Rover, I often sensed Harry’s moods beforehand), I would hurry to get some pancakes ready, and then run to meet Harry so soon as I saw him coming across the fields. (Sunday Express, 5 August 1928, p. 15)

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Today in the Pace case: 29 July

Sunday, 29 July 1928: The fourth part of Beatrice’s serialised memoir appears in the Sunday Express, under the title 'A Talk to Wives by Mrs. Pace'.

Since I began my story in the “Sunday Express” I have had hundreds of letters from women, all of them kind, but many of them saying what amounts to this: You have had a terrible time in your married life: you have suffered terrible pain and anxiety in being accused of a murder you did not commit. Your husband treated you worse than an animal, and yet expected you to mother his children and keep his home. Why were you such a fool as to put up with it? We would not have done so for a week, let alone eighteen years. We would have run away. That is the question I have been asked, and I think I can answer it.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Today in the Pace case: 23 July 1927

Saturday, 23 July 1927: It is, of course, difficult to say when the Pace matter 'began', but a reasonable choice would be this date in the summer of 1927.

While there remained some debate about precisely what happened, it seems very likely that on this day Beatrice and Harry Pace, assisted by their children Doris and Leslie, 'dipped' several of their lambs in a small tub near the railway line that ran past their home, 'Rose Cottage'.

Sheep 'dipping' involved bathing the animals in an arsenic-rich insecticide and fungicide (powdered 'sheep dip' mixed with water) to prevent infestation.

That evening, Harry began to suffer abdominal pains so intense that he rolled around in agony on the ground, and he stayed in bed all the following day.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Today in the Pace case: 22 July

Sunday, 22 July 1928: The third part of Beatrice’s serialised memoir appears in the Sunday Express.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Today in the Pace case: 15 July

Sunday, 15 July 1928: The second part of Beatrice’s serialised memoir appears in the Sunday Express.

(Sunday Express, 15 July 1928, p. 1: Beatrice Pace, with Alice Sayes holding Jean Pace)

Monday, 9 July 2012

A lofty perspective on the Pace trial

Although I thought, at first, that they have nothing in particular to do with the Pace case (or with crime), these 1920s aerial views of London (gathered together by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) give a fascinating visual perspective on the period.

The pictures come from the project: 'Britain from Above', which I followed up on and joined (it's free).

Doing a quick search led me to photos which are relevant to the Pace case (and were even taken in the same year as the trial), such as this image of central Gloucester:

(Gloucester from the air, 1928. Source)

The Gloucester Shire Hall, where Beatrice's trial was held, is clearly visible in the lower part of the photo in the centre (other images posted on this blog of the Shire Hall are here and here):

This one is also interesting, as it shows Gloucester Prison, where Beatrice was held during the trial (the Shire Hall is now in the upper left-hand corner:

(Gloucester Prison from the air, 1928. Source.)

It was a very short distance to the Shire hall (also visible in the photo at the upper left hand), but Beatrice was ferried back and forth by car, usually to the accompaniment of raucous public demonstrations.

Today in the Pace case: 9 July

Monday, 9 July 1928: Beatrice’s Member of Parliament, A. A. Purcell, raises a series of questions in Parliament about her treatment and suggests that she should receive compensation. (Click on the link to see the original text of the parliamentary discussion.)

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Today in the Pace case: 8 July

Sunday, 8 July 1928: The first part of Beatrice’s serialised memoir appears in the Sunday Express.

Sunday Express, 8 July 1928, p. 1 (Click for larger image.)

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Today in the Pace case: 7 July

Saturday, 7 July 1928: The publication rights to Beatrice’s life story are sold to the Sunday Express for a substantial sum. Beatrice, accompanied by her friend Alice Sayes, departs Coleford for a holiday in Windsor.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Glimpses of the Pace trial: 6 July 1928

Concluding the series of posts on the coverage by the Daily Mirror of the Pace trial, which, on 6 July 1928 was in its fifth and final day. Its events are perhaps best summarised by considering the front page of the next day's edition of the Mirror:

Daily Mirror, 7 July 1928, p. 1. (Left: crowds greeting the acquittal in Gloucester. Upper right: Beatrice Pace. Lower right: Norman Birkett, K.C. (Beatrice's barrister) and Mr. Justice Horridge (the presiding judge).

From an editorial in the same issue:

The Strange Case of Mrs. Pace

Mrs. Pace was acquitted yesterday after an ordeal (before Coroner and Judge) that has lasted for weeks and has been watched by a huge crowd with every demonstration of intense excitement.

