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Louise Josephine MASSET





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: October 27, 1899
Date of arrest: 3 days after
Date of birth: 1866
Victim profile: Manfred Louis Masset, 3 (her illegitimate son)
Method of murder: Suffocation
Location: London, England, United Kingdom
Status: Executed by hanging at Newgate prison on January 9, 1900
photo gallery

The battered, naked body of a three-year-old boy was found, wrapped in a shawl, at 6pm on 27th October 1899. The child had been beaten with a brick and suffocated before being dumped in the women's toilet at Dalston Junction station, where it was discovered by Miss Mart Teahan. The child was identified as Manfred Louis Masset, the illegitimate son of 36-year-old Louise Masset, a children's governess. Miss Helen Eliza Gentle, who had looked after the child since shortly after his birth on April 24th 1896, identified the body. She told police that Louise regularly received money from the boy's father and that she was of the opinion that the father was probably French.

Mrs Gentle had received a letter from Louise on 18th October. In it she had told the woman that Manfred's father wanted the boy to be brought up with his cousin in France. Accordingly, on 27th October, Miss Gentle had taken the child to Stamford Hill where she had handed him over to his mother outside the Birdcage public house. On October 30th Miss Gentle received another letter from Louisa Masset. In it she said that young Manfred had cried all the way to London Bridge and that she had been poorly on the boat from Newhaven to France.

Meanwhile, Louise had gone to Brighton to spend the weekend in an hotel in Queen's Road with her lover, Endor Lucas, the nineteen-year-old son of her next-door neighbour.

At her Old Bailey trial Louise Masset told the story that she had handed her son, and £12, over to a Mrs Browning who was starting a children's home. This had taken place at London Bridge Station but some of the child's clothes had been found in Brighton. Masset was found guilty and hanged at Newgate prison on 9th January 1900 by James Billington and William Warbrick.


Louisa Josephine Jemima Masset

Louisa Masset, who was half-French and half-English, lived at 29, Bethune Road, Stoke Newington, London, with her married sister, Leonie Cadisch and Leonie's husband, Richard.

Employed as a day-governess and piano teacher, Louisa had left her child, Manfred, with a foster-mother, Miss Helen Gentle, at 210 Clyde Road, Tottenham, for a fee of thirty seven shillings per month, visiting him every Wednesday and taking him for trips to the park. This state of affairs had existed since the child was a very small baby.

Next door to Louisa lived nineteen year old Eudor Lucas, a Frenchman, and soon he and Louisa had become close friends. The relationship developed and before long, a weekend away in Brighton was suggested, by Louisa.

There had never been any suggestion, from either party, that the liason would develop beyond the casual and it seemed that Louisa was simply well ahead of her time in that she saw nothing wrong in seeing Eudor without committing herself to marriage. It was an attitude she would live to regret, once it had become public.

On October 13th, 1899, Louisa wrote to Miss Gentle and informed her that Manfred's father wanted the child returned to him. She had agreed to this request and therefore wanted Manfred delivered to her so that she could take him on the ferry across to France. Arrangements were made and two weeks later, on Friday, October 27th, Louisa met Helen outside the Birdcage, a public house on Stamford Hill, and took possession of the child.

At 1.45 that same afternoon, mother and child were seen together at London Bridge railway station. The boy appeared to be distressed and Louisa was seen to take him into the buffet in order to buy him a cake. They remained there until about three o'clock when they were seen to leave together. A witness, Ellen Rees, would later say that Louisa was seen again at about six, back at London Bridge, and that then she was alone.

At about the same time that Louisa was supposedly returning to London Bridge, Mary Teahan and her friend, Margaret Biggs, entered the ladies waiting room on platform three of Dalston Junction station. There she discovered the body of Manfred Masset, naked except for a black shawl. It appeared that he had been battered with a brick, which still lay near the body, and then suffocated. Louisa meanwhile had caught the train to Brighton where she enjoyed a weekend of love with Eudor.

On Monday, October 30th, Helen Gentle received a letter from Louisa saying that Manfred had missed her terribly but was now in France and sent her his love. The newspapers though had been full of the discovery of the dead child and feeling that the description matched that of Manfred, Helen Gentle had already been to the mortuary and formally identified the body.

At about the same time that Helen was making that identification, a bundle of child's clothes had been found in a waiting room at Brighton station, and Miss Gentle later identified these as belonging to Manfred. Further, the parcel was wrapped in a piece of paper which had been torn from a larger piece found at Helen Gentle's house. The tears on both pieces were shown to match exactly. Finally, as if all this were not enough, the shawl used to wrap the poor child's body was identified by a draper as similar to one he had sold to Louisa Masset on October 24th, and the brick found near the body could have come from a rockery in the garden of 29, Bethune Road.

On her return to London, on the Monday, Louisa went about her normal routine, even attending one of her pupils that evening. On her journey home, after the lesson was over, she saw newspaper headlines referring to the murder of her son and would claim that this was the first she knew of the matter. She went immediately to Streatham Road, Croydon and the house of George Richard Symes, her brother-in-law. She told him what had happened and then waited there for the police to arrive.

