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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 NINE-ONE:
Back in 1968, Flat 35 on the fifth floor was a stylish two-bedroomed apartment owned by newly-weds; 53-year-old stockbroker Michael O’Carroll and 25-year-old model Janet Williams.
Being a secure home, these flats have buzzers, intercoms, cameras, porters and service bells to ensure the residents safety. But on Tuesday 12th March 1968 - as many homes have - Flat 35 was burgled.
It had been planned as a simple get in-grab it-and get out caper, so this should have been an easy job for the robbers. But being planned by a gang who were both inept and ill-equipped, their home invasion would turn from a hostage situation into a brutal double murder.
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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 on the Bayswater Road, W2; two streets east of the stabbing of Stanley Thurman, three streets south-east of the final night of Emmy Werner, a short walk from the torture of Vincent Keighrey, and three streets west of the dark secrets of Orme Court - coming soon to Murder Mile.
Overlooking Hyde Park is Falmouth House; an eight-storey square-block of posh flats for the cash-rich and tax-shy, built in 1960. Made of brown brick with white sills and jutting balconies, it resembles the kind of place a sports pundit would put his feet up having spent ninety whole minutes telling millions what they’ve just seen, where a dodgy politician secretes the secretary he’s not so secretly shagging, and a slew of ‘proud to be British’ bankers who bonk their loot having bet that the Pound will collapse as yet another bafflingly inept Prime Minister of the Week cripples our currency by being utterly shit.
Maybe one day we’ll hire an experienced business person to run Britain, rather than a self-obsessed careerist shitbag, who only wants to be leader because their Latin tutor at Eton called them an idiot?
Back in 1960, Flat 35 – a two-bedroomed flat on the fifth floor with views of Hyde Park – cost £20000. Today, its selling for £3.3 million. Paying for the location but also to be secure; there are buzzers to let you in, keys to let you out, intercoms to screen any strangers, cameras to watch for weirdoes, a service bell for if you need help, and 24-hour porters who know the names and faces of every resident.
In August 1967, two newly-weds, Michael O’Carroll, a stockbroker and Janet Williams, a model moved into Flat 35. This stylish apartment in a secure building in a well-to-do neighbourhood was to be their forever home, where they would nurture their happiness and love having planned to start a family.
On Tuesday 12th March 1968 - as many homes have - their flat was burgled. But being a half-baked robbery by a band of incompetents with a hastily concocted plan to solve an easily rectifiable problem - being so inept and ill-equipped for such a petty crime – their idiocy would lead to a double murder.
My name is Michael, I am your tour guide, and this is Murder Mile.
Episode 195: In Too Deep – Part One.
A plan. It doesn’t need to be much to ensure it doesn’t go all arse-about-tit. It’s simple; a little research, some common sense, a dash of patience, a solid leader and a team with experience and skill. It’s not fool-proof, nothing is… but anything is better than three bumbling idiots of mind-numbing stupidity.
Michael St John O’Carroll was a 53-year-old partner at Carroll & Co, a successful city stock-brokers. Being smart, confident and a risk-taker, his business was solid but (as the industry is) unpredictable. As a stylish gent’, he wore sharp suits from Saville Row, drove a flash silver Lancia convertible, ate in only the finest restaurants and holidayed on private islands. But unwilling to admit his age, as a shrewd negotiator who never showed weakness, he hid his balding head with a neat brown toupee.
With his work having dominated his world, his family-life had suffered. In early 1967, having separated from his wife (Clare); he left behind their two sons aged 16 and 19, their home (a modern detached house in Arthur Road overlooking Wimbledon Park) and the divorce proceedings were pending.
As a high-powered businessman with so much to gain or lose in the blink of an eye, few people knew of his problems; as he hid them behind a cheeky grin, a jocular laugh and a light-hearted dig at himself.
The biggest secret he harboured though… was that he was lonely.
Born in Westhide, seven miles outside of Hereford, Janet Alice Williams was the second youngest of three daughters and two sons who came from humble beginnings. With her dad (George) working at a parcel delivery depot, these hard-working parents ensured their children were well-educated, and therefore Janet (as the school prefect) graduated in 1958 from Bromyard Grammar with six o’levels.
