Mother’s throat was cut by her son who was diagnosed as ‘raving mad’

How did Seymour Relton, a tortured former child typhoid patient and stockbroker from Brixton, come to be incarcerated for 54 years in Broadmoor mental hospital? In the latest of his series on South London Victorian killings, JAN BONDESON tells the story of the Brixton Matricide.

In the 1860s, Mr Frederick Relton, a travelling accountant in the employ of the Great Western Railway Company, was living at Victoria Place in Newport, Monmouthshire.

When there was an outbreak of typhoid fever in Mr Relton’s house, he blamed the local authority for the unsatisfactory drainage there.

Two of Mr Relton’s children died, and the third, young Seymour Boyer Relton, became an invalid.

Seymour was very feeble-minded, and “scarcely considered accountable for his actions,” as a newspaper expressed it.

Later, Mr Relton moved to London with his family.

After his death, he left his widow Mary and young Seymour well provided for.

The latter, who had his lucid intervals, took an interest in the classics and obtained a third class degree in Latin at London University in 1878, by private study.

He went on to become a stockbroker, but his delicate mental and bodily health meant that he was unable to fully devote himself to this profession.

In 1884, the 62-year-old Mary Relton and the 27-year-old Seymour were living at No 35 Spenser Road, Brixton.

Seymour had for some time been very strange in his manner, and incapable of attending to business. He spent much time in bed and complained that both he and his mother were being systematically poisoned.

He contacted his aunt telling her that there was a plot to murder them and gave her some salad to be analysed for poison.

On March 18, 1884, Seymour was very fussy about his food, complaining that there was too much pepper, and that the meat was very tough.

The murder house at 35 Spenser Road

His mother spoke to their servant Harriett Reffin, who had prepared the meat, but she had noticed nothing abnormal about it.

Later the same day, Harriett Reffin heard a heavy fall, and Mrs Relton’s little poodle dog started barking furiously.

When Harriett went into Mrs Relton’s room, she saw the limp body of her mistress lying on the floor. It looked as if her throat had been cut with considerable force.

Seymour, who was standing over her, had blood on his left hand. He called out “Harriett, your mistress has got a razor; she has cut her throat, and I want help!”

When Harriett returned after fetching a neighbour, Mrs Relton’s face and eyes were much bruised, as if some person had beaten or kicked her.

Dr Barraclough, the local physician, as soon as he saw the recumbent Mrs Relton, said “She is dead; she could not have done it herself!”

Seymour Boyer Relton was pulled out of bed and arrested by the police, and the inquest on his mother returned a verdict of wilful murder against him.

No motive for the murder could be discerned, except that Seymour was stark raving mad.

When Seymour was on trial at the Old Bailey, Dr Orange, the medical superintendent of Broadmoor, testified that in his opinion, the prisoner was of unsound mind, and unable to plead.

The Brixton Matricide was sent to Broadmoor, where he remained incarcerated until his death in 1940, aged 82.

This is an edited extract from Jan Bondeson’s Murder Houses of South London (Troubador Publishing, Leicester 2015).

Main Pic: Seymour Boyer Relton is discovered after having murdered his mother, from Famous Crimes Past & Present


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