Man's best friend
In the summer of 1949, Hume was happier than he had ever been. Cynthia, his wife, gave birth to a little girl and, along with a respectable image and apartment, he had a legitimate business. His ego on the other hand was inflated by a deluded belief that he was part of the ‘gangster’ world; a world concocted from the many gangster movies he had gorged himself on week after week in the cinema.
Setty, himself a former jailbird imprisoned under Debtors and Bankruptcy charges, was desperate to get back into business, despite the authorities impeding his attempts. Hume had never liked Setty, but felt compelled to work for him in order to enhance his own wealth prospects. Why Hume disliked Setty so much is not known.
Whatever the reason, the worse thing Setty could have done was strike out at the one thing for which Hume had unconditional love, his dog Tony.
Hume’s terrier accidentally ruined a re-spray job on one of Setty’s stolen cars which prompted Setty to kick the dog in a fit of rage. For Hume, that one act of aggression towards his darling pet caused the brittle veneer of his friendliness towards Setty to disappear. His suppressed resentments gave way to hatred for something that most sane men would have forgotten in minutes. By the time he met up with Setty again in his Finchley Road flat he was ready to strike out at the slightest provocation.
On Tuesday 4 October 1949, Stanley Setty was carrying out his usual business transactions at Warren Street in central London. He sold a new Wolseley Twelve saloon to a dealer for £1000. The buyer gave Setty a cheque which later that day was cashed at a bank for two hundred £5 notes.
Later during the day Setty stopped off at Hume’s flat to talk business. He usually let himself in. By the time Hume arrived home and saw Setty’s car parked outside he was already building up anger.
It is not known exactly what words were exchanged between the two men, only that a heated argument developed into a physical fight. According to Hume’s later confession he picked up one of his wartime souvenirs, a German SS dagger and aimed it at Setty in defence.
Setty called Hume’s bluff and swiped at him. During a violent grapple Setty fell to the floor where Hume slashed repeatedly at his chest. As Setty fought back by trying to break Hume’s neck, he was stabbed in the chest and legs. Hume then lay back and observed Setty dying.
“I watched the life run from him like water down a drain” he recalled in his newspaper memoirs. “I had to hurt him. This man who had kicked my dog.”
Shortly afterwards, Hume dragged Setty’s 13 stone body through the flat to the end kitchen where he hid it in the coal cupboard. He then started to clean up the apartment trying to remove bloodstains, which had seeped into the carpet and into the floorboards. At one point, realising that he had to dispose of Setty’s car, Hume had to retrieve car keys from the dead man’s jacket. He then drove Setty’s car down Finchley Rd past Swiss Cottage and eventually to Setty’s own lock up at Cambridge Terrace Mews. He was back home at around 10.45 pm where he pondered on whether he should go to the police. It dawned on him that he might have got away with the perfect murder.
Hume thought hard about how he could get the large body out of the flat and dispose of it without been seen. He finally came up with the idea of dismembering the corpse, parcelling body parts and dropping them in the sea by plane.
The next day, 5 October 1949, Hume began work on his macabre plan in the early hours. He first took the stained carpet to the next-door dry-cleaners and instructed them to dye it dark green. While Cynthia and the baby were having breakfast, Hume touched up bare patches on the floor with varnish. There were still stains on the sofa that troubled Hume but his main worry was to get the body dismembered and out of the flat while Cynthia was away.
Hume had a bank appointment that morning at 10am and, having pocketed some of the money he found on Setty’s body, he decided to deposit it in order to pay off an overdraft. Most of the £1000 was bloodstained but Hume was able to retrieve £100 of undamaged notes for himself.
When Cynthia left the flat with the baby for an appointment at Great Ormond Street Hospital, Hume had only ninety minutes in which to dismember the body in the flat before the cleaning lady arrived.
The grisly operation was easier than Hume had imagined.
“I felt no squeamishness or horror at what I was about to do”, he recalled as he began dismembering the body using a linoleum knife to cut to the bone and then a hacksaw.
He dismembered the legs first and packaged them up into a parcel using carpet felt. It was only Setty’s staring eyes that upset Hume, which he then covered as he continued to cut up the body. It took several strokes to remove the head which he placed in a box that contained baked beans. He also added pieces of brick and rubble to make the parcels heavy. The torso was the most problematic and after an abortive attempt to put it in a cabin trunk he pushed it back into the coal cupboard. The one thing that broke his heart was having to burn the damaged £900.
At 2.30 pm Hume left the flat with two packages, the legs under one arm and the box with the head in it. He got into a hired car along with Tony his loyal dog, and sped towards Elstree Air field where a light blue Austin aircraft was waiting. It was 3 pm by the time he put the gruesome parcels in the plane and set off for Southend, despite his real destination being the English Channel.
Ninety minutes later he could see the French coast. He first threw out the SS dagger and tools before dumping the parcels which sank out of sight. Later he arrived at Southend airfield and made sure he was seen by as many people he could. It was 8.30pm by the time he got back to his London flat.
However, the torso deeply troubled him. All the time whilst chatting with Cynthia and trying to keep up the pretence of everyday life, the grisly reminder of the murder lay only a few feet away, hidden from view.
The following morning Hume arranged for a decorator to come to the flat. The unsuspecting man also helped Hume carry the torso, which was heavily packed with lead weights, out of the flat and into Hume’s car. It had even gurgled while the two men carried it to the vehicle, but Hume made a convincing excuse for its strange sounds. Amazingly, while Hume went back to the flat to clean the coal cupboard he left the torso in the car for an hour.
When Hume arrived at the Elstree airport a friendly engineer helped him carry the torso onto the plane. Together with his trusty canine companion, Hume set off again for the English Channel. Only this time the quest to dump the evidence was not so easy. At first the torso, which rested in the back seat, would not budge when he tried to push it out through the door.
Hume even had to hold the joystick between his legs as he wrestled with the body part. After this failed, he tilted the small plane at an angle in order to try and get the torso to slide and smash through the door. Finally, after a great deal of drama that nearly involved the dog falling out of the plane, the torso released itself from its position and fell from the aircraft. Moments later Hume was shocked to see the weights and blanket that had covered the body had got caught on a hook in the cabin. Realising that the torso had fallen out just covered in carpet felt, he knew it was unlikely to sink. He eventually managed to break the weights free leaving them and the carpet to drop into the sea.
Hume was now faced with the worse case scenario, a body that would float. He could see the torso bobbing in the water and realised he had no choice but to return back to land and hope somehow that it wouldn’t turn up on the coastline. The small speck he could still see bobbing in the water was evidence that could hang him.