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  • Some antics are merely a distraction

    Originally posted by OneRound View Post
    Following on from Spitfire's post, I have doubts as to whether the word ''innocent'' would actually have been used in the Matthews report.

    I appreciate that several of the contemporary press articles use the word but none that I've ever seen contain any quotes at all from this report. Far more likely in my opinion that Matthews, with the professional caution associated with a senior policeman, would have referred to Hanratty's conviction as being unsafe or something similar.

    If there really had been proof of innocence, that surely would have been served up at the 2002 Appeal with the result that Hanratty would have posthumously had his conviction overturned and we would all have been left with extra time on our hands.
    I am sure you are right but this surely is pure semantics. The journalist who wrote the article obtained information as to what was in the report and he concluded that when boiled down it found that Hanratty was innocent. The appeal was sat on for three years until (totally unreliable) DNA "evidence" gave the authorities the convenient opportunity to rule that Hanratty was guilty all along. The travesty is that most members of the Great British Public still believe this to be the case.

    What is far more intersting to me (than whether or not the word innocent is in the report) is the part of the Independent article which reads:

    "Home Office officials are understood to have concluded that Hanratty was innocent. This follows an unpublished police inquiry which concluded last year that he was the victim of a miscarriage of justice and that the murder was probably part of a wider conspiracy".

    Jason Bennetto was the crime reporter for The Independent when he wrote that article and would have known his way round the block when it came to doing his research. He is now a senor university lecturer and it would be very interesting to learn from him if he ever read the report and/or was privvy to what was in it and what is meant by "part of a wider conspiracy".

    Ansonman

    Comment


    • Originally posted by ansonman View Post
      it would be very interesting to learn from him if he ever read the report and/or was privvy to what was in it and what is meant by "part of a wider conspiracy"
      He answered these questions a few months later (April 1997) in a further Independent article claiming that the Matthews report “concluded the man who carried out the attack on 22 August l961 at Deadman's Hill, Bedfordshire, was probably hired to break up the illicit liaison. His report is believed to recommend that a new inquiry should in particular examine evidence regarding Peter Alphon, a salesman who was the original suspect.”

      In other words it appears the Matthews report rehashed the original Foot theory about Alphon.

      However by that time Foot had moved on. He had met with Janet Gregsten and revised some of his opinions about Alphon. Referring to the Swiss Cottage sighting, Foot wrote in The Guardian, Oct 10th 1994: "Mrs Gregsten assures me, and I believe her utterly, that she never had any 'flash of intuition' about Hanratty. ‘It was all rubbish as far as I was concerned’, she said."

      Then in the London Review of Books in December 1997 Foot warned “against jumping to hasty conclusions” about Alphon who “didn't know as much as he pretended. He certainly didn't know what he alleged – that Mrs Gregsten was the prime mover in commissioning the murder."

      But one thing you have to hand to Foot is that he would not have quibbled about describing Hanratty as innocent. In 1995 he wrote:

      “James Hanratty, a young worker from north London, was hanged for a murder near Bedford on the A6 when (as later evidence proved) he was 200 miles away in Rhyl at the time.”

      Note that he is no longer even describing Hanratty as a petty criminal!

      Comment


      • I can't disagree with much at all in Foot's 1995 article, but I most certainly disagree with his bald statement that "later evidence" proved that Hanratty was 200 miles away in Rhyl. This "later evidence" proved no such thing, and if Hanratty's Rhyl Alibi was so strong, then why on earth did he come out at his trial with his Liverpool Alibi (equally unproved and unproveable)?

        I always had a good deal of respect for Paul Foot, but sometimes his populist politics clouded his views. He confessed that he thought of Janet Gregsten as a wicked, vindictive woman until he actually met her - doubtless he had very early on labelled her as a class enemy.

        Alphon quite frankly had the ability to wrap certain people around his little finger, and he did so as far as Jean Justice and Foot were concerned. But I applauded Foot's stating that, in later years, he modified his assessment of Alphon, and in so doing undermined his own original case. He was nothing if not honest.

        Graham
        We are suffering from a plethora of surmise, conjecture and hypothesis. - Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure Of Silver Blaze

        Comment


        • Originally posted by NickB View Post
          He answered these questions a few months later (April 1997) in a further Independent article claiming that the Matthews report “concluded the man who carried out the attack on 22 August l961 at Deadman's Hill, Bedfordshire, was probably hired to break up the illicit liaison. His report is believed to recommend that a new inquiry should in particular examine evidence regarding Peter Alphon, a salesman who was the original suspect.”

