Murder in Vale Farm Road, Woking

1960s, late: (Date may be 1964-ish) winter: Murder in Vale Farm Road Woking: Mervyn Saunders: I saw the photos of this at HQ. The house was unoccupied during the day (people at work I guess) and a gas leak filled it with gas, then the fridge clicked on and the ... more resulting tiny spark ignited the gas and blew the house to pieces.

Peter Bradley: a very mild little man killed his wife and turned on all the gas taps in the house, and waited for it to blow up. It did, twenty four hours later - and he survived. Tom Styles was newly qualified forensics officer; found all sorts of bits and pieces- literally. I took the husband along with Fred Hare up to Brixton on remand. He just chatted away to us, all the way up. Do not remember what happened to him.

Tony Forward: This was late 60's. I was involved in the investigation as a DI and Detective Chief Inspector Tom Style was the investigating officer. An elderly man killed his wife by hitting her over the head with a seven pound club hammer. To make sure, he then used the hammer to bash a knife through her heart.

It was his intention to gas himself in the kitchen oven but before doing so decided to carry his wife's body upstairs with the knife still sticking in her chest. Halfway up the stairs, he was disturbed by his sister-in-law calling at the front door to visit his wife. He told her she was shopping and she left.

Had the front door opened the other way, she would have seen the body on the stairs. He was exhausted and could not haul the body up any further. He put his head in the kitchen oven and turned on the gas. Before doing this, he had shovelled out the glowing ashes from the fireplace and put them in the garden so as not to cause an explosion.

The oven and the house filled with gas and he lost consciousness. It is believed that the gas rose up the chimney and was ignited by a spark coming up the adjoining chimney from the fireplace in the house next door. There was a massive explosion reducing the house and part of the house next door to a heap of rubble.

A woman cycling past was knocked off her bicycle by flying debris. There was a full turnout of the emergency services including a medical team from St Peter Hospital, Chertsey. Inspector Fred Sayer took command of the scene and rubble was passed down a chain of people and removed and a call for silence was made every five minutes while everyone listened for sign of life.

While the rubble was being removed, a doctor with the medical team pulled out a long knife. It was passed down the line and, with other possibly significant finds, was placed in the boot of a police car. The lady's body was found in the rubble and removed to the mortuary. The man was found, still alive, and taken to hospital.

It was not until the post-mortem was held on the woman's body that it was realised she had been stabbed. Her smashed head and bloodstained clothing had been thought to be the result of the house collapse. There was then a search for the knife and it was found in the boot of the traffic car.

When the old man recovered, he confessed and was charged with her murder. He was sentenced to life but this was later reduced on appeal against conviction to manslaughter with a reduced sentence. He died a few years later in prison. (I regret I cannot remember the names of the couple.)

Ray Harlow: I attended along with others and the incident was treated as a major incident. If this is the same event a search was carried out of the debris and a body was found. The striking thing was that the woman was found with a knife in her and the enquiry then became a murder one.

The bodies were taken to St. Peter's Hospital, Chertsey, where the pathologist carried out the post-mortem examinations. I cannot recall whether the pathologist was Dr. Paul or Dr. Mant. I think it was Detective Superintendent Walter Simmonds who handed me the knife in a plastic bag and asked me to take it to the pathologist for comparison with the woman's wound.

I cannot recall exactly but I assumed it had been removed from her body before she was taken to the hospital. It matched the wound. I am pretty certain that the incident was a domestic one and the house was deliberately destroyed by the husband following the stabbing.

Charles Mitchell: The murder of Daisy Cox at Vale Farm Road Woking. I was fairly new to the department at the time. Some one came into the CID office and said a house had blown up and a woman was dead. I said that it was not a CID matter when the next words were but she has a knife buried in her chest.

Needless to say John Place and everyone got involved. I started the log. Mr Cox had mental problems and whilst doing his wife's hair put a cold chisel into her head before he put the knife in her chest. He then intended to gas himself switched on the gas and put his head in the oven. There was a fire on next door which shared his chimney this ignited and blew his house up. He survived and was later charged. A sad case!

Jim Allen: This is my personal account of a murder that occurred at Vale Farm Road in the 1960. I am not at this time sure if the time was in the winter of 1960/1961 or 1961/1962; it was before I joined the Surrey Constabulary and occurred on a Saturday night in the winter months.

I recall my parents address was at 18 Church Street, which was in a row of terraced houses, almost opposite the Co-operative stores and near the intersection of Church Street and Percy Street (no longer in existence ). On this cross roads was also located Woking fire station which at the time was mainly manned by retained fireman, my friend Martin Thompson's father was a sub-officer there, and behind the Co-op was Vale Farm Road.

