Victorian London - Crime - Violence, murders and assaults - Murder in Park-lane (Madame Riel)

The Times, Tuesday, Apr 09, 1872


    Yesterday a most atrocious murder was discovered to have been perpetrated in Park-lane, Piccadilly, the victim being a French lady, and the perpetrator of the crime, there is little room for doubt, her own domestic and fellow-countrywoman.
    The murder was discovered under circumstances which give an additional horror to the crime itself. Mademoiselle Riel, who is a member of the French company now performing under M.Felix, at the St. James's Theatre, returned from Paris by yesterday's mail, and arrived at her mother's residence, 13, Park-lane, at about 8 o'clock in the morning. She was informed that Madame Riel, who was a widow, was not at home, and at first it was thought that she had gone to meet her daughter. But subsequently it was found that certain doors were locked, and that the cook and the keys were also missing. This led to an examination of the dressing-room, and Madame's outer garments being there ready for her to put on showed that she had not left the house. One of the places locked up was the pantry, and it was opened with duplicate keys in the possession of the young lady. On the floor lay the dead body of Madame Riel. Her death appeared to have been caused by strangulation, for the tightened rope was about her neck, and marks of violence upon her body left no doubt as to her having been murdered.
    The murder was evidently committed in some other place than the pantry. It is probable that the body was first placed in the coal cellar, and thence dragged or carried to the pantry, for Elizabeth Watts, the housemaid, on being interrogated about a conversation she had with the cook, mentioned that she had spoken about fetching up coals after her mistress was thought to have gone out, and that the cook desired that she should not do so. The danger of the body being seen while it was in the coal cellar must have struck the murderess, and she took an opportunity of removing it to the pantry, as a place over which she had direct control. In the coal cellar were found little articles, such as a hair-pin and a key the deceased lady always kept, and there were marks on the body as if it had been lying on the coals. The hair was full of cinders, and the appearances show that death had not been caused without a struggle, for there were many violent marks besides the deep indentation caused by the tightness with which the rope, which was in a slip knot, had been pulled, and this indentation was particularly deep beneath the ear where the knot itself came.
    Suspicion, and something more than suspicion, at once rested on Marguerite Dixblanc, the cook, whose conduct on the previous day was thought to be occasioned by the crime, especially when taken in connexion with her disappearance. . . .
    An inspection of the safe showed the inducement for the murder. All the valuables except jewelry, which it was perhaps thought might lead to detection, were taken. Bank-notes, French bonds, and railway shares are believed to have been stolen; the jewelry left behind was not left by any oversight, the articles being place on one side as of no account. . . . 
    Dixblanc is said to have been in Paris during the seige, and to have been associated with the Communists in their struggle after the German occupation. She is described as being a very powerful woman. The police describe her as 28 years of age, 5ft, 5in. in height, and stout with a fresh complexion, red face, dark hair, and brown eyes. She is believed to have had on at the time she left Park-lane a green dress, waterproof cloak, and brown bonnet.

Times, April, 1872