          In other words it appears the Matthews report rehashed the original Foot theory about Alphon.

          However by that time Foot had moved on. He had met with Janet Gregsten and revised some of his opinions about Alphon. Referring to the Swiss Cottage sighting, Foot wrote in The Guardian, Oct 10th 1994: "Mrs Gregsten assures me, and I believe her utterly, that she never had any 'flash of intuition' about Hanratty. ‘It was all rubbish as far as I was concerned’, she said."

          Then in the London Review of Books in December 1997 Foot warned “against jumping to hasty conclusions” about Alphon who “didn't know as much as he pretended. He certainly didn't know what he alleged – that Mrs Gregsten was the prime mover in commissioning the murder."

          But one thing you have to hand to Foot is that he would not have quibbled about describing Hanratty as innocent. In 1995 he wrote:

          “James Hanratty, a young worker from north London, was hanged for a murder near Bedford on the A6 when (as later evidence proved) he was 200 miles away in Rhyl at the time.”

          Note that he is no longer even describing Hanratty as a petty criminal!
          Many thanks for that Nick.

          Interesting that the report led back to Alphon. Presumably Matthews was exceprionally well regarded, knew his stuff and had the ability to get to the truth. He would also have been given, I assume, unrestricted access to all the files and papers in the case, including those witheld from the defence team and the public. And so if he concluded that Alphon was the man then it would be churlish not to consider that he may well have been right.

          The A6 Committee made a list of claims which, they contended, indicated that Alphon was the murderer:

          Alphon resembled the Identikit pictures more than Hanratty did;
          When stressed, Alphon lapsed into Cockney;
          Alphon never produced a convincing alibi;
          He provided a more credible motive than Hanratty could;
          He was a poor driver;
          Alphon received payments in cash totalling £7,569 between October 1961 and June 1962 and was unable to account for £5,000 of these payments.

          I suppose Matthews could have added to that list. Is he still alive, do we know? A bit like the Great Train Robbery, I think there is one unwritten book left on the A6 murder and it would have been good if someone like retired Detective Chief Superintendent Matthews could have been the author. Presumably the powers that be found a way of ensuring that would not happen.

          In his Independent article of February 1979, Richard Ingrams says that following Alphon's death, any hope that he might finally reveal the truth had gone. The article is headed "We will never know the truth about the A6 murder":

          The name Peter Alphon will mean nothing to today's generation. But because I was a close friend of Paul Foot, who spent years investigating the A6 murder of 1961, for which James Hanratty was later hanged, I lived with the name Alphon almost as closely as he did.


          Sadly, it looks as though Dick may well be right.

          Ansonman

          Comment


          • Originally posted by ansonman View Post
            A bit like the Great Train Robbery, I think there is one unwritten book left on the A6 murder
            On the GTR I think all that remains to enter the public domain is the identity of the two key players who were never charged - the ‘Ulsterman’ who tipped off the gang about the train and ‘Big Alf’ who coshed the driver. I imagine they will be named when they die.

            Originally posted by ansonman View Post
            and it would have been good if someone like etired Detective Chief Superintendent Matthews could have been the author.
            I seem to recall Matthews was writing a book on the A6 murder, but I think it would be a massive disappointment. My view is that Matthews squandered his access to all the files by having his mind already made up by Foot’s book. I believe his Daily Mail 1999 article shows this.

            For example, talking about Ingledene he said Hanratty’s “graphic description of the room he had occupied was quite extraordinarily accurate” indicating he swallowed Foot’s theory that Hanratty stayed in the green bathroom. In fact Mrs Jones had testified that only one room, number 4, was available that week for visitors who had not booked.

            He also claimed Valerie “was unable to visually identify any one” on her ID parade. But she has always maintained that she visually identified Hanratty first. In the Channel 4 programme she said: "It was the eyes. They looked at me and I looked at him. He knew perfectly well that I knew who he was." Then the voice confirmed the identification. "As he was saying that sentence - 'Be quiet will you, I'm thinking' - I could hear that voice which had been talking to me for nearly six hours. And he knew when he looked at me: he knew that I knew. And there was no doubt whatsoever."

            Comment


            • For example, talking about Ingledene he said Hanratty’s “graphic description of the room he had occupied was quite extraordinarily accurate” indicating he swallowed Foot’s theory that Hanratty stayed in the green bathroom. In fact Mrs Jones had testified that only one room, number 4, was available that week for visitors who had not booked.

