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EPISODE ONE HUNDRED AND NINE-ONE:
Back in 1962, Flat D on the ground floor of 60 Redcliffe Square was a one-roomed lodging which was once the home and workplace of Lyn Bain & Jan Blake - two ladies with too many secrets.
Given the era, they disguised their illegal lesbian relationship as merely a tempestuous friendship, but it would be a single incident over a few drinks, a card game and a bit of telly, which would end it all.
The evidence states that Thursday 14th September 1962 was a seemingly quiet night in Lyn & Jan. And yet, something caused them to argue and fight, for a knife to cut flesh and for a cover-up to erase what happened that night. With a secret so big, wrong, dark or strange, it left one woman in the prison, the other in the morgue and both taking their unspoken motive to the grave.
But what was this secret?
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SOURCES: This case was researched using some of the sources below.
UNEDITED TRANSCRIPT OF THE EPISODE:
Welcome to Murder Mile.
Today I’m standing in Redcliffe Square in Putney, SW10; two stops north of Fergie’s crazed dresser, three stops north-east of the last attack by the sadistic little drummer boy, one street east of the pub of choice for several of Britain’s most infamous serial killers, and one street north of the callous killer who discretely hid his victim’s body by dumping it on his own doorstep - coming soon to Murder Mile.
Designed to confuse any visitor, almost every street in this part of West Brompton is filled with lines of identical white five-storey Victorian terraces with stepped entrances encircled with Doric columns.
Being so ominously vague and silent, it’s as if this street is trying to hide all its secrets. Only, being the kind of pretentious toss-pot haven - where Fenella & Hugo Asti-Spumante raise their ruddy-faced bully-magnets, each named after a philosopher, a composer, a chemical element, a place in Italy, a type of Parmesan, a long-lost sexual disease and an obscure quote to prove they can read - the deepest darkest secrets these residents are likely to hide would be when they bought sliced white bread by mistake, they skipped a Zumba class, or spoke to a ‘real life’ northerner without getting a tetanus shot.
And yet, one of these flats has a seedy story to tell which had also been forgotten, until now.
On the right-hand-side of the ground-floor of 60 Redcliffe Square stands Flat D. a one-roomed lodging which was once the home and workplace of Lyn Bain & Jan Blake - two ladies with too many secrets.
Given the era, they disguised their illegal lesbian relationship as merely a tempestuous friendship, but it would be a single incident over a few drinks, a card game and a bit of telly, which would end it all.
The evidence states that Thursday 14th September 1962 was a seemingly quiet night in Lyn & Jan. And yet, something caused them to argue and fight, for a knife to cut flesh and for a cover-up to erase what happened that night. With a secret so big, wrong, dark or strange, it left one woman in the prison, the other in the morgue and both taking their unspoken motive to the grave. But what was this secret?
My name is Michael, I am your tour guide, and this is Murder Mile.
Episode 191: Lyn, Jan and Him.
We all have secrets; whether it’s a shame about our past, a criminal act, an odd incident, a childish habit, or a strange perversion we only do when we’re alone. Whatever it is, we keep it well hidden and only discuss it with those we trust most. But what kind of secret is worth killing for, and dying for?
There are two types of people; leaders and followers – Lyn was a follower.
Born on 21st March 1937 in the village of Leslie, in Fife, Scotland, Marilyn Anne Bain known as Lyn had a good upbringing to moral and hard-working parents. Raised in Kirkcaldy, although her childhood was good, this began a period of entirely predictable instability as her parents went where the work was. She found it difficult to build friendships and to form relationships, which stayed with her for life.
Being small, thin and softly spoken with a thick Scottish brogue, Lyn was described as quiet and high-spirited; an easily-led girl who would do well in life but only if she was guided by the right person.
Sadly, her young life lacked a good friend or role-model, as her father was always working, her mother struggled with nervous breakdowns and her sister wasn’t born until Lyn was almost ten. In 1946, as her dad worked for CCG (the Control Commission of Germany), the family uprooted to the turbulent war-torn city of Berlin, as these spoils of war were ripped apart like hyenas tearing at a fresh carcass.
