THE BRIGHTON TRUNK MURDERS
By Tim Lambert
In Brighton, England 1934 there were two infamous murder cases where the dead body was placed in a trunk. On 17 June 1934 an employee at Brighton railway station noticed an odor coming from a plywood trunk in a left luggage office. Staff called the police and when they opened the trunk they found the torso of a woman inside. The trunk had been left at the station 11 days before.Police alerted other railway stations and soon the victim's legs were found in another trunk in Kings Cross Railway Station in London. Her head and legs were never found. The famous pathologist Bernard Spilsbury carried out a post mortem. He found the victim was about 25 years old and she was 5 months pregnant. Spilsbury could not determine the cause of death but he found the woman's pregnancy had not been interfered with and whoever dismembered the body had no particular anatomical skill. However the unfortunate woman was never identified and the case remains a mystery.
However the discovery of the first Brighton trunk murder led to the discovery of a second one. On 15 July 1934 while the police were doing house to house searches they went to 52 Kempe Street. In one room for them and they found a trunk which gave off a strong smell. It contained a body. Police found that a man named Tony Mancini had rented the room but he had recently disappeared. Manicini had worked as a waiter in a cafe in Brighton. The dead woman was quickly identified as Violette Kaye aged 42 and the post mortem showed she had been killed by a blow to the head with some heavy object. Violette had moved to Brighton with Mancini in September 1933. Violette was a sex worker. However she disappeared in May 1934. Mancini told people she had gone to Paris. Shortly afterwards he moved, with his trunk to new lodgings in Kempe Street.
Mancini was arrested for vagrancy in London on 17 July. When questioned by police in Brighton he claimed he came home one day to discover Violette Kaye was dead, killed by one of her clients. Mancini claimed he did not inform the police because he had a criminal record and he was afraid they would blame him for the murder. When he heard of a body discovered in a trunk at Brighton railway station he panicked and fled to London. But the police did not believe him and Tony Mancini went on trial in Lewes on 10 December 1934. However the defence, led by Norman Birkett argued that since Violette was a sex worker she could easily have been killed by a client while Mancini was out. The jury eventually found him not guilty. However in 1976 Mancini confessed to a newspaper that he did kill Violette Kaye during a row.
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