Murder Mile UK True-Crime Podcast #125: Signed in Blood (The Deadly Dilemma of Amarjit Chohan) - Part Two
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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 TWENTY-FIVE:
Today’s episode is the concluding part about the kidnapping of Amarjit Chohan, the modest millionaire who was drugged and tortured to sign-away his fortune, but having resisted for the sake of his family’s future, his kidnappers knew there was only one way to break him.
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 35 Sutton Road in Heston, where Amarjit Chohan previously lived and nancy and her children were last seen alive is marked with a mustard yellow cross. To use the map, click it. If you want to see the other murder maps, access them by clicking here.
I've also posted some photos to aid your knowledge of the case. These photos were taken by myself (copyright Murder Mile) or granted under Government License 3.0, where applicable.
Trouble Brewin - A True Story of Sex, Murder, Love and Betrayal by Belinda Brewin
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.
(Torture sounds) Today’s episode is the concluding part about the kidnapping of Amarjit Chohan, the modest millionaire who was drugged and tortured to sign-away his fortune, but having resisted for the sake of his family’s future, his kidnappers knew there was only one way to break him.
(Distort to end) Murder Mile is researched using authentic sources. 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.
(Voicemail) “Hello Nancy. Don’t panic. I’m okay. I’ll be back tomorrow”
(Muffled) “Sign it!”. My name is Michael, I am your tour-guide and this is Murder Mile.
(Fights to breathe) Episode 125: Signed in Blood (The Deadly Dilemma of Amarjit Chohan) – Part Two.
(Torn tape) Still gagged, as several hairs from his moustache were ripped-out by the roots as the brown parcel tape was torn from his nose, although Amarjit could almost breathe again, he couldn’t scream.
With black eyes, purple skin and slick red streaks running down the puffy lumps of his once pleasant face, the shattered man slumped in the floral armchair; his feet bound and his mouth muffled, as the rest of the reel of tape dangled at the back of his plastic smothered head. All this pain, all this fear, he knew it could all be over in the stroke of a pen, but so would his family’s futures.
Repeatedly, Amarjit had refused to sign a single blank sheet, he knew he was dead whether he signed them or not, but he also knew one other thing... without a signature, his kidnappers had nothing.
It is said that a humble man is often born out of humble beginnings...
...but this was not the case with Kenneth Regen.
Since he was a boy, Kenneth Roy Regan had despised his working-class life. Burdened by big dreams, little patience and a basic education, his teenage years were spent in the little village of South Newton, where he lived with his father Roy; a HGV-driver in a cramped two-roomed bungalow at 3 Forge Close. He trained as a trucker and learned how to lay drives, only loving money, he hated hard work.
Kenneth wanted it all; fast living, loose women, sports cars and fancy suits. Not being a man of style, he lacked the looks and charisma to succeed and his knowledge of business was non-existent. He was a fantasist who pictured himself as a wealthy playboy and a criminal mastermind - but being prone to bragging and bullshit, and fuelled by a fiery temper - he wanted everything right here and right now.
Peter Rees, his co-kidnapper later described him as a "devious, violent and manipulative liar”, a man without a single shred of empathy for anyone but himself. But he had confidence and persistence.
Nicknamed Captain Cash, alongside his pal William Horncy, they netted £1.75 million in fake passports having recruited the homeless at £50-a-go. Having muscled in on a legitimate insurance firm, he used this to launder money. Flooding the streets with Class A drugs, they once smuggled 15 tonnes in a hand-built submarine. And in April 1997, Michael Schallamach, a Southampton businessman vanished without trace, but in an eerie similarity to the recorded message – “Hello Nancy...” - Michael’s wife Yvonne would receive a letter claiming her husband had ran away to Nigeria. And although Hampshire Police hadn’t enough evidence to convict him, the last person to see Michael alive was Kenneth Regen.
By the mid-to-late 1990’s, Kenneth was living the crass flashy life he had dreamed of; with slick shiny suits, chunky gold chains and swigging Cristal; he drove a Mercedes, he partied in Monte Carlo, and he showered beautiful women with expensive gifts, as a way to excuse his lack of manners and looks.
He had it all... and then, he lost the lot.
In June 1998, as Police swooped on his lock-up in North London, Kenneth fled, ran over a policewoman and - having crashed his car - in the boot they found bundles of cash and 30 kilos of heroin. His criminal career was over, and charged with assault, laundering, fraud, forgery and drug-smuggling, the 46-year-old was sentenced to 27-years in prison, meaning – with luck – he would be out in 2027, aged 73.
