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Samuel Herbert DOUGAL






The Moat Farm Murder
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Serial womaniser
Number of victims: 1 +
Date of murder: May 19, 1898
Date of arrest: April 27, 1903
Date of birth: May 1846
Victim profile: Camille Cecile Holland, 55 (his lover)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Audley End, Essex, England, United Kingdom
Status: Executed by hanging at Chelmsford Prison on 8th July 1903 on July 14, 1903

The Moat Farm Murder

Essex Police Museum

In 1903, Samuel Herbert Dougal, a serial womaniser, stood trial for the murder of Camille Cecile Holland, a quiet, moneyed spinster. The case captured the public's imagination and was extensively covered in the local and national press. Even today, the case continues to interest those who encounter it and different elements of the case have been featured in History Notebooks 4, 19 and 23. For those unfamiliar with the case, the story starts in 1898...

In 1898, Camille Holland was living in Elgin Crescent, London. She was, by and large, an independent woman. At the age of 56 she was still single and managed her own affairs, taking care of her stocks and shares which were valued at around 6,000. In the autumn of that year she had made the acquaintance of Samuel Dougal. Samuel was 4 years her junior and had enjoyed a successful career in the army, reaching the position of Chief Clerk in the Royal Engineers. His army career also provided opportunities to see the world and he spent 9 years in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Unfortunately, during his time in Nova Scotia, he lost both his first and second wives in quick succession.

His first wife died in 1885 after a bout of sudden illness. Two months after her death he remarried, only for his second wife to die three months into their marriage. Samuel left the army in 1887, and from then on had a rather chequered personal life and career. He formed relationships with a number of women and held a variety of jobs, none of which lasted for very long. In 1895, whilst he was working in the office of the Commander of the Forces in Dublin, he was found guilty of forgery and was sentenced to 12 months hard labour. Two months into the sentence, he tried to kill himself and he spent the remaining 10 months in an asylum.

In January 1899, Samuel and Camille moved to Saffron Walden to take possession of their new home, Coldhams Farm near Clavering. The property had been chosen by Samuel but had been paid for by Camille, who, despite Samuel's protestations, insisted that the property remain in her name. Since the property required some attention before they could move in, Camille and Samuel lodged with Mrs Wisken in Market Row, Saffron Walden. It is noteworthy that by this time, although Samuel and Camille were not married and Camille continued "to conduct her business affairs in her own name, they presented themselves to the world as 'Mr and Mrs Dougal'.

On 22nd April 1899, 'Mr and Mrs Dougal' moved into Coldhams Farm, which they renamed Moat Farm. On the 13th May they were joined by their newly appointed maid, Florence Havies. Florence had barely set foot inside the house when she discovered that she was the subject of Samuel's attentions.

On the 14th May, Samuel made inappropriate advances to her in the kitchen and on the night of the 16th he tried to enter her room. Florence resisted his advances on both occasions. In the latter instance, she held her door shut and screamed to alert Camille. Camille arrived on the scene, sent Samuel off to bed and she and Florence slept in the same room for the rest of that night and on the following two nights.

On the night of the 19th May, Florence found herself alone in the house with Samuel. Earlier that evening, at 6.30pm, Samuel and Camille had gone out in the pony and trap. At 8.30pm Samuel returned and when Florence asked after Camille he told her that Camille had gone to London and would return later that night. For the rest of the evening, Samuel was in and out of the house. He finally returned at 12.45am and informed Florence that Camille had not returned and that she had better go to bed.

When Florence came down to start her chores at 7am the next morning, she was surprised to find Samuel already up, dressed and eating breakfast. He told her that he had received a letter from Camille in which she said that she had gone on holiday. This was of little consequence to Florence who had already arranged for her mother to collect her that morning and take her away from Moat Farm. Her mother arrived promptly, Florence collected her wages and left.