Our readers will have followed the evidence in our news columns; while our pictures have illustrated the accompaniment of public emotion.

We need not deny that the result will be saluted with popular approval, though it is wise always to deprecate the attempt to weigh upon cool justice by ‘taking sides’ in violent clamour.

It was obvious from the first that this woman’s tragic story had deeply impressed the crowd.

And it is indeed a pitiable thing that she should have been subjected to a preliminary torture, which seems, after the stopping of the case yesterday, to have been avoidable, as the Judge suggested.

The facts were reviewed in their first aspect, as we have said, for months. The trial suddenly ends—there is ‘no case.’ Mrs. Pace’s ordeal is over.

But what can compensate a hunted human creature for the anguish thus endured?

Evidently, some such conviction of needlessly inflicted suffering urged an emotional multitude at Gloucester to clamour, which was human enough, though deplorable as a precedent.

(Daily Mirror, 7 July 1928, p. 9)

Today in the Pace case: 6 July

Friday, 6 July 1928: The trial against Beatrice Pace suddenly ends in a directed verdict of ‘not guilty’. She leaves the court a free woman and the verdict is greeted by a large and enthusiastic crowd in Gloucester. Beatrice departs Gloucester for Coleford, where she stays at the King’s Head Hotel. In the evening, a party is held to celebrate the acquittal.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Glimpses of the Pace trial: 5 July 1928

Excerpts from the coverage in the Daily Mirror of the fourth day of the trial of Beatrice Pace for the alleged murder of her husband Harry.

Inside the courtroom:

The greater part of the morning was occupied by the evidence of cross-examination of Chief Inspector Cornish, of Scotland Yard.

Describing his interview with Mrs. Pace, the inspector said it lasted from 11.15 a.m. to 9.15 p.m., with intervals for meals. “She seemed very anxious to tell us the story of her married life, and it was an hour before we reduced a word to writing,” he said.

In the statement alleged to have been made by the widow reference was made to her unhappy married life and her husband’s cruelty.

Pace, it was stated, once tied her to the bedpost and left her like it all day.

“When he went to bed he took up a small pistol, which he put under his pillow. He came after me at two o’clock in the morning.” ... “I have been told by Chief Inspector Cornish that the organs of my husband contained arsenic and he has invited me to tell him if possible how it got there,” continued the statement. ...

“My answer is: I cannot account for it unless he has taken it himself.”

“I certainly have not given him anything other than his ordinary and proper food, and although he has been very cruel to me at times I was very devoted to him and loved him to the end.”

“He had threatened to do it. Three years ago he said he would do away with himself.” 

Outside the courtroom:

Vigorous steps were taken by the police yesterday to avoid a repetition of the disorderly scenes which have occurred daily at Gloucester since the trial of Mrs. Pace began.

Mounted policemen drove the crowd out of the road behind the court and thus left a clear passage for the taxicab in which Mrs. Pace is conveyed to and from the prison.

They could not, however, prevent a large crowd from collecting at either end of the road. People shouted hurrahs and waved handkerchiefs to Mrs. Pace.

During the interval four men who broke away from the queue were knocked down by a policeman’s horse and injured slightly.

(‘Ten Hours’ Talk with Mrs. Pace’, Daily Mirror, 6 July 1928, p. 4.)

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Glimpses of the Pace trial: 4 July 1928

Excerpts from the press coverage of the third day of the trial of Beatrice Pace for the alleged murder of her husband Harry from the Daily Mirror.

One of the Pace jury members apparently began feeling the pressure:

It was after Mr. Justice Horridge announced at the trial yesterday that he must take every precaution to ensure that the jury should not be overtaxed, that it was learned that one of the two women juror s had had a bad heart attack overnight and had to be attended by a doctor.

Both women are elderly, and the strain has obviously affected their strength.

The Judge has arranged to adjourn each day for one hour at luncheon—an extended adjournment which affords the jury an opportunity of getting a little fresh air. 

Meanwhile, outside the court:

Scenes following the adjournment of the trial last night surpassed even those of the previous days.

Elaborate precautions had been taken by the police to prevent disorder, but the crowd was so large that they had the greatest difficulty controlling it.

The road at the back of the Shire Hall was dense with thousands of people. A cordon of constables who stood shoulder to shoulder and held each other’s arms was drawn across the road to act as a human barrier.

At last the road to the prison was more or less free of people and a taxi containing Mrs. Pace was allowed to come out of the Shire Hall courtyard. It appears was the signal for the crowd to burst into cheering and a cry arose, “There she is, poor woman.” 

