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Limehouse
03-28-2008, 02:41 PM
It was 55 years ago this January that Derek Bentley was hanged for the 'murder' of PC Sidney Miles on the rooftop of a Croydon warehouse.

Anyone interested in this case?

sdreid
03-28-2008, 03:18 PM
I don't think he should have been hanged and wonder why the Queen didn't stop it. The film about the case, Let Him Have It, is great.

Chris Scott
03-28-2008, 04:00 PM
The Bentley case, along with those of Timothy Evans and Ruth Ellis, is often seen as a pivotal case in the lead up to the abolition of hanging. However, it is important to bear in mind the dates of these events. Evans was hanged in 1950, Bentley in 1953 and Ellis in 1955. However, the last judicial hanging in the UK did not take place until 1964 in the case of Allen and Evans. A moratorium was declared on the death penalty for murder in 1965. In 1969 Parliament abolished the death penalty for murder but it was retained for three offences - arson in the Queen's dockyards, treason and piracy with violence. The death penalty was finally abolished for all offences as recently as 1999. In this context the old offences of High and Low Treason had been combined under the Treason Act into just three offences:
1) Killing or attempting to kill the Sovereign
2) Killing or attempting to kill the heir to the throne
3) Denying the Sovereign's right to occupy the throne.
This last offence did not include anyone advocating republicanism (i.e. the abolition of the monarchy) but rather supporting a rival candidate for the Throne.
It is also important to bear in mind that, despite the frequent calls both in the Press and in public opinion polls, the British Parliament could not reintroduce the death penalty even if it wished to. The only way this could be achieved would be to withdraw from membership of the EU as it is a condition of membership that no member state has the death penalty.
With the regard to the Queen stopping it, the prerogative of mercy, though technically part of the powers of the Crown, was decided purely by the Home Secretary of the day. Under the rules then prevailing, for reasons which I have never understood, the Home Secretary had to take this decision entirely alone and without consultation.
We must be wary of judging this case (or any other) by the standards of contemporary sensibilities and not those that prevailed at the time. My own feeling (and though around at the time of the Bentley case I do not remember it!) is that if both Bentley and Craig had hanged that public outrage would have been much less. The crucial fact is that Craig, at the age of 16, was too young to hang. Bentley, aged 18, was above the age when the penalty could be carried out. Modern feeling, I suspect, would be that it seems absurd that the youth who shot PC Miles escaped the ultimate penalty while his partner in crime, who took no part in the actual killing - and was indeed in custody at the time - should suffer this penalty. The contemporary thinking behind the penalty, in my opinion, hinged on two points:
1. The judge pointed out that if the two had set out on that evening armed and prepared to use violence if it was deemed necessary, then both were equally guilty before the law in that the events were seen as a joint commission planned by both. They did not go out with the intention of murdering a police office but, as both were armed - Craig with a gun and Bentley with a knuckle duster - they were equally guilty in the planning of a joint commission which they knew could end in violence.
2. There was great public and press concern at the time with both the gang culture and the level of gun crime. (Echoes of today!) Craig and his cronies were obsessed with American gangster movies and dressed and acted in emulation of them. The levels of gun ownership were vastly higher than today. This was just 8 years after the end of World War II and many servicemen had either retained their service firearms or had unofficially acquired guns as "souvenirs."
The Bentley case was, in my opinion, seen as an example of trying to curb these trends which were of such concern.
Hope these comments help
Chris

Limehouse
03-28-2008, 05:42 PM
Hi Chris,

Thanks for that input. It is a very good summary of the situation prevailing at the time.

There are some important factors I feel need to be added. Although the period of the 1950s is seen as a 'golden age' when crime was low and people could leave their doors open without fear of being robbed there was in fact a great deal of teenage crime involving firearms, knives and other weapons. It seems that the war and its disruptions had a profound impact on a great many young people. Bentley and his family were bombed out of their home on no less than three occasions and duirng one raid Bentleys' grandmother, aunt and a sister were killed. There was also a great deal of gangster controlled crime that included armed robberies and the virtual enslavement and control of postitutes (many of whom were young girls of 14 or 15, arriving pregnant and homeless on the streets).

Bentley had the mental age of a toddler. He was trusting and easily lead. Craig captivated him with stories of heroic shoot-outs with 'coppers' inspired mainly by cinema and by his own brother's criminality. Only weeks before the events on that Croydon roof top, Craigs brother had been sentences to 12 years imprisonment. Despite this behaviour, Craig came from a relatively affluent, middle-class home.

Bentley's intillectual shortcomings and his poor physical health were not disclosed to the jury. However, due to his poor performance in the witness box and the fact that he was under arrest and effectively in the custody of a police officer at the time of the fatal shooting, the jury recommended mercy in Bentley's case.

It was strongly felt that the Home Secretary would over-turn the death penalty but in the event, as we know, he did not. There was uproar over the verdict and the subsequent hanging. However, as you say Chris, it was strongly felt that someone had to atone for PC Mile's murder and as Craig could not do so, it was Bentley who had to act as a deterrent for those that might come after him.

The film "Let Him Have It' was indeed a brilliant portrayal of those events. The end scene is truly shocking. I showed the film to a group of students but I did not tell them what the outcome was so all the way through they were expecting him to 'get off'. The combination of Bentley being marched to his death, the family hugging and sobbing and the clock striking 9am was a powerful scene. There was a stunned silence at the end of the film and several students had tears pouring down their faces.

sdreid
03-28-2008, 06:29 PM
I think Hanratty would make up the set along with Bentley, Ellis and Tim Evans when it comes to the sentiment for ending the death penalty. Ellis' and Hanratty's ends don't bother me any. Evans was probably totally innocent so that one definitely does of course. He was a bit simple minded also.

sdreid
03-28-2008, 06:32 PM
The only really comparable case we had in America was Chessman but he was executed for a crime that wasn't murder.

