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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 August 20th.
Beatrice’s Killers Hanged Side by Side
Every Sunday 52-year-old Mrs. Beatrice Rimmer had tea at the home of her ex-policeman son, and Sunday, August 19th, 1951, was no exception. Shortly before 10 o’clock that evening she was seen letting herself into her home in Wavertree, Liverpool, but the next day’s milk delivery was still on her doorstep when her son called that evening, and the morning newspaper for that day, AUGUST 20th, was still protruding from her letter-box.
Sensing that something was wrong, he removed the newspaper, peered through the letter-box and saw his mother lying in a pool of blood in the hall. The strap of her umbrella was still looped round her wrist, and she still wore her raincoat, so it seemed that she had been attacked as soon as she closed her front door behind her.
Because she was rumoured to be a wealthy widow who kept a large sum of money in the house, thieves had targeted her home more than once in the recent past. This time the intruder had entered through a broken kitchen window. Detectives believed that having failed to find her savings he had awaited her return, intending to make her hand them over.
An autopsy, however, suggested that there were two killers, because Mrs. Rimmer had been attacked with two different weapons. A sharp-edged instrument had lacerated her face, and her skull had been fractured, possibly by a heavy torch.
None of her injuries would have been fatal had they been treated in time, but her weak cries for help had gone unheard as she slowly bled to death - she was believed to have died some time after midnight.
The investigators got their break a month later when it was learned that an army deserter being held in Liverpool’s Walton Prison had been talking. He had told other inmates that he knew Mrs. Rimmer’s killers.
Questioned by detectives, he refused to name the two men but said he had agreed to join them in the robbery. Then he had been arrested on August 17th, and the others had carried on without him. They had persuaded a waitress to call at the house. Her role was to detain Mrs. Rimmer at the front door long enough to enable them to gain entry at the rear, ransack the place and force their way out through the front entrance.
The waitress was traced, and she named the pair as Alfie Burns, 21, and Teddy Devlin, 22. Their homes were in Manchester, and had both convictions for housebreaking.
Other witnesses were found, including a woman who had been recruited to act as the pair’s look-out, and a man who was to have replaced the deserter but had changed his mind and hadn’t turned up.
Taken to Liverpool for questioning, Burns and Devlin were both picked out on an identity parade by the deserter, and they were charged with murder. At their trial they claimed they were robbing a Manchester warehouse when Mrs. Rimmer was killed, but their alibi collapsed. The warehouse robbery had taken place 24 hours before the murder.
Burns and Devlin were both convicted, their appeals were dismissed, and they were hanged side by side at Walton Prison on April 25th, 1952.
The Best Friend He Ever Had
“Go to 5 Upper Abbey Street. There is a dead man,” said the note handed to Dublin Police on AUGUST 23rd, 1948, by Mrs. William Gambon. Officers went to the address, and found John Long, 39, lying dead on a bed. His face had been battered with an iron bar which lay nearby, and his wallet lay empty on the floor.
The next day William Gambon, 28, walked into Dublin’s Shore Street police station and handed the desk sergeant a newspaper containing a report of the murder. He had come to give himself up, he said, because there was “nothing else for it.”
A strange story then unfolded. Gambon and John Long had met as fellow-patients in a Dublin hospital in the early 1940s and had become friends. Mr. Long subsequently found work in England while Gambon remained in Dublin, but the two kept in touch. Six years later Mr. Long was still sending Gambon money because he was unemployed and living in a hostel. But Mr. Long wasn’t much better off. Although he had a job, his home was a Ministry of Works camp in Buckinghamshire.
Gambon married in April, 1948, and rented a room at 5 Upper Abbey Street. He was still out of work and Mr. Long continued to send him money, following this up with a letter that summer saying he was coming to Dublin on holiday and would arrive on August 21st.
He had no relatives, and his association with Gambon was apparently prompted by loneliness. The unemployed Dubliner had never had a better friend, so what had gone wrong when the two were reunited?
Gambon told the police that he and Mr. Long had fallen out over a game of cards. They were playing pontoon, Gambon had won £60 from his friend, and he said that Mr. Long had become “cranky,” demanding the money back. Their argument had developed into a fight, and in his statement Gambon said: “I saw a bar on the washstand which I used for holding up the window. I took the bar in my hand and pushed him away from me with it, back into the bed. After that everything went blank.”
At Gambon’s trial, however, the state pathologist was asked by the prosecutor: “Is it your opinion that when the first blow was struck the deceased’s head was on the pillow?”
“Is it your opinion that it was in the normal sleeping position when the first blow was struck?”
“Yes, it was turned sideways.”
In the witness-box Gambon said that Mr. Long had accused him of winning the money at cards through cheating. Their argument had become heated. Mr. Long had threatened to get out of bed and kick his friend’s guts out. Then he had grabbed Gambon’s throat, and Gambon said he seized the bar and struck Mr. Long in self-defence.
He told the court he had not intended to kill John Long. “I regarded him as the best friend I ever had.”
After he was convicted and sentenced to death, Gambon told his solicitor he didn’t want a reprieve because he could see no future for himself in this world. He entered the next on November 24th, 1948, on the scaffold at Dublin’s Mountjoy Prison.
No Intent To Kill
John Loughnan, 46, and his wife Anne were forever quarrelling. Both were heavy drinkers, and on AUGUST 26th, 1901, Loughnan had a particular bone to pick with his wife. She had gone out drinking instead of preparing his dinner, and he suspected she had taken cash from his pocket.
He went out drinking too that night, and on his return to their Salford home he attacked his wife, who was later found dead at the foot of the stairs. She had fallen down them during the struggle, and at Loughnan’s trial for her murder the court heard that it was the fall that killed her and not the injuries she received in the fight with her husband.
The defence claimed that she had tripped and fallen after the struggle, but the jury decided that Loughnan had knocked her down the stairs. In finding him guilty, however, they strongly recommended mercy because there was no evidence of an intent to kill.
Their recommendation was supported by the judge, and Loughnan’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. He was freed after serving nearly nine years.
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