A dead Australian heiress, Britain’s ‘horizontal housewife’ and a plot to steal a nuclear submarine: headlines from four decades ago
A journey back through time to look at significant news and events reported by the South China Morning Post from this week in history
A British woman dubbed the “horizontal housewife” and a daring plot to steal a US nuclear submarine made the headlines four decades ago this week.
October 1, 1978
● Hong Kong’s recreation clubs were anxiously awaiting the outcome of an appeal by the Inland Revenue Department. The Kowloon Cricket Club feared that if the government won the case, they would have to pay millions of dollars in profits tax, possibly all the way back to 1940. The club had already been presented with a massive HK$250,000 tax bill for the years 1972 to 1975.
● A 73-year-old Russian woman living in slum conditions in the Ping Shek temporary housing area in Kwun Tong claimed she was being poisoned. Zenia Harverson, who was turning blind, spoke no Cantonese even though she had lived in the city for 45 years. She did not get on with her neighbours and accused them of a variety of offences, ranging from poisoning her to breaking her window and reading her mail.
October 2, 1978
● A Japanese domestic airliner with 112 people on board made a safe emergency landing in southern Japan after a passenger tried to burn himself in the aircraft’s lavatory. Police said the 41-year-old Japanese national suffered burns to his limbs and face.
● Police in Helsinki stormed the hideout of the hijacker of a Finnish airliner and overpowered him with the help of two police dogs. Officers forced open the front door of the house, let the animals in, and about 20 seconds later, the suspect was led out in handcuffs. Aarno Lamminparras had released all passengers unharmed earlier that day after receiving two bottles of whisky, which he drank during the incident, and the equivalent of HK$900,000 in ransom.
October 3, 1978
● A teenage boy in southern Taiwan told police four teenage boys beat him up and put an electronic lock about the size of a matchbox on his testicles before fleeing. He was sent to hospital, but doctors could only give him a shot to alleviate his pain. A locksmith was called, and it took eight minutes to remove the device.
● A British Rail delegation left for China to look at the expansion and modernisation of its 33,000-mile railway network. The eight-man group flew to Beijing for a two-week visit to advise their Chinese counterparts on the possibility of increasing the use of advanced technology for their railway system.
October 4, 1978
● A young woman who burned herself to death outside the United Nations headquarters in Geneva the night before was confirmed to be Lynette Philips, heiress to one of Australia’s largest fortunes. The 24-year-old woman left a message denouncing UN delegates for preferring a life of luxury to helping the millions of people in need. Philips, whose family owned mines in Australia, had joined the Ananda Marga religious sect a few years back.
● Cairo’s streets were notorious for potholes, but a Saudi car dealer hit the biggest one of all. Hany Haress and his car were swallowed up when a water main burst and the road collapsed beneath them.
October 5, 1978
● A five-year-old girl and her three-year-old brother spent two days locked in a remote farmhouse in Sydney with the bodies of their dead parents. The children lived on biscuits until they were discovered. Police said the couple had been shot.
● A 118-year-old Malaysian man convicted the year before of being intimate with a 40-year-old divorcee – an offence under Muslim religious law – had died. Lebal Omar was a teacher of Malay martial arts.
October 6, 1978
● The Federal Bureau of Investigation said it had arrested two men suspected of plotting to steal a US nuclear submarine, sail it out into the Atlantic and sell it to an unnamed buyer. The plot included launching a missile attack on the navy base at New London, Connecticut, or a major east coast city as a diversion during the theft. The duo were an insurance company employee and a carpet cleaner; a third man was still being sought.
● An Australian news magazine slammed Princess Alexandra’s Sydney trip, saying British royal visits were a “plain bloody embarrassment”. The Bulletin was a weekly publication with a circulation of about 700,000.
● A professional hunter was hired to shoot a hyena that killed 24 children in the slums of New Delhi. The body of the latest victim – a four-year-old girl – was found half eaten near her home.
October 7, 1978
● A British woman suffering from influenza faithfully obeyed her doctor’s orders to stay in bed, where she remained for 40 years. The case of the 74-year-old woman, dubbed the “horizontal housewife”, was featured in Lancet, a British medical journal. Doctors said she suffered from “Oblomov syndrome”, caused by apathy or laziness rather than a mental or physical condition.
Remember A Day looks at significant news and events reported by the Post during this week in history