This week as part of the Townscape project Tracy Cottrell tries to find out who Killed 'Dripping' Lewis?

Pontypool Townscape Project played host to author Monty Dart, who is currently working on a book about the infamous 1939 murder of wealthy landlord William Lewis. Over 30 people enjoyed her lively narrative, accompanied by an interesting slide show of original Scotland Yard crime photographs and newspaper clippings.

William Alfred Lewis, known locally as Dripping Lewis, lived at Plasmont, Conway Road, Pontypool when he was bludgeoned to death, in his bedroom on or about May 22, 1939.

Plasmont House, where the murder was committed, was at the junction of Conway Road and George Street, opposite St Albans Catholic Church. Plasmont was described as a mansion of 22 rooms in grounds of three-quarters of an acre. At the time of the murder Mr Lewis was living alone in the large house.

Tom Brimble, of Waterworks Lane, Abersychan had been taken on in the November of the previous year by Mr Lewis as a jobbing builder and handyman. The house had been neglected for many years and the two men agreed a contract of £30 pounds to tidy up and paint the exterior of the house.

Mr Brimble left home at 7am and took the bus into Pontypool. Calling in at Sandbrook and Dawes he ordered materials to be delivered to Plasmont before walking through town and up George Street to begin his days work. After putting up his ladder the lorry with the supplies arrived.

Tom Brimble hadn't seen Mr Lewis the previous day and had painted the outer frames of the windows without them being opened.

Mr Lewis had a sister, Miriam (her husband the Reverend Pritchard was the Vicar to the Mayor of Swansea) and he was known to go to see her there but it was unusual for him to stay overnight.

Also puzzled was the milkman Wilfred James Williams of Perthellick Farm, Pontnewydd. He had left two pints of milk in a jug in the kitchen and it was untouched when he called the next day.

The postman Hubert Charles Williams of Victoria Road, Pontypool had made a number of deliveries too. The last dated May 22, which led the police to believe that Mr Lewis had not been alive to pick up that letter.

The following day Mr Brimble returned to continue his work but was worried, he couldnât paint the window frames without them being opened.

Neighbour, Mr Barnett, whose cottage was formed from part of Plasmont House was also alarmed, he hadn't seen Mr Lewis for a day or two. The men agreed that Brimble should go into the house through the kitchen door, finding nothing of note downstairs he went upstairs where he looked in the large sitting room on the first floor and then in the dining room.

Finally he entered one room which was in a state of disarray, drawers pulled open and contents scattered. Mr Lewis was lying crossways on the bed with a pillow over his head.

James Thomas, Police Constable 280 in the Monmouthshire Constabulary, went to Plasmont and lifted the pillow from Mr Lewis face, saw that he had been fatally injured and asked Mr Brimble to stand watch at the door downstairs so he could call in reinforcements from the nearest telephone.

PC Thomas, Detective Victor Adams and Police Sgt Alfred Bowkett went to Plasmont where they met Dr McAllen of Pontypool who confirmed the death.

Sgt Bowkett called Chief Constable Major Lucas and Home Office Pathologist Dr Webster.

Chief Constable Lucas suggested that all known local villains and bad boys, be located and interviewed. He also made the momentous decision to call in Scotland Yard, this would lead to a manhunt conducted all over Britain and even the continent.

The local police discovered that £300 might be missing from one of the two safes in the house and outside Lewis' bedroom the Pathologist noted three keys, two fitted the back door but which lock did the third key wasn't a door in Plasmont?

The police put a photograph in the Police Gazette. Mr Lewis' bunch of keys, from which he was never parted, couldn't be found. Nor was there any sign of the weapon, believed to be the notorious blunt object.

The beat police in Pontypool were knocking on doors in Conway Road and George Street and in all the local shops, asking what people knew of Mr Lewis as a neighbour and landlord.

Many people could date their movements by remembering that they had attended the 25th Anniversary of the South Wales Borderers, which was held at Pontypool Park.

As a landlord many said that he was regular to collect his rents, everyone in Pontypool knew the days he collected, and he was quick to get properties repaired.

His neighbours saw him as a quiet man, a recluse, frugal with money, always wore a suit and a bowler hat.

Perhaps his lady friends held the answer. Annie Irene Harris, aged 38, described as from a well to do family who lived at Maesycwmmer, Goytre. She had first met Mr Lewis the previous year and said that at Christmas 1938 he had proposed.

She said that she would consider his proposal if he moved from Plasmont, to a more modern dwelling. In her statement of June 4, she said that she knew of another lady friend, Miss Ethel Parker, who was a second cousin to Mr Lewis.

Miss Parker said that she too had also been proposed to but didnât like the look of Plasmont, so like Miss Harris hadn't given a definite answer.

However, she also said that Mr Lewis had spoken of a Miss Vera Humphries , 25, of Griffithstown. Secretary to a big estate agency in Pontypool she said she would have also contemplated marriage but for the gloomy Plasmont.

Miss Parker said Lewis seemed delighted that so many ladies were taking notice of him. However, at a meeting with Lewis' sister Miriam in Swansea, on hearing that Miss Harris was walking out with Mr Lewis, Miss Parker called him a rotter.

She called at Plasmont and confronted him on May 20, just a few days before his death and he denied ever proposing marriage to her, so she slapped his face. Apparently the police knew of another three persons that had been proposed to by Mr Lewis.

However the police decided that despite the various spats between themselves and Mr Lewis, the lady friends were not to blame for the murder and the interviews went on.

A small group of family mourners and a number of friends attended the funeral. Internment was at Penygarn Cemetery and there were a large number of curious sightseers, mainly women. The short service at Crane Street Baptist Church was conducted by Rev. E. W. Price Evans and the Rev Richard Rees, of Tabernacle Baptist Church.

By Friday, June 9, the police were issuing appeals though the press and cinema screens in the district. The weapon was still missing, it was described as possibly iron about an inch wide and possibly bloodstained.

Meanwhile the family were getting anxious and offered the enormous reward of £1,000 (£48,000 in today's money) to anyone who could put a name to the culprit.

The police were getting desperate and issued another plea for witnesses to come forth.

The Inquest was finally held on September 20, when it was deemed by the Coroner D. J. Treasure that Mr Lewis had been murdered by a person or persons unknown.

Who could have done the deed?

Pontypool was a quiet place, most people knew each other, all Mr Lewisâ tenants had been interviewed, as had his few acquaintances and friends. Both his sisters, particularly Miriam and her Reverend husband had their movements checked.

Finally the Will was announced it had been made many years previously in 1927, and all but two of his brothers and sisters had died. in it he had left to properties on Commercial Street, Osbourne Road, Bridge Street and his half share in a house and shop in Jubilee Buildings in Crane Street, three shops in George Street, and two cottages in the rear thereof, two houses in Clydach Terrace and a half share in two shops in George Street, plus other property and shares.

However, as Emily and Miriam also were the only two surviving siblings they shared the entire estate.

If anyone has anything relevant to the story the murder of 'Dripping' Lewis Monty Dart would love to hear from them. Anyone who can tell her anything (gossip is as interesting as fact) or has any memories of the incident, a photograph of Plasmont, or Mr Lewis, or who can tell her where the family is now please contact her via or contact Tracy Cottrell, Pontypool Free Press, 01495 751133.