Blackpool: City of dreadful night. The disappearance of Charlene Downes and Paige Chivers


I love Blackpool because of its faults.  When a thirty four  year old woman felt amorously inclined to a gentleman she saw in in newsagents in North Shore  they consummated their relationship on the bonnet of a red Peugeot in Hyde Street within minutes.  Interrupted by the police the man ran off and the lady appeared in court. We were  impressed.   We’re friendly.  We don’t stand on ceremony.   Nobody likes us, we don’t care. Blackpool people never let you down: they always behave worse . Every day we read in the “Gazette” that a man has stolen twenty-eight packets of bacon from the Tesco Express in Central Drive.  Part of us relishes this lawlessness… .When I go on holiday say to Cambridge something is not right.  I can’t put my finger on it and then it comes to me.  There are no teenage mothers pushing prams.  Nobody is smoking.  There are no overweight people attempting to eat their own mass in sausage rolls.  Nobody is shouting at anybody.  Nobody is running down the road clutching packets of bacon chased by security guards. It is boring.  You don’t have to go as far as Cambridge.  You can go to Lytham.  You soon notice the irritating lack of betting shops, tattooes, smoking, very large people, Cash Converters, McDonalds.  What do they do there?  In charity shops in Lytham they have second hand jackets that cost more than my entire wardrobe.  You could keep a Blackpool family in skunk for a month for the cost of that jacket.  They live ten years longer in Lytham than in Bloomfield but I bet it feels like twenty. Blackpool is  street theatre, you are in a 3D full size version of a  cross between Beckett and the Jeremy Kyle Show. People come here  to get drunk and take drugs.  The sex industry is a bigger employer than rock-making.  You are  never more than ten minutes away from a drug dealer or a prostitute.  Legal highs and  new drugs feed into a nightclub culture. People coming home from nightclubs pass people going to work.  Low paid work or jobs in the black economy are easier to find than in some towns and the availability of housing encourages people who have trouble in their home towns.  Blackpool is a destination of choice for people on the run.   You can come to Blackpool with £150.00 and a bin-liner full of clothes and find a flat. . Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow you die.  Or you die because you eat drink and be merry.  There is a dark side to this carnival.  People die rather a lot in Blackpool.  Bloomfield Ward has the lowest life expectancy in the United Kingdom..  Crime levels are the eighth highest in the UK and the highest outside London.  Addiction and smoking account for  many of the deaths.  A young person in  Blackpool is eight times more likely to commit suicide than the national average.  Lives are lived in sadness and despair.

I am walking along Central Drive and an Indian woman in a sari is nearly run over by a cyclist on the pavement:  “You Paki Bitch.”  He shouts.    In Blackpool there are problems.  And there are people who have been failed by every institution.   The very poorest most chaotic people are the ones who are in competition with immigrants for housing and jobs. Poverty equals crime, despair, drink and drugs.


Grayson Perry says that British Society consists of tribes.  Addicts socialise with addicts, prostitutes socialise with prostitutes, vicars socialise with vicars. We have a view about the world which  is really the view of ourselves and people like us. If  you walk round Blackpool on a busy day you will walk past paedophiles, murderers, addicts, drug dealers.  You will walk past children who are being abused.   A family were recently arrested for keeping their son in a locked shed in the garden.  You will pass children who do not eat regularly.  If you have walked through Blackpool in the past few years it is likely that you will have passed Charlene Downes and Paige Chivers and their relatives and the men convicted for Paige’s murder and the men charged with Charlene’s murder.


Tribes have many functions, they make themselves feel good  by disparaging other tribes, they provide company and mutual support, they enhance personal identity, they are a forum to discuss problems involving the tribe.  Attribution of blame is one function.  When a member of the BNP bombed a gay pub in London the Leader of the BNP Nick Griffin said that he found the conduct of the mourners distasteful.  Let me go over that again.  A BNP member bombs a gay pub and the leader of the BNP found the conduct of the mourners distasteful.

It isn’t all dark in Blackpool, I know a man who used to be a postmen who goes to Uganda on a tiny pension to provide education.  When he is in Blackpool he helps provide food for homeless people.  A hairdresser cuts their hair if they want.  Week after week this man cuts hair for homeless people.

So I love Blackpool but there are things so dark they cling.  Darkest of these dark things is the fate of Charlene Downes and Paige Chivers. If there is a redemptive side… well stop right there… there isn’t. It is said that suffering makes you a better person but   I think it makes you a worse person.   I do not think that Charlene and Paige  were  different to anybody except that they were poor. Bruce Springsteen sang in Atlantic City:

“Down here it’s just winners and losers

And you don’t want to get caught on the wrong side of that line.” .


Blackpool may be the paedophile capital of Britain.   A convicted paedophile would find life difficult in Burnley or Rochdale. Paedophiles or suspected paedophiles are  attacked and killed in England.  Possibly one or two percent  of the male population  are true paedophiles:  they are aroused primarily or only by children.  Many of them realise that this is wrong and need help.  There is no treatment available for non-offending paedophiles. The demonisation of paedophiles has made it nearly impossible for non-offending paedophiles to seek help even though this reduces  the  offending rate.  The concensus  is that paedophilia is not a choice or a preference and that it is already established at birth. Convicted paedophiles come to Blackpool because they can  find housing and safety in the anonymous crowd.  It is likely that they are less closely supervised. After Charlene Downes’ disappearance it was found that about 60 young girls as young as eleven hung around “honey pots”, the take-aways around the town centre and Dickson Road where they could be offered drugs and alcohol in return for sex.  These take-aways are staffed by Asians. “Asian” is a broad-term:  Jesus was an Asian.

