Tag Archive: Sir Patrick Hastings


At the end of a long and distinguished career, Sir Travers Humphreys wrote A Book of Trials (1953). He had been involved in some of the most celebrated trials in English history – Oscar Wilde, Roger Casement, Crippen, Haigh etc. – so it is perhaps surprising that he chose to end the book with a chapter on Elvira.

Part of the reason for this was the widespread rumour that Humphreys had been surprised by, and not a little appalled, by the verdict. In this chapter he (partially) refutes this and offers, in the guise of a review of Patrick Hastings account of the trial, an analysis of the issues involved. It is a fascinating and cogently argued piece and sheds light not only the dynamics of the case but on the English judicial process as it then operated.

“I have been reading, not for the first time, the account of the trial of Mrs. Elvira Dolores Barney to be found in the book by the late Sir Patrick Hastings entitled Cases in Court. The trial took place in 1932 at the Central Criminal Court, and it happened that I was the judge. The chapter devoted to this case may be recommended to all young practitioners at the Criminal Bar, and to any other reader who may be interested in studying the method of approach by a master in the art of defending prisoners to a series of facts, most, if not all, of which would, each by itself, be insufficient to justify a conviction on the charge against the accused, namely murder, but which, taken together, clearly struck Sir Patrick as presenting a most difficult task to counsel for the defence.

I have not the least intention of re-telling the story of a trial in which the woman accused was acquitted upon the facts by a jury, and I should prefer not even to comment on the case if I thought that anything I wrote might seem to suggest that I disagreed with the verdict.The fact is that to me the most intriguing part of this chapter of the book was the difference between Sir Patrick and myself in the views which we formed of the strength of the case for the prosecution – as it appeared on the depositions taken at the Police Court, that is, the case as it reached me a few days before the trial.

I need scarcely say that we approached the matter from essentially different standpoints. Hastings was concerned to find answers to certain, undoubtedly awkward, pieces of evidence; my object was little more than to learn something of the nature and length of the case, since I made it  a practice not to read newspaper or other unofficial reports of proceedings at Police Courts in cases likely to be committed for trial which might ultimately come to be tried by myself.I now know that Sir Patrick had been briefed at the Police Court, though he wisely refrained from cross-examining the witnesses. To that extent he had the advantage of me. The following short facts are taken from Sir Patrick’s book.

Mrs.Barney was a spoilt child of fortune. The daughter of wealthy parents, she had early drifted into an atmosphere of idle luxury. She was married but did not live with her husband, had no interests except those to be found in night clubs, drank far too much and occupied a flat in London where she lived with a young man named Michael Stephens. He had no money, no regular occupation and was content to live on the money provided by Mrs. Barney. There were repeated quarrels and noisy parties, so that the pair were a constant source of annoyance to the respectable inhabitants of the mews in which they lived.

On the night of May 31st a doctor in the neighbourhood was called on the telephone by Mrs. Barney. “Doctor, come at once/ There has been a terrible accident.” He went to the flat. Mrs. Barney was in a state of extreme hysteria. Stephens lay dead upon the stairs. On the floor was the revolver belonging to the woman, with which the man had been shot. To doctor and police Mrs. Barney, though too frenzied to give a coherent account, repeated again and again that there had been a quarrel, that she had threatened, as she had often done before, to commit suicide by shooting herself with a revolver which she always kept in a drawer beside her bed. Stephens had tried to prevent her carrying out her threat; in the struggle the pistol had gone off, shooting him through the body. She was taken to the police station, where she repeated the story once more, and there being no other information she was released and allowed to go home with her mother.

The police, of course, continued their inquiries, which led to them finding fresh witnesses, not indeed witnesses to the actual shooting, but, as Sir Patrick considered, witnesses whose evidence, if accepted, would make the theory of attempted suicide much more difficult to establish. The Director decided that Mrs. Barney must stand her trial, and she was arrested and later committed for trial.

