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Welcome to the Murder Mile UK True-Crime Podcast and audio guided walk of London's most infamous and often forgotten murder cases, set within and beyond the West End.
EPISODE ONE HUNDRED AND FOURTEEN:
On Friday 29th March 1968 at roughly 4:20pm, 56-year-old wages clerk Frederick Monk was murdered in his locked first-floor office at 17-19 Whitcomb Street, WC2, For the police, the death of Frederick Monk was a baffling mystery; it was either a robbery only with nothing stolen, a brutal attack only with no motive, or the hate-filled killing of a totally innocent man? But which was it?
As many photos of the case are copyright protected by greedy news organisations, to view them, take a peek at my entirely legal social media accounts - Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
The location of F Cope & Co at 17-19 Whitcomb Street, WC2 where Frederick Monk was killed is located where the fusia triangle is, near Charing Cross. To use the map, click it. If you want to see the other murder maps, such as Soho, King's Cross, etc, access them by clicking here.
I've also posted some photos to aid your "enjoyment" of the episode. These photos were taken by myself (copyright Murder Mile) or granted under Government Licence 3.0, where applicable.
Left: John's rented lodging at 25 St George Square SW1. Top middle: The Queen's Arms pub in Warwick Way (Pimlico). Bottom Middle: The Brittania Dwellings in Hoxton where Frederick was born. Middle Right (top): The guest house Frederick lived at 32 Tooting Bec Gardens in Streatham. Middle Right (bottom): Duchess of Clarence Public House on 171 Vauxhall Bridge Road.
Credits: The Murder Mile UK 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 as used under the Creative Common Agreement 4.0.
This case was researched using the original declassified police investigationj files, held at teh National Archives as well as many reliable sources.
UNEDITED TRANSCRIPT OF 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 and beyond the West End.
Today’s episode is about Frederick Monk; an inoffensive wages clerk at a small decorating firm who was bludgeoned to death by an unknown assailant inside of a locked office. The attack was brutal, but nothing was stolen. So, was this a robbery, a murder, or something else?
Murder Mile is researched using the original police files. It contains moments of satire, shock and grisly details. And as a dramatization of the real events, it may also feature loud 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 114: The Incompetence of John Carragher.
Today I’m standing in Whitcomb Street, WC2; one street south of the Chinatown nightclub where David Knight’s death sparked a gangland hit, two streets south-east of a back-alley in Piccadilly where the Blackout Ripper’s killing spree was cut short, one street west of the attack on Desmond O’Beirne, and a few doors east of the murder at the Royal Automobile Club – coming soon to Murder Mile.
Situated within the shadow of the National Gallery, Whitcomb Street is an anonymous little side-street within a few seconds walk of Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square, which is rightly avoided by tourists and is only used by the locals and the cab-drivers as a cut-through from Wardour Street to Pall Mall.
Like many parts of the West End, Whitcomb Street wasn’t designed, it evolved in an ad-hoc way, hence this gloomy one-way-road consists of a monstrous mess of new builds for big businesses like Pay Pal and Thistle Hotels, but also some little family-run shops such as a newsagents, a sandwich bar and (of course) a massage parlour, all hidden behind a line of four storey flat-fronted houses from late 1800’s.
Being within sight of the horrible chimes of the Swiss Centre glockenspiel, the squeal of over-sugared sprogs wailing into M&M World and the perpetual chin-scratch as anyone over 40 thinks “wasn’t that Pret, the former sandwich shop owned by glam-rock pop star and convicted paedophile Gary Glitter?”, (yes, it was), Whitcomb Street is the place that London forgot. But then again, it always has been, as people often forget that it’s the little businesses that need to exist to keep the West End running.
Having changed little since 1968, behind the white walls of 17-19 Whitcomb Street stood a decorator’s firm called F Cope & Co, a busy and respected employer of local tradesmen; with a handy Do It Yourself shop on the left of the ground floor, the entrance to Hobhouse Court on the right (leading to a timber yard, a plumber’s merchant and an ironmongers behind) and between both was a street-door leading up to the four offices on the first floor for the managing directors, the secretary and the wages clerk.
