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Welcome to the Murder Mile UK True-Crime Podcast and audio guided walk of London's most infamous and often forgotten murder cases, all set within and beyond the West End.
EPISODE ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-SEVEN: On the afternoon of Saturday 16th September 1972, 68-year-old holocaust survivor Emmy Werner went to The Vaudeville Theatre to watch the farce Move Over Mrs Markham with a care assistant from her nursing home and a receptionist from her hotel. It was an ordinary and unremarkable day.
The next morning, this vulnerable lady who suffered with dementia was found dead in her bed, having been subjected to a horrific attack, in which she was beaten, suffocated and strangled. But why?
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 by the Vaudeville Theatre on The Strand, WC2; one street east of the last seconds of Desmond O’Bierne’s life, one street north of the fall of Peggy Richards, a few steps from the Coal Hole, and three streets west of the deafening rage of Bernard Smith – coming soon to Murder Mile.
Theatre. Love it or hate it. For many, it’s a chance to chin-stroke through some Shakespearian dirge, to hum to tenuously-linked pop hits cobbled-together by an 80’s boyband with six divorces to pay for, or for audiences to show how badly behaved they can be; by coughing every six seconds, not turning their phone off (as – bafflingly – they didn’t realise that paying a 14-year-old £10 wouldn’t get them a top-notch babysitter), or – as I’ve witnessed myself – a patron cutting their toenails off the balcony.
But for so many people, it’s a much-needed night out and a chance to do something different.
On the afternoon of Saturday 16th September 1972, 68-year-old holocaust survivor Emmy Werner went to The Vaudeville Theatre to watch the farce Move Over Mrs Markham with a care assistant from her nursing home and a receptionist from her hotel. It was an ordinary and unremarkable day.
The next morning, this vulnerable lady who suffered with dementia was found dead in her bed, having been subjected to a horrific attack, in which she was beaten, suffocated and strangled. But why?
The evidence you are about to hear has never been released, and the names have been abbreviated.
My name is Michael, I am your tour-guide and this is Murder Mile.
Episode 177: The Night Porter – Part Two.
Nothing in the preceding days would hint at the fate which would befall Emmy Werner…
…as even when you pick apart the strangest moments in her day, everything had a reason and logic.
On Thursday 14th September 1972 at about 10:30pm, Emmy entered the Queen’s Hotel. Having stayed there three times since May, the staff liked this frail little dot of a lady. Often confused, struggling to walk unaided and slightly deaf – as a hotel staffed by young people far from home – they looked after her as they would their own, and some had even become her friend. (Phone ringing) “Mrs W’s here”.
Dressed in a tatty brown cardigan, an old skirt and a mohair scarf, she didn’t exude a woman of wealth. In her bag she carried some spare clothes, tissues, crackers and a bottle of perfume, and although a few items and a little cash had gone missing in the recent months, this was put down to senility.
On previous visits, Emmy had stayed in Room 17, a first-floor room next to Osmond, the manager. But being occupied, they put her in Room 11; between regular guest Mr James in Room 12 and the newly-weds, Mr & Mrs Gibbs in Room 10. All rooms were small, clean and secured by a double locked door.
The only excitement that night was from a possible false alarm, as at 10:40pm, Emmy & Paul, the 16-year-old day porter stood on her balcony and watched the fire engines race to 42 Inverness Terrace. Still struggling with a cold, as he blew his nose, he kept his distance for fear of passing on his germs.
One problem with the room was that the balcony doors would not lock. Placed on a long-list of repairs that the manager was yet to complete, Paul temporarily fixed the lock by wedging it with a 5p piece.
That night, Emmy had a good sleep, she awoke early, she ate her breakfast in the hotel’s lounge and she went to Paddington to visit her sister Anna, as planned. Witnesses verify this. At 10:30pm, she returned to the Queen’s hotel, chatted with Linda & Paul, and at 11pm, he escorted her to her room.
As always, Emmy double-locked the door behind her, undressed and enjoyed an undisturbed sleep.
