To continue from
The third statement taken from other Mews residents was that of William Kiff. He was a chauffeur, who lived next door to Elvira on the same side of the Mews.
” I am a chauffeur and reside at No. 18a Williams Mews. I have lived there for the past two years. Mrs. Barney has resided at 21 Williams Mews for about 18 months. When she first came to live at No. 21 a fair man came with her and as he used to stay the night I concluded that he was living with her. At first I thought it was her husband. I have not seen this man with Mrs. Barney since last October when I came back from my holidays. after that she lived alone for a while but I cannot say how long. I should say it was somewhere about a month and then a man she spoke to as Michael used to stay there with her. It was getting on towards Xmas time when he came. Up to about six weeks ago he lived with Mrs. Barney continuously and then I think he went to the Park Lane Hotel Annexe . During the time the man Michael was living with her, there were frequent quarrels and I heard a high pitched voice shouting, but I did not know what the quarrels were about. All the quarrels were in the early hours of the morning.”
“Between a fortnight and three weeks ago, I heard Mrs.Barney shouting, I thought to myself “another quarrel”, but I did not hear his voice. I got up and went to the window which looks out into the Mews. I heard Mrs. Barney say “If you don’t go, I’ll shoot you, see this baby”. I then heard a shot fired. I was leaning through the window alongside a curtain, I did not open the window. Mrs. Barney’s voice appeared to come from the bedroom. The man Michael was standing by a drain opposite Mrs. Hall’s flat at No.10. I expected to see him fall but he didn’t. As he didn’t fall I concluded that she had fired a dummy bullet as I heard no whistle, or that she had fired in the air.I saw Michael speaking to Mrs. Hall, I did not hear what they said. After speaking to Mrs. Hall michael walked up the Mews towards the entrance. It was all quiet then and I went to bed. I heard footsteps coming up the Mews again and concluded it was him but I did not get up.”
William Mews Today
“Previous to the above incident, about six weeks ago and this time about midnight, I was awakened by Mrs.Barney screaming, and I got up and went to the window. I heard her say “The Police are coming”. I did not see either of them about. I think there was a party on and after the police came I saw some of them, men and women, put into a cab which drove away.
About a week before the tragedy, sometime during the night (I did not get out of bed to look at them) I was awakened by a crowd in the Mews shouting “Here we are darling”, undoubtedly outside No.21 . I laid in bed and later, I don’t know how long, I heard someone say “If you don’t let us in, we’ll go to Lady Mullens”. I did not hear Mrs. Barney or Michael that night.”
“On monday 30th May at about 7pm several cars began to arrive at Mrs. Barney’s flat and about two dozen persons went in. we counted up to sixteen men and then got tired and gave it up. I had to go away at about twenty to eight and returned about 8.15 and the party was still in progress and the cars were still there. The party broke up at nine o’clock, the people left and all was quiet. I did not see Michael and Mrs. Barney go away. I heard nothing more from No.21 until the early hours of the morning. Somewhere about 4 o’clock when I was awakened by Mrs. Barney screaming in No.21. I heard her gabbling away in a high pitched voice. I could not hear what she was saying. I did not hear a man’s voice. I got out of bed, came to the window of the Mews, looked out, but there was nobody about.I went back into the bedroom, did not go to bed. I spoke to my wife and then went back to the window to see if it was going to be quiet and worth going back to bed again.”
“It was fairly quiet then, no screaming, I thought the quarrel was over. I went into the kitchen to see the time, it was 20 to 5 by my clock, which is usually five minutes fast. I went back to the bedroom and told my wife I’d make some tea. I then put the kettle on the gas.I then heard a bang, which sounded like a shot, come from No.21, followed by groans and a sort of banging noise, which sounded like someone thumping on the floor, or a door. I spoke to my wife about it. I then came through to the front,opened the window looking out on the Mews and heard some moans. I heard Mrs. Barney, in a high pitched voice, rambling on incoherently. I could not understand what she was saying. whilst the groans were coming from 21 a cab drew up before No.14 and the lady who lives there got out, paid the cabman and went into her flat. This distracted my attention from 21 as I thought when the cab came down the Mews it was something to do with them.”
1932 London Cab
“The noises stopped and I went and made the tea, took some to my wife and as it was no use going back to bed then, I dressed myself and went down the Mews. I walked as far as the kitchen window of 21 thinking to look in and find out what was wrong, but I heard someone moving about, I think downstairs, so I returned indoors and went upstairs. I had some more tea and then went down and looked through the open window at the front. A car came down the Mews and pulled up outside 21 and a person I guessed to be a doctor got out and went in. I then went down thinking something serious had happened. The doctor was upstairs then. The front door of 21 was closed. I could hear a man talking upstairs. He seemed to be having some trouble with Mrs. Barney, she seemed highly hysterical.”
“I heard him say “Good Heavens, control yourself woman, it’s the police you’ll have to speak to.” All I heard of Mrs. barney was her moaning. There was no-one else in the Mews but the doctor’s driver. I got rather cold and I went indoors. I heard the doctor’s car car go out of the Mews, went to the window and saw it return , followed almost immediately by two policemen.
I would like to add that the first time I went down to the Mews on the morning of the tragedy I picked up an iron gas collar and threw it at a cat t the end of the Mews. It hit the iron grating of the dung crate and it may have hit the dustbin. The noise it made might possibly have been mistaken for more shots.”
Michael Scott Stephen
Apart from the addenda regarding gas collars and cats ( which has an air of the police trying desperately to explain the disparity in the female witnesses’ statements regarding the number of shots fired that night) , this seems to me to be an honest report.
Some points are worth noting.
Sir Patrick Hastings made much at the trial of the fact that Mews residents had not reported earlier incidents of shots being fired, thereby casting doubt on the actuality of such shots. However, nobody ran to the police on the actual night of Michael’s death – mere chauffeurs and their wives did not wish to get involved with the authorities unless absolutely necessary.
Taking the three statements together, the ease with which Hastings was able to deny that Elvira had ever threatened to shoot Michael defies understanding.
On the other hand, there can be no doubt that Elvira was horrified by the incident and talk about delays in both the doctor and the police being called are nonsense.
Everything in these statements point to a singularly dysfunctional relationship – with Elvira reaching for the gun on more than one occasion – and threatening either suicide or murder depending on the state of the argument. Remember, both Elvira and Michael were always drunk and probably full of cocaine when these late night rows erupted.
Nothing in these accounts justifies a charge of premeditated murder. Very little hints at the likelihood that anyone other than Elvira pulled the trigger.
William Kiff was in his fifties. His father had been a coachman and I assume William had started his career as the same. He had worked in the Hanover Square/ Lowndes Square area for many years. He had two daughters about Elvira’s age. Their lives , I imagine, were somewhat different, and. one hopes, less melodramatic.