With a steady passage of workmen heading off to jobs, although there was a constant cacophony of noise owing to the friendly banter, the movement of building materials and the bashing of hammers, it was a pretty uneventful place. Except, on Friday afternoons between 4pm and 5pm, when all of the labourers would receive their weekly wages. And what started as just a regular day, ended in tragedy.
As it was here, on Friday 29th March 1968 at roughly 4:10pm, that a mild-mannered wages-clerk called Frederick Monk was murdered. But who would want his dead, and why? (Interstitial)
For the police, the death of Frederick Monk was a baffling mystery; it was either a robbery only with nothing stolen, a brutal attack only with no motive, or the hate-filled killing of an innocent man?
Frederick Ernest Monks known as Freddie was born in 1911 in Hoxton, East London, as the eldest son of Frederick Snr (a druggist) and Ada (a teacher) with one older sister also called Ada. Wisely waiting until their mid/late-thirties to raise a family when their incomes and homelife had a greater stability, Freddie’s childhood was happy, loving and - although working class - they never needed to struggle.
Having passed his school certificate with flying colours, with a passion for maths Freddie was a bright and meticulous young man who was widely regarded by his pals as honest, reliable and trustworthy. As the epitome of his parents, always being sweet and polite, Freddie was described by everyone who knew him as one of the nicest people you could hope to meet - a gentleman who wouldn’t harm a fly.
Raised to appreciate the simple things in life, such as; a hearty bowl of porridge for breakfast, a cheese and pickle sandwich for lunch and a homecooked meal for tea, he was never a man of extravagance.
Renting a single bed in a Streatham guest-house, he wore practical suits (which were always clean and pressed with matching socks, ties and hankies), the short crescent of hair around his ears was neatly trimmed each week by his girlfriend of several years, and he rarely went out. Instead he enjoyed the solitude of reading a good book, supping a nice ale and listening to classical music on the wireless.
Being barely five foot three and as little as he was portly, having broken his left leg many moons ago, although he had a very obvious limp, he never let it get him down, as wherever he walked, he whistled.
As a 56-year-old bachelor of modest means, for the last nine years he had worked as wages clerk at F Cope & Co. He was dependable, precise, friendly and (as a scrupulous man whose work ran like a well-oiled machine) his employers and the tradesmen respected him and all knew what to expect.
Friday 29th March 1968 was a very regular day. It was pay-day for the firm’s labourers, so as twenty-five men in paint and plaster-splattered overalls milled about in the timber yard, Freddie prepared the wage packets. At 2pm, as per usual, he entered William Deacon’s Bank at nearby 9 Waterloo Place, withdrew £639 (£11,000 today), evenly spread the bundles between the seven pockets of his brown pressed suit so they didn’t bulge, and (with his weak leg dragging behind), at 2:35pm, he entered F Cope & Co via the street door on Whitcomb Street. He wasn’t followed, harassed or unnerved.
At 4pm, Terence Bacon (the company’s co-director) passed Freddie on the stairs, where he stated “I’m just going off to the Post Office Mr Bacon, I shan’t be long”. With the St Martin’s Street branch one road away, Freddie returned at 4:10pm, as witnessed by Harold Payne (the co-director) and overheard by Alexandra Hilgert (the typist), all who had adjoining offices on the first floor. In his pockets were six sheets of postage stamps worth £5 and a £25 float in assorted change. Again, he wasn’t followed.
Behind a plain door marked ‘Private’, Freddie’s office was a small eight-foot-square room with a single locked window, a door with a Yale lock (so when it closed, it locked itself) and there was no entry from the offices on either side. As expected, it was neat and organised, with a set of cabinets, a typewriter, a safe and by the window (where the light was good) a desk with a set of drawers underneath.