I have written elsewhere in “From smuggling at the Foxhall to Rent Boys at the Imperial” that  under-age rent boys are alleged to have been taken to  drink and drug fuelled party past the noses of the Police at the Conservative Conference  to  the Imperial.  These boys were not hard to find.
1 November 2003
Charlene had spent time with her sister Rebecca in Coral Island and then in MacDonalds.  At 6.45 pm the girls met their mother in Church Street. Rebecca went home.    Charlene rang her friends who came to meet her.
Charlene was fourteen years old.  She told her mother that she was going to the arcades on the Central Promenade.  She kissed her mother goodbye.   She was seen in Abingdon Street and in “Paki Alley” behind Clifton Street at the back of a number of takeaways where a group of local girls met takeaway workers.  The girls were given food, drink, drugs, cigarettes and sexual activity took place.
At 9.00 pm Charlene went with a friend to the Carousel Bar on North Pier.  They left at 10.00 pm and at 11.00 they parted.
That  is the last confirmed sighting of Charlene.
There is the  glimpse caught on CCTV.  Is this the last picture of Charlene Downes Is it Charlene?  Thirty three seconds of a girl with a taller older blonde woman in a long coat  turning off Talbot Road into Dickson Road at Ma Kellys.
The investigation was  difficult because Charlene had a number of contacts.  In all  60 men.  A number of sex offenders visited or stayed at her home.  At the time of her disappearance  there was a sex-offender lodger awaiting trial.   He and another visitor admitted a sexual act with Charlene.  When she was  nine she had accused a family friend who took her to school of raping her.  The case collapsed but it was as a result of this and an investigation by the Social Services that Charlene and her family moved from the West Midlands to Blackpool.  At the age of twelve a council worker saw scantily dressed Charlene picking up money from the bed and an older man dressing hastily.   Charlene was excluded  from St Georges School but she about to be readmitted.
The  Downes family were close and loving.  Charlene was cheeky.  Why were the Downes family so accomodating to sex criminals?  Possibly money was involved. Charlene was especially close to her sister Rebecca and had close relationship with her mother and father.  By the standards of chaotic households, by the standards of the sixty girls who frequented takeaways, Charlene came for a stable and loving home. Charlene may well have been a happy girl.
Because of the number of contacts the investigation was time-consuming.  There were two lines of enquiry… Charlene’s white contacts and the immigrant workers who entertained local girls in take-aways.  We get a glimpse of tensions in the investigation when a report was “leaked” which revealed that sixty local girls as young as eleven were being “groomed” in Asian-owned take-aways. The implication was that the investigation was being hampered by “political correctness.”  The other possibility is that a focus on take-aways distracted investigators into a wild goose chase.
A local businessman David  Cassidy told the investigators that Iyad Albattikhi’s brother Tareq had fallen out with Iyad and told him that Iyad had confessed to the murder.  Astonishingly the investigators had David Cassidy tape conversations with no instruction regarding leading questions.  David Cassidy had a history of dishonesty, he owed Iyad money and he was considering taking  part in a business which would be a rival to Funny Boyz which Iyad managed.
The investigators  regarded this as a breakthrough. Perhaps they were clutching at straws.   They concentrated their resources on Iyad Albattikhi, a Jordanian, and his business partner Mohammed Raveshi.  A number of conversations were taped using concealed microphones and as a result of these tapes Iyad and Mohammed were charged and tried.
There is no point  in avoiding the fact that most people found Iyad Albattikhi, 28,  annoying. He managed Funny Boyz named after Funny Girls,  the club where customers are entertained by transvestite singers and dancers.  He flirted and gave away  food to girls with short skirts.  After he was tried and acquitted for Charlene’s murder he was investigated five times for rape, although never charged.  He got in trouble for fondling a girl’s buttocks in a bar.  He assaulted his former girlfriend.  He   came over to the investigators as arrogant, sexually agressive and just  annoying.  When he was under investigation he did not modify his behaviour.  The investigators expected Asians to be compliant and Iyad was not .
 As Iyad pointed out the five allegations of rape came about after he had been acquitted for Paige’s murder.  Is it really possible to have five accusations of rape  and none of them substantiated?   Were the Police after Iyad because they believed him guilty, or they just found him annoying.   The politics of the Police are difficult to read.
Not a nice man .  But  a murderer?  There is no evidence.  And there are many people in Blackpool who are not nice men.  Only some of them are murderers.
The BNP in a program for “BNP Television” referred to the accused as “two Moslem gentleman” but knowing what we do of Iyad I think it implausible that he put in much time at the Mosque. He plied girls with drink and drugs. The problem was that he wasn’t Moslem enough.
Mohammed Raveshi, 55, was Iyad’s business partner and later accused of helping him dispose of the Charlene’s body.  He had been a sergeant in the Iranian Army and surprisingly was a foster parent and  had a good reputation for dealing with difficult children.
The evidence consisted of tapes mainly of conversations between Iyad and Mohammed.  The quality was very poor and linguistic experts and translators disagreed  with the interpretation put on the tapes by the Prosecution.    The most striking  piece of the tapes seemed to have the accused saying that Charlene had “gone into the kebabs.”  This was the line that the Prosecution took.
It seems to me that this was a  way of referring to Charlene’s disappearance.
The Jury could not agree and a retrial was planned.  At this point the Crown Prosecution Service withdrew the case because there were “grave doubts” about the quality of the evidence.  The Downes family were devastated.  The investigators had probably briefed the family that they had no doubt that Iyad and Mohammed were responsible.  Later the BNP were to say that Iyad and Mohammed  were released on a technicality.  The technicality being lack of evidence. The thing that seemed to especially annoy the BNP is that Iyad and Mohammed were awarded £250000 each for wrongful arrest.
There were many flaws in the Prosecution case.  There is no evidence that Iyad or Mohammed knew Charlene, there are not witnesses the Charlene was at Funny Boyz  and the prosecution’s claim that Charlene was put into kebabs is implausible.  The Police at the time and the BNP believed that they had the culprits and that the problem was the quality of the evidence.  The BNP also claimed that the jury had been intimidated or bribed but they have not produced evidence.
 Evidence is Kryptonite to the BNP.
(The English Defence League and the British National Party are two far-right organisations.  They are best known for street demonstrations.)
Nick Griffin the leader of the BNP  thought he had a propaganda gift.  The BNP were trying to present themselves as a “normal party.”  Their slogan was “people like you.”  Nick Griffin was a decisive swing towards “normal” from the synagogue bombing  gay Nazi clique (really)  that had led the party.  And the BNP had some electoral success in northern towns and in elections for European Parliament.    I risk being ostracised but I have  a soft spot for Nick. He had a challenge on his hands.  The BNP has many strands.  One strand is the Nazi Right.  Why a  dandruffy flatulent man with halitosis called Hitler who had a gift for epic  failure should capture the imagination of such notables as Ian Brady is difficult to say.  Maybe it is charisma, maybe it is the  imagery and propaganda of the Nazis or maybe they find in him a symbol of narcissistic nihilism.  Some people in the BNP are unreserved in their admiration for the man with the odd moustache. Another faction of the BNP have a deep  interest in guns and bombs. The BNP has a good number of paedophiles and sex-criminals amongst its supporters.
Another problem for Nick was that his party has an extraordinary number of  eccentrics and rivals plotting to seize power.   This  involves endless reptilian plotting and counter plotting.  Then there is the sleaziness involving finances. The  BNP’s undisputed talent is its ability to shoot itself in the foot.  Every  time they make headway in the middle ground one of their members will leave a bomb in a gay pub or something and they have to start over again.  On top of these problems  a body of BNP supporters don’t want the Party elected.  They enjoy street violence and intimidation not sitting in council meetings discussing  dog-fouling.
In my pursuit of what an ordinary BNP member was like  I took  a look at a  BNP Website, it was based in Yorkshire, and it was enormously entertaining.  A  member complained that he went to a BNP meeting and there was a Chinese person there.  Another went on a BNP trip  to Amsterdam and the organiser got drunk and led them to a brothel and   was so drunk in the morning  that he kept a coachload of activists waiting for an hour.  Another complained about a prospective candidate being a “Naziboy.” A pop-up appeared advertising an Islamic Singles website.
At this stage the still  to be overthrown leader Nick Griffin was campaigning about the “Islamification” of Britain.  So here was a case that linked Islam, the murder of a white child, and the grooming of white children by immigrants and cannibalism.  There were demonstrations outside Funny Boyz.
The EDL were involved in the early demonstrations.  Then somebody (surely somebody in the Police ) “leaked” a file to the EDL which had background material about Charlene.  Whether it was this or the fact that the BNP seemed to have monopolised Karen Downes’ attention or an unfortunate incident where Robert Downes Junior  threatened door staff with the EDL their ardour for the Charlene Downes case cooled.
The BNP had a propaganda success with the Justice for Charlene campaign.  “BNP Television” fronted by a man of really  jaw-dropping creepiness (I am biassed see for yourself) promoted demonstrations in Blackpool outside Funny Boyz.  Much was made of the fact that the Crown Prosecution Service representative was a Muslim, Nazir Afzal . The BNP did offer support to the Downes family in a way that no other organisation did.  Their “Justice for Charlene” campaign was completely about re-opening the case against Albattiki and Raveshi.  The BNP had a story that involved Islam, the murder of a white girl, paedophile Asians and cannibalism.  The BNP played the kebab card  heavily.
The story of a Christian child being killed and partly eaten by Jews is the foundation myth for pogroms against the Jews throughout the Middle Ages.  It was claimed that a child Hugh of Lincoln was killed by the Jews and parts of his body eaten in a Jewish ritual,  his body miraculously discovered when he sang despite being dead.  He was made a Saint by the Pope and Chaucer tells his story.  Then he was unmade a Saint by another Pope.  This story crops up again and again.  There is still a martyred Christian child in the Russian Orthodox Church.  This is the pre-cursor to the Jewish Conspiracy which  influenced the Nazis.
It is impossible to say that something could definitely not happen because we are all here as a result of an infinite number of  impossible things.  With that reservation Charlene was not put into kebabs.  To butcher any creature requires a skilled butcher, specialist, tools, a lot of space and  of time.  An experienced butcher would find a human being difficult.   When a creature is butchered  a quarter  cannot be used  and has to be disposed of.  It is said that human flesh has a distinctive taste.
If you put those together is   unlikely that Charlene was put into kebabs.
Observant readers may have noticed that I haven’t much time for the BNP.  I do not agree with Socialists who say that racists should not be given a platform.  This strikes me as self-righteous bullying and a kind of pointless bossiness which is sadly a feature of left wing politics. The BNP is not an intellectually rigorous organisation and should not be taken too seriously.  The BNP did offer comfort to the Downes family .  The BNP had quite a following in Blackpool and their propaganda was well put together.  If you have a campaign called “Justice for Charlene” it is difficult to dissent.  I believe in justice for Charlene.
The BNP arranged a memorial for Charlene in 2008.  Whether you regard it as moving or ludicrous depends  on your point of view. To me it is both.
The sympathetic view first.  The BNP had kept the case in the public eye through their demonstrations.  They had offered support to the Downes family. They had challenged the conduct of the Police and the judiciary.  They arranged a ceremony at the Crematorium.  The ceremony did express an outpouring of grief and it must have brought comfort to the family.
 _82784623_98377919                               The “Reverend” Robert West.  The BNP’s Religious Consultant.
The contrary vision is that the “Order of Service”,  as the BNP curiously called it conducted by the Reverend Robert West was embarassing.  The Reverend Robert West has never been ordained.  He was a supply teacher who lost his job when he explained to his pupils that Moslems worshipped the Devil.
He took to dressing as a vicar.    I cannot find it in my heart to be too hard on the Reverend West because he combines two organisations with  stratospheric levels  of loopiness:  the Church of England and the BNP.  National treasure ?
The BNP literature about the event demonstrates a vertigenous  dive from coherence into drivel, well really it would have to improve a lot to merit the term “drivel.”   It seems the problem is not just “Moslems” but also Zionists, Freemasons and Traitors.   You will see that Nick Griffin had a task on his hands when he set out to “normalise” the Party.  The literature also makes a connection between Charlene Downes and Paige Chivers.
“They distrote things” from Karen Downes’ Facebook
I admire Karen Downes.   If I had kissed my daughter goodbye and never seen her again I don’t know in what state I would be.  Karen is a fighter.  She fizzles with energy.  She has consistently brought Charlene’s case to public attention.  She has not  given  in, as I  would,  to despair.
There are times when you want to beg her to  shut up.  Somebody should tell her that you don’t always have to put everything you think on Facebook.
Most people have  inappropriate thoughts.  And they realise that they have crossed a line. That is not Karen’s way.  Karen announces them on Facebook.  Take the “minging ugly baby.”  Karen posted a picture of a baby with its mother.  It was a happy delightful picture.  And she put: “What a minging ugly baby.”  It will  come as no surprise that the baby is a black baby in Africa.  Not a Moslem, or an immigrant.  Adolf Hitler would not have done this on the grounds of good taste.  It is so beyond the boundaries  that it becomes comical.
If I had lost my daughter I might be so consumed by hatred and loathing  that I would hate any portrayal of happiness.
Karen’s lack of self-censorship resulted in other infelicities.  At one point she proposed an event to finance a memorial for Charlene that would include male-strippers and sex toys.  The EDL were shocked.
She encourages violence  against anybody she takes a dislike to.
Her  beliefs leave no room for evidence.  An example: after the trial when the jury could not agree at the trial of Iyad and Mohammed  Robert Downes Junior went out and got drunk.  I would have done the same.  The doormen at Ma Kellys would not let him in.  So he threatened them with the EDL.  The next day he was bruised.  He said he had been attacked by doormen from Ma Kellys.   Karen Downes said that the doormen worked for Iyad Alkabatti.  The BNP said that Robert had been attacked by; “friends of Moslems. ” Somebody replied on social media that this had not happened and that the doormen’s version, that Robert was drunk and abusive and had been turned away peacefully, was  confirmed by CCTV.   Karen’s reply was those doormen: “they distrote things.”
Karen’s closeness to the BNP  and conviction that Iyad and Mohammed were responsible may involve a desire to connect the murder with  “outsiders.”
Karen is what Karen is: a fireball, an explosion of venom, a tireless campaigner, a fury.
We may be aghast but we have not suffered as she and her family have suffered.
Charlene’s family  continued to be convinced that Iyad and Mohammed were responsible for Charlene’s murder.  Karen stabbed her husband Robert who forgave her.  Robert Junior and Emma got in trouble over tensions with Iyad and Mohammed who continued to live in the area.  In an unexpected turn of events a New Zealander turned up and announced that he was in love with Karen.  Karen had a court order to prevent him harassing her.  Karen’s daughter Rebecca  assaulted her mother.  Karen announced that she was going to put it all behind her and go off with the New Zealander. Her BNP comrades may have pointed out that he was an immigrant.   Then she fell out with the New Zaealander and threatened him with violence.
There is clearly a strong bond between Karen and Robert and the family, may they find peace.
After the collapse of the trial Detective Sergeant Jan Besant who had many hours transcribing the tapes of  Iyad and Mohammed was told to resign.  She did so and then she claimed successfully that she had been wrongly dismissed.
The Service for Charlene and the Justice for Charlene campaign were the high-water mark for the BNP.  Nick Griffin had a lot to be pleased about.  There were two BNP MEPs and a  number of BNP councillors especially in the North West  and in Dagenham.  An MP once called Mrs Thatcher “Dagenham.”  When asked to explain he said it was two stops beyond Barking.  The Party had support in Blackpool and the Justice for Charlene campaign was a popular success .  Many shops displayed the poster not realising that it was connected to the BNP.
What could possibly go wrong?
Amongst the BNP supporters who helped with leaflets and demonstations were Bob Ewing and Gareth Dewhurst.
A Crimewatch report on the 4 December 2014 retraced the last hours of Charlene Downes.  Karen and Rebecca Downes spoke with  dignity and sorrow.  I felt a sense of Charlene as she was, a happy girl who was killed.  It is still available on BBC I-player.
A reward of £100000 was offered.  It may be that friends of Charlene who would not talk to investigators at the time will now come forward.
Justice for Charlene is possible.