As a wee Scottish lass trying to find her feet in a foreign land - where she didn’t know the language, the people or the culture - she had lost everything familiar. And yet, it was in this city, that she suffered an undocumented ‘sexual assault’ which (according to her family) ‘altered her personality forever’.
Aged 12, keen to be educated well, Lyn was sent to a boarding school in Wilhelmshaven, Germany; but again, feeling isolated and punished - before she could make a single friend - she was uprooted within the year and returned to Kirkaldy; a place she hadn’t lived for two years, which for a child is a lifetime. And after four years at Kirkcaldy high school, she left in 1952 with no qualifications.
It’s no-one’s fault. Her parents were only doing what they thought was best; to give her a good life and an education. And although some children cope and even thrive on this excitement? Some do not.
With no-one to confide in – no friend, no parent, no sibling – Lyn kept her deepest secrets to herself.
As a drifter with no-one to follow, she could easily have become a no-one who did nothing…
…but it was then, that the Army came calling.
Fresh out of school, having spent three years training at McCrone Nursing School in Dunfermline, in 1955, Lyn enlisted as a Private in Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps. The Army was exactly what she needed; routines and rules, with her superiors’ barking orders which she was forced to obey.
Over the next four years - although she served in such far-flung realms as Hong Hong, Singapore and Malaya – she didn’t feel lost, as – being her new family - within the Army she found qualifications and skills, as well as romantic attachments with a few women she was secretly (if illegally) in love with.
It was never said who - whether a leader or a lover – was the light who led this lost girl from the path of uncertainty to a life of hope. But by the age of 23, Lyn had become a quiet but well-liked nurse with a good bedside manner and - awarded a General Service Medal - she had a good future ahead of her.
Or at least, she should have done.
On 20th October 1959, Lyn was discharged from the Army. As many nurses had, she could have made the leap from working in a military to a civilian hospital. But with no-one there to guide her through the thorny issues of life, work, romance and her sexuality, she began to drift, and quickly fell apart.
As a heavy drinker since her teens, booze became her coping mechanism. On 20th April 1960 she was placed on an 18-month probation for stealing car wing mirrors. And seeing her rapid decline, Missy Parker, her probation officer got her to attend the Reginald Carter Clinic to treat her alcoholism.
Being jobless, homeless, loveless and lost, Lyn needed someone strong-willed to guide her…
…the person she picked was Jan - a confident independent woman who was assured of her life, secrets and sexuality. And although she would be perfect as a partner to many, she was wrong for Lyn.
Jan was born Jeanette Doreen McVitie on the 4th June 1929 in Balham, South London, as the only girl of five siblings to Evelyn a housewife and Henry a builder’s labourer. From the off, her childhood was a struggle, but the harshness of her upbringing hardened Jan, making her formidable and very direct.
As a dot just 5 foot 1 inches high, often mistaken for a push-over, any assailant got a rude awakening as – weighing 14 stone, the same as most male boxers – she would kick if provoked, bite if attacked, headbutt if needed, and she was never afraid to go toe-to-toe with an aggressor twice her size.
In 1948, Jan married a man called Blake, although his details were expunged from the court records. A few years later, they separated but – as far as we know – they remained in contact, with Jan keeping his name to disguise her identity and stating “I can’t stand sex with men except for business purposes”.
In 1954, 25-year-old Doreen Brookes (an alias she used) was fined 40 shillings for soliciting for sex; and over the next three years she would be fined five more times, also for drunkenness and wilful damage.
Everyone who knew her _whether prostitutes or punters – was aware that Jan was a lesbian, which it was not unusual for a sex-worker to be, as the act itself was not about love, but money. She hated men, but she’d readily let some loser give her a pointless fuck and a drunken fumble for a few pounds.
On the surface, it’s easy to see why Lyn fell for Jan; she was confident, driven and free-spirited; a force of nature who didn’t give two hoots about what anyone thought of her, and she did what she wanted, when and how she wanted. Jan McVitie was to be the guiding light into the new life of Lyn Bain.
Only Jan’s chaotic lifestyle would lead Lyn from despair and hopelessness…
…to unspoken secrets and murder.
