The murder of the toddler James Bulger

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This is probably one of the most disturbing murder cases in history. The fact that the victim was a toddler is awful enough but knowing  that two 10-year-old’s, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson from England, who killed and mutilated the body of the 2-year-old James Bulger, makes it nearly unfathomable.Even more disturbing is that the killers have been released from jail with new identities.

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The fact that the suspects were so young came as a shock to investigating officers, headed by Detective Superintendent Albert Kirby, of Merseyside Police. Early press reports and police statements had referred to Bulger being seen with “two youths” (suggesting that the killers were teenagers), the ages of the boys being difficult to ascertain from the images captured by CCTV.

Forensic tests confirmed that both boys had the same blue paint on their clothing as found on Bulger’s body. Both had blood on their shoes; the blood on Thompson’s shoe was matched to Bulger’s through DNA tests. A pattern of bruising on Bulger’s right cheek matched the features of the upper part of a shoe worn by Thompson; a paint mark in the toecap of one of Venables’s shoes indicated he must have used “some force” when he kicked Bulger.

The boys were each charged with the murder of James Bulger on 20 February 1993,[7] and appeared at South Sefton Youth Court on 22 February 1993, when they were remanded in custody to await trial. In the aftermath of their arrest, and throughout the media accounts of their trial, the boys were referred to as ‘Child A’ (Thompson) and ‘Child B’ (Venables).While awaiting trial, they were held in the secure units where they would eventually be sentenced to be detained indefinitely.

On that fateful day, the troubled boys were skipping school and wandering around a busy mall, stealing sweets, batteries and a bucket of paint – items that were later to be found at the murder scene. Casually observing children, they were looking for a child to abduct. The plan was to lead the victim to a busy road and push him into the path of oncoming traffic.

On February the 12th, 1993. James was out shopping with his mother in the New Strand Shopping Centre near Kirkby, England.

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His mother Denise was briefly distracted inside a butcher’s shop on the lower floor of the center. A minute later she realized her son had disappeared. James had been wandering by the open door of the shop when Thompson and Venables caught his attention and lured him out of the mall at 3:42 pm.

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Denise panicked and headed to the mall’s security office. She described her son’s appearance and what was he wearing: a blue jacket and grey sweat suit, a blue scarf with a white cat on it and a t-shirt with the word ‘Noddy’ on it. For security, it was a routine day. They often had to announce the description of a lost child over the loudspeaker so that parents could reunite with their child at the information centre. But what started off as a lost child in the mall, turned out to be one of the most prolific missing child cases in the history of the UK.

At 4:15 pm, the local Police Station was notified.

Sometimes he ran ahead, other times he fell behind. The boys were walking around aimlessly until they reached a nearby canal and proceeded to go under a bridge to an isolated area. There, they dropped James on his head. Venables and Thompson ran away, leaving the toddler crying. A lady saw James sobbing and assumed he was just playing with the local kids.

In his utter innocence, bruised and crying, James followed the boys once again. Several witnesses saw them and later described a boy crying and older boys kicking him. No one intervened, thinking that older brothers were just fooling around and watching over their younger sibling..

At approximately 5:30 pm, after more than a two-mile hike, Venables and Thompson decided to go to the railway tracks to finish the business. Between 5:45p m and 6:30 pm, James was brutally murdered.

The assault began with the boys pouring the stolen paint from the mall into James’ eyes. They pulled off his pants and underwear, mutilated his foreskin and inserted batteries into his anus. They kicked, threw stones and eventually smashed his skull with an iron bar. When they believed James was dead, they laid his body on the tracks, covering his bleeding head with bricks and rubbish, making it look like an accident.

They left just before the train came. The forensic pathologist of the case, Dr. Alan Williams, stated that James suffered so many injuries – 42 in total – that he was not able to confirm any one of them as the fatal blow, beyond the fact that he had died before the train cut his body in half.

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Police got a hold of the CCTV footage of James’ abduction. The disappearance made the evening news and calls immediately poured in. Two days later, the severed body was found lying on the tracks. When the circumstances became public, the crime scene was flooded with hundreds of bouquets of flowers. The tabloids denounced the people who had seen the abduction but had not intervened to aid him.

Three days later, a breakthrough came when a woman recognised Venables on the released low-resolution photo from the CCTV footage. The tip-off led to an arrest and the boys were taken to separate police stations where they gave a total of 20 interviews over three days.

The boys confessed and were found guilty on the 24th of November, 1993, and received the sentence that would keep them behind bars for at least until they reached the age of 25. This decision made Venables and Thompson the youngest convicted murderers in modern English history and the youngest convicted murderers of the 20th century.

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In 1999, lawyers for Thompson and Venables appealed to the European Court of Human Rights that the boys’ trial had not been impartial, since they were too young to follow proceedings and understand an adult court. The European court dismissed their claim that the trial was inhuman and degrading treatment, but upheld their claim they were denied a fair hearing by the nature of the court proceedings. The European Court also held that Michael Howard’s intervention had led to a “highly charged atmosphere”, which resulted in an unfair judgment.On 15 March 1999, the court in Strasbourg ruled by 14 votes to five that there had been a violation of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights regarding the fairness of the trial of Thompson and Venables, stating: “The public trial process in an adult court must be regarded in the case of an 11-year-old child as a severely intimidating procedure”.

In September 1999, Bulger’s parents applied to the European Court of Human Rights, but failed to persuade the court that a victim of a crime has the right to be involved in determining the sentence of the perpetrator.

The European court case led to the new Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, reviewing the minimum sentence. In October 2000, he recommended the tariff be reduced from ten to eight years, adding that young offender institutions were a “corrosive atmosphere” for the juveniles.

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In June 2001, after a six-month review, the parole board ruled the boys were no longer a threat to public safety and could be released as their minimum tariff had expired in February of that year. The Home Secretary David Blunkett approved the decision, and they were released a few weeks later on lifelong licence after serving eight years.

