“I never liked him much and battered in his head”
Swiss-born Maria De Roux arrived in England in the 1840s and she met and married Frederick Manning, a former publican and thief, at St James’s Church, Piccadilly, London, on 27 May 1847. They lived at Minver Place in Bermondsey on the proceeds of robberies perpetrated by Fredrick Manning. A regular visitor to Minver Place was an Irish docker named Patrick O’Connor. He had been Maria Manning’s swain before her marriage and continued to court her. As well as his work at the docks, O’Connor made money as a moneylender. On 8 August 1849 O’Connor received a note from Maria inviting him to dine at her home the next day.
There Maria shot him and Frederick “found [him] moaning in the kitchen. I never liked him much, and battered in his head with a ripping chisel”. They buried O’Connor in quicklime under the kitchen floor and then went to his home in Greenwood Street on the Mile End Road and stole £300 in cash, two gold watches and £4,000 in railway shares.
When O’Connor failed to turn up to work, the police visited the Mannings but they feigned ignorance of his disappearance. Marie then left her husband and ran off to Edinburgh while he went to St Laurence on the island of Jersey. The corpse of O’Connor was found on 17 August 1849 and a hue and cry followed after which the Mannings were quickly arrested.
3 Minver Place, Bermondsey, London, England.
Thursday 9 August 1849
At their trial, which began on 25 October 1849, Frederick Manning laid the blame on his wife while she said that, as a foreign citizen, she was not subject to the jurisdiction of a British court. The judge, Mr Justice Creswell, dismissed the argument because of her marriage to a British subject. In the dock neither prisoner would look at the other.
The trial was short. On 26 October both were sentenced to death. They kissed and made up 30 minutes before William Calcraft hanged the pair at Horsemonger Lane Prison on 13 November 1849 before an unruly crowd of 50,000.
Among the spectators was Charles Dickens who wrote to The Times denouncing “the wickedness and levity of the immense crowd”. Maria Manning was hanged in a black satin dress, a decision that caused that type of dress to go out of fashion for some years.