Tag Archives: murder

A Migrant Trans Sex Worker’s Murder Has Set Off Protests Around the World

Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent, reports from Vancouver… Anna is a director of the Triple-X Workers Solidarity Association of British Columbia. She has strong views.


One of several Vanesa Campos demonstrations held in Paris

Vanesa Campos was a sex worker from Peru who was working in France to support her family in Peru, after the death of her father.

She was shot to death by five men in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris this summer. The men were trying to rob her client, a crime they had already committed numerous times.

The police in Paris are currently more concerned to catch men who see sex workers than catching robbers. The ‘johns’ have become easy targets due to France’s new ‘client’ law, because they are afraid to report robberies to the police, in case they are implicated.

But the five men who shot Vanesa have now been apprehended and are awaiting trial.

Vanesa’s death has sparked international protests – in London, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, in Latin America and in Vancouver.

I spoke with Guillaume Roy, the French Consul in Vancouver, on Friday to express my sadness that a cultured country like France is trying to abolish prostitution. Well, actually, he is the Deputy Consul, but a consul is still a consul.

The new ‘client’ law in France means that the clients of sex workers are arrested if they try to obtain the services of a sex worker. The sex workers are not arrested but treated as ‘ victims’ of these evil men who want to compensate them for sex (or for simply spending time with the worker, which is often the case).

Prosecuting the clients is known as ‘the Nordic Model’, because it originated in Sweden.

Anna Smith (left) and Poison Pompadour at Vancouver demo

The workers in Sweden are not arrested. Instead, they are forced to participate in psychological counselling, evicted from their apartments, forfeit their property (dwelling place) and have their children removed from their custody. 

They are then ‘re-educated’ on how to integrate with ‘normal society’, which is absurd because I think most sex workers already know how to do that. I would argue that they are helping society to function, by relaxing men and helping them to relax and cope with stresses of modern life.

Politicians in many countries in Europe and in England and Canada are trying to introduce ‘the Nordic Model’. The Nordic Model makes working conditions much more dangerous for sex workers because they are then forced into working in more clandestine situations: outdoors in parks and alleyways and in isolated industrial areas. 

Also, due to the Nordic Model, more and more newspapers and internet services like Craigslist and Backpage are afraid of prosecution so no longer carry the contact info for sex workers, making them unable to negotiate with or select  customers prior to meeting them in person.

Besides, calling the law ‘The Nordic Model’ is misleading and sounds ridiculous.

I like to call it ‘The Nordic Method’ so it sounds like some archaic type of birth control.

In Vancouver last Friday, the Vanesa Campos protest demo was organised by Poison Pompadour and myself. After our demo, Poison Pompadour took all the protest people for cocoa and coffee at a nearby cafe. Then the two of us went for a beer and hamburgers.

French Deputy Consul, Guillaume Roy, accepts a list of the Vancouver protesters’ demands about Parisian safety

I marvelled that the French Deputy Consul had come into the hallway outside the consulate to speak with us. He was alone, unencumbered by secretaries.

There was only the Sikh security guard who normally waits at a little table outside the Consulate door. The Deputy Consul listened patiently as we explained why we were there and took our petition in his hands. The Sikh security guard took a group photo of us, with my phone.

“Well,” Poison Pompadour said to me: “Imagine how boring the things he normally has to do are as Deputy Consul. Talking with French tourists who tell him: I have lost my camera…. It is not every day he has twenty sex workers come to his office.“

… CONTINUED HERE

A group photo of protesters, as shakily taken by the French Consulate’s security guard in Vancouver

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Filed under Crime, France, prostitution, Sex

My surprising top ten blogs of last year

(Photograph by Ariane Sherine)

I started this blog in 2010 and it is usually referred-to as a “comedy blog” but, just out of quirky interest, here is a list of what were my Top Ten blogs in terms of hits last year.

