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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 SIXTY-SIX:
On the next morning of Sunday 10th August at 09:08am, Victor Ford-Lloyd the butler to Sir William Ackroyd entered the top floor flat at 69 Eaton Place after a night out. In the master bedroom, he found his friend, his lover and the man servant to Sir William dead.
Having died several hours earlier, he was lying motionless, with a sticky pool of congealed blood about his head, having had his skull brutally smashed in with a hammer. But why?
Was this a robbery? A revenge killing? Or an attack on an openly gay man? With Sir William in Scotland and Victor at several clubs in the city at the time of the murder, neither witnessed the attack, or saw any potential suspects. So, what happened, and who murdered Sir William’s manservant?
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The location of the murder is marked with a black raindrop near the word Belgravia. 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. Archive File - CRIM 1/5227 / DPP 2/4727 - - https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C11026966
UNEDITED TRANSCRIPT OF THE EPISODE:
Welcome to Murder Mile.
Today I’m standing on Eaton Place in Belgravia, SW1; three streets east of the unsolved death of Countess Lubienska, two streets south of acid-bath murderer John George Haigh, two streets west of not-so “lucky” Lord Lucan (a case so dull and done-to-death I won’t ever cover it on this podcast) and two streets south of the boy who killed because a film-star told him to – coming soon to Murder Mile.
Eaton Place is a very posh neighbourhood. Being a wide semi-private street consisting of two lines of five-storey buildings made of Portland stone with huge Doric columns to the side of each main door, this area is so posh, the average house is worth £40million and most residents are knighted. Whether a CBE for tax-avoidance, an MBE for going to Eton, an OBE for being “a jolly good egg, what-what”, a KCG for covering up a politician’s “little snafoo with a pig and his willy”, a Ladyship for being pals with a royal (not that one) or a Lordship for services to charity, but only when it benefits their bank balance.
Sadly, although architecturally pleasant, there’s no community. The most you’ll see of any resident is as the chauffeur pulls up, the butler fawns, the maid curtsies and they savour an evening with their fifth spouse and several lawyers to silence a string of sexual assaults with the swipe of a blank cheque.
In 1969, Flat 3 of 69 Eaton Place was the home of Sir William Ackroyd, 3rd Baronet of Lightcliffe. Like many men of prestige, he kept a small staff; a housekeeper, a chambermaid, a live-in man-servant called Frank Hocking, and - by the summer - a butler called Victor Ford-Lloyd. It was a neat home, he led an elegant life, his staff got on well and Sir William was regarded as a kind and generous employer.
Being wealthy, his house was deliberately secure and his staff took the necessary precautions to ensure their safety. But on the evening of Saturday 9th August 1969, a brutal and violent murder inside of this millionaire’s home would change all of their lives forever… and not just the victim.
My name is Michael, I am your tour-guide, and this is Murder Mile.
Episode 166: The Bloody Butler – Part One.
No matter who you are or where you’ve come from, it’s hard to get through life without relying on the kindness of others. That was particularly true for Victor Ford-Lloyd, the butler to Sir William.
On Sunday 10th August at roughly 9am, Victor yawned as he staggered down Eaton Place, still feeling a little tipsy as he chuckled to himself at the night he just had. Wow! What a night! With the boss away and no need to be up early, Victor hit the town to let off a bit a steam; he saw some chums, he sunk some beers, he saw in the wee small hours at the roulette table – winning £200 quid, which isn’t bad for an Essex lad who scraped by in maths – he tried to get into the Playboy Club but their admissions policy was a joke, and slept the last few hours of the night at the five-star Hilton hotel in Park Lane.
Being knackered, he wanted breakfast, a shower and to get back to his place of work at the prestigious 69 Eaton Place, which he also had the pleasure of calling his home –a far cry from his humble roots.
Oddly, although stylishly dressed, after a long hot night of fun, Victor looked a little rough; as his black jacket, trousers and pink shirt had creased. But there was still no denying he was handsome. Victor was a looker, as being a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, pale-skinned 32-year-old who was tall and slender, this pretty boy had no problem pulling the twinks, but he preferred the older gentlemen of wealth who could keep this working-class kid away from poverty and in the lifestyle which he felt he deserved.
