'Terrible Tragedy at Thundersley.'

1926. When Thundersley made headlines for all the wrong reasons

By Robert Hallmann

Some of the headlines read: 'Alleged Murder.' 'Reference to a Razor.' 'Death Sentence.' 

She was a beautiful 21-year-old with an Italian father and an English mother and he was a Dutch painter and decorator twice her age with a Belgian wife. Father Hector Piombini was a waiter at a top Piccadilly, London, restaurant and the Piombini family had property in Fulham, where he stayed during the week, while his wife and daughters ran a guest house called ‘Sunnyside’ on Kiln Road, Thundersley. It is described by one reporter as ‘a large, pleasantly situated detached house standing a little way off the Kiln Road. A short gravel path leads from the double entrance gates to the hall door. There is a picturesque flower garden in the front, and a large garden at the rear. Artistically arranged in front of the house are a number of dainty tea tables, and the house itself looks spick and span in its new coat of paint, the work of the accused man.’

That new coat of paint had recently been provided by 42-year old J.J.C. Mommers, known as Peter, who with his wife lived in a Piombini property in Fulham.

On the evening of the tragedy, on 7th May 1926, Mommers and Auguste Violette Piombini, the elder daughter, had been out visiting a pub when they were seen talking at the back garden door. ‘Shortly before ten o’clock Violette rushed into the house screaming, and, running upstairs, collapsed on a bed. Mrs Piombini and her other daughter … rushed upstairs after her, and found her bleeding profusely from a terrible gash in the throat. … The police and Drs. Grant (Thundersley) and Jameson (Rayleigh) were immediately informed…’ The girl died shortly before midnight.

A search of the immediate area proved fruitless, but Inspector Hurrell from Grays saw Mommers walking towards London near Hangman’s Wood. On receiving the telephone message, he went out and arrested Mommers at about 3.30 am.

Coroner and Jury sat at Thundersley Hall, the Grand Jury at Essex Assizes at Chelmsford. Defence claimed that death was due to suicide because of the girl’s infatuation for the man, but The Sunday Post reported on 25 June 1926: ‘The Home Secretary has stated that he sees no reason to advise His Majesty to interfere with the death sentence passed on Johannes Josephus Mommers for the murdering of Miss Piombini at Thundersley, Essex…’

Johannes Josephus Mommers was hung at Pentonville on 27 July 1926.

(An excerpt from the ‘History of Thundersley and Daws Heath’. RH)

P.S.: ‘Sunnyside’ in Kiln Road is a scant description, but the naming of neighbours as witnesses may add some clues to where the house was situated: ‘Mrs Annie Holgate, wife of an electrician’ and ’Albert Donoghue, a smallholder. Can anybody shed some light on where it was, is, or what happened to the house?

Photo:J.J.C. Mommers, Sunday Post, June 20 1926

J.J.C. Mommers, Sunday Post, June 20 1926

Wayne Weedon

Photo:Essex Newsman, May 15 1926

Essex Newsman, May 15 1926

Wayne Weedon

Photo:Essex Newsman, May 22 1926

Essex Newsman, May 22 1926

Wayne Weedon

Photo:Western Daily Press, June 15 1926

Western Daily Press, June 15 1926

Wayne Weedon

Photo:Aberdeen Journal, June 17 1926

Aberdeen Journal, June 17 1926

Wayne Weedon

Photo:Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, June 17 1926

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, June 17 1926

Wayne Weedon

Photo:Western Daily Press, June 17 1926

Western Daily Press, June 17 1926

Wayne Weedon

Photo:Essex Newsman, June 19 1926

Essex Newsman, June 19 1926

Wayne Weedon

Photo:Sunday Post, June 20 1926

Sunday Post, June 20 1926

Wayne Weedon

Photo:Sunday Post, June 25 1926

Sunday Post, June 25 1926

Wayne Weedon

Photo:Piombini Murder Trial

Piombini Murder Trial

Wayne Weedon

This page was added by Robert Hallmann on 16/11/2013.
Comments about this page (Add a comment about this page)

In case it is of any help, the Essex Record Office catalogue lists a building plan with Mrs Holgate as the owner in 1911 with her address as Chelsea House, Kiln Road. Perhaps someone else can enlighten you as to where Chelsea House is or was?

By Terry Barclay
On 23/11/2013

A page on the Benfleet Archive (Benfleet House Names) shows that Chelsea House was given the number 45 Kiln Road when legislation required the Local Authority to go over to numbering.

By Eileen Gamble
On 23/11/2013

According to Google, that would place it just a few blocks west of Council Offices, probably on the north side of Kiln Road, which would be the sunny side? Are we getting closer? Thanks. 

By Robert Hallmann
On 23/11/2013

Chelsea House was the name of the property used by Benfleet UDC as their works depot until sometime in the 1970s when it was sold for redevelopment.  There was a large yard behind the house, extending northwards past the end of Bradley Close.  Following the Council's disposal of the land, this depot was redeveloped into the road named Konnybrook with its housing, roughly opposite the entrance to Thundersley Glen.

By Barry Brazier
On 19/02/2015

My great grand parents owned Sunnyside in Kiln Road in the 1930s and 1940s.  I believe they kept it as a guest house; they also owned Rose Villa of Common Lane, Thundersley Essex which was their family home, (Samuel and Minnie Mayes.)

By Sam
On 26/05/2015

Hij is geboren in Tilburg Nederland 17 april 1883.

Zit ver in familiestamboom van mijn familie.

Ed}  He (Johannes Josephus Mommers) was born in Tilburg, Netherlands, April 17, 1883.

He is a distant relative in my family tree.

By Dirk de Leeuw
On 10/06/2015