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Welcome to the Murder Mile true-crime podcast and audio guided walk of London's most infamous and often forgotten murder cases, set within one square mile of the West End.
On Thursday 5th April 1934, in Flat 5 of 35 Gosfield Street, 34 year old Juliette Merrill was murdered; it was a crime of passion committed by her boyfriend, investigated by the Police and convicted in a court of law, and although the case is now closed, the details of her life and death are a little sketchy… with one vital clue almost erased forever.
As many photos of the case are copyright protected by greedy news organisations (and I don't want to be billed £300 for copyright infringement again), to view them, take a peek at my entirely legal social media accounts - Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
I've added the location of 35 Gosfield Street, W1 where Juliette Merrill was murdered marked with a yellow !. It's up by the words 'Fitzrovia'. To use the map, simply click it. If you want to see the other murder maps, such as King's Cross and Paddington, you access them by clicking here
I've also posted some photos to aid your "enjoyment" of the episode. These photos were taken by myself (copyright Murder Mile) or granted under Government License 3.0, where applicable.
Ep67 – The Missing Pieces of Juliette Merrill
SCRIPT: Welcome to Murder Mile; a true-crime podcast and audio guided walk featuring many of London’s untold, unsolved and long-forgotten murders, all set within London’s West End.
Today’s episode is about the brutal murder of Juliette Merrill; it was a crime of passion committed by her boyfriend, investigated by the Police and convicted in a court of law, and although the case is now closed, the details of her life and death are a little sketchy… with one vital clue almost erased forever.
Murder Mile is researched using the original police files. It contains moments of satire, shock and grisly details, and as a dramatisation of the real events, it may also feature loud and realistic sounds, so that no matter where you listen to this podcast, you’ll feel like you’re actually there.
My name is Michael, I am your tour-guide and this is Murder Mile.
Episode 67: The Missing Pieces of Juliette Merrill.
Today I’m standing on Gosfield Street, W1; two streets east of the flat where Martine Vik Magnussen was killed by a cowardly billionaire’s son, one street south-west of the bloody love-rat Louis Voisin, five doors down from the Blackout Ripper’s third victim Margaret Florence Lowe, and just three streets south of Maple Church, the Ripper’s first possible murder - coming soon to Murder Mile.
Gosfield Street is a dull little side-street with no redeemable features; it’s a thin one-way street with two tight paths and flanked on both sides by an unbroken row of six-storey buildings which block out the sun. There’s no grass, no animals, no people and no art.
If you’re lucky, you might see an embarrassingly coiffured poodle, a homeless man digging in bins and yelling “humus, what the f**k is humus” and a black-suited ex-BBC boss shuffling his way to Portland Place to barge into yet another meeting he wasn’t invited to, to attend a lunch he has no plans to pay for, to claim all manner of crap at the tax-payer’s expense and to give an opinion no-one asked for, in a building he no longer works at, as the staff are too afraid to ask for his security pass.
Or… you might not. I don’t know. Maybe he’s fictional? (Mumbles – “I wish he was fictional”).
Thankfully this drab little shithole near the arse-end of Oxford Circus is punctuated by two excellent places - the Yorkshire Grey public house and Sergio’s pizzeria – but Gosfield Street is yawnsville (yawn); it’s a soulless street full of mansion flats and drab offices for a brand photographers, some business-to-business software bods and a Moroccan airline. I only know that as I looked it up on Google maps.
And although someone is currently paying a pretty price to live in Flat 5 at 35 Gosfield Street, unless they listen to this, they’ll be unaware that (just like in the flat opposite) this was once the scene of a very bloody murder. As it was here, on Thursday 5th April 1934, that Juliette Merrill was brutally stabbed to death and yet an important piece of her life would almost be lost forever. (Interstitial)
Juliette Merrill was born Juliette Louise Chantreau on 30th March 1899, the eldest of five children to Louise (a housewife) and Eugene (an accountant). As a middle-class family living in a tall townhouse in Clamart (a rural town in the south west suburbs of Paris), her upbringing was stable if predictable, as like most women born in an unfair era - where being denied a skill, a trade or a decent education, it was inconceivable to think of her earning a living wage off her own back - her life was limited to two options; marriage and motherhood in privilege, or a lonely barren spinsterhood in poverty.