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Both men “were given new identities and moved to secret locations under a “witness protection”-style programme.”  This was supported by the fabrication of passports, national insurance numbers, qualification certificates and medical records. Blunkett added his own conditions to their licence and insisted on being sent daily updates on the men’s actions.

The terms of their release include the following: they are not allowed to contact each other or Bulger’s family; they are prohibited from visiting the Merseyside region;curfews may be imposed on them and they must report to probation officers. If they breach these rules or are deemed a risk to the public, they can be returned to prison.

An injunction was imposed on the media after the trial, preventing the publication of details about the boys. The worldwide injunction was kept in force following their release on parole, so their new identities and locations could not be published.

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Blunkett stated in 2001: “The injunction was granted because there was a real and strong possibility that their lives would be at risk if their identities became known.

In the months after the trial, and the birth of their second son, the marriage of Bulger’s parents, Ralph and Denise, broke down; they divorced in 1995. Denise married Stuart Fergus and they have two sons together. Ralph also remarried and has three daughters by his second wife.

On 2 March 2010, the Ministry of Justice revealed that Jon Venables had been returned to prison for an unspecified violation of the terms of his licence of release. The Justice Secretary Jack Straw stated that Venables had been returned to prison because of “extremely serious allegations”, and stated that he was “unable to give further details of the reasons for Jon Venables’s return to custody, because it was not in the public interest to do so.”On 7 March, Venables was returned to prison on suspected child pornography charges.

In November 2011, it was reported that officials had decided that Venables would stay in prison for the foreseeable future, as he would be likely to reveal his true identity if released. A Ministry of Justice spokesman declined to comment on the reports. On 4 July 2013, it was reported that the Parole Board for England and Wales had approved the release of Venables.

On 3 September 2013, it was reported that Venables had been released from prison

 

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Murdered musicians

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The picture above is of John Lennon and Mark Chapman.Lennon (signing a copy of Double Fantasy for Chapman several hours before Chapman murdered him.On 8 December 1980, Lennon was shot by Mark David Chapman in the archway of the Dakota, his residence in New York City.

Lennon had just returned from Record Plant Studio with his wife, Yoko Ono.

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Although John Lennon was the most famous musician to be murdered, he was not the only one. There were dozens other musicians whose lives were brutally ended, below are just a few of them.

Peter Tosh

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On 11 September 1987, just after Tosh had returned to his home in Jamaica, a three-man gang came to his house on motorcycles and demanded money. Tosh replied that he did not have any with him but the gang did not believe him. They stayed at his residence for several hours and tortured him in an attempt to extort money from Tosh. During this time, Tosh’s associates came to his house to greet him because of his return to Jamaica. As people arrived, the gunmen became more and more frustrated, especially the chief thug, Dennis “Leppo” Lobban, a man whom Tosh had previously befriended and tried to help find work after a long jail sentence.

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Tosh said he did not have any money in the house, after which Lobban put a gun to Tosh’s head and shot once, killing him. The other gunmen began shooting, wounding several other people and also killing herbalist Wilton “Doc” Brown and disc jockey Jeff “Free I” Dixon who had worked for the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC).Tosh’s “long time companion” Andrea Marlene Brown, his drummer Carlton “Santa” Davis, musician Michael Robinson and Jeff “Free I” Dixon’s wife, Yvonne were wounded during the robbery.

According to Police Commissioner Herman Ricketts, Dennis “Leppo” Lobban surrendered and two other men were interrogated but not publicly named Lobban went on to plead innocent during his trial, telling the court he had been drinking with friends. The trial was held in a closed court due to the involvement of illegal firearms. Lobban was ultimately found guilty by a jury of eight women and four men and sentenced to death by hanging.His sentence was commuted in 1995 and Lobban remains in jail. Another suspect was acquitted due to insufficient evidence.The other two gunmen were never identified by name.

Mia Zapata

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Mia Katherine Zapata (August 25, 1965 – July 7, 1993) was the lead singer for the Seattle punk band The Gits.After gaining praise in the nascent grunge rock scene, Zapata was murdered in 1993 during the recording of The Gits second album. The crime went unsolved for a decade before her killer, Jesus Mezquia, was tried, convicted and sentenced to 37 years in prison.

At around 2:00 a.m. on July 7, 1993, Zapata left the Comet Tavern in the Capitol Hill area of Seattle. She stayed at a studio space in the basement of an apartment building located a block away, and briefly visited a friend who lived on the second floor. This was the last time she was seen alive. She may have walked a few blocks west, north to a friend’s apartment, or may have decided to take the long walk south to her home.

She was beaten, strangled, and raped in the Central District of Seattle. It is believed she encountered her attacker shortly after 2:15 a.m. Her body was not initially identified, as she had no identification on her when she was found.

According to the cable television show Forensic files, a man two blocks from the Comet Tavern heard a scream around 3:00 a.m. A woman discovered her body in the street at around 3:30 a.m., near the intersection of 24th Avenue South and South Washington Street in the Central District. According to the medical examiner, if she had not been strangled she would have died from the internal injuries suffered from the beating. An autopsy found evidence of a struggle in which Zapata suffered blunt impact to her abdomen and a lacerated liver, according to court documents.

Zapata is interred at Cave Hill Cemetery in her hometown of Louisville. The Seattle music community, including its most famous bands – Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden – helped raise $70,000 to hire a private investigator for three years.

The funds dried up without any major breaks in the case, but the investigator, Leigh Hearon, continued to investigate on her own time. In 1998, after five years of investigation, Seattle police Detective Dale Tallman said: “We’re no closer to solving the case than we were right after the murder”

In 2003, Florida fisherman Jesus Mezquia, who had come from Cuba in 1980 in the Mariel boatlift,was arrested in connection with Zapata’s murder. DNA evidence was used to tie him to the murder and charges were brought against him.