Paige Chivers

Paige Chivers

This is Paige Chivers.

And this is Paige Chivers aged fifteen on a poster printed when she was still believed to be missing.

missing poster

The older  Paige looks  troubled.  Something has happened.  In that beautiful face there is  wariness, mistrust.   We project interpretations.  Blackpool is a small town and my friend talked to Paige at a bus-stop a couple of weeks before she disappeared.  She says that Paige was a bit scary, wanted to show her scars on her neck.

Paige Chivers had much to be troubled about.  She was excluded from school. She was drinking and taking drugs mainly amphetamines, she was promiscuous.  Her mother had died.  Her father was a drinker, a heroin user, and he blamed Paige  for her mother’s death.  Paige’s father Frank was violent, he hit Paige for taking drugs, somewhat ignoring the fact that he took drugs himself.  She went to the same take-aways as Charlene Downes.  Bereavement, drug problems, friction with her father, exclusion from school.  Paige was an isolated and  troubled child.

There were  stable elements in Paige Chivers’ life.   She had a close friend Tiffany Bell.  They would take drugs and chat.  And there was Bob Ewing.  A kindly uncle he let the girls use his flat and drink and take drugs and talk about their lives.

23 August 2007 Paige packed her belongings into two carrier-bags.  Her father Frank had told her on the phone that he would kill her after money was missing from Frank’s wallet.  You will recall that Frank was a heroin user, probably an addict.  Frank had lost his wife, blamed Paige and Frank  had addiction and drink problems.  He was, like many people in Blackpool, occasionally getting in trouble for offences involving drink, drugs and  violence.

Paige was seen at a bus-stop with an older man.  The following day she was seen at Bob Ewing’s flat at tea-time.    And then nothing.


The BNP were quick to link the cases of Charlene Downes and Paige Chivers.  I am unable to resist a leaflet that was handed on on Dickson Road. Crazy it also has an unsettling beauty.  Naive art?


poster from bnp

We last saw the BNP in a moment of triumph.  The BNP had two Euro-MPs.  True to BNP tradition one of them resigned and formed a faction aimed at getting rid of Nick Griffin.   Nick Griffin resigned and was replaced  by Adam Walker pending an election.walker

Adam Walker

The English Defence League had been led by Tommy Robinson.  He was imprisoned for fraud involving mortgages.

More pragmatic  followers  moved to UKIP.  The votes and membership of the Far Right evaporated.  Those who remained  were   the kind of supporter that Nick Griffin  wanted to eliminate.  A  Far Right circus: ideologically driven, bitter,  angry and  few.  The increasing loopiness of the rump BNP found voice in criticisms of Nick Griffin: that he was tolerant, liberal and a Zionist.  Nick Griffin had been upstaged by UKIP.

Nick Griffin had a following in Blackpool and he visited the town probably hoping to launch a new leadership bid.  The BNP’s moment was past.  Nick Griffin had taken the party to the verge of a breakthrough, then it had rejected him.  Given events  he may wish that he had never heard of Blackpool.


Paige often went missing for days and it was days before Frank reported her missing to the Police. The Police switchboard made a mistake and reported Paige’s date of birth as 1962.

This error delayed a search. Paige’s disappearance was reported three days after she was missing and the error was not corrected until twelve days later.  It took time to realise that this was not an ordinary runaway teenager.  There were no sightings and no evidence of activity.  Paige Chivers did not claim an inheritance left to her by her mother.  There was no evidence that Paige was working or claiming benefits or using the health service.  By February 2012 the search was a murder enquiry.  The last sighting of Paige was at Bob Ewing’s flat at tea time on the day after she left home.  The day before she had been seen with an older man at a bus-stop.


The Police had reason to be suspicious of Bob Ewing.  He had been imprisoned for a year in 1995 for gross indecency involving a thirteen year old.   He had almost certainly been questioned in regard to the disappearance of Charlene Downes.  He was the person last seen with Paige Chivers.  It is likely that the hesitancy of investigators regarding Bob Ewing is connected to nervousness following the acquittal of Iyad and Mohammed.

If Paige had been killed where was the body?  The investigators probably never doubted Robert Ewing’s involvement.  They noted his close relationship with Gareth Dewhurst.  Gareth Dewhurst and Robert Ewing had met through their involvement in the BNP in Blackpool.  They had helped in the BNP’s campaign by handing out leaflets.  In the small world of Blackpool BNP they almost certainly met Charlene’s mother and father.    They described themselves as “Neo-Nazis.”  A friend of mine met Gareth years ago at a drinking session.  He shouted: “Sluts” through the window of the Ladies Toilets and ran off.  He was called “Rusty” because of his red hair.  He is very often described as “weird.”

They were questioned without success.  The investigators planted microphones in Bob Ewing’s home.  At this time Bob and Gareth were aware of the techniques used in the Charlene Downes’ case and they referred to the possibility that their conversations were taped.

Gareth and Bob  tried to intimidate witnesses and to lay false trails.  Bob  accused a man who had recently died of being the killer and he claimed that he had been heard a “confession” on the phone.

Gareth who worked as a painter and decorator and as a handyman and as a caretaker at Blackpool and Fylde Naval College  confessed to Michael Washer who was 15 or 16.  Michael was the son of Gareth’s girlfriend at the time.  Gareth   smoked a great deal of marijuana.   Eventually the son had told his mother who had told him to tell the Police.  The lad did.  When asked in court why he had not gone to the Police earlier he said with admirable concision: “It is not the done thing in our circles.”  Michael said that Gareth repeated the story.

Frank Chivers, Paige’s father,  was murdered in an unrelated incident.  He was involved in argument over twenty-pounds.  We recall that Paige left home in as a result of an argument over money.

The investigators and the suspects were playing cat and mouse.  Both of the suspects tried to muddy the water by laying false trails, intimidating witnesses and being uncooperative.   This state went on for eight years.  The Police were  cautious because  of the failure of the case against Iyad Alkabatti  and Mohammed Raveshi when the evidence obtained by microphone was inconclusive.  Finally the investigators were able to charge Gareth and Bob.  The evidence was totally circumstantial and the absence of a body made it difficult.  There were small blood stains from Paige in the house, there was Gareth’s confession, there were tapes were the crime was mentioned and there were diary entries by Bob which  refer to Paige.


In April 2015 the trial began at Preston Crown Court.  Bob Ewing (60) was accused of murder and attempting to pervert the course of justice.  Gareth Dewhurst (45) was accused of helping Bob Ewing conceal the body and having committed a sexual act with the body of Paige

Gareth Dewhurst

Robert Ewing: guilty of murdering Paige Chivers.

Bob Ewing

The last charge seems to come from a gothic fairy tale and recalls the story of Charlene being put into kebabs.  It derives  from Gareth’s confessions.  Gareth had said that Bob Ewing had forced him to have sex with Paige’s body.

