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Murder UK is a site dedicated to documenting and investigating murder in the UK. We aim to be precise with facts and avoid speculation. If however you find discrepancies please  Contact us

   


 

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Name:

Derek Bentley

Christopher Craig

AKA:

 

D.O.B.

 
Kill Total: 1

Kill date:

2 November 1952

Kill Place:

Croydon

Status:

Single

Occupation:

 

Victim:

PC. Sidney Miles
D.O.B.  

 


 

Court:

Old Bailey, London

Judge:

Lord Chief Goddard

Prosecution:

Christmas Humphries

Defence:

 

 


 

 

 

FACTFILE

 

2nd  November 1952. Derek Bentley (aged 19) and Christopher Craig (aged 16) broke into a London warehouse  Craig was armed with a revolver. The 2 were seen entering the premises and the police were called. Bentley and Craig then went on to the flat roof of the building (Barlow & Parker's Warehouse, Tamworth Road, Croydon) and hid behind a lift-housing.

Detective Sergeant Frederick Fairfax climbed on to the roof, and managed to grab Bentley. Craig shouted defiantly at the detective and Bentley managed to break Fairfax's grip. At this point, Bentley is supposed to have shouted "Let him have it Chris". Craig then fired the gun grazing the police officer's shoulder. Despite being wounded Fairfax continued after Bentley and managed to finally arrest him. Bentley told Fairfax that Craig had a Colt .45 and plenty of ammunition.

Following the arrival of more police officers, a group were sent on to the roof. The first policeman to appear on to the roof was Police Constable Sidney George Miles (age 42). He was immediately shot dead by Craig; shot in the head. After exhausting his supply of bullets, Craig leapt from the roof on to the road  some 30 feet below. He landed badly, fracturing his spine and left wrist. Craig was then arrested.

9th - 11th December 1952, Craig and Bentley are charged with murder and appear at the Old Bailey in London.

It was clear that even if Craig was found guilty of murder, he could not be sentenced to death; being 16 he was below the minimum age of 18 for execution. However, Derek Bentley was over 18 years' of age and could be sentenced to death.

The case appeared to be a relatively simple one for the prosecution. However, as the trial progressed before Lord Chief Justice Lord Goddard at the Old Bailey, the prosecution case appeared far less certain. The police seemed unsure how many shots were fired and by whom. A ballistics expert failed to positively identify Craig's gun as the weapon that fired the bullet that killed PC Miles. Also what was meant by Bentley's phrase "Let him have it Chris"? Did he mean that Craig was to give the gun to the officer and surrender? Did he mean that Craig was to shot the officer?

What was clear was that Derek Bentley was;- Quote -  "illiterate and mentally subnormal". He was ill prepared to undergo cross-examination and did not present a 'good image' to the jury; not surprising considering his mental age of 11.

The jury took just 75 minutes to find both Craig and Bentley guilty of PC Miles' murder. Due to his being below 18 at the time of the offence, Craig was sentenced to be detained at Her Majesty's Pleasure. Bentley was sentenced to death.

Various appeals highlighted the ambiguous evidence, Bentley's mental age and the fact that he did not fire the fatal shot, were all rejected by the then Home Secretary.

28th January 1953, Derek Bentley was hanged at London's Wandsworth Prison at 9am by executioner Albert Pierpont.

Christopher Craig served 10 years in prison before being released in 1963, he settled in Buckinghamshire.

Since Bentley's execution in January 1953, there have been numerous campaigns to obtain a posthumous pardon for Bentley. In 1991 the public were surprised when the Home Secretary of the time, Kenneth Clark, rejected a report by the Metropolitan Police stating that there were "reasonable doubts in this case" for a review.

30th July 1998, the Court of Appeal overturned the controversial conviction of Derek Bentley who was hanged over 45 years ago. In an unprecedented and very damning attack, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Bingham, ruled that his predecessor and Bentley's trial judge, Lord Chief Justice Goddard, had denied Bentley "that fair trial that is the birthright of every British citizen." In a 52-page judgment, Lord Bingham placed the blame for the miscarriage of justice with Lord Goddard. Describing Lord Goddard as "blatantly prejudiced", Lord Bingham concluded that he had misdirected the jury and that in his summing-up had put unfair pressure on the jury to convict.

 

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