June 18, 1934 was a typical day at Brighton Railway Station — except for a fetid odor emanating from an unclaimed trunk in the cloakroom. An attendant alerted the police; when they broke it open, they found a woman’s torso, wrapped like a macabre parcel. She was five months pregnant.
Her legs were found days later in another suitcase — this time, left at London’s King’s Cross Station. Her head, however, never turned up, making the prospect of identifying her nearly impossible. Her pregnancy made some suspect she’d died after a botched abortion, but it couldn’t be proven.
This riddle would have been intriguing enough on its own, but it soon emerged that a mini-epidemic of female bodies stuffed into luggage was underway in this part of England. A search of the cloakroom — as you can see from the below image, it wasn’t exactly an orderly place — netted the discovery of another dead body: that of a newborn baby girl, tucked into a straw basket. The never-ID’d infant’s death was apparently unconnected to the pregnant woman’s.
With these mysteries on the forefront of everyone’s mind, naturally, thoughts turned to suspects. A Brighton woman named Violet Kaye who’d worked as a dancer and prostitute was reported missing, and her boyfriend, Toni Mancini, seemed a likely suspect; the couple was known to have vicious arguments. When his apartment was searched, the police found her remains stuffed into, yes, a trunk. This was yet another coincidence, since Mancini was found to have no connection with the woman in the train station.
Mancini admitted to putting Kaye into the trunk, but he claimed he didn’t kill her. She was already dead when he found her, he claimed. His excuse for concealing her death was that since he already had a criminal record, he didn’t think anyone would believe that he didn’t do it. That was enough to convince a jury, and he was found not guilty. Over 40 years later, he confessed in an newspaper article, but by then it was too late for him to face any charges.
As it happens, neither woman left to molder in a trunk that Brighton spring ever found justice. The only clue to the train-station victim’s identity was the word “ford,” scrawled upon the paper that was used to wrap her upper half. But nobody could figure out what it meant. She was never identified, and her killer was never found.
All credits: AP Photo