Roy Page’s corner shop was his life. On JULY 18th, 1985, it was also the death of him. Had he not been a shopkeeper, he would have lived longer. Instead, he was murdered at 61 by a thief who beat him to death and robbed him.

Mr. Page’s shop was in the Bristol suburb of Bedminster, and numerous witnesses saw his suspected killer. They described him as heavily built, bespectacled and posing as a gasman checking for leaks. He had been to several premises in the area, claiming he was a gasman to gain entry, but when one householder reported a leak he lit a match to find it and then had no equipment to fix it.

Mr. Page’s battered body was discovered in his shop after customers became worried on finding it locked when it should have been open. Nearly £2,000 was missing, and clues included a set of fingerprints. The murder was featured in TV’s Crimewatch, and a week later the Portsmouth police received a flurry of phone calls reporting a bogus gasman in the city who resembled the description of the Bristol murder suspect.

The last call came from a witness who followed the man to a park, saw him lie down for a rest, and went to a phone-box. When a constable arrived the suspect said he was Professor Clive Richards, an authority on nonetology and totetology, and he was researching down-and-outs for the Department of the Environment.

He was taken to a police station where his bag was found to contain rubber gloves, an iron bar and a sheath knife – carried, he explained, because his research took him to rough districts.

Detectives arrived from Bristol, and the suspect’s fingerprints were proved to match those found in Mr. Page’s shop. Clive Richards was no professor. He was a 35-year-old drop-out who had left home after running his parents’ Port Talbot confectionery business into debt.

On May 7th, 1986, he was convicted of murder and jailed for life. What are “nonetology” and “totetology”? Only “Professor” Richards could answer that.