The news that a firm of solicitors is suing an insurance company over allegedly dealing direct with their clients reminds me of the general cupidity of clients who believe that a £5 note in their pocket is better than £10 in their solicitor’s client account.

A good example was the small-time pimp, womaniser and gangster Tony Mancini, aka Jack Notyre, aka another half a dozen names, who in 1934 was charged with the Brighton trunk murder. Violette Kaye had been living with Mancini before she disappeared in early July that year. Her body was found with severe head wounds in a trunk in a house in Kemp Street on 15 July. Defended, quite brilliantly,

by Norman Birkett, Mancini claimed he panicked when he found her dead in the flat they shared and, fearing no man with a criminal record would get a square deal from the police, he packed her into a trunk and moved. He thought she might have been killed by a client.

A week after his acquittal Mancini got married, and he later toured fairgrounds billed as ‘Tony Mancini, the Infamous Brighton Trunk Murder Man’. As part of his act he pretended to use a guillotine to cut off his wife’s head. That ended when he received three months with hard labour for stealing a watch.

Before his trial the press had been wholly against him and one newspaper had claimed that Mancini – who had no convictions for violence – had been involved in the stabbing of a man in Soho: a clear case of libel. His solicitor wrote to the newspaper threatening proceedings, which would certainly have resulted in substantial damages. Instead of letting his

lawyer handle the case, Mancini reverted to type and could not resist taking the 200 ten-shilling notes that the paper’s representative counted out before him in exchange for acknowledgement of full and final settlement.

Years later Mancini admitted he had killed Violette Kaye in a quarrel, but then retracted that confession.

James Morton is a writer and former criminal defence solicitor