The murder of Countess Lubienska, 1957
The murder of Countess Teresa Lubienska at Gloucester Road Underground station sparked a massive police investigation.
The unknown bandit
There were three members of railway staff on duty at Gloucester Road Underground station on the night of Friday 24 May 1957. One of them was Emanuel Akinyemi whose role as foreman included operating the lift and collecting tickets.
At 10.20pm he heard footsteps on the emergency stairs which usually indicated a passenger avoiding their fare. Shortly after, he heard a woman's voice shout "bandit". He went to investigate and found a woman slowly walking towards the lift. She was clutching at her chest. He said to her: “What about the bandits?” and as he helped her towards the lift she replied: “I have been knifed.” He then noticed blood running down her jacket.
Akinyemi quickly operated the lift and asked the woman where the bandit was but she said she didn't know. At street level he immediately put her in the care of Station Inspector Clark and dialled 999 on a nearby public phone.
Back at the scene, PC Ron Sherfield of the Metropolitan Police was passing the station and was called inside. He accompanied the injured woman to St. Mary's Hospital and en-route she said her last words: “I was on the platform — then stabbed.” She died shortly after arriving at the hospital.
An examination established that she had five wounds caused by a single bladed knife no longer than two inches long. She had been stabbed three times in the chest (two piercing her heart) once in the stomach and once in the back. A tattooed number 44747 on her arm gave a clue to her identity and past.
The woman was Teresa Lubienska, a 73-year-old Polish countess. She lived in a flat in Cromwell Gardens, Kensington but at one time had belonged to an aristocratic family and lived on a large estate in eastern Poland.
During the Bolshevik uprising in 1918, the estate had been seized and her husband stabbed to death. She moved to Warsaw with her son but he joined the army and was killed in 1939 when the Nazis invaded the country. In defiance Teresa joined the resistance but when escaped prisoners were found in her home she was arrested and sent to Auschwitz where the Germans had a number tattooed on her for identification as a political prisoner.
She spent two years living in a cramped cell but was released and fled to London where, determined to help others, she had set up the Police Association of Ex-political Prisoners in German Concentration Camps.
On receipt of news of the Countess’ death, the London Transport Police Control room despatched Detective Sergeant Tinsley to the scene and Chief Inspector Peedle was called from home. Being a homicide, the case was to be led by the Metropolitan Police under DCI John John DuRose of the murder squad.
At Gloucester Road, Peedle and DuRose were joined by Superintendents Ron Vivian and Law of the Metropolitan Police. The men arranged a meticulous search of the station but the only blood found was near the lift so the exact location of the attack was never established, nor were any weapons recovered.
An unclear motive
There appeared to be no attempt to steal property from her so the motive was unlikely to have been robbery. A small knife seems an unlikely choice of weapon for an assassination and a well-lit platform is an unlikely venue for a pre-meditated murder.
The local force led the investigation and the Transport Police were left to handle the railway side of the enquiries. The train on which the Countess had travelled was identified but the driver and guard were unable to assist. Adjacent tunnels were thoroughly searched with no trace although it seems clear that the attacker had decamped via the emergency stairs.
It was established that a fit man could avoid the lift attendant and beat the lift to the top. The jurisdiction of the London Transport Police at this time included London buses and officers traced the drivers and conductors of all buses in the area at the time. More extensive track searches were made and total of 214 Piccadilly Line trains were examined. Hundreds of railway staff were interviewed including 64 train crews. Every knife found on the Underground for the next few months were handed to police for forensic examination.
Several suspects were identified, including an Underground worker (who had booked a room at a local hotel but had not used it) and a school worker (who had turned up the next morning with a black eye and scratches to his face). Both were eliminated from enquiries. A man found loitering on the station on days prior to the assault was found but was in care at a mental hospital at the time of the crime.
By the time of the inquest, which was held on 19 August 1957, a staggering 18,000 people had been interviewed by police including many who lived abroad. The jury returned a verdict of murder by a person or persons unknown and the killer of Countess Lubienska remains unidentified to this day.