Dimebag Darrell

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Darrell Lance Abbott (August 20, 1966 – December 8, 2004), also known as Diamond Darrell and Dimebag Darrell, was an American guitarist and songwriter best known as a founding member of two bands, Pantera and Damageplan, alongside his brother, Vinnie Paul. He was considered to be one of the driving forces behind groove metal.

Abbott was shot and killed by a gunman while on stage during a performance with Damageplan on December 8, 2004, at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio.

On December 8, 2004, Abbott was murdered onstage while performing with Damageplan at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio. Moments into the band’s set, 25-year-old former Marine Nathan Gale, using a 9 mm Beretta 92FS pistol, shot Abbott three times in the head, killing him instantly. Ironically this murder was 24 years to the date of John Lennon’s murder.

Marvin Gaye

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At around 12:38 p.m.  on April 1, 1984, while Gaye was in his bedroom, his father Marvin Gay Sr. shot Gaye in the heart and then in his left shoulder, the latter shot taken at point-blank range.

 

Minutes earlier, the two men had been involved in a physical altercation after Gaye intervened in an argument between his parents. The first shot proved to be fatal. Gaye was pronounced dead at 1:01 p.m. after his body arrived at California Hospital Medical Center.

After Gaye’s funeral, his body was cremated at Forest Lawn Memorial Park at the Hollywood Hills; his ashes were later scattered into the Pacific Ocean. Initially charged with first-degree murder, Gay Sr.’s charges dropped to voluntary manslaughter following a diagnosis of a brain tumor Marvin Gay Sr. was later sentenced to a suspended six-year sentence and probation. He died at a nursing home in 1998.

Tupac Shakur

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On the night of September 7, 1996, Shakur attended the Bruce Seldon vs. Mike Tyson boxing match with Suge Knight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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After leaving the match, one of Knight’s associates spotted Orlando “Baby Lane” Anderson, an alleged Crips gang member from Compton, California, in the MGM Grand lobby. Earlier that year, Anderson and a group of Crips had robbed a member of Death Row’s entourage in a Foot Locker store. Knight’s associate told Shakur, who attacked Anderson. Shakur’s entourage, as well as Knight and his followers, assisted in assaulting Anderson. The fight was captured on the hotel’s video surveillance. After the brawl, Shakur went with Knight to Death Row-owned Club 662 (now known as restaurant/club Seven). Shakur rode in Knight’s 1996 black BMW 750iL sedan as part of a larger convoy, which included many in Shakur’s entourage.

At 11:00–11:05 p.m., they were halted on Las Vegas Boulevard by Metro bicycle police for playing the car stereo too loudly and not having license plates, which were found in the trunk of Knight’s car; the party was released a few minutes later without being ticketed.At 11:10 p.m., while they were stopped at a red light at the intersection of Flamingo Road and Koval Lane in front of the Maxim Hotel, a vehicle occupied by two women pulled up on their left side. Shakur, who was standing up through the sunroof, exchanged words with the women and invited them to Club 662. At 11:15 p.m., a white, four-door, late-model Cadillac with an unknown number of occupants pulled up to the sedan’s right side, rolled down a window, and rapidly fired gunshots at Shakur. He was hit four times, twice in the chest, once in the arm, and once in the thigh.One of the bullets went into Shakur’s right lung.Knight was hit in the head by fragmentation. The bodyguard, Frank Alexander, stated that, when he was about to ride along with the rapper in Knight’s car, Shakur asked him to drive the car of Shakur’s fiancée, Kidada Jones, instead, in case they needed additional vehicles for the drive from Club 662 to the hotel.

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After arriving at the scene, police and paramedics took Knight and a wounded Shakur to the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada. Chris Carroll, the first Las Vegas police officer to arrive on the scene, heard Shakur’s last words, “fuck you”. Carroll reports that he refused to say another word to him or another officer.According to an interview with the music video director Gobi, while at the hospital, Shakur received news from a Death Row marketing employee that the shooters had called the record company and threatened Shakur.Gobi informed the Las Vegas police but said that the police claimed to be understaffed. No attackers came. At the hospital, Shakur was heavily sedated, was placed on life-support machines, and was ultimately put under a barbiturate-induced coma after repeatedly trying to get out of the bed.While in the intensive-care unit, on the afternoon of Friday, September 13, 1996, Shakur died from internal bleeding; doctors attempted to revive him but could not stop the hemorrhaging.His mother, Afeni, made the decision to tell the doctors to stop.He was pronounced dead at 4:03 p.m.  The official causes of death were noted as respiratory failure and cardiopulmonary arrest in connection with multiple gunshot wounds.

Shakur’s body was cremated the next day. Some of his ashes were later mixed with marijuana and smoked by members of the Outlawz.

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George Harrison

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One of John Lennon’s fellow Beatles nearly got killed on Dec. 30, 1999.At approximately 3:30AM, Michael Abram,

_584344_attacker150a 33-year old native of Liverpool, avoided security by scaling the fence of Harrison’s Friar Park estate near Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire and entered the mansion by throwing a statue through a window, which woke up the sleeping Harrisons.
George confronted Abram, who was screaming at the spiritual Beatle with a knife in his hand. The 56-year old Harrison ran at Abram to try to tackle and disarm him. The attempt was unsuccessful, and George was stabbed repeatedly in the chest.

Meanwhile, Harrison’s wife, Olivia, whose mother was staying with the Harrisons at the time, struck Abram with a lamp, causing him to drop the knife. Abram then went after Olivia by trying to strangle her with the lamp’s cord, but she was able to escape.

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Police arrived after 15 minutes and arrested Abram. Paramedics stopped Harrison’s bleeding and took him to a nearby hospital, where he was treated for a punctured lung. According to the hospital’s medical director, some of the wounds were very close to major arteries, which would have been fatal if they had been hit.

The investigation determined that this was not a simple burglary gone wrong, but a planned attack on Harrison. The prosecutor said that Abram “believed that The Beatles were witches who flew around on broomsticks. Subsequently, George Harrison possessed him and that he had been sent on a mission by God to kill him. He saw George as a sorcerer and a devil.

