The morning of MARCH 9th, 1954, began badly for staff at the Alban Court Hotel, in South Kensington, London. But it was even worse for the hotels 55-year-old night-porter George Smart. As his colleagues began the day by preparing breakfast they found his gagged and bound corpse in the servery.
Two pounds was missing from the bar, together with a small quantity of cigarettes, and the night porter had obviously fought hard for his life. Although he had head injuries he had managed to free his hands, but he had then suffocated.
Within 24 hours the police had the two killers in custody, after one of their workmates came forward to inform on them.
Both Kenneth Gilbert, 21, and Ian Grant, 24, were hotel porters, Gilbert having worked previously at the Alban Court. On the day that Smarts body was found Grant had told the workmate named Chapman that he and Gilbert had done a job the previous night, stealing some cigarettes. Later the same day, when newspapers reported the discovery of Smarts body, Gilbert had shown the reports to Chapman, saying that he and Grant had done a man in.
Gilbert had then told Chapman that the stolen cigarettes were in a railway station left-luggage office, giving him the ticket and asking him to collect them. But Chapman took the ticket to the police.
Gilbert and Grant told the detectives who arrested them that they had not intended to kill Smart, and had been shocked when they read of his death. Gilbert admitted giving Smart a light blow to the stomach, and Grant admitted punching him twice on the jaw, gagging him with a cr?pe bandage, and then stuffing a serviette in his mouth when the gag slipped.
At the pairs trial the prosecutor said that even if they had not intended to kill their victim or cause him serious harm, if either of them had contemplated violence to further the robbery, then both were guilty of murder.
The defence sought a verdict of manslaughter, but in his summing-up Mr. Justice Glyn-Jones said that in his view the case was one of murder. The jury agreed, retiring for only 20 minutes before they returned to convict both defendants.
Their appeals dismissed, Gilbert and Grant were hanged side by side at Pentonville Prison on June 17th, 1954, in the last double execution to take place on the same gallows.
This practice ceased under the Homicide Act of 1957. This decreed that in cases in which more than one prisoner was to be executed for the same offence the condemned men would be hanged simultaneously at separate prisons.