A nursery gardener’s early-morning bike ride took him through allotments near St. Albans, Hertfordshire, and on to a grisly discovery. Among the vegetable patches on the morning of Sunday, December 19th, 1948, was the body of Stephen Varley, a 52-year-old shop steward at the local aircraft manufacturer, De Havilland.

The body was covered with a dark overcoat. He was wearing blue socks – his shoes were found some way away. He had been struck in the face and strangled and the injuries were consistent with an attack by more than one person. The murder, it was thought, must have taken place at midnight.

Varley was last seen very drunk at 10.30 p.m. in St. Albans the night before, in the company of two other men. His trade union activities were evidently not the cause of the conflict – rather this was a case of the straightforward robbery of a drunk who stood his ground and tried to fight back.