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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 NINETY-SIX:
This is Part Two of Two of In Too Deep.
On Tuesday 12th March 1968, at 11:10am, a gang of incompetant robbers staged a home invasion of the Flat 35 at Falmouth House, the home of a wealthy stockbroker and his pregnant wife. Having badly under-estimated his wealth, they set about trying to sell the last item of his worth anything - his car. But what starts as a simple robbery, ends in a horrific 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 outside of Falmouth House, opposite Hyde Park, W2.
At 11:10am on Tuesday 12th March 1968, three inexperienced robbers forced their way into Flat 35, a stylish apartment owned by wealthy stockbroker Michael O’Carroll and his pregnant wife Janet. As an ill-conceived heist by an out-of-work dance teacher, swimming instructor and a trainee football coach who hadn’t disguised their identities – with the robbery having backfired – they had no Plan B.
Expecting a pay-out of £20-30,000 (quarter of a million pounds today), they had made just £220, of which they had to refund £10 to their increasingly narked fence; the stockbroker was broke, his bank account was deeply in debt, his wife’s Mini was unsellable, and all that was left was a 4-year-old Lancia.
Splitting their miniscule haul; Dave paid off his rent, Mike stayed in a hotel and Ray got the brakes on his dodgy car fixed, but now they risked lengthy prison sentences for robbery, fraud and kidnapping.
These were not hardened criminals with a masterplan, they were three incompetents without a clue what to do; they had been seen by the porters (“what flat do you want?”, “Flat 35, O’Carroll”), they had earned almost nothing, they had touched almost everything, they were stuck with two hostages who knew their names, and - having barely slept a wink in almost 36 hours - nothing made any sense.
At 2:45pm, Dave Bolton got Michael O’Carroll to call his work stating: “I won’t be back today, Jan’s not feeling great”. Therefore, no-one would know the couple were being held hostage for at least a day.
Leaving Mike Ellis and Dave ‘the man with the plan’ to work out what to do next, Ray Cohen left at 4pm, got the Lancia, met a girlfriend on King’s Road, he watched Chelsea beat Sheffield Wednesday, and at 10pm, leaving their leader behind, Ray: “Dave suggested that Mike & I took the car to Glasgow”.
And as Ray & Mike drove 390 miles to sell the stolen car in Scotland…
…these inept hoods left behind a trail of evidence…
…and a horrific double murder.
The nearly-new Lancia roared up the dark-lit motorway; with Ray driving, Mike napping and these two buddies for barely a few months swapping over between loo-breaks and hot snacks in roadside cafes.
Ray struggled a bit with the gears of this Italian sportscar as when he slipped from third to fourth, they crunched, but then again, this sleek shiny chick-magnet was far superior to his rusty old death-trap.
This was a 1964 Lancia Flavia two-door convertible; able to do nought to sixty in 10.8 seconds with a top speed of 125mph, it was purchased new four years before for £1900 (£40000 today).
Being in mint condition with leather seats, they could flog off this second-hand motor for a third of its price, maybe £600 making them £200-a-piece – which wasn’t great, but then it wasn’t terrible, and neither was it nothing. And unlike Janet’s Mini, they wouldn’t have a problem selling it – as having the car’s log-book, the proof of ownership and Michael’s driving licence – either man could easily pass as the owner.
In the early hours of Wednesday 13th March, Ray & Mike arrived in Glasgow. As before, their mission would be simple, but – from the start - their inexperience and their immaturity would shine through.
Ray would state: “we arrived and booked in at the Station Hotel facing Old Buchanan Street station. For reasons I did not know, Mike told me to book in as Mr O’Carroll. I can’t recall what name he used”.
The pettiness of these squabbling felons is hard to fathom, as without a grown adult to smack the back of the legs and growl “no” when they played up, they acted two puppies who’d sprung the garden gate and were excitably running loose on a busy road, shitting everywhere and blaming the other. So, it’s not surprising that no-one mistook them for two robbers who would be wanted for kidnapping.
Upon arrival, having checked-in under the names of ‘Cohen & Ellis’ (their real names) – which, let’s be honest, is equally as bad as using the name of the man they had robbed - although they were technically on-the-run, Ray & Mike treated themselves to a swanky hair-cut and a close shave at the hotel barbers. And as they sat back, neither man would realise till later, that they had dropped a large envelope containing the Lancia’s logbook, on the front of which was written the name ‘O’Carroll’.
Thankfully their bacon was saved courtesy of the eagle-eyed receptionist who handed it back.
At 11:30am, Ray took the Lancia to W Fraser, a car dealership. Ray: “Mr Fraser said he was interested in buying the car and I left him with the particulars”, which led to another stumbling block – they didn’t know whether Michael O’Carroll actually owned the car, or was paying it off in instalments. So, over the next few hours, Ray proceeded to call them on an hourly basis – as they performed a HP check.
