By David Nicholls
Pat Frampton’s temper cost her life. All one evening she had quarrelled with her husband … violently.
The next morning another vicious row broke out. And Harry, her 23-year-old husband, was beginning to lose patience as they left their lodgings to walk to the station. Although his wife was carrying their baby, she still threw another tantrum, kicking and hitting him and screaming: “I’II show you up in the street.”
Harry Frampton’s patience finally snapped. As he fumbled in his pocket for a match his young wife ranted on and on. Then she hurled her handbag and a parcel to the ground. But she didn’t know that her husband’s fingers had closed round the razor he carried in his pocket. Pat — real name, Maude — was just one scream from death.
Frampton whipped the razor from his pocket and his wife screamed as the well-honed blade slashed into her neck. As the 19-year-old wife, still clutching her baby, staggered round a corner of the road for help with blood streaming from her neck the husband fled. Pat was still alive. But her life’s blood was pouring away through the deep two-and-a-half-inch slash. She died half-an-hour after reaching hospital.
Police, who had already mounted the hunt for Frampton, now knew they were looking for a killer. And he was not hard to find. He was not at the Royal Navy Barracks, Chatham, where he was a naval officers’ steward, so the hunt switched, with Scotland Yard officers, to Twickenham, Frampton’s home town. They found their quarry at his parents’ home in Denmark Road. He had told his mother that he had taken the razor out “to frighten Pat”.
He added: “Pat may be in hospital now”. He obviously had no idea that his moment of hysteria had cost his wife her life.
But he was soon to find out. A short while later, as he sat with his mother in the kitchen of their home, two detectives called. Detective Constable Benjamin Hawes from Kent and Detective Inspector Charles Humphries, of Scotland Yard, told Frampton that he would be charged with the murder of his wife at Old Brompton earlier that day. Frampton was amazed.
“It’s not as bad as that is it? She isn’t dead, is she?”
Hawes said “Yes”, and Frampton said: “I never thought it was as bad as that.”
But it was. Within a day he had appeared before magistrates at Chatham and been remanded in custody for a week charged with the wilful murder of his dark, attractive wife. And on 27 June, 1928, two months later, Harry Frampton stepped into the dock at Kent Assizes … and a step nearer the death cell.
The trial itself was not without drama. During the judge’s summing-up, a woman juror collapsed twice. And for the first time Frampton’s story of the events that led up to that fateful walk away from the house where the family lodged in River Street, Old Brompton, was told.
Frampton said his wife was excitable and extravagant. Of the £1 14s a week he earned, his wife had £1. But she did not consider it enough and always asked for more.
The quarrel on that Sunday night had been about Pat returning to live at her brother’s house in Twickenham to save money. Pat didn’t see how money would be saved if she went to live in Twickenham.
First she said she would go then she said she wouldn’t. But when Pat and her husband left their lodgings on the Monday, Frampton thought Pat really intended to go. His wife was carrying a handbag, a parcel and the baby when they left. But it didn’t stop her kicking him and smacking his face. She was shouting and hollering: “I will show you up in the street.”
As Frampton walked at her side trying to persuade his wife to go to the station, she kicked him on the shins. At the corner of Westcourt Street she darted round the corner, Frampton chased her and got in front of her. As she was flinging her arms and kicking about her husband was looking for a match to light his cigarette.
Still she screamed that she had no intention of going to Twickenham and that she would show him up in the street. But instead of a match Frampton’s fingers closed round a razor. Then the man in the dock explained to a hushed court how he took the razor from his waistcoat pocket to frighten her and asked her to keep quiet.
When she saw it she seemed to go mad and shouted and screamed. Then Frampton claimed Pat snatched the razor out of his hand and pulled it towards herself. He saw blood spurt away from her and he looked round to see if he could call somebody for help. The sight of the blood, he said, “properly shocked” him. He ran away because he was frightened and thought he would go and tell his mother what happened.
Frampton’s story was treated with some scorn by Mr Justice Avory, who questioned him closely about why he had not told the policeman who arrested him or the magistrates that Pat had accidentally cut her own throat.
Frampton said he hadn’t “because I was upset and worried” and later because his solicitor had advised him not to say anything. Then Mr Justice Avory asked: “Why have you never said it before today?” “Because I hadn’t got over the shock of losing my wife.”
During Mr Justice Avory’s summing-up, one of the jurywomen collapsed and had to leave the court twice to recover. But the final drama was still to come.
It took the jury only five minutes to decide that Frampton was guilty. But they did recommend mercy. Mr Justice Avory said the jury’s verdict was correct on the evidence. He put on the black cap and after telling Frampton that if his story was true it was inconceivable that he would not have told it earlier, he sentenced him to death.
As Frampton was taken to his appointment with the hangman, he waved to his mother who was sitting at the back of the court. But Frampton never kept his appointment. Although his appeal failed, he was reprieved and the death sentence commuted to life imprisonment by the home secretary Sir William Joynson-Hicks, whose constituency was Twickenham.
Although Pat had a violent temper — a temper bad enough to try any man’s patience — she undoubtedly met a foul death. But did her husband Harry really mean to kill her on that April day only two years after their wedding?
The jury believed that at least he meant to do her grievous harm. So did the judge, who asked such pointed questions about Harry’s “accident” story. But at 23, Harry must have been a frightened young man. Perhaps fear sealed his lips until the day he realised that he was fighting to escape from the shadow of the gallows.
And by then nobody would believe him. Perhaps the best way to end the story of the young couple, whose romance ended in pools of blood on a dirty street corner, is in the words the newspapers used in 1928: A tragedy.