This list is obviously more a reflection of who my readers are than anything else…

1) Where the Kray Twins gangster film “Legend” got it all so very badly wrong

2) The practicalities of putting your head in a gas oven: my 2nd suicide attempt

3) Krayzy Days – Why London gangster Ronnie Kray really shot George Cornell inside the Blind Beggar pub in 1966

4) What the REAL Swinging Sixties were like – gangsters and police corruption

5) Hello to the Bye Bye Girls – Ruby Wax’s offspring – two Siblings on the Fringe

6) Creating a Legend – The Krays and the killing of ‘Mad Axeman’ Frank Mitchell

7) What it is like to be on the jury of a murder case at the Old Bailey in London

8) Why Chris Tarrant’s TV show OTT was taken off air – a naked Malcolm Hardee

9) Edinburgh Fringe, Day 12: How to destroy a comedy career & other news

10) The death of an Italian archaeologist who knew so many 20th century secrets

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My dream of Ben Elton in a gas mask and the reality of severed feet in boots

Arthur Smith encouraged singing over ‘dead’ man in Royal Mile

Last year, during his annual tour, Arthur Smith encouraged singing over a ‘dead’ man on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh

Again, fantasy and reality are overlapping in my brain.

I woke up a few times during the night with my sore shoulder. Last August in Edinburgh, I tripped and fell in the dark in a crowd on the cobbles during comedian Arthur Smith’s annual fantasy tour of the Royal Mile. I fell on the shoulder which a truck had hit and pulverised in two places in 1991.

Two places in the shoulder, not two geographical places.

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the drowning of comedian Malcolm Hardee, aged 55.

So it goes.

It was announced the actress Geraldine McEwan had died, aged 82.

So it goes.

A video went on YouTube of an Islamic extremist cutting off a Japanese journalist’s head.

So it goes.

Comedy performer Ted Robbins collapsed on stage in front of 20,000 people at the Manchester Arena, aged 59.

He is in a stable condition in hospital.

I never knew him, but kept meeting him at Granada TV in the 1980s, where he was much-loved. He seemed to be a very kind man.

Yesterday, in mid-evening, I had to interchange at West Hampstead, where there are three totally separate stations on the same road, all called West Hampstead Station. As I approached the third West Hampstead station, I had to walk through the middle of a large fist fight on the pavement, where ten or twelve large men were shouting and swinging at each other. As I walked through the middle of the fight, they parted politely, then continued hitting and shouting at each other.

Polly Trope: "It started with the psychiatric drugs and then I moved into non-psychiatric drugs.”

Not Ben Elton, but author Polly Trope in mask

When I was waking up with my shoulder last night, I was having some ongoing dream in which a woman called Arlene Gorodensky-greenhouse had comedian and writer Ben Elton’s Second World War gas mask in a blue plastic bag. Ben Elton was born in 1959; the Second World War ended in 1945.

This dream happened in a single-storey building which was either a motel or a television studio.

In another room of the same building, a totally different woman – name unknown – also had comedian and writer Ben Elton’s Second World War gas mask in a blue plastic bag. The new woman looked about 45. Then she sat down and started to put on make-up and all the wrinkles on her skin started to show and her skin sagged and emptied of flesh and she then looked about 85 and was wearing a bikini.

The odd thing about this dream is that the first woman is real and her name really is Arlene Gorodensky-greenhouse. She is staging a Grouchy Club show on 22nd February featuring me and critic Kate Copstick hosting a chat show with no guests during a Jewish Comedy Day in North West London. Copstick and I are not Jewish.

The whole of that paragraph is true.

Last night, on the train home, I had an e-mail conversation with this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith. I was in London; she was in Vancouver. The e-conversation started when she sent me a link to a wet-dream-like YouTube video featuring various people in various states of undress.

WATCH XENO’s INFERNO TRAILER Anna’s first e-heading said.

Another message from Anna said:

I have never seen the movie, but Christian Aldo and his brother Marshall Sfalcin are interesting products of Windsor, Ontario.

I knew Christian Aldo when he lived in Vancouver in the early 1990s. He was constantly creating paintings and sculptures and holding parties which he videoed. After Vancouver, he lived in New York, in Windsor Ontario (where he is from) and now he runs a gallery in Toronto called the Super Wonder Gallery which holds group shows with themes such as Naughtiness and Candy

Like many boys, Christian is fascinated by asteroids, robots, space aliens and sexy women. He also collects plastic toys from the 1960s and has made some intentionally bad films, said to be a cross between Fellini and Russ Meyer. Oh! – and he has been described as energetic and charismatic.  

When the competition opened for the design of the new World Trade Center in New York, his design was two plaster torsos of topless (female) mannequins (from the waist up). They did not win the competition.

Anna then sent me three e-mails. The first was headed:

DOWNTOWN VANCOUVER IS PLASTERED WITH POSTERS ADVERTISING A PLETHORA OF BALLS!

