Murder Mile UK True-Crime Podcast - #156: The "Old Acquaintance" of Charlotte Flanagan (Gareth Richard Horton)
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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, all set within and beyond the West End.
EPISODE ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-SIX:
Today’s episode is about Charlotte Flanagan, a trainee-nurse and a part-time barmaid who was always there for those who needed her most. But when someone she trusted needed her to be more than just a friend, their close bond ended in murder.
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 Charlotte's murder is marked with a lime green cross near the word Mayfair. To use the map, click it. If you want to see the other murder maps, access them by clicking here.
SOURCES: As this case was researched using some of the sources below.
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 Charlotte Flanagan, a trainee-nurse and a part-time barmaid who was always there for those who needed her most. But when someone she trusted needed her to be more than just a friend, their close bond ended in murder.
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.
My name is Michael, I am your tour-guide and this is Murder Mile.
Episode 156: The “Old Acquaintance” of Charlotte Flanagan.
Today I’m standing on Duke Street in Mayfair, W1; one street south of the stalker Joseph King, one street north of the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko, twenty feet south-east of the terrorist attack of flight El-Al 016, and a few doors from the unfortunate Evelyn Hatton - coming soon to Murder Mile.
On the corner of George Yard, at 82 Duke Street once sat the Barley Mow public house; a five storey, corner-building built of brown brick and pale Portland stone with black wrought-iron detailing. Built in 1851 at 40 Duke Street, it was entirely renumbered in 1896 and rebuilt where it remains today.
With an open-plan pub on the ground-floor, a kitchen and dining on the first, with an office and a small flat above – given how pretentious Mayfair can be – the Barley Mow was actually a proper pub where you could enjoy a good pint, a hearty meal and some friendly banter. Admittedly, when the rugby was on, it was chock-full of London’s unhealthiest, stretching their sweaty sports tops to the max, glugging back fifty pints, all while wheezing about how - having watched six slow-motion replays on Sky Sports– these “so-called professional sportsmen” are “lazy useless idiots, and other such insights by red-faced pundits whose only body parts they’ve exercised since Thatcher’s era was their gobs and arses.
Sadly, like every other pub, it’s being turned into posh flats. The scaffolding is up, a tarp’ covers the crime and a sales sign is there to lure in any overpaid MP looking for a third home to house his mistress.
Back on the New Year’s Eve 2001, a private party was in full swing here at the Barley Mow, the beer was flowing and the mood was festive. Seeking to say ‘goodbye’ to the old year and welcome in the new, everyone was dressed as either vicars or tarts. Behind the bar, 22-year-old Charlotte Flanagan was serving drinks and earning an honest wage before she began her new life - training to be a nurse.
As midnight passed and Auld Lang Syne was sung, it should have been a moment of hope, and although this infamous but often misunderstood song asks that old acquaintances should never be forgotten, maybe the man who had come to visit Charlotte was a friend who should have been left in the past?
As it was here, on the New Year’s Day of 2002, in the top floor-flat above the Barley Mow pub, that the kindness of Charlotte Flanagan became the cruellest excuse for her tragic death. (Interstitial)
(Play audio of Auld Lang Syne) “Should auld acquaintance be forgot. And never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot. And days of auld lang syne? For auld lang syne, my dear. For auld lang syne. We'll take a cup o' kindness yet. For days of auld lang syne”.
Traditionally sung to welcome in the New Year, Auld Lang Syne began life as an old folk song collected and scribed by poet Robert Burns in 1788, having heard the words spoken by an old man on his travels. It tells the story of two friends, catching-up over a drink and their memories of times long gone. Few of us understand it, but often these are the first words many of us utter as the clock strikes twelve...
...they were also some of the last words uttered by Charlotte Flanagan.
22-year-old Charlotte Flanagan was born in 1979 in Darwen, a market town in Lancashire, just south of Blackburn. Described as bubbly, big-hearted and full of life, it was no surprise that Charlotte would enter the ‘caring profession’. Educated at St Cuthbert's primary school in Darwen and later at St Wilfrid's in Blackburn, she was raised locally, she had many friends and her upbringing was good.
