Wednesday, 19 December 2012

A Victorian Tragedy

The press of April 1899 described this event as "A most romantic story"

Robert Feron, a gentleman from Brussels, had for 18 months, worked as a foreign correspondent at the manufacturing and wholesale business of Holme & Son in Derby. The 20 year old son of a wealthy merchant, he had been sent to England by his father to learn the English language and commerce. He lived with a family friend in Derby.

Lily Burford was 21 and came originally from Spennymoor, County Durham. Her father was an ironworker, she the youngest daughter. Lily had been apprenticed as a dressmaker and worked from home in this trade. About two years previously, being fond of the theatre, she left home and joined a travelling company . Eventually she was to return home but after a short time, she left to visit her aunt in Derby where whe wished to take up a post as a waitress in the Midland Hotel.

Feron was also very fond of the theatre although it was not known if this was where they had met. It seemed that they had been close friends for some time.

On the Saturday of the tragedy, Robert called at the home of Mr and Mrs Wiliiams where Lily was staying. He carried a bunch of lilies which he straight away gave to her. Prior to his arrival, however, she had remarked that she "must put on clean clothes as she was going to die before the evening was over". The remark was made quite calmly and arousing no suspicion, was ignored. Lily was fond of romantic novels and had remarked several times to Mrs Williams that she would like to die with her lover. Before Rober arrived, she said, apparently in jest "We are going to cause a great sensation tonight in Derby. How nice it will be for the people to find the carriage door open and us dead. I should like to be in at the fun".

Leaving the house after a short while, they boarded the cab which waited for them and drove to Derby Station. They were seen together, obviously happy and on friendly terms and entered the first-class refreshment room. Two first-class return tickets to Nottingham were taken and on reaching that city, they strolled to the Market Square where they visited the Talbot Hotel. Returning to the station, they waited for their train in the refreshment room then boarded the 9.20 pm express for Derby.

Trent Station
 On arrival at Trent station, 6 miles out of Nottingham, a porter was horrified to discover the couple lying on the floor of the compartment in a pool of blood.  The train continued to Derby where the bodies were taken to the Infirmary. Feron had been dead for some time, shot in the head.  Lily, with a bullet wound in the side of her head, still lived but passed away within 15 minutes.

 A silver plated revolver with two bullets discharged, lay on the carriage floor. A search revealed six further bullets, wrapped in paper in Robert's pocket. He carried a small amount of money and a number of love letters. Also found on the train was a letter from Lily to her parents saying that she and her lover had resolved to die.The inquest heard that, from the position of the wounds, it seemed probable that Robert had first shot Lily and then himself.

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