Unsolved Murders

Penelope Phyllis Mogano

Age: 44

Sex: female

Date: 18 Jan 1954

Place: 7 Holland Road, Radford, Coventry

Penelope Phyllis Mogano was beaten to death in her home at 7 Holland Road, Coventry on 18 January 1954.

She was found by her husband battered and slashed to death in a chair in their dining-room when he got home at 4.30pm.

It was said that extraordinary force had been used to murder and mutilate her body. It was thought that she had been beaten to death with a round-headed hammer. Although a blood stained knife was found by her side, the hammer was never found. Penelope Mogano had twelve wounds that had been inflicted by the hammer and carving knife. The carving knife had come from Penelope Mogano's kitchen.

The police later said that they thought that Penelope Mogano might have picked the knife up to defend herself and that her murderer might have snatched it from her grasp and stabbed her with it.

The police later said that the case appeared to be motiveless, but it was reported that some detectives thought that it might have been jealousy because of Penelope Mogano's success in old-time dancing circles.

It was thought that the police had found fingerprints on the knife or elsewhere in the house but noted that without the fingerprints of the murderer on file that they were unable to match them to anyone. The discovery of the fingerprints was described as being 'an important one'.

It was noted that the back of Penelope Mogano's hands were bruised as though she had tried to defend herself. The police said that they were convinced that Penelope Mogano's murderer had struck her with fanatical frenzy.

It was later reported that Penelope Mogano had left a dress out on her bed ready for her to go out in later and meet her friend at 3pm, but she didn't get changed before she was murdered.

The police said that they thought that Penelope Mogano had known her killer and had invited him into her home and might have been someone that she new from hr dancing circles.

Penelope Mogano and her husband were regular dancers and would go dancing at the Savoy Cinema ballroom five times a week. They also had two young son's aged 14 and 16. They had lived in Holland Road for the last three years. Penelope Mogano's husband was of Italian parentage. Penelope Mogano herself was a native of Ryde on the Isle of Wight.

The police later went and interviewed all of the people that had been dancing at the ballroom on the Saturday that she was murdered. Amongst the dancers the police interviewed were two married women that Penelope Mogano's husband had partnered in exhibition and competitive old-time dancing.

It was heard that one of the members of the Savoy Old-Time Dancing Club had said that there had been an incident at the ballroom the previous August 1953 which had resulted in Penelope Mogano being very upset following a change of dancing partners  and that it had been impossible to talk about the matter afterwards. It was heard that the incident gave rise to the possibility of jealousy or feelings having run high in the highly competitive dance circle that could not be ruled out by the police as being relevant.

It was also noted that Penelope Mogano had previously been a member of the Townswomen's Guild but had resigned about four months before her murder. She had said that she had needed a rest in the afternoons. Another member of the guild said that Penelope Mogano had told her that the amount of old-time dancing that she had her husband were doing was tiring her out. The woman said that Penelope Mogano had been interested in the guild's drama work and had taken a small part in one production, however she said, 'Generally, however, she was rather reserved and did not speak to many people. At about the same time she gave up the guild she sent back to a home the little foster girl, a lovely child, always beautifully clean and well dressed. I remember on one occasion that we had a talk by an official from a children's home who remarked that Mrs Mogano was a good example of what could be done to give a child a good home'.

A significant lead in the investigation was the report of a man that had been fraudulently calling at nearby houses to inspect electrical equipment. It was said that the man had called at a house near Penelope Mogano's home, about 150 yards away, on the day she was murdered at about 1.30pm, obtaining admission on the pretext of examining electrical equipment as a result of complaints of interference with television reception. It was thought that Penelope Mogano had been murdered between 3pm and 4pm. It was heard that having been invited into the house he had made suggestions to the woman there but had left without incident after he was told to leave. It was also thought that the man had visited two other houses in the Tile Hill district that day. It was further noted that seven such complaints had been made in the previous ten days before the murder and after Penelope Mogano's murder, twenty women reported the man as having called at their homes and having made improper suggestions, each of the women adding that the man had left after being ordered to do so.