Gifted with a maternal nature, it was no surprise that she worked as auxiliary nurse at Hereford County Hospital, and later she retrained as an English and PE teacher at several schools in St John’s Wood, Croydon and East London. She was making a good life for herself, but her ambitions were much bigger.
Being blonde, pretty and petite; Janet Williams had been screen-tested at Pinewood Studios with her dream to break into TV and films. And with her agent describing her as “beautiful girl with perfect features and a slim figure”, she was on the way to securing a £10,000 a year contract as a model.
It’s uncertain when it happened, but having lost interest in her modelling career, whilst working as an escort girl; 25-year-old Janet Williams met 53-year-old Michael O’Carroll, and the two fell in love.
To say it was a whirlwind romance would be an understatement.
Everybody knew they planned to marry, but with his divorce petition not due to be heard until 31st March 1968, five months earlier on the 27th October; they had secretly married in Rome, they had honeymooned at his villa on the Mediterranean island of Elba, Janet Williams had changed her name by Deed Poll to Janet O’Carroll (until they could be legally married under English law) and in September 1967, they had moved into a stylish and elegant flat at Falmouth House on the Bayswater Road.
Having had them up to his Hereford home a few weeks prior, Janet’s father would later state of Mr & Mrs O’Carroll “I’ve never seen a couple so happy and well suited”. Their lives were going well, and – having been conceived on their honeymoon – soon enough, their first baby together would be born.
Although a few months pregnant – wanting their wedding dance to be something special – Michael & Janet took lessons at the Arthur Murray School at 167 Oxford Street, supervised by a Mr David Bolton; an instructor of tango, rumba and the polka who Janet knew from when she was a nightclub hostess.
Having enrolled on 29th November, twelve lessons in, Dave the instructor noted “they were a charming couple who were progressing well”, and keen to excel, they had signed up for ten more lessons.
It was a romantic dance destined to mark the birth of their wonderful life together…
…and yet, it was the seed which sewed the start of their agonising deaths.
30-year-old David Colvan Bolton made a modest living as a dance instructor and he lived with his wife in a small flat above a shop at 79 High Road in South Tottenham. Or, at least he was… until the February of 1968. Having lost his job at the Arthur Murray School for reasons unknown, his landlord had taken him to court for being £50 in rent arrears, and had given 28 days to pay otherwise he would be evicted.
As a cocky lad who despised the rich but wanted wealth, who stumbled through life but blamed others for his failings – like so many petty criminals who resorted to stealing rather than working hard – Dave (as he liked to be called) often had ‘get rich quick’ scam on the go, of which he was the mastermind.
Sorry, did I say mastermind? I meant moron.
Dave was all-mouth no-trousers; a wannabe Mister Big who would bulldoze through his ill-conceived schemes like a cow hijacking a milk-float. Fuelled by anger and jealousy, this bargain basement Buster Edwards only thought of the loot, and - in short - he couldn’t organise an orgy in a busy brothel.
Barely six months before the robbery, Dave had (unwittingly) begun recruiting his gang. To ensure his success, he could have browsed the Big Book of London’s Bad Lads to find a few hoods well-versed in breaking and entering. But instead, he opted for two desperate dickheads without a brain-cell-a-piece.
Michael David Ellis was a 22-year-old unemployed swimming instructor from Putney, who sometimes fenced stolen items and nicked chequebooks, but if you mentioned his name to the Met Police, they’d be likely to reply “who?”. He dressed like a flashy wanker and blew his cash faster than wrinkling WAG.
And just two weeks before the robbery – needing a third man, as possibly they didn’t feel that two dense numpties were enough to bungle a simple burglary – they roped in a pal of Mike’s named Ray.
Raymond David Cohen was a 23-year-old unemployed trainee football coach who still lived at home with his dad in Wandsworth. Being a skinny bespectacled lad who was easily led, he dressed well and spoke well, but he had about as much experience of burglary as a blind hermit with agoraphobia.
And this was the gang; Dave, Mike and Ray – three instructors of dancing, swimming and football, who thought big but planned little, and probably liked to believe they were the South London version of Ocean’s Eleven, but were more akin to the Paddling Pool Three, or the Festering Canal Water Few.
You may think I’m over-emphasising their criminal incompetence for comic effect? But I’m not.
