Friday, 8 May 2015

Elvira Barney Case

There has, in the past, been some high profile murder trials at the Old Bailey in the 1920`s & 30`s.  The most famous was the trial of Edith Thompson & Fred Bywaters, in which Edith was convicted on her morals and a judge, said to have been biased towards her because she betrayed her middle class husband and had an affair with a working class young man.  Class bias was still rife, exemplified in the cases of Henry Jacoby(executed) and Ronald True(reprieved).  Another was the acquittal of a French woman, supposedly a society woman but in fact a former prostitute, over the shooting death of her high society Egyptian husband.  A defence rife with racism and homophobia, courtesy of Edward Marshall Hall.  Another was the charge of murder against Elvira Dolores Barney, for the fatal shooting of her lover Michael Scott Stephen.  

    It was May 1932, and in the ultra trendy London area, Knightsbridge, and 27 year old Elvira was separated from her husband, but found solace in the arms of Michael Stephen, but it was an affair fraught with tension.  After one row, witnesses reported that Elvira fired a gun from her apartment window at Stephen.  But it was at 4am on May 31st 1932, that Elvira called her doctor saying that a terrible accident had occurred. He arrived to find Michael Stephen dead at the top of the stairs.  Stephen had a bullet wound to the chest.  The doctor immediately summoned the Police.  Enquiries revealed that they came home a little drunk and started arguing, which awoke the neighbours.  They said they heard Elvira scream "Get out! I`ll shoot you!"  Stephen was then heard to say that he was leaving, then suddenly, a shot rang out.  Stephen was then shouting "What have you done?"  Then she was heard screaming "Chicken! Chicken!  Come back to me.  I will do anything for you"

    Questioned by Police, she said that Stephen told her he as leaving her but she then threatened to commit suicide with a gun she kept in the room.  Then she said Stephen snatched the gun up to stop her, so she fought to get it of him and it went off, fatally wounding him.  The trial at the Old Bailey was seen as a day out for the upper classes to see one of their own on trial and possibly facing execution.  Her barrister argued that the gun could have gone off accidentally and gave a demonstration of quickly pulling the trigger, supporting his contention.  A firearms expert stated the gun needed considerable pressure to fire it.   The jury decided to acquit, with Elvira fainting on the pronouncement of "Not Guilty!"  She later moved to Paris and was found dead in her hotel room on December 25th 1936.  A curious claim was that the Barrister at her trial was seen after the trial with a clearly bruised trigger finger.