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Welcome to the Murder Mile true-crime podcast and audio guided walk of London's most infamous and often forgotten murder cases, set within one square mile of the West End.
Episode Thirty-Seven: On Sunday 14th June 1964, in the bar-room of The White Horse public house on Rupert Street in Soho, 21 year old Larry Winters shot 44 year old barman Paddy O'Keefe to death, having never met him before. But why?
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Ep37 – The Wasted Life of Larry Winters
Thank you for downloading episode thirty-seven of the Murder Mile True-Crime Podcast.
If you enjoy Murder Mile, listening to the authentic sounds, imagining the sights and wishing you were actually there? Well, if you’re ever in London, why not join me on my 5 star rated guided walk of Soho’s most infamous murders, and absorb the sights, sounds and smells of Soho for real. Tours are every Sunday at 11am, and feature many stories you will never hear on the podcast. Ooh. For tickets, click on the link in the show-notes. Thank you for listening and enjoy the episode.
SCRIPT: Welcome to Murder Mile; a true-crime podcast and audio guided walk featuring many of London’s untold, unsolved and long-forgotten murders, all set within one square mile of the West End.
Today’s episode is about Larry Winters; a loving son, a soldier and a violently disturbed psychopath, who never got the help he so badly needed and (in a moment of madness) destroyed two lives forever.
Murder Mile contains shocking details which may make the delicate go doolally, as well as realistic sounds, so that no matter where you listen to this podcast, you’ll feel like you’re actually there.
My name is Michael, I am your tour-guide and this is Murder Mile.
Episode 37: The Wasted Life of Larry Winters.
Today I’m standing outside of The White Horse public house on Rupert Street in Soho, W1; one road west of the Old Compton Street death-bed of Dutch Leah, one road east of the Salted Almond cocktail bar where Greta Haywood met the notorious The Blackout Ripper, and one road south of Brewer Street, where Soho sex-workers (Ginger Rae and Margaret Cook) were last seen alive, and where Rosa O’Neill was viscously stabbed to death by a deaf and mute murderer – coming soon to Murder Mile.
Originally built in the 1720’s and rebuilt in the 1930’s, The White Horse has stood on the cobblestoned corner of Rupert Street for almost three hundred years. And being a four-storey building of sandstone brick; with a dark-wood facade, frosted glass, brass fittings, black double-doors and a defunct Victorian gas-light above, as much as Soho may change, this pub has remained traditional inside and out.
With no creaky old bikes hanging from the ceiling, no rusty old signs nailed to the walls and no brass plaque dangling on the door etched with the words “ye olde English pub”, having avoided the urge to scatter several skip’s worth of battered books, church pews, butter churns, washing dolly’s, milk urns and other such factory-produced shite, deliberately made to look old so the tourists go “ooh, that must be original”, The White Horse public house is a proper pub; a time-capsule of Soho life.
Barely fifty feet long by fifty feet wide and dominated by a central bar island so broad, when the pub has sixty punters in there’s hardly enough room to breath - with a familiar smell of stale ale, meat pies, sweat, bleach and botty-burps; a tobacco stained ceiling which looks like some old geezer painted it with inch thick phlegm using his cancerous old lung; tables stabbed with several decades worth of flick-knives, knuckle dusters and six-inch stilettos; a portrait of The Queen, and possibly Prince Charles, Prince Albert and any other royal whose name is synonymous with a painful penis piercing, and a bar so sticky, that to pick up your pint you have to turn and twist it first - having barely changed in decades, The White Horse truly is packed full of history, character, stories and even the odd murder.
As it was here, on Sunday 14th June 1964, in the bar-room of The White Horse public house, where 21 year old Larry Winters… (stops) …do you know what? Why am I telling you this? Let me show you.
As the fading summer sun dipped below the western end of Shaftesbury Avenue and that last crack of light plunged Piccadilly Circus into a disorientating mix of auburn twilights and shuffling silhouettes, it’s reassuring warmth no longer soothed Larry’s exhausted face, as slowly, a dark chill set in.
