TRANSCRIPT - The Pretty Windows Pub Murder: Nottingham's Unsolved Homicide Mystery

[Music] This podcast contains descriptions of death and violence that some listeners may find upsetting. Hello and welcome to The Six O’clock Knock with me Simon Ford and me Jacques morrell and for the first time we're coming to you from the National Justice Museum in Nottingham the museum is housed in a former Victorian courtroom jail and police station it's where you'd have been arrested tried sentenced and back in the day executed you can learn more at and once we've settled in we'll have a housewarming episode of The Six O’clock Knock where we show you around and introduce you to some of the other inmates but for now to business an unsolved murder that took place a stone's throw from where we are now [Music] it had been a typical Saturday night for George and Betty Wilson George had been to the football match in the afternoon his local team Nottingham Forest had beaten Wolverhampton wanderers 3 nil during the evening everyone had been in good spirits the children were in bed asleep probably looking forward to doing something exciting on the Sunday the schools had just gone back after the summer holiday the family had been in their new home for over a year and they settled into life in Nottingham George and Betty got a night cap for their three guests they sat down in the lounge with their drinks at about midnight two of the friends headed home and George arranged a taxi for the last of the guests when it arrived about 15 minutes later George decided to take Blackie the family dog for his regular evening walk so he left at the same time as the taxi collected his friend he locked the door as he left Betty remained indoors and retired to the bedroom approximately 30 minutes later Betty heard Blackie barking outside she went to check and opened the door where Blackie was standing he was behaving differently Betty looked out into the night there seemed to be no one around and no sign of her husband something made her glance down at the ground there was something there lying motionless it was George he was barely alive and unable to speak lying on the floor next to him were his keys suggesting he was at the point of returning home and there was blood a lot of it too Betty knew one thing her husband needed an ambulance so she called for one the life had drained from him before the ambulance arrived George had been ferociously attacked he had 14 knife wounds to his face neck and back one wound was nine centimetres deep for 57 years the local community have asked the question why the date is Saturday the 7th of September 1963. George Wilson was the landlord of a Nottingham public house his killer has never been found the motive for his death is unclear despite the involvement of Scotland Yard detectives no one has been charged with his murder it remains one of Nottingham's most talked about cases today we'll not only be returning to the location of the crime but also to the swinging sixties the case was actually suggested to us by a listener there's a lot of material online about it including several forums where theories are discussed however we've concentrated on a blog post by a chap called Scott who writes under the title Nottinghamasm he provides a good summary of the case and the various theories and rumours that are still circulating the pub where George Wilson was murdered is called the fox and grapes however the locals refer to it as the pretty windows and the case is known as the pretty windows murder we have also been hearing from people including former police officers it's one of those cases where if you're not careful you end up putting two and two together to make five hopefully we can cut through the fanciful and the speculative and give you the listener some clarity now this case occurred in an area of Nottingham called Sneinton market it's now part of the new creative quarter a cultural hub for the creative industry a lot of the area is now student accommodation as well which gives the place a young vibrancy but back in the day it was a significant open marketplace as well as a wholesale market it even gets a mention in a novel by D. H. Lawrence no less I’ll just cut in there did you also know that Jacques has written a novel no well he has in addition to his 30 years as a police detective dealing with facts he also likes a good story thanks for the plug Simon but please don't embarrass me by naming me in the same breath as D. H. Lawrence one of the finest English writers of all time okay fair dues we'll stick to your investigative skills for now in Lawrence’s 1920 story Women In Love he describes Sneinton market as follows the old market square was not very large a mere bare patch of granite sets usually with a few fruit stores under a wall it was in a poor quarter of the town meagre houses stood down one side there was a hosiery factory a great blank with myriad oblong windows at the end a street of little shops with a flagstone pavement down the other side and for a crowning monument the public baths of new red brick with a clock tower the people who moved about seemed stumpy and sordid the air seemed to smell rather dirty there was a sense of many mean streets ramifying off into warrens of meanness now and again a great chocolate and yellow tram car ground round a difficult bend under the hosiery factory since Lawrence wrote about it more of those mean streets he described were demolished and the wholesale market was built supplying the city with fresh produce the current layout of the old wholesale market area is relatively unchanged double rows of covered stalls with open avenues for the vehicles to collect fruit and veg for the shops it was opened in 1938 it was about this time when the pretty windows pub was granted a marketing affairs license this meant that it could open at 5am and serve alcohol to both market traders and general customers the pretty windows provided a convenient watering hole for anyone desperate for an early morning pint or for late night revellers and other dodgy characters who hadn't made it home yet that's right Jacques this case has captured the imagination of many people since here's what the blogger Nottingham says to set the scene fictitious tales of cold cases and unsolved crimes of yesteryear are incredibly popular in tv and literature as the old cliche says factual accounts are often a great deal stranger there's a sinister example from Nottingham's past that I’ll describe here the case occurred in an area of the wholesale market which sat between the Sneinton market square and the ice stadium one pub remained on the site as the area developed and this was named the fox and grapes the locals have always used its nickname of pretty windows this was on account of the establishment's decorative glazing it sits on Southwell Road between two streets named avenue b and avenue c in 1963 George Wilson had been the landlord for just over a year a former miner from Rossington in Yorkshire who had previously managed a hotel in Derbyshire he lived at the