Site of Violet’s Leap, Penmaenbach
One cold night in January 1909 an expensive Belgian car was found hanging over the edge of the sea wall at this location, some 50 metres above the sea. The windscreen was smashed. A Tam o’ Shanter hat was found nearby along with a diary belonging to the hat’s owner, Violet Gordon Charlesworth (pictured right). She was an elegant young lady who lived some 33km away in the Rhyl area. You can see a photo of her car outside the Plough Hotel, St Asaph, on this page.
On the night in question, her sister had run to a nearby pub and tearfully explained that Violet had vanished and the car crashed over the cliffs.
It soon emerged that all was not as it first appeared. In fact Violet had tried to fake her own death to extricate herself from a dire position of her own making. She and her mother had said she was going to inherit vast sums of money when she was 25. With this tale, and several aliases, they defrauded doctors, widows and stockbrokers of more than £2m in present money. While the average wage at the time was no more than a £1 a week, Violet was spending £4,000 per year on borrowed money without paying a penny back.
The hunt for her was on, and Britain was gripped by the affair known as “the Welsh Cliff Mystery”. Postcards (such as the one on the left) were sold, some titled “Violet’s Leap”. Red cloaks were fashionable at the time, but sales plummeted once it was known that police were hunting this lady who was likely to be wearing a crimson cloak. The story was even reported in the New York Times. Violet had known her 25th birthday was looming and her creditors would be knocking on her door for their money.
There were numerous reports from across Britain of women supposedly matching Violet’s description. Eventually a newspaper reporter in Oban tracked her down. She was imprisoned in Aylesbury. When she was released she returned to Scotland. Her final resting place is not known. Did she emigrate, or did she change her name again and live a peaceful life?
The full story is available in a booklet by David Bathers from the not-for-profit community company Stori Pen.
With thanks to David Bathers, of Penmaenmawr Historical Society
Other CRIME HiPoints in this area:
Mochdre - inn where a renowned Victorian jailbreaker was apprehended while in bed
Penmaenmawr - where Lady Cavendish grieved after husband's political murder in Dublin
Bryniau Farm, near Deganwy - a German PoW assaulted a fellow worker here for calling him a Nazi