The further evidence above referred to may be considered under four heads.

a) Evidence that two shots were heard on the fatal evening. These witnesses were not very satisfactory and their evidence as to the number of shots heard by them was even contradictory. It seemed not unlikely that they had learned that the police had found the mark of a second bullet in the bedroom. Mrs. Barney accepted the latter fact and explained it. She said that on previous occasions she had threatened suicide and had fired in the room to frighten Stephens, not at him nor, indeed, near him.

b) A witness who heard the fatal shot and who added that he heard Mrs. Barney shriek, “I will shoot you”, just before he heard the sound of the shot. The obvious answer to that was put forward by Sir Patrick in suggesting that the words were, “I will shoot”, referring to killing herself, not her lover.

c) The inhabitants of a flat lower down the mews spoke of having heard the sound of a violent quarrel at the flat some days earlier and saw Stephens leave the building and walk away; as he did so Mrs. Barney opened the upper window, screaming, “Laugh, baby, laugh for the last time” – she then produced a revolver and fired, as they alleged, at him from the window. Nothing more was heard of this occurrence, and no one apparently thought it necessary at the time to inform the police. In those circumstances no one would quarrel with the decision to arrest Mrs. Barney in order that the death of Stephens could be more fully investigated.

d) Sir Bernard Spilsbury, the eminent pathologist, and Mr.Churchill, the well-known expert gunsmith, had expressed opinions, sensible enough in themselves, as to the improbability of the deceased having, during the course of the struggle for the pistol, himself pulled the trigger, but improbabilities do not as a rule count for much in a murder trial – at least that is, and was, my experience in the matter. My view, after reading the deposition, was expressed to my clerk, at that time the late Mr. Winckworth, much as follows:

“This case should not last very long. The woman gave an account at the time when, according to the doctor, she was not in a condition to invent or concoct a defence. She has throughout stuck to that story. Unless she breaks down in cross-examination,  or the prosecution can satisfy the jury that her story cannot be true, they will never convict her of murder. If the charge were manslaughter the case would be very different. Patrick Hastings is defending her and if anyone can get her off altogether he is the man to do it, but if Percy Clarke, leading for the prosecution, stresses the manslaughter I don’t think he will succeed.

At the trial Hastings defended her brilliantly and, what in this case was much more important, with consummate tact. There was no attack made on any witness for the prosecution but each incident was made to fall into its place in the picture of attempted suicide. As he himself has written: ” The whole scheme of the defence was to bring all the evidence into line with the possibility of attempted suicide. That would be sufficient to justify his defence to the charge of murder, since murder in such a case consists in unlawful killing with the intention of at least seriously injuring the deceased man.

Mrs. Barney made as good a witness as could be expected of any woman in her position. She was restrained and kept her emotions under control. It was not a case in which the jury were likely to feel much sympathy for either the dead or the living, but at least she said nothing to increase the prejudice against her caused by the story of her wasted life.

“Upon the whole,” writes Sir Patrick, “she was not much shaken by her cross-examination.” The defence had in their favour one unusual piece of luck, or, should I say, they took full advantage of an error on the part of the policeman first called to the scene of the tragedy. No attempt had been made to examine the revolver for finger-prints until it had been handled by several people, and the defence were entitled to say to the jury that had the precaution been taken the finger-prints of the deceased might have been found on, or near, the trigger. As it was, the examination when made showed many blurred and unidentifiable prints, the only one clearly defined, being that of one of the detectives in the case.

There remained the question of manslaughter. Sir Patrick states, and I assume he must be right, that nothing had been said by Sir Percival Clarke as to manslaughter in his summing-up to the jury of the case for the prosecution. If so, I am sure that theremust have been some good reason in his mind for the omission, though I do not profess to understand it. As a matter of law,the more the theory of attempted suicide was stressed the more clearly would it appear that the deceased man was killed as the direct result of the unlawful act of the accused.

In such a case the onlyaccident in the matter would be that she killed, not the person whom she attempted to kill, but an innocent person who was trying to prevent her carrying into effect her unlawful design. If Clarke did not refer to the matter, naturally the defence would not do so. I directed the jury as I was bound to, upon the law, but if neither counsel had argued the question it is not surprising that the jury should have concentrated their attention upon the one charge mentioned in the indictment, viz. murder, and having found as I think rightly, that the charge was not proved, have returned as they did a simple verdict of Not Guilty. I have known such a thing to happen on at least one other occasion.”

