Trunks have long appealed to killers as the ideal receptacle for the remains of their victims. The luggage could be deposited at a railway station without arousing suspicion, and by the time the contents were discovered the murderer would have vanished without trace. But it didnt always work out that way.
In time-honoured fashion, on MAY 11th, 1927, the left-luggage attendant at Londons Charing Cross station sniffed suspiciously when a large black trunk deposited with him five days previously began to smell. Police were called, and the trunk was opened to reveal a womans dismembered body wrapped up in parcels.
The pathologist Sir Bernard Spilsbury found that she had been asphyxiated and had been dead for about a week, and the luggage attendant recalled that the trunk had been left by a man with a military bearing who departed in a taxi.
A photograph of the trunk was published, and a dealer came forward to say he had sold it on May 4th. It also contained clothing, and a laundry mark on an item of underwear was traced to an address in Chelsea. The family living there said the mark was not theirs, but they had employed a Mrs. Rolls. She turned out to be Mrs. Minnie Bonati, the 37-year-old estranged wife of an Italian waiter who identified the dismembered body as hers.
He was soon eliminated as a suspect, and when taxi-drivers were questioned one said that on May 6th he had taken a man and a heavy trunk from 86 Rochester Row, Victoria, to Charing Cross station.
Detectives learned that a John Robinson had an office at this address, and had not been seen for several days. He was found in Kennington, south London, and said he knew nothing of the trunk or Mrs. Bonati. After further questioning, however, he changed his story.
Mrs. Bonati had accosted him in Victoria on May 4th, he said, and hed taken her to his office to have sex. She then demanded money and tried to attack him, and when he pushed her away she fell over. He left the office, and on returning the next morning he found her dead and decided to cut up her body and dispose of it.
He was charged with murder, and at his trial at the Old Bailey in July his fate was sealed by Spilsburys evidence. The pathologist said Mrs. Bonati had died after being knocked unconscious by a blow, and her suffocation could not have been caused, as Robinson claimed, by her falling face-down on the office carpet. Her asphyxiation was deliberate.
Robinson, 36, was found guilty, and the court then heard that after leaving the army he had married bigamously in 1923, and in the following year he had been given a months hard labour for stealing £19 from a widow with whom hed had an affair.
Mr. Justice Swift sentenced him to death, and he was hanged on August 12th, 1927, at Londons Pentonville Prison.