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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, set within and beyond the West End.
Today’s episode is about the three possible murders of Vincent Patrick Keighery, a delightful elegant bachelor brutally tortured in his Bayswater flat. But whose story was true and why was he killed? Was it a robbery, a homophobic attack, or a sex game gone wrong? You decide.
As many photos of the case are copyright protected by greedy news organisations, to view them, take a peek at my entirely legal social media accounts - Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
The location of Flat 58 at Craven Terrace is marked with a purple triangle. To use the map, click it. If you want to see the other murder maps, such as Soho, King's Cross, Paddington or the John George Haigh or Reg Christie locations, you access them by clicking here.
I've also posted some photos to aid your "enjoyment" of the episode. These photos were taken by myself (copyright Murder Mile) or granted under Government License 3.0, where applicable.
TOP SET: studio photo of Vic, the hallway of Flat 58, the bathroom, and top right the flat as seen from The Mitre and bottom right, the White Hart pub before it was demolished.
MIDDLE SET: Top left, Carroll House as seen from The Mitre, bottom left; Carroll House and Brook Mews North where the White Hart was, middle top; 15 Craven Terrace where the Si-Bon Cafe was, bottom middle, the street door to Carroll House and right is Craven Terrace.
BOTTOM SET: these are all original (previously unseen) crime scene photos taken inside Vic's flat and Vic's body as discovered by the Police. Note: the electrical flex, the bruises to his face and his trousers and flies are undone.
Credits: The Murder Mile UK True-Crime Podcast was researched, written and recorded by Michael J Buchanan-Dunne, with the sounds recorded on location (where possible), and the music written and performed by Erik Stein & Jon Boux of Cult With No Name. Additional music was written and performed as used under the Creative Common Agreement 4.0.
The original police investigation file from the National Archives marked as Murder of Vincent Patrick KEIGHERY at 58 Carroll House, London W2. One file is held till 2045. - http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C556258
TRANSCRIPT OF THE EPISODE: THE "LOVER'S" DEATH PACT.
SCRIPT: Welcome to Murder Mile; a true-crime podcast and audio guided walk featuring many of London’s untold, unsolved and long-forgotten murders, all set within and beyond the West End.
Today’s episode is about the three possible murders of Vincent Patrick Keighery, a delightful elegant bachelor brutally tortured in his Bayswater flat. But whose story was true and why was he killed? Was it a robbery, a homophobic attack, or a sex game gone wrong?
Murder Mile is researched using the original police files. It contains moments of satire, shock and grisly details, and as a dramatization of the real events, it may also feature loud and realistic sounds, so that no matter where you listen to this podcast, you’ll feel like you’re actually there.
My name is Michael, I am your tour-guide and this is Murder Mile.
Episode 88: The Three (Possible) Murders of Vincent Patrick Keighery.
Today I’m standing on Craven Terrace in Bayswater, W2; three streets south of the bizarre suicide pact of Barbara Shuttleworth and Felic Sterba, a short walk from The Champion pub where Dennis Nilsen met the lover whose rejection led to a spate of serial killings, three streets west of the unsolved murder of Emmy Werner, and four streets east of the infamous “sad-faced killer” – coming soon to Murder Mile.
Whereas north Bayswater is a bit of a dog’s dinner, south Bayswater has been through so many phases – whether as resplendent residences for the Regency elite, arty squats for Bohemian bums or derelict slums for dead beats, drunks and dole-dossers – it’s so desperate to be posh like it was in its heyday, that half the houses are owned by tax-exiles, flannel-dodgers, celebrity paedos, investment wankers, oil-bastards and the odd giddy granny who moved into her shabby council flat in the 60’s and is now neighbour to a Saudi Prince with fifty wives, five Ferraris, three Lambo’s, a gold toilet, a ruby anus, a questionable human rights record, an unquestionably small penis and an unpronounceable name.
On Craven Terrace, among the Regency townhouses is an ugly little block of flats called Carroll House. It’s not pretty, posh or stylish. In fact, it resembles fifty shoe-boxes bolted together by a bored child, and although it looks too new to have a history, what happened here was dark, nasty and perplexing.
