Murder by Oatmeal Stout - what a weird idea? I wonder if the current occupiers of 32 Churchill Road are aware of the double murder there just over 100 years ago? At the time of the poisoning, the house was pretty new. The 1890's large-scale OS map just reaches this far South - the sheet covering the location of Churchill Road is the most southerly. While there were some houses already on the Brighton Road, Churchill Road doesn't exist. On the site of the road there's just a row of trees.
The whole affair appears to have revolved around the estate of a certain Madame Blume
"MYSTERIOUS POISONING CASES CROYDON.
STORY OF LADY'S WILL
On Monday, Croydon, the hearing was resumed of the sensational case in which it is alleged that Richard Brinkley administered noxious drugs to Mr. and Mrs. Beck, of Churchill Road, Croydon. Daisy Kathleen Beck, their daughter, and Reginald C. Parker, a lodger in the same house. Added interest has been given to the case through the exhumation the body of Mrs. Johanna Blume, with whom the prisoner lodged at Maxwell Road, Fulham, and the contents of whose stomach are at present being analysed by Home Office experts. Mrs. Blume is supposed to have willed her effects to Brinkley, but at tho last hearing Parker, who mentioned in the will as one the witnesses, totally denied having signed the document knowing it to be a will. Mr. R. D. Muir prosecuted on behalf of the Treasury, Mr. W. Frampton represented the prisoner. Detective-inspector Fowler was in charge of the case for the police, and Mr. W. Hood was present on behalf the wife and relatives of Parker. The Misses Beck and other relatives of the deceased man and women were again in Court, attired in deep mourning.
Mr. Muir, in opening the case, said the allegation of the prosecution was that on the night of April 20 the prisoner put poison into a bottle of porter, intending thereby to murder Parker. The motive was connected with the will of Johanna Maria Blume, known as Madame Blume, who lived at Maxwell Road, Fulham, and had been an intimate friend of the prisoner for several years. Her grand-daughter, named Danvelo, said Brinkley had been a frequent visitor at her grandmother's house. In November these visits became much more frequent, extending to several times a week. The grandmother and Brinkley were on very friendly terms, so much that on parting they kissed one another. On December 14, Brinkley and a man named Hird were in the house ostensibly with the object of repairing roof, both men being carpenters. The grand-daughter, who is an actress, was in the habit of going up in the morning to a room to play the piano, and the prisoner was well aware of the habit of the household, and knew that the old lady was likely to be left alone. On the following Sunday Brinkley visited the house again, and on December 19 the old lady died suddenly half an hour after she had been left by her granddaughter. She died under circumstance which for the second time were being investigated. The result of that investigation in no way governed the result of the enquiry into the charge now before him. On the night of the day on which Mrs. Blume died the prisoner turned up at the house, and solicitor, who was engaged in looking through the deceased woman's papers, asked him if he knew of the existence a will. Brinkley thereupon produced out of his pocket a document, dated December 17, which left all the old lady's property, valued at about £800, absolutely to the prisoner. In the document the prisoner, a jobbing carpenter, was described a gentleman. It was signed by Hird and Parker, and it would be proved that the former had been associate of Brinkley. Parker denied ever affixing his signature to the document, knowing it was a will. The validity of that will depended upon the attestation of Reginald Parker. If be did not sign that will it was a bit of waste paper, and the prisoner's title to the deceased woman's property was nullified. One fact which should mentioned was that on the same occasion as he produced the will there was in the prisoner's pocket another document, prepared for the signature of the deceased woman, but never signed by her. It was a deed of gift of the whole of the property to Brinkley, and he told Caroline Blume, the daughter of the deceased, that he had brought it to get the deceased to sign. Counsel put before them the suggestion that not only was the signature of Reginald Parker obtained by a trick, but by precisely the same trick the signature of Mrs. Blume was obtained. Counsel described the circumstances under which Parker's signature was obtained, evidence of which was given last Week. On January 3, counsel continued, Brinkley called at the house of the deceased. During the interval between her death and that time. Caroline, the daughter, had disputed the will, and Brinkley had issued a writ. He called on the pretext that he had left his gloves at the house on the day of the funeral. In veiled language conveyed to her that it was the wish the deceased that he should marry her, Caroline Blume. The woman rejected his advances then, and on subsequent occasions. Brinkley's position thus became difficult. If the will were disputed and Parker still lived, his hopes of succeeding to the property were considerably affected, and also would lie in further difficulty, because he had already been disposing of the property. Mrs. Blume's signature, he suggested, was obtained in the same way as was that of Parker. She was got to sign the document in the belief that it was for the purpose of some social outing, whereas the document was in reality a will. Mr. Muir next dealt with Parker's evidence, given last week, referring to Brinkley's unsuccessful attempts to poison Parker and to his "providential escapes" from them. Leading up to the actual position. Mr. Muir dealt with Brinkley's attempt to induce Parker to visit them at Fulham and of Parker's refusals to do so. Then he spoke of the arrangements by which Brinkley visited Parker at Croydon with the object of buying a bulldog. That, counsel continued, was a sham. Prisoner did not want a bulldog. His one idea was murder. On the evening that visit. April 20th, the night of the tragedy, he was known to have purchased a bottle of stout, which was afterwards made the medium for administering the poison. The Landlady of the house could not identify the prisoner, but (counsel) would point out that Brinkley, who had a gray moustache, was in the habit of dyeing it a jet black, and from time to time used to wear a black wig. There was this case more detail than he had opened to Bench, but if the facts that he had opened could be proved to the satisfaction of the Bench evidence, who could deny that Brinkley had a motive in murdering Parker? He asked for the committal of the prisoner.
Mr. Bray suggested that the cross-examination of the witness should be reserved.
Mr. Muir replied that the witness had been brought to the court on purpose to be cross-examined, and it was not proposed to bring him to the court again.
Mr. Bray appealed the Bench, who, however, expressed the opinion that counsel should avail himself of the present opportunity."
Lichfield Mercury - Friday 10 May 1907, page 2.
It's strange no-one was suspicious of Madame Blume's death at the time. But that's one of the problems of being old - it's no big surprise when you die. Though you would have thought the will might have aroused suspicion.
I can understand the pickle Brinkley was in. If Parker proved the will to be invalid, Brinkley would be in financial trouble and possibly suspected of murdering Madame Blume. I suppose one more murder wouldn't make much difference. If he were caught one murder was enough to see him swing.
Notice how here they call it a bottle of Porter, not Oatmeal Stout? Perhaps they're using the term generically, as a catchall for every type of Porter and Stout.
There's no more about the relationship between Brinkley and Mrs. Parker in this article but we will discover more about that later.