Furnace, Samuel James
It was the evening of Tuesday 3rd January 1933 and Mr Wynne, of 30
Hawley Crescent, Camden Town, was alarmed to find his garden shed on
fire. After the fire brigade had put out the blaze they found the
charred body of a man sitting on a high chair in front of the remains of
a desk. Mr Wynne rented the shed to Sam Furnace, a small-time builder.
The body was identified as that of Sam Furnace by one of his tenants and
a note was found which said 'Goodbye all. No work. No money. Sam J
A suspicious coroner, Mr Bentley Purchase, decided to examine the body
himself. He determined that it was neither suicide or Furnace that he
was dealing with. For a start there was a bullet hole in the corpse's
back and its teeth were those of a man younger than the 42-year-old
A post-mortem showed that the man had been shot twice and had been
dead before the fire was started. Examination of the clothes on the body
revealed a post office savings book in the name of Walter Spatchett and
a local doctor confirmed the identity of the dead man. Spatchett was 25-years-old
when he had vanished, with £40 in his pocket, the day before the fire.
A nation-wide manhunt was instituted for Furnace. He made the mistake of
sending a letter to his brother-in-law, Charles Tuckfield, asking him to
bring some clothes and to meet him in Southend. He took the letter to
the police and, shadowed by the police, kept the appointment with
Furnace who was quickly apprehended. He was taken to Kentish Town police
Furnace's story was that Spatchett was in the shed with him, they both
did work for the same firm, when Furnace's Webley revolver had
accidentally discharged. Thinking that he had killed the man he decided
that he would use the opportunity to escape from his precarious
financial position by faking suicide. He set fire to the shed, left a
suicide note and threw the revolver in the Regent's Canal.
Sam Furnace was never brought to trial. The night after making the
statement he asked for his overcoat to be returned to him. Police
checking his cell at 7am saw him raise something to his mouth. The cell
was hurriedly unlocked to find Furnace writhing on the floor. He had
swallowed hydrochloric acid which had been in a small bottle sewn into
the lining of the coat. He died in St. Pancras hospital twenty-four
hours later, on Tuesday 18th January 1933. A coroner's jury found
Furnace guilty of Spatchett's murder.
Faked Suicide - Samuel James Furnace
Samuel James Furnace murdered another man in order to
use the body to fake his own suicide. He was a builder who ran his own
business and had got into serious financial difficulties. The only way
he could see to get out of this situation was to disapear.
The crime was planned and he had even written a
suicide note. Furnace rented a shed from which he ran his business. When
the owner of the shed saw it was on fire he attempted to enter but found
it locked. Another man broke down the door only to find the inner office
was also locked. Inside they found the badly burned body which they
assumed was Furnace. When the body was examined it was found to have a
bullet wound in the shoulder and was in fact dead before the fire was
started. A wallet found on the body suggested he was called Walter
Furnace was soon picked up in Southend and taken into
custody. He said that he had been cleaning his gun while talking to
spatchett when the gun went off. He had panicked and thought that if he
made it look like suicide then no-one would know. When he was arrested
he had a large sum of money and his victims watch on him which made it
look more like a robbery than an accident.
The case never came to trial because Furnace killed
himself while in custody by drinking hydrochloric acid from a bottle he
had on his person. The verdict at the inquest on the death of Spatchett
did however record a verdict of murder against Furnace.
Suicide or murder?
Just before 8pm on 3 January 1933, smoke was seen
billowing from a shed in a builders’ yard in Hawley Crescent, Camden
Town, London. When firemen arrived to extinguish the blaze they found
the body of a man, seated on a tall chair in front of a high table.
Outside they found a suicide note signed ‘Furnace’
which read “Dear all. No money, no work, goodbye.” The premises had
indeed been rented to a Samuel James Furnace, a self employed builder
and contractor. His lodger identified his remains, and the case was
A fatal wound
When Bentley Purchase, the district coroner examined
the body, he found a bullet hole in the victim’s left side. The police
immediately searched the dead man’s clothes and discovered a charred
post office book, in the name of W Spatchett, and a wallet, empty except
for several scraps of paper, also bearing the same name. Spatchett and
Furnace were both missing.
Police brought in Spatchett’s dentist, who quickly
confirmed from dental records that the body was his. Investigation
revealed that Spatchett and Samuel Furnace had been friends. It was
known that on the afternoon he went missing, Spatchett would have been
carrying takings from his rent collections; about £35.
His wallet, however, had been empty. Police were
dealing with a case of burglary and murder, and Samuel Furnace was the
Money becomes a motive
It transpired that Furnace’s business hadn’t been
going too well, and Spatchett had been bailing him out. Furnace also had
several expensive lady friends, despite being married. He had, however,
managed to renew his life insurance policy, and it was obvious to the
police that he had murdered Spatchett in an attempt to fake his own
death and get hold of the money.
A nationwide manhunt was launched. Police arrested
him in Southend and brought him to London, but while he was in police
custody he committed suicide by drinking hydrochloric acid he’d smuggled
in with him. His last words were “My dear wife”.