Samuel was not on his own for long. He employed a new maid, Emma Burgess, and was joined by another 'Mrs Dougal' who was, in actual fact, his third wife. Over the next 4 years, Samuel continued to live at the farm and enjoyed a number of liaisons with different women in the village. He became part of the local community, attending church regularly and giving generously to local causes such as the enlargement of the churchyard and the interior redecoration of the church.

How was it that Samuel, who had no visible means of support, could afford to be so generous? The answer came in March 1903, when he was charged with, 'forging and uttering a cheque value f28 15s. payable to J Heath, dated 28th August 1902, purporting to be drawn by Camille C Holland at Clavering.'i During the trial, which began in the Spring of 1903, the prosecution produced evidence that showed that Samuel had systematically moved money from Camille's accounts into his own, sold her stocks and shares and even transferred title of Moat Farm from her name to his. In his earlier forgery trial in 1895, Samuel's punishment had been 12 months hard labour, but this trial carried far heavier consequences. It rekindled interest in the whereabouts of Camille Cecile Holland and prompted a police investigation into her disappearance.

On 19 March 1903, the police 'took possession' of Moat Farm to see if they could find any clues about Camille's disappearance. The phrase, 'took possession', is an extremely accurate description of what happened because the officers involved in the case actually moved into the farmhouse. As the Essex County Chronicle reports:

'The police officers engaged in the searching at the Farm occupy the farmhouse, preparing their meals and making their beds for themselves. Detective-Sergeant Scott acts as chef.'

The police were not the only ones who decamped to Moat Farm during the investigation. Camille's disappearance captured the public's imagination and reporters from local and national newspapers as well as curious bystanders besieged the farm. The Essex County Chronicle describes the scene near the farm when the body was discovered on Monday 27 April 1903:

'Throughout the week, people have flocked to the Moat Farm in crowds, the majority of the visitors being ladies. Oranges and nuts were sold as at a village fair, and the raucous voices of the vendors were heard on every side. Souvenir postcards of the Moat House and of the grounds, showing many of the holes made by the police and the tent-like awning which conceals the grave, commanded an enormous sale. A number of the sightseers brought kodaks with them in search of effective snapshots and a still larger contingent were relic-hunters.'

Camille's body was laid out in the conservatory at Moat Farm. Since she had been in the ground for the past four years, identification was going to be difficult. However, vital clues on the body helped the process. Her former landlady, Mrs Wiskin, and her nephew, Ernest Legrand Holland were able to identify the garments and the jewellery on the body as those of Camille Holland. Mr. Mold, Camille's shoemaker, also came forward and identified the shoes on the body, which bore his name, as those he had made for Miss Holland.

A few days later, the body was examined by Professor Pepper, an expert from the Home Office, and Doctors Storrs and Sprague, divisional police surgeons. They discovered that Camille had been shot once in the head, at close range. Professor Pepper's opinion was that the bullet, 'must have caused immediate insensibility, which would have continued until death.'

On Monday 22 June 1903, in Shire Hall, Chelmsford, it was indicted that Samuel Herbert Dougal, "on the 19th May 1899, did feloniously, willfully, and of his malice aforethought, kill and murder Camille Cecile Holland at Clavering." In his opening speech, Mr. Gill KC, for the Crown, argued that on the evening of 19th May 1899, Samuel took Camille out for a ride in the pony and trap. He then proceeded to shoot her in the head and buried her body in a prepared grave in the grounds of the farm. Mrs Wiskin, Florence Blackwell and many of the women who had had an association with Samuel or the farm over the past four years were called to give evidence.

After the cases for both the prosecution and the defence had been heard, the jury retired to make their verdict.

After an absence of 56 minutes, they returned their verdict - guilty. The judge donned his black cap and passed sentence - execution by hanging.

