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EPISODE ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-SIX:
On the morning of Sunday 17th September 1972, in Room 11, 68-year-old Emmy Werner was found dead in the bed of Room 11 in the Queen’s Hotel, Bayswater. Having locked her door from the inside – gaining entry - someone had beaten, suffocated and strangled her. It was a cruel and motiveless crime on a defenseless old lady, which remains unsolved to this day. But who had killed her, and why?
As many photos of the case are copyright protected by greedy news organisations, to view them, take a peek at my entirely legal social media accounts - Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
The location is marked with a teal raindrop above Hyde Park by the words 'The Long Water'. To use the map, click it. If you want to see the other murder maps, access them by clicking here.
SOURCES: This case was researched using some of the sources below.
COURT RECORDS - https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C11039420
COURT RECORDS - https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C11039421
UNEDITED TRANSCRIPT OF THE EPISODE:
Welcome to Murder Mile.
Today, I’m standing on Inverness Terrace in Bayswater, W2; two streets west of the three possible murders of Vincent Keighrey, a few doors north of the stabbing of US Airman Stanley Thurman and two streets west of the sadistic sex-pest known as The Bearded Man - coming soon to Murder Mile.
Inverness Terrace is a quiet little side-street between Hyde Park, Paddington and Notting Hill. Dotted with cheap little B&Bs for tourists, many guests dismiss the damp walls, sticky sheets and deluxe views of the bins outback, feeling they’ve got value-for-money if it includes a complimentary sliver of soap, two teabags, a stale biscuit and a splat of shampoo - enough to scrub three hairs or a half a nipple.
And yet, freebies aside, we all flippantly take our safety in a strange room as if it is a given.
In 1972, at 86-90 Inverness Terrace once stood the Queen’s Hotel; a row of five-storey townhouses knocked through to create a sixty-roomed guest-house, with accommodation for residents and staff.
A regular customer was 68-year-old Emmy Werner; a harmless little dot of a lady, who suffered with dementia owing to the horrors of her past. But having found a place to stay as well as much-needed company among the youthful and friendly staff, here she felt safe… or at least, she should have been.
On the morning of Sunday 17th September 1972, in Room 11, Emmy was found dead in her bed. Having locked her door from the inside – gaining entry - someone had beaten, suffocated and strangled her. It was a cruel and motiveless crime on a defenseless old lady, which remains unsolved to this day.
And yet, the evidence you are about to hear has never been released. To protect the innocent, the names have been abbreviated. For Emmy’s family, I hope this helps bring some conclusion to the case. And for you – dear listener – I pray that this tawdry tale doesn’t put you off staying into a hotel forever.
My name is Michael, I am your tour-guide and this is Murder Mile.
Episode 176: The Night Porter – Part One.
It’s impossible to comprehend the tragedy that Emmy Werner had suffered and survived in her life, only to end up dead in the bed of a Bayswater hotel. But who would want to wish her harm, and why?
Emmy was born on the 3rd January 1904 in Brno, the second largest city in Czechoslovakia after Prague. Raised as the first of two daughters in a middle-class Jewish family, to Helene, a housewife & Dr Emil, a lawyer, she was educated until the age of 18, and became a secretary at her father’s legal practice.
Neighboured by Germany, Austria, Poland and Hungary, Czechoslovakia was forged from the ashes of the First World War. Being a predominantly German-speaking city where Jews made up only 4% of its people, the city’s boundary was redrawn to dilute the stranglehold that its German nationals held.
From the armistice onwards, the Czech city of Brno was seen as a safe-haven for Jews…
…as for its people, the horrors of war were now a figment of the past.
For Emmy, her early life was good. Being barely a little dot, at just seven stone in weight and four foot eleven inches in height, what she lacked in size she more than gained in intelligence and confidence.
With a neatness which typified her nature, a compassion which burst from her smile and a walk fuelled by an inner strength, she was a woman who could take on the world if she had to - and she would.
In 1925, 21-year-old Emmy married a prosperous dentist called Albert Werner, three years later their only child – a daughter called Hedy – was born, and they lived in a flat in Brno, staffed by two servants.
This was their home, their lives, their everything…
…but soon, it would be taken.
