Frederick Westbrook’s appearance was deceptive. Although short and skinny, he was a ruthless 27-year-old criminal who carried a gun, and whose physical fitness had twice enabled him to avoid capture.

On one occasion he was stopped by a policeman on London’s Putney Bridge. He promptly dived into the Thames, swam ashore and escaped. Another time he wriggled free from his police captors after his arrest for housebreaking in Surrey. A five-mile cross-country chase followed, ending when he again dived into a river and got away.

At 11.30 p.m. on Christmas Eve, 1946, he entered an all-night cafe near Euston Station with two companions. The place was packed with Jamaican airmen awaiting their food, and Westbrook created a scene, demanding to be served before them.

When the waitress refused to be bullied he slapped her face. She responded by breaking a plate over his head, and to keep the peace three of the Jamaicans hustled Westbrook and his companions out of the cafe.

On the street Westbrook began shouting racial abuse, and when more Jamaicans emerged from the cafe and confronted him he produced an automatic pistol from a shoulder holster and opened fire on them. Seconds later one of them, Aloysius Abbott, lay dying in the gutter, struck by three bullets. Westbrook and his companions disappeared into the night, and Abbott died an hour later, early on the morning of DECEMBER 25th.

A tip from an informer led detectives to one of Westbrook’s companions who told them all he knew of the gunman, and that was enough to make Westbrook the prime suspect. Two days later two detectives were in Woburn Place, not far from the scene of the shooting, when they saw a man matching his description. Asked to produce his identity card, Westbrook instead drew his pistol. “Come an inch closer and I’ll blow your guts out,” he snarled.

The officers commandeered a taxi to pursue him, but Westbrook shattered its windscreen with a bullet, causing the driver to crash. The chase moved on to the roof of a derelict hotel in Cartwright Gardens, where Westbrook fired another bullet which passed through a constable’s sleeve. Another officer was shot in the eye, and Westbrook was finally cornered after he entered another hotel through a skylight.

He had run out of ammunition, but this didn’t stop him from trying to break free as he was led to a waiting van. It took six officers to hold him.

He offered to admit manslaughter if the prosecution dropped the murder charge against him, but the authorities weren’t interested. Not only had Aloysius Abbott died but a police constable had also lost an eye. At his Old Bailey trial Westbrook claimed he had not meant to hurt anyone. He had fired his gun only to scare off the Jamaicans and the police pursuing him, he told the jury. To the dismay of the prosecution his story was accepted. He was acquitted of murder and jailed for 11 years for manslaughter and using a firearm to resist arrest.