The pay-day routine ran like clockwork. At 4:20pm, with the supervisors and foremen taking priority over the charge-hands and the labourers, one-by-one (never in groups) each tradesman knocked on the locked door, they identified themselves through the frosted glass panel (as although F Cope & Co always re-hired familiar faces, as a growing business with so many jobs to fulfil, new workmen were needed) they waited to be greeted and to be let in by Freddie. At his desk, by the window, he ticked their name off on a spreadsheet and handed each man a pre-sealed wage-packet from his drawer.
Every Friday was the exactly same... except for that Friday.
At 4:20pm, Raymond McShee (the painting supervisor) who ran a paint-store outback, knocked on the door, but got no reply, so he returned to the timber yard and waited, as more workmen congregated.
By 4:45pm, as a small group formed on the first-floor, knocking louder but to no avail, with no sign of Freddie, Terence tracked-down a spare set of keys to his wage clerk’s office to pay the worker’s wages.
At 4:50pm, Terence unlocked the door. At 4:51pm, Raymond called the Police. At 4:56pm, PC Albert Wright arrived at Whitcomb Street and sealed off the crime scene. And although an ambulance was called, at 7:45pm, Dr Geoffrey Dymond of West End Central certified that Frederick Monk was dead.
Inside his locked office, the door showed no signs of forced entry, the window was shut from within, the cabinets hadn’t been ransacked and the safe was unlocked. But nothing was stolen; not the £639 in the safe, the £800’s worth of wage-packets in the drawer, the £25 float, or the £5 sheets of stamps.
His spreadsheet and pen were just how he had left it; neat and organised on the desk by the window.
Only, Freddie wasn’t been missing. He had been right there, in his office, all along.
Slumped in a crumpled heap, with his legs all twisted, Freddie was found lying face down on the floor. Scattered about his buckled body were several sheets of stamps, his open pocket-book and a few strewn coins, as his killer had pulled each of his pockets inside-out, leaving the white material exposed.
Freddie’s death was brutal and sadistic. Whoever had murdered Freddie had caught him off guard and had attacked him from behind, as with no defensive wounds, a swift blow from a heavy blunt tool had fractured his right shoulder. Disoriented, as this semi-disabled man staggered unsteadily to his feet, his killer swung (what was believed to be) a carpenter’s hammer hard across his head, which impacted behind his left ear and splintered his skull. And as the barely conscious man collapsed onto the floor, lying prone, immobile and helpless – with the inch-wide steel ball of the hammer – his killer had caved in the top of his skull two times more, as a steady stream of blood pooled about his head and torso.
His death was slow and lonely, as trapped inside the secure walls of his office, being paralysed and barely-conscious, Freddie was unable to cry, scream or even to call for help. His last moments alive were spent in a terrifying solitude, so by the time the door was opened, Freddie was already dead.
No fingerprints were found except Freddie’s. Nothing was stolen. No-one suspicious was seen entering or exiting the premises and there was no sign of a break in. Of the twenty-three staff and tradesmen in the yard and offices at the time of the murder, every known person was accounted for and they all had a corroborated alibi. Nobody heard a struggle; nobody saw his attacker and no weapon was found.
The Police were baffled by this violent attack with no obvious motive. Was it a murder made to look like a robbery, a robbery made to look like a murder, or was it personal, business, or something else?
Whoever had done this was angry, desperate and would have been bloodied. But then, who would want to murder such a lovely man as Frederick Monk, a true gentleman who wouldn’t harm a fly?
His name was John Carragher...
...he knew the location, the victim and his routines. With his plan in place, he would enter the premises without a key, he would attack without a sound, leave no fingerprints, weapons or clues, and would escape a locked room without being seen by anyone, leaving the detectives baffled as to his motive.
And yet, although he may seem like a criminal mastermind? In truth, he was truly incompetent.
John Carragher was born in Dublin on 24th January 1944 but was raised in the town of Castleblaney on the border of Northern Ireland. Described as a badly behaved boy with jittery limbs, grinding teeth and wide staring eyes, his criminal career began aged 10 when he stole from his family’s farm.