At her trial, Louisa's defence was that she had decided to place her son in the care of a Mrs Browning, who had just started up a children's home. Apparently Louisa had first encountered Mrs Browning and her assistant on one of her Wednesday trips to the park. Having met up a few times, Mrs Browning had told her of the new school and offered to take Manfred as a pupil. Louisa, concerned about Manfred's education, had finally agreed.

On Friday October 27th, Louisa had met these two ladies at London Bridge station where she had handed over Manfred, a parcel of clothes given to her by Helen Gentle, and the sum of two pounds which was to cover the boy's education for one year. If Manfred had been murdered then it must have been these two ladies who did it. Louisa however had no receipt for the money and the address of the children's home, in Chelsea, was of course fictitious.

Louisa claimed that she was already in Brighton when she was supposedly seen again at London Bridge station. This witness must simply have been mistaken. Louisa said she had arrived in Brighton, enjoyed a meal at Mutton's restaurant on the sea-front and then gone on to her hotel. The evidence though was too telling and Louisa Masset was adjudged to be guilty and sentenced to death.

There was to be no reprieve, even when the manager of Mutton's, and one of his waiters came forward and said that they believed they could positively identify Louisa as a woman who did indeed have a meal in the establishment at the time in question.

It has been said that Louisa admitted her guilt before she became the first person to die on the gallows this century. In fact, she merely said that the sentence was just. This could also be the statement of a mother who felt she had not done her best for a son she loved dearly.


Louise Josephine MASSET

Louise Josephine Masset was the first person to be executed in Britain in the 20th century.

She was hanged at Newgate prison on Tuesday the 9th of January 1900 for the murder of her son. (Her name is also given as Louisa.)


Louise was 33 years old and was half French (on her father's side) and half English. She was described as a "cultured" woman. In 1896 she gave birth to an illegitimate son called Manfred and felt forced to leave France due to the stigma attached to illegitimate births in those days - it was considered "quite scandalous". She came to England and settled at 29 Bethune Road Stoke Newington in London. It does not seem as if she was very maternal and soon placed Manfred in foster care with a Mrs. Helen Gentle who lived in Tottenham. Mrs Gentle looked after Manfred from a baby and was paid 37 shillings a month £1.85 or about $3) which allegedly came from the child's natural father in France. This arrangement enabled Louise to work as a day-governess for a wealthy family. She also gave piano lessons. Playing the piano was a popular form of entertainment in those days before cinema, radio and television.

Sometime in 1899 Louise took on a "toy boy", 19 year old Eudore Lucas as her lover. Eudore was a young French bank clerk who lived next door to her and was in Britain training in finance .He was paid about £3 a week which both agreed made marriage out of the question. Eudore was aware that Louise had a son although what his attitude was to Manfred is unclear.

On the 16th October 1899 Mrs. Gentle received a letter from Louise telling her Manfred's father was going to have the boy to live with him in France and that Louise would collect him on Friday October 27th to take him to France. However Louise had also made another arrangement, she was going to Brighton with Eudore for what could be described as a "dirty weekend" and they had booked two adjoining rooms in a cheap hotel there.

The crime

On the Friday Louise put a clinker brick from her garden into her Gladstone bag before going to meet Helen Gentle at Stamford Hill. After tearful farewells she led Manfred away with a parcel of his clothes that Mrs Gentle had packed for the journey to France and took a bus to London Bridge railway station.

Manfred was dressed in a blue "frock" and had a sailor's hat on. Frocks were quite normal for small boys in those days. Mother and son were next seen at London Bridge station's First Class waiting room at 1.45 p.m. on the Friday. Around 3.00 p.m. Mrs. Ellen Rees the attendant in the waiting room noted the little boy seemed distressed and suggested to Louise that perhaps he was hungry. Louise and Manfred then left rather hurriedly, Louise saying she was going to buy Manfred a cake. She returned without him about 3 hours later to catch a train for Brighton for her rendezvous with Eudore on the Saturday.

At Dalston Junction station an unsuspecting lady had a horrible shock when she went to the ladies toilets at about 6.20 p.m. and discovered the body of a child. It was a male child and was naked except for a black shawl. The face and head had been battered and there were two pieces of a broken clinker brick lying by the body. These were of the same type found in Louise's garden. Manfred had been beaten unconscious and then suffocated perhaps using a hand over his mouth and nose according to Dr. J. P. Fennell, the doctor who examined the still warm body. Louise was familiar with this station as she went there regularly on her journey to one of her piano pupils.

Saturday's newspapers were full of the story of Manfred's discovery - the Victorian's were very fond of a "good murder" and every detail was reported.

Louise had sent Helen Gentle a letter which arrived on Monday 30th saying that Manfred was missing her and that he had been sick crossing the channel on the ferry but that all was well now. However Helen Gentle was suspicious of the letter having read about the discovery of the body of a child of Manfred's age and informed the police of her suspicions. She later identified the body as Manfred and was also able to identify the parcel of clothes which she had made up for him and which were found in the left luggage office at Brighton station together with the frock and sailor's hat.

