It was very quiet and peaceful in Soudan Road, Battersea, on Tuesday evening.
Many of the neighbours were listening to the big fight on their radios, one or two children were still playing in the street. Just as people were thinking of bed, the calm was shattered as a young girl raced across the road shrieking.
Moments later, horrified neighbours were gazing on a blood-splattered room at No. 2. They found 56-year-old Mrs Emily Curtis lying on the floor with terrible head injuries. Near her was her 55-year-old husband, Albert, his throat cut. And near them was an axe.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Curtis and the girl who gave the alarm, Mr. Curtis's step-daughter, 17-year-old Maureen Pidgeon, were taken to Battersea General Hospital. Maureen, too, was suffering from head injuries. Her mother was found to be dead on arrival at the hospital.
And yesterday the folk who lived in Soudan Road were still discussing in shocked tones the tragedy that had overcome what hey describe as "a very devoted family."
First to know of it was Mr. Read a bus driver, who lives just round the corner in Brynmaer Road. He was having a quiet evening at home after signing off at Battersea Bus Garage, when there was a hammering at the front door.
He opened it to find Maureen standing there. "Come quick, quick, something has happened," she gasped. Mr. Read dashed over to No. 2 while others 'phoned the police and ambulance.
At No. 4, next door to the Curtis home, Mrs. Dalton heard nothing of the tragedy. She told the "S. W. Star" "It is unbelievable: they were so absolutely devoted to each other. Mrs. Curtis had been ill recently."
The couple were married during the last war and had lived in Soudan Road ever since. Mr Curtis is a boilerman.
Another neighbour said she heard shouting followed by the barking of a dog, but attributed it to youngsters who often roam the street late at night.
Throughout Wednesday, police stood on guard at the entrance to the Curtis home. At the hospital, after an operation had been performed on Mr Curtis, detectives are understood to have taken a statement from him.
Latest reports are that both Mr Curtis and his step-daughter are comfortable.
The inquest on Mrs. Curtis will be opened at Battersea Coroner's Court on Thursday.
(London, Friday, October 24, 1952)
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 31, 1952
SOUDAN ROAD TRAGEDY
INQUEST ON WIFE OPENED
When the inquest on 59-year-old Mrs. Emily Curtis, No.2 Soudan Road, Battersea, was opened yesterday, evidence of identification was given by a son Mr. Edward Pidgeon, of the same address.
He said his mother had married twice. Her second husband was Albert Charles Curtis.
The cause of death was injuries to the brain and skull, said pathologist Dr. R. G. Teare.
Chief Inspector Charles Morris told the coroner, "The husband is still in hospital. I have already seen him and he will be discharged from hospital in a little over a week."
The coroner, Mr. Hervey Wyatt, adjourned the inquest for a fortnight.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 1952
TAKEN FROM HOSPITAL BED
Husband is accused of murder
Police took 68-year-old Albert Charles Curtis, of Soudan Road, Battersea, from a hospital bed to Lavender Hill Police Station on Monday, where he was charged with the murder of his wife.
Curtis had been in Battersea General Hospital recovering from throat injuries.
His step-daughter, 17-year-old Maureen Pidgeon, who had been in
the same hospital with severe head injuries, was allowed to leave on Friday
Curtis, a stoker, was charged at South Western Magistrates' Court on Monday with the murder of his wife, Emily Curtis, on October 21.
Det. Chief Insp. Morris said that about 12.30 pm on that day he saw Curtis at Lavender Hill Police Station and was present when he was
charged. When the charge was read over to him he made no reply.
On this evidence Chief Insp. Morris asked for a remand.
The magistrate (Mr. A. H. Glenn Craske) remanded Curtis in custody until November 11.
It is understood that police will apply for a further remand on that date.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 1952
Murder trial next month
The adjourned inquest on Mrs. Emily Curtis, 59, of Soudan Road, Battersea, was resumed at Battersea Coroner's Court yesterday, when Chief Inspector Charles Morris said a person had been charged in connection with the woman's death.
It was likely that the person charged would appear at the Old Bailey on December 2.
The coroner Mr. Hervey Wyatt, again adjourned the hearing, until Thursday, January 8.
Albert Charles Curtis (68), stoker, of Soudan Road, Battersea, who appeared on remand at South Western Magistrates' Court on Tuesday, charged with the murder of his wife, Emily Curtis, at that address on October 21, was further remanded until November 19.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 1952
The 15 wounds on the face and head of a woman found battered in the scullery of her home could have been caused by an axe produced in court, said Dr. R. D. Teare, the pathologist, at the South Western Magistrates' Court on Wednesday, when Albert Charles Curtis (68), a stoker, of Soudan Road, Battersea, was charged with murdering his wife, Emily, at that address on October 21.
Curtis, who was committed for trial at the Old Bailey, was found semi-conscious lying by his wife's side with a wound in his throat and with his head in the gas oven, the gas of which was turned full on. He pleads not guilty to the charge and reserves his defence.
Curtis's 17-year-old step- daughter, Miss Mary Pidgeon, told of a family row on the night of October 21 when, she alleges, her step-father attacked her and said, "I am going to kill you."
Mr. E. G. MacDermott, for the Director of Public Prosecutions said police officers found Mrs. Curtis lying on the floor in the scullery badly injured, and her husband lying by her side with his head inside the gas oven. The gas in the oven was
turned full on and he was semi-conscious. Mrs. Curtis died before arrival at hospital. The case for the prosecution was that her injuries were inflicted by blows from an axe delivered by Curtis.