How do you go about forcing somebody to have sex with a corpse?  Irrespective of whether it is true or not it demonstrates the kind of hold that Bob had over Gareth. Gareth: neo-Nazi, marijuana smoking, weird bully was not a deeply bad person. It is a happy thing for our peace of mind that Gareth was acquitted on this charge.

I will not dwell on the trial  There was one piece of evidence that I found compelling.

Six days before Paige vanished Bob Ewing rang up the Police Switchboard and asked for advice about how he should deal with a fifteen year old “problem child” who turned up at his door.  The conversation lasts for more than six minutes and is riveting because we see how Bob portrays himself.  He is ingratiating, bumbling,  perplexed, establishes rapport.  He is the plain man in a puzzling world he scarcely understands.  The result of the conversation is that Bob Ewing believes that if Paige turns up on his doorstep with a shopping bag full of clothes nothing much will happen.

The conversation can be heard on the Gazette website: .

So at that point six days before Paige’s disappearance Bob is considering what will happen if Paige comes to his house.  I do not believe he was thinking that he would kill her. But he was prepared to kill her.  This goes back to Bob’s year in prison in 1995 for “gross indecency” with a thirteen year old girl.  Bob was determined he would not go to prison again.

What happened is unknown.  My guess  is that  Paige, tough and streetwise, rebuffed Bob and said she would tell the Police. Bob’s previous conviction was not known to the Jury at the time of the trial but it does add a motive.    And then Bob killed her with a hammer.

Then he rang up Gareth.  And they put the body in the van and drove.  Where?  There’s a question.  If Bob didn’t have a car the places he could look at would be limited.  They may have thought of somewhere while in the van.  You wouldn’t want to be seen taking a body out of a van so that would suggest night and  isolation.  And somewhere close by.  But  this is speculation for all we know they could have driven to Cornwall.  Then Gareth destroyed the van.

Gareth and Bob denied the crime.  They were found guilty.  Bob was sentenced to thirty-three years and Gareth to eight.  Gareth was acquitted of the the charge involving sex and the body of Paige Chivers.


Bob was the mastermind.  Gareth may have been overwhelmed by Bob.  If Gareth had not met Bob he might have led a blame-free life with his marijuana and his Nazi fantasies.  Maybe  he met somebody who transformed those fantasies into realities.


Bob and Gareth will probably appeal.  My guess is that the appeal will fail.  Then they will fall out.  Bob and Gareth will blame one another.  Gareth feels the burden of guilt more than Bob.  Gareth’s  stoned confession was an attempt to alleviate guilt.  There is a possibility that Gareth will confess.  It will make no difference to Bob.  Even Bob may feel guilt.  In an odd piece of the recorded surveillance of his home he says to himself: “You don’t mess with me.  Quick hammer over the head then they will be sorry.”

Most people  relive guilt and want to unburden themselves.

Suppose that Paige rebuffed Bob and threatened to go to the Police.  The chances are that she wouldn’t do that anyway.  But if she did what is the most serious charge?  A fifteen year old girl loses her life because she is a remote possible threat.    You cannot help but wonder what it is like to be Bob Ewing.  It would be interesting to be Bob Ewing for a short time but it would be very unpleasant to be Bob Ewing.  And is it that surprising that a Neo-Nazi lacks empathy?


Does the Paige Chivers disappearance cast any light on the Charlene Downes disappearance?  Possibly. The suspects are:


Regardless of the acquittal of Iyad and Mohammed  the staff of take-aways  form one group of suspects. From all points of view it is puzzling that Charlene drops from view at 11.00 pm.  This would be a busy time on the streets and in take-ways.


Charlene had many contacts with older white men.  Because Charlene was young looking  she may have appealed especially to paedophiles.  And she had a number of contacts.



The BNP  pointed out similarities between the disappearance of Charlene Downes and Paige Chivers.   Two girls disappear.  They are similar in age.  They have troubled backgrounds  The victims are of an age that interests Bob Ewing.  And we know that he has experience socialising with girls of that age.  Bob tried to confuse the Paige investigation with false leads.  If Bob were guilty his work for the BNP to throw suspicion on Iyad and Mohammed could be a way of promoting a false lead. His contact with the BNP gave him  insight into investigation techniques.  When Bob rang up the Police Switchboard about Paige he was gathering intelligence.

When he killed Paige, Bob Ewing had a plan.  The absence of a body stalled the enquiry.  Could this be because he had done it before? Disappeared a body?

Consider the points that Bob has in common with the Downes family:  his age is similar to that of Robert Downes.  They both have military experience. They are both BNP supporters, Bob Ewing is a convicted paedophile as were many visitors to the Downes’ household.

Could there have been contact between Charlene and Bob Ewing?

The similarity may be  coincidental.  It is  possible that Ewing learned from the disappearance of Charlene Downes, that the absence of a body makes a murder conviction difficult.


While the BNP were campaigning about: “Muslim Paedophile Killers” one of their supporters was a paedophile and would become a killer.  Actually there was another paedophile: Michael Kinnear was a BNP supporter living in Fairfield Avenue, North Shore.  When a thirteen year old girl went missing from her foster-home the Police asked questioned him and he denied seeing her.  Six days later she was discovered at his home.  He was imprisoned for 33 months and on release moved to Morecambe where at present (august 2015) he is awaiting sentencing for taking and distributing sexual images of a seven year old girl.

Are the BNP appropriate  people to be campaigning against paedophiles?  I emailed the BNP with this question  but have not received a reply.  They used to have campaign to execute paedophiles.  A paedophile might think that being a member of the BNP offered camouflage… like being a Priest…

The fact that some people in the BNP are paedophiles and murderers does not mean that all people in the BNP are paedophiles.  People in all major parties are paedophiles and people in  the Liberal Party have allegedly  taken part in a conspiracy to kill.

Consider John Rabe.


John Rabe saved 250000 Chinese people during the Japanese invasion of China by establishing Safe Zones in Nanking.  After the war he was unemployed and he and his family had to search the woodlands for food.  When the people in  Nanking heard they sent money.

John Rabe was a Nazi.  I am not defending Nazis I am saying that this world is utterly strange.

In this world anything does happen.

I long to see justice done for Charlene and  her family  because Charlene is part of us and her fate is something we share.


Blackpool air crash. The Flying Handbag. Blackpool psychogeography.

A tragic air accident and a haunting  story… Blackpool has a long aviation history.  Sir Hiram Maxim whose invention the machine gun changed the world created the ride which is still in use at Blackpool Pleasure Beach and conducted the first heavier than air flight.    He  was a visitor to the early airshows at Squires Gate. In 1935 there were two airports the one at Squires Gate and one at Stanley Park.  On Saturday 7 September 1935 visitors looked up to see  five aircraft. This was at a time when a single aircraft was an unusual sight.  Four of the aircraft were  flown by Alan Cobham’s Air Circus.  The fifth aircraft was a small Avro Bi-Plane flown by Captain Robert William Patrick Stewart who had been in the Canadian Air Force.  On board the Avro  were Lilian Barnes, 33, and her sister Doris, 30.   The Avro was above the centre of Blackpool when it flew upward towards the Westland..  The propellor of the Westland cut the Avro in two.  Shocked visitors saw the body of Lilian somersaulting from the aircraft.  She struck a tree in Leopold Grove and fell to the ground  missing a nine year old girl.    She landed with such force that her shoes were torn off. The tail of the Avro landed in Cedar Square.  The rest of the Avro caught the roof  of 3 Swainson Street and crashed into the street where it caught fire.   Just before the crash Doris was thrown from the aircraft and lay in Swainson Street.  Firemen pulled the pilot from the aircraft which was burning.  The aircraft exploded.  Incredibly a witness  said that the pilot was still alive.  He was very badly injured and died almost immediately.  There were no survivors from the Avro. aircraft accident The pilot of the Westland made a skilful landing without injury. Lilian and Doris were two of three sisters.  They were: “small and plump and pretty with fair hair and bright eyes.”  They were in the dancing troupe of the Amateur Operatic Society.   Lilian was housekeeper and looked after her blind mother. Doris and her other sister worked at a hairdressers.   The sisters lived at Gloucester Avenue.   All the sisters were keen on flying and had flown many times.   The inquest recorded a verdict of “Death by Misadventure.”  Reading an account of the inquest it is not clear whether Captain Stewart was part of the Flying Circus or whether he had joined it independently out of a  sense of adventure.  He  misread a signal by one of the other pilots who waved to him to indicate that he should fly lower.  Captain Stewart  waved back seconds before the impact. Possibly  the inquest attempted to spare the feelings of the bereaved relatives.   The coroner praised Captain Stewart for avoiding the Bus Station and crashing into a quiet area.   Lilian and her sister Doris were buried at Marton Burial Ground.  There were 6000 mourners.  Many  waited for hours and sat on gravestones eating packed lunches. During the service and aircraft dipped its wings in tribute and a Police Officer warned the crowd that a pick pocket was at work.  Amongst the crowd hawkers were selling postcards of the accident. aircrash victims I have been told that many years after the accident a handbag was found on the roof of a house near Swainson Street.  From 1993 to 2005 there was a gay pub called the Flying Handbag near Swainson Street. It has since been demolished and a new gay pub called the Flying Handbag was built in Queen Street.  I was told  that the Flying Handbag was called after the handbag found on the roof.  Is this true?  I leave it to you. Swainson Street is no more.  The site is occupied by the new Sainsburys.  Close by is New Lark Hill Street  named after Lark Hill Street  the site of another fatal aircrash during the Second World War.


I walked around the area.  These are some pictures.

