LONDON, ENGLAND — On May 2, 1924, Patrick Mahon was arrested for murder after showing up at the Waterloo train station in London to claim his stored bag — which had a knife and women’s underwear inside, both stained with blood.
Mahon directed Scotland Yard detectives to the seaside bungalow that contained the charred remains of his pregnant mistress, Emily Kaye. The detectives found a house of horrors. They were forced to pore through blood, congealed fat, and pieces of charred bone as they discovered pieces of Kaye’s dismembered body hidden in hatboxes and trunks.
They also found boiled female body parts in a biscuit tin. Renowned pathologist Sir Bernard Spilsbury (pictured, above) put on his long white apron and rubber gloves, and asked the officers to bring the parts to his ad hoc laboratory in the courtyard.
Author Colin Evans wrote in his book The Father of Forensics: The Groundbreaking Cases of Sir Bernard Spilsbury that the pathologist was appalled when they began to pick up body parts with their bare hands. He asked if they had gloves, and was told that they never wore protective gear. Spilsbury resolved to change that following the investigation.
Mahon, who had a criminal record, including an incident during which he beat a woman with a hammer, had met his lover about a year earlier and — instead of leaving his wife — persuaded her to try a “love experiment” in a a bungalow along a beach known as the Crumbles.
After his arrest, Mahon claimed that during an argument Kaye had slipped and hit her head on a coal bucket, and that her death was accidental. His only crime, he claimed, was attempting to dispose of the body in order to save his marriage.
As to what had become of her head, Mahon claimed that he tried to burn it, but became terrified and fled after the dead girl’s eyes popped open. He said that when he returned, there was nothing left but ashes, which he scattered along the beach.
Spilsbury had to carefully attempt to reassemble Kaye’s body in order to find the cause of death. Her head was never found.
He was able to discount Mahon’s claim that a fall was responsible for her death, and determined that she had been carved up with a knife that Mahon had purchased prior to the slaughter. Spilsbury decided that Kaye’s death was not an accident.
Mahon found guilty of the murder, and executed by hanging in September 1924.
After the Mahon investigation, rubber gloves became standard equipment at murder scenes. Spilsbury urged Scotland Yard to review how they handled evidence, and this would lead to the introduction of the “murder bag,” which, along with the rubber gloves, included forceps, a tape measure, a magnifying glass, and sample bags.
Main photo: Bernard Spilsbury [Wikimedia Commons]