THE Brighton trunk murders of 1934 shook the town after the body of a woman was found in a suitcase.

After the infamous crimes Brighton was dubbed 'the queen of the slaughtering places'  which was a play on 'the queen of watering places'. 

The devilish tale begins on a hazy summer morning in 1934 when an unclaimed wooden trunk caught the curious nose of William Joseph Vinnicombe.

The foul-smelling luggage case was left at the lost property office in Brighton railway station, William quickly alerted the authorities to come and open the trunk.

Chief Inspector Robert (Bob) Donaldson opened the trunk to find the dismembered rotten torso of a woman.

Brighton Police hastily alerted other authorities of the body and it quickly transpired that her legs were in another suitcase that was retrieved from King's Cross Railway Station. 

When other stations were alerted a suitcase at King's Cross railway station was found to contain the legs.

The woman's head and arms were never found. 

Media reports dubbed the victim 'the girl with the pretty feet' or simply 'pretty feet' because the corpse was believed to have had beautiful 'dancer's feet'.

The horrid crime gets worse.

The post-mortem, conducted by Sir Bernard Spilsbury, revealed that the woman was about 25-years-old and five months pregnant.

Chief Inspector Donaldson suspected a local abortionist named Massiah based on what was known about him and asked officers to watch him secretly. 

One officer drafted from Hove, confronted Massiah, expecting him to come quietly but instead the doctor gave the policeman a list of names. 

The policeman did not tell Donaldson, who heard only when he was warned by a senior officer to back off.

Massiah quickly moved from Brighton to London where he killed a woman whilst he was performing an abortion, however he was never prosecuted. 

He remained on the General Medical Register and was removed only after he failed to re-register in 1952.

Spilsbury, always on the lookout for evidence of illegal abortions, described no evidence of interference with the pregnancy of the murdered woman.

He also stated the dismemberment showed that the murdered would have had no particular anatomical skill.

Neither the victim nor her murderer was ever identified.

This crime, although unrelated to the next, lead to the discovery of a second trunk murder. 


The corpse found in the second trunk was victim Violet Kaye who was a dancer and sex-walker from London. 

Her partner was 26-year-old Toni Mancini who worked as a waiter and bouncer but had a  dark side outlined by his criminal record for theft and loitering. 

His real name was Cecil Louis England but he was known to go by a few different names to enable his crimes. 

The couple had a tempestuous relationship and moved to Brighton together in September 1933 and lived at various addresses in the city.

One bust-up occurred on 10 May 1934 at the Skylark Café where Toni worked on the seafront. 

Intoxicated Violet stormed in to the establishment accusing him of infidelity with a teenage waitress, Elizabeth Attrell.

Violet was never seen alive again. 

The following day Toni told his friends that she had fled to Paris after the fight, the swine then gave all of Violets clothes and belongings to Elizabeth, the waitress he was having an affair with. 

Violet's sister-in-law also received a telegram which said: "Going abroad. Good job. Sail Sunday. Will write. --Vi".

It was later revealed that this had been sent from Brighton that morning, by which time Violet was already dead.

Twisted Toni had murdered Violet and chopped her body up, ensuring it would fit in a trunk which he placed at the foot of his bed. 

According to visitiors he used the trunk as a coffee table, despite the stench and leaking fluids.

When police were alerted of Violet's disappearance Toni was questioned by the police - he panicked and went of the run. 

Police found Violet's remains in the lodgings where Toni had been staying, he was later arrested in South East London.

The post mortem was also carried out by Sir Bernard Spilsbury.

Toni's trial started in December 1934 in Lewes Assizes and lasted five days.

After two and a quarter hours the jury returned a verdict of not guilty however 40 years later Toni admitted the murder to a journalist at the News of the World.

He explained that during a blazing row with Kaye, she had attacked him with the hammer he had used to break coal for their fire.

It was said he had wrestled the hammer from her, but when she had demanded it back, he had thrown it at her, hitting her on the left temple.

Have you heard of any historic Brighton murders? Let us know in the comments or email