Only Kenneth didn’t plan on serving time, so turning Queen’s Evidence, Kenneth became a super-grass for the National Criminal Investigation Squad, a snitch who ratted-out everyone he ever knew to save himself; whether a drug dealer, a smuggler, a gangster, or even his own partner William Horncy. His information fed into four major Police investigations - Operation Bromley, Hoy, Extend and Parisienne – his evidence smashed-up a £2billion cocaine smuggling ring, fifteen wanted criminals were locked up for decades, and in return, his 27-year sentence was reduced to eight... but he served only three.
In June 2002, 51-year-old Kenneth Regen, having changed his name to Kenneth Avery, left prison with nothing but the shirt on his back, the lint in his pockets and a contract on his head. He knew he was a ‘dead man walking’, so with his life being short, he needed to live his life to the full, like he used to.
His problem was money, everything had been confiscated; his cars, his homes and his ill-gotten gains. The flashy Merc was swapped for a crappy old Peugeot. The tailored suits became jeans and jumpers. High-tea at Harvey Nichols was replaced with chip-butties in front of the telly-box with his elderly dad Roy (a good man who eked-out his pension as a cleaner at Salisbury train station). And now, as he did as a little kid, he was kipping in his dad’s bungalow at 3 Forge Close. It felt like he had achieved nothing.
Owing to the strict conditions of his parole, as a HGV driver, he earned a modest living hauling freight for different businesses. One of which was a successful fruit and veg import firm called CIBA Freight...
...that is how, by chance, Kenneth Avery met Amarjit Chohan.
The two men had many similarities, again by chance; they were almost the same age, weight and size; they both wore casual clothes, both drove tatty little runabouts and both lived in modest bungalows, and although Amarjit’s was a permanent part of his humble nature, Kenneth’s was only a temporary issue. In Kenneth’s eyes, he would be rich again, as everything Amarjit had was his for the taking.
Kenneth hated hard work, he wanted to get rich quick, this wasn’t a problem having muscled his way into businesses before, and although he had the confidence, but what he lacked was respectability. In 1997, he had befriended Belinda Brewin – an elegant and successful PR exec’ with a solid reputation and some serious celebrity clout – she was everything he never was; smart, honest and trusted.
Having brushed-off his advances before, she kept Kenneth at an arm’s length, but having recently been dumped by her partner and lumped with the fees to her daughter’s private school and the mortgage to a 50-acre estate in Devon, she had a very exclusive lifestyle to live, but now, no means to afford it.
As a friend and (he hoped) a lover, Kenneth offered to help Belinda out with a job. It seemed legit. Only she would be unwittingly drawn into a deadly deal, posing as the ‘respectable front’ for his scams.
Kenneth had scams galore. Whilst still on probation, he was scouting for farms to turn into cannabis factories, he was planning to smuggle two-and-a-half tonnes of cocaine in via the seaport of Fishguard, and in January 2003, a £3 million deal to build a McDonalds franchise in Hatton Cross had collapsed. He had planned to bail-out the second the money came in, so was furious at having potentially lost millions which he considered ‘his’... but it did give him a greater insight into Amarjit and his business.
Hitting upon a new plan from an old scam, he would lure Amarjit somewhere remote; kidnap him, drug him and beat him; force him to sign-over his wealth, his life and his business by signing several sheets of blank paper, and once that was done, kill him, dump him and claim that he’d fled the country. The plan was simple and effective, as Amarjit had many secrets and the signatures would all be his.
Unable to do this alone, he recruited William Horncy, his old-pal whose information to the Police had sent him to prison for three years, but now as equally broke, Bill had been lured in by the lie that £2 million was sitting in an offshore account, to be shared by the two men once their parole was lifted. As well as Peter Rees, a 38-year-old burglar with a crap moustache, a bad mullet and an okay accent when it came to posing as a Dutch buyer - even though Peter neither liked nor trusted Kenneth Regen.
Within a few days, the kidnapping was arranged; a white Transit van was rented, a safe house was secured at a small bungalow (having sent his elderly dad on a short holiday), a vile of GHB was ordered and - while fitting a mezzanine floor at CIBA Freight - they swiped a few rolls of brown parcel tape, several pens, some envelopes and a stack of blank paper headed with the company logo. A few calls were made, a plausible deal was agreed, a time and a place were arranged, and having driven his blue Ford Escort to a secluded lane near Stonehenge, by the morning of Thursday 13th February 2003...
...Amarjit Chohan had vanished. (Tape/breathing/message – “Hello Nancy. Don’t panic. I’m okay...”)