Vancouver Balls 2

The second was headed:

BALLS FOR THE MEN

Vancouver Balls 1

The third was headed:

MARTINI PARTIES FOR THE GIRLS

Vancouver Balls 3

A fourth e-mail then explained:

It’s all part of the gay festivities on now at Whistler (a local ski resort).

I then received a picture headed:

PEOPLE ASLEEP IN VANCOUVER

Vancouver Sleeping

I replied: “This appears to be a pair of knees with no torso camping out. With this and the outbreak of balls in ads, I think your dreams and nightmares are becoming flesh.”

Anna replied:

Are you trying to say that I dream about balls?

I replied: “Malcolm Hardee died today. Once seen, never forgotten.”

Malcolm was famed for the size of his testicles.

Anna replied:

I only saw Malcolm once.

I asked her: “Presumably naked?”

She replied:

Yes. He was naked. All the balloons were gone but he was very professional and all he said to us (the strippers at the Gargoyle Club in London) was a cheerful “Hello Ladies”…   This was much appreciated because most of the other comedians were either afraid of us or were asking dumb questions like how we could possibly be strippers and environmentalists at the same time.

Anna, who lives in a boat on a river in Vancouver, then told me without context:

Anna Smith ignores the BBC in Canada

Anna Smith as she likes to be thought of

I dreamed that I was lifting my bicycle off my deck and I dropped it into the river. Then I had to check to make sure the bicycle was still there. So many things have fallen into the river.

The Lesbians are not here any more. One went back to Spain; then the mother of the other one appeared. 

She had never met me before, but thanked me for saving her daughter’s life. In fact, I did not save her life – people are always accusing me of that – I just did basic First Aid and got someone to drive her to a clinic.

A couple of weeks ago, I looked out the window and their boat was gone. It had not sunk. It had been un-tied. Someone told me it had been towed out and tied-up downstream near The Island. 

There are two small islands down there, but we call it The Island because we only go onto one. There is nothing on them, although old docks get dumped there. It looks funny because the docks are barely attached. Some boats have been chopped up, then pieces of them float around in the tide for months.

Sometimes I see a shoe floating. 

When I see a shoe floating, I  check there is no foot in the shoe. 

There have been almost twenty shoes (trainers) found with feet in them – men’s feet. 

I do not think any of them have been identified. Do they find shoes with feet in the River Thames in London?

I replied: “I don’t think so.”

Anna replied:

NBC reports: Discovery of Human Foot ion Seattle Waterfront Adds to Appendage Tally

NBC reports: Discovery of Human Foot on Seattle Waterfront Adds to Appendage Tally

You DONT have the severed feet there?

Every couple of years, someone does a full page article about the severed feet here and then it is forgotten again. 

They are studied and theories are published about whether they were severed before death or if they were broken from the corpse by wave action. 

But nobody is finding corpses without feet. 

They are all feet from young, adult men – a single foot (none are a pair) – and nobody knows who they belong to. 

There is a new one found every few years and none has been identified as belonging to any missing person or any person missing a foot. 

Some of them are found on the Gulf Islands. One was found in the river not too far from here.

This morning, when I woke up, there was a link from Anna to a website called STRANGE REMAINS which has the sub-title: HUMAN REMAINS IN THE NEWS, STRANGE HISTORY OF CORPSES AND ODD THINGS THAT HAPPEN TO HUMAN BONES

The website entry currently starts:

The Strange Remains website - with boot

The Strange Remains website + boot

When a dead body ends up in water (whether by murder, accident, or suicide) the hands and feet easily detach from the arms and legs as the body decomposes because, compared to the rest of the body, the muscle attachments to the limbs are relatively weak.

If that body is fully clothed and dumped wearing sneakers, from time to time the feet will wash ashore completely articulated in shoes. The most famous case of this happened between 2007  and 2011, when a dozen human feet washed ashore in the Pacific Northwest. 

At the time, there were a number of theories about the origin of the decomposed feet: they belonged to murder victims, they belonged to plane crash fatalities, or they were victims of the 2004 tsunami.  But investigators from British Columbia and Washington State were able to confirm that most of these feet found on beaches from Washington Vancouver belonged to people who either committed suicide, died of natural causes or were the victims of an accident.

AlteredDimensions.net reports

AlteredDimensions.net reports on feet

Forensic investigators believe that the reason why decayed feet entombed in sneakers or hiking boots can survive intact in lakes or oceans is that the thick shoes protect them from the ocean environment and prevent fish from feeding on them.  Some investigators argue that the shoes are also the reason the feet wash ashore because of the buoyancy of the shoe, which is lightweight and rubber-soled.