As it was here, on Saturday 28th November 1964, that Vincent Keighery met his three (possible) deaths, and although the culprits were all convicted, which murder was real? (Interstitial)
Vincent Patrick Keighery was gay. That may seem an unimportant and even an irrelevant detail to us, but the secret of his sexuality would define both his life and his death.
Vincent, known as ‘Vic’ was born in the spring of 1914 in Ennistymon, a small market town on the west coast of Ireland. Home to roughly sixty families across ten streets spanning half a mile, although this tiny community consisted of traditional skills, it had nothing modern, but it did have five churches, as life revolved around three things – going to mass, knowing your priest and saying your prayers.
With Vic’s father dying after the birth of his youngest sister, being the eldest of three and devoted to his widowed mother, even as a young man, Vic had the maturity to take on the role of a father-figure.
Being tall and gangly; where-as many boys blossomed from scrawny brats into big tough lads who earned a crust in manly jobs such as farmers, miners or soldiers - plagued by chronic asthma – Vic was diligent but far too delicate for manual work, and yet, this ‘weakness’ would serve him well as a skill.
Educated at Ennistymon National School under a curriculum of maths, English and religion; with two conflicting views drummed into his brain that (as a Christian) he must be kind, decent and tolerant of all mankind, and yet, all homosexuals were an abomination to God; whether Vic knew he was gay that early on is impossible to know, but he definitely knew that he was different and felt he had to hide it.
Leaving school aged 14, the best education Vic got was from his mother; a solid hard-working widow who single-handedly raised a good family and built a flourishing business, having ran the ‘Glenbourne Hotel’ for two decades, eight miles north in the spa-town of Lisdoonvarna.
Always happy and singing, Vic loved working alongside his mother. Admittedly, some duties he was too delicate to do, but being impeccably neat, he excelled as the hotel’s cleaner; so without fail, the towels were folded, the sheets were crisp, the room was aired and not a single speck of dust was seen.
In 1941, aged 26, being declared unfit to fight for his country (owing to his asthma, his pacifist beliefs and his homosexuality), Vic worked as cook for the Ministry of Aircraft Production in Dublin. As a frail man, he felt different. As a Christian, he felt ostracized. As a gay man, he felt unwelcome. And now, as a ‘supposed’ traitor, as pleasant as he was, he knew that Ireland was no longer the place for him.
Following his beloved mother’s funeral, the hotel’s collapse and having turned his back on a religion which treated him more like a leper (whose ‘sexual disease’ they said needed to be ‘cured’), having re-opened the ‘Glenbourne Hotel’ with his brother, in 1949, Vic moved to London and never returned.
Twenty-three years later, Vincent Patrick Keighery was well cemented in London life; he had a good job, a stylish flat, a busy social life and a semi-regular boyfriend. He was good, honest and happy. And yet, for one of three tragic but equally-plausible reasons, he would end up dead. (Interstitial)
1964 (like most years before) had been a good year.
For the last thirteen years, 51-year-old Vic had worked as the canteen supervisor for the Metropolitan Police. His obsession with cleanliness had earned him a career - as being a meticulous man in a pristine white suit, hair-net and gloves - he enforced the highest standards in the force’s canteens across the city. At work, he was fastidious but intensely private. Outside, he was flamboyant but cautious.
Vic was a real character, a slim six-footer who stood-out as a harmless eccentric. Blessed with youthful skin, dark parted hair and thick arched eyebrows, although his Irish accent was now little more than a lilt, as he tried to leave his old life behind, he still looked like the cheeky little boy from County Clare.
Dressed like a dandy, he always looked immaculate in sharp suits, starched shirts, bright cravats and fine hats, with gold cufflinks, shiny shoes and - between his fingers - a cigarillo lit by a very extravagant gold Flaminaire lighter. And being a gay bachelor with no family, he splashed-out his modest salary on small luxuries; like fine art, great wine and fancy foods, with trips to gallery, the ballet and the opera.