(Torn tape) It should have been a simple plan; kidnap, torture, murder and dump, but Amarjit’s refusal to sign the papers wasn’t the only problem. (Mobile) Missing for two days – with his phone dead and Kenneth ignoring his - Nancy knew that something seriously wrong, she just didn’t know what, but she feared the worst. Being anxious and frantic, if Nancy called the Police, Kenneth risked arrest...
...but then, maybe he had misjudged her? Maybe she wasn’t an insignificant little detail who was causing a fuss? And maybe this living liability was his best and only chance at getting Amarjit to sign?
Exactly how and when it happened is unknown.
Late on Saturday 15th February, a rented white Transit van pulled up at 35 Sutton Road in Heston, as with Peter guarding Amarjit, Kenneth and Bill entered the Chohan family bungalow. Their mood was calm and what was said is uncertain, but there were no screams, no shouts and no signs of a struggle.
With her laundry part-finished, a door key in the lock, her holy book left behind and having not packed a single item vital to travel with a three-year-old toddler and an eight-week-old baby, to the uninitiated it looked as if Nancy, Charanjit, Ravinder and Devinder had left home of their own accord. If they were drugged, nobody saw them carried? If they walked, nobody saw them leave? And with the transit van steadily driven 76 miles from Heston to Forge Close, again, nobody heard or saw anything suspicious.
Having reversed up to the side-wall, if the family had voluntarily entered the bungalow - possibly under the promise of seeing Amarjit - not one neighbour heard the sound of eight people inside its wafer-thin walls; not an angry kidnapper, a terrified hostage, two petrified women or two wailing babies? A sight which undoubtably would have made any one of them scream, cry or flee... but it didn’t.
And yet, something had made Amarjit sign, as several blank sheets of CIBA Freight paper were adorned with his signature? With the stroke of a pen, everything was taken. But why? Why give up everything?
Everyone has their breaking point. Maybe his loved ones were paraded before him? Maybe his family were threatened, his wife tortured, or his babies beaten? Either way, autopsies would later confirm that everyone member of the Chohan family was strangled, whether in the van, in the house, or in the sitting-room, as (being bound and gagged) Amarjit was forced to watch as, one-by-one, a remorseless sadist massacred his whole family before his eyes? In fact, the only proof we have that they were even there was a small spot of blood found on the side-wall, which belonged to eight-week-old Devinder.
With his life destroyed, having served his purpose, Amarjit knew that his death was imminent...
...but before he died, in a stroke of genius, he would sign his name one more time.
On Monday 17th February, Kenneth Regen entered CIBA Freight. In his hand, he held two sheets of paper; a Power of Attorney giving him full control over the business, and a typed letter from Amarjit. It read “Greed has got the better of me. I've got myself in serious trouble. People are after me. I have to escape", stating that his legal deal in the narcotic Khat had embroiled him with a deadly drugs cartel.
Initially the staff were shocked, but given how chaotically he had run his business, with a new buyer mooted, the signatures a match and the papers legit, CIBA Freight carried on under new management, with Belinda Brewin installed as its Managing Director and more importantly as Kenneth’s ‘respectable front’. Only its new owner didn’t waste any time admiring his million-pound empire...
...as in his eyes, a few insignificant little details needed to be erased.
It began as a casual aside when Belinda said she was having a drainage issue at Great Colefield House, her 50-acre estate in the village of Stoodleigh, 90 miles south of Stonehenge. Without her knowledge, Kenneth had begun fixing the problem, but in truth this little gift had a more sinister side.
That’s the beauty of this part of the Devon countryside, there’s nothing but acres of fields and farms. It’s never a strange sight to see a JCB digging a ditch six-feet-deep, fourteen-long and four-wide in this neck of the woods. Nor three men unloading a van of five heavy lumps wrapped in plastic, a ferocious fire whose acrid smoke blots out the sky as an unwanted heap burns in the deep red soil of the trench, nor is it even odd to see - whatever the farmer has done - hidden under 48 tonnes of rubble and soil.
So unfazed was Kenneth, when a friendly local got chatting to him, Kenneth quipped “Yeah, I've done a lot of driveways for Pakistanis”. Grinning, as underneath his feet, lay the bodies of the Chohan family.
Within days, the safe house at Forge Close was stripped; every item of furniture was destroyed, every wall was repainted, every carpet was replaced and (in place of the armchair) was a three-piece suite.
Outside in the cul-de-sac, having been backed-up to the side-wall, the vehicles were pressure-washed, inside and out, and - with the blue Ford Escort scrapped - the van was returned to the hire company.