Thanks to the comedic tradition exemplified by A.P.Herbert and others we tend to have a view of judges as well-meaning but hapless old buffers. The above gives the lie to that stereotype. There is a wealth of insight here, into the case, into Establishment thinking and into the legal process. There is also a considerable amount of carefully concealed self-justification. A couple of things seem apparent to me – firstly, the prosecution case was marked by complacency and ineptitude, and secondly there is no justification, under English law, for Elvira to be termed a Murderer, as she still, routinely, is. As to the truth of what really happened that night – well, that is still, and likely to remain, a mystery.

Hastings versus Spilsbury

All commentators agree that if it were not for Patrick Hasting’s performance in court Elvira would have almost certainly have been found guilty of murder or at least manslaughter. The general consensus is that Hastings’ closing speech was a triumph of quiet reason over hearsay and speculation.

The closing speech was impressive and pitched perfectly. However I think Hastings had outwitted the Prosecution at every turn, right from the outset of the trial. An unwitting side-effect of delving into the Elvira Barney affair has, for me, been a growing sense of disquiet about the whole adversarial mode that then reigned (and still does) in the English judicial system. Hastings was not guilty of any malpractice, his job was to cast doubt on the Crown’s case. This he did superbly. However, “truth” appears to have played no part in the proceedings. Had Hastings been incompetent, or had any of his gambits backfired, the verdict would have been different.

Key to Hastings argument was the fact that nobody had actually visually witnessed the shooting. Yet this is nearly always the case with murders, especially those categorised as “domestic”. Hastings first job was to trash aural evidence from the witnesses. “I’ll Shoot you” became “I’ll shoot” and then, in Elvira’s evidence, “I’ll shoot myself”. Testimony that helped the prosecution was dismissed as hearsay but Hastings was happy to use that “hearsay” when it was useful to his client.

Sir Bernard Spilsbury

As mentioned previously, his treatment of the expert witnesses was a crucial factor in securing an acquittal. The ballistics expert, Robert Churchill, was confronted head on, as was to later happen in the Kenyan  “White Mischief” trial of Sir Jock Broughton. The pathologist, Spilsbury, was a different matter.

Sydney Aylett, a celebrated Clerk of Court, wrote,

“The next case…illustrates another neat piece of strategy by Pat Hastings. It was used at the trial of Mrs.Barney, a cause celebre of 1932; a murder in the Smart Set. Mrs.Barney was accused of shooting her lover Stephens. The defence was that she had threatened suicide and in the struggle to take the pistol from her, Stephens had been killed. One of the witnesses for the prosecution was Sir Bernard Spillsbury, the eminent pathologist, and such was his standing and reputation in the courts that many prosecutors treated him almost as God, and his effect on juries was thought by some to be more telling than the judge’s summing-up. He was also allowed to sit in court during a trial, and prosecuting counsel would sometimes put the following question to him, “Sir Bernard, you have heard the defence put forward on behalf of the prisoner. In your opinion is it consistent with the results of your examination?” To which the only reply could be, “No.” So, at the beginning of the trial Pat asked that Sir Bernard should not be allowed to remain in court at the opening of the case, and the calling of the evidence. The judge, Mr. Justice Humphreys, agreed. When Sir Bernard was called to give evidence it was purely on medical grounds. He had not heard the theory of suicide, and no question could be put to him on that or any other theory. He was not cross-examined.”

A clever ruse, but a ruse nonetheless. What Hastings wanted to downplay was the horizontal trajectory of the bullet-wound, mathematically improbable had the gun gone off during a struggle.

Aylett repeats a post-case anecdote that I have always thought a little too good to be true.

“After the case was over, Sir Patrick Hastings took a holiday in France. When he returned he came round to our chambers and was congratulated on his conduct of the case. “The verdict was nearly the death of me,” he said. I was driving on the road from Boulogne to Paris, when a sports car, with a woman at the wheel, came round a corner, very fast, and on the wrong side. It missed me by a whisker. I got a glimpse of the driver. It was Mrs. Barney”

C.H.Rolph and Henry Cecil

For all the actors, photographers and generally arty types that Elvira mingled with on the evening leading up to the shooting, if it is authors that we are looking for then the representatives of Law and Order at the trial offer some surprisingly rich pickings. When it comes to the  written word, the Establishment, in this instance, beats Bohemia hands down. True, Eddy Gathorne-Hardy and Brian Howard considered themselves blessed by the poetic muse but their collective lifetime output is negligible – two very slim volumes of verse and some reviews in Howard’s case, and a couple of pamphlets in Gathorne-Hardy’s.

