The longest statement taken by the police was that of Terence Skeffington-Smyth. He was also asked to return and provide a second statement. Why this should be is matter for speculation as he had nothing especially insightful to add to the police’s knowledge of the case.
However, he does appear to be central to the dynamics of Elvira’s social world and is a character of some interest in his own right.
Terence (1906-36) was one of three sons, the others were Noel (b1909) and Denys (b1911), of Lieutenant Colonel Skeffington-Smyth. The father was a military man through and through, serving with distinction in the Boer War, He was also an early advocate of the then heretical idea that motorised units should and would replace cavalry battalions.
Early display of military motors – organised by Skeffington-Smyth.
The family were part of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy, wealthy and very well connected. At the time of his interview T. Skeffington-Smyth was living off a large inheritance from his mother. Between October 1930 and May 1931 he had been on safari with his father in Africa and since then had divided his time between holidays in the South of France and London night life. Although living at 19 Orchard Street – near Selfridges – he often stayed at the International Sports Club in Upper Grosvenor Street.
He had met Elvira at Cannes (probably at the Majestic Hotel) in August 1931 and told the police ” I have seen quite a lot of Mrs. Barney since then. I know her very well indeed, she is a very good friend of mine.” That he was a friend rather than simply an acquaintance is borne out by other witness statements.
Lobby of the Majestic
He describes Elvira’s William Mews cocktail parties as regular events , usually very small gatherings and always between 6.30 and 9. He also mentions occasional bridge parties, which are worth noting as Elvira cites Stephen’s gambling as a source of conflict between them. Oddly, Elvira did not play bridge.
From his statement we can visualise the social life of Elvira and Michael Scott Stephen. He talks of seeing them together at Ciro’s (where Elvira was a member), the Cafe De Paris, Monseigneur’s, The Blue Lantern and The Blue Angel. He also refers to their attendance at football matches and greyhound tracks.
Terence held a cocktail party at his flat on the 26th and it was there that most of the invitations to Elvira’s party were made. This explains why the majority of guests seemed to know Skeffington-Smyth better than they did Elvira. Skeffington-Smythe did not attend the Mews party, arriving from Paris at about 7pm then catching up with everybody at The Blue Angel before going on to Arthur Jeffress’ home.
His closeness to Elvira can be seen by the fact that after the shooting she rang him up. This was at 5am and she asked him to come over as “something terrible has happened”. He said he could not, Elvira then pleaded with him to get a doctor as she was having trouble contacting hers. He persuaded her to persist in trying and enquired as to exactly what had happened. Elvira replied “I can’t tell you it all right now.”
Skeffington-Smyth saw Elvira at her parent’s home on the 31st where she described the events of the night in exactly the same words she used in her police statement. One irrefutable fact about this case is the absolute consistency of Elvira’s re-telling of the incident.
The police recalled Skeffington-Smyth two weeks later. Firstly, to assure them that he had not been at the party (one of the guests, Hugh Wade, had mentioned his presence) and secondly to describe an earlier occurrence at 21 William Mews when an hysterical Elvira had locked herself in the bedroom and was shouting and screaming. Skeffington-Smyth had fetched a ladder to make sure Elvira was not in danger. This was one of the several earlier disturbances mentioned in court by the neighbours.
Why was Skeffington-Smyth interviewed at such length?One can only assume that the police thought he knew more than he was letting on. He was aware that there was another woman at the centre of the rows ( Dora Wright – although S-S does not mention her name). It is also possible that Skeffington-Smyth was thought be the source of the drug use that the police knew hovered around this circle.
Two years later Skeffington-Smyth married Isobel McLean the daughter of society hostess, Loudon Maclean.
Isobel MacLean by Madame Yevonde
On a world cruise in 1936, Skeffington-Smyth collapsed and died in his hotel bedroom in the Broadway Mansions Hotel, Shanghai. The Straits Times reported,
Peer’s nephew dies after visiting opium dens
Shanghai Mar 19 1936
The death of a young Briton after a round of visits to opium dens and night clubs was investigated at the inquest here today on Terence George Randall Skeffington-Smyth, a nephew of Viscount Galway and son of Lt.Col G.H.J..Skeffington-Smyth, who was found dead in bed in a Shanghai hotel on Mar 9th.
A nightclub bar-tender testified that on the previous night he visited opium dens in company with Mr.Skeffington-Smyth who smoked about five pipes of drug and went home after daybreak.
The inquest was adjourned.
Mr.Skeffington-Smyth and his wife arrived in Shanghai a few weeks ago on a world tour.”
Art Deco masterpiece, Broadway Mansions Hotel, Built 1934
Elvira died on Christmas Day in the same year.