Date: 28 Aug 1957
Amy Bridges was found murdered in her home on Wednesday 28 August 1957 following an apparent robbery at her home at 12 Selby Gardens in Southall, Middlesex.
It was thought that when she was found that she had been dead for about 24 hours, having been murdered on the Tuesday 27 August 1957, sometime before midday.
Her body was found by the milkman. The milkman, who had lived in Elmbank Way, Hanwell, said that he had noticed the half-pint of milk that he had left the previous day had not been taken in and so went round to the back of the house and took a peep through some French windows and saw Amy Bridges lying there on the floor after which he notified the police.
When the police arrived soon after they broke a pane of glass to gain entry and found Amy Bridges dead on the floor. It was initially thought that she had been beaten to death with a flat iron which was found near her body. However, it was later said that there was an opinion that she was not battered to death with the flat iron and that her injuries might have been caused by a heavy household instrument like an old fashioned colander that had been taken from a hook in the kitchen, it being noted that the colander and the flat iron were both found near her body and were both bloodstained.
12 Selby Gardens was described as one house out of 16 in a cul-de-sac and it was said that she had seldom been out of her house in the previous two years. Following the discovery of Amy Bridges's body the police sealed off the cul-de-sac and only the inhabitants were allowed in.
When the police searched the house they found that it had been ransacked.
At her inquest it was noted that an attache case containing £256 was found along with a Post Office Savings Bank book with £281 credit. However, it was said that about £700, most of which was in gold sovereigns, was stolen. The £256 had been secreted in a little evening handbag in a chest of drawers by Amy Bridges. However, the police later said at the inquest in November 1957 that they were satisfied that they had traced all the money that Amy Bridges had possessed.
It was said that her murderer must have known about her gold sovereigns, which it was said her neighbours knew nothing about, and that they had turned the rooms upside down looking for them.
One of Amy Bridges's nieces, who lived in Peel Road, Woodford, said, 'My aunt was very comfortably off and beside her bank account I knew she had a large number of golden sovereigns hidden in the house. For many years she kept a boarding house at Bognar and I believe made quite a lot of money which she looked after very carefully'.
She was known to her neighbours as a semi-recluse and was partly crippled by a diseased hip and arthritis and walked about with a stick when she went out.
Her post mortem was carried out at Acton mortuary on the Wednesday night, 28 August 1957.
The police said that they were working on the theory that someone that she had known had killed her, saying that they did not think that she would have admitted a stranger into her home.
When the milkman described what he saw he said, 'I thought the old lady might be ill so I went round the back and called out. There was no reply so I tried the back door and it was locked. I thought this was odd and I looked through the French windows. I could see a big black trunk in the room and at first I thought she had been sorting out some clothes. When I looked again I saw Mrs Bridges lying in the middle of the floor with what looked like a bloodstained towel near her neck. It appeared that her head and hands were covered in blood and there was a bloodstained colander on the floor near her. I then decided the best thing to do was to call the police. I waited for the police to come and when they arrived they broke into the house through the back window. She was an eccentric old lady and very difficult to get along with but I got on with her quite well and was fond of her'.
After the police examined her home they found a complete set of finger prints of a man's right hand on the door of the living room where she was found battered to death. It was reported that the fingerprints were thought to have been fresh and that photographic enlargements of them were made by Scotland Yard and searches made at their Criminal Records Office to find a match.
She was known locally as 'Old Widow Hoppy' as well as Mrs Clark. She was said to have had a slight limp and to have had a bent figure which was the reason she was known as Hoppy.