(‘Heart Attack of Woman Juror at Pace Trial’, Daily Mirror, 5 July 1928, p. 2.)

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

"A sort of excessive domestic brawl with not more than a couple of paragraphs in it."

This is something I happened to run across this week while reading through the Spectator in 1926 looking for something else altogether. 

The discussion of what makes for an interesting murder (as opposed to a 'dull murder') -- at least as far as the press was concerned -- seems relevant to the cultural context in which the Pace case would soon cause a sensation.

Though the Pace Case, of course, took place far away from the north side of the Thames.

The Topography of Crime

One day, when I was in prison, the chaplain talked to me on the topography of crime. He said: “It is a strange fact that nearly all the murders in London are committed north of the Thames.” I recalled as many murders as I could, and was astonished to discover that all those I remembered had been committed, as the chaplain asserted, above and not below the Thames. I hastily resolved to remove myself to the Surrey side of the river.

“When a murder is committed south of the Thames,” the chaplain continued, “it is nearly always a dull murder.”

I interrupted him with a literary allusion: “What Pegeen Mike in The Play-Boy of the Western World calls ‘a sneaky kind of murder.’”

“I don’t know the piece, he replied, “but the description is good, though it would be more accurate to say accidental than sneaky! What I mean is, that there is nothing sensational about murders committed south of the Thames. There isn’t an editor in London who would say “Thank you” for the murders we get. They have no news value. I mean, a husband hits his wife harder than he meant to and kills her. That’s the kind of murder that is committed south of the Thames.”

“A sort of excessive domestic brawl,” I suggested, “with not more than a couple of paragraphs in it.”


“How do you explain the fact?” I asked.

“I don’t,” he replied. “I merely state it. One can account for the fact that nearly all the sensational company-promoting crimes are committed north of the Thames. If a financier starts to go wrong he has to do it in the City, and the City is north of the river. But no one can account for the fact that the more imaginative and sensational murderers commit their crimes above the Thames. Interesting financial criminals are sent first to Wormwood Scrubs from the Old Bailey. 

I remember being told by an officer at the Scrubs that three of the most accomplished scoundrels in the world of high finance were in the prison at one time! Three of them at once! Most interesting! I should say that the level of crooked intelligence at Wormwood Scrubs is very high, but south of the river, at Wandsworth, say, the general level of crooked intelligence is low. North of the Thames you get good poisoning cases or crimes of passion—all guaranteed to fill columns of the newspapers for days at a time; but south of the Thames you seldom get any but mean, uninteresting felonies: wife-beating, house-breaking, unpremeditated murder that is really manslaughter or aggravated assault, and any amount of petty larceny. The Bywaters and Mrs. Thompsons, the Seddons, the Crippens, all of them either inhabit the northern suburbs or commit their crimes there.”

I thought the chaplain spoke with some feeling, as if he resented the habit sensational murderers had of working outside, so to speak, his jurisdiction. There he was, incessantly toiling for long hours every day, among prisoners, not one of whom could provide him with an interesting passage for his reminiscences of prison life. His colleagues on the north of the Thames had all the luck.

By St. John Ervine, Spectator, 13 November 1926, p. 851.

Glimpses of the Pace trial: 3 July 1928

Press coverage of the second day of the trial of Beatrice Pace for the alleged murder of her husband Harry from the Daily Mirror.

A short excerpt from the cross-examination of Harry Pace’s brother Elton by Beatrice’s barrister, Norman Birkett:

Mr Birkett...: You have told us that you are on friendly terms with the prisoner, your sister-in-law. Is that true or is it a lie?—It is true.

Four years ago did Mrs. Pace forbid you to come to the house?—She told me that very often, but I did not mind it.

Did she tell you you were a bully?—Yes, but we made it up. She asked me to be friendly.

I suggest that that is a deliberate untruth?—It is not. ...

Counsel: Did you tell your brother that his wife was calling him names?—Certainly not. He would have gone about my neck, that he would.

He was very fond of his wife?—He was overseeing in her.

Do you mean that he was seeing in her what was not there? (Loud laughter.)

The Judge (sternly): I will not have this silly laughter in this court. This is not a laughing matter, and if I hear any more of it I shall order those who laugh to be turned out of the court. Those who laugh here should be ashamed of themselves for being such idiots as to laugh.

Counsel: Do you mean that your brother was devoted to the prisoner?—he could see no fault in her.

(‘”Ordered” From Pace’s House’, Daily Mirror, 4 July 1928, p. 4.)