pub with his wife Betty two children and their colleague dog named Blackie the building consisted of a pub area at the front and a connected residential area occupied by the family at the back okay picture the scene the pretty windows pub is a fairly small establishment in fact it consists of one large room with windows on three sides it is quite light and airy the main entrance door opens directly onto the pavement that runs along the busy southwest road the location where George died was to the left of the pub but in full view of the road he was about 10 paces away from the pavement where people would be walking past here's detective superintendent rex fletcher speaking to a reporter at the scene back in 1963. do you think the assailant may have been bitten by the dog I think it's quite probable and we're anxious to trace anybody who might be suffering from a wound that could be a dog bite or anybody whose clothing has been torn and if anybody will come forward and tell us these things we will treat that information most confidentially how can the public help the police now they can help us by coming forward with any little bits of information which they may have which they think may not be of value as far as they can judge but which might just provide the missing link that we want newspaper reports stated that George had dropped his keys during the attack indicating that he just left or was just returning to the pub the fact that Betty didn't hear the dogs whining and scratching until she'd been in bed for 15 to 20 minutes and that George was usually out for about the same length of time seems to indicate that either George had been talking to somebody outside the pub or he was attacked upon his return as well as the keys to the pub George also had two five pound notes in his pocket and that would have been the equivalent to about 200 pounds in today's money it was later reported that there were pieces of slate from a nearby low roof near the body which suggested that his killer might have jumped from the roof before attacking him the slate's issue is an awkward one how important is it I’m not even sure of that it's also worth adding here that George had no defence injuries he didn't have a chance to put up a fight and was probably attacked from behind this was not a robbery gone wrong if someone had been disturbed on the low roof there would surely have been a confrontation did he see his killer at all was there any kind of conversation before the assailant launched his attack let's not forget George had managed pubs for some time he would know how to deal with people he would be experienced in judging people including those with odd characteristics the police reacted quickly to the murder council workers were drafted in to search the drains near the pub and a selection of weapons was found they were taken away by the police in addition a sample of blood was taken from smears on the barrier that controlled access to the wholesale market the fire service were called in to search the roofs of neighbouring buildings in case the weapon had been thrown up there by the murderer two incidents that may be related to the stabbing were reported to the police a security driver said that around 12 50 a.m. he had nearly run over a man in London Street about 125 meters from the scene the man had been running and apparently carrying a chisel or a knife in one hand he wore a light-coloured raincoat and a robin hood style hat in the 1950s certain types of fedora were referred to as robin hood hats so it's likely that this was still the case in the 1960s it might be worth adding here the pretty windows was not an isolated pub there were probably nine or ten pubs within a very small area the running man with the chisel would have been near to two other pubs when he was seen by the security driver there were people around on foot and in cars that's a good point this area was a pub crawler's dream really there was the market side the lamp the vine the bath in or the bath inn as I should say the earl howe the Duke of Devonshire the white lion and the king billy so police have launched a major investigation the killing of a publican was regarded as extremely serious regardless of the method publicans were respected members of the community the person who did it had to be caught extra police resources were brought in no significant arrests were made though and it was immediately clear that the police were struggling to find the killer nine days later though they had a breakthrough the police were handed the weapon just picture the scene a disused single track road facing the busy a52 dual carriageway that connects Nottingham with the A1 at Grantham there are fields on your right and woodland on your left this area is nowadays designated a public footpath and it's part of the skylarks nature reserve and there's a stream here that runs parallel to the path this is Purser Brook if you were to look behind you about 500 meters away you'd see Holme Pierrepont, a hamlet next to the River Trent that's where the National Water Sports Centre has its home a huge facility used by canoeists and sailing clubs the reason that the nature reserve and the water sports centre were created right here comes directly from the area's history sand and gravel quarrying back in 1963 the track we're talking about provided access to various gravel quarries these have now created lakes that are part of the nature reserve there are very few buildings around here except for a couple of houses without buildings in 1963 they could well have been something to do with the quarrying operation here the rest of the area would have been fields two young boys were messing around in the area and exploring Purser Brook where it meets the main road the stream itself comes down from the higher ground and is culverted under the main road before it winds its way towards the River Trent the two boys found a knife in its sheath we were about five miles from the pretty windows pub after finding the knife it was then handed to the police presumably at the insistence of the boy's parents when they were found messing around with it. It wasn't the only knife recovered by the police but the police tested it and blood stains on the blade tallied with George Wilson's blood group the tip of the knife was bent meaning that if used on fabric it would retain fibres inside the sheath they found fibres those matched or were similar to the fibres in the clothing that George was wearing at the time of the attack it was the fibres that were claimed to be of most significance the knife was found on the 18th of September and images of it were published on the 20th whether the knife is the murder weapon or not the publicity around it is now a distraction the public are being told subliminally that the killer must have headed out of Nottingham on the a52 towards Grantham and Lincolnshire yes and we also know that the police published an artist's impression of a hitchhiker who a few days after the murder hitched a ride from a motorist on the a52 not only that there