Graham
03-28-2008, 07:04 PM
The only really comparable case we had in America was Chessman but he was executed for a crime that wasn't murder.

So were a great many poor black men in the southern states of the USA, and none of them received anything like the publicity of Chessman's case. Probably the reason for this was that Chessman was intelligent and articulate, and obviously a good self-publicist who managed to get his book published while he was still alive.

Best regards,

Graham

Graham
03-28-2008, 07:08 PM
I think Hanratty would make up the set along with Bentley, Ellis and Tim Evans when it comes to the sentiment for ending the death penalty. Ellis' and Hanratty's ends don't bother me any. Evans was probably totally innocent so that one definitely does of course. He was a bit simple minded also.

Hi Stan,

Hanratty almost certainly should not have been found guilty on the evidence presented at his trial. However, we all know now that DNA has shown beyond a reasonable doubt that he did it.

Evans I'm not so sure about. There was a huge outcry at the time, and over the years, but I believe that these days it's considered that he did kill his daughter.

Ellis never even put up a defence - she meant to kill her lover, was caught red-handed, and took what was coming with a stoic acceptance.

Cheers,

Graham

sdreid
03-28-2008, 07:18 PM
Hi Graham,

That's true about the blacks but I mentioned Chessman because his case is the one like the British examples that had some influence on some changes in the law regarding the death penalty. My eighth grade teacher was a big advocate for Chessman and was crushed when the execution was carried out.

Graham
03-28-2008, 11:24 PM
Hi Graham,

That's true about the blacks but I mentioned Chessman because his case is the one like the British examples that had some influence on some changes in the law regarding the death penalty. My eighth grade teacher was a big advocate for Chessman and was crushed when the execution was carried out.

Hi Stan.

Chesssman's case was also studied by the British authorities with respect to the 'correctness' of capital punishment and the appeal process. If I remember correctly, Chessman was convicted on identity evidence and because he had a long record of petty crime (cf: James Hanratty). The fact that he never committed murder but yet could be sentenced to death was, I guess, a 'quirk' of American law at the time. I sometimes wonder if he'd have been spared the ultimate punishment had he not been so keen on self-preservation. The other aspect of his case that outraged many people both sides of the Atlantic was the time he spent on Death Row before sentence was carried out. In the UK, the old rule was that 'three clear Sundays' should pass between sentence and execution, which in effect meant that a condemned man's legal advisers would only proceed with an appeal if they genuinely thought there was a very, very good chance of it being granted.

Does rape still carry the death-penalty in any US state, Stan?

Cheers,

Graham

sdreid
03-28-2008, 11:43 PM
Hi Graham,

We have people here now that have been on death row for more than 30 years, I believe. If they don't like it, they can always drop their appeals.

All the death sentence laws were rescinded for non-murder crimes, including rape, with the possible exception of treason. I do know that treason now carries a possible death sentence. There was also one southern state that recently passed a law granting the option of a death penalty for child molestation/rape but I don't know of anyone who's received that condemnation yet.

Graham
03-29-2008, 01:11 AM
Hi Stan.

The son of a friend of mine is a criminal lawyer here in England, and he told me that he would just LOVE to see the death-penalty reinstated here, as it would mean untold 's for any lawyer involved in lengthy appeals, a la the American way of doing things.

Cheers,

Graham

Mayerling
03-29-2008, 06:45 AM
Hi all,

There are other cases that led to the abolition movement - some going back to the earlier part of the 20th Century. Some actually did get the defendant off the hook.

1) Dickman (1910) - reaction to the death sentence and the questionable proof of guilt. Hanged.
2) Crippen (1910) - reaction to the death sentence due to sympathy with the defendant. Hanged.
3) Steinie Morrison (1911) - sentenced to death, but the feeling that the trial was hopelessly mangled by both sides. Sentenced reduced to life imprisonment (Steinie eventually starved himself to death in 1921).
4) Seddon (1912) - sentenced to death, but same evidence against him was insufficient against co-defendant Mrs. Seddon. Hanged.
5) Roger Casement (1917) - Massive support for treason defendant because of previous activities as a humanitarian and reformer shattered by police-inspired (and politically supported) use of Casement's diaries to show he was a pederast. Hanged (body later given to Republic of Ireland - treated there as a hero).
6) Holt (1919) - sentenced to death, but attempt to show the defendant was suffering from shell shock from World War I experiences. Hanged.
7 & 8) True - Jacoby Affair (1922) - two contemporary killings. True (middle class) kills prostitute for gain. His insanity is brought into issue at trial. He is sent to Broadmore. Jacoby, a poor servant at a hotel, kills widow of former President of London County Council in robbery. He's convicted (no
question about insanity at trial). He is hanged. Massive anger at "one law for rich (True) and one for poor (Jacoby).
9) Edith Thompson (1923) - massive controversy over the trial (was she tried fo complicity in husband's murder by lover, or adultery), and shabby actions of the prosecution. Dreadful details of the hanging led to certain reforms but no abolition.
10) Thorne (1925) - again controvery over what convinced jury at trial - actual evidence or the appearance of prominent witness against defendant
(Sir Bernard Spilsbury). Hanged.
11) Wallace (1931) - Convicted at trial but decision overturned by Court of Appeal due to actual lack of sufficient legal degree beyond a shadow of a doubt.
12) Bryant (1936) - Forgotten case due to personality failures of defendant (she was sluttish). Evidence against her is so feeble as to make the case against Wallace seem strong. Hanged.
13) Rowlands (1946) - Defendant had committed homicide years earlier and was given prison sentence. Tried and convicted in second case, and hanged.
Subsequently another man claimed he did it...some surface evidence that the second man might have done it.
14) Cristie - Evans mess (1951 - 1953)
15) Bentley - Craig Case (1953)
16) Ruth Ellis (1955)
17) Gunther Podola (1959) - Blackmailer killed bobbie who confronted him.
Beaten by other police officers when seized. Defense at trial was total amnesia of events, and claims that senior police official offered him lenient treatment if he confessed. Podola probably was lying, but the issues were never totally and sarisfactorily settled. Hanged.
18) Jimmy Hanratty (1960).