The scene outside the courtroom: 3 July 1928

A scene from the opening of the Pace trial, Gloucester, 3 July 1928:

Daily Sketch, 3 July 1928, p. 1

Monday, 2 July 2012

Glimpses of the Pace trial: 2 July 1928

Excerpts from the coverage of the first day of the trial of Beatrice Pace for the alleged murder of her husband Harry from the Daily Mirror.

Inside the courtroom:

As the clerk read the charge to the jury Mrs. Pace began to weep softly, and the Judge gave permission for her to be seated. Thus began the final act in the drama that commenced last January with the death of Harry Pace, who was a Forest of Dean sheep farmer, and the stopping of the funeral by the coroner.

The most poignant incident yesterday was the giving of evidence by Mrs. Pace’s nine-year-old son Leslie. The boy smiled brightly at his mother, who burst into tears. “Do you love your mum?” asked Mr. Birkett, the leading counsel for Mrs. Pace. “Yes,” answered the boy emphatically. “Has she looked after you well?”—“Yes.” 

Outside the courtroom:

When the police attempted to smuggle Mrs. Pace out of a back exit she was surrounded by hundreds of cheering people, and it was with difficulty that her taxi was able to move off.

Later an hotel to which the Pace children had been taken was besieged, and the crowd would not disperse till the children had shown themselves. An attempt to mob the car was foiled by the mounted police. 

(‘Pace Children Besieged in Gloucester Hotel’, Daily Mirror, 3 July 1928, p. 3)

Today in the Pace case: 2 July

Monday, 2 July 1928: At the Shire Hall in Gloucester, Beatrice’s trial for murder (Rex v. Beatrice Annie Pace) begins.
The Gloucester Shire Hall, 2010 (Photo by J. C. Wood)

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

‘If I live to get home again’

My series on Beatrice Pace's prison letters continues.

Excerpt from a letter written by Beatrice Pace to her friend Alice Sayes from Birmingham Prison, 27 June 1928

I am getting fed right up with one thing and another, as I don’t know what to be doing to be right. But I shall know if I live to get home again. ...

Then I knew little Leslie [1] was getting homesick before I left. So tell him when you see him again that Mam won’t be long before she will be home to him again. Poor little Leslie, it nearly breaks my heart to think how I am parted from him and all the rest. I am longing to get home again. ...
Well, I must not forget to thank you for the lovely things you brought me on Saturday. I ate the choc first. I was longing for a sweet as I had not seen one since I left Coleford. I thought they were ever so nice. ...

[1] Beatrice’s nine-year-old son

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Today in the Pace case: 24 June

Sunday, 24 June 1928: The World’s Pictorial News reports that Beatrice’s defence fund has reached £1,250.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

'My Dollies and Me'

One of the stranger newspaper stories published on the Pace case was the one shown below: written 'by' Doris Pace, Beatrice's eleven-year-old daughter, it considers the large number of dolls received by Doris from well-meaning strangers. (Click for a larger view.)

The People, 17 June 1928, p. 4.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

'Tonight I'm downhearted, for though we have parted I love you and always will.'

Given that Beatrice Pace suggested, in her prison letter of 20 June 1928, that 'Are You Lonesome Tonight' was one of her favourite songs, I thought it might be nice to post a version of the song that was possibly the one she knew and loved.

('Are You Lonesome Tonight', performed by Henry Burr, 1927)

I've come to the opinion that, should it come to a film version of the Pace story (come on, Hollywood, what are you waiting for?! Write me, we'll do lunch), this music would be an important part of its soundtrack.

It connects with the story on many levels.

And, in the context of the events of the 'Fetter Hill Mystery', there's something very haunting about it.

‘I am suffering for nothing’

My series on Beatrice Pace's prison letters continues.

Excerpt from a letter written by Beatrice Pace to her friend Alice Sayes from Birmingham Prison, 20 June 1928

I am longing to come home and sit in that cosy armchair of yours and hear that record of mine, ‘Are you lonesome tonight, do you miss me tonight, do the chairs in your parlour seem empty and bare. Do you stand on your doorstep and picture me there.’

I hope I shall soon be there as I am getting rather fed up. I am doing my best, my very best to keep up as I don’t want the good people here to think I am not well and happy, but they don’t know how I feel, how I am longing to see my Dear Children. ...
...I don’t want to worry you or anyone with any more of my troubles as I have done enough of that. But, Dear Alice, this case is worrying me to death because I am suffering for nothing. ...

