was attractive and middle-aged and had been having an affair with
Lawrence Fisher of Piddington, near Bicester. In early 1940 she
moved in with her lover who had left his wife, Dorothy, and
nineteen-year-old daughter, Freda. Fisher's wife and daughter
moved to the village of Matfield, about seven miles from Tonbridge
On the afternoon of 9th July
Ransom, carrying a shotgun wrapped in brown paper, went to the
cottage where her lover's family lived and enticed Dorothy and
Freda into the garden. She shot them both. As she reloaded the
shotgun the maid, Charlotte Saunders, ran into the garden and was
also shot by the woman. As Ransom fled, she dropped one of her
leather gloves and this was soon traced to her. A witness had
noticed a woman who had been behaving suspiciously outside the
cottage. The stranger had later caught the 4.25pm train to London.
At Ransom's trial at the Old
Bailey in November 1940 she appeared charged with three counts of
murder. She was found guilty and was sentenced to death. Florence
Ransom was later adjudged to be insane and was transferred to
People with guns
The woman with the gun is, of
course, a rarity. Even in American crime films the gangster's moll
seems to have no part to play beyond looking pretty and aiding and
abetting. She does not shoot her way out herself.
There are many records of women who have used
firearms in unpremeditated murder, but I can recall only one
notable trial where a woman deliberately went out seeking her
victims with a gun and she was eventually adjudged insane.
The trial was not well known because it
occurred at the height of the invasion scare in 1940, and bizarre
as the details were there was more important news for the tiny
newspapers of the time.
The story begins some time before war broke out
when a married couple, Mr. and Mrs. Fisher, who lived at
Twickenham, fell out. They went their own ways, and each began
living with a lover. Mrs. Fisher's companion, a foreigner, is of
no importance to the case, and indeed was hardly mentioned at the
trial. Mr. Fisher fell in love with a young widow, Florence Iris
Ouida Ransom. She was quite well off and owned a farm in
Perhaps for reasons of discretion Fisher did
not spend much time there. He took a cottage at Matfield, near
Tonbridge, Kent, and there Mrs. Ransom was in the habit of staying
Possibly through the dangers of invasion and
bombs the couple abandoned this practice early in 1940 and Mr.
Fisher went openly to live at his mistress' farm. Mrs. Fisher,
with a daughter aged nineteen, became the tenant of the Kent
cottage, the arrangement evidently being a perfectly friendly one,
for since the couple had sorted out their matrimonial troubles to
their own satisfaction they had been on good terms with one
another. In fact, as soon as the blitz started Mr. Fisher often
travelled down to the cottage to assure himself that all was well.
He also provided money so that a housekeeper could be engaged.
These visits apparently aroused the jealousy of
Mrs. Ransom. On July 8 she borrowed a gun from her brother,
ostensibly to shoot rabbits, and took the train to London.
No one knows exactly what her movements were
from the time she got on the train at Aylesbury until she arrived
back at the farm late the same night, except that a railway porter
made a rather unsatisfactory identification of her leaving
Tonbridge Station from which a bus could be taken to Matfield, and
a taxi driver thought he saw her taking the London train late in
But during that day death struck the cottage.
Shots in that area, crammed with troops manning the first defence
lines and training continually, went quite unnoticed, and the time
of the attack remains unknown beyond the vague estimate obtainable
from examination of the corpses later on.
While preparing tea for four people Mrs. Fisher
and her daughter had been shot in the back and the housekeeper had
half her skull blown off while standing or fleeing through an
adjacent coppice. The house was in terrific disorder, but nothing
of value was missing.
How the assailant, clearly on friendly terms as
the evidence of the tea things indicated, had contrived to load
and reload several times, still managing to kill the victims by
shots from the rear, is a mystery. There must have been many
seconds between each shot, and the housekeeper, who had been
attacked last and at very close range, would have had minutes in
which to escape.
The most valuable clue left in the cottage of
death was a woman's white leather glove. It was proved to be the
property of Mrs. Ransom.
Her defence at her Old Bailey trial in November
1940 was that for the whole of the day of the crime her mind had
been a complete bknk. This so familiar excuse when evidence is
damning was, I think, on this occasion probably true.
Mrs. Ransom had a record of mental instability
and had been a voluntary patient on a number of occasions. Her
appearance in the dock confirmed this view. She was a physically
beautiful woman with red hair, healthy-looking, but with a strange
brooding look in her eyes that betokened madness. Nevertheless she
endured hours of cross-examination without turning a hair.
Mr. Justice Tucker, in the absence of medical
evidence proving her insanity, had to sentence her to death, but
she was soon afterwards pronounced insane and was sent to
"The Guilty and the
Innocent", by William Bixley