Educated at Castleblaney School, he hated his teachers, was often truant and unable to focus, he quit with no qualifications. Later, it was found that he had an IQ of just 84, half way between average and retarded. Aged 13, he ran away from home. Aged 14, he enlisted in the Boy’s Brigade of the Inniskilling Fusiliers until he was discharged on medical grounds. And aged 16, as his own parents had testified in court that he was “beyond control”, he was sent to Borstal and he never saw his family ever again.
As a restless, semi-literate boy who’s right leg had been broken and set so often that (just like Frederick Monk) it had left him with a limp – burdened by an unruly uncouth attitude – he survived on a series of low-paid short-term jobs as a painter and labourer, all interspersed with frequent stints in prison.
16th April 1960, aged 16, he was bound-over for one-year at Liverpool Magistrates Court for stealing wallets. 9th May, charged with four counts of theft, he was sent to St Patrick’s Borstal in Londonderry, but having been unsuccessfully “retrained” and found guilty of two further counts of theft, on 21st July 1960 he was sent to prison for sixteen weeks. That’s three convictions in just four months.
Moving to England in February 1962, although he planned to start a new life under several aliases such as John Callaghan and John Cash, he struggled to hold down a part-time job and - as a hopelessly inept thief who was easily caught owing bad planning and a violent temper – he often returned to prison.
1st March 1962, he stole a handbag from Crewe Station and was fined £15. 11th March 1962, charged with burglary, he was sent back to borstal for ten months. Five weeks after his release, charged with shop-breaking and larceny in Balham, he was sentenced to four more months in prison. Three months later, charged again with burglary, he served thirty months. And three weeks later, he served a further thirteen months for burglary, and whilst in Wandsworth Prison, he attacked an inmate with a hammer.
Released from prison on 21st December 1967, as a 24-year-old drifter with no money, no family and without the skills to hold down a career, the guidance to be good, or the intelligence to execute and plan a flawless robbery, John Carragher made a conscious decision to lead a normal productive life.
On 1st January 1968, he was hired as a decorator at F Cope & Co. Sadly the job wouldn’t last, as having turned up six hours late and with his work described as only “satisfactory”, he was kept on as Raymond McShee was one man short, but by the end of the month, he had been handed his cards and laid off.
Over the next three months, he flitted between jobs, wearing his usual blue cardigan, blue trousers, black shirt and black shoes, all of which were flecked with paint, and (as the tools of his trade) he carried a navy-blue tool-bag full of brushes, spanners, hacksaws and a sixteen-inch steel hammer.
During the twenty-five days that he had worked for F Cope & Co, he met Frederick Monk five times; once on the day he was hired, thrice on subsequent Fridays to receive his wage, and once on the day he left, to be handed his final pay. They never met socially, they had no prior connections and as Freddie wasn’t involved in the hiring or firing of the tradesman, John had no reason to hate him.
And yet, on Friday 29th March 1968, John Carragher would brutally batter Frederick Monk to death.
But why? If this was robbery, then why did John leave £639 in the safe, £800 in wage slips, a £25 float and £5 in stamps? If this was a murder, why attack him during the day, in his office, at a place they both were known, when Frederick lived alone? And why did John empty all of Freddie’s pockets? What was he after? What did he take? An what was so important it drove him to kill for the very first time?
John Carragher wasn’t never a man with a plan; he was an angry, restless and impatient boy with very little intelligence, very few morals and an inability to not get caught owing to his own incompetence.
On Sunday 17th March, two weeks prior, in the Queen’s Arms pub in Pimlico, John spilled his whole plan to George Copp, a painter and ex-con he had met the night before. George wasn’t interested and the two men fell out when John’s sexual advances were rejected by George’s girlfriend (Jeanette), at which John shouted “even if I have to wait a few months, I’ll get you when you’re by yourself, and nobody will know what happened to you”, all of which was overheard by an off-duty Policeman.