The website continued:

Below is a list of decomposed feet that have been discovered from 2007 to present.  This is an open post so that it is updated as more discoveries are made.

I stopped reading at this point.

There is a limit to my thirst for knowledge.

And I was not totally convinced I was awake.

An obviously outdated Wikipedia entry on Salish Sea Human Foot Discoveries currently states that, in the relatively small area of the Salish Sea in British Columbia, “As of February 2012, only five feet of four people have been identified; it is not known to whom the rest of the feet belong. In addition, several hoax ‘feet’ have been planted in the area.”

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Filed under Canada, Crime, Death, Dreams, Eccentrics

The sex toys, the Home Secretary, the “rough” family and the serial killer(s?)j

I try to vary what is in this blog.

Comedy, media, a little bit of crime and sub-cultures that perhaps go under-reported. At heart, there is one major core – people, people, people – but quirky is always good too. Quirky funny or quirky worrying.

I guess today’s blog is on the quirky worrying side. Three stories…

This morning, I looked at my e-diary for 7th October 1999 and there was this entry:


Malcolm Hardee outside Grover Court in 1995

Comic Malcolm Hardee told me a story. I think it was true.

I talked to comedian Malcolm Hardee on the phone this evening. He said police had stopped the car of (an independent TV producer we both knew) when the producer was driving through London. They opened the boot of the car and found a vast collection of vibrators and sex aids. The News of the World newspaper had got hold of this story and (the producer) heard they knew, so he went to them in a pre-emptive strike, saying: “They were for a new TV comedy show.” This was not true. But the News of the World did not run the story.


Now back to 2014.

This morning I got an e-mail from John Ward – mad inventor and designer of the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards. He sent me a link to an online website.

Currently on this site, you can buy:

  • a slimline digital camcorder for £27 (reduced from £99.99)
  • a 5-piece ceramic non-stick saucepan set for £19.99 (reduced from £129.95)
  • an online do-it-yourself Forensic Psychology course for £29 (reduced from £220)
Save 87% now on an online Crime Scene Investigation course!

Save 87% now on an online Crime Scene Investigation course!

The online do-it-yourself Forensic Psychology course has “15 modules, including mental disorders, serial killers, abuse and more”.

The sales blurb reads:


There’s no denying our fascination with crime, from watching reruns of Breaking Bad to reading about real-life crime investigations. But if you’d like to delve deeper than the tabloids into the criminal psyche, we’ve seized just the deal… The course outlines the research methods required to understand criminal minds, covering mental disorders, psychiatric defences, eyewitness testimonies and more.


Module 9 of the course covers “Mental disorder as a defence.”

John Ward’s comment to me was: “I quite expect the next one to be about of How to Conduct Your Very Own Autopsy. It’s a strange world we survive in.”

Which brings me to Story Three…

Alan Johnson (left) at the Sohemian Society last night

Alan Johnson (left) chatted at the Sohemian Society last night

Last night, I went to a Sohemian Society meeting at which Labour MP Alan Johnson was talking about This Boy, the first volume of his autobiography, set in the squalor of 1950s and 1960s Notting Hill in London.

One tale linked Alan Johnson – a future Home Secretary – with a crime.

In Notting Hill, there was a young man called Johnny who was the brother of Alan Johnson’s sister’s boyfriend. Johnny came form a ‘rough’ family. You did not mess with this family.

Alan Johnson said last night: “Johnny had had his time a a Teddy Boy, but now had a wife and two kids and a respectable job with Express Dairies as a milkman.”

Empty milk bottles on a doorstep

Empty milk bottles on doorstep in British days of yore

In those days, every morning, milk was delivered to people’s doorsteps and, usually once a week, the money was collected. Alan was a milk boy, assisting Johnny on his milk round.

“Every couple of streets,” Alan Johnson said last night, “Johnny would stop the milk float, look in the mirror and comb his Tony-Curtis-with-a-DA hairstyle.”

Johnny was not someone you messed with.

“There was a place called Ruston Close,” Alan Johnson explained. “At No 10, Johnny would always send me in on my own to collect the money on all these different floors while he sat there (in the milk float).

“I used to say: Why don’t you come in there with me?

“And eventually I found out it was because it was 10 Rillington Place. It was so notorious, they had changed the name to Ruston Place.”

