The Hon. Felicity Hume drove her green Alvis coupe up London's exclusive Gerrard Street with a noisy flourish and parked in her usual place outside the fashionable Cecil Club. It was a warm June evening in 1938 and the atmosphere in London's Mayfair was almost Continental in its balmy oppression. But inside the club the dark velvet curtains were drawn against the evening sunlight and roulette and card-games had already begun. The Cecil, run by the controversial Mrs Kate Meyrick, was fashionable, expensive and, according to the trendy term of the time, Bohemian. So no wonder Felicity Hume was a regular patron. At 24 and the daughter of a peer, she was all those things herself. She was also beautiful, wilful and, according to her friends, utterly self-obsessed. Men in the fashionable society circle in which she moved fell in love with her heavily and frequently and in that pre-war summer of 1938, it was said that two of London's most eligible bachelors were deeply involved with the flighty young heiress.
Richard Goddard, son of a Yorkshire industrialist, at 27, owner of a Mayfair house, a sea-going yacht and two racehorses, had met Felicity through mutual friends the previous winter and had become instantly infatuated.
There was talk of an engagement and certainly it seemed as though Felicity had at last found someone with whom she could make a future. Goddard was handsome, rich and generous. He was also obsessively jealous but Felicity Hume wasn't to find that out until after she met Andrew Heilbert. A wealthy South African of 20, Heilbert was a compulsive gambler and sportsman and soon Felicity and her two escorts became a familiar sight in fashionable London clubs and restaurants. Everyone knew that the two suitors were at daggers drawn and Felicity seemed to enjoy pushing them both to the limits of self-control. Indeed, on several occasions friends had to separate the two men after their jealousy had led to the brink of violence. But Felicity had no intention of calming things down — just the opposite in fact — and on this June evening in 1938 she had arranged to meet both men at the Cecil Club, from where they would go for dinner at an exclusive restaurant in Sloane Square. On arrival at the restaurant they ordered drinks while they studied the menu and Felicity turned to Richard with a gentle smile. "I'm sure you'd like to be the first to know, darling," she said. "Andrew and I are getting married..."
According to fascinated fellow-diners at nearby tables, Goddard went white and without speaking, rose and left the restaurant. He never spoke to Felicity Hume again. But then not many people did, because three days later she was dead. She was found sitting in her green Alvis in a lay-by on the leafy road between Guildford and Basingstoke. There was no damage to the car and no violence to the victim. Dressed in a fashionable green coat and white scarf she lay back in the driver's seat as though taking a nap. But it was a nap which would last for eternity.
A post-mortem examination revealed that death was due to natural causes. Felicity Hume's heart had stopped for no apparent reason. Despite her frantic lifestyle she was fit and healthy. She had simply, and inexplicably, stopped living. But someone had an explanation — two days later, Richard Goddard, pale and shaking but otherwise perfectly rational, walked into London's Savile Row police station and confessed to the murder of his former girlfriend.
I murdered her in my mind, he told a bemused desk-sergeant. I longed for her to be dead. I even chose the manner of her dying — I decided she would die in that wretched car which meant so much to her. From then on I thought of nothing but her death and now it has happened exactly as I knew it would. If I couldn't have her I was determined that no one else should.
The police didn't take the confession very seriously but they had no alternative but to check Goddard's whereabouts over the days leading to Felicity's death. After it was confirmed that he had been in the north of England all that time, no further action was taken despite Goddard's claims that he had killed Felicity "as effectively as if I had hit her with a sledge-hammer."
In a letter written to a family friend he declared: "I knew where she would die — that piece of road was a favourite of hers. You could see over the countryside and she would sometimes stop there just to admire the view. It seemed an appropriate place for her life to end."
Can curses like that really have a malign effect? Several psychic researchers planned to approach Richard Goddard to investigate the phenomenon more thoroughly but they never had the chance because a month later Goddard was also dead. He shot himself in the stables of the family's Yorkshire home leaving a note saying that having Felicity's death on his conscience was just too much to bear. Today, whether Felicity Hume died from natural causes or from a murder carried out in her jilted lover's mind remains as much a mystery as it was on that summer's day three-quarters of a century ago.