Although, like many young men barely out of their teens; Larry was usually tidy and trim; today with his eyes all crusted-up with sleep, his fuzzy brown hair a tangled mess and hanging off his five foot nine inch frame was his crumpled dark suit, white shirt and black tie, which was etched with an odd cross-cross of lines, as if he’d slept a bit but not in a bed, Larry was tired, hungry and broke.
For the last twenty-four hours, Larry had aimlessly walked around the West End, as the endless streets of Soho scuffed his once shiny shoes. And although - with no money in his pockets, no food in his belly, and a thick Glaswegian accent which told the world that this desperate young man was stranded 380 miles from his Scottish home – he didn’t ask for help, and he couldn’t; as having a bulbous nose, sticky-out ears and eternally smirking lips, Larry was a wanted man, on the run, who was easy-to-spot.
As Larry slinked off Shaftesbury Avenue and up the shadowy cobblestoned road of Rupert Street, being bathed in lurid neon lights that flashed a stream of unsubtle single-syllable words like sex, nude and girls from its many strip-clubs, sex parlours and backstreet brothels, although a young man, Larry wasn’t here for that. And yet, as a convicted thief, he reminded himself of the promise he’d made to his beloved mother that he’d stay out of trouble - and he had, for a while - but with a second night of homelessness and hunger looming, he knew that where there was sex and drink, there was money.
Illuminated by a Victorian gas-light, through its frosted glass, Larry spotted barely a handful of slightly tipsy drinkers, all of whom were being served by a just single barman, so with this being a usual quiet Sunday night, The White Horse would be an easy target.
As his hand slid into his canvas army knapsack; pushing aside a well-thumbed poetry book, a battered notepad and a stubby pencil, he grasped at the little gift he’d brought home for his brother – a brown wooden handled, matt black, 38 calibre Enfield MK1 service revolver. He knew how to hold it, he knew how to shoot it, and although six bullets sat in the barrel, he knew he wouldn’t need any.
With speed and surprise as his ally, he’d rush in, hop the bar, ping open the till, grab the cash, make a dash, hop on the next train to Glasgow, and with nobody hurt and the Police none-the-wiser, by dawn he’d be home. It was a simple plan, fuelled by hunger, thirst and tiredness. And as his fingertips tingled, his brain thumped and his vision grew hazy, Larry pushed open the black double doors of The White Horse to commit an ordinary robbery, of an ordinary pub, for the usual ordinary reason – money.
But then again, Larry Winters wasn’t an ordinary boy. (We hear screams, “open the till”, gun goes off, more screams). And although this incident would change the life of Larry Winters forever, this is not the end of his story, and it’s certainly not the beginning. (INTERSTITIAL).
Taken from his prison diaries, the earliest memories of Larry Winters are at best patchy and at worst vague, so whatever is a truth, a lie or an exaggeration, is up to you to decide.
Born in Townhead, on the eastern end of the bustling Scottish city of Glasgow on 21st March 1943, Lawrence Costigan Winters was one of three siblings raised in a loving, loyal and devoutly Catholic working class family during the grip of World War Two, as the Nazi bombers obliterated its shipyards and factories, reducing great swathes of the city to rubble, as poverty and hunger became endemic.
As a sickly child, Larry spent much of his formative year’s bedbound in Glasgow Royal Infirmary, staring at the bland hospital ceiling through choking tears, desperate for a reassuring kiss and a warm hug, as he pleaded for his mum to come and take him home, but every day, the doctors said “no”.
Being imprisoned and trapped by the hospital ward’s cold stone walls with bars on the windows, locks on the doors and uniformed guards on patrol; as often as his mother Mary questioned these quacks as to why her little boy was ill, being too arrogant to simply say “we don’t know”, having doled out a pot of pills and prescribed some bed-rest, once again, the doctors would trot out that same old vague phrase of “he’ll probably grow out of it”, but sadly, Larry never did.
