Over a century ago, Irishman Vere St Leger Goold and his wife committed one of the most ghastly crimes the French Riviera had ever seen.

The Irish émigré and former tennis champion was the son of an aristocratic family. Despite showing a promising future, he was found guilty of one of the area's most grisly homicides. 

St Leger Goold, the great-grandson of the Earl of Kenmare, and his wife were discovered with a dismembered torso in their luggage.

The Waterford native, who was proficient in sailing, hunting, horse riding and especially tennis, was known to be fiercely competitive and charming.

Vere St Leger Goold (Image via Flickr)

Vere St Leger Goold (Image via Flickr)

According to the Irish Times, the promising young man won the inaugural Irish Open in 1879, and progressed to the Wimbledon final. There, he lost out to clergyman Reverend John Hartley (notably the only priest ever to win the championship!)

In good Irish fashion, the Irish tennis star is said to have been "wild and cherry" - and was rumored to have been suffering from a "roaring hangover" during the Wimbledon final!

His affinity for drink, drugs, and a lavish lifestyle seems to have got the better of him. With his tennis career over, he and his wife Marie Giraudin found themselves in financial difficulty. 

After racking up significant gambling debts, it's believed they fled their London home; first settling in Montreat, before returning to Liverpool, and ultimately jumping ship to Monaco. 

Known (by their own accord) as “Sir Vere and Lady Goold”, their whole purpose for relocating to Monaco was to hit the jackpot at the Casino de Monte-Carlo.

The Irish Times reports that in 1907, a wealthy Danish widow, Emma Levin, agreed to loan them 1,000 francs to subsidize their major losses at the roulette table. When Levin asked for her money back, the couple decided to murder the dowager during her visit to their apartment and make off with her jewelry, valued at 125,000 francs.

Cover of Le Petit Journal, No. 875 from August 25, 1907 (Image via Wiki Commons)

Cover of Le Petit Journal, No. 875 from August 25, 1907 (Image via Wiki Commons)

They were caught as they fled to Marseille, when a staff member noticed a dark red liquid was oozing from their luggage. Suspicious police descended on the couple and opened the case, finding the dismembered torso of Levin.

The incident became infamous, known as “the Monte Carlo Trunk Murder” across the world. Both were found guilty, and Vere was sent to the Devil’s Island prison in French Guiana, which has been widely described as “hell on earth”.

Within a year (by 1909) he had committed suicide, aged 55. Marie reportedly later died in Montpellier prison in 1914.

This story was contributed to the Irish Times by Nathan Mannion, senior curator of EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum in Dublin’s Docklands, an interactive museum that tells the story of how the Irish shaped and influenced the world. 

For more on this story, see articles on the Irish Independent, the Irish Times, and The Journal.

Vere St Leger GooldFlickr