              He also claimed Valerie “was unable to visually identify any one” on her ID parade. But she has always maintained that she visually identified Hanratty first. In the Channel 4 programme she said: "It was the eyes. They looked at me and I looked at him. He knew perfectly well that I knew who he was." Then the voice confirmed the identification. "As he was saying that sentence - 'Be quiet will you, I'm thinking' - I could hear that voice which had been talking to me for nearly six hours. And he knew when he looked at me: he knew that I knew. And there was no doubt whatsoever."
              Quick reply to this message
              Nick, thank you for reminding us of the above points, which many of Hanratty's supporters do tend to overlook.

              Richard Ingrams' article was 2 February 2009, by the way.

              Graham
              We are suffering from a plethora of surmise, conjecture and hypothesis. - Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure Of Silver Blaze

              Comment


              • Joe Sayle was a communist trade unionist in Rhyl on NUR business. When he testified to have stayed in room number 4 on the relevant days he was hardly part of a conspiracy against Hanratty.

                In ‘Stalin Ate My Homework’ Alexei Sayle says of his father:

                “When he returned from the trial, Joe told us that what had upset him the most was that he had been the final witness called in the trial. He realised that the last person Hanratty had heard testifying against him, the last person he had seen on the stand, the final person confirming his fate, was Joe Sayle.”

                Comment


                • [QUOTE=NickB;323119]On the GTR I think all that remains to enter the public domain is the identity of the two key players who were never charged - the ‘Ulsterman’ who tipped off the gang about the train and ‘Big Alf’ who coshed the driver. I imagine they will be named when they die.

                  My understanding is that three got away including The Ulsterman.

                  Gordon Goody, in his book "How to Rob a Train" published last month, names the Ulsterman as one Paddy McKenna. Goody says

                  "Paddy McKenna, the Ulsterman was probably the most fortunate of any of us. He got his full share of the proceeds and avoided the monumental legal expenses we all had".

                  That suggests that the other two who got away did incur legal charges and so perhaps the were arrested but never charged. Goody's book is well worth a read (though it will be unlikely to win any literary awards). They also released a DVD at the same time which I thought was most impressive. Both available on Amazon.

                  Apologies for going off track and thanks for pointing out the typo Graham.

                  Ansonman

                  Comment


                  • Hi Nick,

                    I wonder how Paul Foot, a very active member of the Socialist Workers Party, viewed communist Joe Sayle's failure to support Hanratty's alibi? They were both seriously anti-capitalist (even though Foot came from very middle-class stock). Did they ever meet?

                    I believe that most, if not all, of Ingledene's guests that week were traced, and not one of them could remember seeing anyone who answered to Hanratty's description.

                    Also, it wasn't actually Hanratty who claimed to have identified Ingledene as the place he stayed at. This was done by his defence team based on their interpretation of the evidence he gave them. If he stayed there, then why didn't he sign the visitors' book, as he did at The Vienna Hotel, Mrs Jones' apparent laxity in such matters notwithstanding?

                    Graham
                    We are suffering from a plethora of surmise, conjecture and hypothesis. - Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure Of Silver Blaze

                    Comment


                    • Originally posted by ansonman View Post
                      Gordon Goody, in his book "How to Rob a Train" published last month, names the Ulsterman as one Paddy McKenna.
                      Thanks, I missed that. There was a report and photo in The Observer.

                      Goody hints that the one who attacked the driver was Buster Edwards, who confessed as such in the Piers Paul Read book (1978). But Bruce Reynolds (1995) strongly denied this and said it was one of those not charged. This ties in with Frank Williams (1973) who said that, with Tommy Butler, he questioned the man they knew to be the assailant but that they had no evidence to convict him. Reynolds does not name this person but by the process of elimination you can work out he is referring to someone he refers to elsewhere as ‘Big Alf’ and this appears to be the same person Williams calls ‘Alf Thomas’.

                      You are right, there was a third robber not charged.

                      I also apologise for going off topic!

                      Comment


                      • [QUOTE=ansonman;323144]
                        Originally posted by NickB View Post
                        On the GTR I think all that remains to enter the public domain is the identity of the two key players who were never charged - the ‘Ulsterman’ who tipped off the gang about the train and ‘Big Alf’ who coshed the driver. I imagine they will be named when they die.
                        Originally posted by NickB View Post
                        My understanding is that three got away including The Ulsterman.

                        Gordon Goody, in his book "How to Rob a Train" published last month, names the Ulsterman as one Paddy McKenna. Goody says

                        "Paddy McKenna, the Ulsterman was probably the most fortunate of any of us. He got his full share of the proceeds and avoided the monumental legal expenses we all had".