was also police activity at the caravan site in nearby Radcliffe-on-Trent although this was sometime later in the investigation and all of this police activity was high profile and fed to the public through the local news there was also the murder of a gay man at the same caravan site a year later nothing to connect the crimes at all except the general location of where the knife was found it's almost as though the media and public want to think that murders are never isolated crimes and have to be part of a series of killings so what do we know about this hitchhiker three days after the murder and that six days before the knife was found a motorist picked up a hitchhiker on the a52 in the general area of where the knife was discovered he was 30 years old thin 5 foot 8-ish with receding auburn hair that was brushed back he wore glasses a college scarf and a raincoat with a small gold cross on the lapel the motorists stated they discussed a broad array of topics including chiropody and monasteries blimey that's not a topic many people would choose is it the hitchhiker never came forward despite police appealing after the weapon was found do we know where he was heading if he's heading for the A1 and the north he may have had more connection to Lindisfarne than Nottingham quite the thing was the next village along the A52 is Radcliffe-on-Trent and the area gets more interest and publicity one of the local history forum posts mentioned earlier also includes this claim shortly afterwards a caravan on the site in Radcliffe was burned out there were rumours at the time that the local plod linked this to the murder there was talk of the caravan being linked to a group of homosexuals which was a big no-no in those days the local gay community were very tight-knit and further information was not forthcoming the leads dried up we need to remember that this was the talk of the town the police would be inundated with well-meaning calls from the public people would have been telling the police oh so-and-so is a bit odd we've seen him carrying a sheaf knife and he goes fishing with a friend who lives in a caravan at Radcliffe-on-Trent all these kind of calls need to be dealt with and acted upon so Jacques we have a really important breakthrough with the knife we believe that it no longer exists so we can only go on that publicized image of it and the forensic work from 1963 what's your summary of the knife the police concluded that this was the murder weapon if the police still have the knife what could it reveal by today's standards those blood stains on the blade blood that match George Wilson's blood group was it the most common group there's even stuff written about pig's blood being very similar to human blood if the police still had it then the DNA route would have cleared that up those fibres that were retrieved from inside the sheath itself let's remember that there were hundreds of sheath knives in circulation most were carried and used by board youths messing around or stored in sheds up and down the country the tips of most of them would likely be bent this would pick up fibres when used to cut material the science of comparing fibres has advanced considerably and more detailed testing would answer questions how rare would it be then for knives to be found by youths and handed in to the police very common knives are often handed in at every police station they're recorded as found property the police property stores would have been full of them was it the coincidence that it was found within a few days and a few miles from the scene what other knives were handed in to found property in the following months remember that once the investigation team decided they had the knife they would not be interested in any others so was the Purser Brook knife for red herring then did it distract the police and I suppose more importantly the public from the area of the crime did the publicity around the Purser Brook knife make people think that the offender had a connection to that road or the direction in which it went well on top of those questions the police also created an artist's impression of the hitchhiker this was released through the media with the headline is this the killer the man with the college scarf who talks about monasteries we should also raise the question did this publicity put people off reporting their own suspicions of a more local man yeah maybe and if the hitchhiker was the killer why would he hang onto the knife for several days and then discard it at the roadside as he hitchhiked his way to anonymity precisely imagine this location 50 years ago a main road outside of the city the hitchhiker may have just been passing through heading north he could have been dropped at that point by a gravel lorry arriving at the quarry and was then hitching his next lift to continue there's not much here is there it's not a populated area no it's not okay let's leave Purser Brook and continue this back indoors [Music] the investigation continued over the following months 300 possible suspects had their movements checked and thousands of people were interviewed images of the knife and appeals for information were put on posters around the city and on the co-op's dairy vans was this tactic a standard procedure Jacques probably when we look at the contemporary news articles it seems that the newspapers were keen to speculate and make their usual sensational headlines circulating images of the knife was a gamble though in my opinion Scotland Yard detectives were brought in to advise the local detectives did this help what do you think Jacques well we've mentioned this before haven't we in earlier episodes of The Six O’clock Knock local detectives can sometimes resent interference from outsiders you mean they'd see it as what a criticism of their ability to deal with the case Nottingham's detectives were proud officers who would have been really keen to solve this case the murder republican is extremely serious pub landlords are respected and responsible citizens the decision to ask for support from Scotland Yard may have been justified but it would need a good working relationship with the local provincial police from conversations I’ve had it's apparent that officers worked on the theory that this murder involved a gang of Glaswegian criminals who were targeting pubs in Nottingham this seemed to include burglaries and also some kind of protection racket from what I’ve been told these Glasgow criminals were connected to a couple of families who lived in terraced houses nearby one of the houses was tenanted by a sex worker who originated from Glasgow several of those that moved down had a reputation for violence and they wore their scars like a badge of honour we've all heard about cases where people are slashed with a knife as a warning or permanent reminder from rivals the other suggestion from locals is that the London detectives encourage the use of paying money for information apparently this achieved very little other than buy a lot of beer around Nottingham and on top of all this