With Hitler coming to power in 1933, the Nazis implemented the persecution and segregation of the Jews in stages, beginning with state-sponsored racism, anti-Jewish legislation, boycotts and violence.
Following the annexation of Austria and the incorporation of the Czechoslovakian border known as the Sudetenland into Germany, with the rest of country weak and defenceless, on 15th March 1939 the German Army marched into Prague, and – like many Czech cities and towns - Brno soon followed.
Five months before the German invasion of Poland and Neville Chamberlain’s reluctant declaration of war, the Nazis took control of the city. With the calm of an icy wind and the ease of summer breeze, more than 100,000 troops, trucks and tanks crawled into the city streets, like a parade of peace.
No shots were fired and no shouts were heard, as the citizens of Brno stood in a mix of awe and terror.
Every citizen saw this ‘occupation’ through different eyes; for the German nationals they saluted with jubilation and waved their swastikas high; for the Czechs, many sobbed as with the first war still fresh in their memories, a second war was too unthinkable; and as for the city’s Jews – for some of whom this was their home and others having fled Nazi Germany – their uncertain future was to be feared.
Like thousands of others - unable to leave the country without a visa - Emmy, Albert & Hedy Werner were unable to flee their home city of Brno, and there they would remain for the next three years.
With laws written to persecute them for their religion, life was hard for Emmy and her family. In a city already gripped by blackouts and rationing, any non-Aryans were forced to stitch a yellow star upon their clothes, identifying them as a people to be persecuted. This was their home, and yet, they were denied the most basic of services; education, employment and medicine; access to shops, parks and public baths; they couldn’t travel, trade, pray, or even sit on selected benches on public streets.
Whereas once Brno was a place for families; the children who played hopscotch in the streets now marched as part of the Hitler Youth, neighbour ratted-out neighbour simply to survive, people were sent to prison for expressing opposing views, some vanished into Gestapo HQs never to return and any dissenters were executed in the streets – with the relatives forced to cover the cost of their death.
Subjected to abuse, assaults and their possessions confiscated without recourse, for many like Emmy and her family, their lives were little more than a prison, of which their sentence was indefinite.
They endured three years of isolation and terror, which did untold damage to their minds…
…and yet, no-one foresaw the apocalyptic horror which was yet to come.
On 11th July 1941 - codenamed Operation Reinhard - Adolf Hitler implemented the systematic murder of the Jews by initially establishing three killing centres at Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka in Poland, inflicting slaughter on an industrial scale and killing six million Jews, two-thirds of those in Europe.
We know this now, but back then, amidst the chaos of war, it was just a rumour.
From 1941 to 1942, 10000 men, women and children (almost the city’s entire Jewish population) were deported from Brno to Theresienstadt in the Bohemian region of Czechoslovakia. Built as a fortress, the camp had a dual purpose; as a transit point where thousands were held before being sent to labour camps and killing centres (like Dachau and Auschwitz), but also as a propaganda tool for the Nazis.
On 1st April 1942, Emmy, her husband Albert and her daughter Hedy were sent to the Theresienstadt camp. Under the guise of a re-settlement centre, families boarded trains with their luggage believing they would survive the war in relative safety; with guaranteed jobs in factories, a roof over their heads and food in their bellies – living a better life than they had done in the ghettos of their own cities.
Only, this belief was as much a myth as the camp itself.
Arriving at Theresienstadt; their details were taken, an onward journey was noted, they ate their first hot meal in weeks, and – given a pen and paper – they were asked to write letters to their loved ones reassuring those left behind that they were safe. The letters were sent, and the cruel lie became fact.
Described in Nazi propaganda as a model camp, Theresienstadt was a façade designed to hide the real horrors of Hitler’s plan. Under the hoax that this was a ‘spa town’ where families and the elderly could ‘retire’ in safety – prior to an inspection by the Red Cross in June 1944 – gardens were planted, houses painted and fake shops were built, as the prisoners danced wearing forced smiles for fear of death.
Emmy lived amid the filth for three years; never knowing if she would see another day, if her daughter would starve, if her mother or sister had lived, or if her husband was alive. With the Allies advancing – seeking to destroy any evidence of the genocide - on 2nd February 1945, 47-year-old Albert Werner, Emmy’s husband of 17 years, was executed in the gas chambers at Dachau. His body was never found, his shallow grave is unknown, and all she retained of his was a single photo of the man she still loved.
