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THE LONG KNIVES . . . Between the covers

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Irvine Welsh introduced us to Edinburgh detective Ray Lennox in Crime, but it has taken fourteen years for the second in the series – The Long Knives – to emerge. The title is not a metaphor, as the opening chapter describes the castration of a rather unpleasant Conservative MP in an empty warehouse in Leith.

There is no shortage of people who might have wanted Ritchie Gulliver dead. They range from political opponents, via victims of his predatory sexual habits, to activist groups he has offended. Lennox is given the case, and is immediately alerted to a recent incident in London which sounds similar. Home Office civil servant Christopher Piggott-Wilkins has been attacked in the Savoy Hotel. He managed to escape, badly wounded, and immediately transferred himself to a Harley Street hospital, after which what occurred in his suite has been cleaned up, both literally and metaphorically, by un-named but powerful agencies. Piggott-Wilkins has been left with one testicle, while Gulliver’s complete ‘package’ was discovered, draped from the Sir Walter Scott memorial, by an unsuspecting tourist.

After a lighting trip to London to speak to Mark Hollis, the larger-than-life Met copper investigating the Savoy case, Lennox returns to Edinburgh to face a sea of troubles. His fiancee Trudi not only seems to be ignoring his calls, but may have another love in her life. A former colleague, Jim McVittie, has transitioned to female, but has been found horrifically beaten up and is not expected to survive. Before the assault, Lennox meets one of the more ‘in your face’ transexuals in the local scene:

“What appears to be a brawny young man of around six foot four in a blue dress not so much enters as bulldozes in, a charged storm of bristling rage. He has a big hooked nose, and long flowing brown hair, which seems to have been given the attention of crimping tongs fashionable in the eighties. On his face a long scar bubbles thickly from under a  trowelling of foundation.”

An investigative journalist has tipped Lennox off that the two cases may be linked to a serious sexual assault at a ski resort some years earlier, and that high class prostitutes – and the men who run them – may be involved.

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Readers familiar with Welsh’s style over the years will recognise his trademarks, including the unpunctuated rapid-fire dialogue, the demi-monde of drugs, violence, sex and alcohol, and the underpinning ground-bass that tells us it’s an us-and-them world. There is even a passing reference to the most infamous of the author’s creations, Francis Begbie.

One of the more memorable characters in the drama is the brilliantly over-the-top Mark Hollis. He is more redolent of the glory days of The Sweeney than the current fashion of dancing the Macarena at Gay Pride marches. Hollis provides valuable information to Lennox, and slowly but surely the Edinburgh cop connects the pieces of the jigsaw. The picture that emerges is a chilling one. The killings are the work of a partnership. The man is linked to an act of random cruelty some years previously in Tehran, while his female partner is, indeed, seeking revenge for her abuse in a ski-lift gondola, but when her identity is revealed, Lennox is beyond shocked.

Welsh brings us horrific violence, but also the dark poetry of compassion. I can only liken Ray Lennox’s desire to avenge the murder victims whose suffering is imprinted on his soul, to Derek Raymond’s nameless Sergeant in books like I Was Dora Suarez. This is a magnificent work of fiction, not just a good crime novel. It is published by Jonathan Cape and will be out on 25th August.

UNDER THE MARSH . . . Between the covers

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This is the third novel by GR Halliday featuring Inverness copper DI Monica Kennedy, and you can read my review of the previous book, Dark Waters, by clicking on the title link. DI Kennedy’s life revolves around being the best mother she can be for her five year-old daughter Lucy, and solving serious crime for Police Scotland. When those two vocations collide, she is helped out by her willing, but rather reproachful mother.

The novel begins with one of those “She’s Leaving Home” moments, but there is a difference. The worst that we know of what became of the girl in the Beatles song is that she went off with a man from the motor trade. What happens here is worse. Much, much worse.

