Unsolved Murders

Olive Mary Duncan

Age: 61

Sex: female

Date: 18 Jul 1962

Place: 51 Sulgrave Gardens, Hammersmith

Olive Mary Duncan died after being tied up by an intruder in her flat in Sulgrave Gardens, Hammersmith on 18 July 1962.

She had also been raped. She was found with her wrists tied.

Her inquest heard that she died from acute fear. She was said to have died about 12 minutes after neighbours heard moaning and the breaking of glass coming from her flat around midnight

The pathologist said that her death was caused by a waterlogging of the lungs from heart failure caused by an acute emotional crisis, or in other words, 'acute fear'.

At her inquest the Coroner noted that she had been raped, but that she might have been unconscious when that happened, and noted that her death was not directly connected with violence, but was the result of a criminal act. In answer to a question from the Coroner, the pathologist noted that a woman of her age might have accepted the rape rather than struggle.

An open verdict was returned.

Olive Duncan had been a City secretary and insurance clerk.

It was thought that Olive Duncan had been attacked by a man that also attacked two other elderly women in their bedrooms.

The police said that they called in more than 100 plain clothes police to help in the search, which was concentrated in the area between Notting Hill and Hammersmith, where two of the victims lived.

The police said that they knew that the attacker was small, very strong and agile and that they thought that he might have scratches on his face.

Neighbours said that shortly after hearing Olive Duncan scream that they saw a man walking away from the flats.

A caretaker that lived next to Olive Duncan said that she had been a quiet living person and that he had never known men on their own to visit her. He said that about 12.30am on Wednesday 18 July 1962 that his wife wakened him and said that she could hear moaning. He said:

I got up and heard a faint mumbling and then I heard glass breaking. I phoned 999 asking for the police and an ambulance and went out. A window of Miss Duncan's flat was flapping. A neighbour came up and climbed through the window. He opened the front door and let me in.

He said that before he entered the flat that he saw Olive Duncan by the window and noticed that she was a bit puffed in the face and a blue colour. He said that she had apparently put her fist through a pane of glass. He said he saw her raise up her hands and saw that her hands were tied together in front of her by a piece of rag or pillow slip and noted a few spots of blood on it.

He said that when he entered her bedroom that he saw water running down the dressing table mirror as if Olive Duncan had thrown water at someone. He said that the bed was in disorder and that Olive Duncan had been lying half on the floor and half on the bed and trying to pull herself up on her elbows.

He said that she didn't speak and that she died about twelve minutes later whilst he was there.

The man that climbed in through the window said that after hearing a groaning noise he called out, 'Who are you and what number are you?' and got the reply 51. He said that after getting in through the bedroom window that he switched the light on and untied Olive Duncan's hands and she said, 'Thank God' and asked for some water. He said that he then found the key of the front door on the hall stand and unlocked the door and opened it.

In answer to a question from the Coroner at the inquest he said that the nightdress that Olive Duncan had been wearing had been disturbed.

A woman that had an upper flat in Sulgrave Gardens said that she was awakened by the sound of breaking glass and looked out and saw a man turn the corner of the road, but didn't recognise him. She noted that he was walking and not running. She said that there was a lot of disturbance going on and that a neighbour asked her to phone the police.

She said that the man had been there when the second pane of glass was broken, and that there was enough noise to arrest the attention of the ordinary person but that the man didn't turn around.

Another neighbour said that she also saw the man walking away. She said that he had been wearing dark clothes and had had no hat and said that he didn't turn around.

She said that she soon after went into Olive Duncan's flat. She said that Olive Duncan was groaning quite a lot and that she held her in her arms and gave her some water but that she then collapsed.

A detective inspector that had been in charge of the investigation said that 500 statements had been taken and almost 1,000 people interviewed and that they evoked the assistance of police forces throughout the country with the object of tracing the man who was seen to leave the flats after the assault.

He said that a road check had been made in the vicinity to try and trace any person that might have seen the man and that the assistance of the national Press and of the TV companies had been sought.

He said that he had no doubt that the intruder had entered the flat through the top transom window of the toilet and had left through the window in the sitting room.

He noted that there was no conclusive evidence that anything had been stolen from the flat and that he had heard that Olive Duncan had had very little money in the flat and had had a banking account.

The pathologist that carried out the post mortem said that Olive Duncan had slight injuries to her fingers, thigh and neck but that her injuries were really very small and concluded that she had died from water logging of the lungs resulting from heart failure precipitated by acute emotional crisis, that being in other words, fright or fear.

The pathologist agreed that the nervous shock might have caused temporary unconsciousness, and when the Coroner asked:

In the ordinary course of life, such as hurrying for a bus, would you have expected this lady's heart to have been such as to have caused sudden death?

The pathologist replied, 'No'.

When the Coroner summed up he noted that Olive Duncan had lived in Sulgrave Gardens for about three years and had been a lady of the most highly respected character.

The three women attacked were:

  1. 61-year-old Olive Duncan, Sulgrave Gardens, Hammersmith, July 1962.
  2. Woman from Nottinghill who asked for her identity to be kept secret.
  3. 70-year-old housewife, Nottinghill, Saturday 24 November 1962.

The 70-year-old housewife had fought off her attacker and scratched his face.

It was also thought that other elderly women had been attacked in their bedrooms but that they had been too afraid to come forward.

The police appealed for landladies and hotel owners in the Hammersmith and Nottinghaill areas to tell the police if they had any lodgers or guests with scratches on their face.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see National Archives - MEPO 2/11022

see Leicester Evening Mail - Wednesday 29 August 1962

see Edinburgh Evening News - Wednesday 29 August 1962

see Daily Herald - Monday 26 November 1962

see Liverpool Echo - Wednesday 29 August 1962

see Hammersmith & Shepherds Bush Gazette - Thursday 06 September 1962