Raised in a pleasant family home, although Darwen was a former industrial town built on cotton mills and heavy industry, Melville Gardens was a quiet spot which overlooked miles of heathered moorland and peaceful walks. With her mum also being the local practice nurse, there was little doubt that this warm and nurturing environment was a big reason why Charlotte became such a decent person.
Which is not to say that, during her life, she hadn’t been plagued by moments of anxiety or depression, but find a teenage girl who hasn’t. And if anything, battling brief bouts of mental illness wasn’t a thing she saw as a weakness, as it only made her more understanding of those who were also suffering.
Having left school with a good education, Charlotte worked at the Trinity Partnership in Clitheroe, as a mentor for young children, believing that any future problems could be curtailed through care, compassion and giving a lost child a sense of hope, knowing that they are good, strong and loved.
In 1999, aged twenty, Charlotte began working for Blackburn & Darwen Council in their social services department, gaining invaluable training and experience, but always with an eye on becoming a nurse.
Life wasn’t particularly hard for Charlotte, as she was raised well, she had a kind soul and – although the most essential jobs are never properly paid - being a hard-worker with an astute head on her shoulders, she got a mortgage on a nice two-storey sandstone terraced-house in Walmsley Street, an eight-minute walk from the centre of Darwen near her workplace, her friends and her family.
That year, working in the same department, Charlotte met a social worker called Gary and the two became friends. It was an unlikely relationship but beneficial for both; as needing help to pay her mortgage, Gary became Charlotte’s lodger; and being a little shy, she helped bring him out of his shell.
Being a whopping six-foot-eight inches tall and weighing a hefty twenty-stone - looking like a dark-haired Honey Monster - Gareth Richard Horton always eclipsed Charlotte wherever they went and – like chalk and cheese - the two always stood out. And as bubbly as Charlotte was, Gary was a gentle giant, who kept-to-himself, rarely spoke up and - as friends - the two clearly cared for each other.
...but sometimes, even the simplest of friendships can be doomed from the start.
In his own words, 29-year-old Gary Horton described himself as a "rather miserable personality”. Being a loner, he had suffered with feelings of rejection, self-doubt and anxiety around others. Spending much of his spare-time by himself; he had very few friends, he had never had a girlfriend and he was incredibly close to his mum Eileen, calling her daily as she was the one person who he truly trusted.
Since his childhood and especially through puberty, Gary had gone from being a sweet little boy to a silent shell of his former self. Emotionally, his mental health had sharply declined, but nothing sinister, as he was too shy to be any trouble, too meek to be violent and the only person he hated was himself.
His depression had stemmed from his school days when this mini ‘man mountain’ in the making was mercilessly bullied owing to his size, by dickheads too thick to see the real hurt they were inflicting.
Riddled with low self-esteem, he under-achieved academically, he struggled to form close bonds and he found it difficult to express his feelings with others. Later diagnosed with clinical depression, across his life, this silent sensitive hulk required psychiatric help, but wasn’t a danger to anyone but himself.
Being Charlotte’s friend was the best thing that ever happened to Gary; where-as he was quiet and insular, she was fun and bubbly, and although this match could have made for an unhealthy mix which made him worse, she hoped that by making him part of her world, he would re-find his confidence.
Across the three years they were friends, colleagues and house-mates; they often went out in Darwen for a nice meal, a few cheeky drinks and a bit of a dance, as many friends would...
...but when he had been drinking, Gary’s feelings of self-loathing got the worst of him.
In June 2001, after a night-out in Darwen’s Market Square, feeling a little bit tipsy after several drinks, Charlotte and Gary were making their way home by foot. As per usual, this eight-minute walk from Market Square to Walmsley Street took them north up a partially-lit semi-empty street.
What they had spoken about that night remains between them; maybe she had spoken about her ex-boyfriends, maybe he had spoken of having never had a girlfriend, or maybe he told her how he felt? But whatever it was, maybe this boozy heart-to-heart had ignited something dark inside Gary’s mind?