I'm sure there are other cases besides these. I may add that in the U.S. the trial of Barbara Graham in California (1956) was as controvertial as that of Chessman in leading to the American campaign to end capital punishment.
The number of films based on these cases is extensive. Besides LET HIM HAVE IT, there is Miranda Richardson's DANCE WITH A STRANGER (Ellis); I WANT TO LIVE with Susan Hayward as Graham; TEN RILLINGTON PLACE with Richard Attenborough and John Hurt as Reginald Christie and Timothy Evans;
THE MAN FROM THE 'PRU with Jonathan Pryce as Wallace; and A PIN TO SEE A PEEP SHOW (television version of a Tennyson Jesse novel) based on Mrs. Thompson.

Best wishes,

Jeff

Graham
03-30-2008, 12:55 AM
Hi Jeff.

As per Derek Bentley, I don't think it was ever proven that Edith Thompson actually took part in the killing of her husband, but she was convicted courtesy of the mores of the time. If I recall, the same applies to Barbara Graham, whose case was helped by having photos published of her and her son while she was on death row.

Of the films you mention, 10 Rillington Place was so absorbingly atmospheric that watching it actually makes me feel somehow dirty.... Dance With A Stranger was also very good at capturing the atmosphere of the time.

Re: the Hanratty Case (which I remember well), there was very little in the way of any public outcry over the verdict at the time. It was such a god-awful crime that it really did outrage public sensitivities. Odd that a full-length feature film about Hanratty has never been made (as far as I'm aware)

Cheers,

Graham

sdreid
03-30-2008, 01:28 AM
Hi Graham and Jeff,

I haven't seen the Thompson movie but all the others are great.

When I was thinking over this topic, I did consider B. Graham. There was a great deal of sympathy for her but I haven't really heard that the case led to any law changes. I think the outcry was a little like with Ellis, in that, if she'd been an ugly old hag, no one would have been all that upset about the execution. (my view):shakehead:

Graham
03-30-2008, 01:44 AM
Hi Graham and Jeff,

I haven't seen the Thompson movie but all the others are great.

When I was thinking over this topic, I did consider B. Graham. There was a great deal of sympathy for her but I haven't really heard that the case led to any law changes. I think the outcry was a little like with Ellis, in that, if she'd been an ugly old hag, no one would have been all that upset about the execution. (my view):shakehead:

I think you're right, Stan. Edith Thompson was also a good-looker. Regarding Barbara Graham, I think it also came out during her trial that she was a sometime lesbian, which wouldn't have helped her case in those days.

The Susan Hayward film was pretty good, and never seems to get shown on TV these days.

Cheers,

Graham

sdreid
03-30-2008, 02:44 AM
Hi Graham,

Yes, Maragret Allen and Styllou Christofi were probably mentally ill and few got too upset about their executions. Oh, and they weren't too good looking either.

Lindsay Wagner did a remake of I Want Too Live that wasn't bad.

Mayerling
03-30-2008, 06:51 AM
Hi Stan and Graham,

I looked over my list the other night and realized that earlier centuries had also had mass movements against hangings. Look at the trials of Admiral Byng, the Perreau Brothers, and Reverend Dodd in the 18th Century (none of them actually murders - Byng a military court martial on a trumped up charge and the Brothers and the Reverend for forgery), and Eliza Fenning (in 1815) for attempted poisoning. Actually there is a long and fairly honorable tradition of questioning verdicts that were based on questionable evidence or on seemingly antiquated rules or laws (hanging a popular minister because he forged a pupil's signature to a promissory note in Dodd's case: shabby for Dodd, but at the same time the family of Lord Chesterfield did not exactly cover itself in decency or glory by their abandoning him). Of course the best two examples from the latter 19th Century of public outrage or involvement in British cases were 1) the Tichborne Claimant sensation of the early 1870s - leading to massive support for Thomas Castro (Arthur Orton's?) legal fight to establish his dubious claim; 2) the Lipski Case, wherein William Stead tried to force Home Secretary Matthews (remember him) and Mr. Justice Sir James Fitzjames Stephens (remember him) to reevaluate the trial court evidence and reduce Lipski's sentence from a death penalty to prison.

The "looker" problems of some of the female victims, convicted of murder but really condemned for their lifestyles, could also include Florence Maybrick (whose sentence was reduced due to questions about Mr. Justice Stephens'
sanity) and Florence Ricardo Bravo (not tried in court but condemened in the court of public opnion). One case I mentioned (Charlotte Bryant) has some of the weakest linkages of "facts" against a defendant in a poisoning trial I've ever seen (Charlotte did not have to kill her rather weak willed husband; the leading witness against her had a motive - the husband did not like her and wanted her and her kids out of their overcrowded hovel; the identification of who bought the poison was dubious (the salesman remembered it was an
illiterate woman - it could have been Charlotte or the chief witness against her)). What I think convinced the jury was misreading her life style. Charlotte was a slut - she openly sold her sexual favors for cash at the local pubs. What was overlooked was that she equally used the money for her husband (who never complained about this), her children, and herself. In short if she was a whore, she was a conscientious breadwinner. She may have been illiterate, but unlike the educated Mrs. Thompson she did not fall apart on the witness stand but gave a pretty good accounting for herself.
It was only when faced with impending doom that she cracked, writing a pathetic note to King Edward VIII to save her from the gallows. He probably considered her a piece of trash for her life style, never thinking of the irony that such a promiscuous lady with a sense of duty to her family was being dismissed by a princeling who did not see anything wrong with cuckolding Mr. Simpson, and abandoning his kingly duties for trips to the Adriatic with Wallace! As for poor Charlotte, her raven black hair turned white before her execution.

