North Laine History

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The Murder of Violet Kaye in Kemp St

If you wandered down Kemp Street today, murder would be furthest from your mind, as this is one of the quietest streets in North Laine. Yet just over 70 years ago there was a most unusual murder linked to the street. Early on the 16th July 1934, the complete corpse of a woman was discovered in a trunk in a house in Kemp Sreet. The Daily Express had been given a tip off which they had reported to the police. When the house at 52 Kemp Street was searched, the body of what the Express described as a professional toe dancer, known as Violet Kaye, was found. Violet, whose proper name was Violet Saunders, 42 years old and said to be quite attractive, had been living in a basement flat near to the Lewes Road. She had been killed and the body left in a trunk. She had been hit over the head.

Recently divorced

As a dancer Violet toured the country in revue shows and was said, by neighbours when questioned by the police, to have been on her way to an engagement in France. Violet was the eldest of 16 children and when she was killed, a letter was found addressed to her mother whom she had not seen for several years. It told of her recent divorce and re-marriage.

Tony Mancini arrested

Tony Mancini, a friend of Violet's, was arrested for the murder but claimed that he had found Violet dead on his bed at 44 Park Crescent, panicked and then took the body to Kemp Sreet. Mancini was put on trial but found not guilty.

Several years ago I interviewed a local resident who in the 1930s came across Mancini whilst she herself was with a touring circus. She claimed that Mancini had told her that he had committed the crime. Mancini did in 1976 publicly confess in a newspaper article to the murder.

A former industrial street

Today Kemp Sreet is an attractive street of small terraced houses built in the 1840s, but on closer inspection the former industrial usage of some of the properties can be clearly seen.  No 34 has an original sign visible showing that one of its former lives was as a warehouse or butchers for Argentinian frozen meat. Next door at No 35 a sign for Evening News is clearly visible. Such properties would have had many uses during their lifetimes. A hundred years ago No 34 was the Camden Arms, whilst No 35 was a van works. Opposite them then was another pub at No 29, the Blue Anchor. A further thirty years before then in 1869, No 35 was in use as a corn and coal merchant (with Nos 29 and 34 being pubs).

Violet kaye