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EPISODE ONE HUNDRED AND NINETY-THREE:
This is 19 Gloucester Avenue (formerly Gloucester Road), Regent’s Park, NW1.
Back in 1935, this building was split into three self-contained flats; with a stage manager in the basement, an artist on the first floor and the top two floors owned by single woman, Ms Riley.
Feeling lonely in this spacious flat, for three weeks, Louise (her house-sitter) was accompanied by her 20-year old daughter Maxine and Maxine’s boyfriend, 28-year-old Alan Grierson.
The morning of Saturday 22nd June 1935 had started much the same as any other. They’d had a cup of tea, a cooked breakfast, and – as Maxine and Alan headed off to work – they had agreed to meet later, to head off on a romantic weekend away in Torquay, as Louise stayed in, to house-it. It was very much an ordinary day… only Louise’s fateful decision to stay behind, would lead to her murder…
…and it was all because of a spoiled little brat.
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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 Gloucester Avenue, near Regent’s Park NW1; one street north-east of the bloody killing by the grieving elephant keeper, four doors down from the first possible victim of the Blackout Ripper, one street north-west of the posed body of Gladys ‘Rene’ Hanrahan, and - as an unnervingly similar case in almost that same place - another body would be found - coming soon to Murder Mile.
Regent’s Park is a lovely place to rest, relax and read a book. Or it should be, only swarms of piss-poor parents always unleash their shitting spitting little seeds of Satan onto this tranquil idyll, as their over-sugared sexcrement screams “I want, I want, waaaah” as it attempts to stamp to death the park’s wildlife population like veritable a Pol Pot of pigeons. And should anyone dare to chastise said sprog - through a 3pm haze of Valium and vodka – the parent always says “oh leave him, he’s just having fun”.
Brats; they cry, they crap, and if you’d bought one in a shop - thinking it’s faulty - you’d take it back.
For the first four years of a child’s life, when its personality is forming, it spends most of its time with its parent; listening and learning. If a child turns out to be polite, kind and decent, the parent has every right to proclaim - “oh yes, it’s all down to good parenting, you see?” - as they’ve done the hard work.
And yet, should their child - who was born a blank canvas onto which the parent’s morals are projected – should their little angel spawn from a devil in a diaper to a schoolyard Stalin, too often its parent will blame sugar, video-games or music (the bogeymen of each era). Good parents raise good children.
But do they? Or, is there much more to be considered?
I’m going to tell you a story about a spoiled little brat, a young lad called Alan who was born healthy, raised well and - living a nice life to good parents in a decent family – he had no reason to turn bad.
He didn’t suffer with any diseases, poverty, abuse or trauma. So, with no reason to do any wrong, his life should have gone well. But burdened with a sense of privilege, self-entitlement, and arrogance, he had become so fixated on doing what HE wanted, that he would murder a woman in his way.
My name is Michael, I am your tour guide, and this is Murder Mile.
Episode 193: A Spoiled Brat.
Parenting is unlike any other job. To do it; you don’t need a licence, qualifications or training; many parents are thrown-in at the deep-end with no knowledge of whether they will sink or swim; and although most get it right, some get it wrong, and - for a few - a little mistake can turn into tragedy.
The morning of Saturday 22nd June 1935 had succeeded a surprisingly sticky night, as a mini-heatwave had gripped the city. At a little after 7am, the residents of 19 Gloucester Road (or Gloucester Avenue as it was later renamed) began to slowly stir from an interrupted slumber after a rough night’s sleep.
As a sandstone terraced house on a quiet street, 19 Gloucester Road was a nice place to live. Split into flats; John Moody, a stage manager had the basement; an artist called Gillian Pyall had the first; and Dorothy Riley, a single woman of independent means owned the second and third floors to the top.
At 7:30am, in the master bedroom on the third floor, 20-year-old Maxine Gann awoke and headed to the kitchen to make her still sleeping mother a cup of tea, as they were housesitting for Ms Riley.