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UTM coverOne of Kennedy’s chief scalps was serial killer Pauline Tosh, who now faces spending the rest of her days in a remote high security jail. Out of the blue, Tosh requests a visit from the officer who ended her murderous career, and what she reveals sets off a search for a body. When it is discovered, and is revealed to be that of the long-since missing Freya Sutherland, what is in effect a massive cold-case-murder hunt is put into place.

I am not the greatest fan of the split time frame mode of storytelling, but Halliday uses it sparingly. Freya’s links with some minor celebrities back in the day provide leads for the investigation, but they are not necessarily fruitful. Along the way, the author has fun painting dark pictures of people who were once ‘something’ in the entertainment business, but whose best days are long behind them, but the questionable ethics and narcissism that brought them fame are as strong as ever. More troubling for Monica Kennedy is that one of the people who crops up in her investigation into what happened decades ago is now a prominent Scottish politician.

Monica Kennedy gets on really well with her professional partner, DC Connor Crawford, but then he goes AWOL at a time when the investigation is floundering. When he does surface, it is to tell Kennedy that he is in la merde profonde. He has become captivated with a Lithuanian stripper who works for one of Scotland’s major villains, who now has compromising footage of Crawford and Emilija. This footage will be revealed to all and sundry unless Crawford agrees to feed him with information. It is not all doom and gloom, however, as Crawford has had a bit of luck via a cassette tape which seems to indict several of Kennedy’s suspects in the search for Freya’s killer.

Screen Shot 2022-08-13 at 19.09.20As with all good crime writers, Halliday (right) leads us up the garden path, and killers (plural) are actually found, but the solution is surprising and beautifully complex. Oh yes, I almost forgot. From his bio, GR Halliday is a lover of cats, so if you share his passion, there are cats in this story. Several of them.

The author brings us a dark and compelling mystery set against the dramatic and occasionally unforgiving landscape of the Scottish Highlands. Monica Kennedy is a fully fleshed out character we can all believe in. Under the Marsh is published by Vintage, and is available now.

“ENOUGH TO KILL FIFTY PEOPLE” . . . The Wrangle Poisoner, 1884 (2)

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SO FAR: Wrangle Tofts, Lincolnshire, February 1884. 60 year-old Willam Lefley has died in agony, after eating what he claimed was poisoned rice pudding. Forensic investigations have discovered that there was a huge amount of arsenic in the pudding. Lefley’s wife Mary has been arrested on suspicion of causing his death.

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It came to light that Lefley was not in the best of health mentally. There were reports that he had contemplated suicide. Why? We do not know. He was not in any great debt. His marriage was relatively loveless, but many people muddle through that particular situation without seeking to kill themselves. A family member called William Lister later gave evidence under oath:

Suicide

Sir_Ford_North_Vanity_Fair_29_October_1887Based mainly on the question, “Who else could have done it?” Mary Lefley was sent for trial at the Lincoln Assizes. She was to appear before Mr Justice North. Mary’s defence barrister made the point:

“Unfortunately you must know in this county of Lincoln, the possession of arsenic in the country districts is not unusual. Arsenic is used for a of purposes of harmless character; and it Is for that very reason it may get into the possession of persons without exciting suspicions that may render very difficult to trace the particular occasion when arsenic came Into the possession of any individual or any house.”

The main spine of Mary Lefley’s defence had two strands:
(1) Absence of motive. Despite the lack of love between the pair, there was neither a huge sum of money nor commercial prospects coming to Mary Lefley on her husband’s death. There was never any suggestion that there was another man with whom she planned to make a new life after William’s death.
(2) No forensic connection between Mary Lefley and the arsenic overload in the fatal rice pudding.

The Lincoln Assizes jury found Mary Lefley guilty of murder, and Mr Justice North (above right) duly donned his black cap and sentenced her to death. She was sent back to Lincoln gaol to await her fate.

