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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 Forty-Two: On the afternoon of Friday 12th December 2014, in Ormond Yard, a quiet back-street at the back of a garish restaurant called Abracadabra, larger-than-life businessman David West Senior was brutally stabbed to death by his diligent business partner and beloved son – David West Junior. But why?
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Ep42 – The Death of David West by David West
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 David West; two David Wests in fact; a father and a son, with Dave Snr being a self-made millionaire and Dave Jnr being the future heir to his empire, and yet, it wasn’t greed which ruined their lives, but a strange (and very familiar) kind of love.
Murder Mile contains satire, upsetting details which may make the uneasy go “urgh” and 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 42: The Death of David West by David West.
Today I’m standing in Ormond Yard, just off Piccadilly Circus, SW1; one road west of St Alban’s Street where Greta Hayward narrowly escaped being the next victim of The Blackout Ripper, one tube stop south of the murder or suicide site of film star and boxer champion Freddie Mills – coming soon to Murder Mile – and (oddly) we’re back in the same street and the same building where the bungling assassins of Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko left traces of highly radioactive Polonium 210.
Situated at the rear of Jermyn Street, a haughty little back-street famed for its pointlessly pretentious art galleries, dusty musty bookshops, expensively bog-standard bistros, and a slew of bespoke tailors who’ll fawn over you if you’re famous, suck up to you if you’re a soap star, with a need to have their lips surgically removed from your anus if you’ve ever been on telly, and yet – with locked doors, alarmed windows and their noses perpetually set to ‘snooty’ – the second you walk in, they’re more likely to call the cops if (like me) you’re a nothing but an unknown cretin.
Whereas Ormond Yard is just a yard, an off-street, a dead-end; and being barely 250 feet long by 15 feet wide, with an odd mix of non-descript buildings, it looks more like the service entrance to a chain-store than a posh place to plonk your bot. But that’s the point, as although these multi-million pound pads are full of actors, writers and designers, all hiding in vague anonymity, it was here, in the middle of Ormond Yard, on the evening of Friday 12th December 2014, that a gregarious, loud and garishly dressed self-made millionaire called David West was brutally stabbed to death, by his own son. (INT)
Born on 14th March 1944, in the struggling market town of Romford (in Essex), David John West (known as “Dave”) was raised in poverty, as after five years of war-time rationing and with eight years of starvation and malnutritian still to come; back when tap water lacked purity, savings were a rarity and fresh fruit was a scarcity, Dave lived in a drab grey world, devoid of colour, health and wealth.
Stuck in a hand-to-mouth existence; weak with hunger, shamed by his threadbare clothes and limited by a basic education, although he came from nothing, Dave was determined never to be poor, ever again.
In 1962, as an ambitious but unskilled 18 year old, Dave enlisted in the British Merchant Navy, where he sailed the seas to far-flung regions of the East and West Indies, and although his stint was brief, it peeled open his eyes to a new world of opportunities, lit a raging fire under his feet, and fuelled his desire for travel, money and food, but first… there was fruit.
Returning to his roots, for several years, Dave ran two market stalls in Brentford and Romford, and as a larger-than-life character; whose loud shirts were as gaudy as his fruit, who dripped in the tacky gold chains and sovereign rings of a poor man who wore all of his wealth - but had the ever-expending waistline of a rich man who ate well, drank heartily and never let anything go to waste - working every hour, of every day, Dave was a natural born entrepreneur, who was determined to be a success.
In 1969, aged 25, being recently married to his pregnant wife (Kathy), Dave opened a small café in the Belgian village of Zeebrugge, serving chip butties and greasy fry-ups to throngs of British day-trippers who flocked to the newly built ferry port with empty-bags and bulging wallets, eager to stock-up on cheap booze and duty-free fags. And although it started small, it was here that an empire was born.
