Unsolved Murders

Charles Leonard Smith

Age: 41

Sex: male

Date: 24 Nov 1954

Place: River Thames, Hammersmith, London

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Charles Leonard Smith was found dead in the River Thames.

He had been due to give evidence at the Old Bailey on 25 November 1954.

An open verdict was returned at his inquest, but it was heard that foul play was not suspected.

Charles Smith was a chauffeur and had last lived at the Avon House Hotel in Belsize Park, London.

A garage hand who had been a friend of Charles Smith who had lived in Gloucester Avenue in Regents Park said that he last saw Charles Smith on the evening of 23 November 1954. At the inquest, the friend said that he knew that Charles Smith had received injuries to his face in September 1954 after which he noticed a great change in him saying that he seemed frightened and worried.

Charles Smith's employer, a company director who lived in Portland Place, W1, said that he had employed Charles Smith for the previous ten years as a driver of his private car. He said, 'On the evening of November 3rd he took me to my flat, after which he took the car to the Blue Star Garage as usual'. When the company director was asked whether he knew that Charles Smith had sustained injuries to his head, the company director replied that he had previously gone to Charles Smith's diggings with his landlord and had found him there and had later followed the ambulance that took Charles Smith to the hospital.

The Company director said that when he saw Charles Smith after he had left hospital that he had looked dazed, frightened and depressed, but said that he had never heard him threaten to take his life and said that Charles Smith had had no financial worries, adding, 'I paid him quite a good wage'.

An auxiliary plant attendant who lived in Balfour Street in Battersea and worked at that Lots Road Power Station in Chelsea said that on 24 November 1954 he had been working in the plant  at about 5pm when he had seen something caught against a screen and that when he went to have a look he saw that it was the body of a fully clothed man. When he was questioned at the inquest, he said that he didn't notice any injuries or grazes to the man's head. He noted that there was a nine-foot pipe from the plant that sucked water in from the River Thames which extended about 330 feet into the river.

A police sergeant that when to Lots Road after being called out said that when he got there he saw a man in the water wearing an overcoat that was buttoned up tightly. He noted that there were grazes on the man's head, but said that he thought that they had probably been caused by the intake.

A detective at the inquest said that Charles Smith had been due to give evidence for the prosecution at the Old Bailey on the Thursday, 25 November 1954. He added however, that Charles Smith had originally been due to give evidence at an earlier hearing on 23 November 1954 but that through some misunderstanding or for some other reason, he had gone to the Old Bailey on the Wednesday, 24 November 1954.

When the detective gave his evidence, the Coroner asked him whether Charles Smith had been worried about giving evidence and the detective said, 'I understand that he was, sir, from people I have met'. When the Coroner asked that detective whether he knew how Charles Smith had got into the water, the detective replied, 'Ni, sir'. However, he added that on the evidence there seemed to be no reason to suspect foul play.

The pathologist that examined Charles Smith's body described Charles Smith as a powerfully built man and said that his cause of death was asphyxia from drowning.

When the Coroner recorded the open verdict, he said that Charles Smith had come to his death by drowning in circumstances not fully disclosed by the evidence.


*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.


see West London Observer - Friday 10 December 1954

see Daily Herald - Friday 26 November 1954