Back in Stoke Newington the black shawl found on Manfred was identified by the shop assistant as having come from his establishment and being sold by him on October 24th to Louise who being half French had a distinctive speaking voice.

She was also identified by witnesses on London Bridge station as having been with the child earlier in the day.

Louise had read about the discovery of Manfred's body and when she visited her sister later was clearly in a distressed state. She is reported to have said "I'm hunted for murder, but I didn't do it" and implicated Eudore in the crime.

She was soon arrested at her other sister's home. She was picked out in an identity parade by. Mrs. Rees the waiting room attendant and was duly charged with murder. She was committed for trial at the Old Bailey in December 1899.


Loiuise was tried at the Old Bailey before Mr. Justice Bruce between the 13th and 18th December 1899. Her defence, led by Lord Coleridge, claimed that Louise had entered into an agreement with two women called Browning who on payment of £18.00 a year were going to look after Manfred for the foreseeable future and that it must have been them who murdered him. She claimed to have given them a £12.00 deposit before handing Manfred over to them. This may sound far fetched now but would have had a lot more credibility at the time when "baby farming" murder cases were not uncommon.

However as the two Mrs. Brownings could not be found and a receipt for the £12.00 could not be produced Louise's story was not believed by the jury. The evidence against her seemed conclusive and she was inevitably found guilty. She collapsed in the dock on hearing the verdict and had to be revived to hear her sentence, which was that she "be hanged by the neck until she was dead."

She was taken from the court into the adjoining Newgate Prison and placed in the condemned cell where she spent Christmas and New Year 1900 guarded around the clock by pairs of female warders.

She is said to have confessed to the murder in the condemned cell. A petition got up by other French women working in London was sent to Queen Victoria but was ignored.


There was to be no reprieve and at 9.00 a.m. on the morning of the 9th January she faced her appointment with James Billington, the hangman from Bolton. She wore a long dress as was customary at the time and was attended by the chaplain, two male warders and the assistant executioner.

Billington placed a body belt round her waist to which her wrists were pinioned and then led her across the yard to the execution shed and onto the trap of the large gallows in Newgate which could accommodate three prisoners at a time. Once there, her legs were pinioned by a leather strap outside her skirt (to stop it blowing up as she dropped) and the noose placed around her neck. When all was ready he put the white hood over her head and pulled the lever to "launch her into eternity" to use the popular expression of the time. After hanging for the regulation hour her body was removed from the rope and buried in an unmarked grave within the prison.


MASSET, Louise (England)

The victim in this case was not a husband or a rival, but a son; the weapon was not poison or a blunt instrument, but a heavy piece of stone; and the motive was illicit love.

Louise, a Frenchwoman, had an illegitimate child while in France. Louise, a highly intelligent, 36-year-old woman, then became a governess in London and, to avoid the inevitable gossip, arranged for her son Manfred to be cared for by a Miss Gentle.

All went well; Louise was a loving mother and frequently visited her son, but she became acquainted with Eudore Lucas, a young French clerk who lived nearby, a friendship which rapidly matured into an intense love affair.

Varied accounts were given as to what happened next.

According to the confession she made while in the condemned cell to Miss Ellen Hayes, Inspector of Prisons, she was so deeply concerned about the derogatory names which would be aimed at Manfred as he grew older – she averred that he had already been a target of abuse – that she killed him out of mercy and compassion. Yet this was decidedly at odds with the other account – that she wanted to marry Eudore and so cold-heartedly decided to free herself of any baggage, human or otherwise.

What was indisputable was the fact that on 27 October 1899 a woman walked into the ladies’ toilets at Broad Green Station and found a boy’s body lying there, wrapped only in a black shawl, and nearby was a large piece of stone. A post-mortem revealed that he had been stunned by a single blow, then strangled to death.

The corpse was identified by Miss Gentle as that of Manfred Masset, and Louise was arrested and charged with murder. In court, evidence was given that she had informed Miss Gentle that she would be collecting her son on that particular day to take him to his father in France. She also told her lover that she would meet him in Brighton on the following day. Among the witnesses called was Miss Gentle who stated that when collected, the little boy had been dressed in a blue serge tunic – and that his mother had wrapped him in a black shawl to keep him warm during the Channel crossing. Other witnesses stated they had later seen the couple in the refreshment room on London Bridge Station.

In her defence Louise agreed that she had indeed gone to that railway station to buy Manfred something to eat, but the main object of her being there was to give the boy into the care of two sisters named Browning who had previously promised to bring him up in an infant school they ran, for a fee of £12 a year. But when she was asked by the prosecution how she could explain the discovery of Manfred’s clothes in the waiting room at Brighton Station, she remained silent.

And when the police stated that they had found no trace of the Brownings or the alleged infant school, and Louise was unable to produce a receipt for the alleged payment she had made, the members of the jury were in no doubt as to her guilt.