On the 5th May 1945 - with the camp liberated - Emmy and Hedy were free…
…and although the war was over, their physical and psychological trauma had only just begun.
Three days later, scenes of jubilation dotted our smouldering continent as the Allies celebrated Victory in Europe; street parties erupted, bands rang out and returning servicemen hugged their sweethearts. For many, life returned to normal, as the worst they’d ensure would be rationing for a few more years.
But for the chosen few who – like Emmy - had ‘survived’ the holocaust, existence was just a memory.
Physically, having endured starvation, malnutrition, tuberculosis, typhoid and/or dysentery, as well as punitive wounds from dog bites, whip-lashes, beatings and gun-shots, many survivors would continue to suffer from a wealth of medical issues for years or decades to come, right up to the day they died.
Upon their liberation, thousands of survivors would die eating their first solid meal, as having been starved to the point where they were just skin and bones, their stomachs could no longer digest food.
Mentally, although resilient - in an era before PTSD was understood and feelings were hidden by a stiff upper lip - those who lived through these horrors often suffered with higher levels of anxiety, paranoia and depression, a greater risk of suicide and schizophrenia, and were more likely to develop dementia in their later years owing to displaced trauma. Those who many said “we’re lucky to have survived”, often felt an unbearable sense of guilt having lived, later known as ‘survivor syndrome’.
For the sake of her family, although only a little dot, through raw strength Emmy struggled on in the post-war years, but three years of occupation and three years of imprisonment had taken its toll.
In June 1945, Emmy and daughter were just three of the 1033 Jews from Brno who had survived the Theresienstadt camp. Of the 10,081 Jews deported from this city, only one-tenth made it home.
Only once home, still their pain did not end. Dressed in nothing but a ragged prison uniform and a serial-number permanently inked into their left forearm or breast, many returned to find nothing. No home, no work, no family, no money and no possessions, everything had been looted or smashed.
Between June 1945 and September 1946, Emmy & Hedy Werner tried to live as best they could in the bombed-out remains of Brno, but life was a struggle. Taking a job at a Jewish Community Office, Emmy found her mother (Helene) and her sister (Anna) alive in London, and she moved to be near them.
This should have been the end of her torture…
…but the worst was yet to come.
Emmy began her new life in London, a smashed smouldering city pockmarked with daily reminders of death. Being surrounded by family was a blessing, but she had little else except memories and grief.
As a refugee, although educated, she could only get work as a cleaner, so her meagre earnings were supplemented by a disability allowance and a widow’s pension from the German government, as part of their reparations to the victims of the holocaust. But living for many was as terrifying as dying.
Her daughter Hedy would state “In the three years since, she thought that people were following her. She tried to commit suicide by taking an overdose of pills and to cut her wrists”. Her mental decline was so swift that Hedy and Emmy’s sister Anna had here admitted to Bethlam Hospital, an infamous former Victorian asylum known as Bedlam, which was then a very progressive mental-health hospital.
Admitted for three years, Emmy underwent the latest procedures. First was ECT, electroconvulsive therapy, a controversial psychiatric remedy where doctors attempted to reboot her brain by placing electrodes on her temples and inducing a current of up to 120 volts for up to six seconds a time.
Administered in an era before anaesthesia, ‘unmodified ECT’ came with its own risks, such as; memory loss, paralysis, heart failure and broken bones, with some patients left disabled or in a vegetative state.
Emmy would survive her treatment, but as Hedy would state “it was not a success”.
Second was a lobotomy, a neurosurgical treatment (with a proven track-record curing epileptics) by severing the connections in the brain's prefrontal cortex, which often left the patient with long-lasting side effects such as vomiting, dizziness, incontinence, vision impairment, abnormal sensations and even paralysis. In Emmy’s case “it was not a success” and left her with two bore-holes in her temples.
No matter what they tried, Emmy’s terror could never be erased…
…as like the tattoo the Nazis had inked on her, the horror would remain forever.
