British Executions

Arthur Devereux

Age: 24

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 15 Aug 1905

Crime Location: 60 Milton Avenue, Harlesden

Execution Place: Pentonville

Method: hanging

Executioner: Henry Pierrepoint


Arthur Devereux was convicted of the murder of his wife Beatrice Ellen Maud Devereux 25 and sentenced to death. He also killed their twins, Evelyn Devereux 2 and Lawrence Devereux 2, but was not tried for their murders.

He asphyxiated her with morphine at 60 Milton Avenue, Harlesden on 28 January 1905.

Arthur Devereux met Beatrice Ellen Maud Devereux in Hastings in 1896 whilst he was working as a chemist for Mr. Taylor, at St. Leonards-on-Sea. They later married on 2 November 1898.

Later Arthur Devereux went into the service of Dr Adams at Croydon as a chemist and on 24 August 1899 they had their first child and then later on 5 April 1903 they had twins. Arthur Devereux was said to have been disappointed with twins but appeared to be very fond of their first born. The children all grew up healthy but the twins had rickets and could not walk by themselves or feed themselves.

For a while Beatrice Devereux's mother lived with them but later move out although she stayed near them.

Towards the end of 1904 they moved to 60 Milton Avenue in Harlesden.

Beatrice Devereux's mother said that she saw Beatrice Devereux on 28 January 1905, a Saturday, at her house on Minet Avenue, 10 minutes’ walk from Milton Avenue, and they went shopping together. Beatrice Devereux's mother said that Beatrice Devereux bought two rabbits for the Sunday dinner saying that it would probably be enough for Monday and Tuesday as well.

Beatrice Devereux's mother said that the following Monday she was going away to a situation for a short time and was away for a fortnight. She said that she last saw her daughter at 11pm in the subway about two minutes from Milton Avenue.

Beatrice Devereux's mother said that she returned to London in the middle of February and then went to see Beatrice Devereux at Milton Avenue but could get no answer. She said that she called on the neighbours but could get no information. She said that in the middle of March she went to the police and reported her sister missing.

The landlord of 60 Milton Avenue said that he saw Arthur Devereux moving out on 7 February 1905 and spoke to him about the rent. He said that at first Arthur Devereux had told him that he was just moving a few things, when he later saw him moving all his furniture he spoke to him again about the rent and that later Arthur Devereux paid him the 7s. 6d. that was due. He said that after Arthur Devereux had moved out he went in to look about and said that he saw some bottles on the mantelpiece labelled 'Prussic Acid' and 'Poison'. He said that three days after Arthur Devereux moved out Beatrice Devereux's mother came by and he said that she would not be satisfied until she had seen inside the house and the landlord showed her. He said that he found a bottle of Toothache tincture which she took with her. The landlord said that he felt sympathetic towards Arthur Devereux regarding his mother-in-law as he had told him that she would always follow them from one situation to another and the landlord agreed with him and said 'They have no business to interfere with young married people'.

Around 7 February 1905 Beatrice Devereux's mother spoke to the woman who had lived at 58 Milton Avenue. The woman said in her statements that she had seen the furniture being removed and that the removal truck had had the name 'Banister' on it. Banister was the name of the furniture remover and contractor based at 591 Harrow Road and whose warehouse was on Buller Road just off of the Harrow Road. In the neighbours statements she said that Beatrice Devereux's mother had come to see her making certain enquiries and thought it probable that it during that inquiry or a similar one Beatrice Devereux's mother found the name of 'Banister' which she had then probably located and visited.

Meanwhile, on 7 February 1905 a company at Buller Road who ran a warehouse went to collect a large tin trunk which was kept in storage. The entry in the book for the trunk read '7th February, 60, Milton Avenue, one large box of books and chemicals at 3s. a month'. On 9 February 1905 Arthur Devereux and his little boy visited the warehouse and enquired about the cost of warehousing the box and the yard foreman said that it would not be alot because they had also removed his other things. The yard foreman said that Arthur Devereux said that it contained books and chemicals that he had used for his examinations but now that he had passed them all he didn't need them and said that he might be bringing a man to come and look at them in a few days with the intention of selling them. The yard foreman also said that Arthur Devereux had told him that if Beatrice Devereux's mother came by asking any questions that he was to tell her nothing.

About a fortnight after the tin trunk had been received at Buller Road Beatrice Devereux's mother called to enquire but the staff did not give her any information. Over the next few weeks she went to the warehouse about five or six times to enquire about the furniture and items in storage but on no occasion did they give her any information. However, later on 13 April 1905 two policemen came to enquire about the goods stored and were shown the tin trunk which was then opened to reveal the corpses of a woman and two children.

Later on the same day a policeman went to a place in Coventry where they saw Arthur Devereux. The policeman asked Arthur Devereux if his name was Arthur Devereux and Arthur Devereux said yes and the policeman then told him that had instructions to arrest him on suspicion of committing murder and said that Arthur Devereux replied 'Oh yes'.

The policeman that had found the chest said that he thought that it should have contained books and chemicals but that when he shook it it made no sound. He said that he ordered it opened and used some keys that he had found that fitted. He said that it was bound with a leather strap and padlocked. When it was opened he said that inside there was a kind of inside wooden lid which covered the whole of the top of the box, and hermetically sealed it. He said that it was air-tight and very completely done and that it had a 1⁄16 of an inch layer of glue over it which had hidden the joints and formed an additional surface to the wood. He said that when he opened the box he could smell glue. He said that he then unscrewed nine screws, and with a jemmy forced the others and when he opened it there was no smell and he saw a couple of table cloths and a quilt which were glued together and covered over with a lot of glue. He said that he then pulled that away and put his hand down and felt a child's head.