In the condemned cell Louise Masset said calmly, ‘I can only win peace by meeting my death bravely.’ On 9 January 1900 she was hanged on the Newgate scaffold. Later, Miss Hayes, the Prisons Inspector, declared: ‘Louise had done her best to face, with becoming courage, that fate from which the very bravest might shrink.’

Violette Noziere, found guilty of murdering her father, listened calmly as the French judge sentenced her to be taken to the place of execution, barefoot and wearing only a chemise, there to be publicly beheaded by the sword.

As she was being escorted by warders from the court room, Violette, eternally feminine no matter what the circumstances, suddenly stopped and exclaimed, ‘Wait – I must have left my handbag in the dock. It’s got my powder and rouge in it – let me get it!’ At a later appeal against her sentence, the court, impressed by her unconcerned attitude towards her fate and with the traditional French chivalry towards the fair sex, showed clemency, and reduced her sentence to one of life imprisonment.

Amazing True Stories of Female Executions by Geoffrey Abbott


Louise Josephine Jemima Masset

At 6.19pm, on Friday, October 27th, 1899, two ladies alighted from a train at Dalston Junction station in north London. Mary Teahan, a governess from Isleworth, and her good friend, Margaret Biggs, were due to attend a lecture at a school in Tottenham Road, Kingsland, but before they left the station, Miss Teahan needed to use the ladies rest room.

The ladies waiting room was situated on platform three, and Miss Biggs stayed in there whilst her friend went into the lavatory at the far end of the same room. Inside the lavatory were two water closets and Mary Teahan tried to gain access to the first of these. Unfortunately, something was blocking her way.

The cubicle was very badly lit but in the darkness, Miss Teahan saw something that looked like a child's face. Such a thing, though, was surely not possible, so the shocked woman assumed that what she had seen was actually another lady, possibly in need of some assistance. Miss Teahan returned to the waiting room, joined Miss Biggs, and together the two ladies walked out on to the platform where they spotted Joseph John Standing, a porter, pushing a barrow. The ladies told him that they thought there was a lady in distress in one of the cubicles.

Joseph immediately passed this information on to Mr Cotterell, the foreman porter, and together the two men went to investigate. Sure enough, there was someone lying behind the door, but it was not a woman who had fainted. The light was very poor but it appeared to be a small child, covered by a dark-coloured shawl. Joseph Standing wasted no time in going to fetch the station inspector, David Bundy.

By the time Bundy arrived at the cubicle, Standing had collected a lamp to provide adequate light in the dark lavatory. To their horror, the men found the body of a small boy, naked except for a black shawl covering his midriff. The boy's head lay towards the passage, whilst his feet pointed towards the water closet. There was a good deal of blood on the child's face and near his head lay a broken clinker brick (a hard brick used as a paving stone). Bundy immediately called for the police and a doctor.

It was 6.55pm by the time Dr James Patrick Fennell made his examination. He confirmed that life was extinct and originally stated that the time of death was at least two hours before. After a subsequent post-mortem examination, he revised his opinion somewhat and said that the boy had died between 2.55pm and 5.55pm, though he thought that death was most likely to have occurred between two and three hours previously, that is between 3.55pm and 4.55pm.

The police investigation moved slowly at first. There had been nothing left on the body to identify the child, so details of the crime and a description of the dead boy were published in the newspapers on the following Monday, October 30th, in the hope that someone would be able to put a name to the poor unfortunate child. These newspaper reports were seen by Helen Eliza Gentle, a children's nurse, who lived with her mother, Mrs Norris, at 210 Clyde Road, Tottenham. She contacted the police and said that she was very much afraid that the description of the dead boy bore a remarkable resemblance to a child she had had in her care until the very Friday that the body had been found. Miss Gentle was escorted to the mortuary, and there she positively identified the body as that of Manfred Louis Masset.

According to Miss Gentle, Manfred had been born on April 24th, 1896, meaning that at the time he died, he was three and a half years old. His mother, Louise Masset, had answered an advertisement that Miss Gentle had placed in a local newspaper, soon after the child's birth, and after some discussion, had agreed to leave the child in Miss Gentle's care. The problem was that Miss Masset was not a married lady and, as she had her own living to earn, was not really in a position to look after the boy herself. As a result, in May, 1896, Manfred had been handed over to Miss Gentle, who had been paid thirty seven shillings per month to bring him up.

This arrangement had continued until very recently. To begin with, Manfred's mother had visited him every fortnight, but once he was older, these visits had increased to once a week. Every Wednesday, Louise would call at the house and sometimes she would take her son out for a walk. Occasionally, Helen would accompany her and they often went to a nearby park at Tottenham Green.

On October 16th, 1899, a letter, dated two days earlier, and addressed to Mrs Norris, was received at Clyde Road. The letter came from Louise and explained that Manfred's father, who lived in France, had asked that his son be sent over to him to be educated. Louise had agreed to this request and, as a result, she wished to take custody of her son on Friday, October 27th.

On Wednesday, October 25th, Louise had made her usual visit to Clyde Road and final arrangements for the hand-over were completed. Helen Gentle agreed to meet Louise outside the Birdcage public house on Stamford Hill at 12.45pm on the Friday. She did indeed keep this appointment and the last time Helen had seen Manfred alive was when he boarded an omnibus, with his mother, and set off for London Bridge railway station where they would catch the train for Newhaven and then the ferry on to France.

