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Sidney Harry FOX





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide - To collect insurance money
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: October 23, 1929
Date of arrest: November 3, 1929
Date of birth: 1898
Victim profile: Rosaline Fox, 63 (his mother)
Method of murder: Strangulation
Location: Margate, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Status: Executed by hanging at Maidstone Prison on April 8, 1930

Sidney Fox was a 31-year-old homosexual con-man who travelled the country leaving a trail of unpaid bills and bad cheques, usually accompanied by his 63-year-old mother. In April 1929 Mrs Fox made out a will leaving her few assets to her son. A few days later he insured his mother's life.

By October the pair had moved on to Margate, in Kent, staying at the Hotel Metropole. Sidney, thoughtfully, increased the cover on his mother to £3,000. At 11.40pm, on the 23rd October, Sidney raised the fire alarm. A resident dashed into Mrs Fox's smoke-filled room and dragged her out but she was already dead. A Coroner's Court returned a verdict of misadventure and Sidney set about getting his hands on the insurance money. The timing of her death was very convenient. The old woman had died with just twenty minutes of the policy left to run. Fox made such a commotion about it that suspicions were raised and his mother's body was exhumed. Sir Bernard Spilsbury carried out the post-mortem and concluded that the old woman was dead before the fire had started.

Fox appeared before Lewes Assizes on 12th March 1930 charged with the murder of his mother Rosaline Fox who was 63 at the time of death. The prosecution contended that he had got his mother drowsy with port and had then strangled her. The source of the fire in his mother's room was shown to be newspaper soaked in petrol which had been placed under her chair. He was found guilty and executed at Maidstone Prison on 8th April 1930.


Sydney Harry Fox

Sydney Fox a 31 year old petty criminal and his mother Rosaline, moved from hotel to hotel in the Kent area living off stolen cheques. In 1927 he was having an affair with a married woman, he insured her for £6,000. He attempted to gas her, but failed and was subsequently jailed for 15 months.

In April 1929 he insured his mother against accidental death, the policy was due to expire at midnight on 23rd October. That night while staying at the Metrople hotel in Margate, Kent, he ordered a bottle of port to help his mother sleep. At 11:40pm that night he rushed down the hotel corridor, shouting "My mummy is trapped", help came to late to save his mother from the fierce blaze in room 66. After he buried her he claimed on the insurance, but the insurance company investigated and discovered that the fire had spread in an unlikely way. They suspected arson, the body was exhumed and pathologist Sir. Bernard Spilsbury discovered that she had been strangled.

At his trial on 20th March 1930, an important piece of evidence was a bottle of petrol found in the room, Fox claimed it was used to clean his suit. He was found guilty and was hanged at Maidstone prison on 8th April 1930.



"Lady Killers"

There is something about names - something ill-fated sometimes. In the history of early talking pictures in Hollywood there was a young actress named Sidney Fox. She made plenty of films in the early to middle 1930s, but left no lasting impression. One of her films CALL IT MURDER, is marketed (when sold) as a Humphrey Bogart film, as he played a supporting part in the film. Fox was the heroine of this rip off version of A FREE SOUL (she is suspected of killing a gangster, like Norma Shearer in the MGM film). Not that it matters - if not for the appearance of Bogart the film would not be worth watching today. In the 1940s, her career long over, poor Sidney Fox committed suicide.

Another name is "Metropole". It has a historic resonance in the U.S. and the U.K., as the sites of two famous murder cases. The New York City Hotel Metropole was the site of the 1912 gangland murder of Herman "Beansie" Rosenthal apparently at the orders of the corrupt New York City Police Lieutenant Charles Becker. The Margate, England Hotel Metropole was the site of a mysterious fire that led to the arrest, trial, and conviction of a young man for the murder of his mother. The woman who died was Rosalind Fox. Her son's name was Sidney Fox.