By the way, the most recent study of the Bentley - Craig affair suggested that P. O. Miles may have been fatally shot by one of the policeman, not Craig. A curious thought, and one that makes the story even more annoying
to think about. Christopher Craig I believe became a farmer, but I don't know if he is still alive. He never granted interviews about the crime.

Best wishes,

Jeff

Limehouse
03-30-2008, 12:50 PM
Hi All,

Some really interesting contributions to this post. Thanks.

Craig became a plumber and, up until a few years ago, was living in Bedfordshire (he may still be there). He served ten years in prison, during which he became a reformed character. He has never given an interview or spoken publically about the crime.

Another film, loosely based on the Ruth Ellis case was [I]Yield to the Night[I] starring a young and slim Diana Dors. It was made in 1956.

Re the Edith Thompson hanging. I don't think she really wanted Bywaters to kill her husband. She mnay have wanted to have her cake and eat it - a husband who could provide the material things she valued and one who could give her status and respectability - and a young lover who could satisfy her physical cravings. There was some evidence that her husband was a brute - but this was never fully explored. In any event, there is no evidence that Edith Thompson took part in the murder of her husband and I am fully convinced that her hanging was at least partly due to her moral failings.

With Ruth Ellis things seem different. She was guilty of premeditated murder. She believed she should pay with her life for that murder. Most tellings of the Ruth Ellis story have been more than sympathetic to Ellis herself - painting her lover as a heartless womaniser - but I am sure there was fault on both sides. By comparison, there was more reason to hang Ellis than Thompson.

Eventually, capital punishment was abolished - and people tended to point to cases such as Ellis, Thompson, Evans and Bentley to justify abolition. However, would such people have objected to people such as Hindley, Brady and Huntley being executed?

Graham
03-30-2008, 10:39 PM
The thing about the Ruth Ellis trial is that it was really a non-trial. She was asked only one question by the prosecution: "What did you intend to do when you fired the gun at Blakely?" Her reply was that she meant to kill him. With that, there was only one possible verdict and one possible sentence.
David Blakely was a s**t of the first order - a bisexual boozer who when he heard Ruth was pregnant (probably by him) he punched her in the stomach and she miscarried. Had this case been in France, it would almost certainly have been labelled a crime-passionelle, and she would certainly not have been executed.

She was also surrounded by several shady characters, including a Desmond Cussins who years afterwards admitted that he had obtained the gun for her (or so I recall reading).

It was also considered that her confessing readily to murder was to a large extent her way of committing suicide, as she felt that her life had run away with her. In my opinion one of the saddest-ever cases of murder in the UK.

Cheers,

Graham

richardnunweek
03-30-2008, 11:11 PM
Hi Graham,
Diminished responsibility should have been Ruths plea, but alas that was not a defence in 1955, that came about some two years later , hurried on by common sense.
All the court wished to know was if the defendant was fit to plea, and at the time of the offense was sane this was established by visits to Ruth whilst on remand awaiting trial , by a team of quacks.
Her attitude in court did not help her cause, as she came across as the hard, non caring Soho moll, with her attire and answers to questions.
The prison officers that were responsible for her welfare for the last 23 days off her life in the condemed cell, were shocked to find out that the actual woman, was very likeable, and every one of them ended up, very fond of her.
For the record her last words were''I shan't be needing these anymore' that being a reference to her glasses as she placed them on her writing desk.
According to Pierrepoint she ' Puckered her lips trying to smile' and I acknowledged her.
Regards Richard.

Graham
03-30-2008, 11:28 PM
Hi Richard.

She was in court hardly long enough for her appearance to have any kind of effect upon either the jury or the public. As a result of the one question put to her by Humphries for the prosecution, and her reply, the defence team in effect were totally powerless. The judge, Mr Stevenson, gave his opinion to defence counsel on a point of law, and that was about it! The jury were out for only 20 minutes or thereabouts.

She refused all attempts by her lawyers to go for an appeal, and apparently became visibly upset at their efforts to do so.

One little-known occurrence is that about 2 minutes before the time of her execution a phone-call was received at the prison claiming to be from the Home Secretary's office. This was quickly dismissed as a hoax (which it was) and the execution was carried out as planned but about one minute late.

Later commentators essentially agreed that she had chosen her life-style and had no regrets. As I said, all very sad.

Graham

richardnunweek
03-30-2008, 11:53 PM
Hello Graham,
Yes, very sad indeed, I remember the case quite well, although only eight years old, my father then had a newsagents, and I had all the papers to read, I found that as I had lost my mother a year before ,when she was only 32, I was saddened to hear that a woman was to be executed , as that brought death back to me once more.
Her alleged remarks to the soon to be Bishop of Stepney[ name escapes me]
'It was not me that shot David, when I saw that revolver in my hand, I knew I was another woman' is a clear description of Diminished Responsibility.
If sentenced on that, she would have been free on parole by the time of the 66 world cup, if only she had made that comment after sentence had been given, instead of the words ' Thank you', although it would have not altered that days verdict, the nationals would have headlined that , and a reprieve would have been much more likely.
Regards Richard.

jason_c
03-31-2008, 12:45 AM
At the end of the day both Craig and Bentley were involved in an armed robbery in which a policeman was murdered. I understand that penalty for armed robbery were quite severe at the time. Severe enough for such teams of criminals to pat each other down beforehand to ensure no-one was carrying a gun.

Admittedly a sad case.

Graham
03-31-2008, 01:10 AM
At the end of the day both Craig and Bentley were involved in an armed robbery in which a policeman was murdered. I understand that penalty for armed robbery were quite severe at the time. Severe enough for such teams of criminals to pat each other down beforehand to ensure no-one was carrying a gun.

Admittedly a sad case.