John Christie

John Christie – he certainly killed women

10 Rillington Place was where John Christie was alleged to have killed at least eight women including his wife, whose body was found under the floor boards in the front room. The bodies of three of his other victims were discovered hidden in an alcove in the kitchen.

Alan Johnson last night: “I would walk in on my own as a 10-year-old into all these dark floors and get the money from all these West Indian families who had been put in there and behind those walls were where Christie put his victims. Johnny – a former Teddy Boy – was too scared to go in. So he sent a 10-year-old kid in.”

Timothy Evans

Timothy Evans – he may have killed his wife

John Christie had had tenants at 10 Rillington Place.

Among them were Timothy Evans and his wife Beryl and their infant daughter Geraldine. Beryl and Geraldine were murdered.

Timothy Evans was prosecuted for murdering them. John Christie was a key prosecution witness. Evans was found guilty of murdering his daughter and sentenced to death by hanging. He was executed on 9th March 1950.

Three years later, John Christie was found to be a serial killer. He was hanged on 15th July 1953. Before he died, Christie admitted to killing Evans’ wife Beryl but not to killing Evans’ daughter Geraldine (for which Evans had been convicted).

An official inquiry conducted in 1965-1966 concluded that it was “more probable than not” that Evans DID kill his wife Beryl (for which he was not convicted but to whose murder Christie had admitted) but that he did NOT kill his daughter Geraldine (for which he was convicted and to which Christie had not admitted).

Albert Perrrepoint

Albert Pierrepoint certainly executed both men

Both Evans and Christie were executed by Britain’s official hangman Albert Pierrepoint.

After being pinioned for execution, Christie complained that his nose itched. Pierrepoint told him: “It won’t bother you for long”.

So it goes.

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What it is like to be on the jury of a murder case at the Old Bailey in London

The Central Criminal Court at the Old Bailey

The Central Criminal Court of England & Wales at the Old Bailey

A week ago, I posted a blog about a court case.

It was in a minor court.

I know someone else who, a few years ago, was a juror at the Old Bailey in London – the Central Criminal Court of England & Wales.

He kept a diary.

What follows is extracted from it.

Two weeks is the legal requirement for jury service but, as the selection of a jury is random and some cases may take longer than two weeks, sometimes thirty or more potential jurors can be selected by computer and taken to the court room.


JURY SELECTION

30 of us are led down to Court 16.

The judge tells us the case is likely to run a month and 20 names will be called at random. If our name is called we are to approach the bench and explain to him if we have a problem with the duration of the case.

First up the lively fellow I had chatted with outside. “My Lord,” he says, “I am a member of the bar. I have my own cases to prepare. I can serve 2 weeks but longer may be a problem.” The Judge says in not so many words that, as a member of the legal profession, he knows how the system works. His excuse is not accepted.

I am not chosen.

Afterwards, we prospective jurors have a coffee table discussion. Eventually we get round to ‘What do you do?‘. One of our number says he can’t tell us; it’s top secret and he has to keep handing notes to various judges who then mysteriously dismiss him. We play guess his occupation. He won’t play ball. (I think he may be a spy.)

Into Court 15.

M’Lud calls for anyone with a problem to come forward. From somewhere behind me appears the ‘spy’, clutching his note which he hands to a court clerk to take to His Honour. We all watch the Judge with interest as he reads the note.

“Yes,” he says, “I think I need to show the barristers this.” Up they step to read it. “I am satisfied that this gentleman should not be considered for this jury. Do you agree?” he says to the barristers. “Yes M’Lud.” The spy is dismissed and instructed to leave the court.

WEDNESDAY

It is impossible to be a juror and disengage your emotions. Ours is a tragic story and we all, without exception, have become increasingly subdued as the story unfolds and, in one or two cases, quite upset.

THURSDAY

I held a murder weapon wrapped in protective plastic, learned the difference between various spatters of blood and listened to the graphic details of the findings of the pathologist’s post mortem. CSI this isn’t.

One thing’s for sure, being on a jury is an education.

If one could forget that she was talking about an actual incident (which I couldn’t) the forensic scientist from the Home Office was fascinating. She explained just exactly what DNA is and how they can form their deductions from it. She then guided us through our file of photographs and explained each blood spatter. She can tell which is impact blood and which is expirated blood.

The detective came with the transcript of her first major interview after the defendant had been charged. She read her part out and the junior prosecution barrister read all the others. This was quite lengthy and took us up to lunch time. Quite frankly, I have never heard a script in a TV drama that has come anywhere close.