It was said that the man had previously been seen wearing a dirty khaki dust coat but on the day of the murder the man was said to have been wearing a dark blue uniform coat with what were believed to have been shiny buttons. His full description was given as:

  • Aged 25 to 30.
  • 5ft 2in to 5ft 6in tall.
  • Average build.
  • Thick black hair which was possibly wavy.
  • Full face and fresh complexion.
  • Dark blue overcoat similar to a uniform coat possibly with shiny buttons, a red plaid shirt with collar attached, without a tie and no hat.
  • Spoke with southern accent or slight London accent.

Another report was made to the police regarding a man wearing a dark blue overcoat which was said to have been similar to that worn by the bogus inspector by a barmaid in the Radford district who said that the man had called into the public house that she was working in at about 1.45pm on 18 January 1954 and had ordered two half pints of beer and had each time questioned the price. She said that she later saw the man lurking by the bushes outside the bar and near the Savoy Cinema Ballroom where Penelope Mogano and her husband used to visit for their old-time dancing sessions.

In the hunt for the meter man, the police said that they were looking for a green lorry that had had the name 'Cooper' printed on the side which was said to have been seen in the towns where the meter man was thought to have been operating and it was thought that the meter man might have either been the driver or the driver's mate.

However, it was later reported that the theory that the murderer had been the bogus meterman later appeared to recede as a positive line of enquiry by the police. However, it was said that the police were still keen to trace the man. The Chief Constable of Coventry later said, 'Several men answering the description of the meter man have been brought in for questioning in Midland towns, including one at Birmingham and another at Braunston near Daventry. All have been cleared'.

Other reported sightings of a similar 'young man with a southern accent' were made in Oxford, West Drayton, Dorchester and Birmingham.

It was also reported that a car had been seen outside 7 Holland Road late one night and the police made inquiries to trace it.

The police searched nearby drains and Radford Common for the hammer which they believed had been used to kill Penelope Mogano but with no luck.

It was reported that Penelope Mogano had arranged to visit friends, a husband and wife, who were organisers of old-time dancing at the Savoy, at their home in Bassett Road, Coventry on the Monday afternoon between 3pm and 4pm.

It was noted that the couple that Penelope Mogano was going to visit in Bassett Road had reported a prowler in their house the previous Saturday. The husband said that someone had been prowling around his house and that he had subsequently found that paper on the shelves in their pantry had been set on fire from through the window. It was also noted that the previous November that some inflammable material had been found in the husbands car whilst it was standing in the drive of Penelope Mogano's home in Holland Road.

On Friday 29 January 1954, the police appealed for a 'Young man with sunken cheeks' to come forward. It was reported that the man had been seen leaving a telephone kiosk in Heathcote Street at about 4.25pm on 18 January 1954 with his right hand wrapped up in a makeshift bandage which was thought was possibly a tea towel. The man was seen by a 30-year-old housewife who lived in Radford. She made a full statement to the police regarding her sighting and said that she could identify the man again. 

The police said, 'If this man is innocent we would like him to contact us without delay. We should also like to interview anyone who saw this man in the telephone kiosk and any person who knows of a man who received a cut hand on Monday January 18'. The description of the man was given as:

  • Age 27.
  • Height 5ft 6in.
  • Medium build.
  • Upright.
  • Long Face.
  • Sallow complexion, like someone who is ill.
  • Dark hair.
  • Straight nose.
  • Pointed chin.
  • Sunken cheeks.
  • Wearing a dark-coloured trilby hat with a black or navy blue loose fitting overcoat.

The housewife that saw the man near the telephone kiosk said: 'At 4.25pm on Monday, January 18, the day of the murder, I was sitting in a car outside a newsagent's shop in Heathcote Street, immediately by the telephone kiosk. There was a man in the telephone box, and he appeared to be making a call. A few seconds later he came out and stood by the bonnet of the car. His right hand was covered with what I would describe as a tea-cloth. It was wrapped around the hand in a bulky fashion, as if he had done it in haste. He had his right hand to his left cheek and held it there while he looked up and down the road. Suddenly he made off at a run across some waste ground towards Kereley. I was able to get a good look at the man for he stood by the car for about a minute before he dashed off. I should recognise him if I saw him again'.

