Edmund O’Connor, an Irish solicitor of 100 years ago, appeared for William Podmore at the 1928 inquest on Vivian Messiter.

James Morton

James Morton

His client, alleged to have moved Messiter’s body, was only 5’ 3”, and the deceased a much bigger man. O’Connor persuaded the pathologist to try to move the remains, but all the doctor could manage was to tear the buttons off the man’s shirt. The inquest jury refused to name Podmore as the murderer and he was not rearrested for nearly a year.

Sadly, O’Connor fell prey to managing clerk and blackmailer William Hobbs, who by the mid-1930s had essentially acquired O’Connor’s practice and persuaded the lawyer to help forge a will of theatrical wig designer Willie Clarkson. When the scheme unravelled and there were suspicions that Clarkson had been murdered, O’Connor fled to Ireland. Destitute, he was retrieved by Chief Inspector Leonard Burt who bought O’Connor a razor, food and a clean shirt and tie, so he could be presentable when appearing on fraud charges before a Bow Street magistrate he’d known in better times.

O’Connor and Hobbs were convicted, Hobbs receiving five years and O’Connor seven for fraudulent conversion.

In his autobiography The Last Sergeant, Sergeant Sullivan provided a suitable epitaph: ‘He was not a criminal, but like so many of my race he was addicted to the habit of periodic bouts of intemperance, leaving in truth complete blanks in his memory.

James Morton is a writer and former criminal defence solicitor