And with that, Amarjit and the Chohan family had vanished for good.
Only Kenneth Regen had overlooked a small (and he thought) insignificant little detail irrelevant to his plan. The first little problem was Nancy, but next was her brother, Onkar. (Phone ringing continuously)
As a close-knit family, distance meant nothing, so although Onkar Verma lived in New Zealand, without fail, he and his sister would talk every day. Six days had now passed with the phone going unanswered, Amarjit was missing and the family were silent. He knew something was seriously wrong, he just didn’t know what, so having reported them missing, he flew the eleven and a half thousand miles to London.
With a spare key, Onkar entered the bungalow at 35 Sutton Road. The door was locked and the lights were out, but as a busy family home of a mum, a dad and a gran, with a three-year-old boy and an eight-week-old baby, that day, the house was unnervingly silent. For the Police, there was signs of a break-in, a theft or a struggle - this wasn’t a criminal act, this was a family who had left at short notice.
But for Onkar, it was the small details which made his stomach churn with fear.
In her haste, unusually Nancy hadn’t packed anything for the children; no clothes, no food, no bottles and no nappies. With the laundry in the washer and a key still in the backdoor, this hinted at a family crisis, but three items left behind stuck out as strange; Ravinder’s favourite toy (a little Thomas the Tank Engine), Charanjit’s cherished holy book and her return ticket to India, which was now overdue.
Investigating further, having found their mobile phones dead and their bank accounts untouched, the Police contacted CIBA Freight and the strange disappearance of Amarjit Chohan began to unravel.
It seemed a plausible story; a chaotic businessman with a company which imports a semi-legal narcotic gets on the wrong side of a drugs cartel. Signed by his own hand, a Power of Attorney and a type letter had proven it. To any outsider, Amarjit looked suspicious-as-hell and Kenneth as clean-as-a-whistle, but there was still an unanswered question... if Amarjit has fled, what had happened to his family?
Undaunted, Kenneth concocted a new plan from an old scam. With Amarjit’s blue Ford Escort crushed, he hopped a ferry at Southampton, drove his crappy Peugeot 206 to the French port of Dieppe and posted a typed letter on headed paper, which was signed by Amarjit. Postmarked 20th March from this ‘gateway to Europe’, it arrived at CIBA Freight three days later, clearly stating that Amarjit had “had enough of England” and (having possibly driven by car) that he was “taking my family back to India”.
Only something didn’t ring true...
As with the phone message, Amarjit left voicemails for his staff in English and his wife in Punjabi, but when it came to letters, he always wrote them by hand. Kenneth didn’t know this, only those who truly knew Amarjit would, so with no money or passports, as much as the letter implied that the family were in France and heading to India, the likelihood was that they were still somewhere in England.
Headed-up by DCI Dave Little of Scotland Yard’s Serious Crime Command, on the several occasions he interviewed Kenneth Regen, this convicted drug-smuggler, forger and snitch came across as arrogant, selfish and remorseless. When questioned, he had no answers as to why “if an Asian gang had extorted Amarjit, where’s the threats against you?”, “why are there no ferry tickets in the name of Chohan?”, “why haven’t my detectives found the family in the Punjab?”, “why did his blue Ford Escort crash on 21st February and who were the two male occupants who gave false names?”, and more bafflingly, “why did Amarjit leave his multi-million-pound business to you, a man he had met just months ago?”
Everytime they spoke; his story would change... and then, it changed again.
Kenneth claimed, “Okay, Anil hasn’t fled, his family are in South Wales. I’m meant to be giving him some fake passports on the Easter Monday, by the Bronze Pig statue at the back of Newport market”.
The DCI knew this was a ploy, as the location was a deliberate choice which openly mocked the Police, so as a surveillance team watched the meet which wouldn’t happen, the investigation continued.
Identifying his known accomplices – William Horncy and Peter Rees – phone masts had pin-pointed their precise movements in Southhall, South Newton and Stoodleigh at around the time that the family had vanished, receipts for purchases were found and traffic cameras identified the white Transit van.
Rightly suspicious, Belinda Brewin, CIBA Freight’s newly-appointed Managing Director approached the Police and openly expressed her worries; very little made sense, but stranger still was that, on the day that Kenneth become a new boss with a £4.5 million empire to run, he was on her farm digging ditches.
Belinda would be able to point the Police to the exact location of the trench...
...only Kenneth was one step ahead of her.
