The Foxearth and District Local History Society

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Meetings and activities, announcements and notices for the Foxearth and District Local History Society, and associated organisations. For more information on recent events and current programme, please email or contact Clare Mathieson 01787 311337 or Lynda Rumble 01787 281434

The fatal charm of Samuel Herbert Dougal: 11th February 2014

If the story of Samuel Herbert Dougal has not been made into a film then perhaps it should be! On 11th February Martyn Lockwood – a retired police officer now active with the Essex Police Museum in Chelmsford –took the Society through this colourful character’s eventful life in a most comprehensive and graphic way. The culmination of the story is Dougal’s conviction for the murder of Camille Cecily Holland but the happenings in the previous 30 odd years paint an extraordinary picture of nefarious adventure.

Samuel Dougal was born in London in 1846 and joined the Royal Engineers Regiment in 1866. He married Lavinia in 1869 – without the permission of his commanding officer- and fathered several children with his wife and several girl friends. Lavinia died in 1885 in what were described as mysterious circumstances and in the same year he wed Maria who, a few weeks later, passed away in suspicious circumstances: clearly forensic science was not then the sophisticated tool it has become! In 1886 the serious womaniser had a pregnant friend Bessie. Leaving the army with the rank of sergeant major in 1887 Dougal was for a time a salesman before becoming landlord of a public house in Ware. A fire at the premises was a suspected insurance fraud but Dougal was acquitted. The next few years saw him as an unsuccessful applicant for the post of public hangman, steward of a conservative club, a quantity surveyor in Dublin and a chicken farmer in Kent. His criminal career continued being found not guilty on theft charges but serving one year’s hard labour for forgery – for which he lost his service pension. Seduction appears to have been his only consistent occupation!

Camille Holland was a wealthy spinster who came on the scene in 1896 and fell for Dougal’s roguish charms. The couple bought Moat Farm at Clavering (Dougal was now styling himself as “Captain”) and became well known in the community. In 1899 they went for a ride in a pony and trap and Dougal returned alone saying that Camille had gone to London. For the next four years Dougal lived alone forcing unwelcome attentions on the young domestic staff. He had, it is said, a predilection for teaching young women to ride bicycles and photographing them naked on their bikes. In 1903 The “Moat Farm Mystery” hit the press when a farm hand reported his suspicions about Dougal filling in a ditch some 4 years earlier. A body was found and identified as Camille by clothing and shoes. Dougal did a runner but was apprehended when he used a numbered bank note.At the trial he maintained his innocence but was convicted and hanged.

Mr Lockwood illustrated his extremely interesting talk with many slides and was warmly thanked by Chairman Alan Fitch on behalf of 14 members present.

Members were reminded of the Annual General Meeting on 11th March (bring an early photograph for an identification contest ) and of the visit to Abbey Mills Pumping Station at Stratford on 13th May.