Monday, 18 June 2012

On 'lewdness', 'annoyance' and turning a blind eye

Although the investigation into the death of Harry Pace and the trial of his widow Beatrice took place far, far away from the bustle of London's streets, the case became tangentially connected to a chronic problem in the policing of the metropolis in the 1920s: prostitution.

The connection had to do with debates about police powers, which (as I've noted here before) were a hotly debated topic in the latter half of the 'roaring twenties'.

In the context of putting some final touches on another essay of mine on the police powers issue, I was very pleased to discover that an article by my friend Stefan Slater has seen the light of day in the current issue of Law and History Review: 'Lady Astor and the Ladies of the Night: The Home Office, the Metropolitan Police and the Politics of the Street Offences Committee, 1927–28'.

The article is, unfortunately, behind one of those annoying paywalls, but if you have access to a good university library (or know someone who does), you should be able to get a copy.

The abstract runs like this:

Section 54 (11) of the Metropolitan Police Act 1839 criminalized the act of a common prostitute causing annoyance by soliciting in public. For the police to implement this legislation was no simple matter, as no definition of “prostitute,” or indeed “annoyance,” was scribed in statute law. Although common law aided the interpretation of this offense—the case of Rex v. de Munck (1918): “We are of the opinion that prostitution is proved if it is shown that a woman offers her body commonly for lewdness of payment in return”—in practice, identifying a “common prostitute” and defining “annoyance” was left to the discretion of the individual police officer. Although specific squads were deployed to target streetwalkers in West End police divisions, where the presence of prostitutes was more likely to cause public offense, a “blind eye” was often turned to women soliciting in the less salubrious streets of the metropolis. Local knowledge gained on the beat and the informal advice of colleagues shaped an unofficial police policy of containment and toleration.
I had the pleasure of reading a couple of draft versions of this article and also discussing it and related topics with Stefan on several occasions.  

With articles like this one and this one, Stefan is establishing himself as one of the leading historians of twentieth-century British policing.

He's also probably one of the best barmen in London. 

This is a rare combination, you will admit.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

‘There is nothing in life for me now’

My series on Beatrice's prison letters continues.

Excerpt from a letter written by Beatrice Pace to her friends Alice and Leslie Sayes from Birmingham Prison, 12 June 1928:

My Dearest Friends,
I am now answering your most loving letter that I received from you on Saturday. I am glad to hear you are all well. I should have wrote yesterday but I did expect you would be up with Mrs. Paddock [1] and Mrs. Wadell. I was ever so pleased to see them both. They brought me some lovely flowers and Mrs. Paddock gave me some money as I buy my own food. ...

Well Dear Alice can baby [2] say anything yet. It is her birthday today. I hear she is allright and she has a nice Dolly. ...

Mr. Purcell [3] and Mrs. Purcell came last Saturday. I can remember seeing her in court the last time I was there. They were both very nice and said they would come and see me again. Someone has sent me a lovely bunch of flowers. I don’t know who it was. ...
If I live to get home again I shall sell it all. As I am almost broken hearted and think there is nothing in life for me now. This case has made me an old woman.

[1] Proprietor of the King’s Head Hotel in Coleford, Glos., who was also taking care of Beatrice’s daughter Doris.
[2] Beatrice’s infant daughter, Jean.
[3] A. A. Purcell, M.P. for the Forest of Dean and organiser of Beatrice’s legal defence fund.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Today in the Pace case: 10 June

Sunday, 10 June 1928: The Sunday News reports that Beatrice’s defence fund has reached £950.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Today in the Pace case: 8 June

Friday, 8 June 1928: The Dean Forest Guardian reports that Beatrice’s defence fund has reached £700.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Today in the Pace case: 7 June

Thursday, 7 June 1928: A. A. Purcell, M.P. for the Forest of Dean,  is reported in the Daily Herald as stating he was ‘in touch with a first-class K.C.’, i.e., ‘King’s Counsel’, to plead Beatrice’s case at her trial.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Police and public

Not only a fascinating story in its own right, the Pace case sheds light on many broader issues and themes in 1920s Britain. One of the most interesting--to which I devote a chapter--could be labelled 'justice'. Various criminal justice institutions or agencies were criticised (both in the press and in Parliament) for the way they treated the 'tragic widow', even more so after her acquittal.

The police took a lot of the heat, specifically the Scotland Yard detectives who came from London to the remote Forest of Dean to investigate the mysterious death of Harry Pace. As I've noted here before, accusations were made at the time that the detectives treated Beatrice badly during her questioning, using 'third-degree' methods in an attempt to influence the  'voluntary statement' she made to them on 11 March.

