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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-SEVEN:
On the 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?
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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:
On the morning of Sunday 10th August 1969, Victor Ford-Lloyd yawned as he staggered down Eaton Place, still feeling a little tipsy as he chuckled to himself at the night he just had. Looking rough after a long hot night, at about 9am, Sir William’s butler returned to 69 Eaton Place.
(Sounds: door lock, stairs, “Frankie?”, door, dog whimpers, stairs, “Frankise?”).
(Phone dials) “Hello Police? I am at Sir William Ackroyd’s residence… there is a body upstairs”. But as he stood, staring at the corpse of Frank hocking; 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.It didn’t take long for Detective Chief Superintendent Ivor Reynolds to assess and dismiss the myriad of possible motives for Frank’s brutal murder. This wasn’t a robbery as nothing was stolen. This wasn’t a burglary as the outer doors and windows were intact. This wasn’t mistaken identity as over the bed hung Sir William’s portrait. And this wasn’t a homophobic assault, as Frank hadn’t been threatened.
There were many details about the crime-scene which didn’t make sense, but what was obvious was that the killer knew the flat, he had a key, he had a motive and this attack was personal.
At 9:45am, divisional police surgeon Dr Albert Lovell declared the life of Frank Hocking as extinct.
Judging by the trail of detritus Frank had left in his last moments alive, he had undressed in a small bedroom placing his clothes on an armchair and a small pile of underwear on the floor. But having already been assaulted, with his shirt cuff stained with his blood – for whatever reason – someone had left him change into his night attire of blue pyjamas and white socks… only to then kill him.
Prior to his death, a bitter argument had taken place; the bedroom door was forced open, a white lamp had been broken and a clump of Frank’s hair had been ripped-out at roots. At some point. Frank had voluntarily entered Sir William’s bedroom; he had got into the bed, and lying face-up and straight, he had covered himself in a crisp white sheet - as if he was going to sleep. But he didn’t call the police.
Toxicology reported a high level of alcohol in his blood and a strong smell on his breath, as well as a considerable concentration of urine in his trousers and vomit on his shoulder, airway and bedsheets.
The autopsy confirmed that – whilst lying down, yet still awake - Frank had been brutally bludgeoned over the head several times with a hammer. With no impact injuries to his hands or arms, he hadn’t attempted to protect his face, so it’s more than likely that the fatal blows were swift and unexpected.
Upon examination, it was clear that Frank’s face and body was a patchwork of defensive wounds; some cuts, scratches and bruises, and although a few were fresh, the majority told tales of old assaults.
Above his right ear lay a deep impression fracture - 1 ½ inches long, 1 ¾ inches wide and 2 inches deep – the weapon was heavy and leaving a hexagonal mark, it perfectly matched any household hammer. One blow would have been enough, but slightly above that wound was a second - 3 ½ inches wide.
With his skull smashed in, as blood pooled across the pillows, he sustained extensive haemorrhaging to the brain stem and temporal lobes, which rendered him paralysed and unconscious. Examined just shy of 10am, he had been dead for 10 to 12 hours, but it had taken him an additional six hours to die.
The crime scene itself wasn’t a great mystery for DCS Reynolds - as finding a pink bloodstained shirt hidden under a shelf in the utility room (matching the one Victor had worn to the casino) and a white bloodstained shirt in the laundry basket (matching the one he wore to Coq Au Vin, with two missing buttons later found under the chaise-lounge) - the question wasn’t whether he had done it, but why?
In the utility room where Albert the pampered Pomeranian slept, a steel-headed, wood-handled, foot-long hammer was missing, and after a brief search, it was found under a cushion on a floral armchair. The blood on its head matched Frank’s and the fingerprints on the handle would later match Victor’s.
With Frank dead and with Sir William in Scotland (as confirmed by many sources), the police had one prime suspect and enough evidence to prove his guilt, but what they really wanted was a confession…
…only that would prove tricky.