there were a few confessions to the crime weren't there one from a local man imprisoned in Dartmoor top security prison his confession was considered to be false when despite many details being accurate he couldn't identify George or the murder weapon when presented with a choice of images all I can say is that the detectives were well versed in accurately assessing whether a confession was false they had to be okay let's spare a thought again for the family in this tragedy George's family moved away shortly afterwards his wife Betty died in 1997 and her children are now grown up the case though remains unsolved the police still actively investigating it Jacques there's nothing to suggest that they have any current lines of inquiry the last time there was any publicity was in 2013 the police appealed for new information in a bid to get the case finally closed this was probably driven by the newspapers and broadcasters who want to feature the case on its 50th anniversary they emphasize that due to the likely age of the murderer and anyone else involved this was probably the last chance to discover the truth so let's get stuck into the theories about who did kill George Wilson the Nottingham article goes on to reflect on the facts in more depth looking at contemporary newspapers of the period the newspapers shed some light on the crime and the period in which it happened for those of us who didn't experience the 1960s at first hand and I was only a baby so that concludes me it's tempting to define the period using easy pop culture references such as miniskirts Mersey Beat oh and the football World Cup year I was born those who did live during that era would doubtless find this a short-sighted view flick through newspapers of the 1960s and you'll find stories of armed robberies knife attacks mugging suicide gassings burglary and vandalism crime in the 1960s was not dissimilar to crime now the murder of George Wilson was without doubt a horrific crime but it was by no means carried out in some otherwise twee quaint and innocent era protection rackets were commonplace businesses particularly pubs clubs and gambling institutions were vulnerable to them business owners paid the gangs money in exchange for protection if they called the gang's bluff the business would be targeted to prove the point they need protecting by the 1960s violent and murderous gangs or firms such as the Richardsons and the craze had started to establish themselves in London mixing criminal brutality with celebrity 1963 was the year JFK was assassinated amid persistent rumours that the shooting had been initiated by a scheming coalition of disgruntled politicians and mafia members the world in that year was more complex than the sight of teenage girls screaming at the Beatles as they sang I want to hold your hand the newspaper reports about the pretty windows murder seem closer to the crime than the modern accounts they reflect how the story gradually unfolded to Nottingham residents at the time a local history forum includes this comment I heard in later years that a couple of detectives involved in the case had a good idea of the motive and had a prime suspect for the murder but they just couldn't gain enough solid evidence to bring the case to court that's absolutely right these were hard times for the police we've already looked at those hammersmith murders in an earlier episode rumours can never be ignored but they should not be allowed to distract from the evidence trail itself this article is also right about the assumption that the police knew who did it but couldn't get the proof the reality is that the police don't know anything until they have the proof I’ve been there in my early police career I’ve heard colleagues say to victims of crime we know who's doing it we just need to catch them I suppose it goes back to the pride in the job no police officer wants to say they haven't got a clue I’ve spoken to former detectives who are on the case they say similar things about who they think was responsible some even claimed that a suspect had indicated they would only confess to it if they were already facing 20 years in jail for something else the officers took that as an admission rather than just an exchange of words you see the detectives didn't have the forensic tools that they have today they played a game with the villains almost like a war of attrition those villains the Scottish gangs in this case would play the game back hinting at doing a deal when the time was right incredible wasn't it the thriller writer Tom Clancy who said the difference between reality and fiction, fiction has to make sense yeah so Jacques we should be prepared to accept the fact that the truth may make little sense it may not fit in with the larger narrative sudden and spontaneous assaults happen all over the world every day often carried out by disturbed or deranged individuals who are in crisis George's awful murder may have been an example of one of those maybe so let's look at those theories about this case around the time of the pretty windows murder there was a spate of anonymous telephone threats made to pub landlords in Nottingham George Wilson had also received such a threat about two months before the stabbing like the other three threatened landlords George managed the home brewery's pub one of the other landlords Harold Dawson landlord at the Sawyer's Arms in Greyfriar Gate received a phone call after George's death in which he was told it's your turn next Harold told police the caller's voice was refined and cultured and could have been a woman could the pretty windows murder have been the horrific result of a campaign against the home brewery company was a criminal gang or family attempting to impose a lucrative protection or extortion racket on the brewery there seemed no clear motive to assault George Wilson in this way he was an amiable man generous with his staff and his customers there was nothing to suggest he was involved in an extramarital affair if George's murder had been carried out by someone working for extortion or protection racketeers his popularity would have been irrelevant in this hypothesis he was murdered to be made an example of and frightened the brewery that supplied beer to his pub interesting that but let's remember that in 1963 there were hundreds of pubs all over the city in the industrial areas the town centre and on the housing estates they all had their own regulars and all would have had a criminal element that drank in them pub landlords were used to handling everything that came their way they knew how to deal with drunks disputes and dodgy dealing they were also used to anonymous threats many of these would tend to follow on from an incident that they'd sorted out and as none of the threatened landlords were in fact harmed or even troubled it seems that the anonymous calls had been cruel hoaxes the police however still provided protection for them we can't afford to take any chances detective superintendent fletcher is quoted as saying there was also a strange coincidence