The 'third-degree' accusations didn't come from nowhere: the Pace case was actually only one of a series of scandals and controversies that rocked British police forces (especially London's Metropolitan Police) in the late 1920s. In my research, I've been able to show--for the first time--how this particular case fit into the broader concerns about alleged abuses of police powers and possible dangers to civil liberties in this period.

So, yesterday, I was pleased to receive the print edition of my latest article on police powers in the 1920s: 'Press, Politics and the "Police and Public" Debates in Late 1920s Britain' which appears in the current issue of Crime, Histoire & Sociétés / Crime, History and Societies (full details for you academic geeks out there: vol. 16, no. 1 [2012]: pp. 75-98).

I actually published my first academic article with CHS back in 2003, so it's nice to do so again (not least in an issue that contains articles and reviews by several good friends of mine in the crime and justice history field).

As CHS isn't the kind of thing you find on newsstands (you'll need a university library most likely), you may want to check out the final pre-publication draft which is available here.

The article focuses on the debates around policing, with a particular focus on the roles of the three main political parties (Conservative, Liberal and Labour) and the press in addressing the issues raised. 

This is how it opens:

In June 1929, a Manchester Guardian editorial[*] marked a London visit by continental police officials. ‘The French and the Germans do many things better than we do’, the paper noted,

but, by general consent, there is one institution that is rather better in England than in France or Germany. Our police are not at all perfect, as some recent events have shown, but they are, nevertheless, very good, and few foreigners visit this country without being impressed by their quiet efficiency. 

Parisian police, it continued, ‘are often brutal when they make arrests’, and while the Berlin police chief had done away with brutal, ‘third-degree’ methods,

Herr Zörgiebel, too, could learn a good deal from the study not only of British police methods but also of the way in which the public reacts instantaneously to anything that looks at all like an excess on the part of the police, demanding that there shall at least be an inquiry and, if there is guilt, the punishment of the guilty. 

Remarkably, this praise came in the wake of nearly two years of relentless scandals and parliamentary inquiries (the ‘recent events’ cited in the editorial); from the autumn of 1927, diverse concerns about the police fed into one another, resulting in a perfect storm of controversy and the most dramatic challenge to the legitimacy of a major British police force in the first half of the twentieth century. 
[* Manchester Guardian, 13 June 1929, p.10.]

By all means, if you like this kind of thing, please do read the rest...

‘I thought I should soon be home but now I think it is a long way off’

The series of Beatrice Pace's prison letters continues.

Excerpt from a letter written by Beatrice Pace to her friend Alice Sayes from Birmingham Prison, 6 June 1928:

To My Dearest Friends

I am just writing you a line. As you will see I am removed from Cardiff still farther away from you. I have lost all hopes of coming home, but I trust you will see and care for my dear Baby [1] as she is never out of my thoughts, also the others but I think of Baby most as she cannot speak and tell you what she wants. ...

I am very worried as I thought I should soon be home but now I think it is a long way off. Did Mr. Clarke [2] tell you any news or Mr. O’Donnell [3]. Please tell me when you write. Also remember me to all at home. ...

I remain your ever loving friend Beattie xxxxxx

X for Jean. I am delighted to hear she is improving. 

[1] Beatrice’s infant daughter, Jean. (See a picture here.)
[2] D. P. Clarke, another solicitor in the firm of Beatrice's solicitor, G. Trevor Wellington.
[3] Bernard O'Donnell, a crime journalist who wrote several articles on the case (such as this one and the one pictured here) and befriended the Pace family.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Today in the Pace case: 5 June

Tuesday, 5 June 1928: Beatrice is moved from Cardiff Prison, where she has been held since being charged on 22 May, to Birmingham Prison, to await trial.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Today in the Pace case: 4 June

Monday, 4 June 1928: The ‘committal proceedings’ at Coleford end with the magistrates sending the case on to the next Gloucestershire assizes which open within a few days.

Because of the shortage of time to prepare, however, the actual trial will be delayed.

In another development, the Daily Mail receives a donation of £500 for Beatrice's defence fund from Barbu Jonescu, a close associate of the exiled Romanian leader, Prince Carol. In early May, the Prince had been ejected from Britain after accusations emerged that he had been engaged in intrigues to regain his throne. The Prince (and Jonescu) had relocated to Brussels, but were apparently still reading the English press.

