Helen Barthelemy: Blackpool victim

 

helen barthelemy

Helen Barthelemy

SUMMER ROMANCE…

On Friday 27 July July 1962 , 21 year old Helen Barthelemy met 25 year old Friend Taylor.  Being young  a  friendship sprang up.  They spent time at the Pleasure Beach and in the evening they had drinks at the Huntsman and  they went to the sandhills at Squires Gate where Mr Taylor took off his coat and jacket and they lay down.

 

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This is the Huntsman where Friend Taylor and Helen Barthelemy went for a drink before the denouement in the sandhills at Squires Gate.

 

SUMMER ROMANCE GONE WRONG…

Friend Taylor was distracted.  A pebble struck his forehead.  He looked up and three men attacked him.  His face was cut with a razor or a knife.  His wallet was stolen.

He says that Helen shouted: “Leave it Jock, he’s had enough.”  Friend Taylor was taken to Victoria Hospital where he needed 18 stitches.   The wallet contained £22.00, which was a month’s earnings for a cafe-worker.

Friend Taylor

 

Friend Taylor fromthe Evening Gazette

 

TRIAL

These events led to the trial of Helen Barthelemy in Liverpool  charged with aggravated robbery.  She had refused to name her three companions and said that she was not with Friend Taylor.

 

 

 

 

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Surprisingly this is the Rendezvous Cinema in Bond Street as it is now.  Helen claimed that she was here when Friend Taylor was attacked.

She said that on the evening  she went with a friend David Graham to see the Film “El Cid” with Sophia Loren and Charlton Heston at the Rendezvous Cinema in Bond Street.  Her friend David Graham confirmed this.  He  had made a contrary statement at the Police Station in South King Street.  When asked he said he was “threatened with physical violence,”  by the Police.  Helen said she had spoken to the cinema manager.  The cinema manager said he was busy in his office that evening and could not have spoken to Helen.

Friend Taylor was a man of “unimpeachable integrity.”  Sadly Helen’s Curriculum Vitae was not going to impress a jury.  She had worked as a stripper on the Golden Mile.  But she had abandoned that career to become a prostitute.  She had been fined for involvement in the management of a brothel.  On the evening of her claimed visit to the Rendezvous Cinema she demonstrated an impressive  work ethic by entertaining  three clients in Stanley Park before going to an all night cafe.

On the 10 October  1962 the Jury found her guilty and she was sentenced to four years imprisonment.  She collapsed in the stand.

The case against Helen Barthelemy seems odd.  Did three men follow Helen and Friend Taylor from their meeting at the Huntsman?  It is half an hour to the sandhills by foot.   Or did they wait by arrangement?  It is hard to picture a group of restless young men waiting about on the possibility that Helen would lure a victim to a certain spot.  In any case even though the “haul” of £22 was impressive it had to be shared between four people.  What if the attackers knew Helen casually  and resented Friend Taylor?  The attack may not have been as organised as the case presented in court.

Attacking people on the sandhills was a local custom.  And the Police were clearly keen to get a conviction possibly to deter this kind of activity which might have an effect on tourism.

APPEAL

Friend Taylor was not a man of “unimpeachable integrity.”  He had been tried a number of times as a juvenile and an adult.  He had served three terms in prison.  He seems to have had a connection with Blackpool because he committed crimes in Blackpool and St Annes and he was living in Fordway, Layton.

The  question  was: might the Jury have come to a different verdict if they had known the truth about Friend Taylor?  Friend Taylor must have  lied for his representative to make the claim that he was a “man of complete integrity.”   The accusation against Helen rested on his word.

The Appeal overturned the jail sentence on February 3 1963.

HELEN BARTHELEMY

Helen Barthlemy must have been delighted.  Instead of three  years in jail she was free to go to London.  She  resumed her career as a prostitute until Friday 24 April 1964 when her naked body was found in a backstreet in Brentford.  She had died of asphyxia.  When she was found she had been dead for two days.  On 16 September 1964 she was buried in a pauper’s grave at Chiswick Cemetery.