which connected George with the two landlords who had been initially threatened all of them had been coal miners all of the pubs were owned by the same brewery home ales and all the men had owned at one time or another collie type dogs okay let's keep an open mind on that although I have to say this Nottinghamshire was a coal mining county Nottingham's pubs were dominated by two breweries most pub landlords would keep a dog and this was the time before designer dogs became fashionable going back to the threats phone calls were not easy to trace then and the callers knew it in my experience from the 1980s threatening all malicious nuisance calls were common this would range from teenagers making prank calls and putting on a cultured voice to disgrace drunks who'd been thrown out as for a gang targeting pubs in a protection racket surely they would be a bit more subtle than to stab a landlord multiple times just because he'd refuse to pay his dues that brings us back nicely to the running man having walked round the area of the old Sneinton wholesale market we considered the man in the fedora who ran into the path of that security truck you remember the man carrying a chisel or a knife the location is where London Street meets Aberdeen Street it's about a minute away from the pretty windows pub that has to be significant if the timing is right well the Nottingham evening post reported that Betty found George around 12 54 am let's presume this is accurate and coincided with her call to the ambulance service the security driver estimates he nearly struck the running man at around 12 50 am he would know this as he would be making timed visits to places even allowing for error it's consistent that the person who assaulted George Wilson could well be the running man now several routes are possible to get to London Street from the pub the most direct seemed to be freaking him street and then along avenue d dashing across birth street the assailant would have entered London Street on the other side at the junction of Aberdeen Street he found himself staring terrified into the dazzling beam of a truck's headlights he was statuesque for a second and the driver glimpsed the swirling raincoat the chisel or the sheath knife in his hand and the hat on his head before he continued running the general direction is into the industrial estate towards the terraced housing estate despite police appeals the running man never came forward which sparks a possibility that he was somehow involved yes it does indeed there were other sightings of a man in a raincoat and also others acting in a bizarre way on a road nearby this person is very significant the sightings suggest he did not have a car nearby and that he was alone whatever his motive he had just stabbed a man in a frenzied assault the adrenaline and euphoria over this may have meant it took him some time to come down he would have been blooded and quite likely bleeding himself many knife attacks involving considerable force will mean the assailant receives cuts to their own hands was the blood on the market barrier his did he return to the scene and observe what was happening what a bit like those children who set fire to somewhere and then watch the fire service go and put it out stranger things have happened who knows how he was dealing with the implications of what he'd just done several witness reports were published in the local newspaper a man was driving on Carlton Street when a man in army uniform without a beret jumped into the road in front of him waving his arms the witness said it was possible that he was asking for a lift but he seemed distressed he came out of nowhere and he could have been drunk his hair was ruffled this occurred about half an hour after the killing another man had flung himself in front of a car almost opposite the pretty windows when the driver braked the man lay in the road with his arms folded and picked himself up and walked away another man was seen about 200 meters away and this may indeed have been the same man a witness stated that they'd seen him waving his arms in the air and then for no apparent reason he began to run away along Carlton Road this particular sighting was only minutes after George Wilson was stabbed to death whether those incidents involve the same person it's clear that there was some very odd behaviour around Sneinton market that night [Music] the roof tiles and the burglar theory when the blogger Nottingham was researching the case sifting through newspaper archives he came across a report about a burglar who was caught at a Nottingham public house the article was three days before the pretty windows murder it read accused is remanded on break-in charge man with dagger caught on roof court is told of struggle above public house armed with a double-edged dagger and with a blue silk scarf across his face 38 year old James Betteridge was caught on the roof of a Nottingham public house last night as he was about to break in it was alleged at Nottingham Guildhall today Betteridge of Hampton Street Nottingham was charged with being found by night armed with an offensive weapon with intent to break into the Mansfield Arms to steal PC Fred Reacher said he was on radio patrol at 1108 last night when he was directed to go to the Mansfield Arms public house I went to the flat roof over the lounge there I saw Betteridge lying on the floor held down by the witnesses mills and lambert with a pale blue scarf halfway across his face said the constable he said one of the witnesses handed him a double-edged dagger and said we've caught this man on the roof with this Betteridge was struggling and had to be handcuffed said PC Reacher he was searched at police headquarters and a leather belt round his waist was found to have a sheath into which the knife fitted said the constable cautioned Betteridge was alleged to have replied yes I was going to screw it what do you think about that Jacques in my experience there have always been burglars who have a preference for pubs rather than dwelling houses or factories where the pubs are targeted by a gang remains to be seen the media reported on the Scottish criminals maybe some of them were pub burglars too but in my experience these offences tend to develop in spades there are also individual criminals who may burgle public houses on spec maybe they were particularly short of money remember pubs were a place to find other people to find work men on their own called into pubs individual burglars may just see it as an opportunity a conversation that the landlord is away or a member of staff taking the contents of the till to the upstairs of the property Betteridge was still in custody when George Wilson was stabbed so he's alibied but could a gang of burglars have decided to target pubs and both Betteridge and George's murderer be members of this gang perhaps pubs daggers and low roofs were part of the modus operandi of this particular gang let's remind ourselves about the pieces of slate that were on the ground near to where George Wilson's body was discovered