As you do when you’re on the run, Ray & Mike were as low-key and discrete as a drag queen drunkenly humping a Christmas tree. Via the hotel switchboard, they made numerous calls to London with Ray even calling his mummy to tell her he was okay. And at 6pm – as if this wasn’t suspicious enough – they checked out of the rather modest Station Hotel and moved into the more exclusive Central Hotel, because “it would look better to potential car buyers if we were in a classier place” – yeah, right.
Having moved hotels – leaving a wealth of fingerprints which would later be identified by the Police – while the car-dealer checked the legal status of the Lancia, Ray & Mike went on a little spending spree.
Ray later accused Mike of splashing-out: “he had a new suitcase, socks, shirts, ties, shoes and a three-piece suit”. And although it incensed him, he would later admit: “we had a few drinks at the bar… we went out to the cinema. After that, we went gambling at a casino called Chevalier. Mike lost £20 and I won £50”. Of course, when confessing your crime, it’s always good to brag about your Blackjack skills, but – conveniently for his alibi – his winnings matched the money he made by fencing the stolen loot.
“We returned to the hotel and slept”, having spent a lot of money… but shed very little remorse.
On Thursday 14th March, Ray & Mike went to Frasers and were thrilled to learn that it had passed the HP check. Only “he offered £520 and we wanted over £600”. Hitting a greedy impasse having rejected his offer, they took the Lancia to another Glasgow based car-dealer Ian Farr, who would piss on their plans when he dropped the bombshell “I’m not buying this, it’s a dog, the gearbox is shite”.
And again, just like the Mini, they couldn’t sell the Lancia; this nearly-new but badly broken sportscar was now a dead-weight around their necks and it was drawing attention. Ray & Mike were 390 miles from home, and – of the £70 they had each made from the robbery - most of it they’d already spent.
The whole thing had been an ill-conceived mess which had gone rotten from the start…
…and now, it was about to get even worse.
With the stolen car proving to be a bit of a hot potato in Glasgow, having telegrammed Dave with this less-than-glowing news, Ray: “Mike said he would take the car to Ireland, he asked ‘would I come?’ and I said ‘yeah, might as well’”. They had no contacts in the Irish city of Dublin, but having seen it in a holiday pamphlet, it looked nice, so they drove 86 miles south-west to the port of Stranraer.
In truth, this half-witted heist had failed six months before it was mooted. Anything so audacious requires planning, but also a gang who have known each other for more than months or even weeks. But it was then – while sat inside of this unsellable Lancia – that Mike would drop another bombshell.
Ray: “On arriving at Stranraer, Mike told me there was something I should know”. His face was pale and his eyes were wide. “He went to the boot of the car and he showed me a newspaper” it was a copy of that day’s Scottish Daily Express. It was a lengthy piece featuring a photo of Mr & Mrs O’Carroll; alongside several words he expected, like ‘Bayswater’, ‘Falmouth House’, ‘hostage’ and ‘robbery’…
…but one word he did not – ‘murder’.
The bodies of Mr & Mrs O’Carroll had been found by the Police in Flat 35; having been tied-up, gagged, stabbed and strangled. Fingerprints had been found and three men had been seen entering the flats.
For Ray, he began to shake as he read further knowing his life as a free man was over. Only, one further fact shook him to his very core: “I knew immediately that I was mixed up with two murderers”. Having admitted it was he who had killed Janet Williams, Ray was now sat in the victim’s car alongside one of these slayers – who knew his name, his face, his address and - of their crime - he was an accomplice.
Ray: “I was very shocked for quite a while, not knowing what to do. I decided in my own mind that I was going to somehow get back to London. I had to make sure that Mike didn’t know this, and – as he was hungry - we found a Chinese restaurant on the sea front and I tried to eat as calmly as possible”.
Trying hard not to tremble as he shovelled chop suey with his chopsticks, although Ray was sat inches from Mike, it was clear that he was no more a cold-blooded killer than he was a criminal mastermind. In his words, they had no choice, as Mike would state: “she had seen everything, I had to strangle her”.
That night, as they went to board the ferry at Stranraer, with both being spooked “we noticed that we were getting strange looks so we drove out of town”. Seizing the opportunity, Ray didn’t flee, he asked Mike straight: “I asked him to take me to Prestwick Airport. I was surprised that he had not minded doing this known fully well that I was intending to return to London” …and almost certainly the police.
Catching the last flight out of Prestwick, Mike & Ray parted ways, Ray dumped the Lancia (as reported missing in the papers) in the airport car park and he caught a coach to Margate where he laid low.