But this posed a problem for Vic; looking wealthy (when he wasn’t) it made him a target for thieves, being gay (which he was) with homosexuality still illegal he risked losing more than just his job having been attacked before, and as an older gentleman with a penchant for the “common sort”, “dirty lads” or “rough little rogues”, although he was painfully lonely, he could also be his own worst enemy.
According to his best-friend Kenneth Shuttleworth, Vic saw himself as a sophisticated upper-class gent. The problem was that being attracted to “a bit of rough” with calloused hands, coarse tongues and sweaty bodies, Vic took pleasure in turning a lout into a lush. Being so pristine – like a horny Pygmalion - before any sex ever took place, Vic always insisted his date bathed, dressed in one of Vic’ own fresh shirts and enjoyed an exquisite meal over a few fine glasses of Beaujolais. Unsurprisingly, as a frail man left alone with a burly stranger in his posh flat, having been robbed several times before, although Vic took precautions, it didn’t dampen his sexual desires… and that is how he met his killer.
Seeking a nicer neighbourhood to live, on Saturday 14th November 1964, Vic moved from Kennington to Flat 58 at Carroll House in Bayswater, W2; a modern six-storey apartment block with a lift, good locks and a street door only accessed via an intercom. Being a top-floor flat with windows which overlooked Hyde Park, although compact, it was perfect for a single man who liked to entertain; it had a full fitted kitchen, a bathroom and a sitting-room, with his bed to one-side and a sofa for his guests.
Having loaned £300 off his pal Kenneth to cover the costs, until pay-day, Vic would be almost broke. But being so meticulous, he itemised every penny spent and scheduled every second spare to ensure the move was swift, his budget didn’t swell and his stylish flat remained spotlessly clean and damage-free. On the 16th Ken & Vic decorated, on the 17th they let the paint dry, and with his furniture being delivered on the 19th , Vic organised for the carpets to be fitted on the 18th, but someone cocked up.
At 10am, on Thursday 19th November 1964, one day late, a van was dispatched from the Patent Steam Carpet Cleaning Company on Latimer Road, W12 to Craven Terrace, W2; in the back was a dry-cleaned carpet, the job was listed as number 53562 and the driver’s name was John Simpson, known as Jock.
With his furniture in, the paint dry and no carpets down, Vic should have been furious, but he wasn’t.
Jock was a 28-year-old Glaswegian with fair hair, blue eyes and rough hands, who having served almost three years in prison for theft and burglary had struggled to find work, so six weeks earlier he’d turned his hand to driving a van, and although he lived apart from his wife and kids, he was exactly Vic’s type.
For almost an hour, the two men chatted over a coffee in Vic’s small but lavishly-decorated pad. And although – always looking for a quick quid to make on the side - Jock offered to lay the carpet for £1, the next day, Vic laid it himself, as he regaled Kenneth about the handsome young man he had met.
A few days later, Jock was sacked.
One week later, Vic was dead.
On Saturday 28th November 1964, in his bedsit at 113 Coningham Road in Shepherd’s Bush, Jock and his two pals - 23-year-old William Dunning, known as Willy, a married labourer with one conviction for burglary, and 20-year-old Michael Odam, known as Layne, a single seaman with four convictions for theft, assault and drunkenness – formulated a plan. All were broke, but after a few pints, the three lads left their flat at 4:30pm, as according to Jock “I know a queer we could get some money from”.
For Vic, it began as a very ordinary day; he inspected the police kitchen at the Camden section house, arranged a stock-check for Monday with William Hall, had a hearty lunch of Irish Stew, potatoes and bread pudding and left at 2pm. By 5pm, in Bayswater, he purchased a bunch of flowers, a bottle of Beaujolais, a pack of cigarettes and a refill for his lighter, as with no plans except to relax after a long week, tonight he would unwind with a good wine, a long snooze and a classical concert on the radio.
At 5:30pm, by the street-door of Carroll House, the three lads rang the intercom for Vic’s flat. The plan was simple; Jock goes in, flirts a bit, finds the wallet, tosses it out of a window to Willy and Layne, Jock leaves and Vic doesn’t realise it’s missing till the morning. But with Vic not in, they headed a few doors down to the Si-Bon café at 15 Craven Terrace, where they ate egg and chips, as served by the manager.