‘As this unfortunate lady has been under a terrible ordeal for months past owing to the long-drawn-out proceedings of the inquest’, Jonescu wrote, ‘I am enclosing my cheque … in order that she will be represented worthily at the trial.’

Further details of this rather odd aspect of the case are dealt with in the book.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

The press and the 'tragic widow'

A typical page from the World's Pictorial News (which was among the more sensationalist newspapers of the time) with coverage of the Pace case, featuring pictures of Beatrice, Dorothy, Doris and Jean Pace (and an unnamed lamb):

World's Pictorial News, 13 May 1928, p. 10

Beatrice was, by the way, widely referred to as 'the tragic widow'.

This image comes from the period of the coroner's inquest, before Beatrice was charged with her husband's murder.

‘I am awfully worried’: Beatrice’s prison letters

While she was imprisoned awaiting trial, at first in Cardiff and then in Birmingham, Beatrice Pace wrote several letters to her friends and family.

Some of these letters – all of which had been written to her friend Alice Sayes – have been retained in the Home Office files related to the case. (The reason why these particular letters have been retained relates to a complicated and fascinating post-trial series of events discussed in the book.)
Detail from one of Beatrice's prison letters.

Together, they give insight into Beatrice’s thoughts in the weeks before her trial.

Over the next few weeks I'll be reprinting brief excerpts from the letters (a few of which were quite long) on the dates on which they were written, 84 years ago.

For each excerpt, I have added notes to explain references that might not be clear.

Excerpt from a letter written from Cardiff Prison, 3 June 1928
Ask Les [1] if he has heard when I shall be coming home. Try and keep the papers for me. Give my love to all that ask you about me. I am writing to Mr. O’Donnell [2] this week. I have had two nice letters from him. He was all smiles in court.

Have you heard about the fund they have opened for me. Do you know how much they have got? I am awfully worried. My head is very bad. Well now dear write me a nice long letter. Tell me all the news. I should like the Guardian [3] paper if you could send it. So now I shall have to close and wish you all so long.

I remain your loving Friend Beattie.
Be sure and keep Baby [4]. I am longing to nurse her once more. Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

[1] Les Sayes, husband of Beatrice’s good friend Alice Sayes.
[2] Bernard O’Donnell, a journalist who wrote several articles about Beatrice’s case.
[3] The Dean Forest Guardian, one of the local papers in the Forest of Dean, where Beatrice lived.
[4] Alice Sayes was taking care of Beatrice’s youngest child, her sickly infant daughter Jean.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Innocent until proven guilty

This is a commentary on some of the legal issues that the Pace case raised that I recently ran across, published eighty-four years ago today:

The comfortable British belief that in this country every accused person is treated as innocent until proved guilty has been upset by the finding in the matter of Mrs. Pace and her late husband. The Coroner’s jury, on the evidence before them, formed the opinion that the man did not lose his life through natural causes or by his own act. But they could not leave the matter there. By the Coroners Act of 1887 they were required to fasten guilt on some particular person or persons.

Thus Mrs. Pace, who has yet to be tried, was by them declared to have administered poison to the dead man. On a strict legal view, such a declaration is no more than a charge, but people in general lump all verdicts together, and until the wording, or the procedure, is changed there must be risks of the jury at the trial being prejudiced by the finding at the inquest. Why should not the Coroner’s jury be content to find simply that death was apparently the result of action by some party other than the deceased?

It is not only with reference to Coroners’ procedure that there is a case for enquiry. The time has come, it seems to us, when there might usefully be an investigation into the whole question of what we may call trials before true trials. The legal mind and the mind of the instructed layman may be depended upon to distinguish between preliminary proceedings, which result only in a charge, and true verdicts; but as regards the general public there is no small amount of confusion and prejudice.

Press publicity brings the results in Magistrates’ courts and Coroners’ inquests before a huge body of readers, and whatever the eventual fate of an accused person there does cling to him or her some of the discredit or criminality imputed by the preliminary finding. The motives with which the existing system was established are not in question, but a thorough investigation of its workings would be beneficial.

(‘Notes of the Week’, Saturday Review, 2 June 1928, p. 686. Some paragraph breaks added.)

Both of these matters--the role of the coroner and the press--became the subject of intense debate around the case and are discussed in depth in the book.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Today in the Pace case: 1 June

Friday, 1 June 1928: The Dean Forest Guardian reports that A. A. Purcell, Member of Parliament for the Forest of Dean, has started a defence fund to enable adequate representation of his impoverished constituent at her upcoming trial for murder.