On the morning of Friday 29th March, the day of Frederick’s death, carrying his navy-blue tool-bag and wearing his usual painter’s scrubs, John left his small rented lodging in Mary Sexton’s boarding house at 25 St George’s Street in Pimlico. His rent of £3 and 10 shillings was due the next day, and although he had the money to pay for it, he told the landlady he planned to go to Ireland for a little holiday first.
Miraculously still employed, even though his attendance was poor and his work was only satisfactory, having been hired by Woodman’s (a rival firm) to paint the walls of 214 Oxford Street by Oxford Circus, at 12:45pm that day, John Carragher said to a colleague “it’s a beautiful day, I think I’m going to have some fun”. And with that, he walked out, leaving behind his final day’s pay and his tool-kit...
...but tucked into the waist-band of his trousers, he had stashed a sixteen-inch hammer. And although its heavy rounded head was sticky with spots of wet paint, soon it would be spattered with blood.
Where he went? We don’t know. What he did? We don’t know. But we do know what he didn’t do.
Had he planned this robbery carefully, he’d have known that Freddie’s pay-day routine always ran like well-oiled machine, it’s what made him so respected and trusted as the wages clerk for F Cope & Co.
At 2pm, every Friday, Freddie would collect about £600 from William Deacon’s Bank in Waterloo Place, he’d evenly spread the notes between the pockets of his brown pressed suit and (with his crippled leg dragging behind) it would take him ten minutes to limp back to Whitcomb Street. With a disguise, a surprise and a few choice words, right there and then, John could have stolen the lot... but he didn’t.
At 4pm, as per usual, Freddie headed off to the Post Office in St Martin’s Street to collect six sheets of stamps and a £25 float in assorted change. It was only one road away from F Cope & Co and the side streets were dark and secluded. So, again, there and then, he could have stolen the lot... but he didn’t.
It wasn’t for a brilliant reason, or owing to a personal beef, he just didn’t think of it. John Carragher wasn’t caught because he was too clever, he only got away with it owing to pure luck and coincidence.
At 4:10pm, as expected, Freddie returned to F Cope & Co and entered via the street door, as followed by John. The staff were in their offices, the tradesmen were in the yard, no-one was on the first-floor landing and John was just another paint-spattered workman milling around and waiting for his wages.
So, how did John get into Freddie’s locked office? Simple. He knocked. (Knocking)
Why did Freddie open the door? Easy. He knew him. (John – “Hi Freddie, it’s John Carragher”)
But why did Freddie he let John in when he didn’t work there anymore? Well, Freddie wouldn’t know that as he didn’t do the hiring and firing, so as the crews changed every week and mistakes got made, the only way to check it was on his spreadsheet. (John – “Ah, that’s strange. I should be on the sheet”).
And as both Freddie and John entered the locked office, as the door closed, the Yale lock clicked shut.
With the door marked as ‘Private’, the landing empty, the other office doors closed, and the workmen patently waiting in the yard till Freddie was ready, no-one would disturb them for at least five minutes.
John didn’t hate Freddie, he barely knew him, but he needed money and Freddie was in the way.
Keen to get to the root of the problem and to work out why John (whose name he recognised) wasn’t on his list, as Freddie leaned over his spreadsheet, from behind, John attacked him with the hammer.
The first strike struck Freddie’s right shoulder sending him slumping onto the desk with an unexpected and confusing pain. Struggling to steady himself with the wasted muscles of his crippled left leg, before Freddie could even stand or scream, John struck again, smashing the half-kilo hammer across the back of his head, splitting his skull from right ear to eye, so as the brute force of the blow spun his body 180 degrees, as his legs buckled under him, Freddie collapsed in a crumpled messy heap.
Freddie meant nothing to John, he didn’t know him and he didn’t care, so to ensure that this only witness would never identify him, with two fast hard blows, John struck Freddie over the back of head with the heavy curved ball of the hammer. So hard were the strikes that his skull split open, his blood pooled, his brain swelled and – lying face down on the floor – it smashed his nose and eye-socket.