At 6pm, with Vic back from shopping, Jock rang the intercom, he was buzzed through the street-door, he ascended to the sixth floor in the lift, and was let in to Flat 58 by Vic, as witnessed by one neighbour. And outside, under Vic’s balcony, stood Willy & Layne, as witnessed by another.
According to Jock… upon seeing the dry-cleaned carpet still rolled-up in the hallway, he offered to lay it down that night for £1, Vic agreed, but first they would have a drink. In the sitting room, the two men chatted, drank Vermouth and listened to classical music, as Willy & Layne waited outside in the cold. But the robbery was as wash-out as Vic’s wallet and chequebook was nowhere to be seen.
Thirty minutes later, having been invited out for drinks by Vic, feeling a little too sweaty to be seen in a posh Bayswater pub, although Jock said he’d rather head home and scrub-up first, he accepted Vic’s offer to “have a bath here, I can give you a clean shirt”. At 7pm, they both left Carroll House and headed to the White Hart pub at 31 Brook Mews North, where they saw and spoke to no-one.
At 10:30pm, they left the pub, returned to the flat, Jock cooked them both a meal of buttered chicken in a cheese sauce as they drank two glasses of Beaujolais, and at 11:30pm, Jock said goodbye to Vic, left Carroll House, caught a taxi back to Shepherd’s Bush and went straight home to bed.
And that was Jock’s story.
It’s little more than a failed robbery, backed-up by witnesses at the Si-Bon Café, the White Hart, Carroll House and fingerprints inside Vic’s flat. But there are several problems with this story; Why did Jock not mention Willy & Layne after he enters Vic’s flat? Why did Jock offer to lay the carpet when Vic had done it himself one week before? Why did Jock cook a meal of buttered chicken when (according to the autopsy) Vic’s final meal was Irish Stew? If this was a robbery, why didn’t Jock steal anything else? Why would the Police later find Vic’s wallet hidden in the kitchen cupboard and his chequebook under the carpet, if he hadn’t planned to invite anyone up to his flat that night? And if Vic did give Jock a crisp white shirt to wear, why was it later found by the bed heavily stained with Vic’s blood?
Jock could be entirely innocent… only William Dunning, also known as Willy, told a very different story.
At 4:30pm, that day, in their shared ground-floor flat in Shepherd’s Bush, as Willy & Layne had subbed Jock £1 to pay his rent, Jock said “I’ve gotta do a job for a friend, maybe I’ll let you have it later”. What the job was is unclear, but at no point did anyone mention a robbery, a wallet or a “queer with cash”.
At 5:30pm, as corroborated by Jock’s story, with Vic being out, the three men ate egg and chips at the Si-Bon café, a few doors down but not within sight of Carroll House. At 6pm, with a job to do, Jock said “you two wait here while I see if he’s in”. By 7pm, he hadn’t returned, so having rang the intercom but got no reply, as the light in Vic’s flat was off, Willy & Layne headed to the White Hart pub.
Inside, Layne said “Look! Over there! Jock’s talking to someone”, that someone was Vic. Not wanting to disturb them, they signalled Jock to the loo, where he promised to get them the £1. But by 10:30pm, as Jock had left the pub, assuming he’d gone back to Vic’s flat, Willy & Layne waited in the café. At 11:30pm, the café shut, so with the door to Carroll House open, they rang the doorbell of Flat 58.
“Oh! Hello!” Vic cooed, seeing two rugged men on his doorstep. Willy asked “Sorry to bother you, but can we talk to Jock?”, peeking inside the small quiet flat. Vic said “I’m sorry but he’s gone”, just as Jock had stated, but being hospitable Vic ushered “…but please, come in, have a drink?”, so they did.
Willy & Layne sat in the spotless sitting-room, unsure how to sit, what to say, or where to put the glass of “red stuff”, as Willy called it, “I think it was wine or port or summat”. With the boys side-by-side on the sofa at the foot of the bed, Vic grinned in the armchair and topped up their glasses. After half an hour, with Layne nodding-off, Willy asked “do you mind if I use your loo?”, Vic didn’t, so he left.