In May 1959, shortly after her discharge from the Army, Lyn met Jan at The Gateways, an infamous lesbian rendezvous at 239 King's Road in Chelsea. A few days later, they moved in together. As two very different personalities - with Jan a boisterous bully, and Lyn a jealous loner – it is no coincidence that Lyn’s alcoholism spiked and her minor criminal career began in the months after she met Jan.
Their stormy love-life was described as volatile at best and deadly at worst, as each week they sported new bruises, as the two women constantly fought over the differences which drove them apart.
Being direct, Jan had a slew of ex-and-current-lovers, while the solitary Lyn had no-one but Jan. Barred from the Gateways Club for assaulting a former lover of Jan’s, Lyn became ever isolated as she drank more at home. Living off Jan’s sex-work, Lyn’s only contribution was the £5 per week that her father sent her, still believing she was a struggling nurse, rather than an unemployed alcoholic. And with Lyn rarely going out, this caused an even bigger rift between the two, as their flat was both their home...
Having moved from Oakley Street to Cremorne Crescent, Finsborough Road to Coleherne Road - often moving when they were evicted for none payment of rent or complaints about their fights - on 22nd March 1962, they moved into Flat D on the ground-floor of 60 Redcliffe Square in West Brompton.
Like a tinderbox of hatred and lies, they were the wrong couple in the wrong flat at the wrong time.
Set aside the drunken abuse, there were three sparks – in those last few weeks – which caused Jan & Lyn to fall out. One was a question over their sexuality, as Jan had sex with men for money, and Lyn was supposedly seeing a man called Bob, who she liked. Two was that – although Lyn was not a sex-worker – it was said that Jan had coerced her into posing for sexually explicit photos, and the two had engaged in acts of lesbian sex while a male client paid to watch and masturbate. And three…
…that their one-roomed lodging was both their home and place of work. Each night, as Jan brought back a procession of man to fiddle and fornicate with on the twin beds they shared – and although they no longer kissed or even cuddled as their love-life in the doldrums – Lyn was forced to wait in the kitchen, the sounds of rampant rutting concealed by nothing but a thin partition wall, as she swigged brandy and stood quietly – sometimes for hours – as several strangers shagged her lesbian lover.
By the end of Summer 1962, Lyn had – once again – become lost…
…weeks later, she would take her lover’s life. But why?
The days leading up to the incident, may have seemed as volatile as an exposed tinderbox, but for Lyn & Jan, these daily (if not hourly) fights and arguments were unremarkable. Both being big drinkers, it was not unusual for one to storm off, the other to sport bruises and the street to echo to their screams.
Jan’s close friend Gloria Hamilton would state “the mention of a past friend by Jan, and Lyn would fly off the handle. I have seen Lyn hit her about the head, face and body. She seemed to lose complete control, because the next day when she was told about it, she would honestly not remember”.
John Hubbard, their neighbour in Flat C was awoken so often by their fights that no-one ever called the police or intervened. He later stated: “they were always screaming at each other, one or both of them would shout ‘I’ve had enough of this’, and it would stop, but by the morning, they’d start again”.
Outside of the confines of their tiny one-roomed flat, they never shared what their fights were about…
…but having failed to pay their rent for a third month, their landlord hade given them notice to leave.
Thursday 13th September 1962 was typical of most evenings for Jan & Lyn, as long periods of awkward silences were interspersed by shouts and screams across a night left uncomfortably sticky by the heat.
At 8:30pm, Jan let in an unidentified male into the ground-floor flat, his voice heard by John Hubbard, and on one of the twin-beds in the sitting room, they engaged in sex, as Lyn stood in the kitchen. For half-an-hour; she waited in silence, with no chair to sit on and no radio to listen to. Shielded by nothing but a thin partition wall, the only sound she heard was her former lesbian lover being fucked by a man.
This set-up may seem odd, but stranger still is that given the precarious nature of their finances and living situation, Lyn’s statement says that Jan only picked up one punter that night, not several. It is also said this unnamed man left at roughly 9pm and he was unseen by any corroborative witnesses.
The statement Lyn gave to the police of the night’s events were vague at best, and although her lack of memory can be seen as suspicious, it’s understandable given her mood and her chronic alcoholism.
