Barbara Daly Baekeland

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Barbara Baekeland (Daly)

Birthdate: (50)
Death: November 17, 1972 (50) (murder by stabbing)
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Frank Daly and Nina Daly
Ex-wife of George Middleton Baekeland
Mother of Anthony Baekeland

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Barbara Daly Baekeland

Barbara Daly Baekeland (1922 – November 17, 1972) was a wealthy socialite who was murdered by her son, Anthony Baekeland. She was the ex-wife of Brooks Baekeland, who was the grandson of Leo Baekeland, inventor of Bakelite plastic.

Murdered at her London home, her son Anthony stabbed her with a kitchen knife, killing her almost instantly. When the police arrived, they found Anthony, who was 25 years old at the time, ordering Chinese food over the phone. He later confessed and was charged with murder.

Early life

Born and raised in Boston, her mother Nini had had a mental breakdown a few years before Barbara was born. In 1932 when she was aged 10, her father Frank committed suicide from carbon monoxide poisoning from the exhaust of his car in the garage. After the life insurance payment had been collected, Barbara and her mother moved to New York City, taking up residence in the Delmonico Hotel.


Becoming a young socialite, Barbara was hailed as one of New York's ten most beautiful girls, gaining her regular modelling contracts with Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, and resultant invitations to high society parties, allowing her to date various wealthy admirers. She also suffered mental health problems like her mother, and was a private patient of psychiatrist Foster Kennedy.

An invitation to Hollywood for a screen test with the actor Dana Andrews didn't lead to film stardom but did lead to a friendship with fellow aspiring actress Cornelia "Dickie" Baekeland. She introduced Barbara to her younger brother Brooks, a trainee pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force.


After falsely telling Brooks that she was pregnant, the couple quickly married in California. At the time of the marriage, Barbara listed her profession as painter, while Brooks listed his as a writer.

After the marriage the couple set up home in a luxury apartment in the Upper East Side of New York, where they held extravagant dinner parties for their friends who included: Greta Garbo; Tennessee Williams; William Styron; Yasmin Aga Khan. At these parties, Barbara became well-known to many for her unstable personality, rude outbursts and bouts of severe depression. She also drank heavily, and both parties had many affairs. Barbara gave birth to Anthony in August 1946.

From the summer of 1954 onwards, with Anthony aged eight, the couple led a nomadic seasonal existence, maintaining their home in New York while being mainly based in Europe. Renting houses and villas from London, Paris and Zermatt, to Cap d'Antibes and many parts of Italy; they continued to party, entertain and both to have affairs. From 1960 onwards the family's main base was an apartment in Paris, where during one party Brooks met an English diplomat's daughter who was 15 years his junior. After Brooks requested a divorce and Barbara subsequently tried to commit suicide, Brooks terminated the affair.

In 1967, and with the family based in both Switzerland and the Spanish-resort of Cadaques, Anthony met the bisexual Australian Jake Cooper. Cooper introduced Anthony to various hallucinogenic drugs, for which they travelled to Morocco. Anthony and Cooper started a homosexual affair. When Mrs. Baekeland was informed of this by her friend Barbara Curteis, she travelled by car to Spain to bring her son back to Switzerland. However, at the French border, Anthony was found not to have his passport. After the ensuing fracas, both Anthony and Barbara were arrested and placed in jail.


Returning to Spain, Barbara accepted the extent of her son's relationship with Cooper, but preferred his developing relationship with a young Spanish girl, Sylvie. However, Sylvie started an affair with Brooks. After discovering the affair in February 1968, Barbara again tried to commit suicide. Brooks decided that he had had enough of Barbara's behaviour, and decided to pursue a divorce. This led Barbara to severe depression and a further suicide attempt, from which her friend Gloria Jones, wife of author James Jones, saved her.

In 1969 she met Samuel Adams Green, with whom she started an affair. Later introduced to her son, noted pop art curator Green was very unimpressed by his artistic capabilities. After six weeks, Green broke off the relationship, although Barbara was still obsessed by Green. She pursued him relentlessly; when she returned to the United States that fall, she walked barefoot across Central Park in the snow wearing nothing but a Lynx fur coat to demand entry to his apartment.

Relationship with son

Baekeland had a complex and allegedly incestuous relationship with her gay son, Anthony. Baekeland attempted to "fix" her son by having prostitutes have sex with him. After this failed, and the pair were living in Majorca, Mrs. Baekeland was alleged to have manipulated or coerced her son into having sex with her. By this time (the summer of 1968) the Baekelands were divorced.

Although Anthony displayed increasingly regular signs of schizophrenia with paranoid tendencies, his father refused to allow him to be treated by psychiatrists, a profession he believed to be "amoral". Her son's erratic behavior caused concern among family friends. Anthony was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Over the years, Anthony and his mother had several violent arguments involving knives.


In late July 1972, Anthony tried to throw his mother under the traffic outside her penthouse on Cadogan Square in Chelsea, London. She was only saved by his physical weakness, and the intervention of her friend Susan Guinness. Although the Metropolitan Police arrested Anthony for attempted murder, Barbara refused to press charges. Anthony was subsequently admitted to The Priory private psychiatric hospital, but was released soon afterwards.

Anthony undertook sessions with a psychiatrist while living at home; the doctor became so concerned about Anthony's condition that on October 30, he warned Barbara that he was capable of murder. Barbara dismissed the doctor's assertion.

Two weeks later, on November 17, Anthony murdered his mother by stabbing her with a kitchen knife, killing her almost instantly. When the police arrived, they found Anthony, who was 25 years old at the time, ordering Chinese food over the phone. He later confessed and was charged with murder.

Anthony was institutionalized at Broadmoor Hospital prison until July 21, 1980 when, at the urging of a group of his friends, he was released.

Death of Anthony

Flying directly to New York City, Anthony stayed with his 87 year old maternal grandmother, Nina Daly. Only six days after his release, on July 27, he attacked her with a kitchen knife, stabbing her eight times and breaking several bones. Arrested by the New York City Police Department, he was charged with attempted murder.

Sent to Rikers Island prison, after eight months of assessment by the psychiatric team there, he was expecting to be bailed at a court hearing on March 20, 1981. However, the case was adjourned by the judge, due to a delay in the transfer of his medical records from England. After returning to his cell at 3:30PM, he was found dead there 30 minutes later, suffocated with a plastic bag.

Savage Grace

Main article: Savage Grace

The first Baekeland murder was made into the 2007 film Savage Grace, starring Julianne Moore, Stephen Dillane, Eddie Redmayne, Hugh Dancy, Elena Anaya and Unax Ugalde. It was based on the book of the same name.

After the film opened, Baekeland's former lover Samuel Adams Green, wrote an article pointing out elements in the film possibly misleading for those trying to read back to the reality inspiring it. Referring in particular to the menage-a-trois scene of Barbara, Antony, and Sam in bed together having sex, he wrote:

“ It is true that almost 40 years ago I did have an affair with Barbara, but I certainly never slept with her son...Nor am I bisexual. She started telling people she had had an incestuous relationship with her son as a way of 'curing' him of homosexuality... But I don't believe she had sex with Tony. I think she simply enjoyed shocking people. ”

Green then embarked on legal action against the film makers, which was still unresolved at the time of his death.

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Barbara Daly Baekeland's Timeline

August 1946
Age 24
November 17, 1972
Age 50