With her happiness not a priority, her personal choices side-lined and burdened by no sense of self-belief, except what she could finagle from a love-struck man simply to survive; thankfully being pretty, petite and popular, in terms of husbands, Juliette could take her pick of the crop.
In 1916, Juliette married a Belgian Army officer called Jean-Claude Marcotty; solid husband material who was handsome, educated and wealthy, and as a decorated veteran of the Battle of Liege - the first and one of the bloodiest battle of World War One - who had a bright career, a row of medals and a military pension, sixteen year old Juliette’s future was secure and (best of all) she was in love.
In 1918, a few weeks shy of the Armistice, Jean-Claude was crippled, blinded and shell-shocked by a bomb-blast. Badly disfigured, although his loving wife would nurse her disabled husband for the next six years, in March 1925, Jean-Claude succumbed to his injuries and Juliette was left a widow.
Gripped with loneliness, loss and crying-out for love, seeking a better life for herself and aided by her late husband’s pension, although her English was poor, Juliette moved to London.
The next four years are a blank - where she went, what she did, who she saw - are a mystery, as with her rent paid in cash, no savings, no taxes, no employer and no proof of income, she practically didn’t exist… until she re-married.
On 7th April 1929, having first met in the Corner House Tearoom on The Strand one year earlier, Juliette married Arthur Johnson Merrill, a prosperous civil servant at the Ministry of Labour, who had a car, a bank account and a house in Hampstead. As with her beloved Jean-Claude, her future was secure, but this time she had married her second husband for money, not love.
And although Arthur boozed heavily, he wasn’t a bad man or a bad husband; he truly cared for his wife, giving her gifts, a small income and renting her a small flat at 8 Old Quebec Street (near Marble Arch), but in truth, they didn’t love each other. It was a marriage of convenience; Arthur wanted a pretty wife and Juliette wanted to be a kept woman, but with very little in common, they drifted apart.
On 24th January 1930, having been conceived on their honeymoon, Juliette gave birth to baby girl, but by then the marriage was over and by mutual agreement, they parted. Living on a dwindling Army pension and Arthur’s meagre support, in November 1933, as an unemployed widowed single-mother, 34 year old Juliette and her infant daughter moved into a small three-roomed flat at 35 Gosfield Street.
With the grimy street a far cry from her prosperous Parisian upbringing; her age increasing, her beauty fading and burdened by the scandal of her dubious income whispered amongst her prying neighbours, Juliette’s life had begun to unravel. And yet, in this flat, five months later, she would be brutally stabbed to death, having met her lover, her boyfriend and her killer. (Interstitial)
Eric Russell was unwanted and unloved…
In the spring of 1904, a lone young lady named Amelia Russell fled her family home in South Africa and sailed eight and a half thousand miles to the English port of Southampton; she was tired, weak and hungry, with a round bundle under her arm and - hidden by baggy clothes - one in her belly.
Too terrified to return home to her strict Catholic parents, too ashamed of the stigma of spawning a bastard child and knowing such a scandal would cut her off from her family’s prosperity, Amelia got work as a maid for Mrs Waters of Woodside Cottage in the village of Apsley Guise, Bedfordshire.
On 12th July 1904, the inevitable happened, and with no tears, love or joy, Eric was born.
With dark curly hair, deep brown eyes and a chubby little body whose colour was unfairly described as swarthy, as the illegitimate offspring of a black father and a white mother, Eric was a stark symbol of their seedy drunken affair. Amelia didn’t want him and neither did Mrs Waters, but being broke, the landlady saw a golden opportunity to fleece a desperate young lady of a well-to-do family.