                        That suggests that the other two who got away did incur legal charges and so perhaps the were arrested but never charged. Goody's book is well worth a read (though it will be unlikely to win any literary awards). They also released a DVD at the same time which I thought was most impressive. Both available on Amazon.

                        Apologies for going off track and thanks for pointing out the typo Graham.

                        Ansonman
                        Hi Anson - with apologies for also going off track but to mention that back in the early '90s I slightly knew the late Great Train robber Buster Edwards when he ran a flower stall outside Waterloo and I worked nearby. There had been suggestions over the years that it was actually Edwards who coshed the driver. However, you instinctively knew that some things were to be left unspoken.

                        Best regards,

                        OneRound

                        Edit: crossed with Nick's last post.
                        Last edited by OneRound; 12-14-2014, 10:46 AM.

                        Comment


                        • Off the rails

                          Originally posted by NickB View Post
                          Thanks, I missed that. There was a report and photo in The Observer.

                          Goody hints that the one who attacked the driver was Buster Edwards, who confessed as such in the Piers Paul Read book (1978). But Bruce Reynolds (1995) strongly denied this and said it was one of those not charged. This ties in with Frank Williams (1973) who said that, with Tommy Butler, he questioned the man they knew to be the assailant but that they had no evidence to convict him. Reynolds does not name this person but by the process of elimination you can work out he is referring to someone he refers to elsewhere as ‘Big Alf’ and this appears to be the same person Williams calls ‘Alf Thomas’.

                          You are right, there was a third robber not charged.

                          I also apologise for going off topic!
                          In his book Goody says:

                          "Charlie was first into the HVP van, smashing the window and climbing through. He was followed by Tommy, Buster and myself. Jimmy Hussey, Bobby Welch, Big Alf and Frank Monroe weren't far behind" (the last two being the two gang members to get away).

                          Regarding the coshing of Mills, he says:

                          "I have never been positive who it was because we all had balaclavas on".

                          In their 2012 book "The great train robbery crime of the century" Nick Russell-Pavier and Stewart Richards suggest that, in addition to The Ulsterman, there were three who got away (Mr 1, Mr 2 and Mr 3!).

                          In his 2013 book "The great train robbery the untold story from the closed file investigation" Andrew Cook includes as an appendix a letter from Peta Fordham in which she says that following the death of Mills, she was freed from a promise she made to him five years earlier. She says that Mills told her that his worst injuries resulted from a fall and not from a blow to the head (this is something that Goody says also). Fordham also says that the person who struck the fatal blow (causing Mills to fall) was "a man who was never on trial but who slipped through the net".

                          Cook names Danny Pembroke "taken in for questioning in September 1963. The DPP concluded that there was no tangible evidence to prove his involvement in the robbery" and Harry Smith "after a nine month manhunt, he was finally arrested by Flying Squad officers in South London in May 1964 and taken into custody at Aylesbury. The DPP eventually decided not to press charges".

                          Piers Paul Read's book could have been the BEST read (pun intended) if he hadn't wasted those first few chapters on the spoof SS officer who the robbers said financed the crime and, if he had updated the book to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the crime. I emailed him at the end of 2012 to tell him so and he somewhat lamely said that he had been asked to review three new books on the case and it would not therefore be appropriate to update his own. He did, however, provide a brief though fascinating insight into several of the robbers, most of whom he regarded as low-life thugs.

                          The Goody DVD is called "A tale of two thieves". Don't bother buying the signed poster of the DVD on Ebay mind. I tried, only to discover that Goody has fallen out with his publicist and refuses to sign them!

                          Ansonman

                          Comment


                          • Did they really know?, the score

                            [QUOTE=OneRound;323165]
                            Originally posted by ansonman View Post
                            [U]

                            Hi Anson - with apologies for also going off track but to mention that back in the early '90s I slightly knew the late Great Train robber Buster Edwards when he ran a flower stall outside Waterloo and I worked nearby. There had been suggestions over the years that it was actually Edwards who coshed the driver. However, you instinctively knew that some things were to be left unspoken.

                            Best regards,

                            OneRound

                            Edit: crossed with Nick's last post.
                            OneRound,

                            I his email reply to me, PPR said that during the many months he spent with the train robbers who cooperated in the writing of his book there were two who stood out as decent blokes (he didn't use that term because he is an arrant snob) nothwithstanding the fact they were criminals. One was Buster Edwards and the other was Gordon Goody.

                            I worked for the GLC from 1970 to 1973 and my office was very close indeed to Waterloo Station but I never did catch sight of Edwards, despite many attempts to do so. I was a young and impressionable lad in my late teens then and I had a sort of an admiration for the robbers that would have led me to at least say hello to him.

