Following are the tragic accounts of two actresses murdered in London under very similar circumstances by jealous lovers.
Daisy Montague Babs Taylor
Isobel 'Daisy' Montague was a young actress who, for a number of years, was employed as a ballet girl at the Empire Theatre in London. Originally given only a small part in the chorus, she later featured in a scene where she rode a small tricycle across the stage with another young woman seated behind her. She lived in an apartment in a house at 18 Regent Square, which she shared with Augusta Herbert, another ballet girl. Her brother, John Montague, a law writer, also lived in the same building.
In 1888, when she was just seventeen, Daisy had met a young man named Leo Percy, who lived at nearby Russell Square. Percy was an electrician who hailed from a wealthy and well-connected family. Romance blossomed, and before long the pair became engaged, much to the chagrin of Percy's parents, who did not approve of his association with a ballet girl. Finding that he could not sway his parents, Percy moved out of their home and took a room in a lodging house at Swinton Street where he could remain close to his sweetheart.
The couple spent much time together over the next few weeks, but Daisy soon found that Percy's seemingly quiet and unassuming manner hid a darkly brooding nature and a tendency toward obsessive jealously - qualities which Daisy found overwhelming and which led to her becoming increasingly estranged from him. She attempted to break the relationship on a number of occasions, only to then succumb to his entreaties to resume their relationship sometime after. Eventually, however, Daisy determined she had finally had enough of him and found the resolve to break from him permanently, spurning all further attempts at reconciliation. When he could make no headway with her, Percy became increasingly distraught. Unable to eat, sleep or properly care for himself he became ill and unable to leave his room, whereupon his three sisters began paying regular visits to share the burden of nursing him back to health - in body if not, as subsequent events would testify, in mind.
For Daisy the effect of the break was altogether different. Away from the overbearing burden of his jealousy, she was able to make new friends and enjoy her life more freely. But Percy was not to be cast aside so easily, and upon recovering his health began to pester her constantly, despite her efforts to make it clear she wanted no further part of him. Some months went by, whereupon Daisy met another well-to-do young gentleman of an altogether sunnier disposition, Samuel Barnett Garcia. Again romance bloomed, and Garcia took to meeting her at the stage door after her performances in order to escort her home. On at least one occasion this led to Garcia coming into conflict with Percy who was continuing to pester Daisy and also showed up at the stage door, leading to a heated exchange of words. Still Percy would not let go, and as Daisy's relationship with Garcia grew, so Percy's jealousy festered and ate away at his reason. He began spying on Daisy, bringing matters to a head when he apparently observed Daisy giving Garcia a kiss, bringing home the extent of his loss. From letters recovered later, it seems he took some few days in preparing himself to exact his revenge.
That revenge came on the evening of September 20th, 1893. On that night Garcia had waited for Daisy outside the stage-door of the Empire, as usual, in order to escort her home. Daisy came out of the theatre at around half-past-eleven, whereupon they waited a few more minutes for Daisy's flat-mate, Augusta, to join them before beginning the journey home - the little party arriving at 18 Regent Square just after midnight. Augusta went inside immediately to light up, whilst Daisy said she would follow in a few minutes after taking a stroll around the square with Garcia. Tragically, Daisy would never return to the house. Unknown to the lovers, Percy was laying in wait, hiding in the shadows of the doorway at Number 23. As the couple strolled by he stepped out and began to trail them. As they drew level with the parlour window at Number 28, Percy levelled a large calibre handgun at them and fired without warning. Who he was aiming at is uncertain as that initial shot went astray, but as Garcia turned toward the sound a second shot caught him in the forehead and he fell to the ground, mortally wounded. Miss Montague let out a shreik followed by a cry of "Murder! Police!". As Percy levelled the gun in her direction she turned to run, but before she could take a step Percy's third shot struck her in the small of the back, travelling through her chest, and she, too, collapsed to the ground. Finally, Percy put the barrel of the gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger a fourth and final time, blowing out his own brains.
(The above account is pieced together from the testimony of several witnesses, particularly that of Mrs. Winnie S. Winterbotham, of 24, Regent Square, who witnessed the shooting from her balcony).
Among the first to arrive at the scene after the tragedy was P.C. John Lorie who had been on duty nearby and ran to the scene upon hearing the shots, arriving only moments after the final shot was fired. Both men were laying in pools of blood streaming from obvious head wounds, but Daisy's wound was obscured by her clothing which was also soaking up any blood, consequently P.C. Lorie was not immediately aware that she had also been shot, and assumed she had merely fainted from fright. Nevertheless, he immediately summoned cabs to take all three victims to the Royal Free Hospital on the Grays Inn Road. At the house, Augusta had heard the gun-shots and, concerned for Daisy, ventured outside to find her. Seeing people gathering across the square near the church, she made her way there to find her friend laying on her back on the pavement, Garcia and Percy likewise laying prostrate nearby. Augusta then returned to the house to rouse Daisy's brother from his sleep and inform him of the calamity which had befallen his sister. By the time John Montague arrived on the scene, all three victims had already been despatched to the hospital.
Daisy did not speak after the incident but was conscious and able to stand with assistance as she was loaded into the cab summoned to take her to the hospital. Tragically, she was rapidly losing blood internally and by the time the cab arrived at the hospital life was found to be extinct. Garcia also arrived there beyond further aid. Only Percy arrived at the hospital still clinging to life, but he too expired about an hour after.