It was shortly after chucking-out time, when Charlotte and Gary stumbled up Atlas Road. Home was only a quick totter away, so they had no need to hail a taxi or a bus. But as they passed Darwen station, Gary ran up the concrete stairs and - from the platform edge– hurled himself onto the train tracks.
Chasing after Gary, Charlotte pleaded with him to stop fooling about, but he refused to move. Instead, he just lay there, crying, with his head and body sprawled across the hard metal lines, as he awaited the swift slash of a passing train which would sever his body into bits with a fast clean slice.
“Gary, stop being a dick”, Charlotte barked “this isn’t funny anymore”, but still he refused to budge.
As the tracks rumbled, in the distance, she could hear the Rochdale train approaching - speeding like the grim reaper clutching a lamp - as its burning light drew ever nearer. But still, Gary remained still.
Knowing they had just seconds to spare before her pal was pulverised, Charlotte grabbed his oversized hand and tried to pull him up off the tracks. But being over two metres tall and weighing 280 pounds, even with help she would have struggled to shift him, but – right there and then – Charlotte was alone.
Only, as the train sped ever nearer, having grabbed hold of his hand to save his life, now he wouldn’t let go of hers. His grip was tight, her hand was held and the only thing she could do to save them both from a certain death was to make him see sense. (Noise silences) “Gary, come on now, let’s go home”.
Because he liked her, he listened to her, and so – if only for that reason - he did as she had said.
We can never be certain if Gary really wanted to die that night...
...but some had said he did it because he loved her.
Around that time, barely six months before her murder, Gary had sought-out psychiatric help for his anxiety and depression. Again, he was not considered a threat to anyone but himself, and although Charlotte was a truly caring person who knew how to listen and to get the best out of those who needed her help, living and working with Gary had proven to be impossible.
The terraced-house on Walmsley Street was hers, but now her little home felt like the kind of place where she didn’t feel happy or comfortable. Spending more time at her parents in Melville Gardens, her brother Luke once asked her why she wasn’t at home, Charlotte’s reply was simple - “he’s there”.
She could have found anyone to be her lodger, but more out of kindness than need, she had welcomed him into her life, her home and her world, but now he was acting as if they were husband and wife.
Whenever they went out, he always insisted on paying for the drinks. He squandered most of his life-savings on her, he even considered buying a car for them both, even though he didn’t have a driving licence. He once bragged to a mutual friend “we’ve got engaged”, only to claim it was just a lame joke moments later. But becoming possessive of who Charlotte saw and where she went, having booked a week’s holiday in Ibiza with a few girl pals, Gary pestered her with calls pleading with her not to go.
She had made it abundantly clear – in the nicest way possible - that she was not attracted to him. But whether Gary’s obsession with her was less about sex, and more about the fact that he had never had a close friend and didn’t want to lose her is hard to fathom, as Gary kept his feelings to himself...
...but just four months before her murder, his life would be upended by chaos.
In September 2001, Charlotte moved to West London. It was the break she needed being her first time away from her home-town of Darwen, seeking a fresh start with a promising new career training to be a nurse. To save money, she worked as a bar-maid at the Barley Mow pub in Mayfair and had begun seeing the step-son of one of the pub’s regular, a teacher from Nottingham called David Ivmey.
Life was going well for Charlotte... but mentally, Gary was struggling. Without his only friend, he had regressed back to his old miserable self, sitting in isolation and brooding over the failings in his life.
Seeing his decline and worried about her pal’s mental health spending Christmas by himself, Charlotte invited Gary down to London from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day. Only, having already planned to take his own life, he regarded this trip less with festive cheer... and more as a farewell to a cruel world.
On Christmas Eve 2001, Gary travelled three-hours from Darwen to London, staying for one week in a single room at the County Hotel, situated close to Euston station. Owing to the late hours she worked, he was unable to share with Charlotte, as she lived in the top-floor flat above the Barley Mow pub.