Brian Howard

On the other hand, even if we ignore the novelist Gilbert Frankau (covering the proceedings for the Daily Mail), the Authorities were to prove far more prolific wielders of the pen. Eminent figures that they were it is no surprise that autobiography was to be a favoured form. The Judge, Sir Travers Humphreys,  produced two, one of which, Criminal Days, holds up well.  He also provided the forward to H. Montgomery Hyde’s historically important The Trial of Oscar Wilde.

Sir Patrick Hastings’ autobiography and his Cases in Court are both worth searching out, as their calm but authoritative tone  offer a taste of the technique that made him such a successful Defence Advocate. In the 1920s he was also a playwright, albeit with varying degrees of success (see  https://elvirabarney.wordpress.com/2012/01/07/sir-patrick-hastingstallulah-bankhead-and-beatrix-lehmann/ ) . Even so, to have a written a hit show which starred Tallulah Bankhead is something that more than one or two of the “smart set”  might have envied.

Tallulah by Augustus John 1929

Even the ballistics expert, whose findings Hastings comprehensively demolished, could also boast a “hit” production of his own,.Though hardly literature, Robert Churchill’s Game Shooting was for many years the standard work on the subject. I am told that the prosecuting counsel, Sir Percival Clarke, wrote an influential treatise on Extradition but that is one avenue of enquiry too far, even for me.

Two other worthies, connected with the judicial system, but who would have gone largely unnoticed at the trial, were to  to develop prolific careers as writers.  One was H.C. Leon and the other C.R. Hewitt. As Henry Cecil and C.H.Rolph, respectively, their books gained a wide readership in the post-war years. Cecil specialised in fiction, Rolph, although probably the more aesthetically-minded and intellectual figure, in non-fiction. Neither are likely to trouble literary theorists or university syllabi but they both made significant contributions to the cultural landscape. Together they present, from different political perspectives, portrayals of English society that are still illuminating.

Leon was a young barrister at the time of Elvira’s case. He was present throughout as he was following the trial for “an unnamed client”. This  is a  peculiar snippet of information – who would pay for such a service, was someone worried in case their name cropped up during cross-examination? At the very least it indicates the extent of interest (and unease) that Elvira’s arraignment had created in “Society”.Presumably Leon performed this and other duties well as he rose through the ranks to become a High Court Judge himself. However from 1951 he devoted himself largely to writing, using his Christian names, Henry Cecil.

He produced a series of novels based around the Legal Profession, most of which were puzzle-based mysteries in the genteel “Golden Age” style. They were characterised by a humour that came to predominate and ensured his popularity. In essence, Henry Cecil did for Barristers in the 1950s what Richard Gordon did for Doctors in the same decade and James Herriott was to do for Vets a generation later. The books are clever, mildly satirical, unashamedly middle-brow and middle-class – Brian Howard would have despised them. They present an essentially stable  England populated by forgetful judges, erudite villains and young male heroes of the ” good chap” type personified by Ian Carmichael and Richard Briers. Indeed, both of those actors starred in film and TV adaptations of Cecil’s best-seller Brothers In Law.  Cecil’s knowledge of the Law is put to good use and the sense of period and place makes the books reassuringly rather than awkwardly dated. Decency, not a word that cut much ice in Elvira’s orbit, is both the most valued (and eventually triumphant) quality.

C. H. Rolph/Hewitt was also concerned with “decency”, but in his case it it took him down a more political, crusading route. His presence at the trial was due to his position as an officer in the City of London Police. It was his task to ensure the safe and orderly functioning of the case, a job made rather difficult by the demand for seats in the public gallery and the behaviour of the Mayfair and Chelsea socialites who seemed to have monopolised said gallery. Rolph, like many other commentators was deeply disapproving of this faction (who presumably included most of Elvira’s friends). Their frivolity, which included giggling at the forensic evidence and generally treating the whole spectacle as a West End first-night, caused much comment in the press and confirmed the public’s increasingly dismal opinion of the Bright Young Things. Sir Patrick Hastings alluded to their behaviour in his closing speech and cleverly turned it into a rhetorical device in his client’s favour (“some may think this is all very entertaining, I take the case very seriously etc”.).

