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EPISODE TWO HUNDRED AND THIRTY-FIVE:
On Wednesday 24th of May 1871, a wealthy bachelor called Frederick Moon came 23 Newton Road in Bayswater, the lavish home of his girlfriend Hannah Newington for dinner. They ate fine food, they drank good wine, they listened to music on the piano, and then – for reasons that no-one could fathom – he ended up dead.
But who had killed him? His girlfriend, her lover, their guests, himself, or was it fate?
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SOURCES: This case was researched using some of the sources below.
UNEDITED TRANSCRIPT OF THE EPISODE
Welcome to Murder Mile.
Today I’m standing on Newton-Road in Bayswater, W2; four roads west of the lovesick assailant of Barbara Shuttleworth, two roads north of the ‘old lady killer’, three roads east of the petty revenge of Dominic Kelly, and a short walk from the bones of the spoiled child - coming soon to Murder Mile.
Newton Road is a quiet residential street dotted with a wealth of luxurious homes from the 1800s. All pristine white and sparklingly bright, there’s no litter, no dog plop, no kids, no noise, and no dickheads soiling the street with the soulless thump of braindead beats, all because they want a bit of attention.
Here you can expect their version of Deliveroo called ‘I’m famished, what-what?’ to airlift a platter of oysters and a bottle of Bolli, the road sweeper to wear slippers to keep his noise down, and the nanny to silence the brat with the speed of a ninja should the posh sprog interrupt mummy’s mid-afternoon snooze having had a “frightfully busy day perusing the pashminas at Laura Ashley, don’t you know”.
23 Newton-Road looks as it did in the 1870s, being a semi-detached two-storey townhouse with white stucco walls, steps up to the ground floor, and a basement which was the scullery and maid’ quarters.
On Wednesday 24th of May 1871, a wealthy bachelor called Frederick Moon came here to the lavish home of his girlfriend Hannah Newington for dinner. They ate fine food, they drank good wine, they listened to music on the piano, and then – for reasons that no-one could fathom – he ended up dead.
But who had killed him? His girlfriend, her lover, their guests, himself, or was it fate?
My name is Michael, I am your tour guide, and this is Murder Mile.
Episode 235: The Accident, Suicide or Murder of Freddy Moon.
Most deaths are easily explainable; a heart attack, a car accident, chocking on food or falling off a wall. It should all be as self-explanatory as finding a corpse with a knife in his chest. But with Freddy being dead, his girlfriend inconsolable, and the guests and servants having seen nothing? This case was not.
The victim’s name was Frederick Graves Moon, and he was born in 1829.
Raised in pomp and privilege, as the younger son to Sir Francis Graham Moon, 1st Baronet, Alderman and the former Lord Mayor of London, he lived a lavish life of extreme wealth, with high expectations that he would match his father’s prestige, titles and vast success. His older brother was a Sir and a 2nd Baronet to boot, but being described as “a kind, liberal hearted fellow”, Freddy lacked their bite.
By 1871, 41-year-old Freddy had become part owner of Moon, Cock & Co Brewery in Leicester, one of the premier beer and porter manufacturers in Britain, serving millions of gallons of giddy-making grog to pubs all over the country, and raking in a whopping £3000 a year, roughly £3.3 million today.
Given his financial success, his father should have been proud. But Freddy wasn’t a business brain or a leader of men, as all he did was to invest his family’s money, and to let his partners do the hard work.
Those who knew Freddy said, “he loved the idle life being a man of easy amusements” with which he could fritter away his free time, engage in frivolity, and squander his profits on a bachelor’s pleasures.
As a huge fan of horse racing, Freddy was well-accustomed to blowing a wad at the racetrack having got wind that a gee-gee called The Filly’s Fancy was a dead-cert, only to lose a small fortune on a nag destined for the glue factory. He liked wine wines and rich foods, which burdened his stout and rotund frame with bouts of gout, attacks of bilious and the odd burp of rich man’s wind having over-indulged. But most of all, he loved beautiful women, and although he was often seen strutting in Mayfair with a rather sparkling little lady perched upon his arm like a budgie pecking for seeds, he never married.
He loved to be loved, and he always had love in his heart. But in his heart, he was always a bachelor.
And although, the love of a good woman was never far from his mind…
…what made his life more difficult was his love of unattainable women.
Hannah Newington went by many names and aliases, such as Flora Newington, Flora Canning, Frances S Canning and Madame de Morne which suggested a loftier upbringing as a woman who married well.
In truth, she was born as humble old Hannah Fowler, a girl who came from nothing and was destined to live a life of drudgery with too many kids on a small wage, a drunken lout as a wayward husband, and the twilight years of her early forties, spent alone and picking oakum as a workhouse inmate. But unlike so many for whom that was their life, on her side, she had her looks and she used them wisely.