Awaiting death

Newspapers at the time loved a good hanging. It gave them the opportunity to sympathise with the condemned prisoner while, at the same time, signaling their virtue (a condition which is still alive and well in 2022) Despite the fact that no reporters were present at the fateful event, one newspaper was able to report:

“A WOMAN HANGED AT LINCOLN. SCENE ON THE SCAFFOLD. Mary Lefley was executed in Lincoln on Monday morning, for having murdered her husband at Wrangle, near Boston, last February, by mixing arsenic with a rice pudding. A small crowd gathered outside the prison to await the hoisting of the black flag. The execution was entirely private, representatives of the press being excluded. Berry, of Bradford, was the executioner. Berry, it appears, carried out all the arrangements in a satisfactory manner, giving the culprit a drop of 9ft. A Wesleyan minister attended her up to the time of execution, when the chaplain of the prison continued his ministrations to the end. The prisoner was in a very despondent condition. She screamed with terror whilst being pinioned, and her lamentations are described as having been heartrending as she was being led to her doom. She had to be assisted on to the scaffold, and on the white cap being placed over her face, and just the bolt was withdrawn, she gave long despairing cry. She asserted her innocence the Wesleyan minister shortly before he left her, and to the last hoped a reprieve would be forthcoming.”

Mary Lefley was presumably interred along with previously executed men and women in the little burial ground which had been established in the Lucy Tower of Lincoln Castle. Was she the victim of a huge injustice? The only other alternatives to her being guilty are (1) That William Lefley committed suicide in a most elaborate and unlikely fashion, presumably to spite his wife and bring about her downfall. (2) That a third party, un-named and with no apparent motive, had put the poison in the rice pudding.

If Mary Lefley was innocent, she would not have been the first woman from the area to be wrongly convicted. In 1868, Stickney woman Priscilla Biggadyke was hanged for poisoning her husband. Her lodger, Thomas Proctor, was also initially charged with murder, but the charge was dropped. Years later, on his deathbed, Proctor confessed that he had administered the fatal dose.

In part one of this story I wrote that Lefley’s marriage was childless. Mick Lake contacted me and kindly gave me the information that there had been four children, James, Sarah, George and John. Sadly, Sarah died in childhood, but the three boys survived and had left home by 1881. There is no mention of them visiting their mother in prison.

This sad case, if nothing else, makes a departure from the mainstream litany of historical Lincolnshire murders, where men killed women. For other murder cases from Lincolnshire, click the image below.


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“ENOUGH TO KILL FIFTY PEOPLE” . . . The Wrangle Poisoner, 1884 (1)

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Wiki tells us that Wrangle Tofts “is a 0.8–1 km-wide band of raised ground along part of the Lincolnshire coast, running between Wainfleet All Saints and Wrangle parallel to the Wash.” Toft is an old English word for homestead, derived from the Norse topf. The 1881 census tells us that one of the cottages on Wrangle Tofts was occupied by William Lefley and his wife Mary.

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Mary was from the nearby village of Stickney, but William was born in in East Harling, Norfolk. Not that far away in these days, but far enough in 1884. William was described as a cottager, a person – usually a man – who leased a small plot of land with a cottage on it. The land was usually worked like a family vegetable plot and may have had a pen for a pig or a couple of sheep.

Contemporary accounts suggest that William and Mary shared a rather loveless marriage. There were no children. A modern family history researcher has suggested that Mary, the younger of the two, had another suitor, but there is no evidence for this, and it is pure speculation.

On the afternoon of 6th February 1884, William Lefley went home for lunch. He ate beef and potatoes, and then had some rice pudding. He  became violently ill with sickness and stomach pains. He managed to get himself to the doctor’s surgery in Wrangle, and  Doctor Bubb’s housemaid (Elizabeth Hill) later told the court:
” I remember the deceased coming to my master’s house on the 6th February. He asked for the doctor, and said he wanted him at once, as he had been poisoned by eating rice pudding. He was ill, and went to lay in an outhouse. He fell in the yard, was sick and very cold. After being seen by the Doctor’s assistant, he was taken home by a man named Chapman”.