Rolph was no more impressed with Elvira than he was with her camp-followers. His autobiography dismisses her as “the woman who shot her lover and got away with it” and he sympathetically records the Judge’s outrage at the reaction to the verdict ( “Most extraordinary. Apparently we should have given her a pat on the back.”). However this was not the standard gripe of an authoritarian Copper. Rolph was a radical and devoted much of his writing career to “progressive” causes.

While rising to the rank of Chief Inspector, and authoring a number of police training manuals, Rolph began a long-standing relationship with the  New Statesman, for whom he wrote reviews, think-pieces and investigative reports for the best part of 40 years. He was a great admirer of Kingsley Martin, the paper’s editor for much of that time, and eventually became Martin’s biographer. He worked for the Howard League and wrote book length studies on a number  of issues relating to the law and moral questions. Some of these, such as his work with Arthur Koestler on Capital Punishment and his book on the Lady Chatterley trial (both Penguin Specials), became the focus of great public debate and his advocacy for changes to the laws relating to prostitution and homosexuality were pioneering liberal contributions to the post-Wolfenden debates. No renegade, he remained proud of his police career and continued to contribute to the Police Review until shortly before his death.

He also became a highly regarded “arts correspondent”, both for the New Statesman and the BBC. He was particularly fond of interviewing other authors, proving himself equally at ease with Raymond Chandler, Rosamund Lehmann, Rebecca West or Ethel Mannin. His recollections of these and other writers are generous but never dewy-eyed.

As a “left realist”, he was suspicious of  extremism and believed that political debate was best done through reason and fact-based argument. In many ways, his world seems as idealised (and lost) as that presented by Henry Cecil. His autobiographies are highly informative and saved from being overly solemn by a self-deprecating humour and a good eye for detail and social trends (it was Rolph who first coined the term “The Pill” for the contraceptive innovation which he correctly guessed would change the world).

So, please forgive this short interlude, I will return to  the intemperate and the decadent in due course. In my defence, I fear that writers such as Cecil and Rolph, whose work was once the staple of the provincial Public Libraries of my youth, are in danger of becoming as forgotten as any short-lived Soho dive. If Brian Howard’s sub-Sitwellian poetry led nowhere, the Modernism it drew upon has triumphed almost totally.  Cecil’s work is mostly still in print (apparently still recommended to Law students), Rolph’s  more historically specific interventions are faring less well. Neither was an innovator but they were good at their craft and, in different ways, capture their era and respective social worlds as adroitly as any of their more flamboyant contemporaries. What their take on cocktail parties might have been is, however, less easy to discern.

Elvira, we are told, kept a photograph of Tallulah Bankhead at her bedside while she was on remand in Holloway. Whether she was simply an adoring fan, like so many stage-struck young women of the period, or whether she knew Tallulah personally or through the notorious Farm Street parties, we cannot be sure. As they shared a mutually very close friend, Audrey Carten, it is almost certain that Elvira had at least met the American actress, whose London lifestyle remains the very picture of 1920’s “Smart Set” excess.

Tallulah as Jean Borotra, Impersonation Party 1927 ( Georgia Doble and Elizabeth Ponsonby also in picture)

There was one person involved in the trial who most definitely did know Tallulah. Oddly enough, it was her Defence Counsel, Sir Patrick Hastings, whose performance in court reduced the prosecution case to tatters and may well have saved Elvira’s life. Patrick Hastings was not only the leading (and most expensive) Advocate of his day, he was also a playwright. In 1926, Tallulah had starred in Scotch Mist, his controversial study of a failed marriage – complete with amorous wife and jealous husband.

The play was not very well received but Tallulah’s popularity (and the fact that the Bishop of London denounced it from the pulpit as an example of the immorality of the era) ensured a good run of 117 performances. In the course of the production, Hastings formed a very favourable impression of Miss Bankhead.