Sidney and Rosalind Fox were swindlers with pretensions. Fox believed he was not lowly born, but had a gentleman, even a noble father. His mother allowed him to believe this. Together they went about checking into fancy hotels, running up expensive tabs, and then running off before the management could get paid. I didn't say they were original or clever swindlers - they were both fairly commonplace. Fox did make an attempt to copy the manners of the upper class. One police report said that at best he looked "plausible", but nothing else. He did try to get into "good social circles", by attracting elderly men (Fox was gay) with social position and income. As a result at least one military man was ruined by the association.

Frankly Fox was getting tired of the lifestyle he and his mother followed. It had little going for it - usually Fox ended in jail and his mother in the local almshouse. Then, Fox began taking an interest in insurance. He romanced (despite his preference) a middle aged woman of some property. Fox took out a policy on her life, and one night the woman awoke to smell gas in her bedroom. Subsequently she decided (probably wisely) to drop further contact with the Foxes.

In 1930 the Foxes went to the Margate Metropole Hotel, following their usual procedure (if anyone asked where their luggage was, it was "coming"). Rosalind Fox did not know that Sidney had taken out some policies on her life. They were scheduled to be running out of existence in a matter of days. Then, after the Foxes took their room in the hotel, that night a fire broke out. The fire disturbed the other guests and the management. But what astounded the management was that the fire was in the Foxes room, and Mrs. Fox was dead - but Sidney was alive and breathing, and bemoaning the death of his mother.

He was arrested later while trying to cash the policies he had on Rosalind. The trial was of interest to criminal historians, with Sir Bernard Spilsbury discussing the evidence showing how the fire was set with an accelerant and some old newspapers, and how the deceased was apparently strangled first (her hyoid bone was broken - a dead giveaway regarding strangulation) rather than by smoke inhalation as Sidney claimed. Sidney's cross examination was not the success he thought it would be - he explained that he shut the door of the hotel room after he left his mother behind because he did not want the smoke to spread in the hotel hallway!

Sidney Fox was convicted of murdering his mother, and subsequently hanged.



Mrs Rosaline Fox: ‘The mystery of room 66’ at the Metropole Hotel, Margate

The case known as ‘The Mystery of Room 66’ involved that most rare of crimes, matricide - the unlawful killing of a mother by her child and certainly one of the most dastardly and infamous crimes ever committed in Margate.

In October 1929 a Mrs Rosaline Fox and her thirty six year old son Sidney arrived in Margate to stay at the Hotel Metropole, a comfortable establishment frequented by commercial travellers. Arriving with no luggage they told the management that it had been sent on ahead and now seemed to have gone astray. However it was revealed later that although mother and son seemed devoted to each other, they were almost without funds, having left a trial of unpaid bills behind them on their journey from London to Margate.

On the evening of October 23rd 1929 Sidney Fox brought his mother a half bottle of port as a nightcap. Sometime later, just before midnight he was seen running from her room in the direction of the stairs shouting ‘my mummy, my mummy, Fire! Fire!’ Another guest of the hotel, Samuel Hopkins, crawled into the smoke filled room and found Mrs Fox dead on the bed. Subsequently, an inquest found that Mrs Fox had died from shock and suffocation and recorded a verdict of ‘Death by Misadventure’ and the body was released for burial, which took place at Great Fransham in Norfolk.

Luck was not to remain on the side of Sidney Fox. An insurance company became suspicious when it was discovered that a policy under which he had insured his mother against accidental death expired at midnight on the very night of the fire in her room. The appropriate authorities were alerted and the case reopened. Mrs Fox’s body was exhumed on November 11th and sent for analysis by the eminent Home Office pathologist, Sir Bernard Spilsbury, who told the reopened inquest at Margate borough magistrates court that ‘The injuries to the neck and tongue could, in my opinion, only have been produced by strangulation by the hand.’ Fox was found guilty of matricide and was hanged at Maidstone Jail in April 1930, the first convicted murderer not to appeal against his sentence.



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