From 1950 to 1956, Emmy was admitted to Horton Mental Hospital in Epsom, Surrey as a voluntary inpatient. During her time, doctors described her as quiet and distant with no enthusiasm for life. At no point did she improve, as her silence was only her regression. So far, in her fifty-two-years alive, she had endured three years under Nazi occupation, three years in a concentration camp, three years at Bethlem and six years at Horton. She had been a prisoner in life and in her mind for fifteen years.
In the summer of 1956, Emmy was discharged from Horton, and went to live with her elderly mother in Paddington. Medication had tempered her rages, but she was often confused, scared and rambling; she hoarded food, she became shabby and – like many - she was terrified that she was being watched.
In October 1966, following her mother’s death, Emmy went to live with her daughter Hedy in Bedford. After two decades of mental illness, and now dementia, Hedy tried her best but this calm and pleasant little dot of a lady had been replaced by a frightened and paranoid woman prone to outbursts of anger.
By 1967, Emmy Werner was far from the bright and confident woman that she once was.
She was only sixty-three years-old by then, but life had ravaged her body and her mind. Walking with a stoop, this frail tiny lady looked at least twenty years her senior; her hearing was failing, her mind was confused, she was incontinent, her black moods came in waves and she needed help up the stairs.
That year, through the Association of Jewish Refugees, Emmy was given a bed in an old people’s home.
Ran by Edgar & Margaret Coldwell, the home at 11-13 Fenstanton Avenue in Finchley, North London was set in a series of two-storey semi-detached houses with white walls and black timber frames on a quiet leafy street. It was nice, but Emmy didn’t like living there, as she didn’t feel welcome or safe.
Like many elderly persons, she worried about her finances, later telling a friend: “she had a sizable amount of money but her daughter and son-in-law would not allow her to have access to it”. She disliked the staff: “when I met Mr Coldwell, he was very angry. He shouted the whole time and looked pretty fearsome. Mrs Werner used to say she was frightened of him because he was always shouting”.
But most of all, what she resented her lack of independence…
…but London would provide some light in her gloomy life.
When visiting her sister Anna in Paddington, Emmy would stay at The Queen’s Hotel at 86-90 Inverness Terrace in Bayswater. It was cheap and clean, but – best of all – the staff were pleasant and friendly.
First staying in May 1972 and three times since, her family and the care-home had no issues, as they knew where she was, they had a number to call and in Emmy’s own words “the staff were very nice”.
Linda, the 21-year-old receptionist would state “I met Mrs Werner, we became friendly, she told me she was not happy at the home, but at the hotel she had the freedom”. Oswald, the 45-year-old manager liked her as “she always paid on time and in cash”. And Paul, the 16-year-old day porter saw her as “a lovely old lady who just wanted some friends”. She had her quirks, but the staff liked her.
The Queen’s Hotel was like a home-from-home and here she felt safe, warm and welcome.
The last time Hedy saw her mum was on Saturday 9th September 1972 between 3pm and 6pm. Sat in her first-floor bedroom of the care-home in Finchley, Emmy was her usual self; she had made plans to visit her sister, to stay a few nights at The Queen’s Hotel and she wanted to go to the theatre.
Hedy purchased two tickets for the matinee performance of the Ray Cooney farce ‘Move Over Mrs Markham’ at the Vaudeville Theatre for the following Saturday. With no friends of her own to go with, the second ticket went to Giovanna, a care assistant at the home, to ensure Emmy was looked after.
On Thursday 14th September 1972 at roughly 10:30pm, Emmy entered the Queen’s Hotel.
Dressed in a brown cardigan and skirt with a woolly mohair scarf, in her hand she carried a black bag filled with a spare set of clothes, some tissues, a box of TUC crackers and a bottle of jasmine perfume.
Greeted by Angela, a different receptionist, Paul, the young day-porter telephoned Linda in her room to tell her “Mrs W’s here”, as Emmy had promised to take her to the theatre too. And although he was blighted by a cold and permanently blew his nose into some toilet tissue - keeping his distance as best he could for fear of passing it onto her - Paul assisted Emmy to the first floor and carried her bag to Room 11. It was ordinary day, and as Paul would say “she was in good health and had no complaints”.