Larry’s turbulent childhood started with a simple headache; a dull throbbing pain possibly caused (the doctors thought) by eye-strain, a thundering heart rate (so acute it caused his fingers to tingle) and as a dark red mist descended over his blurry eyes, being in the grip of a violent and uncontrollable rage, the terrified young boy would be struck down with anxiety, paranoia, black-outs and hallucinations. And yet, still, the doctors did nothing.
As a highly-strung and easily aggravated boy, growing-up amidst Glasgow’s bombed-out tenement blocks; with no real sense of right or wrong, having been misdiagnosed and being un-medicated, Larry – led by his older brother (Don) – soon descended into loutish destruction, petty thuggery and minor misdemeanours, such as fighting, stealing and vandalism, all punishable by being roughly manhandled by a Policeman, and frog-marched home, to be shamed in front of his mother.
On one undocumented night, in the early 1950’s, as Larry and Don (being two terrible tykes) restlessly strolled down Glasgow’s North Frederick Street; kicking cans, cars and cats, a gang of young bruisers corned the two boys and demanded money. Larry had nothing to give and nothing to lose, so with his fingers tingling, his head pounding and his heart racing, Larry smashed a glass milk bottle over the ringleader’s head, and grinned as the blood oozed down the crying boy’s face.
Seeing them slowly slide into petty crime and wanting only the best for her two boys, with her husband having begun a new job as a groundskeeper, the Winters family left the squalor of the city behind and uprooted to the stunning Carbisdale Castle in the Scottish highlands. And with the air being clear, clean and crisp; the landscape an intoxicating array of colours, sights and smells; and being free to swim in the lakes, to run through the fields and to climb up the trees, here Mary’s boys began to flourish.
In his diaries, Larry talked of his time at Carbisdale Castle as the most wonderful part of his childhood; peaceful, joyous and calm; and being closer to his beloved mother and further away from his fears, his temper quelled, his hallucinations halted and his panic attacks got less frequent.
But nestling in the murky mess of his mixed-up head, the dark demon sat; goading him to stab at deer with his knife, to stomp rabbits to death with his boots, and never telling him why. And with the season over, and the greenkeeper’s job now ceased, the family reluctantly trudged back to Glasgow; to the grit, the grime, the crime and the gangs, and – soon afterwards - the old Larry Winters returned.
Being ticked-off by uptight teachers, dictated to by dipshit doctors and picked-on by pushy Police, although Larry was a bright lad with a deep love of poetry, being easily bored and restless, he bunked out of school, regularly engaged in knife-fights, and having begun a career as a petty criminal, by 1957, aged just 14 years old, Larry was sentenced to two years at the notorious Larchgrove Remand Centre and later St John’s Borstal.
And, once again, being trapped by four cold stone walls, with bars on the windows, locks on the doors and uniformed guards on patrol, borstal was the worst place for Larry to be, and being separated from his beloved mum who’d ask the staff what was wrong with her little boy, they’d simply trot out that same old vague phrase of “he’ll probably grow out of it”, but sadly, Larry never did. By the age of 20, unable to curb his aggression, he had notched-up five more convictions for theft and violent assault.
In early 1964, a few months shy of his 21st birthday, being eager to instil some discipline into his own troubled life, having shamed his mum one too many times, Larry enlisted in the Parachute Regiment of the British Army and was posted to the Maida Barracks in Aldershot, 35 miles south-west of London.
What he wanted was structure, what he needed was medication, what he got was more walls, more doors, more locks, more bars and more guards. And being barked at by bullies, day-in and day-out - as happy as Larry was that he was holding down an honest job and posting money home to his proud mum - inside his head, the dark demon sat; goading him to stab, to shoot, to kill, but with Britain’s war over and no enemies left to fight, all Larry had was routine, ridicule and a bubbling rage.