Just after 9am, Victor popped his key in the black front-door, locking it behind him. From the hallway, he didn’t call out – “Frankie, I’m home” – as being a communal hallway to two other flats, that kind of hollering was uncouth. Besides, when drunk or upset, his posh accent slipped and the Essex pops out.
Climbing the stairs, as he opened the door to the flat’s lower floor, his first thought was to pop in the storeroom; a utility room full of mops, linen and tools, as this was where Albert slept. Being a slightly pampered black Pomeranian, Albert was a little yappy, but when Victor saw him, he was whimpering.
“Frankie?”, Victor called across the living room, dining room and kitchen. As he had left it the night before, these tastefully decorated rooms were as neat as a pin with nothing out of place. But what was odd was the silence, there was no sign of Frank; the man-servant, his best-friend and his lover.
Climbing-up to the upper floor, although around him were two bathrooms and two small bedrooms (one each for Frank and Victor), his eyes were draw to the master bedroom – Sir William’s. Left ajar, it was clear that the white wooden door had been forced, as the smashed lock lay a few feet inside.
Entering, he knew it didn’t look right, as someone had broken in, but they hadn’t touched much. As a very elegant room with exquisite furnishings, the bedroom was full of busts, vases, books and intricate little pieces of object d’art, but nothing appeared to have been vandalised, rifled or stolen.
On an armchair, lay a set of clothes, as if someone had got ready for bed, on the floor lay a small pile of underwear, and to the side lay a broken lamp, but this could have been caused by an accident.
The only obvious sign of disarray was the bed. Befitting a man of his status, Sir William’s bed was grand and stylish, a French chaise-lounge with a curved headboard, handsewn fabrics and soft white sheets. Only, the pristine white was now dotted with faint spots of red, as underneath lay a motionless lump.
“Hello?”, Victor cooed to the lump, “Hello?”, but got no reply.
With his right hand, he pulled back the bedsheet and instantly he wished that he hadn’t. What he saw was the red of a smashed head, its skull caved in with such violence that it made this pale lifeless face look as if – in that last moment of terror - it had tried to spawn a set of red wings to fly itself to heaven.
Shivering with fear, although his lips quivered and his breathing was staggered, Victor was too confused to shed any tears and - although heaving at the sight - his guts couldn’t retch any sick.
Grabbing the phone and dialling 999, at 9:08am, PC Sydney Gillingham at New Scotland Yard received his call: (Victor) “I am at Sir William Ackroyd’s residence. It’s in a state of turmoil”, (PC) “Do you mean a burglary?”, (Victor) “I don’t know but there is a body upstairs”, (PC): “A dead body?”, (Victor) “Yes, I think so, I think it’s Sir William’s butler”, (PC) “Are you sure he is dead?”, (Victor) “Yes”. Victor gave his name and the address, the officer stated (PC) “we’ll be right there, don’t touch anything”, (Victor) “yes sir, I won’t” and – having been dispatched from Gerald Road - the police arrived at 9:18am.
As he stood there, staring at this freshly slaughtered corpse, Victor knew one thing for certain; with his colleague, his best friend, his lover and the man he owed his life to - murdered, the second Frank Hocking had died, everything which was good about his life had been stolen from him in an instant.
Victor was nothing without Frank… and he knew it.
To say that his upbringing was fractured would be an understatement.
Victor Norman Ford-Lloyd was born on the 25th May 1937 in Hampstead, north London, as one of five siblings to three sisters and a brother. With his father deceased, his early life lacked stability, as with his mother absent, Victor spent much of the first twelve years of his life in foster homes and care.
Which is not to say that his mother was negligent or uncaring, as having been diagnosed with chronic schizophrenic - one year after his birth and fourteen years before a drug could manage the symptoms – she was committed to both Bedlam mental hospital and St Bernard’s psychiatric unit in Southall.
Like many boys starved of love, emotionally he developed slower than most, as still prone to thumb-sucking and bed-wetting until his teens, even as a grown-up he was terrified of the dark and he never went to sleep without searching the wardrobe, curtains or the underside of his bed for monsters first.