In his autobiography, he wrote, ” I always found Tallulah extremely charming and both my wife and I liked her enormously. Not only was she a delightful actress, but she was free from those exhibitions of the artistic temperament which are not wholly unknown in the theatre and can on occasions become a perfect nuisance”. In the light of Hastings ill-concealed disgust at the behaviour of some of Elvira’s set during the trial, this is a revealing statement. It also makes one wonder what Hastings really thought about his client’s character and her frequent “exhibitions”.

Scotch Mist was sandwiched between two much greater triumphs in Tallulah’s London stage career. She had just finished playing Iris Storm in Michael Arlen’s The Green Hat. That Tallulah should play the embodiment of female modernity in what was (briefly) seen as the embodiment of the modern novel was surely appropriate and Tallulah’s army of female fans loved her in the role – her scenes in chic lingerie did no harm either.The novel was a best-seller and although it has dated badly, its importance in cementing the image of a certain type of new (and possibly dangerous) femininity cannot be exaggerated. Iris Storm racing around Mayfair in her yellow Hispano-Suiza inspired many real-life counterparts – not least Elvira.

After Scotch Mist  Tallulah opted for a change of style and earned much critical praise for her portrayal of Amy, a waitress, in Sidney Howard’s They Knew What They Wanted. The play was a success (it had already been a hit in America) but its lack of glamour and raciness disappointed Tallulah’s “Gallery Girls” who also “knew what they wanted” from their idol.

Beatrix Lehmann

Bankhead’s understudy in all three productions was the redoubtable Beatrix Lehmann, whose theatrical success seemed not to have suffered from her, by contemporary standards, very open lesbianism.  From her emergence from RADA in 1924 to her death in 1979, Beatrix was a striking figure – on and off-stage. Male co-star and Tallulah’s then-current lover, Glenn Anders said that  “Tallulah must have been in love with her. We were together all of the time”.  Beatrix’s sister was the writer  and part-time Bright Young Person, Rosamond, whose 1927 novel “Dusty Answer“, with its bold depiction of homosexuality among the young university set, caused a sensation of its own. Her later works, particularly “The Echoing Grove” (1953)  place her in the front ranks of twentieth century English writers. Through Beatrix, Anders and Bankhead spent many weekends at Rosamond’s country home.

Her brother was John Lehmann , a key figure in the London literary scene of the late 1930s and 1940s and an important chronicler of male homosexual life in the Capital during the  Second World War. Beatrix herself wrote two novels in the early 1930s.

Beatrix Lehmann by Angus McBean 1937

Beatrix lived at St.George’s,  Hanover Square in the heart of Mayfair throughout the late 20s and early 30s. It is likely that she would have known many of Elvira’s circle – although her tastes seem more literary and  Bloomsbury-oriented than most of the “theatrical” crowd. We know that she was friendly with Lytton Strachey, Christopher Isherwood and Stephen Tennant. Whether she was close to any of the Lesbian sub-cultural groups is less certain. At one weekend gathering, Beatrix was described by her sister as being “full of high spirits and devilry” , which would have endeared her to Elvira – if not to Sir Patrick Hastings.

She enjoyed a long and triumphant career on stage, in films and latterly on television.Among  her more famous cinematic appearances  are those in “The Passing of The Third Floor Back” (1935) and The Spy Who Came in From The Cold (1965). She is now probably best known for her performances as Professor Rumford in  the 1978 Doctor Who series “The Stones of Blood”. She is regularly voted “best supporting part ever” by the worshippers of that particular cult.

I wonder how many of those fans would associate the good Professor with wild times with Tallulah in the London of the 1920s?

Following on from

https://elvirabarney.wordpress.com/2011/12/22/dorothy-halls-statement-to-the-police-261932/

Kate Stevens lived one door down from Dorothy Hall so was a little bit further from 21 William Mews but still pretty close. Her statement was taken later than Mrs.Hall’s and differs at certain key points.

“I am married, and the wife of John Leslie Stevens, a chauffeur. I have been living here for about two years. Just oer a year ago Mrs.Barney moved into 21 William Mews – she had a fair man living with her. He was always there and went out first thing in the morning, sometimes he would go out with her in the car, or for a walk. he was there some time and then we missed him. There were no quarrels with him. it was about when she went away last summer that this man left off coming.”