Aged two, a vivid memory was seared forever into Eric’s brain. Sat on the dusty floor of a Solicitor’s office, the wailing toddler held his arms wide for a hug that never came, as having been given up for adoption, both women bickered over how much the boy was worth, as if he was the last piece of meat in a market. And as Amelia returned home to South Africa, a screaming Eric was left with Mrs Waters.
Raised by Mrs Waters, she never hugged him, she never kissed him and she never loved him. Eric was her pay-cheque, and even though he should have been renamed Eric Waters, he was stuck with the surname Russell – a cruel reminder of the burdened mother who had abandoned him.
Eric’s childhood was an unhappy one, being unloved and ignored; he was traded as a cheap commodity and his life was worth little more than a few pounds. And although he was calm, loving and placid, as a sad little boy desperate for affection, whenever money and love were uttered in the same sentence – as deep dark feelings rose within him – Eric would erupt into violent and uncontrollable rages.
Believing his foster mother never saw him as a son and that (to her) he was nothing more than a salary, his greatest fear was confirmed when (aged sixteen) the money stopped and Mrs Waters left.
Eric was frightened, alone and heartbroken, but being strong-willed, he didn’t give up…
Seeking a better life, on 9th August 1921, Eric enlisted in the Merchant Navy. With a solid character and his service record furnished with four good conduct badges, after twelve years’ service in Malaya and Malta, Eric was promoted to First Class Stoker, earning a modest wage of £100 a year.
As a jovial young man, he lived for the ship’s camaraderie, but being stuck year-after-year on an ocean-bound trawler, being lonely, shy and a little hesitant to fall in love (for fear of being rejected once again), Eric often frequented prostitutes, evading romance for most of his life.
And yet, on 28th October 1933, given 48 hours shore leave, as the love-sick Eric headed into the West End, he met a single-mum called Juliette. Being besotted by the pretty French brunette, for the next five months, he would lavish his beloved with gifts, smother her face with kisses and send her passionate letters of love. Eric was infatuated with Juliette… and then, he stabbed her to death.
In the beating heart of London’s West End, having been abandoned, two lonely people had found love.
Seeing the couple side-by-side – her; a slim, elegant and elfin-like lady who loved flowers, poetry and dance; and him, a stocky Naval stocker with tattooed arms, coarse skin and dirty nails - there was no denying that Juliette was out of his league. Unlike her former husbands, Eric wasn’t a handsome Army Officer or a wealthy Civil Servant, but a mixed-race bastard with a basic education and a broken nose who shovelled coal in a ship’s furnace for a paltry pittance… but what he gave her was love.
Being smitten, they saw each other often, as Eric booked two days shore-leave every few weeks, and when they were apart, although her English was poor, they wrote.
On 13th November 1933, Juliette wrote: “Eric Darling. I have been in the hair dressing all afternoon to make my hair pretty for you, I have little headache but I regret very much you are not here tonight for keep me in your arms. I hope the time will be passed quickly and united us again. Write to me soon, oui? Darling lover, think little about your Juliette before you fell asleep every night will you? Received in big kiss for you. Your little Juliette”.
With every letter dripping with affection, slathered with longing and signed with a wet lipstick kiss, Eric and Juliette’s passion was poured onto every page. And sometimes, it got so steamy, Juliette’s ravenous allure drove the sex-starved seaman wild with desire.
On 4th March 1934, she wrote: “Allo Darling, I have not heard anything since a long time! Did you forget little Juliette? Last week I had wonderful time, my girlfriend from Paris have been in London, we make whoopee several times. She left yesterday, I am feel very lonely again. Darling come soon. You are always in my heart. Yours Juliette”.
On Monday 2nd April 1934, with their hearts throbbing, their passions racing and their loins aching for each other’s touch, Eric booked five days of shore-leave, desperate to see his beloved Juliette. But having wined, dined and spoiled her rotten, in the last five months, Eric had blown his yearly wage.
