Published: 12:25 | 12/10/20

Documentary: Dha Chuirt

This is the story of Vere St Leger Goold, a wealthy Irish aristocrat and one time Wimbledon finalist whose dissolute lifestyle led eventually to robbery and murder. eir sport 2, Thur, Oct 15th 1am

He may not have won the title, but Vere St Leger Goold is undoubtedly the most famous (or is it infamous?) Irishman ever to grace the finely coiffed lawns of SW19.

The youngest son of a baron, Goold enjoyed a privileged upbringing in Waterford. Known to his fans simply as ‘St Leger’, he cut a dashing figure early in his career. 

He claimed the inaugural Irish tennis championship in 1879 which was initially held in Fitzwilliam Square before later moving to the Fitzwilliam Club in Donnybrook.

Goold was one of the favourites for the Wimbledon championship that year where he duly made it all the way to the final. 

He was expected to beat clergyman Reverend John Hartley in the decider, but suffered a surprise 6-2 6-4 6-2 defeat, a result that may have been down to the fact that he had stayed up late drinking the night before.

He failed to defend his Irish title the following year and quickly faded from the scene.  

Murder in Monte Carlo

That was last anyone heard of Goold for almost three decades. He spent most of the intervening years drinking, gambling and running up debts.

He moved from one failed business venture to another with his French-born wife, Marie Giraudin, a former dressmaker and seamstress. They moved between London, Liverpool, Montreal and Paris before eventually winding up in Mote Carlo in 1907 where they decided to try their luck in the casinos.

Referring to themselves as ‘Sir’ and ‘Lady’ Goold, they enjoyed a good run of luck on the roulette tables upon their arrival. 

But fortune soon turned against them and they quickly found themselves strapped for cash. Desperate to maintain their outward façade of wealth, they latched onto a Swedish widow, Emma Liven, and borrowed money from her.

But Liven suspected that the scheming pair were not quite what they claimed to be. When she came to their hotel to collect, they murdered her, stole her jewellery, dismembered her corpse and placed her remains in a suitcase.

They decided to flee but, in order to allay any suspicions, calmly had breakfast in the dining room with the suitcase at their feet. But they didn’t get away with it - they were detained in Marseille when a rail porter noticed blood dripping from the suitcase.         

The public was fascinated with this sordid tale and newspapers all over the world followed the trial from a packed out courtroom. 

Goold was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment early the following year. He committed suicide two years later on Devil’s Island, an ignominious end to a life that had once held so much promise.

Marie faced the guillotine but, remarkably, they were unable to find a working one in the area and her sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

It proved a short stay of execution, however, as she died of typhoid in Montpellier prison in 1914.

Well worth a watch.

Images: Getty/Public domain

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