Finding evidence to justify the pay
When Kendall and Stammers were paid lots of money to find evidence that Geraldine French-Brewster had been having an affair, they made sure they found it... even if it wasn't real.
A bit later than planned, due to work pressures, here is a case involving two London-based private detectives, who were given the opportunity to enjoy themselves while in pursuit of incriminating evidence.
In the autumn of 1888, the private detective James Kendall was busy not trying to track down Jack the Ripper, despite the Whitechapel Murders preoccupying many column inches, but in trying to find out if Captain Robert Abraham French-Brewster's wife, Geraldine, was having an affair with one Captain Gore.
Kendall, together with another private detective, Mr Stammers,* had been employed by Captain French-Brewster's solicitor, Edward Francis Hewley, to deal with his divorce. Hewley needed to find evidence of Mrs French-Brewster's alleged relationship with Captain Gore, and Kendall was just the man to do it.
It was said that Mrs French-Brewster had first met Captain Gore two years earlier. In fact, her husband had introduced the pair, while they were all at the Punchestown Races, an event that caused many people to let their hair down - and Mrs French-Brewster had allegedly done so. She then met Captain Gore again in 1887, in a Dublin drawing room (she boasted that she 'frequently visited the Princess [Alexandra, wife of the future Edward VII] at Kilmainham'.
Dublin: Kendall travelled here to find evidence of Geraldine’s adultery
Captain French-Brewster believed that his fellow army captain had started an affair with his wife, and duly petitioned for divorce. In October 1888, the private detective was engaged, and in November, Kendall travelled to Dublin to try and obtain some more information. He visited Private Tom Johnson, servant to the Honourable Captain Ormsby Gore, who gave him evidence, including a lady's handkerchief, that he later handed on to Edward Hewley, the solicitor, along with the five months of evidence he had accumulated. This also included evidence provided by his colleague, Mr Stammers, who had been in Eastbourne watching Mrs French-Brewster. Captain French-Brewster ended up spending between £800 and £900 on the services of Kendall and Stammers - a substantial sum.
But the reason why this case made it into the papers was the private detectives had been given a 'roving commission and unlimited expenses' by the aggrieved Captain, despite him having no evidence whatsoever that his wife had done anything wrong. He had told his detectives to 'see whether, by hook or by crook, in Dublin, London or Cairo, they could not get some kind of figment of a case against the wife'. In fact, Captain French-Brewster had actually deserted her, did not want to pay her any money, or be married any long, and so was willing to offer perjured evidence against her in a divorce court.
Unfortunately, Captain French-Brewster had told friends that he was happy to 'drag his wife's name in the mud' and 'would stop short of nothing that was not criminal' in order to blacken that name. Private Johnson seemed respectable, but it seems that he had received money from Kendall to give 'information' to him, and had negotiated a price with him. There were other witnesses who conveniently went missing, the suspicion being that these were imaginary women who provided written statements but obviously could not be produced in a court of law.
On the other side, Mrs French-Brewster had, the court argued, been anxious to reconcile with her husband; it was he who had deserted her, not her who had cheated on him. The Captain had written back to his wife, but it was believed that this might have been with an eye to a subsequent divorce case or to avoid being penalised for deserting her.
In court, in December 1889, it was found that Captain French-Brewster had in fact committed adultery, and that he had also deserted his wife without just cause. The jury also stated that it did not believe that his wife had committed adultery with Captain Ormsby Gore. A decree nisi was granted, and Geraldine French-Brewster was given custody of their children.
Kendall and Stammers also did well out of the case, getting substantial wages and travel from their commission. Although they may have fabricated evidence - persuaded to by their employer - it was heard in court that this was understandable: for, if you were given a lot of money to find evidence of adultery, wouldn't you try and find that evidence too.... or even make it up?
* 'Kendall and Stammers' were referred to together in some press reports, and described as being in 'co-partnership', but they are referred to separately as one-man bands in other cases covered by the press in the late 1880s. This is the only time that they are mentioned as a partnership, suggesting that they only came together for this case, rather than being part of an agency together. 'Mr Stammers' was probably Herbert Stammers, a Suffolk man and retired Met Police detective who was living in Lambeth at this time.
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