‘The plight of Mrs. Pace and her children', Purcell is reported as saying, 'had moved him very deeply’.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Today in the Pace case: 31 May

Thursday, 31 May 1928: The ‘committal proceedings’ at the magistrates’ court in Coleford open, presided over by five magistrates (four men and one woman). Officially, the magistrates have to decide whether there was a prima facie case against Beatrice Pace, though this was in some sense redundant: because she was charged under a coroner’s ‘inquisition’ the case would continue to trial in any case. However, importantly, the main evidence would be restated (unlike the coroner's inquest, this would now occur under the ‘rules of evidence’ that governed trial procedure) and be written down to produce the ‘depositions’ that could be referred to at the main trial.

Friday, 25 May 2012

The price of justice?

Now charged with murder, Beatrice and her family face a number of disadvantages, most significantly how -- in their generally impoverished state -- to pay for an adequate defence.

The following comes from a report in the Dean Forest Guardian that noted coverage of the case in other newspapers:

‘The “Daily Herald” raises the question of the cost of Mrs. Pace’s defence, and quotes her brother, Mr. Arnold Martin, as saying: “We want a good Counsel, but we are at our wits’ end to know where the money is to come from. What are we to do?”

Mr. Martin told a moving story of “the tragic widow’s” financial plight. “Often,” he said, “when I visited my sister since her trouble I have discovered that there was not a morsel of food in the house, and she did not possess a penny-piece to buy any. Out of my small earnings I have given anything from 2s. 6d. to 15s. to keep her and her children from starving, and my brother Fred has helped her likewise. It has been thought that my sister as bearing the costs of her solicitor, but this was an impossibility and all the law costs to date are being paid by me and my brother Fred.”

Dean Forest Guardian, 25 May 1928, p. 5

There was a legal aid programme already operating in this period, but in a complicated murder trial, it would not remotely have provided the defendant the resources that were available to the prosecution.

Beatrice would need a top-notch barrister to plead her case in court. Also, given that this was a poisoning case, expert witnesses would play an important role.

And they were not cheap.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Today in the Pace case: 23 May

Wednesday, 23 May 1928: Parliament, London.

Labour MP Will Thorne raises questions to the Home Secretary about the Pace matter, suggesting that the police had used ‘third degree’ methods. (On ‘third degree’, see an article I wrote for the journal Twentieth-Century British History.)

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

'No, I didn't; no I didn't'

As noted, on this day in 1928, Beatrice Pace was charged -- in dramatic circumstances -- with her husband's murder.

This is an excerpt from the Daily Mail's report on the event:

'The stunning effect of the verdict returned against her was so great that she crumpled up instantly. She was able only to shout out, "No, I didn’t; no, I didn’t" and had to be helped out of the coroner’s court after sinking to floor. A policewoman and an inspector gathered her in their arms, where she lay inanimate. 

Medical aid was called, but even under the care of two doctors and Mrs. Bent, the wife of Mr. Alan Bent, the local police inspector, two hours elapsed before she was in a condition to hear the charge.'

'Mrs. Pace Arrested', Daily Mail, 23 May 1928, p. 13.

A 'pathetic place in the pageant of the innocent'

One of the things that has made writing about this case so interesting is the way that new aspects of, sources for and references to it kept turning up.

I have to admit, though, that it's a bit frustrating to keep finding new things after the book is finished.

Appropriately enough -- given that today is the eighty-fourth anniversary of Beatrice Pace being charged with her husband Harry's murder -- I ran across a comment on the case from the Hull Daily Mail (which is now available through the British Newspaper Archive) about the case.

The article was titled 'The Year's Crime', which looked back at the major criminal cases of 1928. And this is what it said about the Pace case:

Mrs Pace’s Ordeal

Perhaps there is just one drama of the courts that alone will be remembered out of the crime annals of the present year. The whole nation followed Mrs Beatrice Annie Pace through the terribly long, drawn-out ordeal of the Coroner’s inquest into the death of her husband, Harry Pace, from arsenical poisoning, and her subsequent trial for murder. The drama was almost without parallel in its development. At the conclusion of the inquest the jury found that the man had died from arsenic, but not self-administered, and the Coroner insisted that some person must be named. Then it came about that 'the tragic widow of Coleford' was arrested and placed on trial. But the hearing came to a dramatic end, for Mr Justice Horridge stopped the case and ordered the jury to find a verdict of 'Not Guilty.' So Mrs Pace takes her pathetic place in the pageant of the innocent.

Daily Mail (Hull), 31 December 1928, p. 6