Ray’s return to London had left him with a deadly conundrum…
…protect his cohorts by admitting only his part in the robbery but denying any knowledge of them, or their actions? Or, give them up, saving himself from possibly being charged with a double murder, only to risk the two killers hunting him down and harming him or his family for breaking his silence?
His movements across Friday 15th March are as baffling as the robbery itself. Being a man who was worried for his safety and who – just one day before – had discovered that he had aided a double murder; “I went to Blazes in South Ken’… to the ABC cinema Fulham Road to see a film called ‘17’… the Villa Casino on Bayswater Road” - barely half a mile from the crime scene - “I played Blackjack and won £50. I went to the 45 Club on Cromwell Road and lost £110. And earlier, I had phoned my mother and she had told me that the police wanted to see me”. When asked why he hadn’t come straight to the police, Ray would state “I needed time to sort myself out and I was worried about Dave finding me”. Which – of course – could have been entirely true, or the mark of someone uncaring and inept?
Typically for such a tragic tale of incompetence, Ray actually went to Scotland Yard to hand himself in, but as the desk sergeant didn’t know which station was handling the case, Ray simply walked out.
But fearing for his life, Ray handed his old pal – Kuros – a slip of paper: “I wrote down the names ‘Dave Bolton’ & ‘Michael Ellis’, the two men involved in the murder on one of his cards and gave it to him on the understanding that if anything happened to me, he would disclose the names to the police”.
On the morning of Saturday 16th March, Ray handed himself in at Paddington Police Station. Having been cautioned, almost everything you have heard – so far – has come from Ray Cohen’s confession.
Thankfully, although the crime itself was wholly incompetent…
…the investigation was swift and thorough.
Barely an hour after it was dumped, a patrolling PC found Michael O’Carroll’s easily-identifiable Lancia at Abbotsinch Airport in Glasgow, containing more than thirty fingerprints of Ray Cohen and Mike Ellis. Of course, they could have torched the car erasing any trace of themselves – but they didn’t.
That same day, a postman spotted a rucksack dumped outside of the John Knox Church at 34 Carlton Place in Glasgow, containing documents in the name of O’Carroll and Mike Ellis’s bloodstained suit. Of course, they could have dumped the bag in the Clyde River, barely ten feet away - but they didn’t.
And yet, it was all academic, as the most damning evidence had already been discovered.
At roughly 6pm on Wednesday 13th March, the phone rang again inside Flat 35, only no-one answered. Missing business calls and personal appointments, concerned colleagues and relatives had asked the porters (Albert Bryant & Joseph Buckley) to knock on the door, but outside the flat it was eerily silent.
Oddly left uncollected, at the foot of the door lay a newspaper, a bottle of milk and a dozen eggs.
The porters knocked, but got no reply.
So, using their pass key, they entered Flat 35.
With the heating left on, like in many other flats, the hallway was reassuringly warm as if the occupants were still in. It was as they had expected; shoes by the door, a hat on a stand, the Persian rug unruffled, and soft lights emanating from the lounge, the bathroom and both bedrooms at the end of the hall.
But something was not right; as with no television, no radio and no chatter, the flat was devoid of life.
As the porters traversed the long thin hallway, the only hint of disarray they saw was a broken mirror.
Ahead lay the lounge. Entering this wide-open room, they saw a scene not too dissimilar those they had witnessed many times before in their careers as porters at Falmouth House. A stylish room dotted with seemingly the remnants of a party; several half-empty bottles of spirits, a few discarded glasses, unwashed dinner plates with the remnants of eggs, Rivita and a corn on the cob, and the ashtray full.
With the record player on but the music long since finished, it wasn’t wrong to assume that a party had taken place, as being a popular couple, they’d hosted a little drinks soiree barely one week before.
But as with all parties, not every detail made sense; as on the coffee table a wallet had been splayed, and on the sofa, a pair of nylon tights had been tied with hard knots and cut with something sharp.
Whatever had happened here, the party-goers were long gone and all that remained was a ghost of a memory, as outside of the partially open French windows - overlooking Hyde Park - life carried on.
Having followed the light to the bathroom, Joseph entered, but the pristine white room was empty and clean, with no signs of sickness or disturbance, and no sighting of its owners. It was then that – outside of the bathroom door - Albert spotted on the parquetted floor, a six-inch kitchen knife; a stainless-steel blade of the highest quality, glinting bright but with just its tip caked in a dried red goo.
What it was? They could not tell, as neither man was a scientist, but it looked familiar and ominous.
With soft lights spewing from the two remaining rooms, Albert & Joseph entered the opposing doors. Each stood by the bedroom door, but didn’t need to enter further to understand what had happened. Exiting, the silence of their lips and the wideness of their eyes told each other what was within. It was a sight unlike anything they would ever wish to see again, and something they could never unsee.
At 6:45pm, PC’s Gillon & Brown attended an emergency call at Falmouth House, and called CID.
