Every weekend 41-year-old Mrs. Ivy Warner left her lodgings in Hanley, Staffordshire, and went to Derby to see her 19-year-old daughter. That was what she told her landlady, and up to a point her story was true.
She was separated from her husband, who had moved to Derby with their daughter who she did see occasionally. But the principal reason for her visits was to have sex with her lover, John Cyril Eaton, a 37-year-old machinist who lived in Derby with his parents.
Every weekend he became Mr. Warner, staying under that name with Ivy at Derbys Carlton Hotel. They booked in again on DECEMBER 8th, 1951, but at nine oclock the next morning Eaton told the police that his wife was dead. He said theyd quarrelled, and hed had a blackout and strangled and smothered her.
He then admitted that Ivy was not his wife. A doctor called to the hotel found that she had been dead for eight or nine hours, and the police wanted to know why they had not been informed earlier.
Eatons story that Ivy had been strangled seemed correct, until her bedclothes were pulled back to reveal that her vagina had been mutilated, causing her to bleed profusely. A crude attempt at abortion was suspected.
Charged with murder, Eaton later admitted that his story of a quarrel was untrue. He confessed that he had tried to perform an abortion on Mrs. Warner. He had been so ashamed of this, he said, that he thought it better to say that he had strangled her, rather than admit that her death had been caused accidentally during an abortion.
Told that an autopsy had found that she was not pregnant, Eaton was shocked. He said shed not had a period for three months, and had consequently concluded that she was expectant.
Under the law at that time, if a woman died during an abortion the abortionist was guilty of murder.
Eaton had another shock when he was told that it was not the botched abortion that had killed Ivy. She had been alive when he strangled and smothered her.
At his trial he denied murder, but he told the court that he had put his hands round Ivys neck, hoping he would be found guilty.
Guilty of what? asked his counsel.
Murder, I suppose, Eaton replied, adding that he thought Ivy was already dead when he strangled her.
Asked why he was now pleading not guilty, Eaton said, I thought of my parents and the suffering this was causing them.
Seeking a manslaughter verdict, his counsel claimed that the prosecution had failed to prove that Eaton killed his mistress intentionally. This man never intended to kill this woman and for that reason he is not guilty of murder.
Summing-up, the judge said that the medical evidence was compatible with Eatons story that Ivy had fainted while he tried to abort her, and he thought she had died. But that didnt explain why he had not summoned help, or why he had waited eight hours before he gave himself up. It was possible that he had spent that time trying to think of a way out of the situation he had created.
In conclusion, Mr. Justice Devlin said that if the jury believed Eatons story, they could not convict him of murder.
But they didnt believe him. They found him guilty as charged, and he was sentenced to death.
A reprieve followed, however, and Eatons sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. He was released in 1960 after serving eight years.