DESPITE his distinguished career as a brilliant barrister and outspoken judge in which he daily encountered the mad, the bad and the sad, Hon. Ewen Montagu QC never lost his faith in humanity.

To illustrate his view, he pinpointed the case in which he represented a Hampshire father-of-six who slaughtered his wife and then his daughter when she tragically stumbled on his feeble attempts to cover up the murder of her mother.

"He was a dead case from the start and his appeal was dismissed," he recollected. "He was being led knowing he hadn't a hope of being reprieved, but as he passed, he said, 'Thank you, sir, nobody could have done more.'

"Now here was a most sordid, brutal murderer. Yet he possessed that gentlemanly instinct when anyone, including myself, would have left the court in the most utmost despair. It just serves to show that very few people are very bad."

The great hall of Winchester castle T9401H....Picture by Terry Bond.

The trial of William Shaughnessy, 46, at Hampshire Assizes was one of the last before Montagu - who devised the most ingenious bluff since the Trojan Horse by creating 'The Man Who Never Was' ploy that saved the lives of thousands of allied servicemen by hoodwinking the Germans over the site of a Mediterranean landing during the Second World War - was appointed Recorder of Southampton.

The clothing dealer was convicted at Hampshire Assizes on March 13, 1951, of his wife Marie at their home in Arundel Street, Portsmouth. Much of the damning evidence was delivered by the couple's nine-year-old Irene who stood near the trial judge, Mr Justice Byrne.

Her pigtails tied with pale pink ribbons, she was at times almost inaudible and one reply to a question from prosecuting counsel J Scott Henderson was only heard by one member of the jury who repeated it aloud. The judge, in a kindly voice, helped her to explain points that were not clear.

On the exhibit table, just below Irene, was a model of the property in which she lived with her parents, two brother and her other sister, Joyce.

Shaughnessy was no stranger to crime. He had already accumulated an extensive list of convictions, principally for petty crime, before emigrating in the mid-1920s to Canada where he met his wife, Marie Alexine, in Winnipeg.

Winnipeg, Canada

Winnipeg, Canada

A change of scenery however did not bring about a change in ways and he was deported in 1933 for theft and fraud, setting up a business in second clothing at his home where he carried out the double killing.

Shaughnessy spent that fateful day visiting a series of public houses in the locality and it was perhaps an argument over money that led to his wife being battered about the head and strangled. The prosecution could not provide any other explanation for his actions.

Irene, who had been out to buy a book of postage stamps, returned home only to find the property locked. Her father opened the door and then sent her away at least three times on a series of errands while he attempted to clear up the incriminating evidence and dispose of her body.

When she asked her father where her mother had gone, he told her an uncle from Canada had unexpectedly called and she had accompanied him to London.

"I left mummy and daddy in the house," she said. "When I came back, I had to rattle the latch and daddy came to the door. I did not go indoors. He sent me to get some more stamps, then a postal order and then for some buns. When I came back to the house each time, I didn't get in."

Arundel Street, Portsmouth

Arundel Street, Portsmouth

Shaughnessy took his two sons and Irene to London the following morning, telling them not to disturb their sister, Joyce, as she was not feeling well. It was not until they returned home that 16-year-old Ronnie found her lying naked in bed. He called the police who discovered his mother's body secreted in a cupboard.

The eminent Home Office pathologist confirmed Shaughnessy's wife had been murdered first and Joyce had also been strangled.

Shaughnessy was at large for two days before being arrested and charged with the double murder, though at his trial the Crown only proceeded with that of his wife.

In his feeble defence, he claimed the killings had been carried out by a man who ironically had killed a woman behind his shop - a crime that has remained unsolved - and after finding his wife lying dead in a pool of blood, he had panicked in hiding her body. "I just stood there looking. I could not believe it."

Admitting he had cleared up the scene, he told detectives: "All that was foremost in my mind was that I must never let my nippers see their mother like this."

In the witness box, he vehemently denied killing her. "My wife always stood by me. She has always been a good wife."

But when asked why he had taken the children to London and not report her murder, he could only come up with an implausible excuse. "I wanted time to think, to fathom lout what I should for the best. All the police in Portsmouth could not have brought her back to me and the children."

But his protestations were hopeless, with jurors taking less than two hours, including a lunch adjournment, to convict him at the end of a four-day trial and he was sentenced to death. Despite its hopelessness, he took his case to the Court of Appeal but it was swiftly rejected.

He was hanged at Winchester Prison on May 5 by Albert Pierrepoint.