Saturday 17th September 1972 was the day of Emmy’s trip to the theatre. Escorted by Giovanna, a care assistant from Emmy’s nursing home, and Linda, a receptionist from the hotel, the family were happy to pay for extra tickets if it meant Emmy would be accompanied by someone they knew and trusted.
At 4:20pm, Emmy & Linda left the hotel by taxi and met Giovanna at the Vaudeville Theatre on The Strand, as paid for by Emmy who had begun her four-day stay with roughly £100 in her purse.
With the matinee show finishing at 7:30pm, and Giovanna having left, Emmy & Linda headed to a pub; Linda had rum and coke, Emmy a martini and soda, they ate sausage sandwiches, and left at 8:20pm – as witnessed by the customers. At 9pm, they arrived at The Queen’s Hotel, as confirmed by the taxi-driver. And for the next two hours, Emmy sat in the lounge chatting with Linda the receptionist, Paul the day porter and Patricia the chambermaid over a snack of bread, cheese, crisps and a cup of tea.
Emmy was on good form that night, but the staff said that two issues were plaguing her mind; that she had a sizable sum of money in her bank account that her daughter and son-in-law wouldn’t allow her to have access to (an issue which many elderly persons and their families worry about), and her dislike of Edgar Coldwell, the proprietor of the care-home who was “always shouting, always angry”.
According to Paul, “we talked until 11:05pm and that was the last time I saw her”. With Paddy the night porter running late for his shift, Linda assisted Emmy to Room 11. She would state “I unlocked her door, giving her the key. She remarked that the room felt hot, so I opened the balcony doors”. The 5p piece played by Paul to keep the doors locked was later found on the dresser where it was placed.
It was odd for Emmy to sleep with the balcony doors open, but that night the room was unusually hot.
As Linda was leaving, with Emmy undressing, Linda took the mohair scarf and hung it on a hook behind the door and placed her brown cardigan in the wardrobe. With her handbag and purse beside the bed, Emmy thanked Linda and wished her a good night. Emmy double-locked the door behind her, leaving the key in the lock, and - dressed in a chequered nightshirt with a white nightgown - she went to sleep.
It was a day as mundane as any other…
…and then she was murdered.
The investigation was headed-up by Detective Chief Inspector John Candlish. Being a premises with a high turnover of staff and guests, he had his work cut-out trying to find out who was where and when.
Cathy, the chambermaid began her shift at 6:30am. With check-out at 11am and check-in at 2pm, the turnaround was tight but doable. That morning, with Mr James in Room 12 and Mr & Mrs Gibb, the newly-weds in Room 10 having checked-out, Cathy had cleaned their rooms but was yet to do Emmy’s.
With the door locked and the key on the inside, Cathy didn’t suspect foul play, only that this frail and vulnerable old lady had either overslept, missing her alarm owing to her deafness, or that she was out.
She knocked “Mrs W?” but got reply. Using the phone in Room 12, Cathy got Angela the receptionist to call Room 11, but again, she got no reply. From the first-floor balcony of Room 12, which overlooked Inverness Terrace, Cathy could see that one of the balcony doors was slightly ajar (as it had been left the night before), so she climbed over the black wrought iron railings, and entered Room 11.
Initially, Cathy saw no-one; “the bed looked untidy as all the blankets were filed up, and I didn’t think anyone was lying in it” - especially not Emmy who was just a dot, at barely five foot and seven stone.
Believing the room had been vacated, Cathy unlocked the door to fetch her trolley of fresh linen. A lock-smith would verify there was no evidence of a break-in and none of the locks had been forced.
When questioned, Cathy recalled that the wardrobe was open, the door hook was unused and Emmy’s handbag was unzipped and left open. Although it was impossible to tell whether anything was missing.
For Cathy, at that moment, all she had on her mind was getting Room 11 cleaned while Mrs W was out; she didn’t see a body and there were no signs of an assault or a break-in. Emmy had left her bags beside the bed, but as a confused old lady prone to misplacing items, this wasn’t out of the ordinary.
Cathy would state “I went to make the bed, and as I pulled back the bedspread…” she saw Emmy. Not asleep nor slowly rousing, but unmistakably dead; her mouth agape, her eyes wide, etched in terror.