On the night of this occurrence I was sitting at the dining room table talking to my dad when there was a huge explosion, comparable to a large car bomb, I remember my dad's immediate comment as the house shook and air pressure changed momentarily was that for some reason an unexploded second world war bomb had been hit and exploded. I thought two cars had hit on the Church Street Percy Street cross roads.

I ran outside to the road, at the same time my friend Graham Timpson from no 24 appeared; I think he was on leave from the Royal Engineers. We both looked towards the cross roads and the street was empty, from over the roof of the Co-op chapel of rest we could see a large plume of smoke and reflections of what appeared to be flames from the direction of.

We ran to Vale Farm Road and about two hundred yards up on the left hand side saw half a semi-detached house with a large pile of brick rubble beside it with flames still breaking through the rubble. On the offside of the road were a group of people attending to a woman that had been hit by part of a window frame that had been thrown from the explosion.

Someone shouted that there was a man at the rear of the rubble with his head in the gas oven, he was on a cushion but still alive. Great concern was being expressed about the occupants of the half of the house still standing, the husband was disabled and both were elderly and there was fear of a further explosion.

Being Royal Engineers Graham was quickly elected between the two of us to turn off the gas and electric supply whilst I got the elderly couple out which we did post haste, returning only to check to make sure that there were no paraffin stoves or coal fires alight. By this time the emergency services arrived so Graham and I left at a fast rate of knots and left them to it.

The scene was the home of a school friend of my sister (now deceased) the parents had a very heated argument resulting in the husband hitting the wife over the head with a number of blows causing death. He then went to the kitchen to commit suicide by placing his head in the gas oven (which was coal gas at the time and far more likely to explode) the gas had filled the house reaching the open fire in the sitting room and the house had exploded.

The daughter at the time was staying with grandparents. I believe the husband was found unfit to plead and sent to Broadmoor or Rampton. This is the first time I have recounted my involvement as at the time thought that we had secured the safety of the elderly couple and could not provide any useful evidence.

Ken Halls: I was sent at about two in the morning to the scene of a house explosion in Vale Farm Road and relieving a probationer for his meal break. He had been guarding the scene by standing outside since the start of the night shift and all I had to do was sit outside in the car for forty five minutes.

The houses either side had been evacuated and I think it was Inspector Sayers who remarked that the scene would be guarded all the time as he wasn't going to have any thieving little yob stealing things. He seemed more concerned about that than the fact it was a murder scene but it had the same desired result. The case was fully reported in the Woking News and Mail and the other facts listed ring a bell but I was not directly involved.

David O'Connell: Early afternoon as far as I can recall it was a Saturday, there was an explosion in Church Road Woking. A semi detached house was completely demolished leaving the attached house standing. The fire brigade attended from the fire station that was situated in Church Road, Woking. There was very little fire that was brought quickly under control.

Keith Jempson was the newly arrived superintendent and attended the scene where he took charge. He impressed the attending CID officers with his air of authority especially Peter Hall who often spoke of the way in which Mr Jempson quickly took control bearing in mind that there were very soon a large number of onlookers climbing over what was in modern parlance a crime scene.

An examination of the scene discovered that there were two elderly people in the house, husband and wife. The wife was found dead in a chair in the room adjacent to the kitchen and her husband was found in the kitchen still alive under the kitchen door that had collapsed over him preventing the masonry falling on him. The wife was found to have died from a blow to her head caused by a blunt type instrument.

At first the murder weapon was not found. It later transpired that a fire officer had found a small new chopper amongst the rubble of the house and taken it home. As the story unfolded the truth started to emerge.

The husband had become very depressed about the future of the world believing from press reports that we were about to suffer a nuclear attack. His mind became so deranged that he decided to kill his wife rather than see her suffer the results of a nuclear attack.

He had struck her on the head from behind with a small chopper whilst she was sat in the chair reading a newspaper. He had then attempted to take his own life by gassing himself in the kitchen. In those days domestic gas was very poisonous. The kitchen filled with gas when the refrigerator in the kitchen switched on. The spark caused by this action ignited the gas and the house blew up.

The murder weapon was eventually recovered from the fireman when he confided in a colleague that he taken the small chopper from the scene. The husband in his late 70s was tried for manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. The court was sympathetic towards him and as far as I can recall he received a non-custodial sentence but was ordered to undergo psychiatric treatment.

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