Being a business which began in a caravan, by the mid 1980’s, having relocated to a vast warehouse in the larger ferry port of Calais on the French coast, Dave had opened Europe’s largest British owned cash-and-carry called Eastenders, which sold budget booze in bulk, cheap fags by the bag, £1 bottles of wine, and quickly made Dave a multi-millionaire who was hailed as “King of the Booze Cruise”.
Life was good; Dave was rich beyond his wildest dreams, with a vast business empire, a £2.5 million house, a Rolls Royce, and a wardrobe full of bright pink suits, crocodile-skin shoes and chunky solid gold chains. He was married, happy and healthy with three lovely children. His first born was a boy, who he named David, after himself, and although he was eager that his son would enter onto greatness having inherited his empire… even though Dave Junior was deeply devoted to his dad, his notoriety would be as his father’s killer. (INTERSTITIAL).
Born on 21st August 1970, David West Jnr known as “Little Dave” was the spitting image of his father; squat, sweaty and spud-headed, but a good lad with a big heart. And unlike most millionaire son’s, he wasn’t spoilt, rude or nasty, and never took anything for granted, as with a lot resting on such a tiny set of shoulders, just like his father, Little Dave would learn every nuance of the family business from the ground up, with lots of heavy lifting, long hours and very little pay.
As a deliberately difficult and deeply divisive figure, Big Dave was described in a myriad of different ways; to some he was a maverick, a rebel and a trouble-maker, and to others he was brash, flashy and crass, and although some men might take those words as an insult, to Big Dave (who - as a part of his keenly crafted image of a “Essex barrow-boy turned business tycoon” - courted controversy) this was a compliment. And always, at his side, thought thick and thin, stood his beloved son.
In 1999, Kathy and Dave’s thirty-year marriage ended in divorce, when the fifty-five year old pink-suited, gold-chained and mullet-haired lothario started an affair with blonde French waitress, thirty-one years his junior and a full four years younger than his own daughter. And although the family were devastated by the break-up, by his side - no matter what - was his son.
Big Dave didn’t give a shit what anyone thought of him; he was his own man, a self-made millionaire with no-one to answer to but himself, and as he worked hard and played hard, the richer he got and the less he cared. His lived by this motto “my money, my rules”… and if you didn’t like that, tough shit.
In 2001, two years shy of his sixtieth birthday, Big Dave ditched his 23 year old French girlfriend and shacked-up with a 21 year old Polish dancer called Jo. And although he could easily assuage her expensive tastes by lavishing this new “love of his life” with money, jewels and minks; as a sixty-one year old fat, sweaty and unattractive grandfather; with a Del Boy demeanour and a laughably gaudy dress-sense, who puffed, wheezed and cavorted on the dancefloor with a dolly-bird one third his age, before too long, Big Dave was snubbed by most of Mayfair’s exclusive private member’s clubs.
The rejection was a bitter blow… but Big Dave was not a quitter, he was fighter. As a starving war-time child, who was shamed by his ragged clothes and his limited education, he’d fought back to become a businessman. As a British barrow-boy who barely spoke one word of French, he’d created a cash-and-carry empire in Calais. And now, being shunned by the London elite, Big Dave was going to stick it to the establishment, and with his ethos of “my money, my rules”, Calais’ very own “King of the Booze Cruise” became “King of the West End”. And as his business expanded, Little Dave became his partner.
In May 2005, the father-and-son team opened their first nightclub called HeyJo, in the basement of 91 Jermyn Street with a back entrance at 6-7 Ormond Yard. It was tacky, gaudy and vulgar, a true assault on the senses, an affront to decency and an insult to good taste; with mirrored walls, pink frilly booths, red velvet sofas, urinals shaped like lips, gold-plated taps modelled after his own erect penis, and sexy waitresses dressed as naughty nurses, all serving his own brand of house wine, smuttily titled with labels like ‘The Dog’s Bollocks’ and ‘Ménage et Trois’, HeyJo was just the way Big Dave wanted it.