With blood in his throat, Freddie lived for a few more minutes but lay paralysed as John pulled his pockets inside-out and searched for the one thing he wanted – the key to the safe. He was so fixated on finding it, he missed the wage-packets, the float and the stamps. Had he looked, he would have seen that the key was in the lock, the money was in the safe and the safe was open... but he didn’t.
At 4:20pm, Raymond McShee knocked on the door to get the wages for his crew, but got no reply. Inside, hunched over Freddie, John panicked, he waited till Raymond had left and fled empty-handed.
His escape was simple, as leaving via the quiet street-door rather than busy back-yard, no-one noticed another tradesman exiting this well-known painting and decorating firm, spattered with stains and holding a hammer, on pay-day. So, by the time that Freddie was found, he was already dead...
...but it was John’s lack of planning which became his downfall (End)
With no witnesses, fingerprints, weapon or obvious motive, the police took a logical approach to the case and interviewed every current and former employee of F Cope & Co. Everyone was accounted for... except one. Searching his lodging, they found his clothes, shoes and a towel, all smeared in blood.
The next day, John had fled to Belfast; did a little shopping, watched Cool Hand Luke, flew back on 2nd April and was arrested one week later, as he sat having a pint at the Duchess of Clarence pub. When asked why he’d fled the country, he said; “I didn’t, I went to Ireland because it was a nice weekend” and although he bragged to the police that he had spent £150, we know that nothing was stolen.
The decorator, George Copp (who – two weeks prior - had already informed the police that a man had propositioned him regarding a robbery at F Cope & Co) positively identified John. During his interview, not being the sharpest of tools, John said “I didn’t kill Freddie Monk at Copes”, even though the Police hadn’t mentioned either the victim’s name or the location. And although no weapon was found, John Carragher was tried at the Old Bailey on the 24th June 1968. He pleaded ‘not guilty’ to both robbery and murder, charges of which – just three years earlier – may have resulted in a death sentence, but with capital punishment having been abolished, on 9th July 1968 he was sentenced to life in prison. He served his time, his whereabouts are unknown and whether he has adopted a new alias is uncertain.
All we do know is that for the sake of a few pounds and a little holiday, a good man called Frederick Monk was murdered. He was sweet, polite and respected. The only reason he was died was because of where he worked and the only reason he died was because of the incompetence of John Carragher.
OUTRO: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for listening to Murder Mile.
Up next, we have lots of extra details about this case, we have a quiz, a chat about team, possibly a moment when I shall grumble about a person or boat going by, and this shall all be consumed over a nice cuppa tea and a little biccie or two. Probably two.
Before that, a big thank you to my new Patreon supporters who are Kimberlee Anderson and Lisa Morgan, I thank you both, with an extra thank you to Mugworr who donated to the Murder Mile cake and coot fund via Supporter app in the show-notes. I thank you all. Plus a welcome to all new listeners and a thank you to all long-term listeners. You’re sadists! All of you!
Murder Mile was researched, written and 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, which are freely available in the public domain, 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, and are always incomplete or full of opinion rather than fact, therefore mistakes and misrepresentations can be made. As stated at the beginning of each episode (and as is clear by the way it is presented) Murder Mile UK True Crime Podcast 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 to create a fuller picture. It is not a full and complete representation of the case, the people or the investigation, and therefore should not be taken as such. It is also often (for the sake of clarity, speed and the drama) presented from a single person's perspective, usually (but not exclusively) the victim's, and therefore it will contain a certain level of bias and opinion to get across this single perspective, which may not be the overall opinion of those involved or associated. Murder Mile is just one possible retelling of each case. Murder Mile does not set out to cause any harm or distress to those involved, and those who listen to the podcast or read the transcripts provided should be aware that by accessing anything created by Murder Mile (or any source related to any each) that they may discover some details about a person, an incident or the police investigation itself, that they were unaware of.
*** LEGAL DISCLAIMER
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", one of The Telegraph's top five true-crime podcasts and featuring 12 murderers, including 3 serial killers, across 15 locations, totaling 50 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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