The police naturally now wished to interview Louise, and with this in mind they went to her home at 29 Bethune Road, Stoke Newington. The house was actually owned by Richard Cadisch, who was married to Louise's sister, Leonie. They confirmed that Louise had told them the story of a trip to France in order to hand Manfred over to his father. She had left the house at 12.30pm on October 27th, and had not returned until 9.00pm on Sunday, October 29th. Since that time there had been no change in Louise's demeanour, and she had now gone out to attend to some pupils to whom she taught music and French. They had no idea what time she might be expected back. The police decided to wait outside and concealed themselves across the road, waiting for Louise to return.

In fact, it was during the early hours of Tuesday, October 31st that the police saw a man arrive at 29 Bethune Road. He went inside the house, only to come out shortly afterwards with Mr Cadisch. The officers decided to follow the two men, a journey that took them to Streatham Road, Croydon.

It transpired that Mr Cadisch's visitor had been George Richard Symes, a gentleman married to another of Louise's sisters, and the two men had returned to Mr Symes' house together. Once the police officers knocked on his front door they found Louise, in a very distressed state, talking to her two brothers-in-law.

According to George Symes, Louise had arrived there at around 11.00pm. She told him that she had seen a newspaper report stating that the child's body found at Dalston had been identified as that of Manfred and adding that his mother was noe being sought in connection with his death. Louise denied any involvement whatsoever in Manfred's death, claiming that someone else had killed him. Now, for the first time, she told her version of what had happened to her son.

Louise confessed that the story of the trip to France was false. She had spent that weekend in Brighton with her lover, Eudor Lucas, but on the Friday had handed Manfred over to two ladies who said they were starting a private school in Chelsea. She went on to make a full statement outlining her version of events.

Louise's statement began by referring to an incident that had taken place on Wednesday, October 4th, when she had visited Clyde Road as usual. As was her habit, she had taken Manfred to Tottenham Green where he fell into play with a little girl she knew only as Millie. Nearby, two women sat on a bench and one of them introduced herself as the mother of Millie. The conversation naturally turned to the children and the women, the elder of whom said that their name was Browning, mentioned that they were thinking of starting a small private school. Louise confessed that she was not entirely satisfied with the education Manfdred's nurse was providing. In reply, Mrs Browning mentioned that a place might be found for Manfred at a fee of £12 per year for his board and lodgings and a further ten shillings a month for his education.

The following Wednesday, October 11th, Louise again took Manfred to the park and again met up with the Brownings. Further discussions on the new school took place, and finally Louise agreed to place Manfred in their charge. Arrangements were made to meet at London Bridge railway station at 2.00pm on October 27th, when she would hand over Manfred and £12 in cash.

Louise now had a problem. She had no wish to hurt Helen Gentle's feelings and so concocted the story of sending Manfred to his father in France. However, since she would have to spend some time away from home, in order to support this story, she would take the opportunity to travel down to Brighton and enjoy a short break.

The police listened patiently to this story but still felt that they had enough evidence to hold Louise on a charge of murder. She again vehemently denied playing any part in Manfred's death.

The trial of Louise Masset opened at the Old Bailey, before Mister Justice Bruce, on December 13th, 1899. The case for the prosecution rested in the hands of Mr Charles Matthews and Mr Richard D Muir, whilst Lord Coleridge and Mr Arthur Hutton defended. The proceedings lasted until December 18th and, at first glance, the evidence against Louise seems overwhelming.

To begin with, it could easily be shown that Louise and Manfred had travelled to London Bridge station, as she had indicated. Helen Gentle had seen her board the horse-drawn omnibus outside the Birdcage public house. Thomas Bonner had been the conductor on that bus and he told the court that according to his records, his vehicle had left Stamford Hill at 12.48pm. He remembered a woman and child sitting together and saw them get off at London Bridge at approximately 1.35pm. Bonner had been unable to positively identify Louise but had been shown a picture of the dead boy and swore that it was the same child.

The next sighting of a mother and child had been made by Georgina Worley, an attendant in the waiting-room on the South London line at London Bridge. She put the time at 1.42pm, and said that the couple remained in the waiting room until around 2.30pm. Georgina had spoken to the woman, who explained that she was waiting for someone to arrive at the station. She was unable to state with certainty that the woman was the prisoner, but she believed that to be the case.

There were in fact two ladies waiting-rooms at London Bridge station and the attendant on duty in the other one, the first-class waiting room, was Ellen Rees. She had only come on duty at 2.30pm, on the 27th, and said that shortly afterwards, at about 2.40pm, a woman and child had come into her room. Ellen Rees particularly remembered the child because he was crying. She asked the woman what was the matter with him and was told that he was missing his nurse. Ellen then asked how old the boy was and the woman said that he would be four next April. Finally, the woman said that she would go and buy him a cake and the two walked off in the direction of the refreshment room. It was then about 3.00pm.