And although the Jo had long-since gone, the new “love of his life” was his club. And as a stiff middle finger to the stuffy stuck-up Mayfair club-scene, it quickly became a success, and was swiftly followed by several more venues, including a lap dancing club called Puss In Boots, a strip bar called Mandy’s, a nightclub called Pigale, and an equally gaudy restaurant, above Hey Jo’s, called Abracadabra.
By 2007, heavily aided by his loyal and devoted son, David West Snr had amassed a vast cash-and-carry empire, several West End nightclubs, a personal fortune of £100 million, and being listed in the Sunday Times Rich List as one of Britain’s wealthiest men, Big Dave was on top of the world…
…with nowhere to go, but down.
In contrast; when Big Dave lived in his luxurious £2.5 million house at 8 Ormond Yard, right next door to HeyJo, when he wasn’t working (which was rare) his son crashed in a modest two-roomed flat above the nightclub, which he rented off his dad; when Dave Snr was worth £100 million, Dave Jnr was paid a paltry wage of £500 per week; and as his father neared retirement age, although his son had dedicated the bulk of his life to their business, Dave Snr saw his thirty-five year old partner, as nothing more than a little boy.
Although it is said that he truly loved his son, as a father, Dave Snr was not a big softie full of cuddles, kisses or kind words, or even encouragement, advice or support, but was a firm believer in tough love, and with Junior having never received a “thank you”, a “well done”, or heard “I’m proud of you”, being eager to prove his worth, Little Dave knew that their next venture would be his biggest test yet.
Just above HeyJo, on the ground floor of 91 Jermyn Street, with a back entrance at 6-7 Ormond Yard, stood Abracadabra. But this would be more than just a fancy West End restaurant sat amongst several stuffy eateries, this would be another fuck-you by David West to high-society and the establishment.
Everything about Abracadabra was deliberately wrong, ludicrous and deeply offensive, and just like HeyJo, this 150 seat restaurant was a monument to bad taste, which revelled in stirring-up a shit-storm and making those uptight hoity-toity talk, as (in Dave’s eyes) there’s no such thing as bad press.
Described by one reviewer as like eating “an overpriced McDonald’s in a brothel”, Abracadabra served everything from the finest Russian caviar, Maine oysters and Brazilian lobsters, to cheap slop like pizza, pasta and burgers; swigged down with all kinds of posh plonk from a £29000 bottle of Cristal to a £20 bottle of Blue Nun, which diners digested amongst a décor so gaudy, it was impossible not to puke.
Everything was either harlequin themed, mismatched or out-of-place; with an eye-watering mosaic of reds, blues, yellows and greens on every wall, door and floor; with burly doormen dressed as court jesters, chairs spray-painted gold like lavish thrones, table lamps like sexy legs in stockings, a giant Santa Claus carved from chocolate, and every square inch crammed full of images of naked ladies (like there had been an explosion in a teenage boy’s bedroom), as well as love booths, prick taps, lips pissers and tables which flipped-over to reveal kinky S&M bondage gear, just the way Big Dave wanted it.
And although unconventional, Abracadabra was a roaring success, and having sweated, wept and bled over the restaurant, Little Dave felt he had done his dad proud… but if his dad was, he didn’t show it.
As a man who always got his own way; age, Ill-health and an excess of alcohol had made Big Dave both bitter and belligerent, and where-as (after thirty years of working together) Junior still believed they were a father and son team, but in truth, he was treated less like the heir to the empire and more like the hired-help, who was there to be used, abused, insulted, humiliated and (ultimately) sacked.
Big Dave was a drunken bully with a short fuse, a quick temper and a viscous tongue, which could reduce even the toughest of men to tears, and although he was never physically violent, for every hour, of every day, for (what would become) four and a half decades, he belittled his son, branded him a failure, poured scorn on every success, and – most hurtful of all for Little Dave, coming as it did from the man who he loved, his hero, his flesh and blood – his own dad deemed him a disappointment.