Well, yes, you're absolutely right in what you say - a policeman was murdered and someone had to pay for it. But I'm not sure about what you say concerning the carrying of guns by criminals. There are plenty of cases in the 20th century of armed robbery and of policemen being shot and killed. And don't forget that Bentley didn't have the normal mental capacity of someone his age.

Cheers,

Graham

Mayerling
03-31-2008, 03:33 AM
Hi all,

Re Ellis: I agree that if the case had been in France, or even the U.S. after 1970, Ruth would have served some years in a prison like New York's Bedford Hills, and then been released. In fact I can think of the case of the murder of Dr. Herman Tarnower in the late 1970s, and how his killer (the head of a private school who was Tarnower's discarded lover) had the public's sympathy from the word "Go". She eventually was released after 15 years, and Governor Cuomo put her to work improving the education opportunities for the female inmates at Bedford Hills.

Ruth gave little choice to the jury or the system. She meant what she said - she'd have killed Dennis. Actually, however, a smaller point may have convinced the jury. A passer by on the scene of the killing got slightly wounded from one of Ruth's bullets. That sort of suggested anyone who got in the way...well Ruth would have just felt it was too bad. :sad2: :oops:

From what I read Blakeley was an anagram of "t" "h" "i" "s":pleased:

Thompson's failing was a vivid imagination - those letters are heated and
full of passionate mad ideas. But the key one - her suggestion that she put ground glass in Percy's food to kill him - was examined carefully by Sir Bernard Spilsbury, and he found no proof of it. His biographers mention that this examination was carried out by the prosecution's request, and when they found it was not going to lead to more facts against Mrs. Thompson they didn't have the grace to even admit it!

There are political aspects to most famous homicide cases than we like to think about. I once noticed that Mrs. Thompson actually had an invitation with Percy to attend a dinner or occasion involving (of all people) Stanley Baldwin. The murder occurred in the last days of Lloyd George's coalition government in 1922, and the trial I believe was early the next year in the Tory Administration of Bonar Law ("the forgotten Prime Minister"). I have often wondered how much the change in Governments effected Mrs. Thompson's fate.:juggle2:


Best wishes,

Jeff

Limehouse
03-31-2008, 09:10 AM
At the end of the day both Craig and Bentley were involved in an armed robbery in which a policeman was murdered. I understand that penalty for armed robbery were quite severe at the time. Severe enough for such teams of criminals to pat each other down beforehand to ensure no-one was carrying a gun.

Admittedly a sad case.


I am not sure you are correct in saying that they were involved in an armed robbery as such. They originally set out to rob a butcher's shop of its weekend takings. Bentley had stolen the keys a few days previously but when they arrived at the shop, the butcher was there cleaning up. This was unexpected. They decided not to go ahead with the robbery. That suggests to me that they expected to find the place closed. At that stage Bentley did not even know Craig had a gun. If they were really intent on armed robbery, they would have held up the butcher and stolen the takings.

They eventually ended up on the roof of the warehouse with the intention of going inside to see what they could find. They were spotted climbing over the gates by a child across the street and when Craig and Bentley were joined on the roof by policemen, Craig seemed to 'click' into gangster mode and the rest is history.

I really do not know what drove their criminality. Although Bentley came from a relatively poor family, by the time of the murder, they were in relatively comfortable circumstances and he had a loving and supportive family. Craig came from a comfortable, middle class home. However, both boys were illiterate (Bentley had severe learning difficulties and had the IQ of a small child and Craig was dyslexic) and both of their childhoods had been disrupted by the war - especially Bentley's. They were impressed by finery and glamour (not surprising in the grey, rationed days of the early 1950s) and seemed top crave the lifestyles of the gangsters they spent so much time watching at the cinema.

Re Ellis - I agree fully that this was a sad case and did not mean to suggest otherwise but Ruth gave the authorities no chance to save her. She fully believed she should die. I know her lover was a nasty piece of work - but Ruth seemed to play one lover off against another. However, the murder of her lover was, indeed, a crime of passion.

Incidently, it is interesting, and alarming to note how many people hanged for their crimes were below average intelligence. Ellis, was, of course highly intelligent, but as well as Bentley and Evans, who were both mentally feeble, many others have gone to the hangman including the last two men to die in 1964

larue
07-10-2009, 05:45 PM
Anyone interested in this case?

hi Limehouse

yes, i am. just now, i am aboot half-way through MJ Trow's "let him have it, Chris"

more on this after i finish it

larue
07-12-2009, 04:52 PM
a tragic story indeed...

while there was no problem of identification, there certainly did seem to be some difference of opinion regarding the actual events on that rooftop.

i cannot imagine what the Bentley family went through, as the machinery of 'justice' ground relentlessly onwards, till it crushed them.

many people, mainly police, judiciary etc etc bang on aboot 'joint purpose' and how if two or more people engage in a crime they are 'equally responsible', and 'equally guilty'. shame then, that that 'equality' was not carried over to the sentencing, because they certainly did not recieve 'equal punishment'

obviously, as a policeman had been killed, someone was going to hang for it. to the shame of the english justice system, no-one on the prosecution side seemed to care who it was...

ianincleveland
07-27-2009, 04:08 PM
Another one who should never have hung was Robert Hoolhouse who hung for the killing of Mrs.Dobson at Wolviston in Co.durham in 1936.Though he had a very slim motive,his family were evcited from their cottage by the Dobsons 5 yrs previously,independent witnesses claim to see him at the time the murder was being commited.A footprint by the body was also known not to have been Hoolhouses but he was still convicted mainly due to a scratch on his face.Its now thought extremely unlikely he was the killer.Like Bentley he wasnt very literate or articulate and that seemed to count against him.Hos own lawyer didnt call him to the stand to defend himself so convinced was he of a Not Guilty verdict.the jusry found Hoolhouse guilty within an hour.

by any standards there was reasonable doubt he was innocent.