After two steamy nights together, although he promised to stay on the Wednesday night too, with nothing in his pockets but fresh-air and lint, needing to get another shift in, Eric returned to his ship.
Feeling snubbed, Juliette didn’t waste a single second to pine for her lost lover, as living the life of a kept woman who was popular, pretty and never alone; as a string of admirers with bulging wallets lined up at her door, that night (like most nights) Juliette was entertained by another man.
Thursday 5th April 1934 was Juliette’s last day alive.
With the relationship having grown a little rocky and their sex-life interspersed by spats, having ran out of cash, at 10:30am that morning, Eric entered Harvey & Thompson’s, a pawnbrokers on Waterloo Road and reluctantly pawned his precious 14 carat gold watch for a pound.
Smartly dressed in a blue serge suit, a dark overcoat and a black bowler hat; clutching a bunch of flowers, a box of chocolates and his last thirty shillings (barely enough cash to cover the couple’s lunch), Eric headed to Juliette’s flat at 35 Gosfield Street. The time was 11:20am.
Situated near the corner of Langham Street, 35 Gosfield Street is a six-storey red and brown bricked mansion block with wrought iron railings and a single black entrance door to the ten flats above. Being mid-morning and mid-week, except for a few locals, the street was quiet and empty.
Eric was tired. As having worked a double-shift, he had slept very little, and with his ship being docked two hours south in Portsmouth, he had caught the early train and all to see his beloved Juliette. So as Eric ascended the cold-stone stairs, to his left, he knocked on the familiar black door of Flat 5.
For an unemployed single-woman on a dwindling widow’s pension, Juliette lived well; as in a spacious three-roomed flat with its own bath, telephone and wireless radio; a wardrobe full of minks, a dressing table dripping in gems and every sideboard adorned with fresh roses, sweet treats and intricate trinkets - being raised in privilege - she had become accustomed to a certain style of living.
Opening the door, a groggy and grumpy Juliette stood; her blue eyes sleepy, her soft hair ruffled and her mottled pink pyjamas creased – like a casualty of a crazy night out – and reluctantly she let him in.
Sensing her obvious annoyance having been snubbed the night before, Eric profusely apologised and pleaded poverty, proffering her the flowers and chocolates, and offering her his last thirty shillings.
For him, it was all he had. But for her, it wasn’t enough.
So as the mixed-race coal-shoveller stuttered a volley of feeble excuses at this fiery French beauty, being out-of-her-league and flat broke, Juliette’s love was gone, having bled Eric dry. And in a petulant Gallic fit, as Juliette stomped into her rose-pink bedroom, her slippers crushed his small box of shoddy chocolates and trampled his wilted bunch of pathetic posies, as she screamed “Noh! No more. I see you again no more. I have rich men who want their little Juliette”… and with that, he was dumped.
It was a simple rejection which anyone else would have brushed off with a door slammed, a mid-digit raised and a volley of immature expletives, especially for Eric who was so calm, loving and placid…
…but being treated like a cheap commodity, as Juliette screamed about money and love in the same sentence, her hurtful words echoed that day in the solicitor’s office, as two heartless women bickered and bartered over the cost of a crying little boy. And as deep dark feelings rose within him, being rejected once again, inside Eric, something snapped.
With the curtains shut, nothing was seen, but several neighbours heard the incident; Emily Brandon across the street, Mrs Jerez in Flat 7 and Stanley Brant, a decorator working one floor below. They all heard Eric shout “if I can’t see you again, none of your rich friends will” and then, there were screams.
Followed by silence.
(Phone) At 11:37am, Eric made a call. Operator: “Good morning, Operator, how can I help you?”, Eric: “Come to flat five, 35 Gosfield Street, send the police, quick, I’ve… I’ve killed a woman”.
Juliette was still breathing… but only just, and through a swollen slit in her one good eye, Eric stood over her; his suit, feet and face drenched in her warm sticky blood. Shocked at his own brutality, Eric fled and (at the junction of Riding House Street and Great Portland Street), he flagged down PC Ronald Rushmer - the Constable taken aback seeing the bloodied man cry “Help! I’ve killed a woman”.