As a slim pretty brunette who the young men flocked to with big grins and bulging pants, although she dreamed of meeting Mr Right - as Maxine was still too naïve to bag a keeper - she lived in Shepherd’s Bush with her dad Stanley, and her short but rather formidable mother, 63-year-old Louise Gann.
With her mother snoring, Maxine put a cuppa by the bed and headed down to Ms Riley’s bedroom. Being decorated in all manner of frippery - like lace doilies, delicate trinkets, silver jewellery and a slew of porcelain oddments (with far too many shaped like cats) – her ‘boyfriend’, 28-year-old Alan Grierson looked silly sleeping among this sea of old lady’s finery, but no matter what, she always loved him.
Popping on his dark horn-rimmed glasses to absorb her beauty, in a well-mannered voice Alan cooed “good morning Mickey, my sweet” and the two pressed lips, both their cheeks flushed in tandem.
Being so deeply smitten after four months together, just four months from this point, Alan & Maxine would be days away from marrying, as this loving young couple prepared for a life-time together.
At 8am, over a cooked-breakfast, the two savoured this time together in a posh flat surrounded by all the mod-cons - it was a mirror of how their future could be. And with Maxine in her shop assistant’s uniform, and Alan in a smart blue suit, black shoes and a bright red tie - as a salesman for a prestigious car firm on Great Portland Street - it would be a lot of hard graft, but it would be worth it in the end.
At 8:30am, as mother slept soundly, Maxine left 19 Gloucester Road. Having agreed to meet Alan later - to take her on a romantic trip to the seaside town of Torquay - from the landing, he softly whispered “see you at 1:20pm my love” – and the last thing she saw was her lover waving her goodbye.
It began as a normal day. It ended with her world destroyed…
…and it was all in the name of love, and spite.
From 1907 onwards, Alan James Grierson had a blessed upbringing. Born in Shirley, on the north side of Southampton, he was raised in a spacious penthouse flat at 12 Brunswick Terrace overlooking East Park. As the son of Hugh, a prominent solicitor and Emma, a solicitor’s wife; Alan was the youngest of two, whose every whim was cared for by Lucy, a live-in servant. As a privileged boy, he never without…
…except, maybe for love.
Little is known about his upbringing, so it’s uncertain whether he was ruled with an iron rod, pampered like a preening prince, or was molly-coddled with too much love and not enough oxygen. Undeniably, he had been raised to be well-mannered, cultured and polite. And yet, he was also a spoiled little brat.
Growing up, Alan easily fitted the mould of 1920s middle-class gent’; dressed in smart dark suits, bright ties and adopting the slicked-back black hair and horn-rimmed glasses like the silent movie-star Harold Lloyd, Alan had the smooth pale skin of a man who had never done a hard day’s work in his life, and the plummy voice and the slow deliberate gait of a man of leisure, who had not a worry in the world.
Alan cared for no-one but himself. From a young age, he stole from his own home to fund his lifestyle. Everything he did was about his wants, his needs and he didn’t care who got hurt in his quest for cash.
With no history of criminality, sickness or insanity in the family, he was only injured twice in his life; aged 8, he was briefly being knocked unconscious by a cricket ball, and aged 18, he fell off a motorbike and ended up with a two-inch scar to his skull. Since then, he has felt “perfectly fine” with no ill effects.
But what would make a well-manner boy from good home and a private school, go bad?
Aged 19, having been released from prison for a string of petty thefts, on 23rd June 1927, his father packed his only son off onboard of the SS Barrabool, a passenger ship bound for Melbourne, Australia.
With a small allowance to set-up this ‘family embarrassment’ as far away as possible, Alan arrived all alone, having been banished to an unfamiliar land. It could have been the fresh start that he needed?
Only being too lazy to work and too greedy to go straight – after another string of offences – on 11th April 1930, Alan was convicted of four cases of ‘fraud’ and he was sentenced to four years in prison.
Released again in 1934, and - with no plans to ‘do the decent thing’ or to think of anyone but himself - he sailed back to Britain, hunkered down in a lodging and continued his life of petty crime in London.
