Unsolved Murders

Monica Halffman

Age: 29

Sex: female

Date: 19 Jan 1958

Place: River Thames, Water Lane, Walton

Monica Halffman died following a motorcycle accident. Her husband was riding a motorcycle combination in which she was in the sidecar when he drove into the River Thames and Walton and vanished.

A verdict of accidental death was returned, but it was heard that Monica Halffman had earlier been seeking a divorce from her husband after she found out that he was having an affair although she had later withdrawn it.

She had lived in Hunt Road, Southall with her husband and three children.

Her husband said that he swerved off a narrow riverside lane and plunged into the river at about 9.30 on 19 January 1958 near the West Surrey Waterworks at Walton. Her body was not recovered until 26 February 1958.

After the motorbike went into the river her husband managed to scramble out and then ran for assistance at the nearby house of the waterworks superintendent. The water works superintendent said that when Monica Halffman's husband came to his house that he was in a hysterical state. He said, 'I had to shake him to get any sense out of him'.

When the Coroner asked the water works superintendent at the inquest whether he thought that Monica Halffman's husband was genuinely and sincerely upset, the water works superintendent said, 'I have no doubt about it'.

The motorbike combination was recovered minus the sidecar canopy which was later recovered about half a mile away further downstream on the Sunday near Walton Bridge.

A police officer said that the river current at that time had been strong and that the road was unlit and dangerous. It was noted that after the incident protective posts were put in place at the river’s edge.

Following the incident her husband was taken to St Peter's Hospital in Chertsey where he was treated for facial cuts and shock and later returned home to their three children.

It was said that Monica Halffman had previously vowed never to ride in the sidecar again after a previous trip when the fumes from a fire extinguisher in the sidecar made her unconscious.

Monica Halffman's next-door neighbour said, 'Mrs Halffman would not say much about the extinguisher episode but she did not want to ride in the sidecar again. Perhaps that is why neither of them asked us to listen for the children when they went out, although they were in bed in the house alone. On the few occasions we have known them to leave the children alone at night before, Mrs Halffman always asked my wife to listen for them'.

Monica Halffman's husband, who was a fitter at the Firestone Tyre and Rubber Co. said, 'My wife did not really like riding in the sidecar after the extinguisher episode, but we were just out for a short ride'.

The police also interviewed a 23-year-old factory girl during their investigation into Monica Halffman's death that had been a former friend of Monica Halffman's husband.  The girl was described as an attractive factory girl and she was named in the divorce petition that Monica Halffman had filed but withdrew in 1957.

The girl had lodged in Park Parade, Gunnersbury West and when she was interviewed by the press about her police interview, she said, 'They asked me questions about my association with Mrs Halffman's husband. I told them all I knew, the whole story. They wanted to know when I last saw Monica Halffman's husband. I told them it was three or four months ago. It was almost a year ago when I first met him. I was then working at a factory on the Great West Road. We often went out drinking together, sometimes to dances. We often went out on his motor-cycle. I never saw his wife till one day last autumn. I had just received a letter from a solicitor about the divorce petition. I went round to see her at her home in Southall. She was with her three young sons. We had a long chat. I decided it would be the best thing for the sake of the children if I broke off my friendship with him. And Mrs Halffman stopped the divorce action also for the sake of the children. I have not seen him since. But I saw his wife again. I think it was in the street. We just said 'Hello''.

A police inspector said, 'We believe Mrs Halffman's was drowned and that her death was accidental'. Another police officer said 'There is no suspicion of foul play'.

Monica Halffman's mother, who had lived in Hanwell, had died whilst on holiday in August 1957.

After the verdict of 'accidental death' was returned at the inquest at Epsom on 4 March 1958 a police officer said, 'I have never heard such vicious rumours and suggestions as those made about her husband. The gossips have made life almost impossible for him. Now that he has been publicly cleared of suspicion, I hope they will eat their words'.

Monica Halffmans husband said that at the time he had been trying to find a rugby football club house. He said, 'I was talking to my wife. I remember turning. Then there was a splash and I was in the river. Somehow I got out. Twice I heard my wife calling. I went back into the water, but could not see anything'.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Manchester Evening News - Monday 03 March 1958

see Daily Herald - Thursday 23 January 1958

see Daily Mirror - Tuesday 04 March 1958