Thursday, 31 March 2016

They Called It Murder: a legal landmark case in 1958

This is the case of a man who had previously lived in West End Lane, but who was murdered in his luxury flat in Piccadilly.

Horace Stanley Lindsay
Horace Stanley Lindsay was the managing director of Linzi Dresses Ltd. He had lived in Acol Court on the corner of West End Lane and Acol Road from 1943 to 1949. At first we could not find details about him until we discovered that he had been born as Horace Stanley Zelinski on 10 Oct 1907.  His grandfather Leon Zelinski came to Whitechapel from Poland and was an importer of German woollen goods. Leon was naturalised on 11 February 1892, and his son Sydney Simon Zelinski, changed his name in 1918 to Sydney Melgrave Lindsay. Sydney had a successful drapery business and young Horace grew up in Stanford Hill and then in Maida Vale. Horace followed in his father and grandfather’s footsteps, and set up Linzi Dresses at 48 Poland Street in Soho. This became a very well known brand of dresses in the 1950s.

Advert for Linzi Dresses, Vanity Fair, 1959

In 1941 Horace Lindsay married Dorothy Katz in Hampstead, but it was an unhappy marriage and they divorced in 1951. In 1958 he was living in a flat at 38 Arlington House, near the Ritz in Piccadilly, with a second home in Kingsgate, Broadstairs. He was a handsome, wealthy man with a Bentley and a luxurious lifestyle.

Ernest Jan Fantle
Ernest Jan Fantle was born in Prague in 1904 into a middle class family. He went to America where he had inherited a large amount of money from an uncle. In 1925 he returned to Czechoslovakia and joined the Czech Air Force. In 1938, after his whole family were killed by the Nazis, he led a squadron of bombers to defect to England. He joined the RAF and became a member of the No. 311 Czechoslovak Bomber Squadron, taking part in several air raids, including the attack on Hamburg in October 1940. 

Young Ernest Fantle

Ernest met Sylvia Violet Joy Wade while she was serving in the WRAF and they married in 1942. Their son Peter was born in 1944. After the War Ernest took his family to Czechoslovakia but found that most of his property had gone. During the Soviet-backed Communist coup of 1948, an attempt was made to kidnap his wife and son, to gain a hold over him. But they all managed to escape, and Ernest re-joined the RAF and he was naturalised in February 1950. He had a very distinguished war record and was awarded the OBE and the Czechoslovakian War Cross. When he retired from the RAF in 1954 he worked as a courier for Global Tours Ltd. He and Sylvia had a happy marriage, and they lived in Kingsgate Castle, Broadstairs.

 Newspaper picture of Sylvia Fantle, 1958

The Fateful Meeting
In July 1957 Sylvia Fantle met Horace Lindsay who lived only 300 yards away in Broadstairs, and they began an affair. Ernest noticed things had changed and feared he was losing his wife. In May of the next year Sylvia admitted she was infatuated with Lindsay and wanted to end the marriage. Ernest was distraught, and on 9 July he bought a revolver and ammunition during a business trip to Switzerland.

On 18 July Ernest returned to England and stayed at the Victoria Club in Paddington. The next morning Lindsay had agreed to see him at his flat in Arlington House. The maid showed him into the sitting room where Lindsay was seated. After a short discussion, Lindsay stood up and showed Ernest to the door. But Ernest pulled the gun from his pocket and fired four times, hitting Lindsay with three bullets. The maid rushed in and screamed when she saw Ernest holding the gun and Lindsay lying dead on the floor. She later said in court: ‘I did not know if he was going to shoot me or shoot himself.’ Ernest put the gun down, and told the maid to fetch the police and waited quietly until they arrived to arrest him. In his statement he said he was still deeply in love with Sylvia and he became obsessed with the idea that he had to kill Lindsay.

The Trial
Ernest Fantle was tried at the Old Bailey on 9 September 1958. Fantle pleaded not guilty to murder, and said that he went to Lindsay’s flat to try to get his wife and child back. He said that he had no intention of killing him, but ‘as Lindsay held all the trump cards’, he took the gun to give himself moral strength. He walked round the streets for three-quarters of an hour thinking of what he would say to Lindsay.

‘My main thought was Peter. Lindsay was sitting in a chair and he did not get up when I was shown in. I asked him straight away about the future of the boy. He said that he would look after Peter who would get a good education and that I could see him when I wanted. The conversation suddenly turned to my wife. I asked him why he took my wife away from me. He treated me like dirt, shrugging his shoulders. He said that she was going with him and boasted that she had been there the previous night.’ Fantle explained that this was the date of his sixteenth wedding anniversary.