Pub of the Year is the Ramsden.  The Ramsden was a meeting place for Blackpool’s Rammy Boys a football gang. The Yorkshire Bank is included because some day I hope to do a  walk around Blackpool’s most distressing buildings.  The fish stall on Abingdon Street Market is above an intact Victorian Prison Cell.  The occupants would not have been very far from people buried in St John’s Churchyard.  Many remains were not removed when the road was widened and an archaeological survey found that many  had false teeth.  One young lady was buried in an unusual fish-shaped coffin and poignantly the remains of a floral tribute were found in the coffin.  The building being demolished is the Hippodrome which became the ABC where the Beatles performed twice and the song “Yesterday” was first televised.  I was intrigued by short ladder,

The tree is in Leopold Grove.  I do not know if is the tree that Lilian struck.   The EWS sign is a reminder of the war.   The rest is just stuff and I have no idea what the girls in green and the chef are doing outside the Washington.

I assume that Leopold Grove was called after King Leopold of Belgium a mass-murderer.


Blackpool and Myra Hindley

We are in deep waters here. Discussion of Myra takes two forms.  I will call it Myraporn.   There is the lowbrow Myraporn which is exemplified by some paper which showed images of Myra over nearly forty years when her appearance changed and noted that the thing all the images had in common were her “evil eyes.”  The alternative is the highbrow Myraporn which involves sociology and psychology and criminal profiling and interviews with experts and pointless ruminations. I am interested in Myra because she is interesting.  Ian is interesting too, but less interesting.  So what possible excuse is there to include Myra Hindley in a study of Blackpool Crime?  Well the reasons are  slim but real.  Myra Hindley set out to write an autobiography.  She gave up because she was not able to truthfully describe her actions.  At least that is what I think.  The book was to be called: “One of your own.” As you can guess from the title Myra Hindley was seeking to express the idea that she was no different from any other girl born at her time in the North West of England.  Few images could express the idea more eloquently than the one below.

Myra Hindley in Blackpool

Myra Hindley in Blackpool

In the background is Central Pier.  The advertisement on the side of the Pier is for Ken Dodd.  Slightly out of shot to the right is Blackpool Tower and to the right of Myra is  Tussauds Waxworks where Myra’s image remains.  I am guessing that she is fifteen or sixteen in this shot.  She doesn’t look evil to me.  She looks happy and confident.  She is three years from meeting Ian Brady, eight years from being convicted for her part in the Moors Murders and forty-five years from dying.  So this is a photograph of Myra amidst icons of North West life even if some of them are out of shot.  She was to become an icon herself. Myra Hindley’s closest friend was Pat Jebson and  from the age of nine to fourteen Myra used to go to Blackpool with Pat’s parents, Pat and her brother Michael.  Disconcertingly for Michael investigators discovered notes about him amongst items they recovered from Ian and Myra.  .  Michael is now a taxi-driver.  He says that Pat and Myra were no longer close after Myra met Ian.  Michael’s words: “She was a good girl then, just a lass from the estate who seemed like one of us”  sum up the central puzzle about Myra: was she just like everybody else but subject to unusual circumstances, or was she different?  I think she was more like everybody else than we care to think. It is worth recalling that although this photograph looks as if it could have been taken yesterday that if the Myra in the photograph had a bath it would have been a tin bath filled with water boiled on the oven.  If she went to the toilet it would be to an outside toilet.  She lived in Gorton.  It was a poor tightly knit community.  St Francis Monastery  which some regard as  the finest Victorian  Gothic building.   Catholicism played a continuing part in her life.  When she was dying her hand was held by Father Michael Teader. When Ian Brady hid evidence including the tapes of Lesley Ann Downey in a British Rail left luggage store Myra hid the ticket in a prayer-book she had been given for her First Communion. If Myra Hindley had not met Ian Brady she would  have been a wife and mother.  She was looked on as a young teenager as a dependable baby-sitter.  She was an athelete and bright.  She was able to defend herself against boys her own age.  Her father Bob taught her to fight .  She formed an unlikely friendship with Michael Higgins who she protected.  At the age of thirteen she saw him in a religious procession and the same day he drowned in a disused reservoir at Mellands Fields.  Myra saw his body. Myra dyed her hair blonde.  She had judo lessons. After various jobs ( in those days you could leave a job one day and get another the next)  she was interviewed and got a job at Millwards a company supplying chemicals to the cotton industry.  There were fifteen employees.  One of them was Ian Brady.  Myra fell completely in love with Ian Brady and started writing a diary in which he featured.  She was eighteen.  Ian was twenty-two. Ian Brady was the illegitimate son of a tea-room waitress in Glasgow.  His mother decided that he would be better off with foster parents and his foster family was loving and close and his mother visited him regularly.  He was a clever lad.  When he was eleven he tied his friend to some railings, piled newspaper at his feet and set fire to them.  As his friend said:  “We were a rough bunch of lads but Ian was the roughest.” His mother moved to Manchester to get married and Ian became involved in crime.  When he faced a serious sentence he agreed to move to Manchester with his mother and step-father. They got on and Ian worked as a market porter.  He again got in trouble for theft and was sent to borstal.  When he returned to Manchester he studied book-keeping.  He got a job at Millwards. Ian had an experience when younger and  he was on holiday with his adopted family.  It was to do with the landscape of Scotland and is close to the kind of pantheistic experience that Wordsworth had in the Lake District.   It was this experience that drew him to the Moors. After a year Myra and Ian became lovers.   Religion played a part in Myra’s life, as in a way it did in Ian’s.  The first film they saw was ” King of Kings,”  about Jesus.  Myra dragged Ian into Midnight Mass although he refused to go to a Catholic Service and settled for an Anglican Service. Ian was tall and good-looking and well-read.  He was sophisticated by Gorton standards although Myra had to teach him how to kiss. There were aspects of Ian’s character which might have given pause  to a potential partner.  He was fond of spending time in gay pubs which he described as “people-watching”.  He was interested in sadism and he fantasised about raping children.  It is assumed that the basic polarities in sexuality are between straight and gay but another dimension is dominance and submissiveness.  In some people the sadistic/masochistic orientation is stronger than the straight/gay dimension. Ian Brady was a sadist.  When Investigators studied his photographs they found pictures of Myra in split-crotch panties and with whip-marks.  Sadists are uncomplicated people.  Myra Hindley was a masochist.  Masochists are far more complex  and socially skilled and imaginative. Suppose that you are a masochist.  You want somebody to beat you but they have to beat you in the right way:  you need the social skills to bring about the situation that you want whilst leaving the sadist under the impression that he is in control.  For what its worth I believe Hitler was a masochist.  The number of Hitler’s girlfriends who committed suicide or attempted to commit suicide, I make it five, suggests that there was something  rum going on in the Hitler household.    Hitler’s artistic interests, his imagination and his social skills suggest  a masochist.   Masochists can enjoy causing pain to others because they identify with the victim.  Hitler used to give early speeches carrying a whip.  He was fond of quoting Nietzsche: “You go to a woman?  Take a whip.”  Hitler’s speeches have a recurring theme of violence. Renata Mueller a film actress who had a relationship with Hitler and later committed suicide claimed that Hitler had begged her to kick him. There is a strange absence of information.  We know pretty much about the love lives of Stalin, Churchill, Mussolini  and Roosevelt but we know nothing about Hitler’s love life.  It is hard to imagine a more damaging claim  than that of Renata Mueller.  Hitler’s niece Geli also had a relationship with Hitler and committed suicide.  In her case Hitler was very controlling. However the  topic of Hitler’s love-life is muddied by propaganda. The more disconcerting  possibility is that Hitler was  normal.

I digress.  My contention is that the combination of Myra’s masochism and Ian’s sadism made for an intense relationship and the paradox of this kind of relationship which is that the sadistic Ian is manipulated into meeting the requirements of the masochistic Myra. Ian Brady was fascinated by the Nazis and by the works of the Marquis de Sade.  Myra was said by friends to become more unfriendly and to dress more provocatively with short skirts and boots (it was around this time that the term “kinky boots” was in use) and to “talk posh.”  This was a time of great change.  Wages were  good and Myra and Ian could afford things that would have been unthinkable to Myra’s mother: wine, a motorcycle, a car, a camera, guns, a tape recorder. The old community of Gorton was cleared and Myra moved with her grandmother to 16 Wardle Brook, Hattersly, where she had a garden, a bathroom and indoor toilet and greater privacy.  Myra installed a cigarette vending machine.

