Vicki Martin and The Maharajah of Cooch-Behar

The photographer George Harrison Marks married Vivienne Warren his second wife in 1963. According to The News of the World at the time Vivienne Warren was the sister of Vicki Martin. I haven’t been able to confirm this. George was notorious for making things up. Different surnames and a big age difference between them raises some questions, however her story is an interesting one nevertheless. If anyone knows any more please add to the post with a comment.

Vicki Martin was Born Valerie Mewes in 1931. She was best friends with Ruth Ellis, the last woman hanged in the UK (1955). The pair had both worked at Murray’s Club in Soho, where Stephen Ward, of the Profumo Scandal, later met Christine Keeler. Stephen Ward claimed to have met Vicki Martin in a doorway on Oxford Street during a thunderstorm. Ward produced many female protégés and apparently Vicki Martin was the prototype. She was also a friend of the Maharajah of Cooch-Behar, whose horse racing colours, were once prominent on the British turf. Vicki had an affliction for car accidents. Apparently she had 12 of them over four years and was killed outright in her 13th crash.

Vicki Martin, Maharajah of Cooch Behar

Vicki Martin, the sister Vivienne Warren and the girlfriend of The Maharajah of Cooch-Behar.

Vicki Martin, Stephen Ward and The Maharajah of Cooch-Behar

The Daily Telegraph, January 1955. Thanks to Casper for the scan.

She one of two people killed when the car she was driving collided with another vehicle on the Henley road near Maidenhead, Berkshire (January 9th 1955). The cars met almost head-on. Miss Martin and the driver of the other car were killed outright.

Miss Martin’s companion, was the Canadian Terence Robertson, author of a number of books and the first proponent of the Jack the Ripper victim Fairy Fay. He claimed Fairy Fay was a murdered in the alleys of Commercial Road on Boxing Night, 1887, while taking a short cut home from a Mitre Square pub.

In the other car were the newly weds Mr and Mrs David Salisbury Haig who were returning from a dance in London. Mr Haig, who was 41, was killed and his wife was injured. They had been married only six weeks. Mr Haig was a scientific officer of the National Coal Board.

The wrecked cars were found by Sir David Salt, of Cookham Berkshire. “The girl was dead on the road.” he said, “and I have since wondered how she came to be on the road, because the door of the car was shut.”

Vicki and the Maharajah of Cooch-Behar had met at a film party for It Started in Paradise (1952), a British drama set in the world of haute couture. Vicki played a model in the film. The actress, Kay Kendall, who was a friend of Stephen Ward’s, also had a part.

Film poster for It Started in Paradise (1952) an unusually plush, Lana Turner-esque  British production.

Film poster for It Started in Paradise (1952) an unusually plush, Lana Turner-esque British production.

Vicki and the Maharajah were both injured in July 1953, when the car in which they were travelling was involved in an accident with a van near Baldock Hertfordshire. They were returning from the races at Newmarket. The Maharajah of Couch-Behar received a severe head injury and Vicki Martin was detained at the hospital with leg injuries.

After the accident she spoke of her romance with her Indian Prince. “I am so very fond of him as I feel he is of me. But there is little hope of our romance coming to anything’, she said. “You see, it is the Tiger’s mother, by the way I call the Maharajah “Tiger’ and he calls me “méchante’, French for naughty girl, who is putting her foot down”.

The Maharajah of Cooch-Behar first marriage took place privately at Cooch-Behar, 1949 to Nancy Valentine of New York, a former screen actress, which is a complete other story.

His second marriage was to the London model Gina (Georgina May) Egan in 1956. Gina played a beauty queen contestant in the British film Lady Godiva Rides Again (1951). Vicki Martin’s friend, Ruth Ellis, had a walk-on part in the same film. Diana Dors and Joan Collins also appear.

On January 31 1970, Terence Robertson took his own life in a New York hotel room. At the time he had been commissioned to write a history of the notorious Canadian Jewish Bronfman family but had found out things they didn’t want him to write about. The Bronfman’s made a fortune selling alcohol to American gangsters during Prohibition. Terence Robertson was found in his room minutes before he died of barbiturate poisoning.

Vicki Martin lived at 75 Cadogan Place, Chelsea, London.

Film poster for Lady Godiva Rides Again (1951), released in the United States as Bikini Baby.

Film poster for Lady Godiva Rides Again (1951), released in the United States as Bikini Baby.

    1. meisteryak’s avatar

      Thanks. Updated.

      Reply

  1. j thompson’s avatar

    Sorry should have added that the Mothers name was Reynolds, they had another daughter in 1932 called doreen and one in 1945 called Vivienne.

    Reply

  2. meisteryak’s avatar

    A few other facts I’ve come across since writing the above post.