Mr. and Mrs. Curtis (said council) had been married since 1941. Both had been married previously, and with them were living the daughter aged 17, and son Edwin, aged 26, of Mrs. Curtis by her former marriage. For some time there had been trouble because the girl, Mary Pidgeon, was staying out too late at night. Curtis objected to this, and the girl's part was taken by her mother. On the night of October 21 there was again trouble about her late hours, and in the course of a quarrel between Curtis and his wife, she said that if he could not treat her daughter properly he could leave the house. It seemed that Curtis brooded during the evening on what was said to him.
AXE AND KNIFE IN HALL
In the hall-way the police found an axe and a table-knife. Curtis was found to be suffering from a wound in the throat. Later he made a full admission of attacking his wife with
the axe and causing the injuries.
Mrs Mabel Blair, a sister of Mrs. Curtis said Curtis seemed quite all right when she and her son left the house just after 10 p.m. on October 21.
Rebecca Mason, who said she had a room on the second floor of the Curtis's house, told of hearing terrible screams coming from the Curtis's apartments at about 10.30. Half an hour later she went down and heard groaning in the scullery. She entered and saw Mrs. Curtis lying on her back with a cover over her face. Mr. Curtis was lying beside her and his throat had been cut.
Dr. Robert Donald Teare said Mrs. Curtis had 13 wounds on the face, one on each temple, and one on the back of the head. There were fractures of both sides of the scull, the lower jaw was broken. The injuries could have been caused by the axe produced in court. He thought at least 16 blows must have been struck.
STORY ON PAGE 5
Page 5 - BATTERSEA MURDER CHARGE (CONTD.)
REPLYING to Mr. D. M. O'Shea (defending), Curtis's stepdaughter, Miss Mary Charlotte Pidgeon, said her stepfather had always been kind and affectionate to her except recently, when they had the rows about her staying out late.
In evidence she said there had been trouble because she stayed out two or three minutes after 10.15, the time set by her stepfather.
Miss Pidgeon explained that for two or three months she had been keeping company with a boy named Peter Arthur. On Sunday night October 19, she went out with Peter and got home about 10.10 p.m. Her stepfather came out to meet her and
said to Peter, "You have been trying to avoid me, have you? If you come round my house anymore I will put you in hospital." He took hold of her arm and when they got in told her to go straight to bed.
"I HATE YOU NOW"
On October 21 when she got home from work about 5.35 p.m., her stepfather said to her, "As far as I am concerned you can stay out as long as you like. I have finished with you. I hate you now." Later, she said to her mother, "I might as well leave home, then." Her mother said, "Don't be silly. If you leave I will go with you. I have had enough of this rowing." Her mother than said to Curtis, "Get out,
Go to Orville Road. Your son will keep you." When her step-father said, "You don't want me?" her mother replied, "I didn't have a nice life with my first husband and it is not much better now." Her mother then said to witness, "You are not doing any harm being a few minutes late."
When witness got home about 10.30 p.m. her stepfather was standing near the gate with the dog. He seemed normal. When she was in the hall she turned round and he started hitting her with something— it could have been a shoe—and said, "I am going to kill you." She started screaming and ran out of the house.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 1952
Standing between two prison warders, a surgical bandage round his throat, Albert Charles Curtis, 68, stoker, of Soudan Road, Battersea, was sentenced to death at the Old Bailey for murdering his wife, Emily Curtis, who died from multiple wounds to the head inflicted with a chopper on the night of October 21.
Returning the verdict of "Guilty of Murder," after an absence of only 25 minutes, the jury said they desired to add a rider recommending Curtis to mercy.
Mr. Christmas Humphreys, prosecuting, said the facts were not in dispute, and the issue for the jury to decide was whether Curtis was insane at the time he killed his wife.
There had been trouble at home because Curtis objected to his step-daughter staying out after eleven o'clock, and the girl's mother sided with her. Finally, Mrs. Curtis told her husband to get out. Apparently Curtis brooded over this and after killing his wife and attacking his step-daughter when she came home, he cut his own throat and tried to commit suicide by coal-gas poisoning.
Curtis did not go into the witness box; but Dr. C. J. M. Matheson, principal medical officer at Brixton Prison, called for the defence, said in his opinion Curtis was suffering from a disease of the mind known as melancholia. Although he would know what he was doing at the time of the killing he was probably incapable of deciding whether he was doing wrong.
He was a man of moods. When things did not go right he would become very depressed and not speak to anyone for a fortnight at a time. At other times he was the life and soul of the party. "When his wife told him to get out of the house he said to me he could see nothing in front of him except the poor house," the doctor added.
OLD MAN FOR HIS AGE
Replying to the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Goddard, Dr. Matheson said Curtis was an old man for his 67 years. His arteries had hardened and it was reasonable to conclude that the brain tissue was not being adequately nourished.
Lord Goddard: Would he know he was doing something against the law?
Dr. Matheson: That is difficult for me to say. I think at the time he would be incapable of thinking whether it was or was not against the law. I think he was trying to bring up his step-daughter properly. He thought the way he was trying to discipline her was the best thing to do. I formed the impression that he had been devoted to his daughter.
TO ADMINISTER THE LAW
Summing up, Lord Goddard told the jury, "You and I are not here to administer mercy, but to administer the law. Mercy is not in our hands. It is not desirable that 'guilty of murder but insane' should be lightly returned. Murder is a very terrible crime. When you have a man who has been at work until the very day he commits such a crime, and during the evening has an argument with his wife and listens to the wireless, do you think he did not know it was wrong to take a chopper and kill her not with one, but with 16 blows?"