On Friday 12th June 1964, in an unprovoked attack, Larry beat a fellow soldier into unconsciousness with his fists and feet. No-one knows why, not even Larry. On Saturday 13th June 1964, fearing arrest, having packed into his canvas army knapsack a well-thumbed poetry book, a battered notepad, a stubby pencil and a 38 calibre Enfield MK1 service revolver as a gift for his gun-loving brother, Larry snuck out of Maida Barracks and deserted from the British Army.
Larry was heading home, to Glasgow and to his mum - that was his plan.
But having blown almost a pound on a ticket to London Waterloo and a tube ride to Euston, having arrived at the train station, he realised he was £2 too short to afford the £5 fare to Scotland, and being hungry, tired and broke, Larry drifted towards the bright lights of Soho (INTERSTITIAL).
Being stranded in a strange city with no friends, no family and no funds; as the sun set over Shaftesbury Avenue on the evening of Sunday 14th June 1964, with his shoes scuffed, his throat parched and his brown suit crumpled having fitfully slept the night in an abandoned Soho sex cinema, as homelessness and hunger loomed once again, Larry ambled into nearest side-street and entered into infamy.
Illuminated by a Victorian gas-light, The White Horse on Rupert Street was just an ordinary pub, on an ordinary street, which he’d neither been to before, nor would ever return. And being full of ordinary people, who Larry had no hatred, malice or grievance with, with speed and surprise on his side, no-one would get hurt. And as his fingertips tingled, his brain thumped and his vision grew hazy, Larry pushed open the black double doors of The White Horse to commit a very ordinary robbery. But then again, Larry Winters wasn’t an ordinary boy… just as Paddy O’Keefe wasn’t an ordinary man.
Patrick O’Keefe, known as Paddy, was a 37 year old Irishman who’d been raised in the roughest parts of Dublin, had served three tours of service in the formidable Irish Guards and as a bull-headed barman who’d turfed-out every type of tosser, loser and low-life out of some of South London’s dodgiest clubs, pubs and snooker halls, although not physically imposing, Paddy exuded authority.
Smartly dressed in a dark brown suit, a crisp white shirt, a neat black tie and shiny black shoes; with short trimmed hair and a clean shaven face, Paddy was the epitome of a professional barman. And to any punter in (what he regarded as) his pub, you abided by his rules, or you were out. On any other day, Larry and Paddy might never have met, they should never have met, but – by chance - they did.
Bursting open the black double doors, before the first scream had blurted passed a pint of luke warm ale, Larry had leaped over the bar-island’s sticky wooden surface and armed with the Enfield Mk1 revolver, he bruskly barked “this is a robbery, I want your money”. As his left hand swiftly reached for the cash-till, his right kept control of the terrified customers, their mouths agog. So far, so good.
But having never worked in retail and with no knowledge of cash-registers, as Larry furiously pounded the till, thumped the buttons and hoped that his fists would (somehow) force great plumes of cash to fly out, Paddy sidled-up from the other side of the bar-island; his chest puffed out and his knuckles tight and white, as his cold glaring eyes fixed on this little shit who was robbing his bar.
Feeling the dull ache in his brain as the pain burrowed deep and the rhythmic pulse of blood thumped like a mad man hammering on head, with the till remaining stubbornly shut, Larry barked “Open the till”, the gun’s barrel aimed squarely at the unflinching barman’s chest but calmly Paddy retorted “no”.
And that was it, their whole interaction was just four words, but that is all it took. Never had two men hated each other so much and so fast, but having never met before, it wasn’t who they were that they despised but what they represented, as years of hate were condensed into less than seven seconds.
To Paddy, Larry was just another little toe-rag; a tyke, a shite and a scrote; a wastrel with no brains and a loser with no rules, who every week, with a boot up his bum, Paddy would kick out into the street. To Larry, Paddy was just another authority figure – a doctor, a copper, a guard and a warder - who had stood in his way, had told him “no” and kept him from being with his beloved mum.