It is uncertain if – at any point across the Christmas week – Gary either met, or was made aware of Charlotte’s new boyfriend, David Ivmey, but except for his usual gloom, nothing untoward happened.
On Christmas Day, with the pub open, Charlotte worked and saw Gary when she was free. When she wasn’t, he kept himself amused watching the festive fare on the BBC, with such delights as; the original Mary Poppins featuring Dick Van Dyke’s god-awful cockney accent, the TV premiere of Sliding Doors and after the Queen’s Speech was Rolf’s Merry Christmas, starring convicted sex-offender Rolf Harris.
On Boxing Day, she met Gary and then went out on a date with David at TGI Fridays in Leicester Square.
And on Thursday 27th December, at King’s Cross station, Charlotte and David shared a kiss as he caught a train back home. She had planned to come up and stay with him in Nottingham on New Year’s Day...
...and although their kiss was only meant as a ‘see you soon’ smooch...
...for both, it was actually a ‘last goodbye’.
The New Year’s Eve of 2001 began like an ordinary day for most. It drizzled, the sky was gloomy, the fireworks would be a wash-out as always, and the West End shops were full of idiots believing they were buying bargains, when in fact, they were paying over the odds for old tat the shop couldn’t shift.
To get a few days off, Charlotte had worked Friday 28th, Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th December, and with David away, this gave her more time to spend with Gary. As far as we know, they hadn’t argued, Gary didn’t seem unusually depressed, and he hadn’t told her that he had thoughts of killing himself.
At 4pm, having finished her afternoon shift at the pub, Charlotte and Gary went out for a meal, during which she told Gary about her boyfriend. What he said is unknown, but he gave no emotional reaction; there was no anger, no cross words and no tears, but neither were their congratulations, best wishes or kisses. He would later describe his mood that night as being his “normal rather-miserable self”.
At 6pm, Gary phoned his mum (Eileen) to say he was “having a good time”.
At 8pm, they returned to the Barley Mow where a private party was taking place. To ring in the New Year, everyone had dressed-up in costumes, with the theme of the party being ‘Vicars and Tarts’. Not being one to let the side down, Charlotte dressed as a sexy French Maid wearing a short black dress with white frills and black stockings. And although, even the simplest of vicar’s costumes would be nothing more than a suit and a cardboard dog-collar, Gary didn’t dress-up as he wasn’t in the mood.
At 9:30pm, once again Gary called his mum, and again, (for him) he sounded in good spirits.
At 11:30pm, Gary texted his friend, stating he was at the party, that he was enjoying himself, and that he was dressed in a skirt and that he had shaved his legs. Why he lied about this? We don’t know.
And at the stroke of midnight, Big Ben rang out and fireworks erupted, as across the small bar-room of the Barley Mow, fifty-or-so merry regulars reverberated the room with that most-famous of songs.
“Should auld acquaintance be forgot. And never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot. And days of auld lang syne? For auld lang syne, my dear. For auld lang syne. We'll take a cup o' kindness yet. For days of auld lang syne” (continue underneath). Being personable, Charlotte kissed and hugged her regulars, as everyone else had done, and she wished a “happy new year” to her friend and house-mate, Gary. 2002 would mark a fresh start, with a new boyfriend and a bright future in nursing ahead.
Only, for Charlotte, her future was to be a lot shorter than she could ever imagine...
...and although she had done so much to help her friend when he needed her most, maybe Gary Horton was an “old acquaintance” who should have been forgotten? Simply to save her life.
A few minutes after the rousing reverie of Auld Lang Syne had quietened and the party-goers had sunk back a few more slugs of cheap champagne, Gary and Charlotte were seen at a table by the bar, having what many described as “a few minor words”. Something not unusual in a pub, post-midnight.
At 12:15am, feeling a little drained after a long day with a tiring friend, she told the two barmen she was taking a break and headed up to her bedroom at the top-floor of the pub, leaving Gary in the bar.
That is where he stayed; by himself, saying nothing, dressed in his own clothes and nursing a drink.