On Monday 11th March 1968, Dave, Mike & Ray set-out to burgle a sub post office off the Great West Road, just beside of Brentford football ground. Based on Dave’s precision planning (and yes, I’m being sarcastic); they would break into the house of a sub-postmaster, steal his keys to the safe, swipe all his loot (not only cash, but also stamps, coupons and postal orders - ooh) and speed away unseen.
But having blown an hour bumbling around this unoccupied house with the lights off and one torch between them; they couldn’t find the key. So, they left empty handed and drove back to Dave’s flat in Tottenham, having wasted a few shillings on fuel and wrecked Ray’s dodgy brakes and rattling exhaust.
At 4am, in the early hours of Tuesday 12th March 1968, Dave, Mike & Ray – being less of a Pink Panther and more of a Moth-Eaten Mauve Moggy – decided they needed a simpler job for their simple brains.
Being tired, hungry, high on adrenaline and having barely slept in 24-hours, Dave – the “man with the plan” – suggested a robbery he had mooted a few days before. The target was a wealthy stockbroker who lived with his wife in a stylish Bayswater flat; they had money, jewellery, cash and two new cars.
Dave knew this as a fact, as he had already seen inside their flat, as just two weekends prior, Mr & Mrs O’Carroll had a little drinks soiree at Falmouth House, of which their dance instructor was a guest.
He hadn’t twigged it at the time, but given access via the side door’s intercom; he had swiftly entered unbothered through the entrance hall, passed the porter, up in the lift to the fifth floor, and with the door to Flat 35 opened without hesitation by Janet (who had seen his face through the spy-hole); he knew that she liked him, she would open the door to him and that during the day she would be alone.
The plan was simple: get in, grab the loot and get out.
I mean, what could go wrong? Nothing…
…except; being sleep-deprived, they had planned to commit their brazen heist in barely seven hours’ time; leaving no space to rehearse, plan or prepare for something they had never done before. They had no tools, no bags, no binds, no gags, no gloves, no overalls and - worse still - no disguises (not even hats), as well as no back-up plan should anything (or everything) go wrong and no escape plan.
Apart from that… it was be perfect.
Tuesday 12th March began as uneventful as any other for Mr & Mrs O’Carroll. Wearing a grey three-piece suit, Michael left for work at 8am in his silver Lancia. Dressed in mauve slacks and a blue checked shirt, Janet would have a leisurely morning; watching TV, listening to music and resting, as being five-month pregnant she was starting to show. But they would meet at 1pm for lunch, as already planned.
At 11:10am, arriving in two cars (for no logical reason), Ray parked his rattly Austin Healey at a parking meter on Clarendon Place, within sight of the side entrance to Falmouth House. Where-as Dave – who knew Janet – parked his discrete canary yellow Consul several streets away. Why? We have no idea.
The robbery seemed like a sure-thing, as Ray would later state: “at the front of the flats, we didn’t need to call on the intercom because a man was delivering furniture, hence the front door was open”.
Entering, all three were dressed in dark mismatched suits like wartime spivs with nothing to hide their identity; no wigs, no beards, no glasses and – being a bitterly cold morning – not even hats or scarves. Admittedly, they could have worn balaclavas, but they’d probably have carried just one to share.
Inside reception, greeted by the porter Joseph Buckley, when he asked “what flat do you want?”, like massive idiots they replied “Flat 35, O’Carroll” - as burglars always tell security who they plan to rob.
Having gained entry to the lift, the plan was simple. Ray would state: “we proceeded up to floor 5”, where Dave got out, rang the bell for Flat 35 and was let in (as expected) by Janet. “We intended to go up one floor and come back down again to the fifth, giving Dave enough time”. But bamboozled by its buttons, the lift returned to the ground floor, where they were again greeted by the porter,
Jabbing button ‘five’ till the doors shut again, Ray & Mike returned to ‘fifth’ to begin the burglary.
Ray: “we rang the bell, Mrs O’Carroll answered it and Mike asked for Dave”. Opening the door, “she looked surprised, before she could say anything, Dave had come up behind her, put his hand around her mouth, dragged her back into the lounge. Thereupon we entered and locked the door behind us”.
Their entry should have been swift and silent, but having smashed a glass mirror in the hall, although neighbours described hearing a “unidentified noise and stamping in the flat”, no-one raised the alarm.