According to the Police report, Eric was calm, helpful and co-operative.
Stemming the wound of his bloodied right hand with a hanky, Eric ushered PC Rushmer towards the bedroom stating “she’s in there” and pointing “there, that’s what I did it with”. As lying on the floor, at the foot of the bed, 34 year old Juliette Louise Merrill was dead.
Described by Detective Sergeant Nicholls as “a horrific, angry and brutal attack”, in a twelve foot radius around her slumped body, her blood had splashed and splattered across the carpet and curtains, the walls and door, the bed and the bed-side lamp, circled by a trail of men’s size nine footprints. And half-way up her body, hanging in the bed-clothes, they found an eight inch kitchen knife.
With bruising to the front and fingernail marks to the back of her neck, consistent with a large man’s right hand, Sir Bernard Spilsbury confirmed that someone had attempted to strangle her, but gave up. Still alive and conscious, Juliette was beaten, her disfigured head and face was a patchwork of twenty wounds; including thick swollen bruises to her nose, cheeks and eyes, deep open gashes to her scalp, several fractures, and a break which caused her skull to cave in, as her furious killer rained down multiple violent blows with a “blunt and heavy object”, leaving a portion of her dark matted hair, thick with blood and stuck to Eric’s finger… and the murder weapon.
Juliette survived for almost ten minutes, but having lost three pints of blood, she died of shock.
Sobbing, Eric cried “Poor kid, she has never done me any harm. I must have been mad”. And although he could have fled, with his ship sailing the next day, he confessed to the crime. (False end)
On Wednesday 6th June 1934, Eric Russell stood trial at the Old Bailey on the charge of murder. With none of the evidence disputed, his insanity plea rejected and several experts cross-examined including his foster-mother (Mrs Waters), having retired for twenty-one minutes, the jury returned, and found Eric Russell guilty of murder. He was sentenced to life in prison and the case was closed… (scratch)
…and then, on 2nd July 2018, a third-party somehow associated with either the victim or the culprit went to court and under section 38(1/A) of the Freedom of Information Act, legally had parts of the file redacted, so that, for at least the next twenty years, no-one could read what had been removed.
Files are often redacted with the offending details scored out with thick black boxes; sometimes it’s a word, a name or a date; a line, a paragraph or even a page; it’s usually something totally irrelevant… but in this case, almost 100 pages had been edited or removed.
Everything you’ve just heard was taken from that file and it was enough to tell you that story. And yet, as I dug deeper, I realised that although the crime-scene photos, pathologist’s report and Eric’s original statement were all missing, what those inky black boxes hid was the missing pieces of Juliette Merrill.
The first piece: her job. Juliette was an unskilled and unemployed single woman surviving on a widow’s pension, and yet she lived well and was never without. It was suggested she was a prostitute, as in the court transcripts, although there are several references to “men-friends”, “late nights” and her income unflatteringly described as “tradings”, a question was asked in court and only one word was redacted. The judge asked “have you ever heard of a man loving a (REDACTED) who hated the mode of life they were leading?” So whether she was simply a kept woman or a prostitute, we may never know?
The second piece: the knife. Entering Flat 5 at 35 Gosfield Street, Eric stated to PC Rushmer “she’s in there” and “there, that’s what I did it with”, upon which the Police found the body of Juliette Merrill and half-way up her body, hanging in the bed-clothes, an eight inch knife taken from her kitchen. Eric’s bloodied shoes showed a clear path from the bedroom to the kitchen and the deep lacerations to his right hand are consistent with a knife of that size. So we assume that is the murder weapon. But if it is, why does the word “knife” not appear in any witness statement or autopsy report, except where it was found, and why would the type of murder weapon used, be redacted unless it was significant?