The afternoon was taken up with the rest of the police transcript and then came the Home Office pathologist. He gave a detailed description of the post mortem, referring us to our graphic drawings of the deceased and then explained his findings. It wasn’t pleasant.

His Honour called it a day after that. It had been heavy going and our mood was sombre. One of the younger jurors was in tears.

I badly needed a drink and I was due to meet two friends for dinner. I desperately wanted to ‘download’ the case but I knew this wasn’t allowed. On the other hand I didn’t want to just go home. So I head out for the evening and find I am not the best company.

FRIDAY

Two psychiatrists today. One for the prosecution and one for the defence. They have both been involved at different stages of the story and ultimately they both agree. We are stood down for a two hour lunch break – the two opposing barristers want to have legal discussion. We think there is something in the air.

Back in Jury Assembly we all avidly discuss the case amongst ourselves. This being Friday, with the week’s cases in full swing, there are groups of jurors sticking together everywhere in deep discussion.

Wander out for a breath of fresh air. Camera crews everywhere. Someone says ‘the shoe bomber’ is about to be sentenced. After lunch, the defence barrister begins his case. The second psychiatrist is called. He takes us up to 3.00pm and once again M’Lud calls it a day. He addresses the jury, telling us to have a nice weekend and reports that the weather is going to be sunny. He then asks us to put the case out of our minds until Monday.

Is he kidding?

TUESDAY

It’s all over. A strange feeling of deflation. My fellow jurors and I have lived this case for the last few days – someone else’s life, the minutiae of someone else’s tragedy. And, when it came to it, we weren’t prepared for the sudden turn of events.

10.30 and we’re back in court. The Judge addresses us. The gist is this:

“Members of the Jury,” he says, “the prosecution and defence and I have been speaking since we saw you last and they have both put it to me that this charge should be one of manslaughter. I agree with them and therefore I propose to change the charge. I understand that the defendant is prepared to plead guilty to the charge of manslaughter and, having heard the circumstances of the case, I am satisfied that this is the appropriate charge and plea.”

Or words to that effect. I can sense that we are all relieved. From day one we have wondered why ours is a case of murder.

Next the formality. The Clerk of Court stands and asks our defendant to rise. Our defendant is formally charged with manslaughter and is asked how he pleads.

“Guilty’.”

As we now have a changed charge and a guilty plea there is no need for us to deliberate. But we were set the task of trying the case and must agree with the events that have taken place. The Judge formally requests the juror in seat 1 to stand and asks if we agree with the charge and the plea. On behalf of all of us she whispers: “Yes”.

She knows we all feel the same – we’ve discussed it often enough in Jury Assembly.

And that is our duty done.

As the defence had not had a chance to conclude their case, His Honour gives the defence barrister the floor to speak. And my, how he does. An impassioned speech. Questioning how and why it had ever come to a charge of murder.

A veiled criticism of the Crown Prosecution Service that had refused to accept a guilty plea to manslaughter to begin with, which would have negated the need for a trial. No criticism of our prosecution counsel. He was just doing his job. It had become apparent to us from the way he presented the Crown’s case that he was sympathetic. No rottweiler here.

The judge listened and commented that, despite all the defence had said, the laying out of the tragedy before the court had led everyone to conclude that this was the right outcome. Perhaps this had been for the best.

And so to M’Lud’s summing up.

He talked of the tragic circumstances of the defendant’s life that had led him to take another’s. He spoke of the family who must bear some of the responsibility, the shame and the blame. But, he said, the fact remained that to take a life is unlawful and a custodial sentence was the appropriate punishment. He was incredibly fair.

Four years. With time already served in custody and time off for good behaviour, he will be out in 18 months. What happens to him then I do not know…

So here was our case. A case where one man was responsible for another man’s death. A fact he did not deny and had not run from. A charge of murder. A plea of Not Guilty.

Here is what I have learned. Behind every murder is someone’s story.

Here was a story of a family where violence was commonplace. Of a weaker member of the family who didn’t fight back. Then one day he did. And in one almost inevitable moment he stabbed his brother. He got 4 years. It could have been life. Whichever way you look at it, it’s still a life sentence.

