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Welcome to the Murder Mile UK True-Crime Podcast and audio guided walk of London's most infamous and often forgotten murder cases, all set within and beyond the West End.
EPISODE ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY-SIX:
On Tuesday 15th April 1913, at the bachelor flat of 26-year-old aviator Jack hall - having promised to marry both of of his lovers - Jack would be found dead in his bed having been shot in the chest, just hours before his marriage. But which of his lovers would kill him, and why? Was it out of anger, love, jealousy, or as part of a premeditated revenge?
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The location is marked with a teal raindrop in Piccadilly (dead centre). To use the map, click it. If you want to see the other murder maps, access them by clicking here.
SOURCES: This case was researched using some of the sources below.
CRIM 1/139/6 - Julian Hall, Jeanie Baxter, Denman Street W1
UNEDITED TRANSCRIPT OF THE EPISODE:
Welcome to Murder Mile.
Today I’m standing on Denman Street in Soho, W1; thirty yards south of the unfortunate Mr Johnson, fifty yards west of the suicide of Mabel Hill & Herbert Turner, twenty yards north of the last hangout of the Blackout Ripper, and ten yards east of the fingers which didn’t lie - coming soon to Murder Mile.
Denman Street is a grubby slit in the city made famous as this is what’s behind the Piccadilly lights.
As a one-way street stretching 121 metres from Sherwood Street to Shaftesbury Avenue, even though it’s smack-bang in the beating heart of the West End, nobody goes here, as it’s grim, grimy and dead.
It’s the kind of dark vapid hell-hole; where the sun can’t be arsed to shine, where life can’t be bothered to exist, where litter whistles down only to go “bugger” and hope it’s blown elsewhere, and where steamy dog turds cling to the bum-lips and dangle for a few seconds longer for fear of being dumped.
Under construction, the south side is being ripped out and turned into (you’ve guessed it) luxury flats.
But back in the 1910s – among a sea of bars, clubs and small casinos - at 21 Denman Street once stood Coventry Chambers; a three-storey mansion block comprising of fifteen self-service flats for wealthy bachelors and their live-in staff, situated at the back of Café Monaco and above the Coventry Club.
In Flat 8 lived Julian Hall, a 26-year-old aviator, sportsman and a chronic alcoholic. Being depressed and drinking himself to death, the life of this wealthy bachelor was in chaos as two women vied for his love. One was music hall artiste Ada Knight, and the other was a lady of leisure called Jeanie Baxter.
On Tuesday 15th April 1913 - having promised to marry both of these women - Julian would be found dead in his bed having been shot in the chest, just hours before his marriage. But which of his lovers would kill him, and why? Was it out of anger, love, jealousy, or as part of a pre-meditated revenge?
My name is Michael, I am your tour guide, and this is Murder Mile.
Episode 186: Dead Rich.
For those who thrive on chaos, Russian roulette is the ultimate game of chance. With the six-chambers of a revolver loaded with a single bullet and the barrel randomly spun (barrel spun), each click of the trigger (click) takes you one step closer to fame (click), glory (click), money (click) and excitement (click). But one chance in every six will always lead to death (bang). To many it may seem stupid, but unable to cope with the boredom of an unexciting life, for some a death-wish is the only way to live.
Julian Bernard Hall, known to his pals as Jack was born in 1887 in Oswestry in the county of Shropshire.
As a young boy born to a wealthy merchant and a ‘woman of means’, Jack had come from money. He didn’t know poverty; he didn’t know hunger and he didn’t know the struggle of never knowing where his next penny would come from, as the family fortune would always ensure he was never without.
Raised on an opulent country estate, even the simplest of daily tasks were organised by a fleet of five servants, and - as a break from the monotony of filling their endless spare-time with grouse hunting, horse-riding and long lunches - Jack and his older brother known as Bernard lived among the smog and bustle of the Kensington elite, at their parent’s second home – a townhouse at 33 Elvaston Place.
His life was his to live, as he wanted, when he wanted and how he wanted. His world was truly blessed. But if you are always given everything you have ever wanted, where do you find your excitement?