Lyn would state: “after the man had gone, Jan asked me if I would like a drink and she gave me £4 to go to the off-licence”. This occurred between 10 and 11pm, as John Hubbard saw her leaving and he remembered it vividly, as although he wished her a “good night”, Lyn ignored him. At two premises, an off-licence on the corner of Old Brompton Road and Earls Court Road, “I bought a bottle of whiskey, a quarter bottle of brandy, three quarters of light ale, and a bottle of ginger ale”, and at Bertorelli’s café nearby “I got five Pepsi-Colas. I then went back to the flat and we started drinking”.
Examining the flat, police found empty glasses and half-drunk bottles, as described. And although, this could be seen as a large quantity of alcohol for just two women, both were big drinkers. Several sets of unidentified fingerprints were also discovered, but they may have belonged to past punters.
Lyn would state “we were still drinking when the ITV programme finished at midnight”, which matches the schedule as broadcast by Associated Rediffusion. At 9:45pm was US drama ‘Gunsmoke’, followed by review show ‘What the Papers Say’ at 10:40pm, ‘Dan Farson meets Len Peters at 10:55pm, at 11:22pm was ‘People at Work’ (a dry study about primary schools), at 11:47pm was ‘The Epilogue’ (a non-denominational speech given by a priest) with the national anthem and shutdown at midnight.
Admittedly, this was a rather dull mix of televisual treats for two women having a fun night in, but as Lyn was barred from the Gateways Club, maybe they were just making-do with what they had at hand?
With the TV off, Lyn would state “we carried on drinking and played a couple of games of Ludo. We then started to play poker for fun. She was teaching me to play the game. We had finished playing poker, because I thought the hand I had should have won and the cards went up in the air. We argued as to who should pick the cards up and eventually, I picked them up and we laughed”. It was one of many minor spats this ex-couple would have that night, but was it worth lying, killing and dying for?
According to Lyn, a long period of silence followed, as often happened: “she read the paper, I read my book and we ignored each other. We sat like that for a while. Then I asked her if she wanted to play cards again but she refused. This and the drinking went on all night and we never went to bed”.
This was the build-up to the moment which would change both of their lives forever…
…and yet, something unspoken had either happened or would happen, which led to a death.
Their neighbour John Hubbard had stated “I said ‘good night’ to Lyn, but she ignored me”, as sometime between 10 and 11pm she went to buy booze. Only he would confirm “she did not return until 3am”. Which either means; John was mistaken, Lyn was lying, or she was so drunk, she couldn’t remember leaving. And yet, if this was true, where she was going and who she was with will never be known.
At 5am, having managed to catch a few winks before work, John’s alarm went off and – as they opened the door to the passageway they shared – still arguing, John would state “I got the impression I heard a male voice in the room. It was a calm voice like someone was trying to keep them quiet”. He may have been mistaken, or it could have a friend of Lyn’s, a punter of Jan’s, or a lover of one or both?
On investigation, a photo album of naked women engaged in sexually explicit acts of lesbian sex was found – as is common in the workplace of prostitutes, as sometimes a male client needs a little help to get hard – only these snaps were homemade and its contents were redacted from the court records.
At 8am, as yet another minor spat brewed into a pointless slanging match, nobody but Jan & Lyn heard or took any notice of their final fight, and yet, as innocent as it may seem, something was hidden.
Lyn confessed: “we started quarrelling, I cannot for the life of me remember what about. I remember Jan pouring a drink and I remarked that she was drinking fast. She said that was the drink talking. It may have been that that started the quarrel. We fought and punched each other. When we were fighting, I punched her in the ribs. I never used to punch her in the face because it would have marked”. But was this out of love, or the knowledge that a prostitute couldn’t earn as much if she’s bruised?
Grabbing a six-inch kitchen knife, “I must have stabbed her, but I can’t account for the knife being in the sitting room and not in the kitchen. I remember her saying she couldn’t breathe. I got two pillows and laid her down on them. Then I saw the blood from her blouse and I realised there was something wrong. I flew upstairs and telephoned for an ambulance. I can’t remember much else of what happened. I know we didn’t sleep that night, so no-one else could have come into the room”.