As soon as he found the child's head he sent a wire to Coventry for the arrest of Arthur Devereux and another to the Coroner.

The bodies were not disturbed in the least and the trunk was then taken to the mortuary to be examined and photographed.

That evening the policeman and a colleague then went to Coventry and the next day they saw Arthur Devereux at the police station there. The policeman told Arthur Devereux that they had found the bodies of his wife and children and that they had been certified as dead although the cause of death could not be determined but that poison was suspected. He then told him that they were going to take him to Harlesden police station for questioning. They also told him that they had found out that he had sold his wife's clothing to a woman in Harlesden.

The police then returned with Arthur Devereux to Willesden by train in a second-class compartment. Whilst on the train Arthur Devereux said that he would like to make his statement and the police gave him a pen and paper but the ink was out. Arthur Devereux then asked if they had opened the trunk and they told him yes and he asked if they had smelt anything and they told him no and he said 'No, you would not, because I prepared the glue with boric acid to prevent the fungi growing, otherwise they would have decomposed and smelt. I had for four days been trying to solder a sheet of zinc in the box as a covering, but I failed in that, and I almost began to despair when I thought of the wood, and that took me three days to do. I had in my mind at the time a recent case, but the cement in that case was bound to give way, but I thought of a better plan'.

When they got to London Arthur Devereux made a statement which read:

Metropolitan Police, Harlesden Station, April 14th, 1905. I, Arthur Devereux, hereby declare that one evening towards the end of January or beginning of February last, after having been out for a few hours with my child Stanley, I returned to find my wife and twins lying dead in their beds, evidently, to my mind, having died from poison taken or administered. Rather than face an inquest I decided (with a recent trial fresh in my mind) to conceal, the bodies in a trunk which I had had in my possession for about two years. This I proceeded to do at once. I missed some poisons (chloroform and morphia) which I always kept in my writing desk after leaving my last situation, in the event of my wishing to end my own life rather than face starvation. The room smelled strongly of chloroform, so I concluded that my wife had administered it to herself and children, probably also the morphia. I had had a violent quarrel with her previously to going out, also many times quite recently and during the past twelve months. I make this statement quite voluntarily, without any threats having been made or promises held out to me. I wished to make it when first detained at Coventry, but was advised not to do so. Arthur Devereux. 14th April, 1905.

The case that Arthur Devereux had referred to was that of Crossman where in 1904 a man murdered a woman and then on 24 March 1904 the police opened a similar tin box that had been hermetically sealed with cement within which the body had been placed. The box had remained at a house for fourteen months but had by then started to smell and a person in the house had complained and it was opened. The police said that the murderer, who was also a bigamist (he had had seven wives), ran away and cut his throat when he saw the police approaching. The police noted that it was them themselves that had also been on that case.

At the post-mortem morphine was found in the stomach, the abdomen, the liver and the kidneys of the tree bodies. He said that in the stomach and abdomen there was 14 of a grain, in the kidneys 16 of a grain, and in the liver 82 of a grain, making a total of 112, or 1 1⁄8 th of a grain. It was also stated that there were no indications in the organs which were examined of chloroform having been taken through the mouth.

In court Arthur Devereux said that he had gone out for a walk and when he had returned he had smelt a strong smell of chloroform. He said that he rushed across the room and open the window and pulled up the Venetian blind and that then from the light of the street lamp opposite he saw his wife lying on the bed and the twins lying each in its own cradle. He said that he tried to rouse his wife and then found that she was dead. He said then that he heard his son coming up the stairs and so he covered up the bodies and then put him to bed telling him that his mother was asleep and he was not to make a noise. He said then that he concluded that his wife had poisoned the twins and then herself with chloroform.

He then went on to describe the situation before he had gone out saying that Beatrice Devereux had been grumbling all day about having to do the washing by herself without the help of her mother who was not allowed in their house whilst he was there. He said that she had never said anything about taking her own life but had threatened to run away with the children. He said that he was afraid to follow the proper course and seek outside help because of the bad feeling between him and Beatrice Devereux's mother and he then put them in the tin trunk. He said that when he put the bodies in the trunk they were still warm but added this his wife's body was warmer than the children’s.

In the morning he told his son that his mother had been taken to the hospital, as she had been once before and that the twins had been taken to a public nursery.

He said that he then took his son to school and returned and tried to solder zinc over the top of the box to make it air-tight but that that failed and so on the Saturday he began to make the wooden cover.

The jury retired for ten minutes and returned with the verdict of guilty.

see National Archives - CRIM 1/97/7

see Murderpedia

see Trove

see Old Baily Online

see Capital Punishment UK (Facebook)

see Poisoned Lives: English Poisoners and Their Victims By Katherine D. Watson

see Law's Strangest Cases: Extraordinary but true tales from over five centuries ... By Peter Seddon

see Gloucester Journal - Saturday 22 April 1905

see Cheltenham Chronicle - Saturday 05 August 1905

see Western Times - Thursday 20 April 1905