It was noted that parts of the telephone kiosk were later sent off for examination at the Forensic Science laboratory in Birmingham. It was said that there had been blood stains on pages of the telephone directory in the kiosk which were sent off for examination and that the police were also making tests for fingerprints. It was noted that the previous month that the telephone kiosk had figured in an incident in which a detective in the City Police force had been stabbed seven times in the arms.

After the woman made her statement she looked through five folios of photographs and it was said that she might later go to Scotland Yard or Birmingham to look at more.

The police also spoke to a window cleaner who had spent much of the Monday cleaning windows in Holland Road, but he was unable to provide any useful information.

The police also questioned other tradesmen including bakers, butchers, milk roundsmen, newspaper delivery men and insurance agents in the hope of discovering fresh leads.

It was reported that the police were inclining more and more to the theory that the solution to Penelope Mogano's murder lay in Coventry. The police also noted that they felt that somewhere there was a woman that might have information that could help identify the murderer but that she had not come forward through either shame or because of fear.

It was also reported that the police were considering the theory that Penelope Mogano's murderer might have entered her house whilst Penelope Mogano was out earlier.

During their investigation, the police distributed 1,500 questionnaire forms to residents throughout the Radford district with twelve questions. Householders had to fill in their name, address, date of birth and height as well as supply details of other occupants. The twelve questions were:

  1. Who are regular callers and the reason for them calling? Give day and time.
  2. Other callers. Give day and time.
  3. Who called on January 18? Time.
  4. Do you know Mrs Mogano?
  5. Did you see her on January 18?
  6. Have you seen her with anyone other than her family?
  7. Who calls at 7 Holland Road regularly?
  8. Have you seen a car near 7 Holland Road?
  9. Are you interested in old-time dancing?
  10. Are you a member of the Townswomen's Guild?
  11. Where were you between 2pm and 5pm on January 18?
  12. Any other information?

It was said that the police put the questionnaire together as they believed that someone in the streets around Holland Road might have unwittingly seen something, or might have even seen the murderer, and might unwittingly hold the key to solve the murder mystery.

It was later reported that Penelope Mogano had been making mysterious afternoon trips which might simply have been to the shops or to visit friends, but it was heard that they were not always explained to her husband.

The police later checked through the classified advertising columns of several Midland newspapers, including The Coventry Evening Telegraph, saying that they were anxious to find out whether Penelope Mogano had advertised any goods for sale and had had a caller or callers as a consequence.

Penelope Mogano was cremated at Canley Crematorium on Monday 25 January 1954 at 2.30pm, during which it was reported that police officers would be mingling with the mourners in case the murderer thought to attend. Only 15 members of Penelope Mogano's family and close friends attended her funeral and there were no members of the public present. Penelope Mogano's husband attended the funeral but her two sons did not. It was reported that during the 15-minute service that Scotland Yard men and Coventry detectives had stood in the background.

It was reported in April 1954 that the police had taken more than 10,000 statements and interviewed more than 25,000 people.

Later suggestions regarding the motive behind her murder included the theory that she had been killed in a mafia hit.

It was also suggested that Penelope Mogano might have been murdered by a dance hater who disliked her dance background.

It was reported, a year later on Tuesday 18 January 1955, that Penelope Mogano's murder inquiry was 'still a police priority'. The Chief Constable said, 'Although 12 months have gone by, this case is still our number one priority. We would welcome any information, no matter how insignificant it may seem, which would help us in our inquiries. So far as the police are concerned there will be no sparing of energy in our efforts to bring about a solution to this terrible crime. Even now not a day passes without some information coming in. Inquiries continue on several lines and it is still hoped that the vital piece of evidence will come to light'.

The police also reiterated during their 18 January 1955 briefing that they still thought that someone was deliberately withholding information that would disclose the identity of Penelope Mogano's murderer.

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

see www.truecrimelibrary.com

see National Archives - MEPO 2/9541

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Monday 25 January 1954

see Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette - Tuesday 02 March 1954

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Wednesday 20 January 1954

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Wednesday 30 June 1954

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Friday 29 January 1954

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Tuesday 18 January 1955

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Monday 08 February 1954

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Friday 29 January 1954

see Belfast News-Letter - Saturday 23 January 1954

see Lancashire Evening Post - Tuesday 19 January 1954

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Saturday 10 April 1954

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Friday 22 January 1954

see Coventry Telegraph