In 1896, aged 9, Jack was booted-off to boarding school, where for 10 months of the year until the age of 15 he would live among 900 other boys whose parents had paid handsomely to have their love-starved children educated by strangers, only to be shipped-off to camps during the summer holidays; never to be loved, never to be hugged, never to be praised and riddled with trauma and abandonment.
As was the-done-thing-to-do, his entire future had already been mapped-out by his parents.
Boarding school was at Eastman’s Royal Naval Academy in Portsmouth, a prep’ school in Southsea that prepared boys for careers in the Royal Navy. With an impressive list of alumni including captains, admirals and field marshals –a curriculum of sports like boating, gym and tennis; lessons in Latin, Greek and English; and instructions in knots, shooting and navigation – gave him no excuse but to exceed.
Upon his graduation, both Jack and his brother Bernard quickly became officers in the British Navy. And although keen marksmen with a love of guns, Jack sought out the precarious danger of innovation.
In 1903, Wilburn & Orville Wright performed the world’s first powered flight. Mankind had broken the barrier of our bodies and the limitations of nature. By December 1911 – as the precursor of the Royal Air Force – the Royal Naval Flying School was formed and later absorbed into the Royal Flying Corps.
With the principles of aviation engineering still in its infancy - to fly a squadron of manned kites, hydrogen-filled airships and early biplanes like the BE2 and the Avro 500 - they needed fearless men who scoffed at danger, spat out fear and dismissed their deaths knowing each day may be their last.
As a thrill-seeker with an innate disregard for his own life, Jack was a born aviator. But when he wasn’t flying, to pacify the dullness of an ordinary life, Jack would seek-out his thrills elsewhere…
…with drink and girls.
Jack was the epitome of a playboy; tall, rich and handsome. Sporting the latest fashions, an aviator’s moustache and a swashbuckler’s swagger, wherever Jack went he was always seen with a six-shot revolver on his hip, a big slug of whiskey in his fist and a beautiful girl linked into the crook of his arm.
By day, he slept off his hangover, as by night, the lived for the thrill of bedding babes, belting back booze and – as a man with a fortune of £18500 (making him a millionaire more than two times over today) – he would blow more money per night at the casino than most people earned in a year.
To maximise his downtime, Jack moved into a bachelor pad at 21 Denman Street, barely fifty feet behind the infamous Piccadilly lights, but also in the shadow of some of the best West End bars.
Living on the second floor, Flat 8 was a classic man-cave with all the mod-cons, but none of the homely touches of a man with marriage on his mind. With a booze cabinet and a collection of guns, to facilitate his often-delicate state, he had two live-in staff; Lewis Royale his valet and Nellie Champion his cook.
There was no denying that Jack was a consummate playboy who lived for life’s thrills without any of the worry. But having had very little affection as a child, he always sought the love of a good woman…
…only he didn’t know any good women.
In January 1910, possibly at the Coventry Club, Jack met and fell in love with a music hall artiste called Ada Knight. And where-as some described her as a singer, others suggested she was as a prostitute. Not a low rent street-walker who picked up strangers for six minutes of ‘the old in-out’, but a high-end flirt with no plan to work a day in her life, and every aim to get a rich man to fall for her charms, to move into his home and to get him to marry her and keep her in the lifestyle she was accustomed.
It's hard to pin down exactly who she was, as Ada Knight also went under the alias of Margaret Roberts, Lallie Roberts and (using Jack’s surname as if she was already married to him) as Lallie Hall.
After more than two years of romance, being smitten, Jack bought her a diamond engagement ring, he promised her every day that he would marry her, and to cement his undying love for Ada, on the 14th August 1912, Jack had his will redrafted and left the bulk of his estate to her. Sent to his solicitor, it was dated, signed, witnessed and stamped, meaning that if this aviator ever died, she would be rich.
With their love etched in stone and her prosperity assured, Ada went away on a well-earned holiday…
…only without her distraction, Jack’s biggest enemy was boredom.
When Jack flew his biplane, he was alive. But when he was grounded, he was as good as dead. Gripped with bouts of depression, his valet (Lewis Royale) would state that Jack was often emotional and prone to anger, he always sated his anxiety by downing one and a half bottles of brandy a day and with a set of loaded revolvers stashed beside his bed in his travelling trunk, suicide was never far from his mind.