As a war-time child, raised in a turbulent time of bombings, trauma and rationing, his education was sporadic and although literate, his academic level was – unsurprisingly - regarded as ‘unremarkable’.
Given his early life, it’s amazing that this blonde-haired boy with a beautiful face even knew how to smile, but he did and as a charming lad who wanted to be hugged, people liked him and trusted him.
But sometimes his emotions got the better of him and – being unduly sensitive about his upbringing – often he was gripped with depression, prone to short bursts of tearful anger, and - when he did something wrong - he would lie until he could lie no more, even when the truth was glaringly obvious.
Leaving school aged 15, he tried to work hard and be a decent person, but life by himself was hard.
HIs first job in August 1952 was as a junior clerk at a lino manufacturer in Holborn on the tiny wage of £2 a week. Sadly, he lasted just two months, as he was discharged for being untrustworthy. He lasted longer in his next jobs, but being unable to flee the poverty which haunted him, he turned to crime.
In March 1954, at Lambeth Juvenile Court, he was given a 12-month conditional discharge for stealing a television and was sent to live in a boy’s hostel in Maida Vale. One year later, at Chelsea, he was again discharged for twelve months for taking and driving away a motor vehicle without consent.
It’s no surprise that – riddled with anxiety and depression – as a drifter who lacked any purpose in life, by the age of 16, he had begun drinking heavily and never quit as the booze hide his pain. And although Sir William would describe him as “mild, kind, reliable”, he had a “bad temper when he was drunk”.
Aged 16, as his sister had agreed to sponsor him in the hope of turning his life around, he moved to Ballarat in south-east Australia, and stayed with her for a year and a half. It was a new life and a fresh start, but still being haunted by his past, they quarrelled, he moved out and returned to petty crime.
Across the four years he lived in Australia, he travelled far and wide, moving from Perth to Victoria and Melbourne to Canberra, stealing what he could and being convicted of theft in every state.
In 1956, he was convicted four times in Perth for theft and served 15 months in prison. In 1957, he was tried twice in Victoria for receiving goods under false pretences and served 13 months. In 1959, in Canberra, he did 9 months hard-labour for buying goods on false credit. And in 1960 in Melbourne, he served nine months for passing worthless cheques. He was a drunk, a thief, but he wasn’t violent.
As a British citizen who (as they saying goes) had dirtied his ticket, at his own request, Victor asked to be deported from Australia, and on the 15th June 1961, the SS Orontes docked in the port of Dover.
In short, he was back where he had started…
…and across his 24-years of life, he had achieved nothing. But being a pretty boy, he had learned that crime wasn’t the only way to live the life he wanted to live.
Since his early years in a boy’s home surrounded by others who wanted to be loved, being gay came as naturally as being blonde. And as he travelled Australia, and later Spain, New York, Tangiers and Paris, his life became easier as a pretty little thing perched on an older gentlemen’s arm. The maths was simple, as by snuggling-up to a wealthy sugar daddy, he was loved, protected and pampered.
As a millionaire’s plaything, he could leave his broken upbringing behind, and for the rest of his life he would eat the best food, drink the finest wine, wear only tailored clothes and - best of all - it was legal.
In 1964, he attempted to move in the right circles by working as a private secretary and a club manager in the best parts of London, but the second they discovered his criminal record, he was out. Being homeless from 1964 to 66, he was convicted four times at Bow Street Magistrates Court for stealing wallets, passing worthless cheques and using it cover his expensive tastes… but his life was in decline.
Struggling with depression and anxiety, in 1966 he took an overdose of sleeping pills, and three times he was committed to psychiatric hospitals for the treatment of his alcoholism, depression and anxiety.
No matter how hard he tried, it seemed like Victor’s life was destined to implode…
…and then, as if by fate, he met and fell in love with Frank.
Frank Alfred Hocking was neither elderly nor wealthy, he was not the type of man Victor would usually go for, but being of similar ages and working-class backgrounds, together they became kindred spirits.