these were proven to be from the section of the pitched low roof at the side of the door that George Wilson used how much of the slate or which tiles they related to is not recorded the theory goes that if Betty retired to bed as her husband went on his walk a burglar arriving 10 or so minutes later might reasonably think the household was sleeping and hoped to get inside to swipe a busy Saturday night's takings the burglar might carry a knife not only as a threat or tool for self-defence but also to lever open windows we've already seen that a man was arrested a few days earlier with exactly such a weapon could our hypothetical burglar have been disturbed by the sound of George returning from his walk the burglar is distracted and loses his footing slipping down the roof and knocking off slates as he goes he grips the drain pipe manages to break his fall and then sees George scrambling to get into the pub to call the police the burglar drops from the drainpipe to the ground George is moments from safety if you could get inside and slam the door the immediate danger would be over it isn't easy though there are several keys on his key ring and his hands are shaking he tells himself to focus on the task and to get inside to Betty and the children the burglar too he's panicking he raises the knife and delivers the first terrible blow Blackie is barking wildly and a light comes on inside the pub George tries to call hoarsely to Betty to telephone the police but his voice is drowned out by the barking the burglar needs to silence George and within moments his crime has escalated from attempted burglary to murder the pub door is being unlocked and the vicious attacker sprints away down avenue B or onto Southwell Road leaving the dog barking after him and poor Betty to find her mortally wounded husband if we go with this theory why would a burglar need to friendly kill George Wilson rather than run off or threaten him before making his escape could it be that George Wilson knew the would-be burglar could the ferocity of the assault have come from a desire to finish off George before Betty opened the door did both of them know the assailant again this is complete speculation but it does encompass the slates and that panicked fringed assault possibly but what about the description of our running man suspect a raincoat and a fedora hat not the ideal clothing for a climbing rooftop burglar could the bits of slate have broken off earlier and have nothing to do with the murder at all it was reported at the time that there'd been several days of strong winds in Nottingham a few days before so it might be that the broken slates have nothing to do with it at all and that section of pitched roof is also very steep and not very private although near midnight there was still traffic passing along the main road and anyone attempting to break in through the window might have been seen the roof is also quite difficult to access being between two high walls there were easier ways to get into the pretty windows pub then there's the reported incident about someone banging on the door of the pub just after it closed at 11 pm it's unclear who answered the door although it wasn't George when the door was answered no one was there the Nottingham evening post carried a paragraph that seems related it said that a taxi driver saw a man in a white coat banging on the door of the pub police appealed for the man to come forward though whether or not he did is uncertain could the man banging on the door wearing a white coat also be the running man who apparently wore a light-coloured raincoat quite possibly 11pm was right on closing time wasn't it half an hour after last orders and drinking up time there's a chance that both the banging and the strange behaviour we mentioned could have simply been a drunken passer-by anyone who's ever worked in a pub will know that when the doors are closed there will be people trying to get another drink before they go home there will be people in drink who bang on doors and behave impulsively and aggressively this could be just one of those or it could have been someone who was even more unpredictable a man full of drink and emotion a man who didn't want to go home but who wanted company someone to pour his heart out to a man who was full of pent up anger and frustration over how his life had turned out a man who was capable of turning that anger into extreme violence and Jacques a man who's carrying a large knife yes the knife indeed let's talk about the Purser Brook knife again why would the murderer need to discard the murder weapon in a ditch at the side of a rural road five miles away maybe if it was immediately after the crime and he was driving away from Nottingham if this was the knife that killed George Wilson the police were very lucky that not only was it found within days but it was also handed in to them what do you think Jacques as I’ve mentioned earlier I asked a question was it the knife that killed George Wilson let's accept that it was if so it would be useful to know who the maker of the knife was. It's apparently an unusual knife almost certainly a military dagger if only a few were made then who were they supplied to a nostalgia regiment or a Scottish regiment you can see how important that kind of information would be to an investigation it seems that knives were very prevalent in those times the police ended up sifting through 70 tons of rubbish which had been collected from the area around the pub and taken to the local refuse tip scores of knives literally scores of them were found but only three were considered to be of any interest these were sent for forensic examination but were subsequently eliminated from the inquiry it sounds like following the murder people were having their own amnesty and getting rid. Quite and we know that by the 20th of September the police released photos of the Purser Brook knife they appeal for information from members of the public regarding a double-edged 10-inch knife in a leather sheath they also made inquiries at local shops to try to ascertain if any shopkeeper remembered selling such a weapon let's also remember that this knife was an offensive weapon therefore it was a crime to possess it in a public place without reasonable excuse how was offensive weapon defined it was defined as any article that's made or adapted for causing injury to the person something which a military dagger was quite clearly meant to do and it carried up to two years imprisonment don't forget as well that most of the sheath knives on sale would have been the bowie knife style a hunter's knife well I think listeners will understand that knives and offensive weapons were probably more common then than they are now and the whole teddy boy thing in the late 1950s for example had made the carrying of knives fashionable now if the police were right and it is the knife that killed George Wilson why do we not know more about it. It was even referred to on occasions as a Bowie knife anyone can see that it's not a bowie knife it's a combat knife