The international politics of the Cold War entered unexpectedly and dramatically into the case of the Cosy Corner Store, a dilapidated iron shack in Hazlemere, Buckinghamshire, which could itself have come from behind the Iron Curtain.
Here, on Saturday night, July 8th, 1950, the stores owner William Dearlove, 62, was found dead. A sack had been thrown over his head and he was naked except for a vest. His hands and ankles were tired with pyjama cord and he had a wound on his temple. The shops takings had been stolen.
The investigation quickly highlighted two Poles from a nearby Polish refugee camp. They were Zbigniew Kalinowski, 23, and Eugen Stefanowitz, 21, said by one of their colleagues to have been desperate for money and determined to make a jump in the High Wycombe area.
Kalinowski was arrested a few days later but Stefanowicz disappeared. The hunt for him focused on London docks when Scotland Yard learned that a Pole had left on a Russian ship, the Sestroretsk, bound for Leningrad and due to call at Kiel and Stockholm on the way.
The authorities at Kiel and Stockholm were alerted but at Kiel the Russian captain refused to let a British Special Branch officer board the ship. When it later sailed into Stockholm harbour it was intercepted by a Russian tug sent out from a Latvian port and Stefanowicz was taken off by two Russian military officers.
His fellow-passengers who watched him go said they had found him an amiable companion, fluent in Russian, German and English. They were astonished to learn that he was wanted in England for murder.
In London the Russians made it clear that British protests would get nowhere. Meanwhile Zbigniew Kalinowski was charged with murder at Buckingham Assizes, where he told the jury that he had made it clear from the moment of his arrest that he had nothing to do with what happened to Mr. Dearlove. He took no part in the killing and did not expect violence. Stefanowicz, he said, had told him not to worry, that he would get the money, and had later given him some cash.
The jury decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and found him not guilty. But he was promptly re-arrested, charged with the Cosy Corner Store burglary, and jailed for 21 months.
As for Stefanowicz, two months after his flight from justice Moscow Radio claimed that he was a fugitive from British persecution. The radio said that he had been recruited by the British intelligence service. Unwilling to become their tool, he had absconded from their school for foreign agents and had then been hounded on a trumped-up charge by the British Police. As a result, his request for repatriation to the Soviet Union had naturally been granted.