Twenty-three-year-old William James Yeldham and his girlfriend Elsie McKenzie, 22, wanted to marry but had no money, an Old Bailey jury was told in July 1922. So to solve their problem they hatched a plot, with the result that they now stood together in the dock, accused of murder.
Their home was an outhouse in Ilford, where they lived in abject poverty, said the prosecutor. Elsie had earlier met George Stanley Grimshaw, 54, who was married and had a decorating business in Walthamstow. She knew he carried a lot of money, and she and Yeldham planned to rob him.
So she arranged to meet Grimshaw and have sex with him, for which he would pay her a few shillings, and on May 17th she went with him to Highams Park, in Epping Forest. Unknown to Grimshaw, Yeldham followed them, armed with a heavy spanner stolen from his grandfather.
While Grimshaw and Elsie were having sex, Yeldham sprang from his hiding place and beat the older man repeatedly with the spanner until he collapsed unconscious. Elsie then went through the dying victims pockets, while Yeldham took his watch and chain. Then the couple ran away.
Yeldham bought new clothes with some of the money they had stolen, and with the remainder they took a train to Braintree, in Essex, where they obtained a licence and got married three days after the murder.
As a result of information received, the prosecutor continued, the Yeldhams were traced and arrested, and each made a statement.
Elsie said she had known Yeldham for about nine months and had lived with him in various places. When she went to Epping Forest with Grimshaw on MAY 17th, Yeldham followed them but she did not see him. She was with Grimshaw near a holly bush when Yeldham suddenly came up from behind.
He had a piece of iron in his hand, about a foot long. He struck Grimshaw a heavy blow on the head with it. Grimshaw got up, and Yeldham repeatedly struck him until he fell into the holly bush, as I thought, dead.
She then took Grimshaws wallet from his pocket, Elsie said. It contained £15 in notes, which she handed to Yeldham.
In his statement Yeldham said he had done his best to keep Elsie off the streets. He saw her meet Grimshaw and followed them to Highams Park, where he saw Grimshaw kissing her.
I lost my temper then and hit him with a spanner I had. I am sorry now. I did it in a passion. I am sorry for Mrs. Grimshaw, but not for him. A married man like him has no right to carry on with a young girl.
The defence sought a manslaughter verdict for Yeldham and acquittal for his bride. The Crowns claim that there was a prearranged plot between the couple was ridiculous, their counsel argued; Yeldham had made many noble sacrifices in his efforts to steer Elsie away from her immoral way of life, and had been motivated only by a desire to protect her honour.
The jurors were unimpressed, and after retiring briefly they convicted both defendants of murder.
While Mr. Justice Shearman was sentencing Yeldham to death, Elsie collapsed in the dock and had to be supported by warders when she received the same sentence. Hangmen John Ellis and William Willis hanged Yeldham on September 5th, 1922, but Elsie was reprieved, and in July 1931 she was released from prison.