And after too many years of slogging his guts out, earning a pittance and ending a long day by carrying the bloated twenty-five stone comatose bulk of his paralytic papa to bed, as he was too pissed to climb the stairs; soon enough, the pressure, the pain and the hurt got too much, and Little Dave walked out.
One year shy of his seventieth birthday, although he was too proud to admit it, Big Dave was a mess. He was alone, frail and broke; and after half a century of heavy boozing, reckless spending and with the world being five years into an economic recession; Mandy’s was struggling, Puss in Boots had shut, Pigale was sold, his entire cash-and-carry empire had collapsed, and like giant garish leeches, both HeyJo and Abracadabra had brought him to the brink of bankruptcy.
And as much as he hated his dad, for the way that he had been treated and for what he had done, his son still loved him, and needing to save his frail and feeble father, one year later, Little Dave returned…
…but nothing had changed.
Having grown angry with age and bitter with booze, as his devoted son struggled to balance the books, being too stubborn to relinquish any power, Big Dave drank away what little profits they had, and – almost as if he was too terrified of being usurped by his own son – everything they had created, he ran into the ground. And what began as a family business, soon ended with no business and no family.
The last bitter battle of the two David Wests occurred on the afternoon of Friday 12th December 2014.
Ormond Yard was deathly quiet, which was odd, as being the second-to-last Friday before Christmas, their garish harlequin-themed restaurant should have been abuzz with pissheads at office parties, but the street was ominously empty. And with no lights, no tree and no tinsel, just a depressed doorman dressed as a jester who stood guard outside of the bright pink façade of Abracadabra, although such a striking image was designed to be shocking, bold and silly – as if a six-year-old girl had defaced an old pub with a tin of pink paint in tribute to My Little Pony – now it just looked sad.
Inside was no different, as nine years on; with its paint peeling, its décor drab and much of its sparkle gone, although a slew of tacky Christmas tunes played, in this garish eatery there was no festive cheer, seasonal joy or high jinks, in fact the only spirits were those consumed in abundance by both David’s.
It began over a set of missing keys. Only they weren’t missing, they’d just been misplaced. And by 4pm, as Big Dave drunkenly scolded his son for something which wasn’t even his fault, a furious row erupted, which ended with the son flinging the keys at his father’s face, and then, he stormed out.
For a whole hour they sat apart; alone, drunk and fuming, with Big Dave in Abracadabra and Little Dave in his flat, just one floor above, with neither willing to see eye-to-eye, to back-down or apologise.
One hour later, desperate to make-peace with his dad, Little Dave returned to the restaurant. But the old man hadn’t softened, and having necked-back the best part of a bottle of vodka; as the fat bloated man, in a garish pink suit, sat on a gold spray-painted throne, and spat hurtful curses - like “failure”, “leech” and “useless” - in his boy’s tearful face, with never a “thank you”, those forty-five years of hard-work came to a crushing end, as David West Junior, heir to the empire, was sacked by his dad.
The last recorded words ever said between the two David West’s was this; in a rare outburst Little Dave shouted “go f**k yourself” as he hurled a glass of vodka, which smashed a mirrored wall behind his father’s head, and as he marched out he shouted “I hope you drink yourself to death”.
Being heartbroken, hate-filled and hurt by his hero, as he slugged back several whiskies, Junior began to pack his bags, as - for the very last time - he would leave his flat, his future and his father forever.
Just shy of 6pm, Big Dave had drunk himself into a senseless stupor, and as the bitter alcoholic rambled and seethed, being surrounded by a handful of paying patrons, thinking it best that he sleep it off, his assistant (aided by a doorman jester) carried the former “King of the Booze Cruise” home.
