Murder most foul in Pontypool

I always regarded Pontypool as a quiet sort of place and not to be compared in any way with Chicago or London in the criminal league.

The first crime I remember – a relatively minor one – was perpetrated against my own family only a year or two after we’d moved to School Lane. My father was a keen gardener and had planted a small orchard of seven apple trees in the half of the garden near the house. We were all thrilled when quite a number of apples appeared on the trees and we watched their growth with great interest waiting for the day we could pick and eat them.

One Sunday evening, on returning home from Park Terrace Methodist Church, we were dismayed to see that someone had taken advantage of our absence and had picked every apple, except one, off the trees. At that time the field was next to our house and the fence consisted of only three strands of wire which made for easy access.

My father made extensive enquiries of local children, some of whom had seen the dirty deed, and he was told that “It was Paddy Hanford’s gang”. Apparently he was a character who lived somewhere in the Broadway area. As a result of this, my father bought a great dane dog to discourage this sort of thing from happening again. We called him Ras, and when he was a year old, he stood six feet tall on his hind legs. Naturally we had no further trouble with intruders of any sort.

But the crime which shook all Pontypool to the core was the murder of William Alfred Lewis known as “Dripping” Lewis. He was a 59 year old bachelor who lived at Plasmont, Conway Road. He was known as “Dripping” because of his liking for eating dripping sandwiches which were quite popular at that time. In my four journeys to and from Town School every day I passed his house regularly. As there was a high stone wall around it and a large gate in the corner, little could be seen of the house itself so it was easy to pass it without really noticing it.

A clipping from the Free Press at the time of the murder

Mr Lewis had been a draper at Cwm, Ebbw Vale until 1931. His unmarried sister lived with him at Plasmont until she died in 1936. The body of the victim was discovered by Thomas Brimble, a builder and decorator of Abersychan on Wednesday 24th May 1939. He had been working for some time on renovation work at Mr Lewis’s house. The milkman told Mr Brimble that the milk he had left on Monday was still in the two jugs and had not been used. That was when Mr Brimble went into the house to investigate. He found Mr Lewis’s body sprawled across his bed with a pillow over his face. He contacted the police at once.

Scotland Yard was informed and four of their officers came to investigate. They discovered that Mr Lewis had suffered several blows to the back of the head but could find no weapon nor any other clues. They later discovered that about £300 was missing from the house: £200 in rents from the houses and shops in the area owned by Mr Lewis and £100 worth of gold jewellery.

A post mortem later established that Mr Lewis had died on Monday 22nd May from shock brought on by his severe injuries.

The murderer was never caught but there was a tremendous amount of talk about the event for a long time afterwards.

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12 Responses to “Murder most foul in Pontypool”

  1. harold clarke Says:

    as I always was lead to beleve he had his head choped off and the house keeper was a strong suspect but nobody was charged

  2. kate watkins Says:

    in my pontypool book it says that the man was found with severe head wounds and a pillow over his face and that detectives were called from scotland yard to investigate the case but it has never been solved to this day. the murder took place in may 1939

    • amos2008 Says:

      Thank you, Kate, for this interesting comment and for supplying me with the date of the murder and some other details. I knew it must have been between November 1938 and the early forties but I didn’t remember the exact date. Your information has filled in another piece of the jig-saw. Incidentally, I should be interested (as I’m sure others would) to know the title of your Pontypool book.

  3. Holly Says:

    Ive a great interest in murder crimes particuarly local murder crimes.
    i live in abersychan and have been told since i was a little girl that the lone house on the side of the lasgarn wood, just visibale from the main road had belonged to “mad dougie”. the locals have only been able to tell me so far tat they only know him as “mad dougie” and that he murdered his wife with an axe some time ago.
    i would love to find out more about the gruesome tale and was hoping that maybe someone one here would have heard of him and possibly give me more details about the man and his crime.
    it would be grately appreciated.
    Holly 19,(abersychan)

  4. Monty Says:

    William Alfred Lewis was murdered on 22nd May 1939. Four Scotland Yard detectives were drafted in (chosen for their knowledge of the Welsh language!!) but despite taking hundreds of statements no one was convicted of the murder – but there were many suspects – including a peg legged Scottish accordianist. Mr Lewis had been hit over the head with a blunt instrument – though this was never discovered. was this a misssing pole from a stall in Pontypool Market ? Mr Lewis owned many properties in Pontypool and was known to be a rich but frugal man – he had proposed marriage to a lady but had been refused. Local author has the police files but what was the local gossip, the rumours that surrounded the case? Contributions welcomed and will be attributed – though anonymous contibutions accepted too. Who wrote the mystery postcard naming the murderer?


  5. Sharon Thomas Says:

    Think my mam lived next door to that house her name was myra jones

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  8. montydarty Says:

    Hi there Edzy – I’m the author of ‘Who Killed Dripping Lewis’ a book about the murder. Plasmont was opposite St Alban’s Catholic Church, now just a grassy bank. I have checked my manuscript, some hundreds of local people were interviewed, including neighbours but I can’t find your nan in the statements. Where did she live?
    Monty Dart

    • Edzy Says:

      Hi Monty,
      If you look at the green opposite St. Alban’s RC Church, it is on a hill and doesn’t seem large enough to facilitate a house of Plasmont’s stature.
      However, if you look opposite St. Alban’s towards what is now the end of George Street (still where it meets with Conway), you will see what is now 92 George Street. From the road you can only see the back of this huge house, now sadly in need of some renovation but still an impressive house. Interestingly, it is the same size as Plasmont and with an adjoining cottage, only apparent when you view the house from what is now its back garden, which was once the front of the house. It once had extensive grounds which spread down to the railway line. The house is now for sale, so there are numerous photos available to view online but if you can, I recommend you take a look at a house which, despite what the estate agents are saying, was certainly built in the same style and scale as Plasmont. There are nine or so bedrooms but due to disrepair on the top floor (like Plasmont, there are three floors), they are marketing the house as having five bedrooms. Is there any mention of the inhabitants of this grand house in any of your records at the time?

      • montydarty Says:

        Hi Edzy – not a mention of 92 in the statements, but it is an fascinating place . I believe it is was a seminary for St Albans and the young Catholic priests used to live there. The Lewis family owned properties throughout Pontypool and beyond including in George Street and Conway Road. Plasmont took up the whole of the grassy area and was quite impressive – with a large drawing room on the first floor which went the full length of the house with a conservatory attached. . The crime scene photographs show the front of Plasmont but as it was surrounded in trees, there are no photos of it from a distance. When I was writing the book quite a few people told me what it looked like both inside and out.

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