What links a West End department store owner, a policeman and an illegitimate murderer?

William Whiteley!    (1831-1907)

On the 29th January, 1907, Yorkshire born millionaire and founder of the eponymous Whiteleys department store in Notting Hill was shot dead outside his office.  He was 75. The murderer, 29 year old Horace George Raynor, declared himself as Whiteley’s illegitimate son and when Whiteley wouldn’t acknowledge him as such, pulled out a gun shooting Whiteley and then himself.  Bang Bang.

Raynor survived, was tried, (pleading  insanity) and sentenced to death commuted to life imprison.  You can read the details of the Old Bailey trial here.  It’s very racy.  In 1919, just after WW1, Raynor was released.

Thirty years earlier, his alleged father William Whiteley, then in his late 40s, had taken up, one at a time, two sisters, Louise and Emily Turner both of whom worked in his shop!   In 1879, Louise, aged about 22, (she didn’t know her exact age at her son’s trial) found herself pregnant and gave birth to Horace George Turner/Raynor – a  friend conveniently let her register the child as his son.  Whiteley threw her over replacing her with older sister Emily who also, according to the court trial, had a child by him.    An older man’s money is very persuasive to young girls….   The photo above, courtesy Wikipedia, shows Whiteley circa 1890.

One of my relatives, Edwin Emm, was a Paddington police constable (warrant number 51367) who walked the Notting Hill beat from the 1870s.  On 6th August 1887, Whiteley’s store was on fire for the second time in two years so obviously arson was suspected.  As an entrepreneur and employer,  Whiteley had had plenty of enemies….   Edwin, one of the first on the scene, was hit by flying debris, received a bad cut to his scalp, a back injury and taken to hospital.  In November 1888, he was invalided out of the Metropolitan Police and awarded a pension; by 1891, he was a tobacconist living with his family in Willesden.

I like to think Edwin would have recognised Whiteley and the Turner sisters.

‘The Mile End Murder, the Case Conan Doyle Couldn’t Solve’ by Sinclair McKay

Walter Thomas Emm (1817-1868) is now a character in ‘The Mile End Murder, the Case Conan

The Mile End Murder, The Case Conan Doyle Couldn’t Solve. Sinclair McKay, Autumn Press, 2017

Doyle couldn’t solve,’ a new book by journalist Sinclair McKay published by Autumn Press.

Walter’s life is the theme of many of my articles.  Nineteenth century working class lives were difficult enough but cordwainer Walter contended with more than most.

He was witness at the family apprentice’s Old Bailey trial, 1835, where 11 year old Thomas Fisher was convicted of stealing from the family.  Walter and Thomas had shared a bedroom.  The child was condemned to death but, because of his age, was transported to Australia following two years in Newgate Prison.  The trial transcriptions  are on Old Bailey Online.

In 1860, Walter was accused of murdering his erstwhile employer, 70 year old Mrs Mary Emsley bludgeoned to death in her house.  Also tried for the murder was James Mullins, a former Irish policeman who had attempted to frame Walter.  Walter’s children swore under oath that their father was at home on the night of the murder and James Mullins was found guilty.  On the 19th November 1860, he was publicly executed outside Newgate Prison. It must have been a ghoulish spectacle attended by an estimated 20,000 people, largely women, where printers sold commemorative leaflets and poems about the murder.

Eight years later, financially embroiled in Mrs Emsley’s probate, Walter hanged himself from a tree on Wanstead flats.

Obviously I have a vested interest in Walter; as an Emm researcher, he is one of mine – DNA proves that, although not directly descended from these London Emm(s), we are genetically related.

I wasn’t entirely convinced of his innocence – why would an innocent man hang himself?

It took a trip to London’s National Archives to find documents concerning Mrs Emsley’s will for me to understand Walter’s  last solitary walk.  This chap, a lowly shoemaker, was out of his depth. After two previous skirmishes with the death penalty followed by eight years of expensive legal shenanigans over a disputed will, it must have been the last straw.

Sinclair McKay’s book reinvestigates the case  and has come to a different conclusion on who struck the fatal blow.  I’m pleased to announce (spoiler alert) it wasn’t Walter.