George Harrison survived the attack but died in 2001, aged 58, from lung cancer.

 

The Murder of Theo van Gogh

theo_van_goghThe 2nd of November will mark the 12th anniversary of the murder of Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam.

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TheodoorTheovan Gogh (23 July 1957 – 2 November 2004) was a Dutch film director, film producer, television director, television producer, television presenter, screenwriter, actor, critic and author.

Theo van Gogh was born on 23 July 1957 in The Hague, Netherlands to Anneke and Johan van Gogh. His father served in the Dutch secret service (‘AIVD’, then called ‘BVD’). Theo van Gogh was the great-grandson of Theo van Gogh, the brother of painter Vincent van Gogh

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Van Gogh worked with the Somali-born writer and politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali to produce the short film Submission (2004), which criticized the treatment of women in Islam.

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On 2 November 2004, Van Gogh was murdered by Mohammed Bouyeri, a Dutch-Moroccan Muslim. The last film Van Gogh had completed before his death, 06/05, was a fictional exploration of the assassination of Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn.

Working from a script written by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Van Gogh created the 10-minute short film Submission. The movie deals with violence against women in some Islamic societies; it tells the stories, using visual shock tactics, of four abused Muslim women. The title, Submission, is a translation of the word “Islam” into English. In the film, women’s naked bodies, with texts from the Qur’an written on them in henna, in an allusion to traditional wedding rituals in some cultures, are veiled with semi-transparent shrouds as the women kneel in prayer, telling their stories as if they are speaking to Allah.

In August 2004, after the movie’s broadcast on Dutch public TV, the newspaper De Volkskrant reported that the journalist Francisco van Jole had accused Hirsi Ali and Van Gogh of plagiarism, saying that they had appropriated the ideas of Iranian-American video artist Shirin Neshat, whose work used Arabic text projected onto bodies.

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Following the broadcast, both Van Gogh and Hirsi Ali received death threats. Van Gogh did not take the threats seriously and refused any protection. According to Hirsi Ali, he said, “Nobody kills the village idiot”, a term he frequently used about himself.

Van Gogh was murdered by Mohammed Bouyeri while cycling to work on 2 November 2004 at about 9 o’clock in the morning, in front of the Amsterdam East borough office (stadsdeelkantoor), on the corner of the Linnaeusstraat and Tweede Oosterparkstraat.

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The killer shot Van Gogh eight times with an HS2000 handgun. Bouyeri was also on a bicycle and fired several bullets, hitting Van Gogh and two bystanders.

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Wounded, Van Gogh ran to the other side of the road and fell to the ground on the cycle lane. According to eyewitnesses, Van Gogh’s last words were “Don’t do it, don’t do it.” or “Have mercy, have mercy, don’t do it, don’t do it.”Bouyeri walked up to Van Gogh, who was on the ground, and calmly shot him several more times at close range.

Bouyeri cut Van Gogh’s throat with a large knife and tried to decapitate him, after which he stabbed the knife deep into Van Gogh’s chest, reaching his spinal cord. He attached a note to the body with a smaller knife. Van Gogh died on the spot.The two knives were left implanted. The note was addressed to and contained a death threat to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who went into hiding. It also threatened Western countries and Jews, and referred to ideologies of the Egyptian organization Takfir wal-Hijra.

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The killer, Mohammed Bouyeri, a 26-year-old Dutch-Moroccan citizen, was apprehended by police after a chase, during which he was shot in the leg. Authorities have alleged that Bouyeri has terrorist ties with the Dutch Islamist Hofstad Network. He was charged with the attempted murder of several police officers and bystanders, illegal possession of a firearm, and conspiring to murder others, including Hirsi Ali. He was convicted at trial on 26 July 2005 and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole.

In 1995, Mohammed Bouyeri finished his secondary education and subsequently went on to the “Nyenrode College ” in Diemen. He changed his major several times and left after five years without obtaining a degree.

A second generation migrant from Morocco, Bouyeri used the pen name “Abu Zubair” for writing and translating. On the Internet he often posted letters and sent e-mail under this name.

At an early age he was known to the police as a member of a group of Moroccan “problem-youth”. For a while he worked as a volunteer at Eigenwijks, a neighbourhood organization in the Slotervaart suburb of Amsterdam. He started to radicalize shortly after his mother died and his father re-married in the fall of 2003. The September 11 attacks and the war in Iraq contributed to his radicalization.

He started to live according to strict Islamic rules. As a result he could perform fewer and fewer tasks at Eigenwijks. For example, he refused to serve alcohol and did not want to be present at activities attended by both women and men. Finally, he put an end to his activities at Eigenwijks altogether.

He grew a beard and began to wear a djellaba.

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He frequently visited the El Tawheed mosque where he met other radical Muslims, among whom were suspected terrorist . With them he is said to have formed the Hofstad Network, a Dutch terrorist cell.

He claims to have murdered van Gogh to fulfill his duty as a Muslim. Serving as witness in another court case involving the Hofstad group in May 2007, Bouyeri for the time expressed in more depth his thoughts regarding Islam. Here he said that armed Jihad was the only option of Muslims in the Netherlands and that democracy was always a violation of Islam because laws cannot be produced by humans but only by Allah

The murder sparked a violent storm of outrage and grief throughout the Netherlands. Flowers, notes, drawings and other expressions of mourning were left at the scene of the murder.

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I think that Mohammed Bouyeri is more of a deranged psychopath then anything else. Someone with a warped sense of entitlement.

 

 

Murder Ballads

Many years ago I bought an Album by Nick Cave and the Badseeds called Murder Ballads.

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And ever since I have been intrigued by the contrast the soft smooth tones of a ballad combined with the description of one or more heinous crimes. These Murder Ballads are not only done by Nick Cave but also other artists from a wide range of musical genres. In this piece I will be highlighting a few of them.