                            The thing that has struck me about the crime since then is that although its execution left little to be desired (the felling of Mills excepted) the aftermath was an absolute disaster. Ok, so they paid Field to destry the evidence (burn down Letherslade Farm) but could they really be sure he would do a decent job even if he didn't bottle out? A gang of around twenty was seemingly incapable of planning for the aftermath of a robbery that they knew would make history and, in view of their criminal records, lead the police to each one of them even without any evidence. Quite astonishing in my view.

                            Ansonman

                            Comment


                            • A couple points on recent posts.

                              First, as a member of the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party, Paul Foot would not ordinarily be rubbing shoulders with members - like Joe Sayle - of the still perceived - Stalinist british Communist Party. Interestingly, Alphon and William Ewer were both interested in far right ideology. Now did they meet?

                              Secondly, regarding ' She saw him at the cleaners' , Janet Gregsten's firm refutation only serves to focus on William Ewer's role and account. Sunday Times journalist Lewis Chester described Ewer's account as stretching credulity.

                              Woffinden tells us on 11 September 1961 that Ewer was interviewed by the police. All that Woffinden tells us about that interview is that Ewer speaks about 'mothers boy' Michael Gregsten and the fact that MG ' . . . had a guilt complex about his association with Valerie, and on occasions said that he wondered why he had not been struck down.'

                              What is perhaps surprising is that Ewer didn't tell the police on that occasion about his sighting of a man in early September who resembled the police description. After all the police were struggling for leads even though they found the cartridges in room 24 of the Vienna Hotel that day.

                              For those who believe that Ewer was involved in commissioning the gunman (and for those who don't), his description of MG's thoughts might suggest the impact the hijacking would have on his brother- in -law. We know that MG had been treated for his mental state since 1957 and until 1960, after his relationship with Valerie begun he continued to visit doctors about his condition.

                              MG was brought up by a Christian Scientist Mother and Aunt and while he did not reject medical treatment, he would have been aware of the CS concept of malicious animal magnetism whereby the evil/ bad thoughts of others can cause someone physical harm.

                              In short, it can be argued that, unlike the resilient VS who might gain strength from adverse situations, MG was a viable target for someone intent on causing terror.

                              Comment


                              • [QUOTE=ansonman;323176]
                                Originally posted by OneRound View Post

                                OneRound,

                                I his email reply to me, PPR said that during the many months he spent with the train robbers who cooperated in the writing of his book there were two who stood out as decent blokes (he didn't use that term because he is an arrant snob) nothwithstanding the fact they were criminals. One was Buster Edwards and the other was Gordon Goody.

                                I worked for the GLC from 1970 to 1973 and my office was very close indeed to Waterloo Station but I never did catch sight of Edwards, despite many attempts to do so. I was a young and impressionable lad in my late teens then and I had a sort of an admiration for the robbers that would have led me to at least say hello to him.

                                The thing that has struck me about the crime since then is that although its execution left little to be desired (the felling of Mills excepted) the aftermath was an absolute disaster. Ok, so they paid Field to destry the evidence (burn down Letherslade Farm) but could they really be sure he would do a decent job even if he didn't bottle out? A gang of around twenty was seemingly incapable of planning for the aftermath of a robbery that they knew would make history and, in view of their criminal records, lead the police to each one of them even without any evidence. Quite astonishing in my view.

                                Ansonman
                                Hi again Anson,

                                To finish my own off topic contribution, with apologies once more for the diversion.

                                I'm not too surprised by Read's view. I emphasise that my dealings and conversations with Edwards were certainly limited but your reference to ''decent bloke'' is very much how he came across. He was clearly popular with the locals, especially the Evening Standard vendors (always good judges of character in my experience). The only thing I would add is that, rather than friendly, he could sometimes be better described as not unfriendly. Never unpleasant but as if distracted thinking back to other matters or times.

                                Unless I'm confused, I suspect you're out with your dates. I'm pretty sure Edwards was banged up for about ten years from the late '60s after he came back from hiding abroad and handed himself in. I don't think it would have been until the late '70s at the earliest that he got his Waterloo flower stall under way.

                                Totally concur with your views on the crime itself. Meticulously planned in respect of the build up and execution but abysmal as regards the aftermath. Surely hiding out immediately following the robbery and not being anywhere to be seen would only have raised suspicions when the Old Bill was looking to pull in almost anyone with some form as a possible suspect? Given all the money obtained, I would have thought the robbers would have been better off heading home sharpish having already bought a decent alibi.

                                Best regards,

                                OneRound

                                Comment

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