During the early hours, at about 4.00 AM, on July 8, 1895, 13 year old Robert Allen Coombes entered his mother’s bedroom and stabbed Emily Harriet Coombes to death. It happened at their house at 35 Cave Road, Plaistow in East London. The weapon he had used had been a knife that he had bought specifically to kill her.
- Old Bailey proceedings here.
During the day after the murder Robert Coombes and his younger brother, Nathaniel George Coombes, left their mother’s corpse where the murder had happened on Emily’s bed whilst the two boys went to watch a game of cricket at Lords.
Their father was a steward on a transatlantic liner and was in New York at the time. The murder itself was not discovered for 10 days during which time the two boys went on a spending spree with the housekeeping money their father had left during his time away. Indeed, whilst the body of Emily was lying unmoved and undiscovered Robert and Nathaniel went about taking taxi’s, living the high life and dining out.
Eventually Emily’s sister-in-law forced her way into the house and discovered the body. At the same time Robert admitted to committing the crime in a veiled attempt to shift some of the blame onto Nathaniel. From all accounts they had arranged some form of signal so that Robert could go ahead and stab Emily, their mother.
Much of the reasoning behind this violent crime was the appetite of these boys for the sensational articles, of which they collected, so frequently found in the Penny Dreadfuls.
Robert Allen Coombes, from what I had discovered, apparently served 18 years under close mental supervision and was, presumably, released back into society in 1913 although to date there is very little evidence of what actually became of him. As for Nathaniel he too disappears off the radar after the court case in 1895 – although there is a vague possibility (as yet unconfirmed) that he could have moved to Australia some years later.
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