In July 1912, just weeks before their engagement, Jack had broken his right hand and was unable to fly. With Ada away for four whole weeks, he did as he always did, and sought out some affection.
His latest love would go by the name of Jeanie Baxter.
She was a woman who would bring him life…
…but, also his death.
Like Ada, Jeanie Baxter had a dream of being the kept woman of a wealthy husband. Never one to lift her hand if she could help it, it’s likely that Jeanie came from nothing, and never wanted to go back.
Born in 1889, somewhere in Ireland, 24-year-old Jane O’Kane often went by several names to disguise her past; ‘Jeanie’ was a nickname, O’Kane was reserved for legal documents, and – having been briefly married to a man of money – she went by the surname of Baxter and the respectable title of Mrs.
This respectability was vital to gloss over the fact that Jeanie was a prostitute. According to Theresa Jeanie’s maid, “Mrs Baxter was visited by different men at her flat every day and they spent the night”.
Separated, as a single-mother to her 7-year-old daughter also called Jane, Jeanie was keen to continue their life of luxury and comfort by finding another man of means to marry. Bouncing from man-to-man and bed-to-bed, with her ring-finger itching to be blessed with a diamond and a band of gold, it wasn’t the dashy aviator Jack Hall who had won her heart, but the mysteriously titled Mr Unwin.
A slew of men aside, Jeanie was the kept woman of Mr Unwin. Knowing little of who he was, we know he was independently wealthy, and that for the last two years he had paid her a generous allowance of £5 per week, as well as covering her rent on an upmarket flat at 24 Carlton Mansions in Maida Vale.
Besotted, Mr Unwin had professed his undying love to Jeanie - and although to him she was his wife to be, and to her he was a meal-ticket – their marriage was on hold as (for as long as she still had any breath in her body) his mother would not allow this wealthy merchant and easy sex-worker to wed.
His mother was old and frail, but for Jeanie, her sad demise couldn’t come quick enough. Therefore, it was entirely by random chance - with Ada on holiday and Mr Unwin at his mother’s – that (possibly in the drunken half-light of the Coventry Club on Denman Street) that Jeanie met Jack.
Only, being a man who thrived on chaos and danger…
…nothing in his love life was ever simple.
In September 1912, Ada Knight returned from her holiday, only to find Jeanie in her fiancé’s arms, flat and bed. Jack didn’t see what all the fuss was about; he was a bachelor, Jeanie was single, and yes, he was engaged to Ada, but it wasn’t like they were married. As Jeanie moved in, Ada moved out, and although both women lived their own lives in their own homes, when Ada confronted Jeanie to chastise her for stealing the man she planned to marry, Jeanie admitted “to be honest my dear, I’m not that interested in Jack” (a wealthy man who was available) “I’ve got Unwin” (a man who was not).
Whether it was down to his arrogant wealth or his confused alcoholic state, this seedy little love triangle continued for several months with Jack stringing both women along. As a depressed drunk, Jack wanted the best of both worlds, with both women on his arm and in his bed, at his beck-and-call.
On 4th December 1912, handwritten in his drunken scrawl on a crumpled piece of typing paper, Jack rewrote his will, stating “this is the last will and testament of Julian B Hall. I revoke all other wills I may have made. I bequeath all that I possess in my estate to Jean Baxter (O’Kane) and to Ada Knight to be equally divided”. The will was signed and dated by Jack, and was witnessed by two signatories.
According to this will, in the event of his death, both Ada & Jeanie would become exceedingly wealthy. With neither woman having married him, they would live the rest of their lives in luxury, never needing to work, to earn, or to find another man, as – all the while - his body grew cold in a lonely grave.
That’s how it should have been, and although Jack was still stringing Ada and Jeanie along…
…what he couldn’t accept that Jeanie didn’t want him…
…she wanted Mr Unwin.
On Tuesday 8th April 1913, one week before his death, things would come to a head. In the four months since the writing of his last will, Jack had continued seeing both women and keeping both apart. At 1:30pm, Ada Knight was let into 21 Denman Street by the hall porter who knew her name and face, but didn’t know that Jack was two-timing her and that Jeanie Baxter had spent the night in his bed.
