James Hatton was a small unremarkable man, employed as a cinema usher at the local picture Palace, The Electric, near to his Flat in Holland Park. By all accounts he was happy with the hand life had dealt him. The main reason for this was the woman he was married to, Evelyn. In today's parlance, James was punching well above his weight and although now in her late thirties Evelyn was still a very attractive woman, noted for her immaculate appearance, and they seemed a very happily married and adoring couple who lived in quiet domesticity in their £4 per week rented rooms.
Number 44 Duke Street, St James is a small flat above an art dealers. Back in 1944 the flat in a much sort after location was available for short term letting by a local agency. In mid November a very stylish looking woman entered their offices and asked to be shown around the Duke Street property. After inspection she entered into an agreement to rent the flat for nine weeks at £9.00 per week and signed the contract as Mrs E Clayton.
Two weeks later the tenant complained about a leaky tap, so a member of the management company called around to fix it. He let himself in and made his way to the kitchen and proceeded to fix the tap. Before letting himself out he peered round the open bedroom door and saw the form of a fully clothed woman lying on the floor face down. Either the man was a bit of an idiot, or women sleeping off a heavy night on the town was a common sight in St James' flats. The man believed the latter and without investigating further let himself out. What makes this even more bizarre is that he left a note to the tenant admonishing them for allowing guests to "sleep it off" in the flat unattended.
Three days later the lettings manager called to make sure everything was to the tenants satisfaction and receiving no answer let himself in. He looked around the bedroom door and found the woman still lying on the floor. He examined her and found that she was dead. The lettings manager identified the body as the tenant confirming her name as Mrs Clayton. Few personal effects were found in the flat and nothing to identify any relatives.
Colville Terrace in Notting Hill is today a very up market place to live but in the 1940s it was mostly seedy small flats and bedsit's. One such room on the upper floors was occupied by a Mr and Mrs Hatton. The Landlady had rented the room to Mrs Hatton, but had never seen her husband.
Back at 44 Duke Street the body of Mrs Clayton was taken away and a short statement was issued to the press stating that they believed that Mrs Clayton was the victim of a robbery and that she had died from the shock.
The police investigation was hampered by the time that the body had lain in the flat unnoticed and were not able to pinpoint the time or date of death. The man who had fixed the tap came under immediate suspicion. The fact that he had not noticed that the woman's legs had been trussed together with a bed sheet was a bit perplexing. He was interviewed at length, but was eventually released and removed from the suspects list.
The investigating officer who had very little information to base his enquiries on showed a photo of the dead woman to a colleague who had previously worked in West End Vice. He confirmed that Mrs Clayton was a high-class prostitute known as Eve who had plied her trade around Piccadilly since the early 1930s. Enquiries revealed a very secretive woman with no strong friendships, but she was popular enough both with the working girls and her very affluent and discreet customers, some of them from the very highest levels of society, but in this case, the client appeared to have murdered her.
The police were stumped when a small unremarkable man entered Saville Row police station and presented a photograph of his wife who had been missing for the past four days.
The man was James Hatton, remember him? The very emotional man had taken the photograph to every police station in west London and told the sergeant that her absence was entirely out of character.
The likeness struck a chord with the sergeant and he soon unearthed the photograph of the murdered woman in Duke Street. Incredibly they were one and the same. It appeared that Evelyn Hatton had been living a double life of a happily married housewife and Eve Clayton, a high-class prostitute.
Poor old James wasn't only confronted with his wife's double life but was questioned as a murder suspect, although quickly discounted. At a complete loss and without a credible suspect, the police seemed to have turned to a rather convenient get out used at the time, that of an unknown American serviceman. The theory put forward at the time was that Eve had picked up a GI and taken him back to the Duke Street flat. Once there the serviceman had robbed her and while restraining her she had suffered a heart attack. This went against the both the verdict of the inquest, that she had been strangled and also those who knew her. The few that did attested that Eve was not in the habit of picking up a casual client of the type put forward by the police.
And there the matter seems to have been closed. There was no arrest and no more column inches about the murder, all in all a very sad case, doubly so for the unknowing husband. I did a little bit of digging and came up with some more information, that sheds a little more light on the life of Evelyn Hatton.
At this point I'll just clarify the details.
Evelyn Clayton Marries James Hatton and they have a daughter. In 1944 the couple are living in a rented flat in Holland Park. At the same time Evelyn Hatton has also rented rooms in Colville Terrace, Notting Hill in the name of Mr & Mrs Hatton, although Mr Hatton has never been seen. Evelyn also rents the flat in Duke Street under the name of Mrs E Clayton, where sadly she dies. I also found a record from 1939 which muddies the water slightly. It shows Evelyn in 1939 in a rented room in Fitzrovia. She seems unsure of her surname and looks as if she's given it as Clayton and then changed it to Hatton. She has also said that she's single and appears to be much older than newspaper reports suggest. I thought at first I might have the wrong person, but it's the only entry in the database that fits. The thing that swung it for me is her occupation, Dance Hostess.