In 1856, aged 22, Hannah married a wealthy and successful solicitor called William Newington, but they were not happy, not by a long stretch. And with him being described as “a solicitor of good standing”, with him fleeing for unknown reasons to the distant shores of Australia after just three years, he would be gone, and she would be branded with the scandalous title of “an abandoned wife”.
And without his permission to divorce, she could never remarry, making any relationship sinful.
As a single woman with no career and a daughter to support, Hannah did what she could to survive in an era where a woman had less rights than cattle, and an unmarried divorcee was akin to the devil.
Little is known about her criminal history, but it was said that Hannah was a professional con woman who used her beauty to lure in some of London’s wealthiest men, who lived the high life in the city’s most opulent hotels, and who dined off their fortunes by pretending to be their wife. Leaving a trail of debt across Mayfair having “left without paying” and “obtaining goods by misrepresentation”, in 1867 she was convicted of fraud, having left six creditors owing £2300 (just over £2.4 million today).
After a short stint in prison, as some of her suitors had taken pity on her, in 1871, Hannah became the paramour of Captain Davy, a retired Army officer described as “strange with a big black beard”. Quite what their relationship was is uncertain; to some, she was his girlfriend; to society, she was little more than a concubine or a high-class prostitute; but to her, although they never married, she went by the title of Mrs Davey, as when the so-called wife of an Army officer says she’s his wife, who would check?
That year, either as a symbol of his love, or as a place where he could keep her, Captain Davey rented her a three-floored townhouse at 23 Newton-Road in the fashionable suburb of Bayswater. He paid her rent, he purchased her food, he gave her a generous allowance, and all she had to do was be there.
It’s uncertain whether she loved Captain Davey, but unable to remarry and with her beauty fading, this once-young attractive girl who was tall and elegant had morphed into a man-sized and slightly stout 38-year-old woman of “questionable morals and character” for whom time was running out.
Depressed at her fading looks and ebbing charm, she drank to quell her fears, she ate to comfort her loneliness, and as a nervous and unpredictable woman with a severe alcohol problem, her doctor had advised her to “dry out” by going to a German resort, but instead, she stayed home and drank more.
Hannah was a drunk, Freddy was depressed, and together that mix would be lethal.
In his final year alive, Freddy was plagued by a wealth of stresses. As a 41-year-old man, his father had pestered him to marry as most of his siblings had, but Freddy had no-one but Hannah; an abandoned wife, a suspected prostitute and a career criminal who was woefully unsuitable for a baronet’s son.
18 months prior, his beloved mother Anne had died, and his grief had left him in an emotional funk.
In the months prior, his relationship with Hannah had become more fractious, with her shouting “I am your wife, Freddy”, only for him to retort, “no you are not, and you will never be as long as I live”. And although Freddy’s friend, Captain Bowes Elliot had suggested that Freddy use his wealth to get rid of her - spoken more out of drunken spite than genuine hatred - over a lunch Hannah was heard to spit “by heavens, I’ll have your life”, and at a dinner she supposedly said, “by Jove, I’ll stab you some day!”.
Their quarrels – usually over an overabundance of port – were short-lived and predominantly verbal, they always apologised, and Freddy made up for his mood by gifting Hannah with a tidy sum of £200.
Wednesday 24th of May 1871 was Freddy’s last day alive.
Being supposedly sunk in the depths of depression, some have suggested this was down to his losses at Derby Day, and although he was described as “very gloomy”, he only lost £10 (£1400 today), whereas at the time of his death, he still had £1300 in his bank (the equivalent of £1.8 million). It could have been that Hannah had failed to keep a lunch date with him, although she had stood him up many times before, but there was also a much weightier problem which was bearing down up his brain.
In May 1871, the British Government had proposed the introduction of the 1872 Licensing Bill. Having largely been unregulated, Parliament were shaping new laws on alcohol. Soon, it would be an offence to be drunk in public, to be drunk in charge of a horse, or to be drunk in possession of a loaded firearm, all of which affected the people, but there were new laws which affected his business as a brewery.
In a few months’ time, brewers could no longer add salt to the beer which they did to make the drinker more thirsty, all pubs were legally obliged to close at 11pm, and the licensing hours were to be decided by the local authority with each borough having the right to become ‘dry’, also known as ‘alcohol free’.
As expected, the law almost caused riots amongst the people and the breweries themselves, and with Freddy terrified that his business would struggle to survive, this could mean the end of his brewery.
It was a turbulent time for Freddy Graves Moon, and although his mental disposition was questioned in court, with his highly paid solicitor objecting to the question, his mental state remains unknown.
The night itself was peaceful.
