The Unsolved Wigmore Murder of 1965
Cambridge Road in Wigmore is usually a very quiet and peaceful area where nothing much of great consequence happens, but in April 1965 the local newspapers reported an event that sent a feeling of revulsion and a shiver of fear down the spines of local residents and shook the Medway area.
A 77 year old widow named Florence Lewis heard a knock on the front door of her bungalow on a Saturday evening just before Easter and she opened it to investigate. Unfortunately, she had made a fatal error and a short while later she was dead. It’s unknown if she knew the person who had knocked or what motive that person had but whoever it was and whatever they wanted no mercy was shown for Mrs Lewis who was known in the area as a friendly and unobtrusive lady. Unfortunately, as a pensioner living alone the criminal may have thought she had a lot of money stashed away and could have viewed her as a soft target.
The murderer, once in the bungalow, shut the door and battered the old lady to death with unbelievable brutality, repeatedly and callously striking her with a heavy object on her head. The police estimated that 14 blows were delivered which left Mrs Lewis dying in an armchair. The murderer then escaped without leaving a single clue and disappeared into the night without being seen by anyone.
Mrs Lewis wasn’t found until the following Monday lunchtime when insurance agent Roy Bishop discovered her corpse in an armchair covered in blood. Whatever had happened in the short meeting between Mrs Lewis and her murderer is unknown but the killer had obviously gone into a killing frenzy as the bloody condition of his victim showed that a vicious attack had taken place.
Detective Chief Superintendent Arthur Hall who led the investigation said at the time that it could take weeks to find the murderer but after a massive investigation which included the searching of every garden in Cambridge Road, the combing of local woods and the interviewing of more than 7,000 people, the crime has remained unsolved and the murderer free.
The police checked all of Medway’s laundries with the hope of finding blood-stained clothes belonging to the murderer. They also looked for the murder weapon which they suspected as being a heavy hammer or poker but they remained empty handed after a long and meticulous search.
The only clue about who did the murder arose in the week after the event when two people said they saw a man and then a woman call at Mrs Lewis’s house a short time apart at about 8-30 p.m. They also said they saw a small grey van in the vicinity. Confusion was also added to the case when three other people said they saw Mrs Lewis being driven in a car on the Sunday afternoon after the estimated time of her death.
At Mrs Lewis’s funeral 18 days later detectives swooped on Gillingham cemetery to check on everyone entering and leaving in case the murderer had attended but they failed to find a suspect. During the following weeks the police continued interviewing neighbours but they came up with nothing. An appeal was made by the police on national TV and the case was also broadcast on the TV programme ‘Police Five’ but although a large number of people phoned in with information it led to nothing.
Finally, the Northeast Kent coroner Mr W J Harris wound up the case in June 1965 by announcing a verdict of murder by a person or persons unknown. In one of the most despicable and brutal crimes committed in the Rainham and Wigmore areas the killer has remained free for almost fifty years, barring death, and the case remains open.