a military knife, you're thinking it's not that long after the second world war precisely there were souvenirs from the war in sheds and attics all over the country add to that national service had been going since 1949 ending coincidentally in 1963. I’ve heard that two million men did national service over that period yep they were trained to support the British military commitments as we protected our diminishing empire and deal with managing post-war Germany the consequence of all this was that these kind of knives were all over the place often in the hands of angry young men who had issues and many who resented the grim realities of working class life like Arthur Seton in Saturday Night And Sunday Morning yeah it's a fighting knife similar to a stiletto and the stiletto was designed for one purpose killing the enemy it was a single purpose weapon not designed for any other tasks this was due to it being narrower and with a thin tip the Purser Brook knife exhibit a had certainly not been designed to open army ration cannons or ammo cases yes you mentioned the fair burn sykes fighting knife that was the British design that was made famous when it was issued to royal marine commandos and the SAS a weapon optimized for thrusting but also able to inflict slashing wounds upon an opponent let's look at the image of the murder weapon and compare it to something similar now we've looked at some knives online including the Fairburn Sykes knife the closest match to the Purser Brook knife is described as stiletto ten and a quarter inches overall all six inch polished carbon steel double-edged dagger blade double edged right you wouldn't open a can with that would you round design brass handle with a staghorn finish brass guard and aluminium pommel brown leather belt sheath that's very similar isn't it the murder weapon states that the handle has a brown leather finish rather than staghorn we've also spoken to an expert at they're based in Chicago USA and they told us that could be considered a combat knife it looks very similar to the British world war ii commando daggers unfortunately we cannot tell the actual manufacturer as with so many military weapons from world war ii there were many manufacturers in order to keep up with the demand the only way to tell would be if there was a manufacturer's mark somewhere on the blade or on the tang yes and I think that if this is the murder weapon it was not carried to open for windows you know I think you're right and if it's not the murder weapon then well we've wasted 50 years on it the Radford confession more than one individual came forward and confessed to George Wilson's murder and all of them proved to be lying false confessions are far more common than most people think they're tied to psychological disorders such as psychopathic lying that's very true they can be problematic for detectives it's almost like an investigation in reverse you get a confession which is believed to be false then investigate it to prove it is false one of the false confessions was made by a convicted criminal from Nottingham who was imprisoned in Dartmoor he seemed to provide details that were consistent with elements of the case that hadn't been publicized he claimed that he'd argued with George Wilson earlier in the evening about football he'd returned after closing time still angry and killed him the confession was dismissed however when he failed to identify George or the knife from a selection of police images the Nottingham blog speculates could he have overheard details of the murder given by another inmate and then chosen to claim the killing as his own this would seem irrational to most of us but pathological liars make claims that are irrational possibly although my only view about this without having seen the file is that the police were usually pretty good at establishing whether a confession was false it was a regular thing in those days unfortunately it was also a regular thing that the media were tipped off about these lines of inquiry they make interesting reading and they sell newspapers when we use the term suspect we should remind ourselves that the more modern term person of interest is better a suspect is someone who is believed to be the offender a person of interest is just that someone who needs to be eliminated from the investigation but does not justify the police resources that a suspect would modern investigations also use the term suggested name this is someone who's been suggested but is not considered yet a person of interest it would apply when a member of the public calls to say billy smith was in the pub that night and he always carries a knife there were several people regarded as suspects during the original investigation but this one stands out it concerns the death of Arthur Fox at the hands of a man named Frank Wardle this took place in 1965. it's not so much the murder but the individual responsible that opens up the debate it asks the question how many men were in circulation with some very concerning psychological problems fox was a 55 year old partially sighted billiard hall cleaner who had previously been a newspaper vendor in Nottingham his wife had left him a few years earlier and then met Frank Wardle who moved in with her things got difficult when Arthur reappeared pleading ill health and Margaret lets him move back in although as the ex-husband he was relegated to the position of lodger now that's a cue for trouble if I ever saw one oh yes the relationship between the three was naturally fraught there were constant arguments between frank and Arthur on the day of the murder Arthur had been complaining again and Frank was off work with a hand injury Frank Wardle had had enough he fetched a knife from the kitchen and stabbed Arthur once below the right shoulder blade let's look at Frank Wardle's background he'd had a hard upbringing he was from a large family and had run away from home several times living in woods for days at the time when he was old enough he joined the army spending time in career he didn't seem to take to army discipline was frequently drunk on duty and going absent without leave Wardle was discharged from the army and was assessed as a psychopathic delinquent Wardel's clashes with authority continued when he returned to civilian life by the time he killed Arthur Fox he had 11 convictions for larceny and breaking into shops and had been released from a previous spell in prison in May 1963 an expert said that Wardle has an abnormality of the mind which limits his ability to act with foresight and which results in impulsive behaviour Wardle was convicted of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and was sentenced to life in prison it became apparent that the police also considered Wardle as a suspect for the murder of George Wilson it may well have included a confession to the murder of George a file was sent to the director of public prosecutions but there was insufficient evidence to charge him almost certainly because he hadn't done it let's hear about another one that the