“A man who Mrs Barney called Michael went and stayed with her – I noticed him first towards the end of the year. My attention was called to him when I saw her smack his face. A man came running up the Mews from 21 saying “Where are you going?” then Michael running after them as well, then Mrs. Barney and she smacked Michael’s face and said “I hate you, I hate you”. Two policemen came along while Mrs.Barney and Michael were quarreling, after this all three went back together. I saw Michael and Mrs.Barney the following morning going out in the car together, and I saw they each had a black eye.

She used to have cocktail parties very frequently – on an average once a month, sometimes oftener. It was after these that they seemed to quarrel.

About two months ago Michael broke a window to get into the flat  – it was about ten o clock at night. Mrs. Barney told a policeman that someone had broken in. I saw Michael run up the Mews away from the flat and I later heard Mrs. Barney say to Michael that she would send for his mother.

The next day a lady, who I believe was his mother, came to that address and Michael walked up the Mews with her and shortly after this Michael and Mrs.Barney were away from the Mews for about a fortnight. I heard that Michael’s mother offered to take him to Switzerland to get him away from her.”

New Victoria Cinema

“The first time I heard a pistol shot from 21 William Mews was one night after I had been to the New Victoria Cinema, I cannot remember the picture, I got home about half past eleven at night. there was a party at 21, I heard her radiogram. About three o’clock in the morning I woke and heard Mrs. Barney quarrelling – I jumped out of bed and went to the window. I heard a pistol shot from  No. 21 which frightened me. There was a party there when the shot was fired in the house _ I could see nothing as the curtains were drawn. I know there was quarrelling because I heard raised voices outside between the guests.”

1932 Radiogram

“About three weeks ago there was a dispute at 21 about a taxi being damaged – I don’t know what it was about – this was during the night, and I first noticed Michael running from the house, I heard Mrs. Barney shouting there – I don’t know if she was at the window or the door, I heard her say “Smile, Baby, Smile for the last time.” and then I heard a shot from come from 21. Michael was near Mrs. Hall’s at No. 10. I heard Michael say to Mrs. Hall “What would you do with a woman like that?”. Mrs.Hall sais “I should not stop with her”. Michael then went up to a van in the Mews and stayed there.

About a fortnight ago, about ten o’clock at night, there were two men and a lady went to 21, she and Michael were in the house – I saw them. I do not think she wanted them there as I heard her say something about going to the police. When these two men and woman came along she shut the door and just afterwards there was a shot which seemed to come from the bedroom and afterwards there was dead quiet. I heard them say they were going for a ladder and see what had happened and they went away, but I did not see them come back. I do not think I did see Michael that night.

For about three days the windows were not opened and I thought they were away but at the end of that time I saw Mrs.Barney go out.

I heard nothing from 21 from that time until the other night, the night of a cocktail party at no. 21. They started going in about six o’clock and the party continued until about 11 o’clock.”

Jo Carstairs

“During the evening I saw Michael go up the Mews with, I believe, Miss Carstairs. He came back later on with her in a taxi. About half past three the morning of tuesday, our dog barked –  I could not sleep so I got up and I heard shots, two as I was getting out of bed and another later I got out of bed and went to the window – I heard shouting coming from No. 21 then I heard a final bang – a shot from 21. I said to my husband “I bet that’s killed him”. I heard her shouting “Come back Michael I love you.”. She kept shouting ” I love you Michael, come back.”

I got tired of hearing this and went back to bed.”

Sir Patrick Hastings had little trouble pointing out the inconsistencies between the two women’s accounts of the night of the fatal shooting. Kate Stevens was clearly wrong about the number of shots fired. However, was she in error otherwise? Well, she probably mistook Joe Carstairs for Ruth Baldwin (although this does suggest that  Carstairs did sometimes attend Elvira’s parties). Her accounts of the earlier incidents, if we allow that she interpreted any banging and crashing as a gunshot, seem reasonably convincing.  She had no reason to lie – despite Hastings suggesting that a rivalry with Dorothy Hall led her to try and “outdo” the other’s evidence. What is certainly true is the fact that if this is even a roughly accurate account of recent events chez Mrs. Barney then those friends of Elvira’s who minimised the level of the rows between Michael and Elvira (as all of them did) were being, to say the least, overly protective.