Cathy was 22-years-old and had been in the job for just six weeks. Rightly startled, she fled downstairs, alerting Osmond the manager who phoned an ambulance, and Bob the hotel’s chef of just two weeks.
Called at 1:10pm, an ambulance arrived six minutes later…
…but finding no pulse, Emmy’s body was left in situ.
For DCI Candlish, it was clear that this was not a natural death nor a suicide, but a murder. Emmy had been targeted by a perpetrator who had purposely gained entry to Room 11 with one specific motive.
Entry to Room 11 would not have been easy from the street, as being a first-floor room with no place to position a ladder, no hand-holds and with the French doors shielded by a set of anti-burglar spikes, the most obvious entry or exit was the balcony, whether via Inverness Terrace or another hotel room.
No fingerprints were found suggesting the culprit had worn gloves, but fragments of bitumen – a semi-solid black paint made of asphalt, used to waterproof the balcony – had been walked into the room. Particles were found by the dressing table, the wardrobe and on the bottom sheet of Emmy’s bed.
It was impossible to determine the shoe size owing to the high-traffic in the room, as several people - Cathy, Bob, Oswald, two ambulance drivers and a doctor – had been inside before the police arrived.
Robbery was a possibility but unlikely; as Emmy was not wealthy, she didn’t wear jewellery, her possessions weren’t of any real value, and of the £100 it was suggested that she may have carried to cover her costs, only £15 remained in her purse, although no-one knew how much she had spent.
Examining the room, the police saw a clear timeline of her final moments; a locked door, a half-drunk cup of tea and a few crumbs from her bedtime snack of cheese and crackers, she had set her alarm clock, undressed placing her skirt and jacket on a chair and her coat in the wardrobe. As there were no signs of a struggle in the room, it was suggested she had been attacked in her bed, as she slept.
Upon inspection, her brown cardigan and mohair scarf were no longer where Linda had left them the night before. But why? Who would take this tatty set of an old lady’s clothes…
…and for what purpose?
Her murder lacked an obvious motive. She wasn’t the kind of woman who hadn’t a bad bone in her body, or a bad word to say about anyone. She didn’t make enemies and she didn’t have any debts. So, who would want her dead? A friend, a family member, a stranger, or someone from her past?
Emmy was just a frail elderly lady, living a simple life, with few friends, money or possessions. But it’s clear that she was chosen, by someone who had entered her room and no other, ignoring the other fifty-nine rooms at the Queen’s Hotel, or any other guest-houses and flats along Inverness Terrace.
To establish what had happened, the police needed to find witnesses, starting with the guests.
The Queen’s Hotel was a guesthouse consisting of four townhouses knocked through; with a reception and TV lounge on the ground floor, bedrooms for the guests and the manager on the first, second and third floors, and in the basement was a kitchen, a storeroom and several bedrooms for the staff.
The hotel was busy that weekend, and to identify all of the guests would prove problematic.
As with many guesthouses in the 1970s, the booking system was haphazard. If you wanted a room; you telephoned in advance, sent a letter or walked up off the street, upon entry you signed the guest book with a name and an address (in a handwriting which was often illegible), you were not required to provide any ID (in fact, with lone men and unmarried couples, it was common to use false details to disguise their identity in case of they were embroiled in a scandal) and many guests paid by cash.
Of the rooms reserved for guests, police were able to question most of the customers who consisted of tourists from across the world. The majority were asleep at the time of the murder, no-one heard any screams or saw any strangers, and – by all accounts – it was a very ordinary night in a hot hotel.
Several guests had checked-out that morning, and owing (possibly) to mistakes in the booking system, the police struggled to identify or question them. Three of them were key witnesses to the success of the investigation; a man known only as Mr James in Room 12, and the newly-weds, Mr & Mrs Gibbs in Room 10. Three people whose rooms were the nearest to where Emmy was murdered.
This could be seen as suspicious, but The Queen’s Hotel was – at best - a slap-dash guesthouse, run by a manager with other things on his mind, and mostly staffed by a bunch of kids who had only been in the job for a few weeks. Standards were low to non-existent, the turnover was high (with the former night porter having been recently dismissed), and - being young and immature – many of the staff took liberties with their new freedom; by turning up late, stealing, or letting friends stay over for free.