Doctor Bubb’s sister also testified:

“I saw Lefley at my brother’s surgery. He said he had been poisoned, and was going to die. He vomited, complained of being cold, appeared be in pain, and groaned. He said he had had some pudding at dinner, and was quite well before he ate it, adding, “My wife has done it.” He said he should like to alter his will before he died. He had left everything to his wife, and his anxiety for the doctor was very great. He brought a portion of the pudding with him in the tin.”

Mary Lefley had prepared the rice pudding and left it for her husband to cook through, while she took the carrier’s cart in to Boston. By the time she returned, William Lefley was close to death. The court heard the sequence of events:

“About 6.30 pm. Mrs. Lefley came upstairs, having returned home from Boston market. Mrs. Lefley said, “Now then, what’s the matter?” William Lefley said, “You know what’s the matter; go away from me, I don’t want to see you any more.” Mrs. Lefley made no answer, and went downstairs. Another doctor was called, and he was at Lefley’s bedside when he died, just after 9.00pm”

Forensic science has come a long way since the death of William Lefley, but the work of the pathologist, exploring the remains of the human body, searching for answers, was well established in 1884, but not, perhaps in Boston. A macabre parcel was sent south, by rail, to Guys Hospital in London. In the shipment was a large stoneware jar containing the stomach, bowel, spleen, kidneys and liver of the dead man. Dr Thomas Stevenson testified:

“The stomach itself was red and highly inflamed, as if from the administration of irritant poison. The  large mass of the small and large bowel, intensely inflamed so far regards the small bowel, had the appearance commonly observed after the administration of irritant poison. The jar also contained nine fluid ounces of bloody fluid. I found arsenic, which is an irritant poison. There was arsenic in the fluid in the stomach, the stomach itself, in the fluid the bowels, and the liver. These results, to me, say that arsenic had been administered during life, and had been absorbed into the system.”

Despite there being no trace of arsenic in the house, the police drew the inevitable conclusion, and acted accordingly.

Arrest

IN PART TWO

Trial and retribution
A mystery

THE WARWICKSHIRE TRIPLE MURDER . . . Violent death visits Baddesley Ensor (2)

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SO FAR: It is Sunday 24th August 1902, and in the colliery village of Badley Ensor, the Chetwynd family live on Watling Street Road. The household consists of widow Eliza Chetwynd (62) her son Joseph (24) daughter Eliza (21) and Eliza’s eleven week old son, who had not yet been named. The baby’s father, George Place (29) also lives there, but there is a tense atmosphere, as Place had just been served with am Affiliation Summons, which made him legally responsible for the upkeep of the child.

The events of that fateful Sunday morning were reported thus in a local newspaper:

HeadlineLate on Saturday evening, after leaving a public-house in Wilnecote, Place told two men that he intended to do for the three of them (meaning the women and the child), and showed the men a six-chambered revolver and a packet of cartridges. He got to his lodgings shortly after midnight, and it was a curious circumstance that at ten minutes past one in the morning Mrs. Chetwynd saw a neighbour, Mrs. Shilton, and told her she was afraid Place was going to do something to them, for he had a revolver and had got a knife to open a packet of cartridges. 

The four rooms of the house were all occupied. The victims slept together in one bed in the room the right on the ground floor; the kitchen on the same floor was occupied by the son of Mrs. Chetwynd, who slept on a sofa ; Place slept in one room on the upper floor; and Jesse Chetwynd, another son of Mrs. Chetwynd, with his wife, who had come from Upper Baddesley for the night, used the other room.

At about a quarter to six in the morning Place came downstairs and entering the room where the women and child were asleep, deliberately shot each of them through the head, the bullets entering the right side of the head. The baby was in its mother’s arms at the time. The older woman must have had her hand up to her head, for two of her fingers had been wounded by the bullet. Jesse Chetwynd rushed downstairs on hearing the reports, and found Place sitting on the doorstep with the revolver in his hand. Place had neither hat nor jacket on. Jesse Chetwynd said to him ” Whatever have you been doing ” but Place made no reply.