And as both men stood eye-to-eye, inches apart and unwilling to back down, as the hot moist stench of Paddy’s breath scolded Larry’s face; with his head throbbing, his pulse racing and his finger tingling as it gripped the gun’s trigger, as a red mist descended, before he knew what he had done…
(BANG)… clutching his chest, Paddy staggered back, his face flushed with shock as sharp arcs of blood spurted between his fingers and stained his crisp white shirt a dark shade of crimson. Being gripped with giddiness, and going ghostly white as pint after pint of thick sticky blood trickled down his panting chest, as Paddy’s unsteady feet stumbled on the rough wooden boards, he fell. It was said, he was dead before he even hit the floor. (FALSE ENDING)
With the cash till unopened, Larry fled empty-handed, but as an easy-to-spot Army deserter, with a Glaswegian accent, a bulbous nose, sticky-out ears and eternally smirking lips, he was swiftly arrested at Euston Station trying to sneak onto a last train home.
On the 16th June 1964, 21 year old Larry Winters was charged with murder whilst in the furtherance of a robbery, a crime punishable by death. But having been declared insane by a psychiatrist who’d stated that he was “an abnormal man with violent psychotic tendencies”, on the 31st July 1964, at The Old Bailey, a jury found him guilty of manslaughter owing to diminished responsibility, and with Justice Stephenson concluding that he should be put away “for the protection of himself, as well as the public”, Larry Winters was sentenced to life imprisonment.
(Record scratch) Of course, as I said at the start, although this murder would change the life of Larry Winters forever; that was not the beginning of his story, and this was certainly not the end.
What Larry wanted was help, what he needed was medication, but what he got was more walls, more doors, more locks, more bars and more guards. And for a clinically insane, mentally ill man with an uncontrollable rage and hatred of authority figures, prison was the worst place for him to be.
And the more his mum queried these psychiatrists as to why her little boy was ill, being too arrogant to say “we don’t know”, having doled out a pot of pills and prescribed some bed-rest, once again, they’d trot out that same old vague phrase of “he’ll probably grow out of it”, but sadly, Larry never did. And being left to rot, alone in a cell, all Larry had was routine, ridicule and a bubbling rage.
On 27th May 1968, in Aberdeen’s infamous Peterhead prison, as a protest against the brutality of the guards, Larry was one of four ringleaders who led a violent and bloody riot, during which he stabbed three prison officers and a civilian instructor with a set of tailor’s scissors. With the riot quelled, having cornered their culprits, as they waited for the police, the prison guards took their revenge, and using a flying fury of batons, fists and feet. Larry suffered two broken ribs and needed 14 stitches in his head.
Found guilty of two charges of attempted murder and two of assault, Larry was sentenced to a further fifteen years in prison, in an already indeterminate life sentence, and being unable to curb his violent psychotic rages, finally he was prescribed medication… but not the kind he needed. And being eager to keep him doped-up and docile, they dosed him with an addictive daily cocktail of strong sedatives.
On 29th December 1972, Larry attempted to escape from the Inverness prison, and in what should have been a simple plan; when confronted, he stabbed four prison officers in the back, chest, neck, face and eyes using a makeshift dagger fashioned from a sharpened table fork. He was found guilty of four counts of attempted murder which increased his sentence by a further 26 years in prison.
And with his head throbbing, his pulse racing and his fingers tingling, the more he got hopelessly addicted to prescription drugs (which failed to quell his anxiety, paranoia and hallucinations), the more he became dependant on harder drugs such as opium and heroin, to make the voices go away.
On the 16th March 1973, nine years into his incarceration and almost a decade after the murder of Paddy O’Keefe, Larry Winters was transferred to the notorious HMP Barlinnie Prison; a cramped, squalid, overpopulated, rat-infested, powder-keg of drug-addicts, rapists and murderers, so infamous, feared and hated, Barlinnie has earned a place high up on the list of the world's most infamous prisons alongside Alcatraz, the Bangkok Hilton and Wormwood Scrubs.