At 10:25am, in the upstairs hallway, the detective introduced himself “I am Chief Superintendent Reynolds. I request your assistance while I make enquires into Mr Hocking’s death”. And Victor agreed.
Victor’s lack of emotion had intrigued him, as he professed to be upset, only his eyes said otherwise. There were no tears, no sobs nor quivers. It was as if his feelings for his late lover were switched off.
Which was odd as Victor was a very emotional man. Everyone knew that especially when drunk - being unduly sensitive about his upbringing –he was prone to 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.
At 11:05am, the first interview was conducted at Gerald Road, a small discrete police station two roads south of Eaton Place, which was nestled among a row of wealthy houses. During his questioning, he would give several accounts of his movements that night. The question was which one was right?
(Police) “Where did you go yesterday?”, (Victor) “We went out to dinner at Noah’s Ark in Oxford”. (Police) “What did you drink?”, (Victor) “Quite a lot. Five or six big Martinis before dinner, and Frank had two or three brandies”. (Police) “When you arrived back at 69 Eaton Place about 1am, did you go in with Frank?”, (Victor) “No, I saw him to the front door. I was going on to get coffee and cigarettes”. (Police) “Did he know that?”, (Victor) “No. Frank was sloshed, so I didn’t want him to come, he’s always nagging, so I left him at the lift”. (Police) “And after that?”, (Victor) “…I went to Crockfords to play roulette. I stayed till 4am, winning £200. I tried to get into the Playboy Club, and - not wanting to wake anyone up - I stayed at the Hilton, Room 1215. I left at about 8:30am and got home by taxi at 9am”.
The Police knew this was untrue but the best way to trap the guilty is to hang them with their own lie.
(Police) “Was Frank expecting any friends or visitors?”, (Victor) “No, but you know what it is. He could have gone out after I had gone and picked up someone. There’s a men’s toilet at Pont Street”. Only, there was no evidence of sexual assault, and as for robbery, Frank still had £227 in his pockets.
Examined by Dr Lovell, Victor had two scars running across his forehead from an old car accident, and five fresh abrasions to his lower lip, cheeks and mouth, which he blamed on shaving cuts. And although this was possible, it was as the Police probed further, that his answers became hazy and uncertain.
(Victor) “I am a bit confused about the days and times. I am not trying to put up a defence of blaming this on liquor, I am trying to be helpful because things are coming back to me slowly. Let us start from the beginning; Frank & I work for Sir William Ackroyd. Frank is his man servant and I am his butler”.
Only he was not Sir William’s butler…
…and just like the bulk of his statements, most of it was a lie.
In July 1968, having heard about his tragic upbringing – raised in a boy’s home, fleeing to Australia and his decent into petty crime – Frank introduced Victor to Sir William who wanted to help. All of that is true. (Victor) “When I went to 69 Eaton Place… I worked for Sir William as his butler”, but this was not.
Sir William would state “I did not pay him and he was never in my employ”. With Frank as Sir William’s manservant and valet, Victor did odd jobs to help out; dog-walking, shopping, a little DIY (using the flat’s toolkit) and he was briefly a chauffeur, until he lost his licence owing to a drink/drive conviction.
Using his contacts, Sir William found him some work; as a salesman at John Michael’s tailors on Saville Row which he lost owing to lateness; as a catering assistant at Searcy Tansley, a job he lost owing to a suspicion of theft; and at Fortum & Mason’s as a waiter, only Victor said “I was a butler”. Only he wasn’t. At the time of the murder, he was working part-time in this job, and although his employment was so he could pay £4-a-week to stay in Sir William’s spare room, not a single penny was paid in rent.
And being a man who was used to the finer things in life, his meagre wage didn’t stretch far.
It should have come as no surprise – given his criminal past – that Victor couldn’t stop his sticky fingers. Across their year-long friendship; he stole from Sir William, cashed stolen cheques, pawned a set of gold cufflinks and bought goods from Harrods, to such an extent that Sir William closed the account.
