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ALMA RATTENBURY & GEORGE STONER

 


Name:

George Stoner

AKA:

 

D.O.B.

 
Kill Total: 1

Kill date:

24th March 1935

Kill Place:

London

Status:

 

Occupation:

 

Victim:

 
D.O.B.  

 


 

Court:

 

Judge:

 

Prosecution:

 

Defence:

 

 


 

 

 

FACTFILE

 

Francis Mawson Rattenbury met Alma Pakenham in Canada, in 1923 and fell in love.

Alma was beautiful, talented and exotic. Still in her twenties, she already had lost one husband in the war and divorced a second.

She had served as a transport driver and nurse at the front, where she was twice wounded. An accomplished musician, Alma was visiting Victoria from her home in Vancouver to give a recital, but within weeks of their meeting she had set up shop in the capital as a music teacher.
Alma and Rattenbury carried on their affair openly, with no concern for public opinion or for his wife, Florence's feelings. When Florence refused to grant him a divorce, Rattenbury began entertaining his mistress at the family home in Oak Bay.
Florence finally gave in and granted Rattenbury his divorce.

In the spring of 1925, he and Alma married. But their affair had left them social pariahs, even after they had a son and settled into a respectable domesticity. At the end of 1929 they packed up and moved to England, settling in Bournemouth.
During the height of his success, Francis Mawson Rattenbury seemed an unlikely object of scandal. He had arrived in British Columbia from his native England in 1892, a 25-year-old architect with little experience but full of charm and self-confidence. Within ten months of his arrival he had entered, and won, a competition to design the new Parliament Building planned for Victoria. The commission was a great coup, and Rattenbury went on to establish a flourishing practice, designing such notable buildings as the Vancouver Court House (now the Vancouver Art Gallery), the Crystal Garden in Victoria, and assorted banks, homes and hotels all over the province.
England was not a cure for Rattenbury's discontent. As the years passed, he became a sulky, impotent, alcoholic old man, burdened with financial worries. Alma, on the other hand, was still young and enjoying success as the composer of popular songs. Inevitably, she took a lover, and her choice showed her usual carelessness. George Stoner was an 18-year-old school dropout, hired to be Rattenbury's chauffeur. Besotted with Alma, jealous of her husband, afraid that the two might reconcile and toss him out, he was a ticking bomb waiting to go off.


24th March 1935, The explosion occurred when George took a mallet and beat Rattenbury's head in while the architect sat in a drunken stupor. Both Alma and George were charged with murder. Their trial gave the British public everything it could have wanted: sex, drugs, celebrity and, in the end, tragedy.

After five days of titillating testimony, a jury took 50 minutes to find Alma innocent and her young lover guilty.
The story that began with a fateful meeting in the Empress Hotel on a winter evening in 1923 ended four days after the verdict when Alma committed suicide by stabbing herself through the heart and falling into the River Avon. Apparently she expected that Stoner would hang, as did the judge who sentenced him to death. But an outraged public blamed Alma for corrupting the boy and when presented with a clemency petition signed by 350 000 people, the Home Secretary agreed. Stoner got a life sentence instead, and was out of prison in seven years, the sole survivor of British Columbia's most notorious love triangle.

 

John, the son Alma had with Francis Rattenbury, was 6 at the time and present in the house on that fateful night.
In 2007, at the age of 78 he gave an interview in which he recalled the events of 1935.
Although understandably affected by the loss of both of his parents in such tragic circumstances he was able to follow in his father's footsteps and became a successful architect.

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