The other son, Joseph, said Place had threatened him. and that Jesse’s coming down saved him from being shot. The poor old woman and the child died almost immediately, but the daughter lay unconscious for about four hours, when she succumbed. The old lady was heard to exclaim “Oh !” when Mrs. Jackson, a neighbour, went in. The murderer walked, away quietly from the scene of the tragedy. He took the the public road to Atherstone, and was followed by Samuel Shilton, whom gave up the revolver and 14 cartridges. On the way, Place said to Shilton, ” If you hadn’t come after me I would been comfortable at the bottom of the canal.”

executionThe rest of this grim tale almost tells itself. George Place, apparently unrepentant throughout, was taken through the usual procedure of Coroner’s inquest, Magistrates’ court, and then sent to the Autumn Assizes at Warwick in December. Presiding over the court was Richard Webster, 1st Viscount Alverstone, and the trial was brief. Despite the obligatory plea from Place’s defence team that he was insane when he pulled the trigger three times in that Baddesely Ensor cottage, the jury were having none of it, and the judge donned the black cap, sentencing George Place to death by hanging. The trial was at the beginning of December, the date fixed for the execution was fixed for 13th December, but George Place did not meet his maker until 30th December. It is idle to speculate about quite what kind of Christmas Place spent in his condemned cell, but for some reason, during his incarceration, he had converted to Roman Catholicism. It seems he left this world with more dignity than he had allowed his three victims. The executioner was Henry Pierrepoint.

FOR MORE TRUE CRIME STORIES FROM WARWICKSHIRE, CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW

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THE WARWICKSHIRE TRIPLE MURDER . . . Violent death visits Baddesley Ensor (1)

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Asked to name  counties associated with England’s coal mining heritage, many people would say, “Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire.” The more knowledgeable might add Lancashire and, perhaps, Kent, but few would be aware that until relatively recently there was an important mining industry in North Warwickshire. One of the most significant centres was the village of Baddesley Ensor (below), near Atherstone. Mentioned as ‘Bedeslei’ in the Domesday Book, the village has a long and fascinating history, but the events of a day in late August 1902 are the focus here.

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The 1901 census tells us that the Chetwynd family, comprising John (56), wife Eliza (60), Joseph (22) and Eliza (19) lived at 177 Watling Street Road, in what was known as Black Swan Yard. Not far away, on the same road, a young man called George Place, described as a coal hewer, lodged with William Aston and his wife Martha. At some point later that year George Place and the younger Eliza became, as they say, “an item” – to the extent that Eliza became pregnant. On 14th August 1902, Eliza gave birth to a baby boy. Much had happened prior to this. On 19th March John Chetwynd died leaving the two Elizas and the his as-yet-unborn grandson to manage on the income of young Eliza’s brother Joseph Chetwynd who, inevitably, was another coal miner. It seems that George Place had moved in with the family, and had become informally engaged to Eliza, but his contribution to the the family finances must have been minimal, as Eliza had served him with what was known as an Affiliation Summons – a kind of paternity order, what we know as a Child Support maintenance enforcement.

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George Place was not a Warwickshire man. He was born in 1874 in Radford, an outer suburb of Nottingham. His was a large family, even by the standards of the day. He was the elder of nine children. In 1891, at the age of 17, he was listed as living at 72 Saville Street, Radford, working as a cotton spinner. Whether he became a miner by choice or through necessity, we will never know, but fate brought him further south into the Warwickshire coalfield.

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Observer

Having researched and written about many of these historical murder cases, the question of evil versus insanity comes up every time. The central question is simple: Would someone committing a murder in plain sight have to be unhinged to think they could get away with it? Another question: Can insanity be temporary, so that when a murderer is apprehended, he/she may seem perfectly sane? These days, of course, the distinction is largely irrelevant, as no murderer will lose their life as a result of a guilty verdict; the only variable is the kind of institution in which they will serve their sentence. What follows in this story will explain why I have raised the philosophical question.

