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?