    Vicki Martin’s funeral was on 14th January 1955. She was cremated at at the West Chapel of the Golders Green Crematorium and the her ashes laid to rest Englefield Green, Cemetery. The card on the wreath from the Maharajah of Cooch Behar read “Goodbye to Mechant my love Tigre”. The funeral guests included Doreen Mewes (Vicki’s sister), the young Jaipur Prince, son of the Maharajah of Jaipur, The Marquis of Milford Haven and band leader Paul Adam. A chap called Peter Kafataris gave evidence at the inquest into her death.

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    1. Eva simmons’s avatar

      To j thompson viviane was the daughter of margaret warren nee reynolds. Her first marriage was to mr mewes daughters valerie and doreen. This is quite true as i am their cousin. I lost touch with viviane years ago but would love to find her. Eva simmons nee reynolds

      Reply

    2. IAN PAYNE’s avatar

      So many were interned or cremated at Golders Green Crem – Richard Wattis was one, who had starred in LADY GODIVA RIDES AGAIN in 1950′s :

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeBkiqBkGIA

      http://cms.walsall.gov.uk/news/new_look_at_walsall_screen_star.htm

      Paul Adam band leader seems an interesting character from those days there are a few interesting articles about him on the web if ones searches avidly enough. His wife was the actress from Dr No – Zena Moyra Marshall [which was news to me] :

      http://www.mi6-hq.com/sections/girls/marshall.php3

      Peter Kafataris [mentioned above], his photo crops up on the web in a Mirror-Photo page. He is attending Vicki’s/Valerie’s inquest at Maidenhead in the 1950′s.

      Marquis of Milford Haven – which one ?

      Reply

  3. j thompson’s avatar

    Eva…. think that confirms the question asked in the first paragraph that Vivienne was in fact the(half) sister of Vicky Martin.

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  4. Stephen Ward Speaks’s avatar

    Congratulations, it is nice to see a piece like this on the internet, although there is a lot more information available which could complement this.

    I too am vaguely related to Valerie Mewes (Vicki Martin) and would be interested in hearing from anyone that knows any more about her (I have been researching her life\death for over a decade). Also happy to share information with anyone with a serious interest.

    As you point out, Valerie was not only friends with Stephen Ward but she was also best friends with Ruth Ellis (the last woman to be hung in England), they lived together, worked together, partied together and died within a short time of each other.

    Also at Valerie’s funeral was the film producer Kenneth Harper (he produced Yield to the Night and wrote the book which accompanied the film ‘Dance with a Stranger’ many years later), his wife gave evidence at Valerie’s inquest.

    Kafataris was manager at the club which Valerie and Robertson had been to on the evening of her death.

    Valerie died in a car accident, Terence Robertson took his own life, Doreen Mewes died in a fire (bizarre circumstances), Ruth Ellis was hung and Stephen Ward ‘took his own life’.

    NB The 13 car accidents story is not quite true – Valerie had two reported accidents (13 presumably sounded ‘unlucky’ to whoever wrote the original story).

    Ps Yes – Vivienne, Doreen & Valerie are all related.

    Reply

    1. meisteryak’s avatar

      Thanks for that. Great stuff. If you would like to write a guest post by all means let me know.
      Don’t suppose you have a photo of Valerie I could included in my post?

      Reply

    2. monica weller’s avatar

      The night Valerie died, she had been at Cliveden.

      Reply

    3. Casper’s avatar

      dear Stephen Ward Speaks, I’m from the Netherlands and
      i have a big collection on Stephen Ward (incl.an original sketch of Dirk Bogarde from 1951) and i’m very interested in Valerie Mewes. I bought some pictures of her from mirrorpix. Her grave is still at Englefield Green Cemetery, Egham. (Plot 20 / Grave 65) I have a serious interest in her life and death and i sincerly hope to hear from you

      Reply

      1. Daniel LESUEUR’s avatar

        Dear Sir, I’m a French writer of more of 35 books (you’ll find informationon wikipedia at my name, DANIEL LESUEUR). I’m presently writing a book which cover the full period of Ruth ELLIS + Stephen WARD. I should be very interested to get in contact with you.

        Reply

      2. Casper’s avatar

        Dear Daniel

        do you have an enail adress where i can reach you

        greetings
        Casper

        Reply

    4. Al’s avatar

      I have a French author researching a book on Ruth Ellis. Can I put him in touch with you?

      Reply

  5. Stephen Ward Speaks’s avatar

    Hello – Yes, would love to write a guest post; am sure I can pull together some scraps of information which haven’t been published anywhere else! Is there some way of contacting you other than by comment on this thread?

    I do have some photographs of Valerie as a model, unfortunately I don’t own the copyright to them so I would caution against publishing. However, I do have some photographs of Valerie and her sister Doreen when they were younger and the copyright will have expired on those.