Hoxton Creeper
11-16-2010, 03:09 PM
I have been fascinated with this case since I first saw David Yallop's 'To Encourage The Others' back in 1971. I've read many books on the case but Mei Trow's 'Let Him Have It' and Iris Bentley's 'Let Him Have Justice' have been the best. Some of the others don't bear mention, awful stuff.

Iris' is written, as you can imagine, very much from the Bentley side. In it she refers to a 'Thames Reports' programme, in which Chris Craig took a lie detector test. He claimed Derek Bentley never said 'Let Him Have it Chris' and the polygraph confirmed this. I remember the programme, very powerful.

Iris puts forward her case for a Police conspiracy, to remove from Derek any defence against 'Joint Enterprise'. She sites the evidence of P.C. Claude Pain as well as the word of Language experts who have reviewed Derek's Police statement. If you are interested in the case, I'd recommend this book.

On top of everything else I've read, it convinced me.

Limehouse
11-16-2010, 10:29 PM
Thanks Hoton Creeper (fantastic name!). I have had an interest in this case for many years but did not know that Iris had written a book. I will certainly seek it out.

Every time I think about this case I burn with anger - not just for Derek and his family - but for the family of the PC who was shot. Not only did they have to endure the truama and grief of their loved-one's death - they had to see a young man who could hardly write his own name die whilst the real killer lived on. I am not saying that Craig should have died - just that justice was not served for their loved one by another virtually innocent life being taken.

larue
11-17-2010, 08:01 PM
ditto. I have have also had an interest in this case. i'll track down a copy. thanx for the info.

Graham
11-18-2010, 12:19 AM
I did read Yallop's book ages ago, and also remember the BBC film. Wasn't there a lot of controversy concerning the calibre of the bullets found on the roof, and that of the bullet that killed Miles? I think it was suggested that Miles could have been killed by a bullet from an armed policeman.

A stitich-up, in my opinion.

Odd how Bentley and Hanratty had similar backgrounds, upbringings, personalities and lifestyles.

Graham

Limehouse
11-18-2010, 12:26 AM
I did read Yallop's book ages ago, and also remember the BBC film. Wasn't there a lot of controversy concerning the calibre of the bullets found on the roof, and that of the bullet that killed Miles? I think it was suggested that Miles could have been killed by a bullet from an armed policeman.

A stitich-up, in my opinion.

Odd how Bentley and Hanratty had similar backgrounds, upbringings, personalities and lifestyles.

Graham

Hi Graham

Yes - there was some debate over whether PC Miles was actually shot by Craig's gun or one of the other policemen on the roof.

I don't think that there was ever any doubt that - whoever fired the shot - a policeman died and someone had to pay. In a strange way I can understand that reaction - after all the policeman was doing his job and these tow hooligans were in part to blame for his death. However - alothough I can understanjd the reaction - I cannot excuse it. Bentley deserved consideration for his poor cognitive skills and it is very likely that if Craig had been old enough to hang he would have done and Bentley would have been imprisoned.

I have also noticed similarities in Bentley's background and that of Hanratty and have previously mentioned the possibility that the war may have had an effect on their behaviour but also that their learning difficulties may have prompted them to persue a criminal career because it rewarded them and made them feel that they could do something well - even if it was illegal and they actually - to outsiders- made a pig's ear of it.

Graham
11-18-2010, 12:39 AM
Hi Julie,

I have also noticed similarities in Bentley's background and that of Hanratty and have previously mentioned the possibility that the war may have had an effect on their behaviour but also that their learning difficulties may have prompted them to persue a criminal career because it rewarded them and made them feel that they could do something well - even if it was illegal and they actually - to outsiders- made a pig's ear of it.

I suppose if you're not the sharpest knife in the drawer, then making a living by pinching off others is marginally better than sitting on your bum staring into space. When I was younger I knew a bloke who'd rather have made 1 illegally than 5 legitimately, and he was all the happier for it - very much like Hanratty, I'd say. All well and good, until it's your house that gets burgled....

Graham

Limehouse
11-18-2010, 12:45 AM
Hi Julie,



I suppose if you're not the sharpest knife in the drawer, then making a living by pinching off others is marginally better than sitting on your bum staring into space. When I was younger I knew a bloke who'd rather have made 1 illegally than 5 legitimately, and he was all the happier for it - very much like Hanratty, I'd say. All well and good, until it's your house that gets burgled....Graham

I totally agree Graham. I remember a burglary at our home when I was six years old. My mother was seriously ill in hospital and it was near to Christmas. We had been to visit her and when we returned home the house had been ransacked. It turned out to be someoine who was working with my dad and knew opur circumstances and knew we would be out that evening. What a scumbag.

There is no excuse for criminality - but even in this day and age - the figures speak for themselves. Up to 80% of repeat offenders have literacy and numeracy skills way below the level needed to gain and sustain employment. There is definitely a link between low educational achievement and criminality and it is an issue we need to tackle as a society or I fear for our future.

Graham
11-18-2010, 01:06 AM
Hi Julie,


Up to 80% of repeat offenders have literacy and numeracy skills way below the level needed to gain and sustain employment

The rogue I referred to was former grammar-school, A-Levels and all that, and his dad was a police sergeant! He started off doing it for thrills, but then it became serious. When I knew him, he had never been caught. His motto might have been: Crime Pays - And You Don't Get Taxed On It!

Graham

Hoxton Creeper
11-18-2010, 10:39 AM
And not to forget, P.C. Miles was shot on the 12th November 1952. Committal, trial, verdict, appeal & execution by 28th January, 1953! I believe the defence team protested at only having 2 days to prepare their case and were then given a week.