The third piece: Juliette’s injuries. Eric said he repeatedly stabbed her in the head with a knife and her autopsy confirmed she had at least twenty injuries including lacerations, fractures and a break to her skull. And yet, although large sections of Sir Bernard Spilsbury’s autopsy report were redacted (which is highly unusual), never once does he state that she was stabbed with a long sharp knife, instead he clearly states that she was attacked by multiple violent blows with a “blunt and heavy object”.
The fourth piece: Eric’s injuries. Eric had deep lacerations to his hand consistent with the knife, and yet, who did it was redacted, what did it was redacted and how it happened was redacted. So, if the knife was the murder weapon, but the autopsy says Juliette was hit with a “blunt and heavy object”, Eric would have had to have beaten her using the blunt handle of the knife, whilst clutching the sharp blade in his balled-up fist, which explains her injuries and the cuts to his hand. But why would anyone hold a knife that way? Why stab someone in a way which risks their own fingers being severed off? It makes no sense.
And most baffling of all is the fifth and final missing piece: what the witnesses heard. Emily Brandon, Mrs Jerez and Stanley Brant, all confirmed they heard Eric shout “if I can’t see you again, none of your rich friends will”, followed by screams and silence. The typical things you would expect to hear, if you had witnessed a murder… and yet, what else they heard was redacted from all of their statements.
But why? If it wasn’t a shout or a scream, what else could it be?
If it was something innocent, why remove it? If Juliette was a prostitute, then maybe these were sex-sounds? But if there was another man, why was no-one else seen leaving the flat, except Eric?
Strangely, a third-party is suspiciously missing from every statement; she knew Juliette, she lived with Juliette and she loved Juliette. If she was there, she would have seen the killer. If she was there, she would have seen the weapon. And if she was there, that would explain why her details were erased.
On 24th January 1930, four years prior, Juliette gave birth to baby girl. There is no evidence of adoption, no reference to a baby-sitter, the baby’s father hadn’t seen them since February, and Juliette’s nearest relative lived in Paris. Which leaves us with three questions about the details which were redacted:
Having had her head bashed in, did this “heavy blunt object” belong to Juliette’s daughter? If it wasn’t screams or shouts, was what the witnesses heard, a child crying? And with no crime scene photos and no reference to a cot, did Juliette share her bed with her baby? As if she did, was Juliette’s four year old daughter, lying next to her mother, when she was murdered? That we may never know.
OUTRO: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for listening to Murder Mile.
If you’re a murky miler, to stay tuned for more thrilling shenanigans as I open some doors and maybe a window, phwoar, but before that, here’s my recommended podcasts of the week; which are Mysteries and Urban Legends and True-Crime Sweden. (PROMO)
A huge thank you goes out to my new Patreon supporters, who are Kyle Davies, Nina Miller, Anette Sommerville and Luisa Timothy, who all get an envelope of goodies, ebooks, videos and this episode will be delivered four day early to all Patreon supporters. Whahooo.
Murder Mile was researched, written & performed by myself, with the main musical themes written and performed by Erik Stein & Jon Boux of Cult With No Name.
Thank you for listening and sleep well.
Credits: The Murder Mile true-crime podcast was researched, written and recorded by Michael J Buchanan-Dunne, with the sounds recorded on location (where possible), and the music written and performed by Erik Stein & Jon Boux of Cult With No Name. Additional music was written and performed as used under the Creative Common Agreement 4.0.
The music featured in this episode include:
Murder of Juliette Louise Merrill - http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C1257733
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a writer, crime historian, podcaster and tour-guide who runs Murder Mile Walks, a guided tor of Soho’s most notorious murder cases, hailed as “one of the top ten curious, quirky, unusual and different things to do in London”, nominated "one of the best true-crime podcasts at the British podcast Awards 2018", and featuring 12 murderers, including 3 serial killers, across 15 locations, totaling 50 deaths, over just a one mile walk
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a crime writer, podcaster & tour guide of Murder Mile Walks, hailed as one of the best "quirky curious & unusual things to do in London".
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