But seeing his mental health rapidly decline, Larry was moved to Barlinnie’s Special Unit; a pioneering facility dedicated to the treatment of ultra-violent prisoners, which used medication and therapy, in a calm and friendly environment, where the guards were tolerant and respectful; where the days were full of open doors and fresh air; and Larry’s recovery was supported by education, enpowered by recreation and was rewarded by supervised visits to his home, his friends and – more importantly – his mum. And it was here that - reading poetry and writing his diaries - Larry began to flourish.
…but by then, it was too late and the damage had been done. (Outro music fade back in).
On Sunday 11th September 1977, 34 year old Larry Winters was found in his cell, slumped naked on the toilet, having overdosed on sedatives and choked on his own vomit. Of the few papers who carried the story, most described him as a thief, a murderer and (most notoriously) as “one of Scotland’s most violent prisoners”, almost as if it was badge of honour… but what they had forgotten was the truth. The mental illness of Larry Winters had been misdiagnosed and had gone unmedicated for almost three decades; and no matter where he went, what he did, or who he hurt, Larry Winter was simply just a frightened young boy, desperate to go home, to be with his mum.
OUTRO: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for listening to Murder Mile.
Don’t forget to stay tuned to Extra Mile after the break, but before that, here’s my recommended podcast of the week, which is Yours in Murder (PLAY PROMO)
A big thank you goes out to my new Patreon supporters, who get murder location videos, crime scene photos and little extra pieces from myself, days before anyone else, as well as a personal thank you from me; this week’s star of Patreon is Kim Nixon. I bless you, the world blesses you, and Murder Mile blesses you, may you stay safe and happy forever.
Murder Mile was researched, written & performed by myself, with the main musical themes written and performed by Erik Stein & Jon Boux of Cult With No Name.
Thank you for listening and sleep well.
*** LEGAL DISCLAIMER ***
The Murder Mile UK True Crime Podcast has been researched using the original declassified police investigation files, court records, press reports and as many authentic sources as possible including eye-witness testimony, confessions, autopsy reports, first-hand accounts and independent investigation, where possible. But these documents are only as accurate as those recounting them and recording them, therefore mistakes will be made. As stated at the beginning of each episode (and as is clear by the way it is presented) Murder Mile is a 'dramatisation' of the events and not a documentary, therefore a certain amount of dramatic licence, selective characterisation and story-telling (within logical reason and based on extensive research) has been taken. It is not a full representation of the case, the people or the investigation in its entirety, and therefore should not be taken as such. It is also often (for the sake of clarity and drama) presented from a single person's perspective, usually (but not exclusively) the victim's, therefore it will contain a certain level of bias to get across this single perspective, which may not be the overall opinion of those involved or associated.
*** LEGAL DISCLAIMER ***
Credits: The Murder Mile true-crime podcast was researched, written and recorded by Michael J Buchanan-Dunne, with the sounds recorded on location (where possible), and the music written and performed by Erik Stein & Jon Boux of Cult With No Name. Additional music was written and performed by various artists, as used under the Creative Common Agreement 4.0. A list of tracks used and the links are listed on the relevant transcript blog here
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a writer, crime historian, podcaster and tour-guide who runs Murder Mile Walks, a guided tour of Soho’s most notorious murder cases, hailed as “one of the top ten curious, quirky, unusual and different things to do in London”, nominated "one of the best true-crime podcasts at the British podcast Awards 2018", and featuring 12 murderers, including 3 serial killers, across 15 locations, totaling 75 deaths, over just a one mile walk
Murder Mile UK True Crime Podcast
Hi Richard. Thank you for your message and I'm glad yoiu're enjoying the series. Sadly, I only deal with cases in and around the West End of London, so Bradford's too far for the podcast to stretch too, but thank you for thinking of Murder Mile. Best wishes. Mx
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Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a crime writer, podcaster & tour guide of Murder Mile Walks, hailed as one of the best "quirky curious & unusual things to do in London".
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