After being acquitted of both murder and manslaughter, Elvira had to return to court to face a charge of unlawful possession of a firearm. The hearing was on the 21st July and was fairly brief. She was found guilty and fined £50.
Her demeanour at this trial was rather different from her earlier appearance. Though she was visibly distressed throughout the original proceedings and had been allowed to give her evidence while seated, she only broke down completely on hearing the “Not Guilty” verdict. She answered questions clearly and with no inconsistencies. She was also disarmingly frank when it came to the nature of her relationship with Michael Scott Stephen.
In contrast, she was in a state of high agitation during this less serious case. She wept constantly, her sobs almost drowning out the prosecution speech. She collapsed at the end and had to be helped from court. Given that the defence had pleaded guilty this could not have been through shock.
How one interprets this depends on how one views Elvira’s character and her state of mind. Although it was only three weeks since the crowd had cheered her at The Old Bailey, the public mood had turned firmly against her. Her newspaper memoirs had been stopped after an MP had tabled a question in parliament and her lifestyle (and that of her associates) was being vilified in all corners of the press.
There was a possibility of a custodial sentence and she might have simply been acting, making her distress so apparent that such a judgement would have been seen as cruel and vindictive. She may, as her mother seems to have suggested, have been in the throes of a breakdown caused by the pressures of recent events. She might have been genuinely unbalanced – perhaps long before the actual horrors of recent weeks. Undoubtedly, if Elvira had appeared in court in modern times her psychological background would have played a more prominent part – both for the prosecution and defence.
What I find odd is the lack of curiosity as to why Elvira kept a revolver by her bedside at all. Was this not unusual? Elvira had owned the gun for the best part of ten years and had threatened to use it on more than one occasion. She admitted that it was kept loaded at all times but the most searching questions the prosecution asked where as to how Michael knew it was under a cushion in a chair at her bedside. Elvira said that it simply came with her from Belgrave Square along with her other possessions, but that seems unlikely given the relative sparsity of the furnishing of 21 William Mews. The whole matter is a bit puzzling.
The government ballistics expert, presumably a devotee of Freud, saw the gun as part of the fetishistic, sexual atmosphere he discerned in the Mews flat. However, given that he interpreted everything Elvira owned in that light, that might say more about him than Elvira. It does seem odd though, that her ownership of a gun should be deemed not to be in any way strange – in fact, it causes less distress to the media than Elvira’s fondness for Cocktail Parties. I feel I am missing something here – was (unlicensed) gun ownership a less controversial issue in 1932 than it has since become?