Willy stated “he showed me to the loo, and came in behind me. He made a lewd suggestion, I pushed him, he put his hand on my face and one on my privates. I’d been interfered with as a boy so I’ve got a horror of queers. He went to kiss my mouth. I headbutted him. I don’t remember much after that, except Layne shouting at me. Then, we put the man in his bed, walked to Marble Arch and got a taxi home. In the morning, Layne said “you gave him a terrible beating, you nearly wrecked the place, he was out cold”. After that Jock came home, we all went out for a pint, and thought nothing more of it”.
And that was Willy’s story.
It’s little more than a drunk heterosexual fighting off the sexual advances of a drunk homosexual. In fact, they didn’t even know that Vic had died until four days later when the death appeared in the newspaper. But there are several problems with this story; if Jock was going to lay the carpet, why didn’t he take any tools with him? Realising Jock & Vic had left the flat, why did Willy & Layne decide to go to the White Horse pub, one street away, when The Mitre is immediately opposite Carroll House? Why did Willy & Layne not want to disturb Jock & Vic in the pub, if they didn’t plan to rob him? What is the chance of the street-door to Carroll House being left open? Why would Vic invite two strangers into his flat? If Jock wasn’t in, why would Willy & Layne go into a stranger’s flat? If Willy wrecked the flat, why didn’t the neighbours hear it and why did it not look a mess in any photos? And (more importantly) where was Jock’s bloodied shirt, as well as the towels, bedsheets and the electrical flex?
In court, all three could still be found innocent, but following their arrest and believing that Jock had implicated them both in the murder, Willy & Layne came forth with another different story.
At 4:30pm, all three left their Shepherd’s Bush flat. The reason? Robbery. (Jock) “I know a queer with some cash”. Jock had no issue flirting with Vic as “I’ve known gays, I don’t have a problem with them”.
At 5:30pm, with Vic not in, they ate egg and chips in the café.
At 6pm, with Vic back, Jock went inside the flat, Willy & Layne waited outside, but no wallet was tossed down.
At 7pm, having bathed and dressed in a fresh white shirt, Jock & Vic went to the White Hart pub, followed by Willy & Layne. In the toilet, as a change of plan, all three agreed to rob Vic inside his flat, later that night.
To not raise any suspicion, Willy & Layne would wait inside The Mitre pub and gain entry to Carrol House via the street door, which would be left open by Jock.
The robbery would be unexpected and sudden.
At 11:30pm, with Vic a little bit tipsy, Willy & Layne rang the doorbell to Flat 58. The second it opened, Layne threw a coat over Vic’s head as a distraction; they kicked him, punched him and bundled him onto the bathroom floor, as all three rained down a volley of fists and feet on the frail asthmatic, in an prolonged attack that the pathologist would describe as “severe and horrifying violence”.
As the terrified man squealed in pain and lashed out in a blind panic, needing to shut-him-up, they stuffed his bloodied mouth firmly with a small towel, tightly bound his legs and hands with an electrical flex ripped out of the wall, and – as they ransacked every room, searching for his money - the less he talked, the harder they beat him - unaware that (having spent his last penny on the flat), he was broke.
They kicked him so hard, he broke five ribs. They punched him so fiercely, his false teeth shattered. And with his face a swollen mess, his whole body bruised, and blood pouring from his eyes, nose and ears as his brain haemorrhaged, at some point - unable to breath – Vic went limp. Removing the gag, he didn’t scream. Untying the flex, he just slumped in a lifeless heap. And as they moved the bloody barely-breathing mess onto his bed, and tried to revive him, it was too late, as Vic was dead. (End)
They wiped down the surfaces, they stole his watch, his lighter and a bottle of gin, locked up the flat, threw the keys down a drain and at Marble Arch, all three caught a taxi back to Shepherd’s Bush.