The street was quiet, and being a well-to-do suburb, it was routinely patrolled by PC Rowe from late afternoon until the time when the body was found. When he first passed, he noted that “all was calm”.
Adelaide Matthews, parlourmaid to ‘Mrs Davey’ as Hannah Newington was known, heard the doorbell being rung at 5pm. As was her role, she answered the door, curtseyed to Mr Moon and showed this sour-faced gentleman in, as his housemaid Mary Ann Hale, scurried to the servant’s quarters below.
Adelaide said “he was in the habit of coming to the house and used to dine there. I let him in. At that time Mrs Davey was in the billiard room”. As was protocol, “I showed him into the dining room”, where he would wait until the lady was ready to greet him, “but he went straight in”. He wasn’t upset, angry or anxious, as those who saw him recalled “it was as if he’d the weight of the world on his shoulders”.
“By Mrs Davey’s order, I took a bottle of champagne into the billiard room”, and between them, they sunk a bottle of finest Bollinger, not out of celebration, but because that’s what wealthy people do.
According to the staff, “before dinner, Mr Moon walked around the garden”. He was alone, and being a man of wealth and privilege, it was not the place of the servants to ask if he was okay, so they didn’t.
At 7:30pm, they dined. Served by Hannah’s parlour maid, they ate soup, chicken, vegetables, an array of fresh bread, with a fine selection of champagne, brandy and claret with the sherry in an ornate cut-glass decanter, complete with hand-rolled cigars, cheeses and water biscuits, but no fruit or dessert.
That said, with Hannah not expecting Freddy that night, the dinner itself was intended for her friends - Laura Pock & Catherine Bulin – but seeing his mood, to cheer him up, she had accommodated him.
From what was overheard, Freddy was in a gloomy mood as he feared his brewery business was about to collapse, he had lost £10 backing the wrong horse, and he was perturbed that Hannah “had the eye of other men”. Which for anyone whether in or outside of that room shouldn’t have been a surprise.
At half past eight, as Hannah & Freddy sat at the dining table supping brandies, Adelaide cleared away the dishes, and from the table she removed a small wicker basket of six bread knives to the sideboard.
At around the same time, Laura Pock & Catherine Bulin, Hannah’s houseguests arrived after a hard day horse-riding and taking a long lunch and steady brunch. Welcomed in, olives were served, a bottle of claret was opened, and Laura & Catherine entertained them with music on the guitar and piano.
Passing by on his beat, at roughly 9pm, PC Rowe said the noise emanating from the house was “a little more raucous”, and although, society said “this seemingly respectable house was a brothel”, as a working-class constable, it wasn’t his position to enquire about the private habits of the upper classes.
This may have been a scandalous aspersion, but wherever Hannah went, her bad reputation followed.
According to Adelaide, who had known Hannah and Freddy for 16 months, “Mrs Davey and Mr Moon appeared to be on affectionate terms, she called him ‘Fred’ and he called her ‘Flo’”, although she never questioned why the supposed wife of an Army Captain cavorted with an incorrigible bachelor.
But what whatever was going on between them that night, the air was tinged with jealousy.
At 9:30pm, Dr Phillips arrived. As the personal physician to Mrs Davey, he had been seeing her on what was described as a “purely professional basis” for the last six months, with the last six weeks seeing her bedbound, as owing to her severe alcohol problem he had failed to get her to ‘dry out’.
When Dr Phillips was shown into the drawing room, Adelaide recalled “I thought by her eyes that Mrs Davey had been crying”. The doctor stayed briefly, with Fred not uttering a word to him, then he left.
But was Freddy ambivalent, distracted, or jealous?
Fuelled by champagne and liqueur, it was said that “Freddy was feeling perkier”, and with the young girls joining them for some after dinner fun, “Catherine played the piano as Laura romped on the floor, catching a decanter of sherry which Freddy threw into her lap”. As drunken antics go, that may seem innocent enough, but four months before, Freddy had done the same and the decanter had smashed.
That time, he had apologised. Only this time, before he could, Hannah had sent the young ladies away, and the jubilant mood in the dining room was sullied, leaving a cold silence hanging like a dull cloud.
But was Hannah drunk, angry, or upset?
At 11:30pm, on his beat, PC Rowe passed 23 Newton Road “and noticed nothing unusual. I saw people going in and out, and I saw Mary Ann Hale, Mr Moon’s housemaid enter with a letter in her hand”. It was never explained what that letter was, and with it not being her job, Mary Ann never read it. But…
…at the trial, William Pickford, Freddy’s friend stated, “Mrs Davey was jealous of him, as having put his arms around Catherine Bulin, he was not allowed to be left alone with her”, and a letter read out in court suggested that Freddy “enjoyed the favours of Catherine”, who he knew as “dear little Kitty”.