It’s likely that this was overlooked as (Victor) “Sir William is an alcoholic and Frank is as well”. Having been an alcoholic since he was 16, although Sir William had twice paid for Victor to enter an exclusive detox clinic called The Priory, his return to Sir William’s flat was akin a sex-addict living above a brothel.
There’s no denying that the relationship was complicated. Being three gay alcoholics, Victor described their love-life as a “complicated triangle”. As Frank was definitely having an affair with Victor (Victor) “as a result of my being there, a relationship grew between Frank and I... this was a purely homosexual relationship”. And although kept a secret, many close friends knew that Sir William was dating Frank.
This was a toxic triangle he’d have done well to steer clear of, but being a lost lad from a broken past, his new life of a ‘butler’ got him a step nearer to being a pretty boy on a wealthy sugar daddy’s arm.
(Victor) “After four months together, it terminated, on my part, but not on his. I tried to case it off by kindness but it developed into a holocaust of rows and screaming and scenes. As a result, Frank drank more, I drank more and so did Sir William… it reached the stage where physical violence came into it”.
Being so hot-headed, it was not uncommon to see Frank & Victor bickering and coming to blows; with screeching voices, scratched faces and hair pulled with clumps yanked from its roots, being the smaller of the two, Frank’s face and body was often a patchwork of black-eyes, purple bruises and red cuts.
Without the generosity of Frank and Sir William, Victor was nothing…
…and he knew it…
…he just couldn’t accept it.
On Friday 1st August 1969, Sir William left 69 Eaton Place on a two-week break, leaving his flat in the capable hands of Frank, his manservant, as well as his house-guest Victor. For Frank, this should have been a chance to relax, but with their fights growing more volatile, the more they drank, the worse it got.
On the night of Friday 8th August, not Saturday 9th as Victor would claim, James Olliffe the chauffeur drove both men to Noah’s Ark restaurant in Oxford, as confirmed by the head waiter. (Victor) “Frank & I were on friendly terms during the meal”, which was a matter of perspective, as always firing snide remarks and hurtful barbs at each other, no-one saw their bitter spat as anything other than normal.
What they spoke of that night is unknown, but clearly Frank’s patience had worn thin. With generosity, he and Sir William had welcomed this troubled man into their life, only for Victor to bleed them dry.
Over previous weeks, Frank (the part-time waiter) seemed flush with limitless funds, he wore tailored clothes he could never afford, and several items of Sir William’s went missing; such as a gold watch, a gold money clip, an antique lighter and cigarette holder, with a receipt found for a local pawnbroker.
(Victor) “As I had paid for lunch, he picked up the bill”. This was confirmed by the restaurant.
(Police) “When you arrived back at 69 Eaton Place about 1am, did you go in with Frank?”, (Victor) “No, I was going on to get coffee and cigarettes. Frank was sloshed, I didn’t want him to come, he’s always nagging, so I left him at the lift”. And although Victor would state that this happened on the Saturday, the evidence would dispute this, as by that point, Frank would have been dead for several hours.
Saturday 9th August started as normally as any morning for a man who was about to be murdered.
Frank awoke, he made coffee and toast, he fed the dog, he checked the post, he hoovered the flat and straightened-up (like any houseproud manservant would) and did all of the things he would normally do, only this time was for the last time… although he wouldn’t know that, and neither would his killer.
After Noah’s Ark, Victor had headed-out to a club on the King’s Road; drinking, dancing and flirting (on whose money we shall never know). Only a call was about to rudely awaken his festering hangover.
(Ark) “Frank? It’s the manager of the Noah’s Ark. Your cheque ’s been rejected”. (Frank) “My cheque? But I didn’t pay”, (Ark) “It’s a cheque in the name of F A Hocking, only the signature isn’t yours”. Having stolen another of Frank’s cheques, in his drunken stupor, Victor had signed it using his own name.
That morning, neither Victor nor Frank were seen by another living soul, a bitter fight was overheard by two of the neighbours, but no-one called the police as their hate-filled spats were not uncommon.
