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Samuel James FURNACE





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: In order to use the body to fake his own suicide
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: January 3,1933
Date of arrest: January 15, 1933
Date of birth: 1889
Victim profile: Walter Spatchett, 25
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: London, England, United Kingdom
Status: Killed himself while in custody by drinking hydrochloric acid from a bottle he had on his person, January 16, 1933

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 Furnace.'

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 Furnace.

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 station.

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 Spatchett.

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 almost closed.

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 prime suspect.

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”.



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