Inside of Flat 35, this spacious two-bedroomed apartment was elegant, stylish and sparkled with goods they could fence; a colour TV, a deluxe radiogram and an ornate drinks trolley. But knowing they were too big to lug about – with no bags for the swag – their smartest move was to fill their pockets with cash, cards, cheques, car keys – and as Dave had said “her jewellery alone is worth 10 to 15 grand”.
With the robbery going okay, as Dave tied Janet’s ankles and wrists with Michael’s ties (as these half-wits hadn’t brought any of their own), as her dance instructor reassured her “sit down and no-one will harm you”; she believed him as she knew him… but from this point on, there was no turning back.
Ray: “Mike & I looked around… and found some jewellery, some cash, a Barclaycard, a cheque book, a Harrods card and a set of keys for her Mini. We asked for the cars log books and she told us. She also said she had a lunch appointment with her husband at 1pm” - which gave the robbers an hour at best.
Ray: “I noticed a pill bottle in the bedroom and assumed she was pregnant”. Not being monsters, they kept her calm, let her sit in the comfy lounge chair and assured her they’d be in and out in minutes.
That was the plan they had agreed to barely a few hours before…
…but it was then that the plan changed.
All in, Dave thought they could probably nick twenty maybe thirty grands worth, which today would be a quarter of a million quid, about right from a wealthy stockbroker? Only Dave was not a jeweller, he was a ballroom dancer who couldn’t tell a 24-carat diamond from a cracked marble. So, instead of ‘get in, grab it and get out’ as planned, he wanted to wait for the loot to be examined by an expert.
At 12:15pm, Ray was sent to see a fence called Harry Rutter at 11 Kenway Road in Earls Court. Ray: “I drove to Harry’s… for a diamond ring, a chequebook, a Barclaycard, a Harrod’s card, a pearl necklace, a dress ring, a pendant watch, a pair of cultured pearl earrings, an Omega watch and a bracelet…”, he expected a sizable wodge of notes, but as most of it was second-hand, fake and the cards and cheques were in Janet’s name – and in the 1960s, few women even had a bank account so that made these items almost impossible to shift – instead of getting tens of thousands in cash, “Harry gave us £220”.
Split between three, it sorted out Dave’s debt… but robbers don’t do a heist to clear their overdraft.
At 1:30pm, holding an embarrassingly thin stack of tenners, driving his rattly Austin Healey “I took my car over to a garage to get my brakes relined and a new exhaust. Then I took a cab back to the flat”, leaving this dunce-hatted band of desperadoes with only one getaway car for this half-witted heist.
Inside Flat 35, with Janet still tied up and gagged, Ray grabbed himself a drink: “I think it was a Scotch”, before he dispensed the bad news and handed his dejected pals a floppy pile of seven tenners each.
And that was it… (phone rings)
…a burglary which bagged them barely enough cash to last a week. Cutting their loses, they could have left right then, by blackmailing Janet, or threatening to hurt her husband if she went to the police?
…but again, Dave changed the plan.
Ray: “the phone rang, but nobody answered it. Dave said it had rung before. Five minutes later, it rang again. Dave thought it was Mr O’Carroll phoning because his wife hadn’t met him for lunch. It was then presumed that he would return home, so we took turns watching through the door spy hole”.
As a city stockbroker who wore fancy suits, gold watches and drove a silver sportscar, they knew the second he saw his pregnant wife, tied up and gagged, he would give them access to his bulging bank account if they promised to let her go. This slight change would lead to the pay day they demanded.
At a little after 2pm, Michael entered Flat 35, “Jan? Jan, you okay love?” Seeing her on the sofa, Dave grabbed him from behind, tied him up with ties and tights (taken from the bedroom), and threatening him with a carving knife (taken from the kitchen), he repeated “stay quiet and no-one will harm you”.
Off his wrist, Dave took a Vertex watch, later sold for £10. From his pocket, he took £5 in notes and gave the wallet back. Ray: “Dave then proceeded in asking Mr O’Carroll to give him money”. Access to his cards, his bank accounts, everything, otherwise Janet would be hurt. This threat should have made him white with fear, but all it did was make him red with shame. As a newly-wed, pending a divorce with two mortgages, a new wife, an ex-wife to be, two teenage boys and a baby on the way, he’d got nothing. In fact, he’d got less than nothing, Michael was £3000 in debt (£61000 today). “And in the calm way in which Mr O’Carroll answered this question, Dave believed he was telling the truth”.
