The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Mrs Staunton

Mrs Staunton

A carte-de-visite portrait of Harriet Staunton, the victim in the notorious Penge Murder Mystery.

With the help of her mother, Harriet Staunton née Richardson had managed to cultivate an air of ladylike respectability despite her learning difficulties and personality disorders. Having inherited a legacy of £5000 from a great-aunt, she proved an attractive proposition when she met fortune hunter Louis Staunton in 1873. The couple were married in 1875 but two years later Harriet was dead, starved to death by her husband and his relatives, who had kept her locked in an upstairs bedroom, neglected and filthy, in a remote house in Kent. At the last moment, they took Harriet to a guesthouse in Penge, rather than have her die at home, but the landlady became suspicious and reported the death to the police.

The ensuing trial ended with a guilty verdict and the murderers were sentenced to death, but when the medical evidence was later questioned this was commuted to penal servitude for life. Patrick Staunton, Louis’s younger brother, died in prison in 1881, aged 28. Elizabeth Staunton, Patrick’s wife, was released in 1883 and Louis left prison in 1897. He died in 1934, at the age of 83.

Photographed by King, location unspecified.

Code: 123931
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