After he shot Lindsay the first thing he remembered was the maid coming in and shouting, ‘I knew this would happen’. Fantle said he smelled cordite and asked her to get the police. He said he was in a daze and did not realise what was happening. He did not fully come to his senses till an hour later at the police station.

The maid confirmed that a number of women had visited Lindsay at the flat. Fantle’s defence counsel Victor Durrant called Lindsay, ‘The little Sultan of Arlington House who treated complaining husbands like dirt.’ He then read extracts from Ernest’s note book to show his state of mind.

5 April 1958: Paul brings messages, ‘Mummy wants you.’ How deep I must have sunk in her eyes. A mere servant or hanger-on.

She makes plans to return to him (Lindsay). I am refused and frustrated. Not a touch, not a caress, never breakfast. Sexually she suffers me; condescends, does me a great favour. I feel my head is bursting. I must have affection.

25 May: Blackest day in my life, divorce in four or five months.

26 May: At 54 I have lost my home: where to start? She did not give a damn about me after 16 years. She had a good financial proposition from Lindsay so she dropped me, and calls it infatuation.

I still love her madly, more than ever before. She murdered something in me which cannot be brought back to life. My terrible love commands me to kill her, to destroy her, to get my revenge for the 16 years of burning out myself on a love she never knew. Help me God.

The prosecuting counsel was Christmas Humphries, who was also a practitioner and writer on Zen Buddhism. Rather than attack Fantle, he acknowledged the extent of the provocation saying: ‘You adored your wife. In that room Lindsay taunted you, humiliated you, sneered at you and then dismissed you.’ He did not press the murder charge hard and told the jury they were free to find him guilty on a lesser charge.

The judge, Mr Justice Salmon, said that Lindsay had behaved callously and disgracefully:

‘You may think there is a good deal of evidence here that Fantle was almost beside himself, perhaps unable to form any clear intention about anything, not knowing what he was going to do when he comes into the flat and is treated liked dirt.  He was received by Lindsay, sitting down, smug and patronising: he was insulted and taunted: he had been through hell for months, and after Lindsay had suggested that Mrs Fantle had spent that night in his, Lindsay’s bed, the very anniversary of their wedding day, out came the gun and he shot him three times. This is an exceptional case and is a question of provocation in law. The jury could find him guilty of murder or his crime might be reduced to manslaughter by the provocation he had received.’

The jury of 10 men and 2 women returned with their verdict after just 13 minutes. They found him not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter. The judge sentenced him to three years’ imprisonment which was the minimum sentence for manslaughter. He said: ‘If it had not been for your magnificent record, and the particularly grave provocation you received, I would have felt it my duty to impose a much longer term of imprisonment upon you, because as I have said, yours is a grave crime.’  

Horace Lindsay left £247,000 (worth over £5M today) in his will, but none of the money went to his ex-wife Dorothy or to his lover Sylvia Fantle. There were four beneficiaries: his mother Annie, his sister Hilda and her husband, and Greta Lenz, his designer and co-director in Linzi Dresses.

After his death, Dorothy Lindsay was interviewed for the Daily Express in her small Brighton flat. She described Lindsay as a philanderer and a coward. If Fantle had only realised that, he could have frightened him off. As Dorothy said; ‘If Fantle had told him to stay away from my wife or I’ll thrash you, Horace would have run for his life.’ Dorothy suffered hardship as a result of the murder. While Horace was alive she had received £1,360 a year. Following his death she was in debt and owed for rent and bills.

After serving his sentence, Ernest divorced Sylvia, who died in 2001. In December 1967 he married Lieselotte Bechinger in Ealing and they lived happily together for the rest of his life. In 1989 he was promoted to RAF Squadron Leader, Retired. He died at 32 Cromwell Close,
Acton, on 4 June 2000.

The Ruth Ellis Case

Ruth Ellis and David Blakely in happy times

In April 1955 Ruth Ellis shot her lover David Blakely outside the Magdala pub near South End Green, Hampstead. As is well known, she was the last woman to be hanged in Britain. Her case caused a public outcry, and many people thought she had been provoked into shooting David, and the charge should have been reduced to manslaughter. But at the time, the judge and jury had no option but to find her guilty of murder. The case led to the Homicide Act of 1957 which introduced the idea of provocation. Fantle was the first person to use the defence of provocation, and it was the 1957 Act which saved him from the gallows. His case set a legal precedent.

We look at the Ruth Ellis story and many others in our book, ‘Bloody British History: Camden’, published by The History Press (2013).

