Murder in Chelsea: financier stabbed to death by burglars

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The Independent Online

A city financier has been stabbed to death and his wife seriously injured by two intruders who forced their way into their Chelsea home.

A city financier has been stabbed to death and his wife seriously injured by two intruders who forced their way into their Chelsea home.

Police disclosed yesterday that John and Homeyra Monckton had been found by their nine-year-old daughter, Isobel, who called 999 following the attack in London on Monday evening. Mr Monckton, 49, was a cousin of Rosa Monckton - a friend of Diana, Princess of Wales - who is married to Dominic Lawson, the editor of The Sunday Telegraph.

The murder is likely to re-ignite the debate about violent crime and how far residents should be allowed to go to protect themselves at home.

Two young men are thought to have forced their way through the front door of the Monckton's three-storey house in Upper Cheyne Row, west London, at about 7.30pm. The motive is unclear. One possibility is that the intruders had planned to snatch property and run away, or tie up the husband and wife and ransack the house. Their victims may have tried to fight them off in the hallway.

Police said today that a man had been arrested in connection with their inquiries.

Mr Monckton, who is a senior director with the financial firm Legal & General, was fatally wounded and his wife, who is 45, was also stabbed. She was described as in a serious condition in hospital after emergency surgery. The couple's younger daughter is the only person at this stage who can provide the police with a description of what happened.

The Moncktons have a second daughter, Sabrina, aged 12, but she was away at boarding school at the time.

The family were regular worshippers at the Catholic church opposite their home, and Canon Michael Brockie, the priest at Our Most Holy Redeemer and St Thomas More church, was with Mr Monckton in hospital when he died. The priest was at the bedside of Mrs Monckton yesterday.

He said that, on the night of the murder, he was at his church. "I heard a commotion in the street. We heard a burglar alarm which went off, followed by a banging of the door," he recalled. "When we came out, there were ambulances already there."

Mr Monckton's relatives said in a statement yesterday: "John Victor was an incredibly gentle and thoughtful man. Apart from his outstanding career in the City, he also devoted a great deal of his time to charitable works. We are all praying for him."

The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, said: "My heart goes out to his wife, Homeyra, and the whole family."

The Monckton's home lies in an exclusive enclave of streets between the King's Road and the Embankment. Even modest properties in the area sell for £2m; the Monckton's home is thought to be worth in the region of £3m. The area has long been popular with pop stars, footballers and other celebrities; current residents include the Arsenal and England footballer Sol Campbell and the former Rolling Stone Bill Wyman.

While the crime rate in Chelsea is low compared to other parts of the capital, the borough has experienced a large rise in knife crime in the past two years: 236 offences were reported in the 10 months to March - up by 35 per cent on a year earlier. Locals say that there have been several muggings and burglaries. This has led to the residents banding together to employ a private security guard to patrol the streets at night; the idea collapsed earlier this year as not everyone was prepared to contribute to the cost.

Canon Brockie said: "Chelsea has become very dangerous. Many people are hiring night watchmen. The police have put more community support officers on the streets, but they can't be everywhere at once."

Recent incidents include an attack on a church volunteer, Robin McCarthy, who was bludgeoned at Our Most Holy Redeemer and St Thomas More in January 2003. The attack left the victim with brain damage.

The case highlights concerns about the rise in violent offences and home protection. The Sunday Telegraph has been running a campaign to give people more rights to protect themselves from violent intruders. The newspaper is calling for new legislation to give householders the unqualified right to use force - including deadly force if necessary - against burglars, without facing criminal charges from the police or being sued for compensation.