Unsolved Murders

Francis John Drake

Age: 87

Sex: male

Date: 4 Mar 1952

Place: 79A Warwick Avenue, Paddington, West London

Source: www.truecrimelibrary.com

Francis John Drake was attacked after opening the door to his basement flat at 79A Warwick Avenue, Paddington on 23 February 1952 and later died in hospital ten days later on the night of Tuesday 4 March 1952.

The pathologist said that his cause of death was due to blood in the chest resulting from fractured ribs.

It was also reported that his attacker had coshed him and also that it was thought that his attacker had panicked when he had seen how badly he had hurt Francis Drake and had run off.

It was said that neighbours had head a scuffle and when they had gone to investigate, they had found him in his flat bleeding from the head and with four broken ribs.

He was a property owner and a retired artist. The basement flat had also been Francis Drake's studio which was described as having pictures in it stood on easels and against the walls. There was also said to have been a self-portrait of Francis Drake hanging over the mantlepiece.

It was said that someone had called at his door at about midday and that when Francis Drake had opened his door the man had shoved him into a room in his basement flat and had then punched and kicked him to the floor and then fled.

It was said that although Francis Drake was in the habit of keeping hundreds of pounds about, that his wallet that he had had on him, which had had £21 in it, had not been taken or any money stolen from it.

After he was taken to the hospital, Francis Drake said, 'He punched my face, hit my head with something. I went down quickly. He kept hitting and kicking and gave me a terrible kick in the chest. Eventually he cleared off'.

He described his attacker as:

  • Age: 40 to 50 years.
  • Height: 5ft 10in.
  • Face: Round face.
  • Clothes: Grey trilby hat and a light grey overcoat.

Francis Drake added that he was certain that he had seen him before.

A shorthand typist who lived in Warwick Avenue and who collected rents for Francis Drake said that he would spend his nights in a chair and that 'he just lived for money'.

It was said that Francis Drake was a strange man and that he would sit in his chair, night after night, instead of going to bed, in case someone broke in to try and rob him or maybe kill him.

A tenant in the house said that at about 1.10am on the day Francis Drake was attacked, that he saw a man coming up from Francis Drake's flat, saying that he was a man that he had seen looking into Francis Drake's flat before. He said that when he later spoke to Francis Drake, that he told him that the man that he saw had been to his flat before to apply for a room.

He described the man as:

  • Age: 35.
  • Height: 5ft 10in.
  • Face: Round-featured.
  • Clothes: Blueish-grey unbelted overcoat, a dark grey snap-brim trilby and a blue and blue-grey scarf.

There were three other descriptions given of a man that were seen by other people who lived in Warwick Avenue.

The first was of a man seen looking into the basement:

  • Height: 5ft 9in to 5ft 11in tall.
  • Face: Round-faced.
  • Clothes: Wearing a green-grey trilby and a loose grey or black overcoat.

The second was of a man seen looking at the house:

  • Height: 5ft 10in tall.
  • Build: Thickset.
  • Clothes: Wearing a brown check cap, a belted raincoat, a red tie and buckled shoes.

The third was of a man who was seen in Warwick Avenue about eight times the day before Francis Drake was attacked:

  • Height: 5ft 8in to 5ft 10in tall.
  • Build: Stocky.
  • Face: Round-faced, sallow.
  • Clothes: Wearing a trilby, a blue grey unbelted overcoat and dirty shoes.

On 24 February 1952, the police said that they were searching lodging houses for a six foot man.

On 7 March 1952, the police released the description of a man that they wanted to interview:

  • Age: 35 to 40.
  • Height: 5ft 10in tall.
  • Build: Tall, broad build.
  • Face: Round-face, clean shaven.
  • Clothes: Wearing a dark felt hat with a snap brim, a light grey overcoat of a raglan type and a thick scarf.

The police said that that were interesting in speaking to anyone that had seen such a man in Warwick Avenue on either 22 or 23 February 1952. It was said that the police had waited by Francis Drake's bedside until he recovered sufficiently to give a description of his assailant.

At the inquest on Saturday 5 April 1952, the coroner said that the man that the tenant in the house had seen was probably the murderer.

The police said that they had taken statements from more than 200 people and said that they had interviewed every person who in the last two years had had occasion to call at Francis Drake's home, but said that they had no positive line of enquiry.

The inquest returned a verdict of murder by some person unknown.


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


see National Archives - MEPO 2/9403

see West London Observer - Friday 14 March 1952

see Daily Mirror - Saturday 05 April 1952

see West London Observer - Friday 07 March 1952

see Birmingham Daily Gazette - Wednesday 05 March 1952

see Daily Herald - Wednesday 05 March 1952

see Sunday Mirror - Sunday 24 February 1952