“Events surrounding this trial suggest there may be times when the power of the criminal underworld defeats the ends of justice,” declares a note in a criminal manual in a chapter relating to the killing of Selwyn Keith Cooney on Sunday, February 7th, 1960.

Cooney, 31, owner of the Pen Club, Stepney, was the victim of a revenge shooting during a gang feud. Three men were brought to trial at the Old Bailey: James Nash, 28, a steeplejack; Joseph Pyle, 25, street trader; and James Read, 28, unemployed.

The “criminal underworld” was certainly much in evidence. Some witnesses were being intimidated, some had gone into hiding, and even the jurors were being tampered with. The judge stopped the trial and dismissed the jury.

At the re-trial the prosecution offered no evidence against Read and Pyle on the murder charge and they were formally found not guilty. During Nash’s trial there were further indications of false evidence and witnesses disappearing before Nash was acquitted of murder due to lack of evidence.

All three were then tried on charges of causing actual bodily harm to Selwyn Cooney. Nash, who was alleged to have carried the revolver, was sentenced to five years and Read and Pyle to lesser terms.