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Louis Wain: The Man Who Drew Cats

Wain and his sisters moved to 41 Brondesbury Road Kilburn in September 1916. He became known as ‘the man who drew cats’ and his pictures showed cats doing various human activities.

Louis was born on 5 Aug 1860 in Clerkenwell. He was the eldest child and only son of William Wain, a textile designer and salesman. His French mother Felicia Boiteux, also designed carpets and church fabrics. He had five younger sisters.

Louis was a sickly child, and it seems he was born with a cleft lip and was bullied at school which he only attended from the age of ten. But his genius for drawing was evident early on. After his sisters gave him a kitten for his twentieth birthday, he began to produce the cartoons.

People thought Louis was ‘odd’. He played the piano in a very jerky peculiar way, and would tell people that he had written an opera which was in rehearsal for the London stage, but this was only existed in his head. He also believed that he had harnessed electricity from the ether and that he was being pursued down the street by a giant ball of energy. He avoided people and became very isolated.

When his father died in 1880, Louis became the main bread winner for his mother and five sisters. He worked as an illustrator and his drawings appeared in several journals including the Illustrated London News. Later, postcards and books of his work became extremely popular.

In 1884 Louis shocked his family by running off and marrying Emily Mary Richardson, the governess his mother had hired to look after the children. He was 23 years old and she was ten years his senior. They lived at 42 England’s Lane in Belsize Park, and took in a stray black and white kitten soon after they arrived. ‘Peter’ was a comfort to Emily, when she became ill and bed ridden. To entertain her, Louis drew pictures of the cat. Emily encouraged him to sell them, but he was more comfortable drawing dogs, rabbits, fish or birds. The Illustrated London News agreed to publish drawings of Peter and these brought Louis to the attention of the public. Louis said: ‘He became my principal model and pioneer of my success.’

Sadly, Emily died of breast cancer just three years after they had married, and Louis was convinced that the spirit of his dead wife had transferred into the cat.

Louis had become estranged from his mother and sisters over his marriage, but they thought that he should not live alone. They reconciled, and in 1895 the family all moved to Westgate-on-Sea where they stayed for about 20 years.

In 1901 his sister Marie suffered vivid hallucinations of bloodshed and murder. She believed that she had leprosy and tore her clothes off in public. She needed to be restrained and was committed to an asylum where she died in 1913.

Louis, who was not good with money, tried a number of commercial ventures, including designing and manufacturing a range of futuristic ceramic cats. But the consignment was torpedoed crossing the Atlantic during WWI, and the venture failed.

41 Brondesbury Road, on the corner of Hazelmere Road

The strain of having to produce more and more pictures took a toll on Louis’ already disturbed psyche. Obsessed with order, he began to rearrange the furniture in their Brondesbury Road house, sometimes on an hourly basis. He believed that his sisters were plotting to kill him and when he tried to throw one of them downstairs, they reluctantly had him certified insane in June 1924. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and said that he was, ‘bothered by spirits day and night for six years.’ This decline dates from the death of Caroline, another of his sisters.

He was in the pauper ward of the Springfield Hospital Tooting, when Dan Rider, a bookseller, visited the Hospital where he was a Guardian. Rider said:
‘I saw a quiet little man drawing cats.’
‘Good Lord man, you draw like Louis Wain.’
He replied, ‘I am Louis Wain.’

Rider helped set up a benefit fund, supported by HG Wells and the Prime Minister Ramsey MacDonald. This enabled Louis to be transferred to Bethlem Royal Hospital where he continued to paint and draw his cats. But he was still ill. He refused to wash and he demanded than the nurses bring him his favourite drink of Bovril and soda. Left on his own he would drink paraffin. After five years at ‘Bedlam’ he was moved to Napsbury Hospital near St Albans. He died there aged 78, in July 1939.

Mother and Child

Shortly after Wain’s death, Dr Walter Maclay a psychiatrist at the Maudsley Hospital, published an article in which he argued that Wain’s illustrations demonstrated his progressive schizophrenic decline over time. Although the theory was accepted for many years, it has now been discredited. This is shown in Rodney Dale’s biography of Wain where he proved that the eight pictures Maclay used for his theory were undated.

In December 2012, Dr David O’Flynn gave a talk about Wain and Walter Maclay, called ‘Two Men and Eight Cats’. There is a short version on You Tube which is well worth seeing:

Recently it has been suggested that Wain did not have schizophrenia but was suffering from Asperger Syndrome, which is commonly confused in adults.

In October 2011 the Willesden Library held an exhibition of Louis Wain’s life and work.