At 1am, as Charlotte had failed to return from her break, Gary had said he would go and check if she was okay. The barmen didn’t need her as the party was dying down, but still, Gary seemed concerned.
From the bar, he ascended the stairs to the first floor, and although her bedroom was still three floors higher (whether by chance encounter or deliberate choice), he made a brief stop at the empty kitchen.
In court, the prosecution described this action as a “significant degree of planning or pre-meditation”, but the defence would argue that - owing to mental disorder – in that very moment, Gary had flipped.
Opening a ‘staff only’ door, he climbed the stairs to the upper floors until he got to Charlotte’s room.
And there she lay, curled-up peacefully on top of her bed, her head on a pillow. Still in her French Maid’s outfit, as if she had only planned to shut her eyes for a moment, but had drifted off to sleep.
With her eyes shut, her breathing soft and her mind miles away in a land of dreams, she had no idea of what was about to happen, no way to defend herself and no idea that her friend wished her dead.
Clutching a ten-inch knife stolen from the kitchen, with a fast single blow, Gary stabbed the blade with such force that it penetrated through the full width of her neck. With her jugular vein severed, her windpipe slit and being partially paralysed; she awoke and saw, but she could not move. And as every pint of blood spewed from the gaping wound in her neck, within the minute, Charlotte was dead.
Why he did it, we don’t know? Maybe it was love? Maybe it was jealousy? Maybe it happened in a moment of madness? Or maybe the thought of losing his only real friend was too much pain to bear?
And yet, the pathologist would state, he had intentionally cut part of her costume leaving her genitals exposed, but there was no obvious sexual motive and she had not been sexually interfered with.
At 1:30am, Gary calmly left the pub, saying he needed “some fresh air”. Two hours later, from a public phone-box by Embankment tube, he rang his mother and confessed “Mum, I've killed Charlotte". With nothing left to live for, the man-mountain tried to drown himself by wading into the icy muddy silt of the River Thames, but failing miserably, at 4am, he called his mum, and she phoned the police. Thirty minutes later, at 4:30am, the body of Charlotte Flanagan was found and she pronounced dead. (End)
Examined by a police doctor at Walworth Police Station, Gary was described as “orientated, but not confused”. In the presence of a solicitor and a social worker, he refused to answer any questions about the murder, but he gave a statement about his mental health. Interviewed for a second time, at 1:12am on 2nd January 2002, Gary Horton was charged with murder at Bow Street Magistrates Court.
Tried at the Old Bailey between the 1st and the 11th October 2002, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, but he denied murder. The prosecution stated his actions “showed he had an obsession with Charlotte that was both sexual and emotional. The thought of Charlotte going out with another man was too much for him". And although both sides agreed he had a genetic pre-disposition to depression, exacerbated by “low self-esteem probably caused by years of bullying at school” over his height and weight, Gary denied that he was motivated by jealousy.
After deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of guilty of murder by an 11 to 1 majority. Judge Brian Barker stated: "This was a horrendous crime which has resulted in the senseless waste of a woman who had everything to look forward to. You took the life of the most important person in the world to you, a person who you thought might be moving on". Gary Horton was sentenced to life in prison, with a minimum of 12 years to be served, after which he can only be released if the parole board feels he no longer poses a danger. And even then, he will remain on licence for the rest of his natural life.
22-year-old Charlotte Flanagan was returned to Darwen, where she was buried, near her family.
OUTRO: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for listening to Murder Mile.
As always, for those of you who take great pleasure in hearing a bloated baldy stuff a lethal number of cakes into his face, whilst he waffles on about rain, wind, Eva and coots. Stay tuned after the break for a non-compulsory bit of fun, with a little quiz and some extra details in Extra Mile.
A big thank you to my new Patreon supporters, who are K Reid and Cheryl Lyon. A big thank you to both of you, I thank you for supporting the show and a thank you to everyone who continues to listen to the show, and leaves kind reviews of Murder Mile.
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, totalling 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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