When Vic failed to show-up for work, his colleague William Hall alerted the flat’s caretaker and four days later, his body was discovered. Inside, the Police found four sets of fingerprints, an electrical flex and a bloodied shirt. Aided by several witnesses who helped construct a photofit of the man Vic was seen with, aided by news coverage, a feature on the TV show Police Five and invaluable co-operation between the Police and the gay community; Jock, Willy & Layne were arrested and gave a series of confessions.
All three were tried at the Old Bailey on 22nd March 1965, and with a unanimous jury finding them guilty of ‘murder whilst in the furtherance of a theft’, William “Willy” Dunning, Michael “Layne” Odam and John “Jock” Simpson were sentenced to death. But with the death penalty soon to be abolished, and England’s last execution having been carried out six months earlier, after an appeal on 12th April 1965 - during which their defence counsel had claimed that a key witness was unfit to stand trial - their executions were commuted to a life sentence, and all three served just twelve years.
Vic was a good man; he was neat, kind and decent. He was highly respected in his job, he was adored by his friends, he was devoted to his mother and – having fled the bigotry of his homeland to be the man who he wanted to be – although lonely but with a lot of love to give, and a character who lived a good life, being drawn to the wrong type of boy, his life was cruelly cut short and he died for the sake of a pound.
(Fade out… don’t go into credits music, just let the silence hang)
But wait a minute… if there were three possible murders of Vincent Patrick Keighery, which was the real one? Well, as mentioned before, there are several problems with each of these stories, and even though the last one was used to convict all three men, something was missing.
Whilst undergoing medical tests at Brixton Prison, Jock & Willy confessed to a fellow prisoner - Andrew Watson-Allen – their part in the murder. His statement was key to the prosecution’s original case, but as this witness had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act four times before, owing to a nervous disorder, even though his statement is clear and ludic, it was rejected at appeal. It read:
“Jock told me that when Vic and he returned from the pub (where they had met Willy & Layne), all four went back to the flat together. Jock & Vic had a drink and then some “gubbing” took place, that is sucking a penis with one’s mouth. Jock said he had a lot to drink and fell asleep on the sofa. He was awakened by a struggling and grunting noises. He saw Willy & Layne, they had hold of Vic, he was stood beside them, his hands were behind his back, tied with a flex. Vic started to struggle, so Jock headbutted him to keep him quiet, but Vic wouldn’t shut up, so they beat him and stuffed his mouth. Suddenly, he went all still and Jock said ‘he’s had it, Vic’s dead’”. So, they robbed him and fled.
Exactly what happened that night is unclear. But if this statement isn’t true? Why did the Police find that Vic’s belt, zip and trousers were undone? Why did the pathologist confirm that Vic had suffered extensive bleeding, bruising and a widening of the anal passage? And - if this was just a robbery - why were Jock, Willy & Layne all sent to Brixton Prison hospital to have their penises and anuses swabbed?
Perhaps there really were four possible murders after all? Or maybe, there was just one. (Out)
OUTRO: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for listening to Murder Mile.
Don’t forget, after the gap, I shall be opening and closing my mouth repeatedly, where nonsense will come out and cake will go in. Yummy! So, get your tea stewing now as it’s drivel time.
Before that, a big thank you to my new Patreon supporters who are Gemma Fisher and Mona von Petersdortf, I thank you. Plus a huge thank you to everyone in the healthcare profession, emergency services and all other services doing a sterling job to keep our countries afloat during these turbulent times. Thank you everyone, you deserve medals, respect and to be paid much more than you are.
Murder Mile was researched, written & performed by myself, with the main musical themes written and performed by Erik Stein & Jon Boux of Cult With No Name.
Thank you for listening and sleep well.
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a writer, crime historian, podcaster and tour-guide who runs Murder Mile Walks, a guided tour of Soho’s most notorious murder cases, hailed as “one of the top ten curious, quirky, unusual and different things to do in London”, nominated "one of the best true-crime podcasts at the British Podcast Awards 2018", one of The Telegraph's top five true-crime podcasts and featuring 12 murderers, including 3 serial killers, across 15 locations, totaling 50 deaths, over just a one mile walk
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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