The Daily Herald newspaper dated Thursday 29 August 1957 ran a story titled, 'The life-and death-of old Widow Hoppy'. It read, 'Old Widow Hoppy was found battered to death yesterday, in the dirt ridden home that had a welcome for no-one. In that house, lined with cobwebs, covered in dust, 88-year-old Amy Sarah Bridges lived alone, a cripple, a recluse, a mystery to the neighbours whom she hated. Children never went near her in Selby Gardens, at Greenford, Middlesex. Too often they had been chased away, with Old Hoppy waving a stout walking stick and screaming at them to keep out. But the widow hadn't her stick handy when the killer called. She was in the dining room when he tip-toed up behind her and smashed her skull. She fell dead in the litter of her life, the coal dust, the pots and pans, tins and bottles, packets and rubbish piled all over the living room. That was how the police found her yesterday. A milkman called them after he had seen Tuesday's delivery still standing on the doorstep. Striding over the piles of rubbish, pulling aside rickety furniture, they looked for clues. The widow's hoard of sovereigns is missing. And last night neighbours spoke about the old cripple they tried to help, but who answered them with abuse. She didn't want their help. She ordered them out of the house. Old Hoppy had no radio, no TV, not even a clock in her gloomy rooms. To find the time she hobbled round to a neighbour's house. But there was another Hoppy, 25 years ago, a bustling energetic landlady at Bognor Regis. She married, for the second time, a man 20 years her junior and moved to Greenford. After two years they parted. And life became sour for Amy Sarah Bridges. It never altered, until a killer walked into her living-room'.
Following her death the police made an appeal for a man that was seen wearing a uniform peak cap who they said they thought might have been in possession of evidence that might assist them to identify Amy Bridges's killer. He was described as:
He was seen in Selby Gardens at about 11am on the day of the murder riding a bicycle with upright handlebars. A neighbour that saw the man said, 'About 11am on Tuesday I glanced up from doing some ironing and through my French windows saw a man in a peak cap go into the house through the back door. He was of medium build and looked like a chauffeur'. The woman later said at the inquest, 'I saw a man in a black peaked cap go in the back door of Mrs Bridges's house. I did not see the man come out'.
The police said that when they interviewed other neighbours that they were told that Amy Bridges had been seen two days previously quarrelling with two men on her doorstep.
Another neighbour said that one of the few occasions that she had seen Amy Bridges in the previous two years was in April 1957 when Amy Bridges had attended the funeral of her second husband, noting however that her second husband had not lived with Amy Bridges at her house for several years.
One neighbour said that Amy Bridges liked to grow her own runner beans in her garden and said that she had prepared the ground for Amy Bridges in her garden that year for that purpose. She said, 'But she would not wait for me to put the seeds in. Although it was too early she put them in herself'. It was noted that at the time of her murder that there were runner beans in the garden at 12 Selby Gardens that were waiting to be picked whilst the police hunted for her murderer.
It was noted that although Amy Bridges had lived at 12 Selby Gardens for about 18 years that she was rather a mystery to her neighbours and was considered rather eccentric by some, whilst others thought she was miserly. One neighbour said, 'She was a person who liked to be on her own. She did not seem to like children and would drive them off with her stick. She did not appear to thank anybody if they did anything for her'.
The police said that they were also appealing to anyone that knew of anyone that knew of any lodgers having left unexpectedly since 26 August 1957. It was reported on Saturday 21 September 1957 that one landlady came forward to report a man having suddenly left since 26 August 1957, but the police said that they had checked and had found that everything was satisfactory.
The police also appealed for anyone else that had been in Selby Gardens on the morning of 27 August 1957 to come forward. A police superintendent said, 'We have interviewed a number of people who were there during that morning. But there may be someone we have not seen so far who unknowingly has information that could be of great assistance to us'.
Amy Bridges's inquest concluded on Friday 15 November 1957 when a verdict of 'murder by a person or persons unknown' was returned. A detective superintendent said, 'We have always been led back to the man in the peaked cap. In my opinion he was the murderer, but all efforts to trace him have been in vain'.
see "83-Year-Old Widow Murdered." Times [London, England] 29 Aug. 1957: 5. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 3 Mar. 2013.
see "News in Brief." Times [London, England] 16 Nov. 1957: 4. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 3 Mar. 2013.
see National Archives - HO 332/16 - STA 502/3/33
see Northern Whig - Friday 30 August 1957
see Liverpool Echo - Friday 15 November 1957
see Western Mail - Friday 30 August 1957
see Middlesex County Times - Saturday 14 September 1957
see Middlesex County Times - Saturday 21 September 1957
see Liverpool Echo - Thursday 29 August 1957
see Liverpool Echo - Saturday 31 August 1957
see Northern Whig - Thursday 29 August 1957
see Lancashire Evening Post - Thursday 29 August 1957