Starting off with one of the most famous Murder Ballads from the aforementioned album.

 

This is the Hüsker Dü classic ‘Diane’ but performed by Therapy? from Northern Ireland

 

Staying on the emerald isle “the Long black veil”by the Chieftains with their partner in Crime, Mick Jagger.

 

The Louvin Brothers, “Knoxville Girl”Perfect harmonies describing a vicious killing is sort of like china dolls: beautiful and creepy.

Dixie Chicks, “Goodbye Earl”

“Goodbye Earl” is a true murder ballad performed by women, for a change, that shocked the country airwaves in 2000. The lyrics and video leave little to the imagination: Wanda is beat up by her husband, Earl, just two weeks after their wedding. Mary Ann flies to her rescue and helps plot Earl’s demise: death by poisoned black eyed peas.

I Don’t Like Mondays” is a song by Irish band The Boomtown Rats that was a number one single in the UK Singles Chart for four weeks during the summer of 1979,and ranks as the sixth biggest British hit of 1979.Written by Bob Geldof, it was the band’s second number one single. Geldof,  wrote the song after reading a telex report at Georgia State University’s campus radio station, WRAS, on the shooting spree of 16-year-old Brenda Ann Spencer, who fired at children in a school playground at Grover Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego, California, US on 29 January 1979, killing two adults and injuring eight children and one police officer.

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Tom Waits – “Two Sisters”One of the original murder ballads, this song can be traced back to 1656 and it’s spawned a huge range of variants, continuations and elaborations through the years as it spread. The basic story has never changed, though, from two sisters going down to the water and the older drowning the younger. Whether she intentionally drowned her sister or just pushed her in and refused to help her out is one source of debate, as is the motive; sexual jealousy or a shared suitor is the most common theme to come out of the various versions of this song, and occasionally it won’t be mentioned at all. When the drowned body surfaces, the bones are used to make a harp with the hair for the strings, which can then be used to play this song. Circle of life.

 

Jimi Hendrix – “Hey Joe” Made famous by Jimi Hendrix, “Hey Joe” was a song written by Billy Roberts about a man who heads to Mexico after killing his wife. The most chilling part of the song, especially in the Hendrix version, is the matter-of-fact nature of stating the intentions here: “I’m goin’ down to shoot my old lady. You know, I caught her messin’ around with another man.”

 

Bobby Darin – “Mack The Knife”Originally a German opera song, “Mack The Knife” made the jump to American roots music in 1956 when Louis Armstrong performed his own take on it. The song truly took on a life of it’s own when sung by Bobby Darin, giving the jackknife-wielding protagonist a suave, confident makeover, backed by a big band and making killing sound really  cool.

 

Leadbelly – “Frankie & Albert”

A time-tested classic, “Frankie & Johnny” is one of many murder ballads to take its subject matter from true events. The most story the song is reportedly occurred when Allen Britt won a slow-dancing competition in St. Louis, 1899. The problem was that he won it with a woman that wasn’t Frankie Baker, his girlfriend, and she was waiting for him when he got home in the early hours of the morning. Frankie shot Albert in the stomach, and he died four days later from the injuries. After her trial, the song “Frankie & Johnny” was composed.

The song is one of the most widely distributed traditional songs in folk music because of how many great American artists have covered it in one way or another over the years. Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan have all taken it on, as well as instrumental versions from Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. The best version, however, belongs to Leadbelly.

Finishing up with another track from Nick Cave’s “Murder Ballads” album,”Stagger Lee”about the murder of Billy Lyons by “Stag” Lee Shelton in St. Louis, Missouri at Christmas, 1895.(I apologize for the language)

 

The Wigwam Murder- A WW2 Murder Case.

August Sangret (28 August 1913 – 29 April 1943) was a French-Canadian soldier  of North American Indian ethnic origin, convicted and subsequently hanged for the September 1942 murder of 19-year-old Joan Pearl Wolfe in Surrey, England. This murder case is also known as the Wigwam Murder.

The murder of Joan Pearl Wolfe became known as “the Wigwam Murder” due to the fact the victim had become known among locals as “the Wigwam Girl” through her living in two separate, improvised wigwams upon Hankley Common in the months preceding her murder, and that these devices proved to have been constructed by her murderer.The case also involved the famous British Pathologist Professor Keith Simpson.

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On 7 October 1942, two soldiers were strolling on Hankley Common (near Godalming, Surrey) when they noticed an arm protruding from a mound of earth. A badly decomposed fully-clothed woman was found to have been loosely buried up on the mound.

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Professor Keith Simpson concluded that the woman had been stabbed with a hooked-tipped knife, and that she was then killed with a heavy blunt instrument. He also deduced that the attack had occurred elsewhere, and the woman’s corpse dragged to the ridge where it was buried. The woman was eventually identified as Joan Pearl Wolfe, who was living rough in a crude shelter made of tree branches, and so the newspapers gave her the nickname of “Wigwam Girl”.

The police search of Hackney Common found the dead woman’s Identity Card and a letter to a Canadian soldier called August Sangret. The letter informed Sangret that she was pregnant.

Wolfe became engaged to a Canadian soldier: Francis Hearn. Hearn returned to Canada promising to marry her; she wore a ring that he had given her and she sometimes referred to herself as his wife.

On 17 July 1942, the day after Hearn left for Canada, Wolfe met Sangret for the first time in a pub in Godalming. They talked and walked through a local park. They had sex that night and parted company having arranged to meet again. As very often happened, Wolfe did not keep her next date, but Sangret met her again by chance a few days later when she seemed to be on a date with another soldier named Hartnell. The three conversed for some time and then Hartnell left. Sangret and Wolfe met regularly.