At 1pm, Frank sat alone in a French restaurant called Coq Au Vin. Dressed in the brown open-necked-shirt and fawn trousers – later found on Sir William’s bedroom floor – he silently mulled over his love-life, eating his last meal of spinach, potatoes and tomato, and slugging back several large dry Martinis.
At 2:30pm, like a bad smell from a broken sewer, Victor walked in, a little sheepish at his actions but equally obstinate over the veracity of his lies – “so? I picked up the wrong chequebook, mistakes happen”. And yet, being dressed in a black jacket and trousers - worn when he later discovered his boyfriend’s body – and a crisp white shirt, Frank knew these were purchased on Sir William’s account.
At 3pm, paying the £10 bill by signing his own cheque with his own name – another stark reminder of Victor’s mistrust – Frank left and Victor followed, as they both headed back to the same flat.
With both men bitter and fuming, Frank felt cheated by his betrayal, but Victor remained unrepentant for his crimes, as when he spoke, lie was layered upon other lies, as – once again – he was broke.
At 3:30pm, from the phone in the flat, Victor made a call to Boodle’s, the private member’s club in St James, posing as Sir William. Confirmed by Alfred Russell (the head porter), in an unconvincing upper-class voice, Victor said “I should like to send my chauffeur, Victor, with a cheque for £25”, as (having done this scam before) he knew that a cash loan over this limit required approval by the club secretary.
It’s unclear whether Frank overheard this call, but if he did, maybe this was the last straw?
Maybe having had enough, Frank asked him to leave his flat and his life?
And without Frank, Victor knew that he was nothing.
In a later confession, believed to be as truthful as Victor could be, he would state: (Victor) “we were both fairly ‘liquored up’ and he started screaming and carrying on… Frank had been stamping about the house banging doors and everything” – although with the neighbours out, this cannot be verified.
(Victor) “In Frank’s room… he had thrown a vase at me. He had started getting violent and said, "You like watching the 'box' so much, see what joy you get out of this", and with a wallop, the TV went over” – the police later found a broken vase in the kitchen, and when switched on, the TV smoked.
At this point, although it was still only late afternoon, being drunk, upset (and possibly having taken a sleeping pill) Frank got into his pyjamas - ready to stay in, as Victor headed for a wild night out.
(Victor) “I went into the master bedroom – Sir William’s - whilst Frank was ranting and raving. I locked the door from the inside, but Frank bashed the door through and started screaming and raving” – which was true, the door was broken in, and the smashed door lock lay four feet inside the bedroom.
Inside, the fight continued. (Victor) “he could hardly walk because he was so drunk. He got himself on to the bed still screaming and ranting. He said “come to bed”, but I said “no I’m going out for coffee”.
As it always did, their bitter fight descended into physical violence. With long nails, Frank scratched at Victor’s face, leaving cuts he’d later claim were shaving wounds, (Victor) “and as he asked me who I’d been sleeping with and all this nonsense… the one thing Frank can't stand is having his hair pulled, so I grabbed his hair and a handful came out” – as noted by a clump of Frank’s hair found on the floor.
But as much as the punches and kicks hurt his body, Frank knew where to dig the knife into his soul.
As everyone knew, sometimes Victor’s emotions got the better of him and – being unduly sensitive about his upbringing – often he was gripped with anxiety and prone to short bursts of tearful anger.
(Victor) “I went downstairs and got hold of the hammer from Albert’s room. I took it to warn Frank that if he did not shut his raving mouth, I was going to knock him out. It was just a threat… but then he started raving on about my mother being mental, that I go to bed with old men for money, that I had been to prison and I was a cheap dirty whore… it was then that I went behind him” - the evidence would prove that Victor was standing behind the bed head beside the broken lamp, when he attacked.
(Victor) “I told Frank ‘If you don't shut-up I'll belt you with this’. He kept on ranting and threatened me to do it, it was then that I struck him. I hit him on the head with the hammer. Blood started pouring out, so I pulled over the blanket and struck him two or three times more” – as the autopsy confirmed.