So far, little damage had been done to Louise's story. She agreed that she had travelled to London Bridge and had first gone into Miss Worley's waiting room, where she said she had arranged to meet Mrs Browning at 2.00pm. When the two ladies had still not appeared by 2.30pm, Louise recalled the other waiting room and thought that they might have been waiting in the wrong one all this time. She had spoken to the attendant in that second room and had left there around 3.00pm. It was fifty-five minutes later that the ladies finally appeared, apologised for being so late, and took charge of Manfred. Louise was then just in time to catch the 4.07pm train to Brighton.

The first real problem came with the remainder of Ellen Rees' evidence. She went on to say that she had seen Louise again, at 6.50pm, and this time she was alone. By then, Louise was in a lavatory and asked Ellen for a towel so that she could have a wash. Later she asked her what time the next train to Brighton was and Ellen told her that it was due to leave at 7.20pm, advising her that she should hurry if she wished to catch it. In fact, the train was actually due at 7.22pm, and actually left a couple of minutes late. Ellen Rees last saw Louise at 7.18pm, as she left the waiting room to catch the Brighton train. Since then she had attended an identification parade and picked out the prisoner from a number of other women.

There were other indications that Louise had arrived in Brighton long after she had claimed. Alice Rial was a chambermaid at Findlay's Hotel, situated at 36 Queen's Road, Brighton. She testified that it was 9.45pm, when Louise checked in, giving her name as Miss Brooks and reserving a second room for her brother who was to arrive the following day. Louise was also seen by the hotel's proprietor, John Findlay, who confirmed that it was quarter to ten when she arrived. The next day, Mr Brooks, who was of course Eudor Lucas, arrived and occupied the room next door. The two guests paid their respective bills on the Sunday but a couple of days later, whilst cleaning out the rooms, Alice Rial found a pair of toy scales. These were identified by Helen Gentle as a pair she had purchased for Manfred and handed over to Louise on October 27th. Further damning evidence had come from Brighton. Eudor Lucas had arrived at Brighton, by train, at 2.30pm on Saturday, October 28th. Louise had met him there at that time. Just ten minutes later, Annie Skeats, an attendant in the ladies waiting room at Brighton, had found a brown paper parcel. She took the parcel to the cloakroom but when it was not claimed, it was forwarded to London Bridge station where it was opened. The parcel contained a child's jacket and frock and though some of the trimmings had been removed, Helen Gentle was able to identify the items as those Manfred had been wearing when she handed him over to his mother. Furthermore, it could be proved that the wrapping paper used on the parcel had been given to Louise by Miss Gentle on the 27th, as the brown paper was torn and matched exactly a tear in another piece still at Miss Gentle's home.

When Manfred's body had been found he was naked except for a black shawl thrown over him. Evidence was now called which seemed to link that shawl directly to Louise.

Maud Clifford was a sales assistant at McIlroy's draper's shop at 161 High Street, Stoke Newington. She testified that on October 24th she had sold a black shawl to a lady fitting the prisoner's description. The shawls had only been in stock for about a week and Maud recalled the customer insisting that the shawl had to be black. Maud had also attended an identification parade and picked out Louise but said that she could not swear absolutely that this was the woman.

Ernest Hopkins Mooney was the manager of that same draper's shop and he said that on October 16th he had purchased fifteen woollen shawls from his supplier. Only three of those had been black and only one of those black shawls had been sold. He produced the two remaining shawls in court and agreed that they matched exactly the one found on Manfred's body.

The prosecution suggested that the motive for Manfred's murder was that he was an encumbrance to the continuing relationship between Louise and her lover, Eudor Lucas. Eudor told the court that he now lived at 23 Mildmay Grove, Stoke Newington, but had, until recently, lived next door to Louise at 31 Bethune Road. Eudor was French, and since Louise was half-French it was perhaps natural that they should get on well, despite the fact that she was thirty-six and he had only turned nineteen in November.

Continuing his evidence, Eudor said that he had first met Louise in September, 1898, but they had only been walking out together for the past three or four months. At Whitsuntide in 1899, he and two friends had gone, with Louise, to Brighton for a weekend break. On that occasion they had also stayed at Findlay's, but nothing improper had taken place between them.

The friendship had continued to develop, and about two or three months after this, Louise had told him about Manfred. Eudor had thanked her for her candour and told her that it made no difference to their relationship, but he asked her not to mention the child again. He was certainly not distressed by the knowledge that she had given birth to an illegitimate son and they continued to grow ever closer. They had not, though, at any stage, discussed marriage.

On either Tuesday, October 24th, or possibly the next day, Eudor and Louise had met at Liverpool Street station and she had told him that she intended to go down to Brighton on the following Friday. He said that he would like to go with her but would be unable to get down to the coast until the Saturday. He went on to tell her that he would catch the train that arrived at 2.00pm,m and she informed him that she would be catching one at around 4.30pm on the 27th. They agreed to book in as brother and sister, under a false name, and he next saw her at Brighton station on the Saturday afternoon.

