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This Week in Crime

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Practically every day of the year is a landmark of some sort in the annals of crime. Here’s where you can find out what happened this week in years gone by...

Stories from the week beginning May 14th.

Three In A Bed; Three Charged With Murder

Sheila Watson grew up at Balmoral, the daughter of the royal estate’s stonemason, and as a teenager she quickly became aware of Princess Margaret’s romance with Peter Townsend, frequently seeing them together. She was later to reflect: "Little did I realise then the far-reaching repercussions that can result from a man and woman simply being in love."

Nobody could have spoken from greater experience. She became the wife of a wealthy farmer, Maxwell Garvie, and they had three children. But the marriage became troubled through Garvie’s obsession with sex, pornography and nudism, Sheila complaining to friends that he made abnormal sexual demands on her.

Then she met Brian Tevendale, a 22-year-old barman who became her lover with her husband’s full approval. Garvie would toss a coin to decide which of them would sleep with her at his farmhouse near Fordoun, Kincardineshire, and at his suggestion the trio later had three-in-a-bed sex.

Meanwhile Tevendale’s married sister Trudy Birse had become Garvie’s mistress, Garvie taking her up in his plane and having sex with her while the aircraft was on automatic pilot. He made no secret of this, asking Sheila why she wouldn’t let him perform with her the sex acts Trudy permitted.

Tevendale was infatuated with Sheila and resented having to share her with her husband. Then on MAY 14th, 1968, Maxwell Garvie disappeared, and three days later Sheila reported him missing. She then began to be seen with Tevendale with increasing frequency, and people began to talk.

Meanwhile she had told her mother that Garvie was dead. She was later to claim that she hinted that she herself was involved, thinking this would ensure her mother’s silence. It didn’t. On August 16th her mother had a row with her over her relationship with Tevendale, and then went to the police. The couple were arrested, and the next day Garvie’s body was found in a disused tunnel at St. Cyrus. He had been shot in the head.

Sheila, Tevendale and a friend of Tevendale’s were charged with murder, and at their trial the friend told how he had helped to dispose of the body after Tevendale shot Garvie as he slept. Sheila denied complicity, saying she knew nothing of the murder until after it was committed, and had then kept quiet about it in order to protect Tevendale because she felt morally responsible.

The case against Tevendale’s friend was found "not proven," but Sheila Garvie and Tevendale were both convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. After their release 10 years later Sheila continued to protest her innocence, but Tevendale claimed the murder was her idea.

Fatal Family Feud

When two London families, the Porritts from Peckham and the Copleys from Blackheath, met up at a night club in Kent on the evening of May 14th, 1961, their night out became a saga of mayhem.

The trouble began in the club’s ladies’ toilet, where the women of the two families fell out and began fighting. The families’ return journey to London developed into a chase in which the two cars collided and there was further trouble. The Porritts went home, and then George Porritt, a 27-year-old car dealer, went to the Copleys’ house where there was another incident in which his car’s windscreen was shattered.

When he arrived back at his home at around 2.30 a.m. on MAY 15th, he found that the Copleys were ahead of him. His front door had been smashed, and in the front-room his 48-year-old stepfather was being held against the window by two men, one of whom was holding a knife to his throat.

"George, George, they’re tooled-up!" the stepfather shouted. "Get the gun!"

"I pulled the gun from my pocket," Porritt was later to say, "and I pointed it at the man who had a knife at my stepfather’s neck. I tried to hit the man."

But his bullet killed his stepfather, and in the front garden he afterwards shot two of the Copleys.

Charged with his stepfather’s murder, George Porritt pleaded not guilty when he was tried at the Old Bailey in July 1961. Mr. Justice Glyn-Jones told the jury that although Porritt had not intended to kill his stepfather, he was guilty of murder if he intended to kill the other man, but instead killed his stepfather, or if he intentionally fired his gun at the other man. Even if it had not been proved that he intended to kill the other man, it had been proved that he intentionally fired at him.

The jury convicted Porritt of murder, but strongly recommended mercy. When the case went to appeal, a verdict of manslaughter on the grounds of provocation was substituted, the judges believing that had this option been offered to the jury they might have chosen it. Porritt’s death sentence was replaced with a 10-year prison sentence.

The Nightwatchman Fought Back

Attacked on Saturday, May 14th, 1927, at the building site in Purley, Surrey, where he was nightwatchman, 42- year-old James Stanton died from his injuries three days later, on MAY 17th. Lead and brass had been stolen from the site, and suspicion focused on Frederick Fuller, a 35-year-old labourer who failed to turn up for work at the site on the following Monday. He and his 29-year-old friend James Murphy were traced to Doncaster, where they were arrested and charged with murder.

At their trial they admitted the killing, but they said the nightwatchman had died as a result of a fight with them in which Murphy had knocked him unconscious. They claimed they had decided to rob him of his wages only after they saw him lying senseless.

If their story were believed they would be guilty only of manslaughter. But the jury decided that the pair had gone to the site intending robbery, which had preceded the attack on the nightwatchman.

Convicted of murder, they were hanged at Wandsworth Prison.

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