JACK THE STRIPPER

Helen Barthelemy was a victim of Jack the Stripper.  These murders  compete with the Jack the Ripper Murders as the most perplexing series of killings in Britain.  The killings have connections with the first wave of immigration from the West Indies, the widepread use of drugs, the Kray Gang, the  suicide (?) of Freddie Mills, the Profumo Scandal which fatally wounded the Conservative Government of Macmillan and the trial of Stephen Ward. It was the beginning of the Sixties.  To put it in context President Kennedy was assassinated between Helen Barthelemy’s release from prison and her murder.

 

THE KILLINGS

There are six agreed victims of Jack the Stripper.  There are two earlier cases which may be connected.  The victims were all prostitutes.  All were smallish.  The girls were killed elsewhere and daringly placed in back streets or alleys at night or early in the morning.  The bodies had been kept for some time.  The bodies were marked with spray paint which suggests that they were near a car body paint shop.  The bodies had some teeth missing.  Because of lack of bleeding the teeth had been removed after death.  Asphyxia was the cause of death.  All of the bodies had been kept for some time.

CONNECTIONS

An early victim was connected by her pimp to the Krays and the Krays were questioned in connection with the murders.  The Krays were connected to Lord Boothby who had a long affair with the wife of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan.

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Ronnie Kray and Lord Boothby

 

The Krays were acquainted with  Freddie Mills.  Freddie Mills was a popular retired boxer. He had walk-on parts in films, and presented a pop music show.  He was one of those people who attract affection.   He ran a club which the Krays visited.  He committed suicide using a shotgun.  Oddly he fired twice.  The investigation into the suicide was supervised by  Wally Virgo who became Commander Virgo and was imprisoned for corruption.    There have been allegations that Freddie Mills was killed by the Krays.

More likely he killed himself as a result of money worries.  Bruce Forsyth gave the funeral address.

Stephen Ward was a popular, multi-talented osteopath.   Among his friends were Princess Margaret and her husband Tony Armstrong Jones.  Stephen Ward had given parties where John Profumo the Defence Minister met Christine Keeler an ninteen year old good-time girl.

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Christine Keeler

 

Disconcertingly Christine Keeler was also the girlfriend of    Soviet Diplomat Yevgeni Ivanov.  John Profumo lied about this connection in the House of Commons.  Following the resignation of John Profumo,  Stephen Ward was tried for living off immoral earnings.   Stephen Ward was a rich man and had no need to “live off immoral earnings. ”  It is more likely that he enjoyed “celebrity culture” and the girls were part of the offering that enticed people to his parties.  Among people treated by Stephen Ward were Churchill, Gandhi, Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor.  He drew Princess Margaret.

The trial seems like an internecine  struggle between sections of the Establishment.  Perhaps supporters of the Conservative government wanted revenge.

If that was the plan it worked.  Stephen Ward committed suicide.

One of Jack the Stripper’s victims, Frances Brown, had given  evidence on behalf of Stephen Ward prior to her murder.  Police put pressure on prostitutes to give evidence against Stephen Ward.   There has been speculation that some of the victims were connected with the Stephen Ward circle.

SUSPECTS

Jack the Stripper was never caught.   The investigation was taken over by Detective Superintendant Jack du Rose who saturated the area with Police, set up cordons taking the numbers of vehicles and closely observing prostitutes.  Forensic examination of  paint on the bodies linked the murderer to a site on the Heron Trading Estate.  Seven thousand people worked there and many more visited.

In films about serial killers there  a cliche: “One thing is certain he will kill again.”  .

But will he?  Maybe serial killing is a crime of opportunity.  Possibly some serial killers give up, or retire, or get another job or take up a hobby.  We don’t know.  The most likely explanation  is that the saturation policing policy forced Jack the Stripper out of business just as it probably forced Jack the Ripper out of business.   If this is true our picture of serial killers is sometimes wrong.  They may adjust their behaviour to the environment like everybody else.