(Victor) “I covered up the whole scene. I picked up the pieces of the vase and put them into a red bag in the kitchen. I straightened up the television. I then had a wash, a shave and changed my shirt” – placing his bloodstained white shirt in the laundry basket, and popping on a freshly ironed pink one.
This murder definitely happened before 5pm, as Frank’s father (William Hocking) telephoned the flat to speak to his son, only a muffled voice stated “he’s not in until after 6pm” and abruptly hung-up.
But this still leaves us with an odd unanswered question…
…having brutally murdered Frank inside a seclude flat – given that he didn’t call the police for sixteen hours – why didn’t he destroy any evidence of his crime? Instead, why did he head out for a long hot night of fun - did he not care about his dead lover, or did he know that this night would be his last?
(Party music from Part One) Picked-up in a Daimler at 5:33pm, Hermanus Loggenberg the chauffeur drove a man who called himself ‘Sir William Aykroyd’ to Boodles. Inside, the pink-shirted man handed the Head Porter a letter supposedly written by Sir William, and his “butler” was handed £25 in notes.
To toast his last night of freedom, at 5:55pm, he ordered a Bloody Mary at the Dorchester Hotel, he made a call to several pals, and - held in an ornate gold holder – he smoked an imported cigarette as lit using an antique gold lighter – all of which were stolen from Sir William before he left for Scotland.
At 6:15pm, he ate vichyssoise, crab meat and glugged back a bottle of plonk at the Brompton Grill. As back at the flat, Frank’s blood pooled about his head - as although he was not dead, Victor’s lover lay dying.
At 7:20pm, Victor met a pal for drinks at the Grove public house in Beauchamp Place, but by 8:10pm, the barman had refused to serve him any more booze, as the pie-eyed man “has had enough”.
At 8:30pm, under a false name, the Concierge of the Hilton gave him an introduction to a member’s only casino, and from 9pm to 3am, a man known only as ‘Mr Canapper’ played roulette at Crockford’s Casino in Mayfair, where he won £200. At around the time that Victor’s winning streak paid off, after six hours of bleeding, Frank Hocking died of his injuries, only he wouldn’t be found for ten hours more.
At 4am, he tried to get into The Playboy Club, a high-end seedy club full of Hugh Heffner’s bunny girls, but with his application rejected, he called it a night. He didn’t sleep at the Hilton, as he said, instead he most likely found a late-night bar and savoured his last dawn as a free man. It was hardly an amazing night out, but as it was his last, it was better than what he’d had before, or was yet to come. (End)
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. (Keys/door/dog). Inside, having cradled Victor for one last time, he changed out of his now bloodstained pink shirt and hid it in the laundry.
(Phone) “Police? I’m at Sir William Ackroyd’s residence, there is a body upstairs, I think it’s Sir William’s butler”. And with that, his privileged life was gone, as he would now be a guest of Her Majesty.
At the end of his second statement – being the most truth of all his confessions - Victor would state “I’m sorry about the grief I have brought upon Frank’s parents, the effect on Sir William and his family, and the shame and guilt I shall bear for the rest of my life. I suppose in the years to come, I shall always remember that horrible night and I will no doubt pay for it in more ways than one”.
On the 24th November 1969, at the Old Bailey, Victor Ford-Lloyd pleaded not guilty to the murder of Frank Hocking. Assessed at St Bernard’s in Southall (the same psychiatric hospital his mother was sent), Dr P D Scott (a consultant psychiatrist) diagnosed Victor as a “psychopathic personality”.
Cursed with a lack of empathy for others, an inability to learn from his experiences, being incapable of forming lasting relationships and being amoral, although a textbook “psychopath”, he was declared fit to stand trial, but under the Homicide Act this abnormality of the brain reduced his responsibility.
On 27th November 1969, Victor Ford Lloyd was found guilty of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, he was sentenced to life in prison and died in Birmingham in August 2003.
Everything which was good about his life had been stolen in an instant… and it was all his fault.
* 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".
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a crime writer, podcaster of Murder Mile UK True Crime and creator of true-crime TV series.
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