    Ps You have a great blog here, very interesting.

    Reply

    1. Eva simmons’s avatar

      I would be interested to know what part of the family you are related to as I dont know of any surviving family other than vivienne if indeed she is still alive last I heard she went to canada to live.

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      1. Stephen Ward Speaks’s avatar

        Hello Eva,

        As far a I am aware, Valerie Mewes has at least two cousins that are still alive.

        I am related to one of those cousins.

        Hope that helps.

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        1. Eva simmons’s avatar

          Thats good to hear you must be on her fathers side as my family is all that is left on her mothers side it has been a very tragic family . Kind regards Eva

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          1. Stephen Ward Speaks’s avatar

            You are correct Eva.

            Yes, very tragic indeed; Valerie & Doreen particularly but I know there were others.

            My ‘academic’ interest lies specifically with Valerie – am happy to share my research with you if you would like to get in touch privately.

          2. Eva simmons’s avatar

            I wish I could help you with information about Valerie but was about 8 when she died so cannot remember her I only knew Vivienne and Doreen. The Maharajah kept in touch with my Grandmother for years but they are all dead now. I would dearly love to find Vivienne as she was the same age as me
            Regards Eva

          3. monica weller’s avatar

            Hi Eva…I think we met when I was writing about Ruth Ellis. Hope you’re well. Monica Weller

    1. IAN PAYNE’s avatar

      http://phillipknightley.com/1998/05/an-affair-of-state-the-profumo-case-and-the-framing-of-stephen-ward/

      There is a nice b/w photo of Valerie/Vicki in this book, which I have read twice over the years. From what I can remember she is wearing a jumper and in natural pose, ie not a professional photo as such.

      Reply

    2. IAN PAYNE’s avatar

      If one writes VICKI MARTIN into the search box of above Mirror-Photo page or any other on this site, one comes across quite a few photos of the 1955 Vicki Martin/Valerie Mewes inquest at South Street in Maidenhead during 1955 [no longer there]. A local historian recently told me this :

      “I have an old street directory for Maidenhead and it shows that there was a South Street connecting Broadway and Brock Street. I think this is roughly around the area where the multi-storey car-park on the east side of Broadway now is and the street would have been developed out of existence in the 1960s/70s.”

      In the selection there are quite a few photos like the one above of Vicki/Valerie in modelling mode.

      There are a few of those attending the inquest at the time; some mentioned on this blog.

      There is one of Doreen Mewes being driven away in a car from the inquest. Doreen is briefly mentioned on this blog.

      There is a very intriguing photo of an unfinished portrait of Vicki/Valerie by an artist called BASCO LAZOLLO, who isn’t even registered within Google [try it out]. Does anybody who knew Vicki/Valerie or her family know whether this painting was finished at all ? Then again finding out who the artist was and where he was/is would be a start. Was he a Home County based artist or was he from elsewhere in the UK or was he from Europe and hence painted abroad ?

      The mystery thickens it seems ! I am in the Sherlock Holmes Society of London and would love to call on Sherlock to help, but he is very busy at present and Dr Watson is always on holiday with his new wife.

      These photos are worth a look in case nobody already has yet.

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      1. IAN PAYNE’s avatar

        The http://www.mirrorpix.com site is also has a good source of photos of Vicki Martin. Just put her name in the search box and it has one or two photos of her funeral.

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      2. IAN PAYNE’s avatar

        Could it be the artist Vasco Lazzolo I wonder, where there is loads of info on the internet ?

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        1. IAN PAYNE’s avatar

          It is Vasco Lazzolo not Basco !

          Reply

    1. IAN PAYNE’s avatar

      No longer exists sadly!

      Reply

  6. IAN PAYNE’s avatar

    What an interesting blog – I came across a photo of Valerie and her story in a book about Stephen Ward a few years back.

    There was an interesting documentary about Stephen Ward on BBC R4 at 8pm on 25th May [see BBC iplayer].

    I wrote a book about Richard Wattis who starred in LADY GODIVA RIDES AGAIN :

    http://cms.walsall.gov.uk/news/new_look_at_walsall_screen_star.htm

    I am doing research on Diana Dors also at present :

    http://www.wscountytimes.co.uk/lifestyle/nostalgia/letter-diana-dors-request-1-3419371

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    1. Al’s avatar

      I have a French author researching a book on Ruth Ellis. Can I put him in touch with you?
      Y.

      Reply

  7. IAN PAYNE’s avatar

    This may interest somebody re Terence Robertson from a Canadian newspaper with photo – 1970 :

    http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2194&dat=19700204&id=0tYyAAAAIBAJ&sjid=GO0FAAAAIBAJ&pg=812,474128

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  8. monica weller’s avatar

    Extraordinarily, Vickie Martin/Valerie Mewes left over £2000 in her will in 1955.