I have never seen such human despair. What must it be like to relive the moments that lead up to that one mad moment that turns your life? And to relive it in front of your family, your friends and twelve silent strangers sitting in judgement. We all saw the tears that wouldn’t stop flowing, the hands that covered ears, the head permanently bowed. Violence breeds violence it is said. The irony is our man was raised in a violent family culture but he had not been an aggressor. Until now. And, in all of this, Philip Larkin’s poem was never far from my mind: They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

After sentence is passed we file out. All of us subdued. Now, the mundane task of handing in our passes and papers. Time to say our goodbyes to eleven other people we hardly know, with whom we have shared an intensely emotional experience, and go back to our lives.

On the way out, two of us bump into our defence QC and his team. I ask him if he has become inured to tragedy – he must see it day after day. “No,” he said, “if you are human you don’t. And,” he said, “this was an unusual and particularly tragic case.”

“There’s nothing more real than real life,” says his junior barrister.

Indeed.

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Two men ‘killed’ by the Kray Twins who were never killed and are still alive

Micky Fawcett experienced Krayzy Days

Micky Fawcett experienced some Krayzy Days

Regular readers may find this hard to believe, but I do cut a lot out of my blogs to shorten them.

Yesterday’s blog was about a chat I had with Mickey Fawcett, an associate of those ever-iconic gangsters the Kray Twins.

I cut several pieces out of our conversation about his book Krayzy Days.

But the joy of writing a daily blog is that you can correct omissions.

Today’s blog takes up roughly where yesterday’s conversation finished…

“Reading all the rubbish that had been written, motivated me to write my book,” I quoted Micky as saying yesterday. “I wanted to write a book saying what idiots the Twins really were,” he added. “And how amusing.”

“Has it been cathartic, writing the book?” I then asked him.

“It’s enabled me to re-live it,” Micky told me. “You’d have to read the book to understand how amused I was by the Twins.”

“You said they were idiots,” I prompted him.

Monty Python and Michael Palin,” said Mickey, “did a brilliant… That nail-the-head-to-the-floor thing came from headlines in the Daily Mirror. But it was a foot that was nailed to the floor and it was the Richardsons. They did it with a knife to a feller. But the Krays were getting the blame for it.”

Arthur Thompson, ‘kind hearted' Glaswegian

Arthur Thompson had a ‘heart of gold’

I cut the rest of the conversation, but it went on:

“In Glasgow,” I said, “Arthur Thompson had a habit of crucifying people but he was said to have a heart of gold, because he once had a man nailed to the floor in front of the man’s wife, but left behind a claw hammer so she could take out the nails.”

“Oh,” said Micky, “Arthur Thompson. They came down to London once. I got on very well with the Scotsmen I met. And, in the Army, you find the Cockneys and the Scousers and the Jocks from Glasgow all seem to get on OK with each other.”

Micky then went back to talking about the legend of the Krays.

I mentioned that, in the ‘Revised and Updated’ 3rd Edition of John Pearson’s highly-respected book The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins. it was implied that the Krays killed their driver Billy Frost in the 1960s.

Billy Frost - Dead men don’t drink tea

Billy Frost – Dead men don’t drink tea

In fact, I had tea with Billy Frost in 2009, during the filming of Killer Bitch and we have exchanged Christmas cards ever since. I think he was happily living at home in the East End of London when The Profession of Violence was first published in 1972.

There is a 2008 interview with Billy on YouTube and he was interviewed in a February 2010 issue of Spitalfields Life

In a blog in June 2011, I wrote: “It’s amazing how people allegedly killed by the Krays over forty years ago can be so lively.”

This came to mind when I chatted with Mickey Fawcett this week and I mentioned the fact that it was in print in various places that the Krays had killed Billy Frost in the 1960s, yet I had met him in the 2000s.

“That rumour didn’t half go around a lot,” said Micky, “and there’s Teddy Smith. Have you come across that one?”

I certainly had. It has been widely reported over the last 40 years that Teddy Smith was killed by the Krays. A very good article in the Daily Mail in August 2010 headlined SEX, LIES, DOWNING STREET AND THE COVER-UP THAT LEFT THE KRAYS FREE TO KILL repeats the story that Teddy Smith “died at their hands”.

“I knew Teddy Smith quite well,” Micky Fawcett told me this week, “and I saw him in King’s Road.”

Teddy Smith in the 1960s, shortly before he did not die

Teddy Smith in the 1960s, shortly before he did not die

“When?” I asked.

“Since his death,” said Micky. “I think he’d just had enough. I would think he’s in Australia or somewhere like that.”