Pauline Reade was sixteen years old.  She loved dancing and she and her friend would arrange to wear the same style of clothes when they went out together.  On Friday 12 July 1963 Pauline wanted to go to a dance at the Railway and Social Club.  Pauline’s mother made an effort to find a companion to go with her but in the end Pauline set out on her own at 7.30.  Pauline’s friends were stunned that Pauline, a shy girl, would go on her own.  Myra knew Pauline and as she was walking to the Club Myra offered her a lift in the Ford Prefect she had borrowed.  Ian was following on his Tiger Cub motorcycle.  Myra made the excuse of looking for a lost glove to entice Pauline to Hollins Brown Knoll on Saddleworth Moor.  Pauline lived next door but one to Myra’s sister Maureen. On the way back from Hollins Brown Point Myra and Ian passed Pauline’s mother and her brother Paul who were looking for Pauline. Pauline’s mother continued to search exhaustingly for Pauline.  She prayed at St Francis Monastery. After Pauline’s murder there was a surreal episode when Myra met and had an affair with a married policeman.  He also bought Myra’s van on behalf of a friend.  The van that had been used to take Myra to Hollins Brown Knoll.  The policeman was Norman Sutton and the affair was exposed years later by the Sun.  This destroyed Norman Sutton’s career and many years later he  died in a Nursing Home in Blackpool.  Norman Sutton encouraged Myra to join the police and she says she attended a first interview.  Ian Brady pretended to be amused by the affair, but Norman Sutton claimed that Ian came to see him and threatened him.  Myra broke off the affair. I will only mention the other murders briefly.  Three more murders were committed.  Ian was becoming more adventurous and the murder of Lesley Ann Down was committed in the home.  It was taped and photographs were taken. And then the couple stopped.  There was a strange interlude between boxing day 1964 and October 1965.    Ian had spoken of committing the “perfect murder.”  He seemed to have succeeded.  Ian and Myra had started a friendship with her sister Maureen and her husband David Smith. They went on  jaunts including a trip to Blackpool which was aborted when Ian threw a bottle at another driver. Ian had the idea of enticing David Smith into a criminal conspiracy.   Myra, who  had a stronger sense of reality, knew that this was disastrous.  The murders linked Ian and Myra in an almost unbreakable bond.  To involve anybody else would make the situation unstable.  Perhaps Ian began to believe himself some kind of charismatic leader and required followers. Ian murdered  Edward Evans aged 17 on October 5, 1965. One reason for the murder was to involve David Smith.   At the first opportunity David Smith told the police.  If it were not for the tenacity of the Investigators Ian and Myra’s involvement in the other murders would  not have been discovered.  David Smith was a hero, he suffered because of his association with Myra and Ian. And so Ian and Myra became the Moors Murderers.  There was an outbreak of national soul-searching.  Pundits said that pornography was to blame but the  availability of cars was more significant. Myra remained close to Ian for seven years of her imprisonment.  During the trial Ian did his best to minimise Myra’s role but the  tape of Lesley Ann Downs last minutes alive in which Myra was involved weighed against her. Eventually Myra took the road of repentance.  She became a Catholic again.  There are many ways to read this:  she was seeking to express ceremonial repentance, she was trying to impress the public, she was genuinely repentant or most likely a combination.  Religion has a way of guiding people in their best interest.  The sceptic can point out that her repentance did not impel her to confess to the two  murders that she later admitted when Ian was about to implicate her.  She kept silent about these for sixteen years. In prison Myra had a string of affairs including with an ex-nun (Catholicism again) and a guard who agreed to help her escape.  She was well liked by other prisoners and was god-mother to several children.  She remained close to her mother and grandmother.  She helped other prisoners.  At the same time she showed a knack for attracting people who wanted to help her. Her hopes for early parole were damaged when, under pressure from Ian, she confessed to two more murders which she had previously denied.  Her health deteriorated and she died aged 60 holding the hand of Father Michael Teader. What can anybody say? Myra was a good and loyal friend, an intelligent witty person with considerable social skills and for a year of her life when she was twenty-three  she enabled Ian to kill children.  No words can resolve this or take away the grief of the bereaved.  It would not have happened if Ian had not met Myra. But it did happen. Masochists love to be the centre of attention.  When Ian was beating Myra she was the centre of attention.  No woman in Britain from such a poor background had ever been paid as much attention as Myra.  If  she had been released on parole she might have lived a quiet life in a convent.  Could she have lived without the attention? What about Ian?   Turning the Moors into a secret cemetery for children   he thought he was taming the forces of the landscape that fascinated and frightened him.  What the landscape tells us is that human beings don’t matter.   He claimed to be an atheist but his atheism had a curious flavour.  He wrote that the serial killer is “challenging God.”  But God doesn’t exist… remember? Among his other qualities Ian Brady is a  stunning bore, another characteristic he shared with Hitler.  It is a curious fact that Hitler who was the greatest rhetorician  ever, in our day I suppose he would be a motivational speaker, was a dreaded bore to his intimate circle who he entertained with coma-inducing  ramblings.    If there is a hell and I don’t suppose there is, listening to a conversation between Hitler and Ian Brady for eternity might be an option of choice for a vengeful God.  In one of his  letters Ian Brady  pontificates about the middle-class resenting that working-class people can go abroad instead of: “paddling in sewage in Blackpool.” His trips to Blackpool had made some  impression on him.  Curiously also Brady says he killed less people than Tony Blair which I suppose is kind of true but Ian Brady was more hands on… and he calls the government:”fascist.”  Is he admiring the government or has he had a political awakening?

What can be said.  We can go to other countries but the strangest things in the world are minds including our own…  walk down any street and you will pass things more exotic than Krakatoa erupting… you are more exotic yourself.

Blackpool romantic suicides… leaving Blackpool

“Leaving Las Vegas” was a film based on an autobiographical novel by John O’Brien who committed suicide.  In the film the central character Ben Sanderson goes to Las Vegas to drink himself to death.  He befriends a prostitute, Sera, and they establish a relationship.  In the book she is performing masturbation on him when he dies, a challenge the director avoids. Blackpool was the suicide capital of Britain. Many people prefer to commit suicide in a hotel to avoid distress to relatives.  The sea is  available as a means of self-extinction.  Like Las Vegas Blackpool has a reputation for hedonism, somebody might come here to enjoy themselves as a final act.  Blackpool’s historic popularity as a favourite honeymoon venue attracts romantic suicides. Before dealing with romantic suicides I cannot resist mentioning the Rector of Stiffkey.  Was a name ever better chosen?  Sigmund Freud visited Blackpool twice before the First War. The Rector of Stiffkey, Harold Davidson,  was defrocked by the Bishop of Norwich  for having too close relationships with the prostitutes he was keen on rescuing.  Basically this was a stitch-up.  He supported agricultural labourers and annoyed the land owning hierarchy.  Befriending prostitutes was a late Victorian fad.  Prostitutes were to the late Victorians what daffodils were to Wordsworth.  Charles Dickens and William Gladstone were enthusiastic prostitute botherers. The Bishop of Norwich probably thought that when the Rector of Stiffkey was defrocked all would return to peace and quiet.  One is reminded of the Spanish saying: “How do you make God laugh?” “Tell Him your plans.” The Rector of Stiffkey became the best known Church of England clergyman of the twentieth century,  probably of all time.  Luke Gannon (another larger than life character… to be looked at another time) paid for him to appear in a barrel on the Golden Mile  where cotton workers on holiday paid to look at him.

The Rector of Stiffkey

The Rector of Stiffkey

Blackpool Borough Council decided that the Rector of Stiffkey brought down the tone of Blackpool and instigated his arrest for attempting to commit suicide.  It was another stitch up, and he was acquitted. He went on to be killed by a lion at Skegness in 1937.  This may be one source for the monologue Albert and the Lion performed by Stanley Holloway. To return to romantic suicides Ernest Sykes and Malena Florence May Sykes stayed at the boarding house of Mrs Peck at 37 Charnley Road, Blackpool in May 1919.  They stayed for eleven days and left on Wednesday to catch a train to Huddersfield.  They were a honeymoon couple and had come from Bournemouth.  Mrs Peck said:” They were extremely loving towards one another and very lively. ”  She adds puzzlingly:”Money was no object for them and they lived the best.  On one occasion they had mushrooms for breakfast.”

37 Charnley Road

37 Charnley Road

Before they left on Wednesday afternoon Mr Sykes wrote in the visitor’s book:”the honeymoon of heaven.” The next morning. Thursday 8 May, 1919,  two bodies were found on sandhills at Harrowside.  They were Mr and Mrs Sykes.  Mr Sykes had been a corporal in the Tank Corps.  He had been gassed and wounded.  He was aged thirty-eight.  He had a wife and four children.  “Mrs Sykes” was a dressmaker from Bournemouth aged twenty-two.  Her real name was Malena Florence May Hayter.  Mr Sykes’ actual wife testified that he had been a loving family man but had become strange after being wounded in France. The couple each had two bullet wounds and a Webley Service revolver was discovered nearby. Their deaths  sum up the experiences of a generation. Ernest Sykes was familiar with weapons and with death. It may have seemed  that there was no alternative.  They may have chosen death rather than the banality of life.  They had used up all their money, only three shillings were found on their bodies.

Linda Hill and George Brown  stayed at a boarding house in Dickson Road Blackpool on 21 May, 1935.  They used the name Mr and Mrs Jones.  In the early hours of 24 May a Police Constable heard groans coming from a shelter on the Promenade.  He found Linda Hill was fatally stabbed in the heart and George Brown was seriously wounded.

Dickson Road

Dickson Road

George Brown aged 20 and Linda Hill aged 24 had worked at at Laundry at Sparkhill, Birmingham.  Linda was engaged to a Police Constable called Alfred Whithard.  George and Linda seem to have fallen in love.  Linda broke off the engagement.  There was a confrontation between George and Linda on one side and Alfred and Linda’s grandmother on the other side.  George and Linda stormed off. George wrote a letter to his mother from Blackpool where he makes it clear that he and Linda intend to end their lives.  He says: “If you ever come here again I want you to walk along the front until you nearly reach the Pleasure Beach. In a side Road is a little church.  You can see it from the prom.  Well go inside because that is where your son married the girl he loves.” They went into a church and undertook a private ceremony.  They were running out of money.  Linda sold the signet ring that Alfred had returned to her when she broke off the engagement.  With the money they bought a knife.  The only money they had left was three and a half old pence. Linda wrote to a friend at the laundry where both Linda and George worked: “George and I were married here on Thursday.  Not the kind of marriage most people have…  we just went into the church and prayed and said a few words to each other.” She continues: “We have had three glorious days but now our little money is gone and we must wish you all goodbye- until-but we know it is the end for us.” George Brown was tried for murder and attempted suicide.  Before his appearance at Blackpool  Police Court there was a disturbing display.  A tailor’s dummy was covered by a shroud.  Beneath the shroud were the clothes she had been wearing.  More disconcertingly there was a jar near the dummy containing her heart.  These were removed before George Brown appeared. George Brown was found guilty and sentenced to death at the Manchester Assize Court. His defence was that Linda had asked him to stab her and guided  his hand as he did so.   The newly appointed judge had tears in his eyes when he announced the sentence.  The Jury recommended mercy and George Brown was reprieved and sentenced to life imprisonment. For  these couples a holiday in Blackpool was the most wonderful experience they could imagine and  they determined to enjoy one another’s company and then die.  Tragic, fatalistic, brittle gaiety was one response to the  First World War.  I am still bemused by “mushrooms for breakfast.”