    Reply

    1. IAN PAYNE’s avatar

      What is it in 2013 equivalent out of interest ?

      Reply

      1. monica weller’s avatar

        The cost of a substantial house, then.

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  9. IAN PAYNE’s avatar

    It seems that two of the cast members of IT STARTED IN PARADISE are still around and in there 90′s now. Longevity in the blood it seems!

    One of them contacted me when I wrote about Richard Wattis between 2003 – 2005 :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It_Started_in_Paradise

    Reply

  10. Eva simmons’s avatar

    Hallo monica mum died 2007 I still miss her so much it was very sudden so she would be able to answer so many questions I rememer the painting it was completed but Doreen sold it. I would like to get hold of Vivienne as she is the last member of my Auntie Margs that is alive but I dont think she would be interested. Kindest regards Eva

    Reply

    1. IAN PAYNE’s avatar

      I have found two very interesting newspaper article links about George and Vivienne on the net which I have put up, under j thompson’s comments [under third comment from the very top]. In the one newspaper article it says Viviene is the sister of Vicki Martin.

      The painting is shown in the the link to the Daily Mirror website above – either mirror-photos or mirrorpix [put Vicki Martin in the search box when you get onto the website].

      Reply

  11. IAN PAYNE’s avatar

    http://www.historicallyvintage.com/2013_03_01_archive.html

    With a new musical about Stephen Ward on the horizon, coming on top of the 50th anniversary of the Profumo Affair on 5th June 2013, plus the fascinating link I have just found above, perhaps the question should be, who didn’t know Stephen Ward, rather than who did ?!

    Who tickles our fancy the most over the years I wonder regarding the players in the Profumo Scandal – is it Stephen, Profumo, Christine Keeler, Mandy-Rice Davies, or is it the shadowy George Wigg :

    http://www.expressandstar.com/news/2013/06/05/a-tale-of-sex-lies-and-vengeance/

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  12. IAN PAYNE’s avatar

    Food for thought 50 years on – Wiki says Ward met Valerie/Viki in a doorway in Oxford street :

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/10356349/Stephen-Ward-The-voyeur-billed-as-the-victim.html

    Anybody seen this new musical about Ward by Webber :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgJGDDN9ucU

    Reply

    1. Yak’s avatar

      Not seen it yet. But I did see that play about Ruth Ellis a little while back.

      Reply

      1. IAN PAYNE’s avatar

        Yes I heard about that one, Monica told me about it. Did you enjoy it ?

        Reply

        1. Yak’s avatar

          Yes it was pretty good.

          Reply

          1. IAN PAYNE’s avatar

            I hope it tours eventually.

  13. IAN PAYNE’s avatar

    Seems Ward frequented Mag’s Coffee Shop in Cookham on a regular basis during the 1950′s, as Cliveden was just down the river from the small town. He sometimes had use of Lord Astor’s boat and he sometimes turned up with beautiful women/models on his arm and often on his own, and sketched people in the coffee shop. People liked him and he was quite popular :

    http://www.maidenhead-advertiser.co.uk/News/Areas/Cookhams/Researcher-looks-for-Diana-Dors-Cookham-links-01102013.htm

    http://www.henleynews.co.uk/09_01_22.html [see Reg Moon obituary]

    Reply

  14. VM_News’s avatar

    You mention Cookham. Mewes died there, on the Henley Road. The Squire of Cookham found her body. Allegedly. He wasn’t called to the inquest. Mewes wasn’t at Clivedon on the night of her death. She was at Chez Peter in Remenham. She telephoned Ruby Lloyd from there shortly before she died saying someone was out to get her.

    Robertson wasn’t who he said he was.

    Vasco Lazollo was the painter of the portrait, also known as Victor. He was friends with Ward and Baron the photographer and member of the Thursday Club. It was finished.

    There are new calls to have Ward pardoned. Presumably they haven’t looked into his relationship with Mewes yet.

    Reply

  15. simon perkins’s avatar

    My mother Margaret was a good friend of doreen and frequented many parties and social events of the time. She also had her portrait sketched by Stephen Ward who was quite a gifted artist apparently. If anyone would like any information please get in touch. Simon Perkins.

    Reply

    1. Eva simmons’s avatar

      I am a cousin of Doreen Mewes and trying to contact Vivienne Warren her half sister do you know anything about her other than her connection with Mark Harrison who she divorced?

      Reply

      1. meisteryak’s avatar

        I think she married a musician after she divorced George. She was friends with the model Ann Walker. She may know more. I’ll try and get in contact with her.

        Reply

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