The tragic killing of Lily Othen

The year was 1916 when Lilian May Othen, a 22 year old servant girl left behind her life in St Denys, Southampton and moved to London without a penny in her pocket.  By 1922 she was 28, and had starting using the name Lily Ray. Lily was known for “frequenting the West End”, a polite way of saying that she was working as a prostitute.

On February 16th 1922, at 115 Cranworth Gardens, she was killed by Anthony Castor, a man she had met on Regent Street and taken home that evening. He strangled her and tied a stocking around her neck in an attempt to make it look like suicide.

The various newspaper accounts below cover what happened:

Daily Mirror, Fri 17th Feb 1922

Girl with Bobbed Hair Found Dead at Brixton


As a sequel to the apprehension by the police of a supposed burglar a tragedy was discovered yesterday in a Brixton flat.  Early in the morning a man was arrested and taken to Brixton Police Station upon a charge of housebreaking. He gave his name as Anthony Castor, aged twenty five, of no fixed abode. As the result of a statement he made, the police went to a flat in Cranworth Gardens. Here they found the body of a young woman with a silk stocking tied tightly round the neck. The woman has been identified as Lily Othen, the daughter of a gardener, who disappeared from her home at Southampton in August 1916, and had not since been traced. Miss Othen was twenty eight years of age, of medium height, and had fair “bobbed” hair. Formerly Miss Othen shared a flat in Cranworth Gardens with a girl friend, but a few weeks ago she acquired a flat on the ground floor of the same building. She was last seen alive by a girl acquaintance shortly after midnight. She was then alighting from a tramcar at Vassall Road, Brixton, and was accompanied by a man, with whom she walked towards her home. 

 Daily Express, Sat 18 Feb 1922


“He told me he tried to make it look as if she committed suicide” said a detective when Anthony Castor, aged twenty five, appeared at Lambeth Police Court yesterday on a charge of murdering Lily Othen (or Ray), aged twenty eight who was found dead in her flat in Cranworth Gardens, Brixton. A silk stocking was tied around her neck. Castor was also accused of housebreaking. Detective Inspector Berrett said he saw Castor after his arrest and told him that he would probably be accused of murder. Castor said “Oh, you have found her, have you? Well, yes, you are right. I done her in.  A statement was read in which Castor said he “picked up” the dead woman in Piccadilly, and after a walk along the Embankment, went with her to her flat in Brixton. The statement described how after a quarrel Castor had threatened to choke her. “I took hold of her throat” he continued the statement. “There was a struggle, and she went out, I did not think it was so easy to kill any one. I kicked a small table over, but I put it straight again. I took off one of her stockings and tied it round her neck to make it look like suicide. I have told you all now. I don’t care what takes place.” The magistrate remanded Castor for a week.

 Western Gazette – Friday 24 February 1922


 “Sweetest Girl I Ever Knew”

The Coroner’s enquiry into the death by strangulation of Lily Othen otherwise Lily Ray, whose body was found in a Brixton flat, was held in London on Tuesday. Anthony Castor (26) has been charged with the wilful murder of the woman. Ada Florence Othen of North Road, Southampton, said the deceased, her sister, left Southampton in 1916. She had no money when she left, and had to get her living as best she could. She was just an ordinary working girl. Another witness said deceased was an unfortunate, yet she was “the sweetest girl I ever knew.” A police witness said that on the way to the station Castor said “I have just done somebody in. Here is a ring I took off her finger when I strangled her.”

The Observer – Saturday March 25th 1922


At the Old Bailey yesterday Anthony Castor (25), of no occupation, pleaded not guilty to an indictment charging him with the willful murder of Lily Othen or Ray, in a flat at Cranworth Gardens, Brixton. Mr Percival Clarke, who prosecuted, said Lily Othen and a friend used to frequent the West End. On February 15th at a little before midnight, Othen and the prisoner were seen to board a Brixton tramcar and to leave it at a point near Cranworth Gardens. They must have arrived at the flat which the girl occupied at about one o’clock, and at 2.15 a police constable saw the prisoner in a street close to Cranworth Gardens. The prisoner put his shoulder to the door of a small shop, broke it open and entered. The officer persued the man, and he was arrested. On the way to the police station he told the officer “he has just killed a woman” He went on to describe how he had strangled the woman with a stocking, and how he had tried to make it appear that the woman had committed suicide. He said he had knocked over a table and disarranged the room, and that he afterwards rearranged the furniture and put the bed clothes straight.

“No expression of regret at the dreadful tragedy which had occurred” counsel commented. “No Suggestion that it was accidental, but rather a cool, calm, collected crime. It was his intention that this should remain one of those dreadful unsolved crimes of the underworld which are becoming far too frequent”

To Detective Inspector Berett the prisoner made a statement which included such phrases, “I done her in” and “I did not think it was so easy to kill anyone”. This statement also desribed certain conduct on the part of the woman which so disgusted the prisoner that he killed her. He concluded by saying that he “did not care what happened.” Counsel suggested that this was a sordid crime prompted by robbery, for no money was found at the flat while the prisoner had 8s 10d. The prisoner in the witness box said that on the night before the tragedy he had a good deal to drink. He “Struck down” at the girl with his hands and she seemed to become unconscious. The ring came off her finger and unthinkingly he put it in his pocket. When he saw that she was dead he tied a stocking round her neck to make it look like suicide. His intention was to frighten the girl to prevent her doing what he complained of. He has no intention of killing her. The jury found the accused guilty of manslaughter, and Inspector Berrett said that since his schooldays Castor had been living a life of crime. Mr Justice Salter said that this was one of the worst cases of manslaughter he had ever had to try and he passed sentence of eight years penal servitude. 


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