Like the lethal mix of volatile chemistry inside a revolver’s barrel of gun-powder, wadding and a spark, the three lovers were an explosive combination and who would get hurt would be a matter of chance.
As he lay there, nursing a roaring hangover, his two lovers fought over him: Ada: “what are you doing here?”, Jeanie: “I could say the same about you, he said he’d finished with you?”, Ada “he said the same about you, you’re finished”, Jeanie: “Ha, I was sorry in the first place that I came between you and Jack, but now I have every right to him”, Ada: “But I was with him first?”, Jeanie: “Oh really?”
With the only winner being Jack, unwilling to be a boobie-prize, the women gave him an ultimatum. Both Ada & Jeanie demanded that he choose - “which one of us is it to be? You can’t have both”.
Like the spin of a barrel of a half-spent gun, Jack had a fifty-fifty chance of getting his answer right and getting his answer wrong. (Spins barrel) And having chosen Jeanie, his new squeeze of a few months as the woman he loved over Ada, his fiancé for the last three years, Ada smacked Jack in the mouth, cutting his lip with his engagement ring and she swore that she never wanted to see him ever again.
The second the door slammed shut, it was clear that Jeanie had won.
But had she?
Across the afternoon to the early evening, Jack & Jeanie argued bitterly; Jack had given up Ada for Jeanie, only Jeanie didn’t want Jack, as she had Mr Unwin – a man who made her a ‘kept woman’, who had bought her a country house, and whose mother’s decline meant that the two would soon be wed.
Jack was rich, but he wasn’t that rich. With Jeanie unwilling to give up her other millionaire, Jack struck this two-timing harlot across the chin with a loaded revolver and - rightly – Jeanie left (door slam).
Left alone, and drinking himself into an angry alcoholic stupor, the man who lived for danger and chaos was left with nothing but his own black thoughts. Before she left, it was said, he had put the muzzle of the gun to his temple and professed “I am sick of everything. I am not afraid of death”. (Click).
Death had never been more than a hair’s breadth away from Jack…
…and now, it was closer than he would ever know.
Through the hazy gauze of drink and solitude, his bitterness festered until he could stand it no more. Later that same evening, Jack took a taxi from Denman Street to 24 Carlton Mansions in Maida Vale. And in the parlour of Jeanie’s flat which was owned by Mr Unwin, Jack met his rival for the first time.
Jack was drunk, very drunk, as from his pockets he pulled two revolvers. Whistling down the barrel, he assured the startled couple “I’m not here to kill myself”, as in the spirit of a fearless aviator with a daily death-wish, his plan was much more reckless: “you love this girl, so do I. I am going to have her”.
As Jeanie had done to him, Jack would make her choose: “two men, two guns, we light a cigarette, we turn out the lights, and by the red glow of its tip, we shoot until the other man is dead, what do you say?”. Jack was serious, Mr Unwin was terrified, and having said “no”, Jack fired wildly hitting a photograph, a champagne bottle and - splintering the sitting room door having fired over his shoulder - Jack popped the gun’s muzzle in his mouth and - according to Jeanie – he asked her to pull the trigger.
Jeanie was a woman who loved to live, so she didn’t. And as his booze sozzled brain began to feel like sack of lead, Jack apologised and curled up on their hearthrug, where he slept until the morning.
Jeanie would never have to choose between her two lovers…
…as in fear for his life, Mr Unwin wanted anything more to do with Jack…
…and therefore, with Jeanie.
This kept woman with a lifestyle to live and a daughter to fund had lost everything; her allowance, her flat, her country home and a marriage to a man who today would be worth more than £6 million.
With Mr Unwin gone, and Ada forgotten, all Jack & Jeanie had was each other.
But did they?
On Sunday 13th April 1913, two days before his death, Jeanie informed her maid (Theresa Pantanello) of the good news: “Jack has promised to marry me by special licence next Tuesday”. In her own words, “having made a mess of everything with Mr Unwin”, Jack would make-a-mends by marrying Jeanie, and making this woman from modest means a millionaire’s wife. On her mind should have been love…
…only with a glint of glee at already being in his will (albeit equally split with Ada), Jeanie was heard to declare “if he was to have an accident – a fatal accident – I would get a very large sum of money”.
In short, the second Jack died, Jeanie would become dead rich.