“Can I print that?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Micky.

“He might get uppity,” I said.

“Teddy Smith? No, he’s alright.”

“I suppose,” I said, “once you’ve been dead for over 40 years, it doesn’t matter much.”

And I suppose, unlike much written about the Kray Twins before Micky Fawcett’s book Krayzy Days, that is true.

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People are strange – serial killers, comedians and criminal psychologists

Mary Ann Cotton - an efficient killer

I am interested in strange people’s psychology – stand-up comedians – people  like that. People who are different.

But, really, everyone is different. Drag the most ordinary, dull-looking person out of a bus queue, ask them the right questions about themselves and you will find they have had the most extraordinary life and are probably very strange in one way or another.

Yesterday, I went to a lecture by Professor Glenn Wilson at Gresham College in London about the psychological profiling of serial killers.

You know the sort of stuff – some bloke comes along and tells the police: “The man you are looking for is 6ft 3in tall, likes Royal Doulton pottery and anal sex, has few friends, a lisp and probably makes pasta in an Italian restaurant owned by a one-legged woman within a three mile radius of Hastings.”

Except that seems to be bollocks.

As far as I can make out, psychological profiling is smoke and mirrors.

Professor Wilson’s conclusion yesterday was that “while psychological profiling may reduce the size of the haystack in which the needle is sought” (the Yorkshire Ripper enquiry had to process 268,000 named suspects) it is much better at explaining serial killers after they are caught but much less impressive at finding and catching them.

Well, yes, in other words… it does not work.

Anyone can psychologically profile a serial killer after they are caught.

Serial killers are not the same as ‘spree killers’ who just rampage round Cumbria or attack a Jewish school in Toulouse or go onto a Norwegian island and simply kill everyone in sight. A serial killer is defined as someone who kills three or more people with intervals between – like Jack the Ripper or Harold Shipman.

I was fascinated to hear about Mary Ann Cotton, a Durham woman who poisoned at least 21 people in the mid-19th century – including her mother, three husbands, a lover, ten of her own children, five step-children and her best friend. Now there is an interesting woman though, even with high 19th century mortality rates, you have to question the general gullibility of the police and locals before she was suspected of murder.

The FBI put serial killers into two categories: Organised and Disorganised.

Organised serial killers leave few clues, follow their case in the media and are “socially adequate” with friends, lovers, wife and children.

Disorganised serial killers leave a chaotic crime scene, have little interest in the publicity and have few friends.

In other words, there is no ‘typical’ serial killer. They are not the cliché loner: the Yorkshire Ripper, like many others, was married.

As Professor Wilson understated yesterday, “Profiling has its limitations. Certain background details are said to be common in psychopaths (eg bed-wetting, fire-setting and animal cruelty) but these are widespread in the community, whereas serial killers are rare. Childhood abuse and neglect may lead to serious crimes but equally motivate others to rise above their difficulties and develop a brilliant career (Charles Dickens and Charlie Chaplin).”

In other words, everyone is different. As in general life, so in the serial killing community.

There is also the fact that the police and the press can prosecute and persecute innocent people based on the fact they sound like ’the sort of person’ who might have done it.

Colin Stagg was charged with the Wimbledon Common killing of Rachel Nickell after a ‘profile’ of the killer was given on BBC TV’s Crimewatch. The police charged him with obscenity after he admitted having sunbathed in the nude and, based solely on this, the tabloids then described him as a ‘sex offender’. He then spent a year in prison awaiting trial for the Wimbledon Common killing, but was released then persecuted for years in the press (encouraged by the police). It turned out he was not the killer.

In the case of Barry George, admittedly a bit of an odd man, he was wrongly convicted of killing TV presenter Jill Dando (I once worked with the person who found her body). It was said he kept news clippings about her at his home. In fact, he had a stack of old newspapers, a few of which mentioned her but none were clipped or highlighted in any way.

Now, the chief suspect in that killing appears to be an unknown Serbian hit man who is presumed to have killed her in revenge for the NATO bombing (a few days before) of the TV station in Belgrade which killed several journalists.

Who knows?

Real life is stranger – and much more varied – than fiction or psychological profiling would allow.

How about a vegetarian who hated anyone who was cruel to animals? That person could never be responsible for any deaths, could he? Yet that person was Adolph Hitler.

To quote William Goldman’s book Adventures in the Screen Trade, “Nobody knows anything”.

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Filed under Crime, Psychology