Nellie Pearce was an 18-year-old prostitute who plied her trade in the Fulham district of London, where she lodged at a house in Cambria Street. Her landlord Rowland Duck was a married 25-year-old French polisher, and he soon became one of her clients.

Then on MAY 23rd, 1923, he walked into Walham Green police station and told a constable, “I have killed a woman named Nellie Pearce at Cambria Street by cutting her throat. You will find her under the bed. I did it with a razor.”

He was detained while two officers went to his address, and in the front-room on the ground floor they saw two beds. Under the smaller one they found Nellie’s body wrapped in army blankets. A bloodstained razor lay on her corpse.

Back at the police station, Duck made a statement. “About three weeks ago,” he said, “my wife was good enough to take in Nellie Pearce and give her lodgings. One morning she was in bed and I visited her after my wife had gone to work.

“About a week ago I asked her if there was anything the matter with her, and she told me she had suffered from a certain disease for a long time. She also told me I deserved everything I got.

“This morning I done no more than got a razor and cut her throat, put a blanket round her head, and put her under the bed. Afterwards I washed and dressed the children and came out with them and left them in the care of my wife’s mother. I had been drinking all day. That is all I have to say.”

At his trial the defence submitted that Duck was not responsible for his actions. In the war he was blown up by a shell, the court was told, and he had suffered from epilepsy ever since. While having a fit, it was claimed, he might well do things of which he was unaware.

But the jury were not convinced, and after 30 minutes’ deliberation they found Duck guilty of murder and he was sentenced to death. His hanging followed on July 4th at Pentonville Prison.