Whārangi 1: Biography
Horry, George Cecil
Criminal, confidence trickster, tailor, convicted murderer
I tuhia tēnei haurongo e Brian W. Stephenson, ā, i tāngia tuatahitia ki Ngā Tāngata Taumata Rau i te 2000.
George Cecil Horry was born at Sheffield, England, on 6 May 1907, the son of Charles Henry Horry, a baker, and his wife, Lily Walch. He attended primary and secondary schools in Sheffield. In 1921 the family emigrated to Auckland, staying for 13 months before returning to England. After they came back to New Zealand in early 1923 George worked as a meter reader for the Auckland Gas Company. By the end of the year he had been convicted on more than 20 charges, including assault, breaking and entering, and theft, and sent to borstal for three years. Horry would continue to offend, spending time in prison for similar crimes and for others involving false pretences.
Describing himself as George Horace Collver, a steel manufacturer from Wentworth, England, Horry married Evelyn Edna Bates (née Louisson), a divorcee, on 30 October 1935 in Auckland. The couple moved to Sydney and in December Horry was sentenced to three years in gaol for issuing valueless cheques. He was released on 27 May 1938 and deported to New Zealand. On his arrival he was arrested and sent to prison in July for six months for earlier offences. On the day of his discharge he was arrested for entering a house and ‘demanding money by menaces’. For this he was sentenced to three years’ hard labour and declared a ‘habitual criminal’. His marriage to Evelyn was dissolved in January 1941.
On 11 July 1942, in Auckland, Horry married Mary Eileen Jones (née Spargo), a comfortably off divorcee known as Eileen, whom he had met at the beginning of the year after his release from prison. He married her under the name of George Arthur Turner, telling her he was the son of an English cutlery manufacturer and that he was privately wealthy and would inherit a title. He also said he was engaged in confidential work regarding munitions for the British government. Claiming that he had to keep his identity secret, he avoided being photographed, even at the wedding. Eileen’s parents were told they might not hear from their daughter for some time, as he was to take her with him on his imminent return to Britain, where, he intimated, he would resume his confidential duties. The couple spent the wedding night at the Helensville Hotel and the following day visited a friend of Eileen’s at Titirangi. Eileen was never seen again. ‘George Arthur Turner’ disappeared after returning a rental car on 13 July.
Five months later, on 12 December 1942, Horry was married under his real name to Eunice Marcel Geale. (It seems he had met her at about the same time as he met Eileen.) At the time Horry was working as a tailor and on the marriage register he gave his marital status as bachelor. The ceremony took place in the radio theatre of 1ZB, Auckland, where the popular religious programme the ‘Friendly Road’ was conducted. The officiating minister was the host of the programme, Thomas Garland, known as ‘Uncle Tom’.
A week after the wedding ‘George Turner’ visited Eileen’s parents and told them that she had been lost at sea when their ship was torpedoed in the Atlantic Ocean. They had meanwhile become increasingly suspicious and on 6 December reported her disappearance to the police. There followed eight years of careful detective work, spearheaded by Detective Sergeant William Fell. His investigation in the ‘missing bride’ case established that ‘George Turner’ was in fact George Cecil Horry, who was working in Auckland as a tailor’s presser. He had obtained from Eileen most of the proceeds from the sale of her house in Ponsonby, including a cheque for £687. 6s. 8d. endorsed by her as payable to him. The police traced letters written to explain her disappearance and established that Horry had written them. He had made elaborate arrangements for their postage from Australia, to give them the appearance of authenticity. A search under warrant in June 1943 found some of Eileen’s clothing at Horry’s house. He then admitted that he had married her as ‘Turner’ and gave another unlikely explanation for her disappearance, contradicting the one he had given her parents six months earlier.
In September 1944 Horry was conscripted into the army and after a few months transferred to the Royal New Zealand Air Force in Christchurch. While there he was convicted on 8 May 1945 for house-breaking and forgery and sentenced to two years in gaol. He later returned to Auckland and resumed work as a tailor.
The circumstantial evidence against Horry for Eileen’s disappearance was strong, but doubt remained whether a conviction for murder could be entered without some direct evidence of the death of the victim. As time went by the case was at risk of crumbling with age. One witness was in poor health and Eileen’s parents were both elderly. Fell faced a dilemma: to wait, in case vital evidence turned up, or to proceed anyway and risk an acquittal. He took the file to the Crown solicitor in Auckland, Vincent Meredith, and his junior, Graham Speight, who were of the opinion that the case was strong enough to go before a jury. Fell arrested Horry on 14 June 1951. By then he had accumulated some 64 convictions on various charges.
At his trial before Justice Francis Adams in the Supreme Court, Auckland, in August 1951, Horry was defended by Alexander Turner and Norman Shieff. The traceable path of Eileen’s money into Horry’s hands immediately after the marriage and his demonstrably false and self-contradictory attempts to explain her disappearance all formed links in a strong chain of circumstantial evidence that convicted him. The jury took 155 minutes to reach its decision. The death penalty for murder had been restored by the time of the trial, but as it was not in force when the crime was committed Horry was sentenced to life imprisonment. The Court of Appeal upheld the conviction.
Little is known about Horry after his release from prison in 1967. He immediately changed his surname by deed poll to Taylor. He died at Auckland on 29 April 1981, survived by his wife, Eunice; their only child, a daughter, had been killed in a car accident some years earlier.
Horry was described as a tall, spare, presentable, neatly dressed man of some charm, who smiled a lot, listened intelligently, spoke softly without any discernible accent and seemed completely at ease in prison, where he had spent a lot of his life. As far as is known he never admitted his crime and never disclosed the whereabouts of Eileen’s body.