Several non-paying guests stayed over that night; two German brothers called Ziggy and Garnot, and Barry & Maureen, a cousin of Paddy the night porter and her husband who were partying in his room.
Of those questioned, they saw and heard nothing strange, but then again, many of them were drunk and were nowhere near the scene of the crime in the hours before, during or after the murder.
To get a better picture of the hotel, police interviewed staff from past and present; including Gunhilde the housekeeper who was away that weekend, Bob the chef who was asleep during those crucial hours, Osmond the manager who was sick in bed with a cold from 5pm until 1pm the next day, and Rosemary the chambermaid of just three weeks who Cathy (who found the body) had taken over from.
Statements would be obtained, but as the staff had formed little cliques - as for some this was a career, but for others, it was just a giggle - this made it harder for the police to know whose word to trust…
…as we shall see.
Detectives also interviewed the last staff to see Emmy alive that night, as their sightings were crucial.
Patricia, a chambermaid who had been at the hotel for seven weeks would state “I started work at 7am till 3pm (on the day of the murder). When I came off work, I didn’t do much, I had no plans… later I planned to see some friends (Paul the day porter, and Ziggy & Garnot the German brothers), I popped out about 10:30pm to meet a friend at a pub, and I arrived back about 10:45pm or a bit later. I talked to Paul & Linda and I think Mrs Werner was there too in the hotel lounge”. Movements which were back-up by the other staff, and during which she didn’t see or hear anything unusual.
Paul the 16-year-old day porter would clarify he had been chatting with Linda, Patricia and Emmy in the lounge over cheese and crackers. “It was the beginning of August when Mrs Werner came to the hotel. It was whilst there that I first had anything to do with her. She had left a box of tissues in one of the shops in Queensway, Linda asked me to go round and find them. Linda and I have been friendly with Mrs Werner ever since”. That night, Paul was due to finish his shift at 11pm, but had stayed later as Paddy the night porter had failed to turn up for his shift, having been drinking with his cousin.
According to Paul, Linda walked Emmy to her room at 11:05pm, and “that was the last time I saw her”.
Linda, as one of the longest-serving staff, was the receptionist at The Queen’s hotel for 14 months. Since Emmy’s first visit in May, the two had become close friends and someone Emmy could trust. So, it was not unusual for them to dine out together, to go to the theatre, or (as Linda would state) “Mrs Werner asked me to meet with her daughter to discuss her money. She had a sizable amount in her bank which they would not allow her to access. It was my day-off, but I agreed”. Linda would escort Emmy to her room, and living in Room 51 on the second floor, she went to bed shortly afterwards.
Both Paul & Linda would meet Emmy socially. Paul would state “I was under the impression that she was a very lonely woman and was anxious to make friends”. On several occasions they had dinner with her at the care home on Fenstanton Avenue in Finchley, when she needed it Paul would collect her post, and while there he understood why she preferred staying at the hotel; “Mr Coldwell was always angry. He shouted the whole time and looked pretty fearsome. Mrs Werner said she was frightened of him because he was always shouting and she was afraid that he would tell her daughter”.
When questioned, neither Linda nor Paul saw or heard anything suspicious…
…but there were still guests and staff who were yet to be interviewed.
Despite repeated appeals, with the last being three years ago, Mr & Mrs Gibbs were never found. It’s likely they were unmarried and their names were false to disguise the shame of a clandestine affair.
An initial suspect was a regular known only as Mr James, who stayed in Room 12, next door to Emmy’s. Being on shift, Paul saw him enter the hotel at 9:20pm. Being a foot taller and several stone heavier than Emmy; he was unfriendly, unnervingly quiet, he often brought prostitutes back to his room and – three weeks before the murder - Patricia the chambermaid spotted in his suitcase a bondage whip.
Given Emmy’s injuries, any sexual sadist in the vicinity was suspected…
…but having been interviewed, Mr James provided a concrete alibi and was ruled out. This left just one unaccounted person, staying in the hotel that night who was yet to be questioned…
…Paddy the night porter.
