10th August 1893

Ardlamont murder trial sets a legal precedent

When Alfred Monson was tried for the murder of Windsor Hambrough, at the Ardlamont estate in Argyll, the case was declared not proven, as each side – prosecution and defence – had presented convincing evidence.

Monson had been a tutor to 20-year-old Windsor Hambrough, who had, at the same time, been carrying on an affair with Monson’s wife. When the Monson family rented the Ardlamont estate in 1893, they invited Hambrough to accompany him and, it being shooting season, Monson and his friend, Edward Scott, took Hambrough out to hunt.

Hambrough shot dead

Nobody witnessed what happened, but a shot was heard, and Scott and Monson came running back to the house, apparently cleaning their guns. They claimed that Hambrough had accidentally shot himself in the head. The procurator fiscal declared the death an accident, but when it emerged that Hambrough had taken out two valuable life insurance policies, of which Monson’s wife was the beneficiary, just days before his death, Monson was charged with his murder.

The case elicited great excitement, in part because surgeon Joseph Bell, who is said to have been the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes, was called to give evidence. He and two others said that it would be impossible for Hambrough to have shot himself.

As recorded by the Forres Elgin and Nairn Gazette on 20 December 1893, Bell “stated as his opinion that the distance of the muzzle of the gun from the head was 6 to 9 feet. He made the important admission, however, that supposing a man walking with a loaded gun made a bad stumble, so bad that his gun flew out of his hand, there was infinite possibilities as to how he might be shot. There was room for conjecture and for difference of opinion in this matter.”

Perhaps because of this ‘room for conjecture’, the verdict delivered was one of not proven, and Monson left the court a free man.

National interest

Public fascination with the case didn’t end there, though, and, seizing the opportunity, the Madame Tussauds waxworks in London unveiled a new exhibit: a likeness of Monson, armed with his gun.

The East Anglian Daily Times of 5 January 1894 told its readers that “Mr Monson visited the show, and informed the manager that he objected to the exhibition of the figure, and that it would have to be removed. The manager at present contends for the right to exhibit the model without permission, and points out that it is not placed in the ‘chamber of horrors’ but only among the general collection of interesting personages.”

Alfred Monson sues

Monson sued Tussauds, and cited witness testimony that a Mr George had visited the exhibition and seen the effigy in the Chamber of Horrors, contrary to what the manager had told Monson. The defence countered that, on the contrary, it was in a separate room, which was separated from the Chamber of Horrors by a staircase.

The case was adjourned until the court could hear Tussaud’s defence in full, and on 1 February 1894 the publication of the Clifton Society outlined how “new evidence… had been brought forward, which rendered it doubtful whether a jury would not find that the plaintiff had authorised Tottenham to act as his agent, and to sell Madame Tussaud his gun and his clothes to enter into an arrangement for the exhibition of his effigy.”

Thus, an injunction against the display of the waxwork on the basis that it was an act of libel, was set aside.



Other events that occured in August

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