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The Moat Farm Murder (Paperback)

P&S History > Social History P&S History > True Crime World History

By Anthony Payne
Imprint: Pen & Sword True Crime
Pages: 144
Illustrations: 30 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781036106805
Published: 31st August 2024


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Samuel Herbert Dougal had a successful military career lasting over 20 years in the Royal Engineers, where he rose to the rank of Quartermaster-Sergeant. But he was also a forger, embezzler, thief, arsonist, serial womaniser and murderer. After leaving the army he preyed on well-off older women and one of them – Camille Cecile Holland – would become the central figure and victim of the Moat Farm Murder. In 1899, Dougal persuaded her to purchase Coldhams Farm, an isolated property at Clavering, Essex, which they renamed “The Moat Farm” and which she supposed was to be their love-nest. Instead, she disappeared shortly after they moved in, with Dougal reporting that she had gone travelling on a sudden whim. He also installed his real wife Sarah at the Moat Farm; she was his third wife and it is likely that he poisoned both the others whilst serving in Canada. He then began to systematically ransack Miss Holland’s bank account using forged cheques, as well as selling off her substantial investments with forged letters to brokers and putting the farm into his own name. The womanising continued unabated and became the stuff of local legend.

Four years later, when Miss Holland’s funds were used up, Dougal tried to flee the country but was arrested at the Bank of England trying to change high value banknotes. After an unsuccessful attempt at escape on the way to the police station, he remained in custody for several months while an unsatisfactory trial for fraud dragged on before the Magistrates Bench. At last the police decided to look for a body, spending weeks to no avail dragging the moats which surrounded the farmhouse. At the very moment when the trial for fraud hung on a thread, Miss Holland was discovered in a filled-in drainage ditch with a bullet in her skull. Public hysteria was at fever-pitch and sightseers came in thousands from all over England. An inquest and trial for murder followed swiftly; Dougal was convicted and executed in July 1903. His last word was “Guilty”.

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About Anthony Payne

Anthony Payne was Professor of Anatomy at Glasgow University until his retirement in 2012. He was an active researcher in several scientific fields, writing over a hundred publications and travelling widely as a speaker and examiner. He is the great grandson of Superintendent Alexander Gray Daniels, the senior uniformed officer in the area at the time of the Moat Farm case and has drawn on a number of family documents and photographs in compiling this account.

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