It was a single stab wound using moderate force, buried five inches deep, just below the left armpit.
At 8:20am, ambulance men - Harry Fry & John Cordery - arrived at 60 Redcliffe Square. Ushering them in, Lyn stated “come in quickly, my friend has collapsed”. Inside Harry saw a woman lying on floor “she had a pillow under her head and she was naked apart from a blouse”. When he went to examine her, Lyn said “she’s been stabbed”. Harry asked “what happened?”, Lyn replied “we had a bit of a party”.
Taken by ambulance to the Princess Beatrice Hospital on Old Brompton Road, Jan stated to Harry “she knifed me” and they both began crying. Keen to work out how deep the knife wound was, Harry asked “what type of knife was it?”, Lyn sobbed “I don’t know”, to which Jan defensively retorted “she doesn’t know anything about it”. Harry confirmed that both women were distressed and smelled of drink.
The knife itself would not be found for several days and it would never be clear whether Lyn delayed calling the ambulance - perhaps at Jan’s request - so the two of them could get their story straight.
But what was the truth, and why did they need to lie?
Upon admission, as Jan vomited and fought with the staff, the surgical officer Dr Jotkowitz examined the wound as best he could. As “it had not penetrated the thoracic cage”, he admitted her to the Henrietta Ward, her superficial injury was dressed, stitched and they waited for the drink to wear off.
To a casualty nurse, Lyn would state “we’ve been to a party, we had a bit of a barney. When she got home, Jan complained of an awful pain so I dialled 999”. But “got home” from where? Was this a lie, a mistake, had she mis-remembered the night, or had she accidentally blurted out the truth?
At 8:45am, as was standard practice in an assault, Police arrived and took statements from Lyn & Jan; both of which were vague and blamed neither for the incident, at which, both were drinking heavily.
At 9:20am, the officers went with Lyn to the flat and observed the scene of this minor assault. But as Jan was sedated and unwilling to press charges, it was likely that the case would be dropped. Therefore no photographs or fingerprints were taken, no bottles were examined and the knife was not found.
By Monday 17th September, although Jan had contracted aspiration pneumonia, as x-rays would prove that the blade had nicked her lung, appearing to improve, Jan would state: “We were both drunk and we had been drinking all night…” with a sentence, right there, redacted from her statement. When asked, “do you wish to charge her?”, Jan said “no, no, no”. and became upset and she started crying.
That afternoon – as both lungs had collapsed – those would become some of the last words spoken by Jan. By 5:10pm she was declared dead, and Lyn was subsequently charged with her murder. (End)
Within an hour, Flat D of 60 Redcliffe Square was a crime-scene. With Lyn arrested in her flat, she was described by the officer as distraught but co-operative, even handing Sergeant Smith the knife, stating “I was cleaning up this afternoon and I found it under the fridge” – four days after the fight itself.
Inside the half-cleaned room, the detectives found several half-drunk bottles of booze, the remains of Jan’s bloodied blouse (which had been cut away by the ambulance men to stem the bleeding), the pillows her head had rested on, the pornographic photo album, and an unidentified rubber mask spattered with blood.
As Jan had refused to give a statement, all they had was Lyn’s drunken recollection; as the male client was never identified and the only witness - John Hubbard - was at work at the time of the stabbing.
Following a post-mortem, with Lyn’s fingerprints and Jan’s blood found on the knife, Lyn was charged with murder and was held at Holloway Prison. Tried at The Old Bailey on 16th October 1962, Marilyn Anne Bain known as Lyn pleaded not guilty to murder, but guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter. Accepted by both sides, she was sentenced to three years in prison, and she was released in 1965.
In his summing up, Justice Edmond Davies would state “the nature of your relationship with your friend caused a situation which led to quarrels. Both of you were drinking regularly and excessively. Whether you know as little about what happened on that night only you can answer. Somehow on this night you caused that carving knife to enter the side of your friend and she met her death”.
And there, the case ended. Whatever did happen that night, and whatever secret they silenced, it was clearly something which was worth lying, killing and dying for, as both women took it to their graves.
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.
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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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