" it is my duty to pass upon you the sentence of the law - that you be taken from hence to the place from when you came, and from there to a place of execution, and that you there be hanged by the neck until you be dead, and that your body be afterwards buried within the precinct of the prison in which you shall have been last confined after your conviction. And may the Lord have mercy on your soul. "

Samuel Herbert Dougal was executed at Chelmsford prison at 8am on Tuesday 14 July 1903. He was buried in the grounds of Chelmsford prison and only his initials and a number on the wall near by marked the grave of one of Essex's most notorious murderers.


Dougal, Samuel Herbert

Samuel Dougal was born in the East End of London in May 1846. He received an education and was apprenticed to a firm of civil engineers. When his debts became too much of a burden he enlisted in the Royal Engineers at Chatham in March 1866. In 1869 he married a Miss Griffiths at the age of 23.

She already had four children which was a lot of responsibility for Dougal to take on and she suffered much ill-treatment at the hands of the heavy drinking man.

In June 1885, while Dougal was serving in Nova Scotia, his wife fell ill and died in agony within twelve hours. He took leave back in England and, two months later, returned with a new wife. In October she, too, started vomiting and suddenly died.

He returned to England with his regiment in 1887 and brought with him a young girl who he passed off as his current wife. She had his child and, when the beatings grew too severe, returned to her family in Halifax. By this time he was forty and had left a string of illegitimate offspring around the world. When he left the Army he had tried several jobs including that of a salesman, storekeeper, publican, surveyor and clerk, also trying his luck with a variety of women who seemed to find him attractive. Most of them did not stay with him for very long once they realised how cruel he could be. This was often not before they had become pregnant by him.

In 1889, he was tried and found not guilty of fraud, a pub he was involved in burned down after being insured. He moved to Dublin where he met Sarah White. She became wife number three and bore him two children.

In 1891 he moved back to London and moved in with a Miss Emily Booty. Emily must have been particularly gullible because it was not long before he had invited Sarah, his wife to move across from Ireland and join them. Emily put up with this for four months, before throwing them all out.

In 1896 he was tried and found guilty of forging cheques and sentenced to twelve month's hard labour. This conviction caused him to lose his army pension and because he was now fifty he found it hard to get work.

His brother, Henry, found him a job as a clerk in Biggin Hill. Sarah came back to him but then left again when he got too violent, and returned to Dublin. This was too much for Henry who sacked him and so Samuel moved back to London.

In September 1898 he met Miss Camille Holland, a 55-year-old spinster. She was a naive woman who was hardly Dougals normal choice but she did have one saving grace and that was 7,000 in savings.

On 19 January 1899 Camille purchased Coldhams Farm, near Clavering in Essex. They stayed in lodgings while the sale was finalised before moving into the farm on the 27th April. Dougal renamed it Moat House Farm'.

It wasn't long before Dougal was caught trying to seduce the maid, Florrie Havies. This was the second maid they had employed, the first had left within days. On the evening of Friday 19th May Camille told Florrie that she and Dougal were going out and wouldn't be long.

Around 8.30 that evening Dougal returned alone. When Florrie asked where her mistress was Dougal replied 'Gone to London.' He told her that she was coming back and that he was going to meet her. He dutifully rode off and met every train until midnight. After that the pair retired, with Florrie waiting all night by an open window in case her employer should try to enter her room.

Florrie had sent her mother a note explaining everything and her mother was so worried that she arrived the next morning and immediately took her daughter away. Dougal quickly sent a telegram to Sarah and told her to come and join him. She moved in and he told everyone that Sarah was his widowed daughter, though it generally became known that she was his real wife. She wore some of Camille's clothes and told everyone that Mrs Holland was away yachting.

Over the next two years Dougal set about getting his hands on Camille's assets. He forged her signature on cheques and transferred ownership of the farm to himself. He continued his habit of chasing the staff with several of them leaving pregnant. At one point he was involved with three sisters, and their mother.

By January 1902 Sarah had had enough of this, especially after Dougal was spotted giving cycling lessons to naked girls behind the farmhouse. She left him and in August 1902 she divorced him.

