The Brighton Trunk Murders
I research these topics in my spare time so I can share what I am passionate about with others. I'm a stay-at-home-Mom who homeschools three children - this is not my #1 priority. I like to add my own thoughts while I'm writing and keep it conversational throughout each piece. I like to keep things "light and fun", even when discussing dark subjects like true crime. I agree that my writing style is not for everyone and I apologize if you don't like it. All the opinions expressed in the following piece are my own. And yes, sometimes I use Wikipedia as a source but never solely.
Thanks for reading!
Today’s murder case is short and sweet but disturbing.
The Brighton Trunk Murders. Two murders that happened in the same area of merry old England that have everything and nothing in common.
In the Brighton Railway Station in June 1934, the body of a young woman was discovered by cloakroom attendant William Joseph Vinnicombe inside a trunk which had been abandoned 11 days previously. Not the whole body, mind you. No, just the torso and arms. Also, inside the atrocious smelling trunk were several layers of paper and cotton wool soaked in blood. A pretty parcel tied with a sash held the arms and torso. Can you just imagine the smell? Summertime. Decomposing bodily tissues and fluids. Gag me with a broom!
At the autopsy, which was conducted by Sir Bernard Spilsbury on June 19, 1934, it was determined that this woman was approximately 25-years-old, 119 pounds, and 5’2″ tall. He determined that she was pregnant at the time of her death, about five months along. He ruled her death a murder (No fucking duh, Sherlock) and stated that it was most likely a heavy blow to the head with a blunt instrument that killed her. The part that I don’t understand about this bit is that some articles say they never found her head but then some say she had obvious head trauma. How do you know head trauma was a factor without a head?
Her legs were later found in a second trunk at London’s King’s Cross station. The media dubbed her “pretty feet” because her legs resembled those of a dancer.
The only true suspect that the police ever had was a local and illegal abortionist named Massiah. He was put under surveillance but eventually removed from the suspect list when the post-mortem exam determined that the woman’s pregnancy had not been interfered with. In other words, she was not looking to have an abortion so he was off the hook. He did later kill a woman during an abortion but wasn’t convicted. He then retired in Trinidad! Gee, what a life.
Local authorities quickly became overwhelmed by the case and called in Scotland Yard to conduct a massive investigation. Around 700 cold cases for missing women were reviewed and police checked hospitals and with known abortionists but no leads came about. For the first time in history, they appealed directly to the public for help. After one month of investigation, they began house-to-house searches. This is when a second gruesome discovery was made.
While searching the apartment at 52 Kemp Street in Brighton, authorities made a shocking discovery. Another woman’s body was stuffed inside a trunk. The only difference, in this case, was that the woman was in one piece but still very much dead and in a state of moderate decomposition.
This woman was able to be identified and it was concluded that she was the tenant’s (Toni Mancini, 26) lover, Violet Saunders (AKA Violet Kaye, 42). Mancini and Kaye had moved to Brighton about a year earlier together. They had had a rocky relationship. Kaye was an alcoholic and very insecure about her relationship with Mancini. She worked as a sex worker and exotic dancer. Mancini was a petty thief with a criminal record who worked odd jobs as a bouncer and a waiter. He also liked to flirt, hence Kaye’s insecurity.
A photo of Toni Mancini and Violet Kaye.
One night Kaye accused Mancini of cheating while she was incredibly intoxicated. This was their final argument as she went missing that night. Mancini told friends that she had left him and moved to Paris. He gave away her belongings and even sent a telegram (posing as Kaye) to Kaye’s sister saying she had found a good job abroad. So, no one thought it was strange that this woman just up and left and took NOTHING with her? Definitely no red flags there (sarcasm).
Soon after Kaye “left”, Mancini moved into a small apartment very close to Brighton Railway Station. He had a large trunk there that he used as a coffee table with a cloth draped over it. His friends and family all said that it reeked of death and was leaking. Eventually, even his neighbors complained about the smell! And how do you explain away why your trunk/coffee table is leaking?
When the house-to-house searches began after the discovery of the first trunk murder, Mancini fled his apartment. Of course, authorities found the trunk with Kaye inside. They proceeded to track down Mancini and arrest him. He was charged with her murder. During his trial, he stated that he found her body and assumed that one of her clients had murdered her (by accident or on purpose he didn’t know) but since he had a criminal record he didn’t want to get pinned for the crime. So he hid her body in a trunk.
He was found not guilty. I have no fucking clue how they figured that! His lawyer must have been damn good.
In 1976, he told a different story.
Mancini claimed that he and Kaye had argued and she attacked him with a hammer. He wrestled the hammer away from her and threw it at her. It hit her in the head, killing her instantly. He then stuffed her body in a trunk.
The two trunk murders of Brighton, England that have everything and nothing in common. Unfortunately, the identity of the “pretty feet” pregnant woman was never known. How can it be that two grisly crimes have nothing in common except the method of disposal? What are the chances of two murderers thinking along these very specific lines?