Yes­ter­day’s Pa­pers

Scot­land Yard launches a fu­ri­ous search for ca­reer crim­i­nal Harry Roberts af­ter three po­lice of­fi­cers are gunned down in Lon­don

History Revealed - - CONTENTS -

The Shep­herd’s Bush Mur­ders

B arely two weeks af­ter Eng­land won the great­est prize in foot­ball – the FIFA World Cup – the tri­umphant mood was bro­ken by a triple mur­der in West Lon­don. The killing of three po­lice­men, in broad day­light, prompted un­feigned out­rage. Two of the per­pe­tra­tors were quickly ap­pre­hended, but the third seemed to van­ish, spark­ing the largest man­hunt Bri­tain had seen for many years.

Harry Roberts, a con­victed armed rob­ber and ex-sol­dier, was sit­ting in a car with two ac­com­plices, John Wit­ney and John Duddy, near Worm­wood Scrubs prison in Shep­herd’s Bush, when three plain­clothed po­lice of­fi­cers ar­rived. The crooks’ car had no tax disc – a le­gal re­quire­ment – and its prox­im­ity to the prison had aroused the cop­pers’ sus­pi­cions.

As tem­po­rary De­tec­tive Con­sta­ble David Womb­well ques­tioned Wit­ney on the miss­ing tax disc, Roberts shot the po­lice­man in the head. He pro­ceeded to chase a se­cond of­fi­cer, De­tec­tive Sergeant Christo­pher Head, to his car be­fore shoot­ing him. Duddy then got out of the van, shoot­ing the third po­lice­man, Con­sta­ble Ge­of­frey Fox, as he tried to es­cape.

The three crim­i­nals fled the scene in their car, but a passerby no­ticed their er­ratic driv­ing and noted their ve­hi­cle’s reg­is­tra­tion num­ber. Po­lice ar­rested Wit­ney, who owned the ve­hi­cle, two days later, and he ad­mit­ted his role in the shoot­ings and named his ac­com­plices. Duddy was ar­rested in Glas­gow two days af­ter that, but Roberts van­ished.

The search for Roberts was one of the largest Scot­land Yard had ever un­der­taken – posters were dis­trib­uted across the coun­try and a £1,000 re­ward for in­for­ma­tion was of­fered. At the time, the mur­ders were called the “most heinous crime in a gen­er­a­tion”, and it marked the first time that three po­lice of­fi­cers had been killed in one in­ci­dent since 1910.

Roberts was ap­pre­hended three months later – he had been found camp­ing out in some woods in Hert­ford­shire. There were calls for the death penalty, sus­pended since 1965, to be rein­tro­duced in this case; in­stead he was given a life sen­tence with a rec­om­mended min­i­mum of 30 years, He was re­leased in 2014, af­ter 48 years be­hind bars, mak­ing him one of the UK’s longest­serv­ing pris­on­ers.

The three vic­tims were all po­lice of­fi­cers: ( l-r), Ge­of­frey Fox, David Womb­well and Christo­pher Head As well as posters, Roberts’ mother appealed for her son to hand him­self in Po­lice found Roberts’ heav­ily cam­ou­flaged tent in woods near Bishop’s Stort­ford

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