February 16, 1954
Cologne, Germany
Donald John Merrett (alias Ronald John Chesney, 46) kills himself while on the run from police

On March 17, 1926, when he was 19, Merrett’s mother died by a single gunshot wound behind her ear. Merrett told investigators he believe his mother had shot herself, an assumption that was initially believed by police. It was quickly discovered, however, that Merrett had been forging his mother’s checks for some time before her death, and had spent the days and weeks following her death spending money freely and displaying a generally jovial demeanor. Merrett was suspected of and charged with killing his mother though he was ultimately acquitted due to a lack of evidence. He was convicted of forgery, however.

Nearly three decades later, Merrett — who was now known as Ronald John Chesney — was wanted for the murders of his wife and mother-in-law.

On February 11, 1954, Mary Menzies (73) and Isobel Chesney (43) were found murdered in the London nursing home they ran together. Isobel was submerged — clothed in a nightgown and cardigan — in a bathtub, surrounded by empty liquor bottles while Menzies was found beneath a pile of clothes; she had been bludgeoned and strangled. Police surmised Merrett had plied his wife with alcohol until she was unconscious. He had then been caught drowning Isobel by her mother, and responded by knocking Menzies unconscious with a pewter mug before strangling her.

Merrett was the immediate suspect and a manhunt was launched. His body was found five days later in the woods outside Cologne, Germany, dead in an apparent suicide with “his face half blown off by the .45 caliber revolver he carried into the woods,” as the Victoria Daily Times reported.

Wilkes, Roger. The Mammoth Book of CSI. London: Constable & Robinson Ltd, 2007
Lownie, Ralph. Auld Reekie: An Edinburgh Anthology. Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing Company, 2004
Marke, Julius J. A Catalogue of the Law Collection at New York University: With Selected Annotations. Union: The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd., 1999
“Murders for profit. The case of John Donald Merrett.” 1985. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/3907330/
Reynolds, Ruth. “The Sunset Home Murders.” Sunday News [New York, New York]. May 16, 1954
“Chesney Found Dead After Telephoning Solicitor.” Manchester Guardian. February 17, 1954
“Suicide Ends Violent Life of Modern Pirate.” Victoria Daily Times. February 17, 1954

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