Eudor confessed that he and Louise had first had sex that same evening, in Brighton, and although they had booked separate rooms, they had actually only used one. They travelled back to London together on the Sunday, arriving home at Bethune Road at a few minutes before 9.00pm. Throughout the entire time they were together Louise was in her usual spirits and gave no indication that there was anything wrong.

Another suggestion made by the prosecution was that Manfred may have been a financial concern and that Louise may have killed him in order to save Helen Gentle's fees. This motive was largely negated by the evidence of Louise's sister, Leonie Cadisch.

Mrs Cadisch confirmed that Louise had lived with her since August 1898. She knew about Manfred of course, and the arrangements made with Miss Gentle for his care and upbringing.

In fact, Leonie had issued a guarantee to Miss Gentle that she would pay the thirty-seven shillings if Louise should ever default. However, Leonie had never been called upon to make the payments for her sister. Furthermore, Louise lived at number 29 without any charge, and all the money she earned from her private pupils was for her own use. Leonie also believed that Manfred's father supported the boy financially, though Louise had never actually revealed who he was. In short, Louise had no financial concerns.

Turning to the story of Manfred being sent to France, Louise had first mentioned this on October 18th, but had only filled in the details a week later, on October 25th. Leonie agreed that Louise had arrived home at around 9.00pm on the Sunday and that she had been as calm and collected as usual. Leonie said that she had never seen the black shawl before and though she was not an expert, did not even think it was a new one. As for the clinker brick found near Manfred's body, it was true that there were similar bricks in her garden, but there were similar bricks in many gardens in the area. Added to that, no bricks were missing from her garden, except for some taken away by the police during their investigation.

Louise entered the witness box to give evidence on her own behalf. She repeated her story about handing Manfred over to a woman she knew as Mrs Browning, at London Bridge, and added that her original plan had been to travel with the boy to see the school and see that he was settled in. Once the ladies turned up, Louise pointed out that she now only had minutes in which to catch her train, and so would not now be able to go with them to Chelsea. She handed over her son, the parcel of clothing, and £12 in gold and asked for a receipt. One of the women said she would go and get some paper and ink from the refreshment room, but they had not returned by the time her train was due to leave. Louise was not unduly concerned, though. They seemed to be eminently respectable ladies, and she did have their address at 45 Kings Road, Chelsea. Unfortunately, police investigations had since shown that this address was occupied by a respectable dairyman, Henry Willis, who had never heard of either Louise or the Brownings.

Louise maintained that she had caught the 4.07pm train to Brighton, arriving there at about 6.55pm. Leaving her Gladstone bag at the left luggage office she had gone for a walk down to the sea front. She had thought about taking a walk along the pier but it was a rather damp day, so instead she went to Mutton's, a restaurant on Kings Road, where she had something to eat before walking down to the shops in West Brighton. Later she returned to the station to collect her bag before checking into the hotel. She was certainly not in London as late as 7.18pm, when Ellen Rees claimed she had seen her.

Medical testimony was given by Dr Fennell and Dr Thomas Bond. They agreed that the cause of death was suffocation. It appeared that the clinker brick had been used to stun the child before a hand had been placed over his mouth until he stopped breathing. Dr Bond added that in his opinion, the most probable time of death was some two hours before discovery, placing it at around 4.30pm.

In the event, the jury took just thirty minutes to decide that Louise was guilty as charged. Louise again said that she was innocent, but Mr Justice Bruce then donned the black cap and sentenced her to death.

Was Louise Masset guilty of the murder of her son? Before we go into that in detail, let us first see if all the evidence is as strong as it first seems.

The most damning witness was undoubtedly Ellen Rees, who claimed that she had seen Louise as late as 7.18pm on October 27th. Mrs Rees had picked Louise out at an identification parade, and wore glasses to make her identification. She admitted that she had not been wearing those glasses at work on October 27th, but added that she only needed them for reading. When then did she wear them at the identification parade? She wwasn't reading anything there. Furthermore, Mrs Rees had seen a photograph of Louise in her local newspaper, even before she came forward to talk to the police. She also admitted that as many as 200 women passed through her waiting room on an average day, many of them with children. There was also the suggestion that Inspector Forth may have assisted Ellen Rees by standing close to Louise in the line up. He denied any such impropriety, but all this does, at the very least, reduce the efficacy of Mrs Rees' testimony.

Maud Clifford and Ernest Mooney, the witnesses who had identified the shawl, gave conflicting evidence. At one stage Mr Mooney said that he had never seen such a pattern before, but he then went on to say that such a shawl could be purchased just about anywhere.

Then there is the possibility that Louise had been telling the truth all along. There is agreement that Louise was certainly at London Bridge, with Manfred, until around 3.00pm.

Louise herself said that this was the case, and that testimony is confirmed by Thomas Bonner the bus conductor, and Georgina Worley and Ellen Rees.

