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The infamous murder at Bournemouth in the mid-1930's has been the source of a number of books, play, radio and television programmes.

Francis Rattenbury was born in Leeds in 1867 and started his architecture apprenticeship with the firm of Lockwood and Mawson in 1884. In 1891 he left the firm to pursue his career with some success in vancouver, Canada.

He married Florence Nunn, daughter of a British army officer in Victoria, in 1898 and the couple had two children. In 1923, with the couple already living seperate lives, the 57-year-old Francis Rattenbury met and was swept off his feet by the already twice-married, 27-year-old beauty, Alma Pakenham from Kamloops and his family and business relationships decayed as the scandal progressed. Florence was reluctant to agree to a divorce and, when Francis secured this in 1925, he dissappeared from Victoria with Alma and their infant son, born the previous year, to resurface two years later. Shunned by former friends and business collegues alike, they left Canada to return to England in 1929.

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Francis and Alma settled in Villa Madiera, 5 Manor Road, Bournemouth but Francis never managed to recover the former success of his architectural career. Alma advertised for a "daily willing lad, 14-18, for housework. Scout-trained preferred." in the Bournemouth Daily Echo in September 1934 and employed a local 18-year-old youth, George Percy Stoner, who soon became Alma's lover, although she was two decades his senior. Alma took Stoner to [[London]] for a four-day weekend on March 19th, 1935, where they stayed at the Royal Palace Hotel, Kensington, registered as brother and sister.

On March 25th, 1935, Stoner was meant to drive Alma and Francis to Bridport to visit Francis' friend Jenks who was in a position to advance money for a building project which Rattenbury had conceived. The trip would entail an overnight stay which bothered Stoner considerably as, despite Alma's assurances to the contrary, he imagined Alma would have to share a bedroom with her husband.

On the evening of March 24th, 1935, the elderly Francis was discovered by Alma in an armchair in his sitting room in Hove - he had been struck a number of blows from behind with a heavy mallet. Francis, still half-conscious, was removed to a local nursing home where he died of his injuries several hours later.

Alma Rattenbury and her young lover were the obvious suspects and, both having confessed to having struck the fatal blows, were tried at the Old Bailey together, the trail causing a national sensation. The jury was out for only an hour before acquitting Alma (although the public were not in the mood to acuit her) and finding George Stoner the culprit. Stoner was duly sentenced to death by hanging despite the jury's recommendation of mercy.

The way in which the woman debauched the boy so that he slept with her every night with her six-year-old son in the room, and the husband who had his own bedroom remaining cynically indifferent . . .

. . . James Agate, the famous drama critic, writing in the London Daily Express . . .

. . . she described how, trying to bring her husband round, she first accidentally trod on his false teeth and then tried to put them back into his mouth so that he could speak to her.

Mr Justice Humphreys summed up the popular feeling of the time when he described the weekend in March that Alma and Stoner spent in [[London]] as ". . . the orgy at the Royal Palace Hotel . . . ".

Even though Alma had been acquitted, the press portrayed her as an evil seductress and her reputation had been destroyed and she had no reason to believe that her young lover George would not be executed. Early in the morning on June 4th, 1935, Alma made her way to Three Arch Bend on the river Avon in Christchurch - so named because of the railway bridge of three arches there on the line to London - and stabbed herself six times, piercing her heart three times, before falling into the shallow water to drown. She had no way of knowing that Stoner would be reprieved from hang-man's noose.

It has been reported that the ghost of a woman has been seen sitting in the long grass by the water near the bridge on June evenings.

Convicted and sentenced to death by hanging, the British press depicted the murderes as the pathetic, slow-witted victim of Alma's lust and a petition, claiming the youth who ". . . might have been the son of any of us. . . was subjected to undue influence", raised three hundred and fifty thousand signiatures. The home secretary of the time submitted to public opinion and commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. A model prisoner, Stoner released into the army having served seven years of his sentence. He survived the war, returning to Bournemouth where he married and lived in the house where he had lived with his parents prior to taking up employment with the Rattenburys and the murder.

George Stoner was thrown back into the spotlight briefly in 1977 when Terence Rattigan based his last play, Cause Celebre, on the Rattenbury 1977 Stoner was recognized in the audience during a performance.

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1867Birth of Francis Mawson Rattenbury in Leeds
1884Francis Rattenbury begins his architecture apprenticeship with the Lockwood and Mawson Company, Canada
1891Francis Rattenbury leaves the Lockwood and Mawson Co (1884-) and moves to Vancouver, Canada
1898Francis Rattenbury marries Florence Nunn, daughter of a British army officer in Victoria
192357-year-old married Francis Rattenbury, with two children, meets twice-married, 27-year-old beauty, Alma Pakenham from Kamloops and is swept off his feet
1925Francis Rattenbury divorces his wife, leaving Victoria with Alma
1927Francis Rattenbury and Alma re-appear in Victoria but he is shunned by former friends and associates
1928Birth of a son to Francis and Alma Rattenbury
1929Death of Florence Rattenbury
1929Francis and Alma Rattenbury leave Canada for England with their son
1934.SepAlma Rattenbury advertises for daily willing lad, 14-18, for housework. Scout-trained preferred in the Bournemouth Evening Echo and employs George Stoner
1935.Apr.24Francis Rattenbury struck a number of blows from behind with a heavy mallet while in an armchair in the sitting room where he was discovered by Alma
Rattenbury remained half-conscious for several hours, dying in hospital
1935.May.27Trial at the Old Bailey of Alma rattenbury and George Stoner for the murder Alma\'s elderly husband, Francis
1935.Jun.04Alma Rattenbury, acquited of complicity in the murder of her husband by her lover, commits suicide by stabbing herself 6 times on the bank of the river Avon near Three Arch Bend, Christchurch
George Percy Stoner\\\'s sentence was commuted to imprisonment - Alma is reputed to haunt the spot of her death
1935.Jun.24George Stoner\'s appeal heard and dismissed
1935.Jun.25George Stoner death sentence commuted to imprisonment by the Home Secretary
1942George Percy Stoner, aged 26, having been a model prisoner having served 7 years for the murder of Francis Rattenbury, allowed to join the army
He survived the war, married, and settled down to a quiet life
1977Terence Rattigan bases his last play, Cause Celebre, on the Rattenbury murder
George Percy Stoner, convicted of the murder in 1935, spotted one night in the audience
1980Michael Havers, Peter Shankland, and Anthony Barrett publish their book, Tragedy in Three Voices: The Rattenbury Murder

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Tragedy In Three Voices The Rattenbury Murder
  by Micheal Havers, publisher
William Kimber, London, 1980

Francis Rattenbury and British Columbia
  by Anthony A Barrett + Rhodri Windsor Liscombe, publisher U.B.C. Press, 1983

Trial of Alma Rattenbury and George Percy Stoner
  by W Hodge, publisher London, 1935

  by Terry Reksten, publisher Sono Nis Press, Victoria, 1978

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