With no witnesses to the murder, the police had to rely on the evidence before them.
Whoever had murdered Emmy Werner had wanted her body hidden for as long as possible; with the lights off, the curtains closed, the door locked, the bedsheets pulled up and a pillow placed over her face. But was this to affect a faster escape, or simply to hid the horror of what they had done to her?
The evidence suggests that her murder was not premeditated, as her killer had only used items which came to hand within the confines of Room 11; there were no ropes, knives nor weapons of any kind.
So, why was this person there, in a locked room, alone with an old sleeping lady?
Her autopsy would give the detectives a rough timeline of the attack.
Owing to the inconsistent temperature of her room - as the radiators were unbearably hot and the balcony doors were left open - her time of death was placed at sometime between midnight and 3am.
With her fingernails unbroken and no defensive bruises, it was clear that Emmy was attacked while she slept in her bed. It was likely her killer had no intention of waking her, as his entry was stealthy.
Possibly, hearing a sound – maybe a floorboard creak – she stirred, begun to scream and was silenced with a hand across her mouth. But by then, it was too late, as his face had already been seen.
Perhaps in panic, he had straddled her; rucking up her nightdress, leaving a particle of bitumen on the bedsheet and crushing her chest with his weight, resulting in fractures to both her right and left ribs.
With bruising to her left chin and cheek, unable to silence her, he had punched this frightened old lady hard in the face. To someone less frail, a fast fist may not have been so violent, but having undergone a lobotomy, the impact had cracked her skull open, fracturing the two bore holes until they met.
Hemorrhaging, Emmy bled into her pillow; trapped, silenced and terrified. In her harrowing life, she had endured more pain and suffering than most people could imagine, only now her death wouldn’t be at the hands of the Nazis, but (possibly) a man who until a few months ago she had barely known.
As a small woman of unquestionable strength, we know she fought back, but his attack was sustained.
Around her throat, he had manually strangled her until she drifted into a semi-consciousness. His hand had left bruises as he crushed her larynx, fractured her hyoid bone and caused her tongue to swell.
Seizing his moment to silence her and to make his escape; from the sink he grabbed a towel and tightly bound her feet together so she could neither run nor move, and from the wardrobe he snatched her tatty brown cardigan and around her wrists he tied her hands in front of her. She was still, but maybe – coming to – she was not silent. And beginning to scream, that could be why he did what he did next.
With fistfuls of hotel toilet-roll, he forced the wadded paper into her throat, stuffing it so deep that she began to choke. Grabbing her mohair scarf off the door hook, he gagged her tight so she couldn’t spit it out, and knowing that Mrs Werner - a woman who had survived so much, but was about to die for so little – could (possibly) identify him, he suffocated her with her blood-soaked pillow. (End)
Lying dead, her face etched in terror for an eternity, Emmy’s assailant covered her with the bedsheets, and just as he had crept in via the open doors of the balcony, from there he would vanish. His motive was neither murder, hatred nor sexual assault. It was as simple as this – a burglary. Having targeted this 68-year-old woman for what he believed was £100 (£1500 today), he left with literally nothing.
All she had was a few pounds, some old clothes, a box of crackers and a bottle of Jasmine perfume.
Unsure who he was, and with no fingerprints found (as it’s likely he wore gloves), the police felt they had enough evidence to convict their most likely suspect, even without an eye-witness. The man who murdered Emmy Werner would have fibres from her bedsheets and scarf on his clothes, particles of black bitumen from her balcony and bedsheet on his shoes, and – having smoked a cigarette (perhaps before he fled) – he had left the filter-tip of a John Player Special, along with his Group A saliva.
The detectives had a prime suspect since the first day of the investigation; as an employee of the hotel, he had knowledge of the rooms, the doors and the locks; he often bragged of stealing from guests, he knew how to enter guest’s rooms undetected, and he had seen a stack of notes inside Emmy’s purse.
The night porter would be questioned and investigated... only the man they arrested was not Paddy.
The concluding part 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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