At the subsequent inquest, Percy's brother gave in to evidence a letter from Leo which had been pushed under his door on the night of the murders. The fact that the letter was dated over a week earlier, suggested that Leo had been planning his actions for some time. The letter read:
It seems certain that Percy had intended from the outset to kill both Daisy and himself, in his fevered state of mind beleiving that the only way they could be together was in death. Whether Garcia had figured in Percy's plan or was just a victim of opportunity is less certain. After considering the evidence, the jury returned a verdict that Percy had committed the double murder and suicide whilst of unsound mind.
Babs Taylor (real name Sophia Erica Taylor) began her theatrical career as a chorus girl at the Hippodrome and, later, Gaiety theatres. Whilst at the latter she met and married Mr. Harry Walters, a London motor-garage owner, but this marriage was subsequently annulled.
Although her career was less than stellar, she did acheive some prominence and in 1918 was understudying the famous, and exceptionally glamourous, Gaby Deslys in "Suzette," a musical comedy at the Globe Theatre. At this time she was eating in the finest restaurants and staying at the best London hotels, being particularly fond of The Carlton. Later, she took an apartment in the fashionable Morpeth mansions.
few years earlier. She became a regular visitor to the Palais de Danse at Hammersmith, as well as frequenting various popular London night clubs including the Lotus and the Four Hundred. At the Palais she met George Augustus Kelly, an American (born in Omaha) who had flown in the War for the Royal Air Force but who was then acting as manager at the dance-hall. Both were superb dancers and a partnership was formed wherein they embarked upon a new joint career giving exhibition dances in London as well as touring in the provinces.
For a time the couple lived together as man and wife at a house in Newman Street, London, but cracks soon began to appear in their relationship. Kelly was an inveterate gambler who drank heavily and had a propensity to violence, whilst Babs was a beautiful woman who attracted many admirers and enjoyed flirting with them. It was an unhappy mix and Babs many admirers inflamed Kelly's jealousy to the point where she confided in a friend that "I am very unhappy, and Kelly is so strange. He has hit me many times and threatened me. I do not know what to do."
She did not remain undecided for long, however, and left Kelly - taking a flat on her own in St. James's Street. But Kelly was in no mood to let her go, needing the money they earned from their dancing partnership to pay his gambling debts. He regularly turned up at the flat at St. James's Street, and on a few occasions was granted admission although Babs had no intention of rekindling their relationship.
In fact she had already moved on. At a ball at Covent Garden she had met Allan Leslie, a former Captain in the Gordon Highlanders and a man of independent means - Babs own financial reserves were, by this time, at a low ebb. Before long, they were planning to live together and were in the process of taking a flat that they had selected in Brighton. Kelly was aware of this new liasion but was not yet ready to give up on her. He wrote her numerous letters, some pleading, some threatening, and continued to try to impose himself upon her.
Eventually, however, it seemed Babs ordeal might be nearing an end when he wrote to her:
But Babs by now had no wish ever to meet up with Kelly again, whom she feared might harm her, and took a room at the Berkeley hotel in order avoid him until his departure. On Friday, 17th December, 1920, she spent the day on a shopping expedition with Captain Leslie and intended to sleep at the hotel again that night but needed to return to her flat to pick up a few items. She went there in a cab with Captain Leslie and his friend, Mr. Johnson. The gentlemen waited in the cab outside whilst Babs went in to collect her necessaries and give instructions to her maid, Miss Maggie Robinson.
Babs failed, however, to notice Kelly who, according to the later testimony of the maid, had been loitering outside all day and had called at the flat several times asking for her. Kelly followed Babs into the building, and when she left the door to her apartment open he rushed inside and followed her into the bedroom. A struggle ensued during which the maid heard a cry for help and rushed into the room to find her mistress pinned down on the bed with Kelly strangling her. Bravely, she intervened and succeeded in pulling him off.
She was helping her mistress to her feet, with her back to Kelly, when a shot rang out, Kelly having taken out an automatic piston and fired over Miss Robinson's shoulder striking Babs in the head. Appalled, Miss Robinson turned to Kelly in time to see him fall to the ground, having turned the the gun upon himself. She then ran out into the street to the cab where captain Leslie was waiting and told him "For God's sake come up. Miss Babs has been shot."
But it was too late for Babs. She was rushed to Charing Cross hospital but her wound was fatal and she died a few hours later. Kelly died at the scene.
The precariousness of Kelly's state of mind at the time of the crime could be seen from an unposted letter to his mother that was subsequently discovered in his flat by the police, and which read:
Other items discovered there included a photograph of Miss Taylor, twenty indecent photographs (not of Miss Taylor), four indecent books, two packets of white powder and a visiting card which bore the name of Reggie de Veulle - who had famously been charged two years earlier with supplying the cocaine that brought about the death of actress Billie Carleton. The white powder was analysed at the Government laboratory and found to consist of cocaine mixed with hydro-chloride and boric acid (a common mixture for cocaine).
The subsequent enquiry at the Westminster Coroner's Court recorded verdicts of Murder and Fele de se (suicide) against George Augustus Kelly. Incredibly, Babs Taylor, was the fifth of six actresses (which group also included Billie Carleton) who had been placed under the threat of an alleged gypsy curse to die in tragic circumstances within the space of two years - see "The Curse of Suzette."