They met in July 1968. It was never said where, maybe a bar as they were both fond of drink. Being five-foot two-inches tall with thick sideburns, dark thinning hair and his eyes arched with a monobrow, physically Frank was the mirror opposite of Victor, but both being gay, neat and highly strung, they fit.
Having heard his tragic backstory, in July 1969, one year later, Frank invited Victor to come to his place of work at 69 Eaton Place and to meet his employer - Sir William Ackroyd, 3rd Baronet of Lightcliffe.
Sir William was not the usual kind of aristocrat, all hoity-toity and fuelled by snooty glares, as although rich and elderly - as a gay man himself - he had a big heart. He sympathised with Victor; a homeless man trapped in a vicious circle where every time an employer discovered his criminal past, he was out.
(Victor) “I became Sir William’s butler”. Given a generous wage of £14 per week (including food and sundry expenses), he paid £4 rent to live in a small bedroom inside the opulence of Sir William’s flat.
Victor had hit the jackpot. As for the first time in his turbulent little life, he had a steady job, an honest wage, a roof over his head and he was in a loving (if occasionally fractious) relationship. After 32 years of struggles and failures; he finally had stability, safety, a family of sorts and a chance at a future…
…and he owed it all Frank.
The role of a butler required Victor to ensure that Sir William had everything he required; his wallet, his key, his money clip, his cheque book and his cigarettes. To make his master’s life run as smoothly as a well-oiled machine, Victor had contacts and accounts at many high-profile suppliers and outlets.
At John Michael of Saville Row, Sir William’s tailored suits were ordered on account. To get him about, a chauffeur-driven car was on hand at his beck-and-call (and the staff for work purposes). Likewise, he never heard the words “we’re full”, as all Victor had to do was say “Sir William would like…” and it was done, whether staying at Dorchester or Hilton hotel, playing at Crockfords Casino, or fine dining at the Brompton Grill. And if his bulging wallet was ever a little light – in an era before ATMs - at Boodles; a very exclusive private member’s club, he could send his butler with a note and a cash loan was made.
It's a very different world to how you or I live, but for Victor, this was where he wanted to be.
On Friday 1st August 1969, seeking solitude and silence, Sir William headed off for a two-week break with an old pal in the Highlands of Scotland, leaving his home in the capable hands of Frank and Victor. This made sense as Frank was trusted and diligent, and Sir William saw Victor as “mild, kind, reliable”.
On Saturday 9th August 1969, both of their lives would change forever…
…but there was nothing which forewarned them of the danger ahead; there were no threats, no thefts nor break-ins, no vicious letters, no malicious calls nor strangers skulking in the shadows of the street. Neither Frank, Victor nor Sir William was disliked or in debt, as by all accounts, it was an ordinary day.
As a seemingly motiveless crime, to help identity any possible suspects who might want to cause harm (and ultimately) murder Frank Hocking in cold blood, Victor provided the police with their movements.
At 2:30pm, Frank and Victor sat in a French restaurant called Coq Au Vin in Knightsbridge; a stylish yet safe space for two gay men to enjoy each other’s company in an era when homosexuality was illegal.
They sat together but not holding hands, they chatted but never loudly and Victor (having arrived late) shared a few coffees and dry Martinis with Frank who ate a meal of spinach, potatoes and tomato - as confirmed by his autopsy. The £10 bill was paid by cheque in the name of Mr F A Hocking, although the cost went to Sir William, being a chequebook to cover expenses but also to treat his staff to lunch.
At 3pm, they returned home to Flat 3 at 69 Eaton Place, as verified by their taxi-driver. They completed a few chores, Victor made a call to Boodles on behalf of his boss, they fed Albert the Pomeranian, they then popped this pampered pooch in his bed, and having dressed for dinner, at 7:30pm, they left.
Several witnesses - who knew both Frank and Victor – saw these easily-identifiable men of different heights and hair colour wearing the following clothes; Frank was in a brown open-necked-shirt and fawn trousers – which were later found on Sir William’s bedroom floor, and Victor was in a black jacket and trousers – which he wore when he discovered his boyfriend’s body – as well as a white shirt.