And so, with everything having gone to shit, their twice-changed plan had to change… again.
Needing time, at 2:30pm, Dave got Michael to call his work stating: “I won’t be back today, Jan’s not feeling great”. Having done as they demanded, Michael’s assistant thought he sounded “normal, but concerned”. And therefore, no-one would know they were being held hostage for at least a day.
With the bank account inaccessible, the jewels worth little, and the cards and cheques having caused ructions with the fence who now demanded his money back as the police had started sniffing about, all this incompetent gang of slightly sleepy arseholes had left was two almost new cars – a 1966 two-year-old Mini brought for £680, and a 1964 four-year-old Lancia Flavia convertible brought for £1900.
The plan was to sell them… but there lied another cock-up. Owing to the city traffic, these dim-witted dingleberries hadn’t twigged that Michael had driven into work in his Lancia, but (keen to get back quick) he had taken the tube back to his Bayswater flat, leaving his car three-and a-half miles away.
Taking the Mini’s keys – as well as Janet’s driving licence, proof of ownership and the car’s log-book - at 3:30pm, Mike Ellis drove the Mini around town, to flog it off to some of the car dealers he knew.
Anxiously waiting, as their pay-day had been a disaster; Dave & Ray paced the flat, keeping tabs on their hostages and wondering how their half-baked plan concocted a few hours earlier had gone so spectacularly wrong. Being tired and hungry, Ray would state: “I cooked a dinner for Janet and myself. She had a couple of eggs and Ryvita, and I had some corn on the cobb”, and to wile-away the time, the gang had a drink, a smoke and popped on some music – touching everything with their bare hands.
Only, that hour spent waiting would be time wasted. Mike couldn’t sell this nearly-new mint-condition Mini for love nor money: “Gordon Guest, a car dealer in Kingston had offered £250, but rejected the offer as “there were too many irregularities”; like Mike Ellis wanted the money in cash, he wanted it today and he couldn’t explain why if this was his wife’s car, why the owner was called Janet O’Carroll.
On-route, Mike fenced the Vertex watch to Harry Rutter, but getting into a spat with him about the bank card in Janet’s name: “I had to pay him back a tenner from the £220 he’d already give us”.
At roughly 4:30pm - as Ray had done barely three hours earlier - Mike returned empty-handed.
This half-witted gang of utter incompetents had risked everything on a half-baked plan…
…and it had failed, leaving them with nothing but a missing car and two bored hostages. (End)
Over the next few hours – from their miniscule haul of £210 - Dave paid back his landlord, Mike stayed in a few West End hotels and Ray got a tout’s ticket to see Chelsea beat Sheffield Wednesday two-nil.
The only piece of luck that Ray had was getting the Lancia, as although it was in a secure car park; the parking ticket was on the dashboard, the doors were unlocked and the keys were in the ignition. With the attendant believing his story that “it’s my uncle’s car”, Ray drove it out, paying the 7 shillings fee.
The new plan was to meet later, at Dave’s flat, and to work out where they could sell the Lancia.
While Ray watched football, Dave & Mike sat alone in Flat 35, wondering how to get themselves out of this utter mess. With Janet & Michael O’Carroll tied up and gagged, the inexperience of this dance instructor and a trainee football coach shone through – as what can you do with two hostages that you can’t extort for money and can’t blackmail into silence, who know your names and faces? Nothing.
At 10pm, as planned, Mike & Ray met at Dave’s flat in Tottenham. Ray would state: “he suggested that Mike & I took the car to Glasgow. We left virtually immediately”. Never questioning why, “we went straight through to Glasgow, stopping a couple of times for snacks and arrived by the morning”.
That was the new plan, as having already silenced the hostages, they would sell the Lancia for cash.
But unbeknownst to Ray, the plan had already changed without him
…as by that point, this gang of incompetents were in too deep.
Part two of In Too Deep continues next week.
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 of Murder Mile UK True Crime and creator of true-crime TV series.
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