According to the staff who were one floor below, and Laura & Catherine who were one floor above, at the time of the incident, they didn’t hear any shouts or scuffles, Hannah & Freddy were alone, and the knife basket had been moved to the table, possibly by Dr Phillips, who’d had himself a little snack.
Mary Ann Hale recalled, “I was in the kitchen, immediately below the dining room, the first thing that attracted my attention was a fall… then I heard a scream”. Hannah rang the servant’s bell and shouted, “go for a doctor”, which Adelaide did, and as Mary Ann went upstairs, “I saw Mr Moon on the floor. Mrs Davey was kneeling by his side trying to undo his clothes and saying she was ‘trying to save him’”.
A kitchen knife - missing from the breadbasket - was protruding from the left of his chest, just below his heart. With a steady pool of blood forming about his body, and a slowly decreasing pulse of red spurting from his once-white shirt, it was clear that Freddy’s life was ebbing away, second by second.
With Hannah in a distressed state, the servants would state “she did everything to save him”, but as she sat crying and cradling him, knowing he was dead, Catherine Bulin heard her blub “I fear I did it".
It was as near to a confession as anyone would get.
At 12:15am, alerted to the scene, PC Rowe, PC Fewtrill and Dr Phillips entered 23 Newton Road. PC Rowe would state “I saw the deceased lying dead near the fireplace. There was a table with several bottles on it. Close to the body was a bowl with bloody water. In the drawing room I saw Mrs Davey sitting on the sofa. She was pulling off her jacket. The inside was lined with white and was saturated with blood. The upper part of her clothing was also covered with blood and her hair was disarranged”.
With the partially clean knife having been removed from Freddy’s motionless chest and found lying in the fire fender near to his body, the Constable promptly arrested Hannah Newington alias Mrs Davey with a customary “consider yourself in custody”, and she was later charged with his murder.
But was this an accident, a suicide, or a murder?
With no witnesses to the incident itself, the police and the jury had to rely on the testimony of several medical experts who gave their opinion based on their expertise and knowledge.
William Baker, a surgeon at St Bartholomew’s hospital said “the wound was downwards, forwards and inwards. The weapon took one uniform direction”. And although he would state, “It was not possible that the weapon might have been the result of an accident”, although he admitted he had “no special experience in the cases of stabbing”, he concluded “the wound was caused by another person”.
Dr Phillips, Hannah’s physician, said “the wound was six inches deep, and it is not impossible that it was caused by him falling on the knife”, which Dr Royston also confirmed “as highly improbable”.
But with Dr Canton, surgeon at Charing Cross Hospital and a lecturer in anatomy stating “it was most probable that the wound was accidental”, Mr Walton, a surgeon at St Mary’s agreeing “it might have been an accident”, or “possibly self-inflicted” and Mr Gay, chief surgeon at Great Northern Hospital concluding “the wound was more explainable as an accident than as the result of a deliberate stab”.
With the jury left in a state of confusion, and with fingerprints not accepted as evidence in the British legal system until 1901, they were stuck in a quandary; was it an accident, a suicide, or murder? (End)
Tried at the Old Bailey on the 13th of July 1871, before Mr Baron Channell, in a two-day-trial, Hannah Newington, alias Flora Davey pleaded ‘not guilty’ to the charge of murder, with Dr Lewis agreeing with her defence that “the wounds may have been self-inflicted by Freddy” in a state of abject depression.
As a married but abandoned woman who was kept by Captain Davey and was merely the mistress of Freddy Moon, as she would not have financially benefitted from his death, the prosecution reduced the charge to one of manslaughter, which meant – if found guilty – that she would not be executed.
With Sargeant Parry wrapping up for the defence, stating “the prisoner and the deceased loved each other dearly… Mr Moon was depressed, and whatever occurred was done in a moment of fear”, having deliberated for half an hour, at 4pm, they returned a verdict of guilty of manslaughter.
The judge concluded “she took up the knife, perhaps not anticipating the awful consequences, but she armed herself in order to meet the encounter of the deceased”. Taking into account that it wasn’t premeditated, she was sentenced to eight years in prison, and had to be carried from the dock.
In her defence, Hannah stated “Freddy insulted me, when I asked him not to repeat those words, he flung a bottle at my head, I leapt up with the knife, he seized me, and we both fell down”. That’s it.
Sent to Woking prison, Hannah spent the first two years in the prison infirmary owing to exhaustion. Having a relapse as she’d learned that her only daughter had died, Hannah Newington was released on 15th of September 1874, and she died early 1913. As for Freddy Moon, owing to the scandal of his death, his name was removed from Burke’s peerage, as well as from the brewery he had once owned.
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 of Murder Mile UK True Crime and creator of true-crime TV series.
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