My Dear August,

Well, my dear, I hope I am forgiven for not turning up to see you last night, but I was in the police station five hours and they did not help me. I was walking along the road and suddenly came over queer. I fainted for the first time in my whole life. The brought me to the hospital here. They are going to examine me. I shall know whether I am all right or not then. I hope you will come and see me, as I really want to see you very much and being in bed all day is awful. You can come any night between 6-7 p.m. and Sunday afternoon. Please try and come. I have your picture on the locker beside me. The nurses know you are my boy friend, they told me to tell you to come and see me. You have to tell them my name and ask for Emergency Ward. Well, hoping to see you soon, I will say au revoir. God bless you. Love Joan.

Wolfe was not ill; she was, apparently, pregnant.

(Although pathologists who later examined Wolfe’s body were unable to determine whether she had been pregnant at the time of her death, had she been so at the time she wrote this letter on 26 July, Sangret—having known Wolfe for just nine days—could not have fathered the child. If Wolfe was indeed pregnant, the father of the child would likely have been Francis Hearn.)

When Wolfe was released from hospital, the couple spent a great deal of time together. Sangret made a shack or wigwam in woodland behind the officers lines.

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Here Wolfe would stay most of the time and Sangret would visit whenever he could, including many nights when he should have been in camp. The couple talked about their future plans, including marriage. When they could not meet, Wolfe sent letters to Sangret that would be read out by Sergeant Hicks. Wolfe got work, but she was totally unreliable and her various employments only lasted a few days. Wolfe drifted away for a few days to London and soon after she returned she was again picked up by the police and spent a few more days in hospital — not because she was ill, but simply so that she would be looked after.

When Wolfe returned, the couple were discovered in a wigwam by Private Donald Brett, a soldier attached to the military police. Brett told them to disassemble the wigwam and move away. Wolfe was once again taken to a hospital by the police. By the time she returned, Sangret had built a second wigwam made waterproof with his rain cape and gas cape. When Wolfe returned, the couple walked into town to try to find a room in town without success. That evening, Wolfe was detained by the military police who questioned her; she was sent to a hospital again and Sangret was arrested for “keeping a girl in camp”.

The couple had to explain themselves to the authorities, they explained that their plans included getting married and they were treated sympathetically. On leaving hospital, Wolfe again returned to Sangret. They tried again to find a room in town, but ended up sleeping together in an unlocked cricket pavilion. Over the next two weeks, they spent a number of nights at the old pavilion and then, on 14 September, Wolfe disappeared. The affair between Sangret and Wolfe had lasted 81 days.

Sangret was arrested and taken to Godalming police station. He was interviewed at length by inspector Edward Greeno. The questioning went on for days and Sangret’s statement, which was then the longest statement ever made, took a policeman five days to write out in longhand. Sangret was charged with Wolfe’s murder.

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When the police interviewed Sangret, he admitted having intimate relations with the girl and living with her tree wigwam. A heavy birch branch, with blood stains, was found near the body’s grave. Sangret’s recently washed battledress was found to have blood stains. Finally on 27 November 1942, a hooked-tip knife was found blocking a waste pipe.

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August Sangret was charged with Wolfe’s murder and tried during February 1943. He was found guilty of murder, with a recommendation to mercy, and sentenced to death by hanging. The Home Secretary choose to disregard the jury’s recommendation. Sangret was hanged at Wandsworth Prison on 29 April 1943

Preliminary hearings were held at Guildford on 12, 13, 19 and 20 January 1943. With the committal proceedings complete, Captain Creasey noted in his diary that the case was “medium strong, circumstantial case only.”

The judge finished his summary with the words:

That the girl (Wolfe) was murdered is not in dispute; that she was murdered by some man is also quite plain; and the only question you have to determine is: Have the Crown satisfied you beyond all real doubt that the prisoner, August Sanget, is the man who murdered her?

[…]

I can only conclude by saying what I said at the beginning; when dealing with a case of circumstantial evidence you must be satisfied beyond all doubt before you find the prisoner guilty. If you come to the conclusion that, on the facts as proved to you, no real doubt is left in your minds that his was the hand which slew this unhappy girl, then you will convict him.

The jury, who took two hours to reach their verdict, made a strong recommendation to mercy. Before sentence of death was passed, Sangret declared, “I am not guilty. I never killed that girl.”

Sanget’s appeal was heard on 13 April. The appeal was dismissed and the jury’s appeal for mercy was not a matter for the courts, but for the Home Secretary. Then Home Secretary Herbert Morrison found the jury’s recommendation surprising, even inexplicable. Seeing no good reason to interfere, he let the law take its course.

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Sangret was held in the condemned cell at Wandsworth Prison where he was hanged on 29 April 1943.

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In his memoirs, published in 1960, Edward Greeno made his opinion quite clear:

I had interviewed thousands of people in this case and seventy-four of them went into the witness-box. The case was so watertight that, as Sir Norman Kendal said later, Sanget’s appeal against the death sentence ‘was almost a farce’.

One small doubt remained. Sanget murdered the girl because she was expecting his child—but was she? Was she expecting anybody’s child?

The doctors didn’t think so on the occasion that the police sent her to hospital, and when her body was found it was too late to tell.

But this is certain: Sangret did murder her. He confessed before he died, and this is where I quarrel with the rules. It is never announced when a murderer confesses. But why not? There are always cranks and crackpots to argue that some wicked policeman has framed some poor fellow. So why make an official secret of the fact that the policeman did his job?

Due to the Army not discharging Sangret before his execution, he is commemorated on the Brookwood Memorial.

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Harry Dobkin-Blitz Murderer

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One can imaging that the Blitz must have been a terrifying time in Great Britain, but it also must have been a time where people ceased the opportunity amidst the chaos to do things they usually wouldn’t dare to do for the fear of being caught. Harry Dobkin was one of these folks.

Harry Dobkin was born in London in 1901. After leaving school he worked in the cloth trade. Dobkin married Rachel Dubinski in 1920.

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A child was born but the marriage did not last and the couple separated and in 1923 Rachel Dobkin applied for maintenance. Over the next few years Dobkin served several periods in prison as a result of her complaints about his non-payment of maintenance.