As is often the case, there is a back story here, and the Nuneaton Observer (left) made much of the troubled relationship between George Place and the Chetwynd family.

Quite why George Place felt so aggrieved at being asked to contribute to the upbringing of the little boy he had fathered we shall never know. When the summons making him responsible for his eleven day old son was served on Place, he threatened that all the Chetwynds would get out of him would be a bullet. This sounds like empty rhetoric, uttered for dramatic effect, but what followed was truly horrific

IN PART TWO

Three bullets. Three lives
A date with the hangman

THE GHOSTS OF PARIS . . . Between the covers

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It is 1947, and in Europe both victors and vanquished struggle to rebuild shattered lives, towns, cities and democracy itself. Although nearly 30,000 Australian servicemen lost their lives, their homeland remained physically untouched. Former war reporter Billie Walker has set up as a private investigator in Sydney and, with her assistant Sam, is making a decent go of things, but their cases are very parochial and largely mundane. Then everything changes. She accepts a case to investigate the disappearance of Richard Montgomery, last heard of in London, and possibly Paris.

This book is full of interesting historical detail, some of which was new to me. For example, I never knew that flights between Australia and Britain at the time were often made in hastily converted Lancaster bombers, renamed ‘Lancastrians’. Billie and Sam, aboard one of these lumbering giants, take three days to reach London, and when their hearing and sleep patterns have returned to normal, they begin their investigation.

It soon becomes clear that the Richard Montgomery’s London trail has gone cold, and so the pair move to Paris where, from their luxurious HQ of the Paris Ritz they start to make enquiries. At this point, some of the back-story needs telling. Billie Walker was once married to Jack Rake, another war reporter and photographer, but in the vicious chaos that was wartime Central Europe, they became separated. Jack was last heard of in Poland but Billie has had no communication of any kind from him since then, and she fears he is dead. Back in Australia, on an earlier investigation, Billie had accidentally uncovered part of the ODESSA network. This had nothing to do with the Black Sea port, but was an acronym for Organisation Der Ehemaligen Ss-angehörigen, a highly secret group dedicated to smuggling as many former SS men out from under the noses of the Allies as possible. The encounter pitted Billie against one of the most vicious former Nazis in the organisation. She brought about his downfall, but ODESSA have neither forgotten nor forgiven.

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Billie Walker is an admirably resilient and resourceful investigator, and Tara Moss tells a tale that gallops along at a cracking pace, and includes a very cinematic scene where Billie fights for her life on very rickety scaffolding high up on the wall of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, with Le Stryge (above) gazing impassively at the struggle. The Ghosts of Paris is published by Dutton (an imprint of the Penguin Group) and is available now.

Tara Moss

Author Tara Moss  (right) has a pretty impressive CV. She holds joint citizenship of Canada and Australia, and is an international advocate for human rights, particularly those of women and children. She is renowned for researching the physical action in her novels, and this has included shooting firearms, being set on fire, being choked unconscious by Ultimate Fighter ‘Big’ John McCarthy, flying with the Royal Australian Air Force, spending time in morgues and courtrooms and obtaining a licence as a private investigator. She has also been a race car driver (CAMS), and holds a motorcycle licence and a wildlife/snake-handling licence.

THE MURDER OF JANICE ANN HOLMES . . . Lincolnshire, April 1959 (part two)

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SO FAR: Binbrook, Lincolnshire, April 1959. On the night of 12th April, 12 year-old Janice Holmes has gone missing from her home near Hall Farm, an isolated group of buildings two miles east of the village. The police are now involved, and Janice’s hat has been found, but a more terrible discovery is imminent.

At around 2.00am on the morning of 13th April, the searchers discover Janice’s body in a spinney just off Lambscroft Lane. The grim facts were reported to the subsequent Coroner’s inquest:

“A hundred yards away from the hat.” said Mr. Hutchison. “they found the body of the dead child. It was just inside the wood. The right arm was above the head. A shoe was missing and she was lying in undergrowth.”  Janice’s clothing was disarranged. Death was due to asphyxia. caused by strangulation with some thin ligature and there had been some violation of her sexual parts. There were numerous bruises on the child.”

