A Murder in Genteel Eastbourne? Surely not

by Harry Pope

Pat Mahon

Despite a current population in excess of 100,000, Eastbourne on the South Coast mid-way between Brighton and Hastings rarely experiences anything so grisly as a murder. The genteel population have far better things to do than kill one another, but it was not always so.

‘You do love me, don’t you Pat?’

‘Of course I do.’

‘And you will leave your wife, won’t you?’

‘Of course.’

‘Before the baby comes‘

‘My darling girl, you know I love, you, there’s no-one else in this world for me, and when the babby arrives, then the three of us will all live happily ever after’.

Pat Mahon, at 34, was three years younger than Emily. She worked for a firm of London accountants, and her lover was a frequent visitor. She became infatuated, in 1924 was very worried about being left on the shelf as an old maid because of all the young men who had died in the recent World War. She knew he was married, but despite this had fallen heavily for the smooth-talking Irishman.

‘Tell you what, why don’t we rent a cottage down by the sea for a couple  of months. Just you and me, we can make love all day long, I can take care of you, we can be just like a married couple, so we know what it’s all going to be like when I divorce.’

‘where do you want to go?’

‘Eastbourne is lovely in April, not that many crowds, I have enquired about the Officers Cottages on the beach at the Crumbles, it’s only a bus ride outside town. There’s a pub nearby, we’ll be all lovely and cosy’.

‘What about my job?’

‘You were going to leave it in any case, you’re only going to be quitting early’.


Pat rented the house for two months at 3 ½ guineas a week, which was quite a rent, but he was in the money as usual. She knew that he had been in prison for bank robbery, but her love conquered all. Emily did not know that his sentence had been five years. They arrived, living contentedly in their seaside cottage. He used the excuse of leaving her to be on business, which in reality meant he was returning to his wife and child during the week, spending weekends in the love nest.

Unbeknown to his wife and lover, he also had a third lady on the go, she lived in Richmond west London, Ethel Duncan.

Pat said ‘when we leave Eastbourne, I have a hankering to return to Ireland. Would you come with me?’

She enthusiastically replied ‘yes, but do you have a passport? I’ve got one, but you will now need one to travel.’ The government had recently passed a law where a passport was a legal requirement to travel between countries, before all you needed was a letter or certificate issued by the agent, such as Thomas Cook. Pat told Emily Kaye he would get one while in London, but he never did. Instead he went to the ironmongers and bought a large cook’s knife, and a tenon saw. Her fate was sealed.

The next week started with both of them in their seaside love nest, but by Tuesday she was dead. His excuse was they had rowed, she fell, and hit her head on a coal scuttle. It was subsequently proved at his trial that her injuries were inconsistent with his tale.

Emily Kaye owned a trunk, and this was to be her first resting place. Dismembered.  He spent the whole day cutting her body into pieces, in the meantime Pat returned to London, had dinner with Ethel Duncan, and she was to spend the Easter weekend in bizarre circumstances. The whole weekend they spent in romantic circumstances were spent with the body in a trunk in a locked bedroom. Even though Ethel saw the trunk, she accepted his explanation that it contained rare books, hence it was so heavy and difficult to shift.

She went back to London, and then Mahon showed his ruthlessness, only ever making one mistake. He burned many of the body parts in the sitting room, with charred remains placed in a Gladstone bag, which he threw out of a train window between Eastbourne and London. But he didn’t throw the bag out of the window, just the remains, the bag went into a left luggage locker at Victoria Station. By now his wife was suspicious, when he was out she went through his pockets, found the ticket, and engaged a private detective. She thought he was up to his old bank robbing ways. They went to the left luggage locker, found some cloth sticking out that had human blood, Scotland Yard were called in, laying a trap for Mahon.

He returned, claiming his bag, they arrested him, and after many hours of questioning he finally admitted his guilt. Two detectives travelled to the Officers Cottage, discovering four body parts in the trunk and a stench so strong it was impossible to stay in the room for long. After Mahon was charged with murder, an inquest was held back at the cottage, with him present. There was a crowd of 1,000, booing and jeering.

In July Mahon was found guilty of murder, which was gruesomely referred to as the ‘Murder in the Trunk’. He had pleaded not guilty, self defence after a physical row. The jury were then informed of his criminal record, which damned his as well as evidence, and the fact that he was carrying on with a single woman, a woman was pregnant by him, and he had a wife and child at home.

The lease of the bungalow was taken over by entrepreneurs catering for voyeurs. For a shilling you could have a guided tour of the cottage, so many people attended that cold drinks were served at the gate. When coachloads arrived the price was increased to 1s 2d.

Mahon was executed on Wednesday 3rd September 1924. His wife remained faithful to the end.



  • Harry Pope

    Harry Pope realised he could write when he first went to school, and hasn’t stopped since. He returned the next day after parental prompting, because he realised he could talk as well, just as well because he is now in retirement a cruise ship lecturer with P&O and Saga, talking about the greatest comedians the UK has ever known. He is not a lecturer, nor a stand-up comedian, but an entertainer. His wife Pam goes as well, as there are so many groupies onboard.

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