It had taken Louise forty-seven minutes to get to London Bridge from the Birdcage public house. We know that she was certainly at the station until around 3.00pm. Assuming that she had then travelled straight back to Dalston, catching another omnibus, she could not have arrived there until about 3.47pm at the very earliest. This, of course, fits in with the medical evidence, but we then have to allow for a return back to London Bridge. Louise could not have arrived back there until around 4.45pm at the very earliest. Therefore, if she caught the 4.07 train to Brighton, as she claimed, she must have been innocent.

It was whilst the trial was actually taking place that a new potential witness came forward. Henry James Streeter was a waiter at Mutton's restaurant situated at 81-84 Kings Road, Brighton, and he had been working on Friday, October 27th. He particularly remembered the day as the weather had been very poor. As a result, business was bad and he had only served two customers all day. One was a man but the other was a woman dressed in black. The woman came in at 6.00pm and stayed for forty-five minutes. He and Mr Mutton, the proprietor, both believed that they could positively identify the woman if they saw her again. Of course, if this woman were Louise, than it would prove that she was in Brighton long before 7.18pm.

Mr Streeter and Mr Mutton took their evidence to a solicitor, who contacted Louise's defence team. They did not see fit to call either man at the trial. Only later, after Louise had been sentenced to death, were any real efforts made to test this potential evidence. Louise was simply asked what she had eaten in the restaurant. She couldn't remember and made two statements, giving slightly different versions. In the first, she said she had had two slices of hot meat with gravy and vegetables, bread and butter, and either ale or beer, costing a total of two shillings and sixpence. In the second she omitted the bread and butter and said that she believed it only cost one shilling and ninepence. Neither agreed with the books at the restaurant, which indicated that the woman who had dined there had eaten bread and butter and enjoyed a pot of tea. As a result, the testimony was dismissed as irrelevant and neither potential witness was allowed to see Louise.

There were other potential witnesses who were never called by the defence. David Taylor lived in Holywell Lane, London, but on October 27th, he was on a bus at the corner of Bishopsgate Street and Cornhill at around 3.45pm. He saw two women with a child and noted that the child seemed to be very fidgety and petulant.

More importantly, John Hughes-Ellis was on a bus which stopped at London Bridge station between 3.15pm and 3.30pm on the 27th. He saw two women with a child that seemed unwilling to be with them. The younger woman picked up the child and sat opposite to Mr Hughes-Ellis. The times of these two sightings do not, of course, agree with those given by Louise herself, since she said she did not hand Manfred over until just before 4.00pm. However, Mr Taylor admitted that he may have misjudged the time.

There was other evidence too, which was never passed on to the defence. At the end of 1899, a letter addressed to Louise was delivered to Newgate prison. Dated December 26th it read; "The women of Chelsea must keep out of sight but they are not anxious to hang you. If the porter (a porter) at Dalston Junction would speak he could tell who he saw at 4.45 there. Anyhow, put this in your lawyer's hands - it may save you." The letter was never passed on by the authorities.

Of course, all of this may be totally valueless. The letter was most likely a hoax but there are only two alternatives. Either Louise was guilty, or she was innocent. Which of the two is the more likely scenario?

The only possible motive for Louise to kill her son was that Manfred was a burden either financially or to her ongoing relationship with Eudor Lucas. There was no evidence whatsoever that Louise was in trouble financially, and Eudor swore that they had never spoken of marriage. Louise, then, had no real motive for the murder.

Putting this to one side, if Louise were guilty, then she travelled all the way into central London so that she could be seen by witnesses at London Bridge station. She then travelled back to Dalston Junction, apparently without being seen by any other bus conductor or passenger, killed her son in the lavatory, stripped him naked and threw her new shawl over the body, even though it might be linked directly to her. She then went back to London Bridge, again without being seen by any bus conductor, railway employee or passenger, and allowed herself to be seen again by Ellen Rees. She then caught a later train to Brighton and tried to manufacture an alibi by saying she had arrived earlier and eaten at Mutton's. This same, cool killer then left some of Manfred's clothing in the ladies waiting room at Brighton station, thus linking herself directly to the crime.

The alternative is that Louise was innocent and was therefore telling the truth. The child was collected, just before 4.00pm, taken to Dalston, and murdered by the Brownings. The clothing was taken from the body and parcelled up with the other clothing that Louise had handed over to them; a parcel given to her by Helen Gentle. The following day, one or both of the killers took a trip to Brighton and dumped the parcel in the waiting room at the station. After all, Louise had told the Brownings that she was travelling to Brighton and children were being murdered for much less than £12 in gold. As for Louise not recalling what she had eaten at Mutton's, it must be remembered that she did not know she would need an alibi and she was being asked to recall something she had eaten some two months before.

It has been said that Louise confessed her guilt before her execution. Even here there is further doubt. Some reports state that just before the trap was sprung at Newgate she said; "What I am about to suffer is just, and now my conscience is clear." Other sources say that the supposed confession took place the night before her execution and consisted of just the words, "What I suffer is just."

If the words were uttered, in any form, they could just as easily have been those of a mother expressing her guilt at handing her beloved Manfred over to his real killers. What is not in doubt is that Louise was hanged at Newgate prison on January 9th, 1900, by James Billington and William Warbrick.



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