Enter, stage left –  as they say – William Thomas Francis Jenkin. He was born in Cornwall in 1934, had married Hilda M Louis in Basford, Notts, in 1955. At the time of this story, they had two children, and a third was on the way, due in October. A later newspaper report suggested that he had served with British Forces in Cyprus.§

§The Greek Cypriot War of Independence  was a conflict fought in British Cyprus between November 1955 and March 1959.

Tom Jenkin and his family had only arrived at Hall Farm relatively recently, in March of that year, but it seems he had already struck up a friendship with Janice Holmes. Janice, when not at school, often went to help her mother in the fields, and met Jenkin on several occasions. He had (not a euphemism) shown her his stamp albums, and had also promised to collect some frogspawn for her from a nearby pond so that she could watch the tadpoles develop.

It appeared that Jenkin had been out and about on his bike at the time Janice disappeared. There was to be a hint that Ada, Janice’s mother, had a feeling that something was not quite right about Jenkin, as it was later reported in court that during the search, she said to Jenkin, “What have you done with Janice ? ” He replied : “There’s other folks in the place besides me.”

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By mid morning on 13th April, police had begun to issue requests to all cafés and public places in the area to be on the look-out for bloodstained clothing, and officers were at the Louth RDC refuse depot checking the contents of vehicles as they were unloaded. Meanwhile, the national press had taken up the story of Janice’s murder.

The only suspect the  police had was Jenkin, and the evidence against him was circumstantial. Yes he had been out and about on his bike, but no-one had seen him. But then, a key piece of evidence broke the case wide open, at least as far as the police were concerned. A tobacco tin belonging to Jenkin was found near the murder site. He admitted that it was his, but had no explanation as to why it was found where it was.

At 3.30pm on Thursday 16th April, Supt. Anthony Tew, head of Cleethorpes police, formally charged Jenkin with the murder of Janice Holmes. He was arrested and taken into custody.

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Janice was buried in the churchyard of St Mary’s, Binbrook, on the afternoon of Friday 17th April. A little later, William Thomas Francis Jenkin appeared in front of the magistrates at Market Rasen, just seven miles or so down the road from Binbrook. What followed makes it clear that the police were struggling to find any forensic connection between Jenkin and Janice. Yes, they had discovered tiny spots of blood on the man’s clothing, but the forensic technology at the time was nothing as precise as it is today, and no definite link could be proved. Jenkin was remanded  several times at market Rasen, with no new evidence appearing. On Jenkin’s final appearance at Market Rasen on Thursday 14th May, his solicitor, Mr Skinner said:

“The bicycle ride suggested opportunity, but the mere fact that Jenkin was out alone is not evidence against him. There were probably ten other people about at the time. End this now. This man’s anxiety should be ended now rather than later.”

Unfortunately for Jenkin, the magistrates did not agree, and he was further remanded to appear at Nottingham Assizes in June. I can find no explanation as to why the trial was sent to Nottingham, other than that the final magistrate hearing was too close to the opening date of the Lincoln Assizes, which seems to have been at the very beginning of June.

Jenkin appeared before Mr Justice Havers on 23rd June, but the next day, the police attempts to find justice for Janice were dealt a further blow.

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The ‘show’ moved on to Birmingham, and on 14th July the same evidence was presented, with the same witnesses, but in front of a different judge and jury. The case for the defence was much the same, and it rested on the tobacco tin which, they said, could have been picked up by a third party and placed near the murder site. Neither judge nor jury were having any of this, and Jenkin was found guilty. I am certain that he avoided the death penalty because the case against him was anything but cast iron. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. Hilda Jenkin (25) who gave evidence for her husband, collapsed when he was found guilty. She said afterwards: “I will wait for him. I know he could not have done it”

It has to be said that there were two other theories about Janice’s death in circulation at the time. One involved a mysterious stranger in a large car who had been seen around the village, and the other – possibly connected – was that the intended victim was Janice’s friend, Susan.

