Date: 13 Jan 1944
Klara Steindl was murdered by intruders at 17 Cornwall Road, Cheam, Surrey on 13 January 1944.
She was found bound and gagged, dead with a head wound, by the Sutton police after an anonymous telephone call was made to the local police on the night of 13 January 1944.
It was thought that she had been hit with a severe blow when the intruders entered and then bound up. It was however said that she had not been severely battered.
Her hands were bound behind her back and her legs were bound with rope.
The police said that whoever made the call instructed them to go to Cornwall Road as there was 'trouble' there. It was later found that the call had been made from a public call box outside the Salvation Army hostel at Waterloo in London. A man was taken to Southwark Police Station from the hostel after the call, but after questioning was allowed to leave.
It was reported that before the call was made, another call had been made at about 6.40pm from a public telephone box near there house in Cheam. The telephone operator that took it said that a woman with a foreign accent said something like, 'My son, .... he murdered', but that the line then went dead. It was thought that the woman could have been the murderers mother and that she had been trying to warn the police but that she had been dragged out of the telephone box before she could finish the call or give further information.
It was further reported that later that evening, a man and a woman, both speaking with foreign accents had had a violent argument at the local railway station. They were overheard by one of the staff there.
The call to the police was made about an hour later from a telephone box at Waterloo.
It was reported that the police thought that it was possible that the killer might have been known to Klara Steindl or that his mother might have been a close friend and that it could have been in that way that they had got into the house.
Klara Steindl was a Hungarian and worked as a housekeeper for a Greek shipowner.
When the police went to 17 Cornwall Road they found her in the hall of the house bound and gagged with a long thin knife near her.
The owner of the house had been away for some time. The house was ransacked and the safe opened and papers apparently examined, but none of the valuables in the house or money had been taken. It was said that not a pin had been taken and that money and valuables had been left untouched, and it was thought that the intruders had been hunting for a document or article.
When the police arrived, they found that the safe had been opened and that papers and articles of considerable value lay scattered about.
When the Captain made an examination of his property, he said that he could find nothing missing.
The safe was eventually opened by the intruders with a key, but not before they had bored four holes in it. It was noted as being a heavy safe and the police said that the fact that it had been pulled away from the wall indicated that two people were concerned. It was also reported that it was thought that an experienced cracksman had been involved because of the nature of the four holes.
Klara Steindl was noted for exchanging visits with a friend who lived a few doors away, another Hungarian woman, and they had had tea together on the 12 January 1944 and ordinarily the other woman would have visited Klara Steindl the following day, 13 January 1944, but on that occassion she had an appointment with a friend in London and couldn't. The friend later said, 'It was an unlucky thirteenth of January. If I had not gone to London but had followed the usual custom and had tea in her house she would still be alive'.
In March 1944 the police said that they had had another case in Surrey, similar to the Cornwall Road case in which another woman was bound and gagged and a telephone call made to them. They said that there was a close resemblance in circumstances between the two cases, although the Surrey case was not fatal, and said that they were hopeful that a new line of enquiry would achieve some results.
The case was known in the press as the 'telephone murder'.
see National Archives - MEPO 3/2266
see Dundee Evening Telegraph - Monday 17 January 1944
see Evening Despatch - Saturday 18 March 1944
see Aberdeen Evening Express - Friday 14 January 1944
see Daily Herald - Tuesday 18 January 1944
see Gloucestershire Echo - Saturday 15 January 1944