Tuesday 15th April 1913 was to be the day of the marriage of Jeanie Baxter & Jack Hall, but it was also the day of his death. Having been bed bound for days, with his stomach empty except for his regular bottle and a half of brandy, Jack lay crumpled and slumped in his pyjamas, as depressed as ever.
At 9am, Jack rang the service bell, and asked Lewis Royale his valet to make breakfast for Jeanie, who was sat upright in his armchair. Having had a fitful night, both were silent, but not angry, just tired.
At 10:30am, again Jack rang the bell, but instead of an empty breakfast tray to clear away, on the bedside table Lewis found a fountain pen and a folded piece of paper. With big grins, Jack declared “I am going to get married to Miss Baxter”, at which a beaming Jeanie confirmed “that’s right Lew”.
Keen to make everything right, Jack got his two staff – Lewis his valet and Nelly Champion his cook – to witness a document, which revoked his previous two wills which equally split his estate with Ada and left everything to Jeanie. Thinking nothing more of it, the staff left and went about their duties.
Across the next hour, not a single sound was heard coming from the bedroom, until 11:45am.
(Five bangs) Five shots, no screams, and by the end of the ten seconds, Jack Hall was dead (End).
Running from the room, Jeanie was heard to shout “Lew, I have shot Mr Hall, run and fetch a doctor”. Charged with his murder, Jeanie told the police of his alcoholism, his depression, his death-wish and – with his temperament swinging from manic to moody – having erased their future, he had said “you and I would never get on if we were married. I cannot keep my promise. It is better I should finish it”.
From his travelling truck, Jack pulled out a loaded revolver, popped the muzzle in his mouth and – in Jeanie’s own words – he whistled down the barrel as a black mood enveloped him. Fearing for her life, she scrawled a note asking her maid to look after her daughter in the event of her death and in the struggle to wrench the gun away, she shot him twice and fired three more bullets as she fled in terror.
On 3rd June 1913, at the Old Bailey, Jane Baxter known as Jeanie, pleaded ’not guilty’ to the charge of murdering Julian Bernard Hall also known as Jack. As she did so, she smiled to her friends in court.
Confident of her acquittal, the papers stated that Jeanie laughed heartily from the dock. And yet, having deliberated for just 55 minutes, she was soon stunned into silence as having been found guilty of his manslaughter, a terrified Jeanie was led away to the cells to spend three years behind bars.
Released from prison on the 24th June 1916, Jeanie Baxter – the sole beneficiary of Jack Hall’s fortune – received a rude awakening. Debated at Probate Court, Sir Samuel Evans would state - as they were unmarried, as her conviction for his death had deprived her of rights, and as the last two wills were illegal as they hadn’t been submitted to a lawyer – that the rightful heir to Jack’s fortune should be his former fiancé and the legal executer of his estate - Ada Knight - a woman was to become ‘dead rich’.
The Murder Mile UK True Crime Podcast has been researched using the original declassified police investigation files, court records, press reports and as many authentic sources as possible, which are freely available in the public domain, including eye-witness testimony, confessions, autopsy reports, first-hand accounts and independent investigation, where possible. But these documents are only as accurate as those recounting them and recording them, and are always incomplete or full of opinion rather than fact, therefore mistakes and misrepresentations can be made. As stated at the beginning of each episode (and as is clear by the way it is presented) Murder Mile UK True Crime Podcast is a 'dramatisation' of the events and not a documentary, therefore a certain amount of dramatic licence, selective characterisation and story-telling (within logical reason and based on extensive research) has been taken to create a fuller picture. It is not a full and complete representation of the case, the people or the investigation, and therefore should not be taken as such. It is also often (for the sake of clarity, speed and the drama) presented from a single person's perspective, usually (but not exclusively) the victim's, and therefore it will contain a certain level of bias and opinion to get across this single perspective, which may not be the overall opinion of those involved or associated. Murder Mile is just one possible retelling of each case. Murder Mile does not set out to cause any harm or distress to those involved, and those who listen to the podcast or read the transcripts provided should be aware that by accessing anything created by Murder Mile (or any source related to any each) that they may discover some details about a person, an incident or the police investigation itself, that they were unaware of.
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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