From a window, one floor above Abracadabra, Little Dave spied a pathetic sight, as the fat stumbling legs of his frail and feeble father buckled under his sweating and wheezing bulk, as - even with two aides - the intoxicated selfish mess (who was once a self-made millionaire) struggled to stagger even a few feet. And seeing his chance, Little Dave decided to have-it-out with his dad once-and-for-all.
Strangely, although Abracadabra (at 6-7 Ormond Yard) was a garish pink eyesore, the epitome of its owner’s exuberance, just to the left, at number 8, although this was where Big Dave lived, the house was uncharacteristically bland; all brown-brick, bare wood and a flat-front. And as Little Dave pushed open the stylish dark-green front door, on the bright white carpet, at the foot of the stairs, in a crumpled mess of pink and gold, it looked as if a clumsy drag-queen had dumped a bag of trash, but they hadn’t, that was his dad.
And as he stood there, looking down at his once great hero, lying slumped, drunk and comatose in a creased and sweating heap on the floor, although this frail old man was totally defenceless, inside his son stirred a bubbling rage as forty-five years of hate, abuse and humiliation spewed to the surface, as a history of hurtful words like ‘failure’, ‘leech’ and ‘useless’ bounded about his booze-addled brain.
Big Dave gasped, his blood-shot eyes popping wide, as a ten inch kitchen knife was plunged deep and hard into the billowing rolls of flab in his thick fat neck, slicing open his caustic throat which (too many times had) scorned his son, and as Little Dave retracted the blade, it severed his jugular vein.
And then, Big Dave gasped again, as still being angry, his spurned son stabbed the full length of the stainless steel blade deep into his father’s flabby chest, and (like a shocking piece of garish art in one of his truly tacky nightclubs) he left the handle sticking-out, embedded where once he had a heart.
With his last breath, David West Senior crawled into Ormond Yard, and as a pink suited man, with a ghostly white face, lying in a sticky puddle of red, before too long, he was dead. (END)
Conflicted by a cocktail of revenge, remorse and regret, Little Dave called the Police and confessed to his crime, stating "I would like to admit to a murder. I've just killed my father". And although, as the tearful man was arrested, being clearly wracked with a mix of guilt and glee, he couldn’t help but admit "I'm glad he's dead, but the thing is, I should have kicked the fuck out of him before I killed him".
On the 1st September 2015, nine months later, the trial was held at The Old Bailey. And although, blood was found on his clothes, his fingerprints were on the knife, and 45 year old David West Junior had confessed to the Police, in writing, that he had killed his father, he pleaded not guilty to murder.
With the first jury unable to reach a decision, a second trial was held, and the West family keen to put a permanent end to their pain, on Monday 9th November 2015, the prosecution accepted a plea of being guilty of manslaughter on the grounds of loss of control and diminished responsibility. And in a relationship between father-and-son, which was described as “toxic”, the recorder Nicholas Hilliard QC stated “it’s clear you suffered verbal abuse and aggression from your father for many years”. David West Junior was sentenced to thirteen and a half years in prison. He will be out in 2028, if not sooner.
And of the £100 million fortune? By the time of his death, David West Snr had just £131,000 left in his bank, and – although he’d began as an Essex barrow-boy who became one of Britain’s wealthiest men – having blown-the lot; his empire, his estate and his son’s inheritance was worth… nothing.
OUTRO: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for listening to Murder Mile.
Don’t forget, we’ve got some Extra Mile goodness after the break, but before that, here’s my recommended podcasts of the week, which are In Sight and Strictly Homicide. (PLAY PROMO)
A huge thank you this week to my new Patreon supporter; only one this week, but it’s about quality, not quantity right? And all Patreon supporters are quality (he says, in a non-arse-licky way). This week’s Patreon is Hayley Clarke. Thank you Hayley. I hope that this week is full of joy, wealth, health and happiness for you, and that – miraculously – your name and probably a question you have on your mind appears in Extra Mile. I don’t know how, maybe I’m psychic?
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.
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
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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