IRA Operations in Blackpool 1939 and 1982


On August 27 1939 a bomb exploded near the door of Blackpool Town Hall.  It was part of an IRA campaign which involved  English cities especially Liverpool.  The most famous participant was Brendan Behan who wrote about his experiences in “Borstal Boy.”  The events were soon overshadowed by more serious matters.

In October 1984 the Grand Hotel in Brighton was bombed.

Patrick Magee

Patrick Magee

The man most closely connected with the Grand Hotel bombing was Patrick Magee.

In April 1983 Patrick Magee was in Blackpool.  He  was victim of a  bold “sting” operation by British Intelligence.

Central to the sting was Raymond O’Connor who was about 50 and lived in Milbourne Street, Blackpool.  Raymond O’Connor was a petty crook and a heavy drinker.  He was also the step-father of Thomas Maguire.  Thomas Maguire was a Dublin schoolteacher, a graduate of Trinity College Dublin.  Raymond O’Connor said he looked on him as a son.

In January 1982 Thomas Maguire visited his mother in Blackpool. Thomas expressed an interest in helping the Republican Cause.  Raymond O’Connor had been in the Royal Air Force and had received medical treatment at Weeton Barracks.  He was familiar with the layout of the barracks. Thomas and Raymond visited the area.

According to Raymond O’Connor he:  (Raymond) “could not bear what was going on,” and contacted the Police.  In February 1983 Raymond  met senior Provisional IRA figures in Dublin.  He met three senior figures in the Provisional IRA: Brendan Swords, “a Gerry Adams lookalike”, and a man with a pot belly.

The  meeting was to evaluate an operation aimed at the Eagle and Child pub in Weeton, a pub used by soldiers from Weeton Barracks.  The Second Battalion of Light Infantry were based at Weeton Barracks.  The Provisional IRA were especially interested in the Barracks because SAS and RUC units were trained there.  This information came from Raymond O’Connor. It was not true.

In April 1983 Patrick Magee and Patrick Murray came to Blackpool.  They were followed by the Intelligence Services and photographed  wherever they went.  Patrick McGee who was known as “the Mechanic” and his colleague Patrick Murray, “the Minder” had a plan.

They were to park a Cortina at the Eagle and Child.  That car was to be replaced by a hired van with a bomb and McGee was to drive off in the Cortina.

Patrick Magee  knew that they were being watched and in April 1983 in an carefully pre-planned move  he evaded four cars in a  a high speed car chase.  Patrick Mcgee and Patrick Murray abandoned the car in the car park of Preston railway station with the doors still open.  In fact they did not take the railway.   Patrick Magee had  been aware that he was being watched at a very early stage.

It is hard to believe  that Patrick Magee was not interested in the Imperial Hotel, Blackpool, where the Conservative Party were to hold their conference in October 1983.  The easiest way to look at the place would be to book a room there with a female partner.  This is exactly what Patrick Magee did at the Grand Hotel Brighton.

In October 1984 the Grand Hotel Brighton was bombed.  The bomb had been placed by Patrick Magee.  Five people lost their lives and Mrs Thatcher was lucky to survive.  I am amongst Mrs Thatchers’s most ardent dislikers but one  cannot help but admire the aplomb which Mrs Thatcher showed on this occasion.

Patrick Magee was eventually tried and sentenced to eight life sentences.  He was freed as part of the Good Friday agreement.  He has since taken part  in reconciliation activities.

Four years later after the Brighton Bombing Raymond O’Connor was the chief prosecution witness at the trial of Thomas Maguire who was effectively his son in law.  The Prosecutor described him as “an inveterate liar.”  We have to pause here.  The Prosecution’s only significant witness is Raymond O’Connor and the Prosecutor who is relying on the jury to accept Raymond O’Connor’s version of events calls him: “an inveterate liar.”

During the trial the officer handling Raymond O’Connor says that he is unreliable.  Have the authorities formed a queue to shoot themselves in the foot?    The intelligence services may be unethical but they are not stupid.  They may have been embarrassed by their failure to apprehend Patrick Magee.    Raymond O’Connor showed  courage when he met the IRA leaders in Dublin. As an intelligence coup it was a breathtaking .  To understand the motivations of the Intelligence Services is like trying to understand the moves of a Grandmaster based on a  study of tiddlywinks.   One reason the  authorities wanted to distance themselves from Raymond O’Connor was that his  story was well there isn’t a word for it… hyperpreposterous.  According to Raymond O’Connor he was driven by conscience to report his step-son Thomas Maguire’s activities.  If we believe him the authorities let a casual informer motivated by conscience go over to Dublin to discuss an operation in the Fylde by the Provisionals.   Raymond O’Connor did more than discuss the project he initiated it by saying that the SAS and RUC trained at Weeton Barracks.

Let’s recap:  Raymond O’Connor contacts the police regarding suspicions about his son-in-law’s Republican inclinations.  The Investigators say: “Thank you for your concern and actually would you mind just popping over to Dublin and meeting leaders of the Provisional IRA and while your there you might…”

Raymond O’Connor was an Intelligence asset  before his meeting with  Thomas Maguire.  He suggested the Weeton Operation and he went to Dublin and  promoted the operation.  In other words he instigated the operation.  British Intelligence promoted the operation to draw in a skilled bomber and his contacts.

At a guess the Intelligence Services were hoping to locate a cache of explosives that the Provisionals had on the mainland.  If they located the cache…  and if there was to be a bombing Raymond O’Connor would have to have contact with the cache, they would not reveal its existence but keep it under surveillance.  In this way they could thwart IRA operations without the IRA understanding how this was done.  This in itself would create tensions because the Intelligence Services hinted that they had highly placed informants.   This may have been true or it may have been propaganda or both.

By a majority the jury found Thomas Magee Not Guilty.  The Jury knew a fishy story when they heard one.

The priority of the Intelligence Services was to locate an IRA explosives  cache and the priority of the Provisionals was to evaluate the reliability of the  Blackpool connection  possibly with  the Imperial Hotel as a target. The whole Weeton bombing plan might have been a red herring.   But who knows isn’t telling.

Patrick Magee was interested in the the Conservative Party Conference at the Imperial Hotel in October 1983.

As regards the trial it looks as if the Intelligence Services are not trying to convince the jury or anybody.

We do not know what happened to Raymond O’Connor.  He would need to assume a new identity and resettle in some other part of the country.  He would have been helped by British Intelligence.  We do not know what his partner, Thomas Maguire’s mother, thought about Raymond O’Connor giving evidence against her son Thomas Maguire. We do not know what went on in the mind of Raymond O’Connor.

We can  admire people we do not like or  understand  and Raymond O’Connor’s courage in meeting leaders of the Provisional IRA was a sensational  display of chutzpah.

Your friendly local hangman

Could you have caught a train from Blackpool to see a public hanging in Lancaster?  Yes you could.  And you could have done that for nearly twenty years from 1846 until 1865.  This came as a surprise because we think of trains as part of a modern world and public hangings as something from a more distant past.  When the railway station was built in 1846 there were no sewers and so no flush toilets.  There was no running water.  The railway station would have had a public toilet which would have emptied into a cess pit.  This would have been occasionally emptied by night soilmen.  Basically these were men armed with a cart and a bucket and a shovel and one of their number would climb into the cess pit…

However that’s a whole other story.

Men and women were hanged in substantial numbers at Lancaster.  Hangings were on a Saturday which maximised  attendance and commercial opportunities.  Hangings were an early tourist attraction.  The people hanged were very rarely murderers.  On 13 September 1806 three sodomites from Warrington were executed along with two others for different crimes.   Two more of the Warrington sodomites were executed on Saturday 4 October 1806.

Would people have gone from Blackpool to see public hangings in Lancaster?  Sadly they definitely would.  Public executions were  popular events, the portrayal of executions was a mainstay of entertainment for years,  at Louis Toussauds.  Machines on the piers portrayed the execution of Mary Queen of Scots for the modest fee of one penny.  Mary was not only Elizabeth’s cousin but also her successor.  Elizabeth was often unpopular and Catholics looked forward  to her death.  The execution of Mary Queen of Scots prevented a Catholic Succession and increased the bitterness of some Catholics.  Half the remaining Catholics in England lived in Lancashire and a the Fylde was a Catholic stronghold.

Executions were free and  entertaining  social events and seeing a life end would give the audience a sense of the preciousness and the fragility of life.  The central act of Christianity  was an execution.

Blackpool’s first historian Thornber tells us of Leonard Warbreck from Layton acted as hangman after the unsuccessful Jacobite rising of 1745.  The rebels reached as far as Derby and retreated without a battle.  They occupied Lancaster and Preston for a time and Poulton people are said to have buried their valuables at Hounds Hill.  There may have been  local sympathy for Bonnie Prince Charlie and the possibililty of  a Catholic Succession.  Annoyingly William Thornber writes: “I shall not defile my paper with enumerating his crimes of wanton cruelty.”  So one of the first people from the Blackpool area we know about was a hangman.  A little later, again according to William Thornber, a man called Henry Hardicar from Little Poulton went to London to see the beheadings in London.  He seems to have gone the 235 miles on foot.  His comment was: “I saw the Lords heided.”