On 4th March 1935 at West London Police Court, 28-year-old Alan Grierson, an unemployed ‘clerk’ was sentenced to one month in prison for stealing postal orders. Released on the 1st of April, once again, he was back where he had begun; he was broke, jobless, homeless and an ex-con out on probation.
Born with big dreams, Alan wanted everything his life could offer (a lavish home, a fast car, a full bank account and a beautiful wife who loved him without question). And yet, through his own selfishness, Alan had nothing, as this petty little thief had been disowned by every loved one he had stolen from.
Three weeks later, Alan Grierson would meet Maxine Gann…
…and yet, their undying love would lead to murder.
On Saturday 20th April 1935, in a club in Hammersmith, Alan and Maxine met for the very first time and fell in love. For him; she was sweet, pretty, petite and the epitome of the woman of his dreams.
For her; he was charming, kind and handsome. But being naïve, she swallowed the story he span about being an ambitious solicitor’s son from a good home, and avoided the less palatable truth of his past.
Across the following months - constantly kissing, making her laugh and with her dashing beau forever wooing her with poetry and a tune on his ukulele - Maxine had fallen for Alan, like she had plummeted from the sky. In her eyes, he could do no wrong, as the world unfairly smited their blissful dreams.
As Alan struggled to find work - having promised to marry her by her 21st birthday, a few months away - although Maxine was far from wealthy; a badly paid shop-assistant whose mother was a housewife and father was a struggling oyster merchant – out of love; she loaned him money, she gave him hope, she praised his ambitions and – as he had nowhere to live – she would find him a place to stay.
Taking a well-earned holiday in Scotland, Ms Riley, the owner of the top-two floors of 19 Gloucester Road near Regent’s Park had entrusted her home to her old friend Louise Gann. Moving in on 2nd June, 63-year-old Louise, known as Bertha was the perfect house-sitter, and – feeling a little lonely – rattling around this grand flat all by herself, she invited Maxine to join her, and later, her daughter’s boyfriend.
They would live together for the next three weeks …
…but although Maxine loved him blindly, Louise had concerns.
Over meals, they sat like a happy little family; the lovers gazing all gooey-eyed and giggling, too full of lust to finish their food, as Louise - short but sturdy at barely 4 foot and 11 inches – smiled politely but said nothing, as her eyes gave a withering look of disapproval. Alan was not the first boyfriend Maxine had brought back, and she hoped he wouldn’t be the last, as she didn’t trust him… and rightly so.
Alan’s search for work was always fruitless; a ludicrously long drive up to Manchester to find a job he could acquire in London, followed by a slow drudge back, a whole day wasted and a tank of fuel spent, all funded by yet another loan from Maxine which he always promised to pay back, but didn’t.
Alan wanted everything in his dreams; only without the long hours, hard effort or miniscule wage.
The answer was staring him in the face. On his first night at 19 Gloucester Road, with Maxine & Louise sharing a bed on the third-floor, and – keen to keep the creeping feet and hanky-panky at bay - Alan was consigned to Ms Riley’s room on the second floor. As a sickening mix of pink lacy chintz, it should have made him wince to bed-down amidst this haberdasher’s orgasm. But it didn’t, it made him drool.
Like a child in a chocolate shop, with no money, but quick hands and fast feet, Alan returned to default.
Inside a mahogany box lay Ms Riley’s jewellery; consisting of seven gold rings, two gold watches, an assortment of gold bracelets, chains, tie pins, pendants, brooches, lockets and a silver crucifix. They were special to her and cherished. But to him, as she had loads, he didn’t think she’s miss one or two?
Four days later, at Jay, Richard Attenborough & Co at 142 Oxford Street, Alan pawned for £5; a gold enamel brooch, a diamond and gem-stone brooch, and a hare diamond and gem-stone ring. With the seller’s slip signed using the name Mr J Hoskisson, a builder who had given him work when he needed it most.
£5 was the equivalent of two weeks wage for a man who worked for a living in 1935. As Alan didn’t and his windfall made no sense, Louise went looking and her eagle-eyes spotted the open jewellery box and the missing items, taken from this self-contained flat with only three people living in it.