Iris' book covers other issues concerning how the family suffered, reading that book just filled you with admiration for the fortitude the family had.

jason_c
11-18-2010, 11:21 AM
I have been fascinated with this case since I first saw David Yallop's 'To Encourage The Others' back in 1971. I've read many books on the case but Mei Trow's 'Let Him Have It' and Iris Bentley's 'Let Him Have Justice' have been the best. Some of the others don't bear mention, awful stuff.

Iris' is written, as you can imagine, very much from the Bentley side. In it she refers to a 'Thames Reports' programme, in which Chris Craig took a lie detector test. He claimed Derek Bentley never said 'Let Him Have it Chris' and the polygraph confirmed this. I remember the programme, very powerful.

Iris puts forward her case for a Police conspiracy, to remove from Derek any defence against 'Joint Enterprise'. She sites the evidence of P.C. Claude Pain as well as the word of Language experts who have reviewed Derek's Police statement. If you are interested in the case, I'd recommend this book.

On top of everything else I've read, it convinced me.

Despite three police officers hearing him shout those words.


"these two hooligans were in part to blame for his death."

In part?

larue
11-18-2010, 11:39 AM
Wasn't there a lot of controversy concerning the calibre of the bullets found on the roof, and that of the bullet that killed Miles? I think it was suggested that Miles could have been killed by a bullet from an armed policeman.


hi Graham
i think this is so. was it not also the case that craig was using .455 and .45 in the same gun? or am i getting confused with another case? it's a fact though, that for whatever reason craig cut aboot an inch from the gun barrel, making an innacurate weapon even more so. i believe this also fuelled the controversy regarding the performance of craig's gun.


A stitich-up, in my opinion.


after reading MJ Trow, and learning aboot Claude Pain's account, and that of some of the unquestioned witnesses, i would suspect you could be right about that.



Odd how Bentley and Hanratty had similar backgrounds, upbringings, personalities and lifestyles.

Graham

i think you could add Timothy Evans to that list too!

Natalie Severn
11-18-2010, 12:23 PM
Hi Julie,



The rogue I referred to was former grammar-school, A-Levels and all that, and his dad was a police sergeant! He started off doing it for thrills, but then it became serious. When I knew him, he had never been caught. His motto might have been: Crime Pays - And You Don't Get Taxed On It!

Graham

Given the scandals of the past year or so re MP"s expenses,it appears many of our MP"s think so too-why they have even worked out how to present some of it as quasi legal and thereby avoid the clink!

Natalie Severn
11-18-2010, 12:32 PM
Hi Julie,
Yes - there was some debate over whether PC Miles was actually shot by Craig's gun or one of the other policemen on the roof

Sorry Julie, I guess I have missed something here .What were Craig and Bentley doing with a gun in the first place ? I mean people don"t normally go round carrying guns do they?

Norma

Hoxton Creeper
11-18-2010, 03:18 PM
Despite three police officers hearing him shout those words.


"these two hooligans were in part to blame for his death."

In part?

Guildford Four. Birmingham Six...............I'm convinced. You rule out Police collusion then? P.C. Claude Pain claims he never heard the words. However you shake that down, a Police statement is incorrect somewhere.

I'm satisfied with the conclusion Iris draws in her book.

jason_c
11-18-2010, 08:35 PM
Guildford Four. Birmingham Six...............I'm convinced. You rule out Police collusion then? P.C. Claude Pain claims he never heard the words. However you shake that down, a Police statement is incorrect somewhere.

I'm satisfied with the conclusion Iris draws in her book.

And im satisfied the correct outcome came from the initial trial, though life imprisonment would have been preferable.

Criminals used to have a culture of patting each other down before going on "jobs" to check each other for firearms. The risks of armed robbery being so serious. The death of a policeman being a serious crime, no matter how you "shake that down."

Limehouse
11-18-2010, 09:31 PM
Hi Julie,


Sorry Julie, I guess I have missed something here .What were Craig and Bentley doing with a gun in the first place ? I mean people don"t normally go round carrying guns do they?

Norma

Hi Norma

Craig had a gun but Bentley did not know this. Bentley did however have a knuckle duster which was a gift - I think from Craig.

Bentley had no history of violence but did have convictions for theft. He was almost totally illiterate and had the mind of a child.

At the time - it was relatively common for boys to have guns (there were many unlicensed guns around since people acquired them during the war). It was however inexcusable for Craig to go out equipped with a loaded gun. He was - apparently - obsessed with gangster movies and fancied himself as a gangster hero - especially since his adored older brother had been locked up for armed robbery.

Julie

Natalie Severn
11-19-2010, 12:57 AM
Thanks Julie.I really need to read up on it.I would question the idea that it was ever "very common" though, for boys to have guns in Liverpool.They certainly had knuckle dusters and knives and chains were favourite fighting weapons among teddy boys of the 50"s in Liverpool and Birkenhead,but I never heard of any guns being a regular item of weaponry for boys on Merseyside.
Regards,
Norma

jason_c
11-19-2010, 01:08 AM
Thanks Julie.I really need to read up on it.I would question the idea that it was ever "very common" though, for boys to have guns in Liverpool.They certainly had knuckle dusters and knives and chains were favourite fighting weapons among teddy boys of the 50"s in Liverpool and Birkenhead,but I never heard of any guns being a regular item of weaponry for boys on Merseyside.
Regards,
Norma



Guns were fairly easy to come by at the time. A hangover from the war years.

Natalie Severn
11-19-2010, 01:15 AM
Guns were fairly easy to come by at the time. A hangover from the war years.

Perhaps.But thats not what I was saying .My point is that there were very few boys running round with guns in Merseyside in the 50"s---or was this case earlier than that?

sdreid
11-19-2010, 01:16 AM
If the crime had happened in America today, I'm not sure Bentley would have even been found guilty. Craig would probably be tried as an adult and given life although with a chance for parole after 30 years or so. Just conjecture on my part. If Craig was 18, he would probably get the death penalty as he would have in England then also.