The  “Lords” were William Boyd, Lord Kilmarnock and Arthur Elphinstone, Lord Balmerino who were executed 18 August 1746.  They were almost the last persons to be beheaded in Britain.  The very last was Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, on 9 April 1747.  He was about 80 years old and just as he was about to be decapitated he was amused when about 20 onlookers died following the collapse of a scaffold built to enable people to view his execution.  This is claimed to be the origin of: “laugh your head off.”

Until the beginning of the 19th Century hangmen were  recruited from amongst the poorest, they were often criminals themselves.  They supplemented their income by selling the hanged person’s clothes and by selling the rope as a souvenir.  In earlier times when there were religious executions they might sell bits of the executed person which would then be venerated by believers. Stonyhurst College has the largest collection of relics, basically bits of dead Catholic Martyrs, in England.  This is because a lot of Catholics were executed at Lancaster.  In the ninteenth century a new generation of scientific humane hangmen developed techniques minimise suffering.

Lancaster fought ferociously for its exclusive right to execute Lancashire people.  Not only the hangings but the holding of assizes in Lancaster were profitable.  However Manchester and Liverpool gained the right to hold Assizes and hangings.

What makes a person decide to become a hangman? It is intriguing to try to put oneself into another person’s mind.  The simplest explanation is that it was the money . Later hangmen were minor celebrities and commercialised aspects of their profession by selling their memoirs and managing pubs. A high proportion of hangmen came from the North West.

Throughout history executions have had a ritualistic element and this is true of modern hangings.  Since public hangings ended executions were carried out in prisons.  Hangmen took a pride in the swiftness and reliability of their work.  The person to be hung wore a different uniform from the other prisoners, it was grey.  The prisoner was constantly attended and an effort was made to keep them occupied.  The actual execution spot was as close as possible to the condemned cell.  In some cases it was actually attached to the condemned cell and connected by a door hidden by a wardrobe.  The rope would be delivered to the prison the day before the hanging.  Hangmen preferred a used rope because it was more elastic.  There was a table based on the weight of the prisoner which was used to calculate the “drop.”  Hangmen liked to observe the prisoner to make allowances for physique.  Sometimes the hangman would observe the condemned man at exercise or in his cell.  Sometimes the hangman was introduced to the condemned man although understandably  his role was not explained.  Condemned women wore canvas underwear at the hangings for reasons that will be explained later.  The prison doctor would  sedate the prisoner to ensure a quiet last night.  On the morning of the execution the prison clocks would be stopped to pacify the other inmates.  The hangman and his assistant would enter the condemned cell, pinion the prisoner, lead him to the scaffold, situate him on the trapdoor, put a hood over his head and smartly remove the pin that held the trapdoor in place.  It was claimed that the whole process could be done in seconds.  The prisoner would be left hanging for an hour and then removed and buried in the prison grounds.


Let me introduce three gentlemen who you would not like to meet in the morning.close-up-of-john-ellis-outside-his-shoppierrepointHarry Allen

The first is John Ellis, the Rochdale hangman, who hanged George Joseph Smith, the Brides in the Bath murderer and Frederick Holt.  Although he was conscientious and appeared to have nerves of steel he is said to have been disturbed by the hanging of Edith Thompson.  Edith Thompson was hanged for the murder of her husband.  Many people think that she was not guilty and that she was really hanged because of her behaviour.  Her lover Frederick Bywaters was also hanged.  Edith Thompson had to be carried to the scaffold in a chair and after the execution there was loss of blood caused by an haemeorrhage.  It is possible that she was pregnant.  Afterwards condemned women had to wear canvas underwear when hanged.   John Ellis took to drink.  This was an occupational hazard for hangmen.  A hangman that John Ellis assisted is said to have tried to hang the clergyman instead of the condemned man.  John Ellis  was also upset by having to hang an eighteen year old boy.

He returned to his job as hairdresser.  He had money troubles and increasingly took to drink.  After attempting suicide (which absurdly was a crime at the time) he succeeded in cutting his throat in 1932.

The second gentleman is Albert Pierrepoint who hanged Neville Heath.  He spent his honeymoon in Blackpool and went on to run pub in Southport.

Finally there is Henry Allen who hanged Louise Merrifield and James Hanratty.  He later retired to Fleetwood where he gave change on the pier.  Refreshingly he did not have regrets and said he never lost a moment’s sleep over his work.

Mrs Merrifield and Mrs Ricketts 1953

A bungalow to die for

A bungalow to die for

A Bungalow to die for

In 1953 Mrs Louisa May Merrifield was 46. She was married to Albert Merrifield, 71. She had been married twice before and both her previous husbands had died. She had had twenty jobs in two years when she saw an advertisement. The advertisement offered board and lodgings in return for acting as caretaker for Sarah Ann Ricketts aged 79.
Mrs Ricketts lived in a bungalow on Devonshire Road, Blackpool, worth £3000.
Mrs Ricketts was a lively soul. She lived on a diet of spoonfuls of jam and nips of rum and brandy. She was a will-changer. Her two previous husbands had both died as a result of suicide by gas at her bungalow in Devonshire Road, one feels there is a story there but it is outside the scope.
Mrs Ricketts took a shine to her new housekeepers. She had her will altered so that they would inherit the bungalow. She soon changed her mind. She complained to van-drivers that she was hardly fed and that her housekeepers spent a lot on rum.
In those days a middle-class homeowner such as Sarah Ann Ricketts would have goods such as rum and groceries delivered to her home.

Mrs Louisa Merrifield was not a discreet person and it is hard to escape the notion that we have strayed into an Ealing Comedy. Talking to a friend Mrs Veronica King, Mrs Merrifield said: “I will go and lay the old lady out.”
Mrs King said that she did not know that Mrs Ricketts had died. Mrs Merrifield replied:
“She is not dead yet, but she soon will be.”

Stranger still Mrs Merrifield chatting to Mrs Barrowclough at a bus-stop complained that she had found her husband in bed with the old lady and “it got her vexed.”
Mrs Merrifield added: “If he does it again I will poison the old **** and him as well.”

Louisa May Merrifield was concerned that Mrs Ricketts would change her will in favour of Alfred, or that Mrs Ricketts’ daughter would dispute the will. She asked a doctor to visit to confirm Mrs Ricketts was of sound mind. The doctor was able to confirm this.

And then Sarah Ann Ricketts died. She died five days after the doctor had confirmed that she was of sound mind on the 14 April 1953. The doctor refused to sign a death certificate and a post-mortem found that Mrs Ricketts had died as a result of phosphorous poisoning. Phospherous was available in the rat poison Rodine where it was put on bran as a bait. It cost one shilling and sixpence a tin.

Despite searches no Rodine was found in the bungalow or in the garden. There was no evidence that Sarah Ann Ricketts or Albert had bought Rodine. The evidence that Mrs Ricketts had died as a result of phosphorous poisoning was to be disputed.

Mrs Merrifield was a suspect.  While the police where searching the garden she hired the Salvation Army to play “Abide with me” outside the bungalow. She also entertained journalists with tea and cake. One journalist remembers looking at the cake that she said she had baked herself and then eating it anyway. The same journalist talks of feeling affection for Mrs Merrifield.

Finally Mrs Merrifield and later her husband Albert were arrested.

One distinguished expert said that Mrs Ricketts had died of phosphorous poisoning. Another claimed her health was extremely frail and she could have died of liver failure.

But Mrs Merrifield did not make a good impression on the jury. She would arrive at court each day in a taxi beaming and waving. It was clear that she enjoyed the attention.

The jury found Mrs Merrifield guilty. They were unable to arrive at a verdict regarding Mr Merrifield who was memorably described in court as a “tragic simpleton.”

Simpleton or not it is hard to imagine the state of mind of Mr Merrifield as he returned to the bungalow in Devonshire Road. He had after all inherited half of  it. There he was in his inherited bungalow awaiting the hanging of his wife, a husband about to become a widower.

On 18 September 1953 Mrs Louisa Ann Merrifield was hanged by Albert Pierrepoint who had spent his honeymoon in Blackpool.

Mr Alfred Merrifield did not comfortably fit the role of grieving widower, he donated his wife’s clothes to Louis Toussauds and until his death he used to give talks on the incident. He came to an arrangement with Mrs Ricketts’ family and left the bungalow in Devonshire Road. He took to hiring caravans and getting into disputes with his neighbours.
He died aged 80.

Try to imagine these vanished people and wonder what they were like?  Mrs Merrifield came from Wigan and was quite wealthy at one time.  She was affectionately remembered in Wigan.  She met Mr Merrifield in hospital when she was attending her dying husband but she managed to slip in an extra husband who also died before she married Mr Merrifield.   Why did Mrs Ricketts two  husbands chose the gas oven? What in the name of God was the courtship of Alfred and Louisa May like? Could it be that Louisa May Merrifield was loud-mouthed and strange but not a murderer? Could it have been suicide or even the “tragic simpleton” Alfred  Merrifield? Or not poison at all as one of the medical experts thought?  Could it be that Mrs Merrifield’s behaviour was a consequence of stress or even some kind of breakdown?   There was an appeal but, it failed.

Alfred Merrifield lived on until the 60’s. Did he think affectionately of his young bride? Did he think about conversations with Louisa May in that bungalow? What do you talk about with a wife who is about to be hanged?
We cannot know.