Wherever Sidney Fox went, his 63-year-old mother went too. They were frequent guests at hotels on England’s south coast, but they had an unfortunate habit. They disappeared without paying their bills.

Fox, a 30-year-old homosexual, often posed as an RAF officer and an Old Etonian. And his obvious concern for his elderly mother always endeared him to hotel receptionists when the pair arrived, saying their luggage would follow. But it never did, and their sudden departures were equally consistent.

On October 16th, 1929, they arrived at Margate’s Metropole Hotel. Five days later Fox passed a dud cheque and went to his mother’s insurers in London. The policies on her life had expired the previous day, and he had them extended to midnight on OCTOBER 23rd.

Strangely, it was 20 minutes short of midnight on that day when he rushed downstairs and into the hall-lounge of the Metropole, shouting that there was a fire. His mother was found dead in her room, which adjoined his.

She had been found sprawled on her bed. Pulled into the corridor, she was found to be dead. The communicating door between the two rooms was closed, and she had apparently been asphyxiated by smoke from a small fire which had broken out beneath her chair.

A verdict of death by misadventure was recorded at the inquest, and Fox lost no time in claiming the £3,000 insurance. This aroused suspicion, and Mrs. Fox’s body was exhumed for a post-mortem. Sir Bernard Spilsbury found she had been strangled before the fire began, and had inhaled none of the fumes. Meanwhile detectives had established that the fire had been started with petrol and newspapers, and Fox was charged with his mother’s murder.

At his trial at Lewes Assizes he was said by Sir William Jowitt, prosecuting, to have gone to his mother’s room as late as possible so that she would be sleepy, taking her a bottle of port to make her even more drowsy. In his pocket he had a hotel bill for more than £10 which he couldn’t meet without the insurance pay-out.

But Spilsbury’s claim that Mrs. Fox was strangled was challenged by other expert witnesses, so the Crown needed something else to make sure of Fox’s conviction.

The prosecutor asked him: “Did you realise that night, when you opened the communicating door, that the atmosphere in your mother’s room would probably suffocate anyone inside?”

“If I had stayed there, I should have been suffocated,” Fox replied.

“So you must have felt greatly apprehensive for your mother?”

“Yes, I did.”

“You closed that door.”

“It is quite possible that I did.”

“Can you explain to me why it was that you closed the door instead of flinging it wide open?”

“My explanation for that now is that the smoke should not spread into the hotel.”

“Rather that your mother should suffocate in that room than that smoke should get about in the hotel?”

“Most certainly not.”

“Why, at a moment when you believed that your mother was in that room, did you care a lot about the smoke getting into the hotel?”

“I have not admitted that I did shut the door. I very much doubt that I did.”

“Does it strike you now as an inconceivable thing to have done?”

“Not in the panic I was in. I don’t think it was.”

“I suggest that the communicating door was closed. You don’t dispute that?”

“I don’t know.”

“Before rushing down you closed the door of your own room?”

“I don’t remember closing the door.”

Fox then admitted that he did not open the door of his mother’s room either, although he knew she was inside.

Found guilty, he was executed at Maidstone Prison on April 8th, 1930.