In September yet another maid left the employ of Dougal pregnant. She was Kate Cranwell, 18-years-old, and she started a paternity suit. Dougal decided to contest it which was a bad move as rumours in the area about Miss Holland's disappearance were rife and to start a legal fight with Kate and her mother was very unwise.

The local constable, wrote to his Chief Constable in January 1903 expressing his concerns about the missing woman and Dougal was investigated. His explanations were accepted but some of the cheques signed, supposedly, by Miss Holland were inspected.

The visit from the police had alarmed Dougal and he decided that the best way out was to leave. The day after the police visit he drew some money and travelled down to London. A week later he came back to the farm but stayed only one night, before travelling back to London. He was staying at the Central Hotel, and was joined by a pregnant Georgina Cranwell who was Kate's sister. On the following Tuesday, after a few days in Bournemouth, Georgina returned to Essex. The next day Dougal tried to change some money at the Bank of England. The cashier recognised the numbers and refused to change them.

DI Cox was on duty at the bank and Dougal admitted to him who he was. He was asked to accompany Cox back to the station. On the way Dougal made a run for it but was soon caught and over-powered. He was charged with the forgery of one of the cheques. This gave the police the excuse they needed to really search the farm. They drained the moat and dug everywhere but, after five weeks, could find nothing suspicious. One of the officers, Inspector Bower then heard locally that, soon after Dougal had moved to the farm, he had a drainage ditch filled in. They decided to search there.

Four years to the day after Camille Holland and Samuel Dougal moved to Moat House Farm a small boot was dug up. It contained a small foot. The rest of the corpse was carefully revealed and removed. It was identified as Camille Holland by her clothing. She had been shot in the head at close range. The bullet was recovered and proved to come from Dougal's revolver.

His trial began on 22nd June 1903 at Chelmsford. At 3.55pm the following day the jury retired to consider their verdict. It took them just 75 minutes to find him guilty. James Billington was the executioner who carried out the wishes of the court when he was hanged at Chelmsford Prison on 8th July 1903. He was only charged and found guilty of one murder although it seems likely he may have been responsible for more than this.


1903 July 14th: Samuel Herbert Dougal (57)


A thrice married soldier and philanderer charged with the murder of Camille Holland (55), whose body was found buried in a ditch at Moat Farm, Essex, four years after she had disappeared. Dougal gained his reputation as a womaniser while serving in the Royal Engineers.

In 1869, he married his first wife, a marriage which lasted sixteen years, although Dougal fathered a number of illegitimate children during this time with his many mistresses. While posted in Canada his wife died, and after being allowed home on compassionate grounds he shocked his colleagues by returning to camp with a wealthy new bride. The marriage was short lived because she died suddenly and without raising suspicion.

In 1896, Dougal was cashiered from the service when he was convicted on a forgery charge. After serving a two year sentence, he returned to England where he met Camille Holland, a wealthy spinster who lived at Moat Farm, Essex. He moved in with her but soon after she caught him frolicking with a servant girl and told him to pack his bags. Later that week, Miss Holland disappeared and Dougal told the locals that she had gone on a yachting holiday and that he had been left in charge of the farm.

Over the next four years, a succession of women came and left the farm and eventually several neighbours became suspicious and they alerted the police. Investigations into Miss Holland's bank transactions led police to arrest Dougal on a charge of forgery. Still suspicious of Dougal, the police then conducted a thorough search of Moat Farm which revealed the bullet riddled body of Camille Holland.

He was convicted at Chelmsford Assizes in June 1903 before Mr Justice Wright four years after carrying out the murder, and was hanged by William Billington and John Ellis. His execution caused a controversy when it was alleged that an over zealous chaplain had badgered him into confessing his guilt on the scaffold.



Samuel Herbert Dougal


Camille Holland


On 22nd April 1899, Samuel Herbert Dougal and Camille Holland moved into Coldhams Farm, which they renamed Moat Farm.



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