It is highly unlikely that Elvira gave even a passing thought to Dorothy Hall, mother of a small child and a chauffeur’s wife. Yet, had not Sir Patrick Hastings cast doubt on the accuracy of her evidence, she more than anyone would have been responsible for Elvira’s conviction.Mrs.Hall lived diagonally opposite from Elvira. The distance between the two dwellings was about 50 feet.
The defence went in pretty hard on Mrs.Hall’s statement – though much of the attack now looks like nit-picking (had she actually called Michael “Chicken”‘? ). However, these uncertainties about the verbatim accuracy of the account seemed to work on the jury and by the time of Sir Patrick Hastings’ slick ruse, which appeared to prove that Elvira was right-handed not left Dorothy Hall’s narrative had lost much of its authority. In particular, Hastings argued persuasively that the earlier shooting had not happened at all in the way described in the statement.
However, I regard the statement as as trustworthy as anything to do with the case. The behaviour of the participants and their chaotic lifestyle show through vividly and feel right. If there are serious errors, they concern the night of the fatal shooting – the doctor’sand police time of arrival seem all wrong. Also the reference to the ladder incident errs in mistaking the breaking of a window for the sound of gunfire – but she does say “like a gun shot”.
Anyhow, see what you think –
” I am a married woman living at 10 William Mews, with my husband John Charles Hall, a Chauffeur. We have lived here nine months.In no. 21 lived a woman named Mrs. Barney, she has been there about three years I think. Before living at No.10., my husband and I lived at No.1a which is at the other end of the Mews. When we first arrived at No.10 which is almost opposite No.21, Mrs. Barney had a man, who I should think lived with her there. He used to go in with her late at night and would be seen again there the following morning. He was with her up to the latter part of last year, when he stopped coming.”
“Shortly, quite a few weeks, a man to whom she spoke as “Michael” went and lived with her. Until a fortnight ago he was there every night.There has been a number of quarrels in the flat between this man and Mrs. Barney and I have often heard her tell him to get out of the place, I don’t know the exact dates or how often. About a fortnight ago, I think it was on a Thursday (19th May) we were awakened. my husband and I, by a taxi-man shouting to Mrs.Barney about some damage done to the cab. I heard her say she was sorry, but we sleep in the back and when I got to the front window Mrs.Barney had gone in and I heard the telephone bell tinkle as if she had been talking on the telephone I heard her mention Michael and say she would not have him in the house again or give him any of his clothes, she would never forgive him and if he came near her she would shoot him. she seemed hysterical and was crying and screaming. When she had gone in (illegible) darkness and I saw her switch on the lights. This would be about three o’clock in the morning.”
“I went back to bed and I heard some shouting again of Mrs.Barney and I went to the front again and Michael was ringing the front door bell at No.21 and a taxi was waiting. She looked out the window on the first floor in front. I heard him ask “Let me have some money, Vera”. She said !Clear away or I shall send for the police.” and he got into the taxi and went off. This was about quarter of an hour after the previous incident. I went back to bed but in about another quarter of an hour I heard her shouting “Will you please go away from my house” and I saw her shut the window as I had gone again to my front window.
He still rang the bell – there were no other people in the Mews. She took no notice and he started to walk away.He got almost opposite my door, she opened the window and screamed “Laugh baby for the last time”. she was right undressed then and I do not think she had anything on. I saw her put her left hand out of the window nearest the landing – she leaned out down to her waist -she had a small bright revolver which she pointed at the man and she fired. She then seemed to slide down inside the room and was looking out the bottom of the window.”
“The man looked up at me and said “I am sorry.” I was cross and said, “Why don’t you clear out the Mews, you are a nuisance.” He said “I’ve been away an hour and am afraid to leave her longer, I don’t mean to do her any harm. I won’t leave her for good as I’m afraid she might commit suicide as she is so hysterical”.I said, “She’ll never do that she is too wicked”. I noticed he ha a black eye (right one I believe) and his face was badly swollen and so was his lips. Mrs. Barney then again looked out of the window but seemed to slide back all of a heap. He said, “Good God, she’s shot” and he ran towards the door.
There was no noise of any shot that would make him believe that. He banged at it shouting “Vera, for God’s sake let me in.” but she took no notice and he walked off and got into a van that was in the Mews and settled down. This was going on till half past five, I went to bed again then. I next saw Michael about a quarter to eleven the same morning when he went to the house and was let in. About half past twelve I saw Mrs. Barney and Michael go out together seemingly quite happy.”
William Mews Today
“I don’t think anything was heard from 21 until the morning of the 31st of May.On monday 30th May about 7 o’clock in the evening people commenced arriving at 21 and continued to arrive till 8pm. There were about 25 of them, the party lated until about 10 o’clock when the last one left. About half past ten Mrs. Barney went off with Michael in her Delage car and nothing more was heard of them until about twenty five past four, when my little girl woke me up and I heard quarrelling. I went to the window and heard her screaming “Get out of my house at once, I hate you. Get out, Get out, I’ll shoot you.” I heard him mumbling something like “I’m going” and then I heard a shot, she screamed immediately in a hysterical manner and I heard him shout as if in pain “Oh Good God what have you done.”
She started screaming again and said “Chicken, Chicken, I’m sorry, Come back to me I’ll do anything you ask me”. This was during about five minutes. Then it was all quiet for about five minutes, then I heard her say “Michael,Michael”. Then all was quiet until the doctor arrived about five to six.
“She was at the door when he arrived and he rushed in. After about three minutes I heard her ask “What’s wrong” and the doctor said “He’s dead” and she again commenced screaming and said “Good God don’t say that I loved him. I adored him.” he told her to keep quiet and heard him ask “Why did you not send for me before” and I heard her say “I got the operator and he gave me” or “I gave him the wrong number”. She looked out of the window and gave one scream and all was quiet and the doctor looked out of the landing window and spoke quietly to his chauffeur who went for the police.”
I forgot to mention that last Tuesday week I was awakened by my little girl abut three o’clock Tuesday morning and there was shouting in the Mews. I went and looked through the window and heard a bang like a shot from 21. There were three people outside the flat – two men and a woman.The front door was open but seemingly these people could not get in the room upstairs as somebody suggested getting a ladder and whilst they had gone someone came down and shut the door. Michael was not seen on that occasion. I did not see the people come back and all was quiet.
I have read this statement through and it is true”.
The prosecution coupled this statement with that of Kate Stevens but the discrepancy between them served to further muddy the waters. They would have been better advised to go with this one alone. I think it is fair to say that Dorothy Hall’s lowly social status and her evident (and very understandable) dislike of Elvira worked against her. It is worth mentioning that although Elvira was obviously a first-rate nenace at no time did Michael appear to be really afraid for his life. Even so, if even the gist of this account is largely correct, Elvira was remarkably lucky to get the result that she did.
I will post Kate Stevens statement shortly.