The room wasn’t much, but at just twelve-by-fifteen feet, it contained a single bed, a chest of drawers, a wardrobe, a phone, a radio, a tray of tea, and its own sink but it shared a bathroom and a toilet. It had a solid door which was locked with a key (one given to the guest and one held by reception), and a set of French doors leading to a small first-floor balcony which overlooked Inverness Terrace.
Friday 15th September, the next day, was equally as forgettable. Emmy got up early, she had breakfast, she visited her sister, and returned about 10pm. Sat in reception, she chatted with Linda & Paul as per usual, and – as Paddy, the night porter came on shift – Paul assisted her up the stairs to her room.
“Her spirits were good”, Paul would say. She hadn’t been followed, harassed and she seemed happy.
So, it’s not surprising that Saturday 16th was as unremarkable as the others, with the only notable difference being that Emmy went to the theatre – aided by Giovanna, the care-assistant and Linda, the receptionist. The play was funny, Emmy liked it, they had a light bite, headed back to the Queen’s, where she chatted with Linda, Paul and Patricia, one of the chambermaids, and – this time – Linda assisted the frail old lady to her bedroom.
Emmy thanked her, she entered Room 11, she locked the door behind her and left the key in the lock. As per usual, she undressed, she got into bed and (with not a care in the world) she drifted off to sleep.
That was the last time that 68-year-old Emmy Werner was seen alive. (End)
The night had been quiet in this bustling hotel; not an odd sound was heard, not a stranger was spotted and no suspicions were raised by the staff that any of the residents were in danger, or had died.
At roughly 1pm, Cathy the chambermaid went to change the bedsheets of Room 11, but found the door locked from within. With no ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door and unable to use the pass-key, she climbed onto the balcony of Room 12 and entered via the French windows, left slightly ajar.
The small room was only as messy as most customers leave it; with her clothes on the floor, her black bag and handbag by the bed, and a half-eaten cracker and a cup of tea gone cold left on the dresser.
Cathy crept in, quietly cooing “Mrs W?” for fear of startling her, but she didn’t wake. Knowing she was hard of hearing, Cathy shook her “Mrs W?”, only she didn’t move.
Emmy lay in bed, all silent and still, covered by a bedsheet which neither rose nor sank. Cathy thought the frail lady was only sleeping, but with her face contorted in fear, it was clear she’d been murdered.
Throughout her life, this brave woman had endured more pain, loss and trauma than most would dare to imagine. And yet, in her last moments alive, someone had subjected this little lady to a torturous death. She had survived so much, only for her life to end here, in a cheap bed in a Bayswater hotel.
Part two of three of The Night Porter continues next week.
** LEGAL DISCLAIMER
The Murder Mile UK True Crime Podcast has been researched using the original declassified police investigation files, court records, press reports and as many authentic sources as possible, which are freely available in the public domain, including eye-witness testimony, confessions, autopsy reports, first-hand accounts and independent investigation, where possible. But these documents are only as accurate as those recounting them and recording them, and are always incomplete or full of opinion rather than fact, therefore mistakes and misrepresentations can be made. As stated at the beginning of each episode (and as is clear by the way it is presented) Murder Mile UK True Crime Podcast is a 'dramatisation' of the events and not a documentary, therefore a certain amount of dramatic licence, selective characterisation and story-telling (within logical reason and based on extensive research) has been taken to create a fuller picture. It is not a full and complete representation of the case, the people or the investigation, and therefore should not be taken as such. It is also often (for the sake of clarity, speed and the drama) presented from a single person's perspective, usually (but not exclusively) the victim's, and therefore it will contain a certain level of bias and opinion to get across this single perspective, which may not be the overall opinion of those involved or associated. Murder Mile is just one possible retelling of each case. Murder Mile does not set out to cause any harm or distress to those involved, and those who listen to the podcast or read the transcripts provided should be aware that by accessing anything created by Murder Mile (or any source related to any each) that they may discover some details about a person, an incident or the police investigation itself, that they were unaware of.
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a writer, crime historian, podcaster and tour-guide who runs Murder Mile Walks, a guided tour of Soho’s most notorious murder cases, hailed as “one of the top ten curious, quirky, unusual and different things to do in London” and nominated "one of the best true-crime podcasts at the British Podcast Awards".
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a crime writer, podcaster of Murder Mile UK True Crime and creator of true-crime TV series.
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