On Saturday 19th April, Regen, Horncy and Rees returned to Belinda’s farm. Buried for eight weeks, a digger unearthed the rotting remains of the family; with so little respect that the digger’s tooth ripped deep wound in Amarjit’s head and as the killers gazed upon the bodies all trussed up in plastic sheets, it was joked that they “looked like Christmas Crackers”, before being slung in the back of the van.
On Sunday 20th, having hired a speedboat, they launched from Poole and hurtling roughly 30 miles off the Dorset coast, they dumped the bodies in the English Channel and out into the Atlantic Sea beyond.
So, by the Monday, as Regan and Horncy returned to the bronze pig statue and a surveillance team watched on, with the unabashed cockiness of two pathetic little kids, they scratched their heads with exaggerated expressions, performing a pantomime, as if wondering why Amarjit hadn’t shown up?
With no bodies, no blood, no sightings and no hard evidence, the Police had very little to go on...
...only for Kenneth and his murderous cohorts, the tides were about to turn.
In the early hours of 22nd April 2003, making use of the calm waters, David Chapman and his son Carl were canoeing off Bournemouth Pier, a popular tourist attraction with miles of sandy beaches, but as they weaved between the dark concrete piles of the cast iron pier, they spotted a body in the water.
As an unidentified Asian man in his late 40’s, based on the decomposition, he had been dead for ten weeks but he hadn’t drowned, in fact he had only entered the sea a few days before. And although they were unable to obtain a fingerprint as his skin had degloved, undeniably his death was unlawful.
With high levels of GHB in his system, his wrists and ankles bound, and a gag made from brown parcel tape and a red scarf still wrapped around his head, being dotted with small flecks of gravel and an odd reddish soil, the evidence suggested he had been buried on land before being dumped in the sea.
One week later, with his DNA proving an exact match, their worst fears were realised; Amarjit Chohan had been murdered, and yet, the Police were no closer to finding out who had done it, and why?
But again then, it’s amazing the damage that a person can do with the single stroke of a pen? (End)
Having witnessed his family massacred and knowing his death was imminent, with the same pen he had used to sign his life away, Amarjit had scrawled a few clues on a scrap of paper, such as; his details, the events and the names of his killers. That should have been enough to convict all three, but Amarjit went one better. He didn’t use any old paper, or even a sheet of his own. Instead, seeing it sat on the side-table, he used a much more incriminating letter, sent from Cheltenham & Gloucester Bank, on the 12th February 2003, to 3 Forge Close and addressed to Kenneth Regan. And having signed it with his own signature, he folded it up into an unrecognisable lump and hid in in his own black sock.
The evidence was overwhelming; a spot of Devinder’s blood at the safe house, burned fragments of family’s clothes in the red-soiled ditch, and although the vehicles were pressure-washed, the powerful hose had merely pushed every hint of their blood and hair into the recesses of the transit van.
On 15th July, within sight of Bournemouth Pier, a fishing trawler reeled in Nancy’s decomposed body; she had been strangled and her skull was smashed-in with a hammer. But as the thick rope nets were hoisted aloft to bring her body onboard, something fell back into the sea. It was never proven, but based on what the fishermen said, it was believed to have been either one or both of her children.
On 7th September, the remains of Charanjit Kaur Pan were found, washed-up on the Isle of Wight. And although searched for, three-year-old Ravinder and eight-week-old Devinder were never found.
On 8th November 2004, the trial began at The Old Bailey, at which all three pleaded ‘not guilty’. Lasting eight-months and with the investigation costing £10million, a jury of eight men and four women deliberated for 61 hours before reaching a unanimous verdict. Guilty. Convicted of murder, Peter Douglas Rees was sentenced to a minimum of 23 years and both William Horncy and Kenneth Regan were later sentenced to a whole life tariff. With no prospect of parole, they will never be released.
OUTRO: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for listening to Murder Mile.
That was the final part of Signed in Blood. As always, if you’d like a less-stressful half hour, where my mouth flaps for a bit, words come out and cake goes in, join me after the break. But before that, here’s a brief promo for a true-crime podcast which may be the almond in your breakfast croissant.
A big thank you to my new Patreon supporters, some of whom have received exclusive goodies, such as badges, stickers and key-rings, as well as Patron-only podcasts such as Walk With Me and Deadly Thoughts. Oooh. They are Elizabeth Biancucci (Bee-an-koochi), Michelle de Oude, Jo Whittingham and Hannah Hardwick. I thank you all. Plus a thank you to everyone who listens to Murder Mile, shares it with their friends, and leaves a lovely review online. I really do read them all. And as promised, a little hi or a g’day to Lou Farley in Australia.
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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