Be that as it may Jack du Rose hinted that a suspect,  a security guard who committed suicide, was Jack the Stripper.   This suspect was Mungo Ireland.  He was in Scotland when one of the victims disappeared.  Jack du Rose says that the murders ended when Mungo Ireland committed suicide. It is at least as  likely that the murders ended because Police activity made continuation  impossible.

In his compelling and unpleasant book “Jack of Jumps”  David Seabrook says it was a Police Officer. He gives clues who this Officer is and he is probably  wrong.  Neil Milkins in his attractive book: “Who was Jack the Stripper?” says it Harold Jones who was a child killer.  But he does not put forward  evidence.

Freddie Mills is also named as a suspect.

Many investigators including Police Officers had pointed to suspects in the Police.  A Police Officer would have obvious advantages.

For all we know Jack the Stripper could still be alive.

 

BACK TO HELEN

For a lass from Blackpool, Helen was distantly connected with some big names all the way up to the Prime Minister and the Royal Family. Small compensation for being dead.

In London she seems to have enjoyed the company of West Indians and to have spent time in Jazz Clubs.  She was also said by Police to be “addicted” to “Indian Hemp.”

What was Helen like?  She had good friends.  David Graham,  the friend who says he was with her on Friday.  was  lying to protect her.  Alternatively he was telling the truth despite  threats from the Police.  Helen’s refusal to admit her guilt and implicate her companions could be seen as defiant and loyal.  At first sight Helen’s  unforced admission to the court that she was a prostitute seems unwise.     Another interpretation is that she was unwilling to conform. There is another instance where Helen freely says she is a prostitute.  She says she met a group of lads from Preston and they asked her what she did and she said she was a prostitute.  The lads asked her if she would “roll” a client and Helen said she did not do that.  What is striking is Helen’s frankness.

About her early years we know little.  She lived near Edinburgh.  Her father was in the Free French Navy .  She does not seem to have got on well with her mother , her parents divorced and her mother remarried.  Many articles say that she was “convent-educated.”  If she  rejected the nuns she may have become the opposite of a nun, a prostitute. Her frankness about her profession might have been defiance towards the nuns.

After her death Mrs Paul of Chapel Street, Blackpool, said that Helen had stayed with her for three years until the summer of 1962.  She said that Helen was part of the family and she also said that after her release Helen couldn’t settle in Blackpool and sought a new start in London.  She revisited Mrs Paul at Christmas and she wrote regularly and was planning a holiday in Blackpool.   Mrs Paul said: “she was a happy girl.”

When she was nineteen she had an illegitimate child called Robert who was adopted. Robert and his wife have adopted a child themselves.  When he was twenty one the Police gave him a file about his mother’s death and he has hired agents to find out more.  He has located a half-sister, the daughter of his deceased father.   Put yourself  in Robert’s shoes: imagine that you know you have been adopted and when you are twenty-one a Police Officer gives you a file and you learn that your mother was a prostitute and the victim of a serial killer.

It wasn’t  as stark as that.  Robert had known that his mother had been murdered from age seventeen.  Still it would need fortitude.  Maybe Robert’s character owes something to Helen.

And then what…

There are  things we do not know.    Maybe the life of a prostitute suited her. Maybe she was a born rebel.   Briefly Helen may have known the answer to the question that has puzzled generations: Who was Jack the Stripper?

An innocent cause of Helen’s death was the conscientiousness of the court system which released her to be killed.  Hardy’s words about Tess of the Durbervilles come to mind:

“The immortal President of the Universe ended his sport with Tess.”

 

 

 

Sources

The Evening Gazette

thanks to Local and Family History for use of the archives.

Two Books:

Who was Jack the Ripper

by Neil Milkins

well researched.

Jack of Jumps

by David Seabrook

An unpleasant book but kind of compulsive.  For people like me of a morbid nature David Seabrook seems to have been an  isolated individual and died under unusual circumstances.  His book is a kind of psychogeography and he becomes part of the myth he weaves.  You have to wonder how he  managed to get access to police files.

 

 

 

 

 

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