Professional tennis was young in the late 19th century. Wimbledon staged its third edition in 1879. In the finals, John Hartley defeated Veere Goold in straight sets. While the former would go on to become the vicar of Burnestone, the latter ended up being a part of diabolic tale.
Vere Thomas St. Leger Goold was born in a wealthy Irish family in 1853. He was a good boxer but his acuity in tennis shadowed his boxing skills. Goolds finished as the No.2 player in 1879 owing to his runner-up finish at Wimbledon and a title run at the Irish Lawn Tennis Championships. Goold retired from tennis in 1883. Despite a short-lived career, the Irishman won 6 titles. Goold lost his mother when he was 17-years old and his father died the same year Goold reached the Wimbledon finals. Goold’s elder brother was a Baronet and the passing away of his sibling meant that he would be the benefactor. The deficiency in the upbringing due to losses of his parents started to show its effect after 1883. Goold traveled to London and became an ardent gambler, an opium addict and a heavy drunkard. A local journalist of London would describe Goold as:
“Those who knew him described him as a man of perfect breeding and of courtly, charming manner, cultured and generous. He was wont when coming home late from the club or the theater to collect stray cats and to bring them to share supper.”
One fine day the Irishman met Marie Giraudin, a French dressmaker who was said to have the ability to seduce any man whether he was 18 or 80. Giraudin was born in a peasant family. When she came was age, she married a man against her parents’ wishes. But a few years later, he died and she became a widow. Giraudin’s next marriage was with a captain in the English army who too passed away a few years later. The two-time widow was forced to sell her jewels since she was in debt.
In 1891, Giraudin and Goold tied the knot. Giraudin had a history of borrowing money from multiple men. Six years later, the couple went into debt and they decided to flee to Montreal, Canada. They frequently shunted between Liverpool and Montreal in order to keep their dressmaking establishment and laundry business up and running. The plan did not go as expected and they soon faced financial crisis.
The year was 1907. Giraudin persuaded Goold to visit the Monte Carlo casino and gamble some money. The couple entered the casino by adding the prefix “Sir” and “Lady” behind their names. This was supposed to be illegal in those days but the coupled slipped away and were grouped with men and women with a luxurious lifestyle in the casino. According to the Irish times the Goolds “mixed with the best society and were frequently seen at the tables in the casino.” While Vere was the quite, soft toned husband, Marie was the dominant partner. The couple “paid their bills regularly and were on visiting terms with people of note in the resort.”
One such elite woman who became the acquaintance of the Goolds was Emma Levin. Levin was a Dane who had a difficult childhood. After her father left the family, she was brought up in a children’s home. When she was 17, she fled from the place and was registered in the “loose women” category of the police department. She was diagnosed with syphilis at 18, but made it through the disease successfully. She married Leopold Levin, a Stockholm merchant who was handsome and luxurious and just the type of man Levin was interested in. However, when her husband passed away, Levin now was in possession of all his riches and lived a flamboyant lifestyle. She was a middle-aged woman when she met the Goolds.
Giraudin’s abilities in befriending Levin hit the right note as they were successfully able to borrow quite a handsome sum of money from the Dane. The couple borrowed 1000 Francs and several pieces of jewelery from the Dane. Despite borrowing money from her, the Goolds fell into debt yet again. This time the condition was so poor that they were unable to buy even a bottle of whisky. In August 1907, the couple saw a letter near their doorstep that tagged them as fraudsters. The fact that they had illegally added the noble prefixes was also revealed.
On the fourth day of August, Vere invited Levin to collect her sum of the money. Levin arrived to the rented apartment of the Goold. Levin was warmly welcomed and was offered a cherry liqueur. As she sat on the armchair, Vere struck her on the back of her head. A struggle followed. Some reports say that their neighbor overheard some screaming but scoffed it away thinking it was domestic violence. Inside the apartment of the Goolds, Levin was stabbed sixteen times with a knife and a dagger. Marie had assisted Vere in this task.
Vere was too drunk when he committed the murder. He waited for morning to come upon to cut through the bones of Levin. When the sun rose, Vere slaughtered Levin’s body into multiple fragments. During the act, Vere himself felt the urge to puke but did it anyhow in order to hide his crime. He placed the head in Marie’s hatbox and the legs inside a valise. Worried that the intestines would putrefy, Vere disposed them at the Cote d’Azur beach. The couple packed the remaining dismantled parts of Lewin’s body in a leather trunk.
They soon left the blood spurted Monte Carlo apartment and decided to go to Marseille. They took the overnight train and the leather trunk travelled with them all along. When morning came, one of the porters (possibly named Pons) saw blood leaking out of the leather box. Vere defended himself by stating that it was freshly cut poultry that he was carrying with him. Unsatisfied with the answer, the porter called the officials and the Goolds had to face the French police.
Meanwhile, Lewin’s roommate, Madame Castellazi had reported the police of the disappearance of her partner. Castellazi and the police reached the Goolds’ apartment where they found Isabelle Giraudin, the niece of Marie. It is still not known whether Isabelle knew about the crime committed by the Goolds. When asked, she said she was told by her aunt that the couple had to travel to Marseille in order to see the doctor as Vere was ill. However, when the police saw the room, they noticed the blood-stained items and also discovered a hammer and a saw. Additionally, Castellazi identified Lewin’s small umbrella.
The leather trunk was opened by the police and they soon found the cut pieces of Lewin’s body parts. At first Vere blamed the murder on a person named Burke who he said was a former lover of Lewin. Vere lied that a gunshot by Burke resulted in Lewin’s death. He added that since the body of Lewin was in their apartment, in order to erase the suspicion from their heads, they cut her into pieces and decided to take it with them. Momentarily, the French police held Vere’s alibi and decided to investigate upon the matter. The Goolds were imprisoned until the investigations ended. In their Marseille prison, Vere got nightmares where he saw his legs being chopped off and discarded in sack. He became a victim of depression in the prison and also attacked a guard.
It was soon found that there were no bullet holes found on the victim’s body parts. The day arrived when the Goolds arrived in the court. Shouts of “Lynch them, lynch them” were heard when they entered the justice room. Vere knew he could no longer defend himself and in order to protect Marie, he took the blame on himself. However, Marie was cornered by the prosecutor and she too was found guilty after bruises due to physical struggle were found on her arms and legs. Death sentences for both Vere Goold and Marie Giraudin. The people rejoiced in the court room but unfortunately the joy was short lived.
The trial had taken place in Monte Carlo. When the death sentences were announced, the officials said that there was no executioner or guillotine in Monte Carlo. The duo was brought into the court again. Marie was sentenced to life imprisonment whereas Vere was sentenced to imprisonment on Devil’s Island. The Devil’s Island was a penal colony where the detainees were harshly treated and 75% of them would die on the island. On 8th September 1909, Goold was unable to bare the torture and took his own life on the Devil’s island. Five years later, Marie contracted typhoid and died in the prison.
Goold lived for 55 years and his life from a tennis court to a justice court was a tortuous one. One of the reporters had met Vere during his stay at the Devil’s Island. He described the former tennis player’s life on the island as,
“A mere wreck, who takes solitary walks along the banks of the River Maroni, where for hours together he recites the memorials that he drew up for his defence, while the crocodiles doze in the water.”