THE HUSBAND WHO DROWNED HIS WIFE (1961)
The public interest in and media coverage of the trial of Gerard Baden Clay mirrors that of half a century ago when Dutchman Hank Plomp claimed his pregnant wife vanished at night after a swim. When 30 year-old Brisbane City Council bus driver Hendrikus Plomp staggered out of the surf at Southport 53 years ago to report his wife Fay missing, something didn’t add up. The saga of Plomp would carry on for years in Queensland’s courts and newspapers, and inside the walls of Boggo Road Gaol where Plomp was to serve his time. Like the case of Baden Clay, no one saw what actually happened.
Hank Plomp and his wife Fay, lived in Petrel Street Inala, Brisbane. They had two young children, Faye was pregnant with a third, at the time of the tragedy.
On February 24, 1961 Plomp took his wife to the Gold Coast on a day trip. At 6.30pm they drove to Southport. Fay, a good swimmer wanted to have one last dip at Main Beach, they entered the water leaving their son in their car.
What happened next depended on who’s version you believe. Police maintained that Plomp told them that waves knocked he and his wife over twice and that Fay was dragged under. Plomp grabbed the shoulder strap of her swim suit, but it broke and she disappeared underwater. Plomp then raised the alarm at a nearby shop ; Police were called. This version of events relayed by Plomp was later denied by him. Detectives claimed that when her body was found later that night her shoulder straps were intact.
Fay’s family and friends suspicions of murder were confirmed 45 minutes before her funeral when Hank claimed his wife’s insurance. Plomp it seemed had been living a sordid lie. After his wife’s death, he was put on trial for rape of another woman and it was revealed he had a mistress, who he had promised to marry. It seemed he had taken the advice of a work colleague ‘If you want to get rid of your wife, the easiest way is to take her swimming and hold her under. Then feel sorry and start to cry.’
The council bus driver had thought his plan to be cunningly simple. Ultimately a jury convicted him of murder after just 90 minutes. After many years Plomp was released from Boggo Road Gaol after a series of appeals against his conviction… He returned to Holland taking his family with him.
The question remains: was the shoulder strap broken or intact?
Listen to True Crimes – every Thursday at 9.30pm on Radio 4BC for this and more crime stories. Next THE CHERMSIDE TOMAHAWK MURDER (1959)