Hoxton Creeper
11-19-2010, 01:17 AM
And im satisfied the correct outcome came from the initial trial, though life imprisonment would have been preferable.

Criminals used to have a culture of patting each other down before going on "jobs" to check each other for firearms. The risks of armed robbery being so serious. The death of a policeman being a serious crime, no matter how you "shake that down."

Criminals maybe, Craig was a leary 16 year old and Derek Bentley had an age not much more than 12.

Clearly Jase, we're not going to agree and why not? We're all entitled to our view, mine doesn't make yours wrong and vice vera.

I've read a lot on this, for me I don't believe justice was served on Jan 28 1953. Neither was Derek Bentley a saint, he was involved in a robbery that night. Is it possible that Policemen contrived to remove from Derek a defence from 'Joint Enterprise'? Yes, I believe so. Did Raynor Goddard give a biased summing up? For me, I believe he did.

Why did P.C. Claude Pain never get called? Surely if he confirmed the others story, more grist to the mill wasn't it? No, for me, it was a case of 'an eye for an eye'. Had Craig been 19 as well and they'd both been hanged, the story would have died there but Brits have a view on 'Justice', Derek Bentley never got 'Justice'.

Please read Iris' book. It's a 'Bentley Tale' no question but read the final few chapters. I make no case for glossing over the death of a Policeman on duty, Poor Sid Miles is perhaps the poorest served character of the whole sorry tale but even his wife, while Derek was in the Condemned cell made clear her view he shouldn't hang.

My son is now 21. I shudder when I think of myself in William Bentley's place.

I have my view, you have yours. Each to his own.

Tecs
11-19-2010, 01:23 AM
mentioned the possibility that the war may have had an effect on their behaviour

Hi Limehouse,

This is a very interesting point.

There are scores of reports of men who had served in the trenches and experienced things that nobody in civilian life could ever equate with, behaving in a way that today would be unacceptable.

My great grandfather, when drunk, apparently was quite handy with his fists. On the surface he sounded like a nasty piece of work. But when you consider that he was wounded at the Somme, saw his friends massacred and died in his fifties from complications from being gassed it puts him in a bit of a different light.

Who knows how it can affect a person to go through such things?

Sadly, we still have to enforce the law when necessary. You can't just let somebody off with a crime because they've had a bad time.

Regards,

Tecs
11-19-2010, 01:30 AM
It was however inexcusable for Craig to go out equipped with a loaded gun. He was - apparently - obsessed with gangster movies and fancied himself as a gangster hero - especially since his adored older brother had been locked up for armed robbery.

Julie


Interestingly though, Craig was released and became a model citizen, never once being in trouble again.

I wonder why he was the exception and didn't reoffend?

Regards,

Limehouse
11-19-2010, 07:32 PM
Thanks Julie.I really need to read up on it.I would question the idea that it was ever "very common" though, for boys to have guns in Liverpool.They certainly had knuckle dusters and knives and chains were favourite fighting weapons among teddy boys of the 50"s in Liverpool and Birkenhead,but I never heard of any guns being a regular item of weaponry for boys on Merseyside.
Regards,
Norma

Hi Norma. I don't believe that most boys who had guns in those days had them as weapons. I think it was more common to collect them as souvenirs - although I believe some of them may have used them for target practice on old tins cans in the woods and in various derelict buildings.

Julie

Limehouse
11-19-2010, 07:36 PM
Interestingly though, Craig was released and became a model citizen, never once being in trouble again.

I wonder why he was the exception and didn't reoffend?

Regards,

Hi Tecs

Craig was just 16 at the time of the crime. In prison he had a lot of time to reflect and to learn a trade (plumbing). He also had a supportive family.

Christopher and his brother Niven were two law-breaking brothers from a family of eight children. Their father was a bank official and - for the time - the familiy lived in relative comfort.

I think Craig felt genuine remorse for the death of PC Miles and especially for Derek. He probably felt that the least he could do was to make a decent citizen of himself when he finally served his time.

Julie

Limehouse
11-19-2010, 07:41 PM
Hi Limehouse,

This is a very interesting point.

There are scores of reports of men who had served in the trenches and experienced things that nobody in civilian life could ever equate with, behaving in a way that today would be unacceptable.

My great grandfather, when drunk, apparently was quite handy with his fists. On the surface he sounded like a nasty piece of work. But when you consider that he was wounded at the Somme, saw his friends massacred and died in his fifties from complications from being gassed it puts him in a bit of a different light.

Who knows how it can affect a person to go through such things?

Sadly, we still have to enforce the law when necessary. You can't just let somebody off with a crime because they've had a bad time.

Regards,


Hi Tecs

I think there has been research showing that - in a time of war and in years following a war - juvenile deliquency rises considerably. Some of the worst criminals of the 20th century were born or raised during a time of war - including the Krays - Brady and Hindley - Peter Sutcliffe and of course Bentley - Craig - Hanratty - and Timothy Evans also come in to this category.

Julie

Natalie Severn
11-19-2010, 09:16 PM
Hi Norma. I don't believe that most boys who had guns in those days had them as weapons. I think it was more common to collect them as souvenirs - although I believe some of them may have used them for target practice on old tins cans in the woods and in various derelict buildings.

Julie

Interesting Julie.Yes,that makes sense.
Very interesting posts.

Norma

Tecs
11-20-2010, 03:15 AM
Hi Tecs

I think there has been research showing that - in a time of war and in years following a war - juvenile deliquency rises considerably. Some of the worst criminals of the 20th century were born or raised during a time of war - including the Krays - Brady and Hindley - Peter Sutcliffe and of course Bentley - Craig - Hanratty - and Timothy Evans also come in to this category.

Julie

Hi Julie,

It drives me mad when people say that the world today is a dreadful place. There have always been criminals, crime and juvenile delinquency. People just don't remember it when they are looking back through their rose coloured spectacles.

Regards,