Dobkin had a variety of different jobs including that of a tailor, ship’s steward and cook. Soon after the outbreak of the Second World WarDobkin found work as a fire-watcher to a firm of solicitors in London.

During the Blitz Dobkin realized that so many people were killed in air raids that it was impossible for the police to investigate every death. Victims were buried quickly and very few post mortems were carried out. In April 1941 Dodkin murdered his wife and buried her under the ruin of Vauxhall Baptist Chapel, hoping she would be discovered as an air raid victim.

On July the 17th 1942 a workman who was helping to demolish the badly bomb-damaged Vauxhall Baptist Chapel in Vauxhall Road, Kennington (now Kennington Lane), prised up a stone slab and found beneath it a mummified body.

The immediate assumption was that the remains were either of an air raid victim or had come from the old burial ground underneath the church, which had ceased to be used some fifty years before. When the church had been bombed on the 15th of October 1940 more than a hundred people had been killed in the conflagration and the area around the chapel had been the target of a number of Luftwaffe raids between that time and March of 1943

Nor was it the first body that the workers had come upon while demolishing the chapel. Nevertheless, routine was followed, and the police were called in, arriving in the persons of Detective Inspectors Hatton and Keeling, the bones being removed to Southwark Mortuary for examination by pathologist Dr Keith Simpson.

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Simpson immediately suspected foul play. In trying to raise the bones, the skull had become detached and Simpson realized that the head had already been cut from the body. In addition to this, the limbs had been severed at the elbows and knees, flesh had been removed from the face, the lower jaw was missing and the bones were partially burnt. An obvious attempt had been made to disguise the identity of the corpse.

Dr Simpson obtained the permission of the coroner to take the remains back to his laboratory at Guy’s Hospital for a more detailed inspection.

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Returning to the crypt of the church in a vain attempt to find the missing limbs, Simpson noticed a yellowish deposit in the earth, subsequently analysed as slaked lime. This had been used to suppress the smell of putrefaction, but it also had the effect of preventing maggots from destroying the body.

Examining the throat and voice box, Simpson detected a blood clot, strongly indicating death due to strangulation. The next task was to discover the identity of the victim. The body was that of a woman aged between forty and fifty, with dark greying hair, was five feet one inch tall, and had suffered from a fibroid tumour.

Time of death was estimated at between twelve and fifteen months prior to discovery. Meanwhile the police had been checking the lists of missing persons, and noted that fifteen months previously Mrs Rachel Dobkin, estranged wife of Harry Dobkin, the fire watcher at the firm of solicitors next door to the Baptist Chapel at 302 Vauxhall Road, had disappeared.

An interview with her sister elicited the information that she was about the right age, with dark greying hair, was about five feet one tall, and had a fibroid tumour. She also gave police the name of Mrs Dobkin’s dentist, Barnett Kopkin of Stoke Newington, who kept meticulous records and was able to describe exactly the residual roots and fillings in her mouth. They matched the upper jaw of the skull.

Finally, Miss Mary Newman, the head of the Photography Department at Guy’s, super- imposed a photograph of the skull on to a photograph of Rachel Dobkin, a technique first used six years earlier in the Buck Ruxton case.

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The fit was uncanny. The bones found in the crypt were the mortal remains of Mrs Rachel Dobkin.

Rachel Dubinski had married Harry Dobkin in September 1920, through the traditional Jewish custom of a marriage broker. Within three days they had separated, but unhappily nine months later a baby boy was born. In 1923 Mrs Dobkin obtained a maintenance order obliging her husband to pay for the upkeep of their child. Dobkin was always a spasmodic payer, and over the years had been imprisoned several times for defaulting. In addition, Mrs Dobkin had unsuccessfully summonsed him four times for assault.

However, it must be said in mitigation of Dobkin’s actions that she habitually pestered him in the street to get her money, and it should be remembered that she was still demanding cash in 1941 when the ‘child’ was twenty years old and hardly a dependant. Dobkin was to hint later that she was also blackmailing him over some undisclosed indiscretion at work.

On Good Friday, the 11th of April 1941, Dobkin and his wife had met in a cafe in Kingsland Road, Shoreditch, near to where he lived in Navarino Road, Dalston, E8. They left at 6.30 and she was never seen alive again, though he claimed that she had boarded a No.22 bus to visit her mother. Next day Rachel’s sister reported her missing to the police, implicating Harry Dobkin in the process. Because of the priorities of war, Dobkin was not interviewed about the disappearance until April the 16th.

On the night of the 14th a small fire had broken out in the ruined cellar of the Baptist Church. This was peculiar, because there had been no air raids and the blaze was only noticed at 3.23am by a passing policeman. When the fire brigade arrived Harry Dobkin was there, pretending to put it out. He told the constable that the fire had started at 1.30am and that he hadn’t bothered to inform the authorities because there was little danger of the fire spreading. There was a serious air raid on the next night, so the incident was quickly forgotten. Dobkin was interviewed twice more about his wife’s disappearance and a description and photograph were circulated by the police but no further action was taken.

On the 26th of August 1942, Dobkin was interviewed for the first time by Chief Inspector Hat ton, and escorted to the church cellar, where he vehemently denied any involvement in his wife’s death. He was then arrested for her murder.

The trial of Harry Dobkin opened at the Old Bailey on the 17th of November 1942, with Mr Justice Wrottesley presiding and Mr L.A. Byrne prosecuting. Dobkin’s counsel, Mr F.H. Lawton, spent most of his efforts trying vainly to challenge the identification evidence. The prisoner’s appearance in the witness box left the jury unimpressed, and it took them only twenty minutes to arrive at a verdict of guilty.

Before his execution Dobkin confessed to his wife’s murder, claiming that she was always pestering him for money and he wanted to be rid of her for good. On the 7th of January, 1943, Harry Dobkin was hanged behind the walls of Wandsworth Prison.