Feeling shamed (mostly for being caught rather than regretting his actions) Alan sent Maxine & Louise a written apology begging ‘Forgive me, Alan’, he enclosed the pawn tickets and Alan’s patent pending ‘cast-iron promise’ that he would get the jewellery back. As always, naively Maxine believed him, just as she believed he would pay back the money she had loaned him. And although, Louise was not best pleased – as her withering glace would testify – at Maxine’s request, he was let back into the house.
A little after midnight on 10th June, clutching a little posy for his sweetheart and a box of chocolates for her mum, Alan (who was homeless) skulked back into 19 Gloucester Road with his head hung low.
Declaring this little theft as a minor aberration, a one-off moment of sheer madness by a good lad driven to desperation by poverty and shame, a tearful Alan sobbed as he swore on his mother’s life (albeit having not seen or contacted her in years) that he would never steal anything ever again.
Returning to the pink chintzy warmth of Ms Riley’s room, Alan slept soundly that night. His mission was clear; to apologise to Louise and to prove his love for Maxine, he would redeem the jewellery…
…but first, he needed money.
On Thursday 13th June, having dressed in his one best suit, Alan returned home with a little something to celebrate. Having aced the interview, as of Monday, he would begin his career as a salesman for HC Paul, a respected motor firm at 90-92 Great Portland Street. On a decent salary, with his first week’s wage packet in advance, he made a promise to give them £1 each of the £7 they had loaned him, to redeem the jewellery with the second week’s wage, and by the Monday, he was as good as his word.
Given a fresh start, Maxine saw only the good in Alan, and to Louise, he seemed like he was trying. He left for work at 9am Mondays to Fridays, and with his wage he treated his girlfriend like a princess. It all seemed to be going well. Too well maybe? And that’s because a spoiled brat will always be a spoiled brat; the gifts were a ruse, the money was stolen, the promise was lost and the job was a lie.
As only a two-bedroomed flat, Alan remained in within the temptation of Ms Riley’s room. With the mahogany box now locked by Louise, she didn’t think for a second that he knew how to break in. But he had. On the 17th June, he pawned; a mix of old gold for £1 at A Forsythe in Victoria; a gold locket for £4 and 5s at Sanders in Camden Town; a gold, diamond and emerald cluster ring for £4 at Wallis Davis & Sons, WC1; and each time giving a new alias - A Williamson, Mrs Rauley and even Mrs Gann.
But burning through money like he burned through truth, before he knew it, the spoiled brat was broke.
Dressed in new suits, quaffing rich foods and glugging fine wines, his fictional wage simply couldn’t cope with his expensive tastes. Up to his eyes in loans and driving a car he had gained through Hire Purchase, this was not his greatest expense, as the couple were already perusing the wedding shops.
Alan wanted it all – his dream was so close he could taste it - but needing a stash of quick cash and an easy way to cover his tracks as the mahogany box was almost empty, what he needed was a plan…
…and a distraction.
On Thursday 20th June, Alan (the kind lad with the good intentions) said he had to drive to the seaside town of Torquay as part of his job, and he wanted to treat Maxine & Louise to a weekend by the beach. The weather was great, a heatwave was looming, and who wouldn’t want to escape a hot city?
His plan was simple; meet the ladies somewhere local like Oxford Circus, at a time which meant they’d be at least 30 minutes from the house. Using the spare-key he had swiped earlier, he’d quietly ransack each room, leaving a window or door open as if Louise had made an honest mistake, and meeting them at a time and place as planned, he would take them both to Torquay with the loot stashed in the boot.
After a lovely weekend of sand-castles and ice-cream, all three would return to the flat, and seeing the devastation he would share their look of shock as everything of value (including the bits he had already pawned) were gone, and not a single witness anywhere in this building had seen the culprit.
In Alan’s eyes, his burglary would be a work of brilliance; a plan, a distraction, and an alibi-to-boot.
