Flashback: A hypnotist, a pensioner’s blazing home and victory for a new hospital to be built

40-years-ago. Picture: Romford Library

40-years-ago. Picture: Romford Library - Credit: Romford Library

A look back at the biggest local stories from this day 20, 40 and 60 years ago.


A 21-year-old Romford shop assistant was hypnotised to believe that she was a Hollywood film actress.

The woman, Joan Wheele, was taking orders from 23-year-old hypnotist Peter Champion.

In the small front room of his Jubilee Avenue, Romford, bungalow, the ex-Royal Liberty School boy set himself up as a professional hypnotist.

With no degrees or training and his only knowledge from book, Peter, a former trainee store manager, was convinced he could cure by hypnosis.

He claimed to have stopped Mrs Wheele smoking when she “really didn’t want to give it up”.

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He also claimed to have stopped a 19-year-old woman feeling excessively ticklish and to have cured her of self-consciousness.

As well as these, he claimed to have cured anything from excessive drinking to unexplained fear - “but only with full co-operation from the subject”.


Neighbours kicked in the front door of a pensioner’s blazing home in a desperate bid to save her but they were beaten back by raging flames.

Firefighters found the body of Mrs Emily Gutteridge, 86, lying on a bedroom floor in her bungalow after they had battled through fire and smoke trying to reach her.

Her cat and dog also perished in the blaze.

Neighbours spotted smoke rising from Mrs Gutteridge’s North Road, Havering-atte-Bower home.

A neighbour said: “We kicked in the door to try and get to her but couldn’t get through the smoke and flames.”

Firefighters from Romford and Hainault tackled the blaze.

A fire brigade spokesman said: “Some firefighters went in with breathing apparetus to try and save Mrs Gutteridge but it was too late. She was already dead.”


Champagne corks popped as battling campaigners victory of a 10-year fight to keep front line emergency health care in Romford within travelling distance of people in all areas of the borough and beyond.

Dramatic news of the success came in the House of Commons when health secretary Frank Dobson gave the government’s blessing to a new £100million general hospital to be built at Oldchurch Park.

Shortly before Havering’s three MPs, who had urged a review of hospital plans for the area, had been summoned to a meeting with health minister Alan Milburn to be told the good news.

Romford MP Eileen Gordan said: “This has taken a long time and we are delighted Mr Dobson has accepted the recommendations of the report.

“It is a shame that some of those who began this fight to save Oldchurch services have passed on but I’m sure that they would have been proud.”