Mistake

We next hear of William Thomas Francis Jenkin in 1998. He was released from prison in 1975 having served just sixteen years, but In April 1998, aged 64, he was living back in Cornwall, and while the police were investigating him for another offence, they found an air rifle in his wardrobe. This was in breach of his parole conditions imposed for another offence, apparently, in 1980. Unable to pay the fine, he was remanded in custody and brought up before the judge at Truro Crown Court in October of that year. The judge ordered the weapon to be destroyed and gave Jenkin a conditional discharge for eighteen months.

Did Jenkin kill Janice Holmes? 63 years later, the only thing that is certain is that we will never know. All we can hope, if we believe in such things, is that Janice sleeps with the angels.

FOR MORE LINCOLNSHIRE TRUE CRIMES FROM THE PAST, CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW

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THE POSTMAN DELIVERS . . . Lewis, Parry, Walls & Wilson

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THE SILENT OATH by Michael J Lewis

The Silent Oath is the fourth in The Oath series that depicts life at Blackleigh Public School in the 1950s. Jonathan Simon, 17, is in his fourth year at Blackleigh, but he is self-conscious about his appointment as one of five Prefects in Trafalgar House. Jonathan knows:
(1) The school code of conduct mandates no snitching on anyone.
(2) The student Prefects have absolute power to discipline.
(3) Mr. Phillip Temple the new Headmaster is determined to revise the school admission policy to achieve a more even playing field in education.
The pressure mounts during a school trip to Paris as the school’s Board of Governors as they oppose the new Head. They will stop at nothing to get their way. In his effort to strive to support the Headmaster’s goals, Jonathan will have to overcome far more than an oath of silence executed by his enemies to prevail. This was published by The Book Guild on 7th June.

A CORRUPTION OF BLOOD by Ambrose Parry

Ambrose Parry is the pen name of husband and wife writing team Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman. Their series of historical crime novels set in 1850s Edinburgh featuring Dr Will Raven and Sarah Fisher began with The Art of Dying. Next came The Way of All Flesh, and this is the paperback version of the third in the series. A package containing human remains is washed up on the shores of Leith, and Raven is dragged into the darker reaches of the city’s underworld. Meanwhile, his former lover Sarah Fisher is trying to make her way in the world of medicine against the determined prejudice of the establishment. This is published by Canongate Books and will be available on 4th August. For a full review of the novel, click this link.

IGOR AND THE TWISTED TALES OF CASTLEMAINE  by Ian J Walls & Richard L Markworth

Not my usual fare, this, but here goes. Following decades of torture at the hands of his cruel master Victor Frankenstein, the once-downtrodden and pathetic Igor finally rises up and walks out on Victor, in the hope of finding a fulfilling life-less-ordinary elsewhere. Instead, something wicked his way came, and Igor finds his way to Castlemaine, an accursed village nestled deep in the Carpathian Mountains, where terrors stalk the waking world and ale is more expensive than in London. Published by Matador, this is available now.

FERAL by Glenis Wilson

When a storm causes a low-flying Cessna to crash in the woods on his sheep farm, it proves a catalyst for Kent Evans and his little daughter, Rachel. Their lives become entangled with three other people: Phillip Lemmingham, air traffic controller, Anan Isooba, the Cessna pilot and Mr Smith, owner of Wild Ark Zoo (and drug dealer). The pilot is trapped in the wreckage and one piece of cargo, a crate carrying an illegally imported black panther, smashes open. The panther escapes. Desperate to save his business, Mr Smith is determined to track down and recapture the panther while also recovering the second secret part of the cargo; a consignment of cocaine. Meanwhile the pilot, unable to move, remains an easy meal for a prowling hungry panther. From The Book Guild, this was published on 7th June.

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