Having got time off work, Maxine was all ready to go. But being a decent woman, who had promised Ms Riley she would house-sit her home. 63-year-old Louise Bertha Gann declined his offer…
…and with that, she had unwittingly signed her own death warrant.
The morning of Saturday 22nd June was succeeded by a surprisingly sticky night, as the heatwave had left Louise too tired to get out of bed, so Maxine made her a cup of tea - unaware it would be her last.
Excited for the day ahead, a half days work followed by a weekend away, Maxine carried a cuppa into her beau who slept in a pink blanket among a sea of porcelain cats and a now empty mahogany box.
Popping on his horn-rimmed glasses, he cooed “good morning Mickey, my sweet” as the two soon-to-be newly-weds pressed lips and blushed bright red. Only their happiness could come at a great price.
At 8:30am, after a cooked-breakfast, dressed in her uniform, Maxine looked up the stairs to see Alan – wearing his blue suit and red tie, for a job which didn’t exist – standing on the landing, he softly whispered “see you at 1:20pm my love” - and the last thing she saw was her lover waving her goodbye.
With Maxine gone and Louise fast asleep, his brilliant plan to burgle the flat would only need a little tweak. It was simple, as long as he was quiet, no-one would be any the wiser… (creaking floorboard)
…but nothing ever goes to plan.
Being giddy with glee and as excited as a kid about to lick an ice-lolly, 20-year-old Maxine Gann waited patiently at Oxford Circus for the man she would marry to whisk her away on a sun-kissed trip for two.
But by 1:40pm, as Alan hadn’t arrived, she phoned the flat but got no reply. By 2pm, she arrived back at 19 Gloucester Road to find the main door open but the flat door locked. Using a neighbour’s phone she called Alan’s employer, but no-one had heard of him. Growing concerned, at 3pm, she requested the help of Frederick Summers at Bucknell’s, and he forced open the door on the second-floor landing.
Maxine would recall “the place was in a terrible state”; drawers were open, cupboards were emptied and everything had been ransacked. Inside the third-floor bedroom, she found a suitcase on the table which was half-filled with stolen items; jewellery, silver jugs and a cash box, anything easily saleable.
And beside the door – dressed in a blue coat and black shoes, as if she was going out – lay her mother. Collapsed and unconscious, a bloodied flat-iron lay nearby, this one kilo-cast-iron weight was matted with her bloodied hair, having been used by the burglar – who was missing - to bash in her skull.
Having never regained consciousness, at 9:35pm the next day, Louise Gann died of her injuries. (End)
The investigation was simple - with a history of theft, the pawned items signed for in his handwriting, his fingerprints on the stolen items as well as the flat-iron, and having vanished without trace - the police issued Alan’s description in the papers and on Sunday 30th June. he was easily apprehended.
Being too arrogant to adopt a disguise, while lodging in the home of Mrs Ellen Church of 8 Beech Road in Weybridge and using the worst alias ever –that being Ian McIan – wearing the same suit and staring at a photo of himself, he engaged in a conversation about himself and the murder he was wanted for.
Tried at the Old Bailey on the 10th September 1935, although he professed his innocence even against overwhelming evidence, eight day later, having deliberated for 25 minutes, the jury found him guilty.
It was proven without a shadow of doubt that Alan Grierson was guilty of the murder of Louise Gann.
Everyone had accepted it as a fact. Everyone… except Maxine, who was so blinded by her love for the man who had bludgeoned her own mother to death; that she wrote him love letters in prison, she set-up a petition to pardon him, and – having taken his hand in marriage – she had agreed to be his wife.
They were due to marry on 30th October 1935, the day of her 21st birthday. But with his reprieve being denied, at 9am, he was hung by his neck at Pentonville Prison. Dressed in black, when his death was announced, she placed a bouquet of violets at the prison gates with a note: ‘To my Alan, from Maxine”.
Alan Grierson was buried in Pentonville Prison. Two years later, being gripped with an uncontrollable grief, Maxine took her own life, having died by suicide. And it was all for the love… of a spoiled brat.
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 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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