pretty windows team looked at the mysterious case of the copycat murder [Music] another suspect considered by detectives and who certainly made interesting reading was one Michael Copeland where do we start with this one a dangerous and violent triple murderer who appears to have befriended and formed an inappropriate relationship with the senior detective who investigated him Copeland was from chesterfield in Derbyshire coincidentally the town where George Wilson had worked before moving to Nottingham Copeland was a young man six feet four inches tall and built like the proverbial brick [ __ ] house but he was no gentle giant in 1960 at the age of 22 he did his national service in Germany but was discharged from the army on the grounds that he had a psychopathic personality unsuited to army life unfortunately before the army realized he was unfit to serve queen and country he'd attacked a 15 year old German youth stabbing him 27 times in the back neck throat chest abdomen upper and lower arms and left thigh the weapon used was believed to have been a thin double-edged knife Copeland was off duty that day when he returned to the barracks he had a stab wound in his leg which he said had been inflicted by two men who accosted him in the street and stabbed him when they learned he was a soldier he denied all knowledge of the incident Copeland returned to chesterfield where the local police were still trying to solve the murder of a local man named William Elliott Elliott’s murder was in the June of 1960 just before Copeland started his national service Elliot had died from severe head injuries his car was found some distance away having been crashed and abandoned Elliot was a gay man who would pick up total strangers in his car in order to carry out sex acts less than a year later in 1961 and after Copeland had been discharged from the army another chesterfield man named Stubbs was found at the same location as Elliot he'd suffered a similar fate having died from severe head injuries Stubbs was also gay and his car was abandoned at the same location Copeland was a strong suspect in the case although it took some time to get the evidence and a confession the whole situation became messy when the Derbyshire detective leading the investigation appeared to have developed a somewhat unusual relationship with Copeland whilst this protracted investigation continued in Derbyshire it would appear that the Nottingham detectives showed an interest in Michael Copeland on the 2nd of April 1965 Copeland was sentenced to death however the abolition of the death penalty was being debated in parliament at the time and the sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment he spent time at Durham prison whilst there being involved in a fight with another notorious inmate Ian Brady the Moors Murderer the Nottingham evening post of the 25th of march 1965 in its report on Copeland's trial states bluntly chief inspector bradshaw said Copeland confessed to him on the 17th of November 1963 that he had killed Elliot Stubbs and the youth in Germany he had given a lot of detail about the crimes so Jacques the Copeland case was clearly of interest to the Nottingham detectives having gone to interview a 25 year old chesterfield man on the 16th of September 1963. can we cut through what was a messy investigation and draw any conclusion with the pretty windows murder well I go back to my previous comments if the Nottingham detectives returned from their interview and no longer regarded Copeland as a suspect he must have been ruled out or eliminated from the investigation probably by an alibi violent murders can be isolated they don't have to be part of a series they don't have to involve a serial killer it suits our appetite for salacious stories that Copeland could have killed George Wilson too he was certainly capable of it but so were many others what the Copeland case does highlight is that in that post-war period there were a lot of violent individuals around many of them had been booted out of the army with nothing more to show for it than a few bits of kit and a knife okay Jacques this case has been fascinating to take a fresh look at the whole thing does seem plagued by strange coincidences George Wilson was 43 when he was murdered if he was still alive today he'd be what 96 years old something like that I mentioned this to highlight how unlikely it is that the case will ever be solved the murderer may have been a similar age or even if he was half George's age at the time well he'd be a pensioner now strange to think that someone's grandparent or great-grandparent could be alive today in a nursing home harbouring such a secret looking at those theories the difficulty for us is knowing what elements outlined above are related directly to the murder and which are incidental or even irrelevant anyone who's walked sober through the city centre on a Saturday night will know that the actions of drunken people can seem at the very least bizarre car or bus horns sound from time to time as people stagger out into the road perhaps the soldier with ruffled hair and without his beret had been involved in nothing more than a drunken scuffle perhaps the slates from the roof had just been blown off by the wind the hitchhiker may have been reluctant to come forward for a number of reasons maybe he didn't want to come forward because of his lifestyle perhaps there is a link between the hitchhiker and the caravan reported to have been used by gay men this may explain why he didn't respond to the police appeals being gay was a crime then it was not decriminalized in the UK for a further four years even then took a couple of generations for the gay community to have confidence in their equality under the law you've nailed that summary Simon there could be a man still out there in his seventies who was responsible for George's murder his children and grandchildren may still be in the area passing the scene of the murder as they go about their lives it's a strange thought the killer could have read the articles and even listen to this podcast and then there's the Glasgow gang yeah I’m not convinced they may have been violent and carried knives but surely they were more controlled and calculating in who was on the receiving end of the blade thank you for listening to The Six O’clock Knock we're on Spreaker and wherever else you might get your podcasts we do have a Patreon account so if you're feeling generous please bung us a couple of quid we could use it it'll help us keep turning over those stones and investigating these fascinating historical cold cases and why not get in touch with us as well if you've got a case you think might interest us we're on Twitter @sixknock. But for now, it's time to say farewell until we meet again for another episode of The Six O’clock Knock. The Six O’clock Knock is presented by Simon Ford and Jacques Morrell and produced by Paul Bradshaw and is available on every major listening app please help us spread the word by giving us a five-star review and telling your friends to subscribe.