The investigation was headed-up by Detective Chief Inspector John Bailey.
With no signs of forced entry, the police initially thought the occupants had invited their killers home with them, but – with Michael in a business suit and Janet dressed to stay in – this didn’t seem right.
With the drawers ransacked, documents laid out and personal affects clearly missing – for inexplicable reasons - these three robbers had waited inside the flat with their hostages. Unusually, there were no signs of assault in the lounge. In fact, treating them with kindness, their captors had provided drinks, meals and entertainment, even giving the pregnant woman extra cushions and trips to the bathroom.
The relationship between the captors and hostages was initially cordial, but something had happened.
There were no witnesses to this brutal double murder except for the killers themselves, as Ray had left to find the Lancia, and although the neighbours heard “loud noises” – no-one bothered to check.
By 5pm, six hours into this hastily-concocted heist by half-wits, tension began to rise, as Dave realised that the massive pay-out of £20-30,000 was now little more than a pitiful £210, and an unsellable car.
Had they made a mint, the risk would have been worth the reward, but as Michael & Janet O’Carroll stared-up at their captor (and former dance instructor); they knew his name, his face and his details.
This bumbling fool and his gang of incompetents had no way out… except for the unthinkable.
According to Ray: “Mike said it happened when Mr O’Carroll dashed for the service bell in the flat”, to alert the porters, “Dave put his hand round his neck and he had just collapsed. I then asked him what happened to the girl and he said that she had seen everything and that he had strangled her”. Later, Mike would deny killing her, and yet her blood would be found on the suit he had dumped in Glasgow.
Only, the evidence would give a very different account of what happened to Michael & Janet.
Most likely, being desperate for money, Dave had resorted to torture. With the newly-weds separated and moved to different bedrooms, on the beds both Janet & Michael were hog-tied and gagged with ties and tights. Unable to move and seeing nothing but the pillows below their faces - through the opposing doors of the hall - they could only hear each-others cries slightly muffled by the soft music.
Playing his wife’s pain off against her husband’s agony, the more Michael professed that he had nothing else to give – as they had taken everything of value - the more they hurt her to hurt him.
From barely twenty-feet away, he would have heard her cries and screams, but he could do nothing.
Unable to comprehend that he had risked everything for such a pitiful sum of money, Dave grabbed a sharp carving knife from the kitchen, and – with Janet – face-down on the bed, he pressed the blade into the crook of her neck between her jaw and her left ear, piercing her soft flesh to make her squeal.
The tip entered the muscle just one inch deep, but as blood poured down her neck, across her face and pooled about her nose and mouth, across the hallway Michael could hear her muffled screams. The woman he loved was terrified, choking and in agonising pain, and yet, still he could do nothing.
Fearing that as a shrewd negotiator this veteran stockbroker would never give up, Dave turned his torture on Michael so that Janet could hear him hurt. She had always been a nice lady, kind and decent, so maybe – if she heard his screams - the lady with the baby in her belly would find a reason to live?
Michael bled as Janet had, only the O’Carroll’s had nothing else to give… but their lives.
No longer serving a purpose, both Michael & Janet were strangled to death with a scarf, but being left face-down on both beds and unable to move, they suffocated in a pool of their own blood. (End)
With their fingerprints on file, a trail of evidence leading to their doors and Ray’s confession given at Paddington police station; Dave Bolton was arrested at his flat in South Tottenham and – although he denied knowing Mr & Mrs O’Carroll or his part in the robbery or murder; police found his notes from the Arthur Murray school in which he mentioned Michael & Janet, the £50 given to his landlord to pay his rent, and even though he had drycleaned the suit he wore that day – as if to mock his incompetence - his own wife had brought it to court for him to wear, and yet, it still had traces of his victim’s blood.
One week later, Mike Ellis was arrested, having spent a week at the Butlin’s holiday camp in Margate.
Having turned on each other, the police got statements from Ray & Mike, but with Dave acting like the ‘Big I Am’ and described as cocky throughout, all three were formerly charged with murder.
Tried at the Old Bailey, it was unsurprising that such an inept gang would plead ‘not guilty’ given the wealth of evidence against them. With the trial split into two; Ray admitted to robbery and with his alibi being that he was at the football during the murder, he was sentenced to two years in prison.
Owing to the evidence presented by Raymond Cohen, on the 22nd July 1968, David Bolton & Michael Ellis were found guilty of all charges. Dave Bolton was sentenced to 15 years for robbery, Mike Ellis to 12 years having pleaded guilty, and both were given life sentences for murder, to run concurrently.
The robbery of Flat 35 should have been a simple home invasion, but being a half-baked heist 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 had led to a brutal double murder…
…and yet, even before they had entered the flat, all three men were already in too deep.
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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