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The murder of Captain Brownscombe

Captain Brian Brownscombe was murdered by a Nazi officer after being taken prisoner.Brian “Basher” Brownscombe was a son of Herbert Henry and Edith May Brownscombe of Watchet, Somerset.He served with 181 Airlanding Field Ambulance.

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The medical officer had been awarded the George Cross after keeping a wounded soldier afloat for five hours, following the disastrous Sicily Landings, after his glider crashed into the sea and sank.He landed in Arnhem on September 17, 1944, as medical officer with the 2nd South Staffords. He set up a hospital in a museum, but after the Germans overran the position, he and all the wounded soldiers were taken prisoner.

During Market Garden he was again attached to South Staffordshires were he served as the Regimental Medical Officer. He left England by glider on 17 september 1944 and landed near Wolfheze. Soon after landing he and other medical personnel set up a Regimental Aid Post (RAP) into a farmhouse (Reijerscamp) to treat any landing casualties. Casualties were light and they soon moved to their pre-planned positions. (Red Berets and Red Crosses page 90)

They were then captured by the Germans. Like most medical personnel Brownscombe continued to treat wounded in the Arnhem area. He first worked in St Elizabeth’s Hospital and after a few days he went to the Municipal Hospital at Arnhem. There he was killed by the German Karl Lerche.

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Private George Phillips was working in the Municipal Hospital and remembers that one evening just after he had finished a stint of duty that Captain Brownscombe was killed. He was shot by a drunk SS NCO. George still can see him lying on the stretcher with a hole in the back of his head. He said they were completely knocked out by this and he was the only British medical officer in the hospital. The SS NCO responsible for the killing was tracked down after the war and stood trial as a war criminal.”

His murderer, Karl-Gustav Lerche, twice changed his name after the war in an attempt to avoid retribution, but he was finally caught and stood trial as a war criminal at Munich in 1955, where he was sentenced to 10 years’ hard labour.

But for the actions of his former lover, Lerche would never have been brought to justice. He had been doing odd jobs in Munich and had taken up with a woman called Charlotte Bormann. In September 1952 she walked into her local police station to denounce the man she had come to despise. Tired of his lies, Bormann told police that the man she knew as Gunther Breede was both a fraud and killer. In reality he was named Karl-Gustav Lerche who had admitted to killing a British POW in the war. Bormann, too, had form, although not of the criminal kind. The 54-year-old had married and divorced three husbands. Notably one of them was the nephew of Nazi leader Martin Bormann.

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The issue wasn’t just that the dashing Captain Brownscombe, known as ‘Basher’, had been shot off the battlefield; it was that he’d been shot after an evening of merry drinking with his captors. It had been an unusual gathering. Shortly after landing near Arnhem in September 1944, as part of an audacious Allied plan to reach Germany’s Ruhr area through the Netherlands, 28-year-old army doctor Brownscombe had been captured by German forces. He had plenty of company: during the Battle of Arnhem, which raged from 17 to 25 September, 6,000 of the 10,000 allied soldiers deployed in the immense operation were captured, while 1,400 were killed.

The battle also having resulted in vast numbers of British and German wounded soldiers, Brownscombe and the two other captured British doctors were assigned to duty at the German army hospital. In fact, the collaboration was a minor success, with the doctors going about their work in the spirit of Hippocrates. Watching this friendly co-existence, a Waffen-SS officer also stationed in Arnhem decided that it would be good to socialise with the British POWs.

On the afternoon of 24 September, the happy-go-lucky member of the Waffen-SS Kurt Eggers propaganda unit ;Waffen-SS Unterscharführer Knud Fleming Helweg-Larsen, invited Brownscombe, his two fellow British medics, Brian Devlin and James Logan and British army chaplains Daniel McGowan and Alan Buchanan along with Waffen-SS officers Karl-Gustav Lerche and Ernst Beisel for drinks in the officers’ mess. “We sat there and drank some bottles of red wine, apricot brandy and whisky,” Helweg-Larsen later told a British army interrogator. “The conversation was friendly. I interpreted for the two Germans.”

After a while, the two other Waffen-SS officers left, while Helweg-Larsen kept drinking with the Brits. “We were all pretty merry, but Brownscombe was the most sober of the party or carried his drink best,” Helweg-Larsen told the interrogator. The group parted company at dusk, and Helweg-Larsen invited his new friend Brownscombe over to the SS officers’ living quarters for a last drink “to show him that the SS were not so bad as English propaganda made out.”

Some 10 people including Lerche gathered at the SS billet, and “we drank and sang English and German songs.” Afterwards, a driver took Helweg-Larsen and Brownscombe back to the hospital. They stepped out, still chatting away, sharing stories and agreeing to stay in touch after the war. “He said I was too good to be in the SS and I said he was too good to be in the English Army,” Helweg-Larsen recalled. The evening’s goodbye was a lengthy one, as they kept shaking hands and patting each other on the back then continuing their conversation. During one such handshake, the Dane reported, Brownscombe collapsed in front of him, dead.

Suddenly Lerche appeared, holding a pistol. When the Dane asked what had happened, Lerche said that he’d had to do it, adding that Brownscombe had a happy death. Though Helweg-Larsen had himself killed a Danish newspaper editor several years earlier, he remonstrated with Lerche: “[Brownscombe] had been our guest and you had drunk with him.” Rather bizarrely, the pair left the dead officer on the ground, where his fellow POWs found him. The next day, Father Buchanan buried Brownscombe and placed a wooden cross on his grave.

Lerche who had been a member of the Waffen-SS Kurt Eggers propaganda unit, which was   a German Waffen SS propaganda formation which publicised the actions of all Waffen SS combat formations, seeing action in all major theatres of war with the exception of North Africa,

was sentenced to 10 years of hard labour in 1955 by a court in Munich. But eventually only served 5 years.

It is somehow ironic that someone related to Martin Borman got some justice for Captain Brownscombe.

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