On account, they hired a car from Claborn Hire at 7:30pm, and the chauffeur - Hermanus Loggenberg – wrote in his logbook that he drove them to The Punch Bowl in Abingdon and Noah’s Ark restaurant in Oxford – two venues which were owned by their friends – (Victor) “as Frank paid for lunch, I paid for dinner” – this was confirmed by cheque, and the chauffeur drove them back to 69 Eaton Place.
Again, there were no issues, no incidents, and nothing which raised their suspicions.
(Victor) “I told Frank I was going out for some coffee and cigarettes. Frank said something to the effect that with any luck he would see me in the morning, and I went out, leaving Frank alone in the flat”.
Returning to the flat, the windows were locked, the doors were secure and the dog didn’t whimper. And yet, it’s impossible to accurately pin-point the exact time when Frank was attacked, as having been bludgeoned with a hammer, this rendered him unconscious… but wouldn’t die for several hours.
According to Victor’s timings “I left Frank at the flat at about 1am” and heading out to let off a little steam, “…I went to Crockfords to play cards and roulette. I stayed till 4am, winning £200. I tried to get into the Playboy Club but they refused, and - not wanting to wake anyone up - I stayed the night at the Hilton Hotel on Park Lane. I left the Hilton at about 8:30am and got home by taxi at about 9am”.
Each sighting was verified by witnesses and many of his payments were made by cheque.
(Door opens) “Frankie?”. (Whimpering dog). (Phone dials) (PC) “Hello Police”, (Victor) “I am at Sir William Ackroyd’s residence… there is a body upstairs… I think it’s Sir William’s butler”, (PC) “We’ll be right there, don’t touch anything”, (Victor) “Yes sir, I won’t”. (Police sirens). But as he stood there, staring at the freshly slaughtered corpse of his best friend, his lover and the man he owed his life to, Victor knew that everything which was good about his life had been stolen from him in an instant.
Victor was nothing without Frank… and he knew it. (End)
At 9:45am, the Police divisional surgeon Dr Albert Lovell certified the life of Frank Hocking as extinct.
Arriving a few minutes before, Detective Chief Superintendent Ivor Reynolds took charge of the scene, and – on first impressions – it looked like an almost motiveless attack on a defenceless man in his bed.
With the neighbours, Sir William and Victor out; they had no eye-witnesses. The blood was Group A, being Victor’s and no-one else’s. And as for fingerprints, only those who resided in the flat were found.
As crime scenes go, it was a muddle of misinformation. If this was a robbery? Why weren’t the drawers rifled or anything stolen? If this was a bungled kidnapping – if the culprits had mistaken Frank (who was asleep in the master bedroom) for Sir William – why kill Frank rather than use him as leverage? If this was a burglary - as the bedroom’s broken door-lock would suggest - how did they gain entry via the locked doors of 69 Eaton Place and Flat 3? And if this was a homophobic assault on a gay man, why did they murder him inside a secure flat, rather than on a dark quiet street, such as Eaton Place.
Even without anyone hearing the sounds of screaming, the evidence pointed towards an argument between Frank and his assailant; as on the floor lay a broken lamp, on the carpet lay a clump of Frank’s hair having been ripped out by the root, and then – most bafflingly of all – at some point during the attack, with his prospective murderer still in the room, Frank returned to the bed and he lay down.
But who had murdered him, when, and why?
At 10:25am, the detective introduced himself, stating “I am Chief Superintendent Reynolds. I request your assistance while I make enquires into Mr Hocking’s death”. Victor agreed, being happy to help.
But his helpfulness would also be his downfall, as the police’s prime suspect was a man who Frank knew, who was emotional, unduly sensitive, prone to anger when drunk, and - when he did something wrong - he would lie until he could lie no more, even when the evidence was glaringly obvious.
Without Frank Hocking, Victor Ford-Lloyd knew that he was nothing…
…which left the police with an unanswered question: “why did Victor murder Frank”?
** 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.
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” and nominated "one of the best true-crime podcasts at the British Podcast Awards".
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Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a crime writer, podcaster & tour guide of Murder Mile Walks, hailed as one of the best "quirky curious & unusual things to do in London".
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