Reporter: Di Jackson
Our City walk this year took us on a tour of the dark side Manchester, gruesome tales of murder, revolt and terror. 29 members met our Blue Badge Guide Ed Glinert in St Peters Square, close to Manchester Central Library. Our tale began there, when Ed told us about Adolf Hitler’s plans for the invasion of England that spared central Manchester landmarks from bombing — too fantastic — until the Nazi war plans revealed the Midland Hotel was earmarked as Nazi lodgings, Central Library a Nazi HQ and Manchester stations as transport for prisoners and a line to Nazi HQ in London! Then we learned how fascist William Joyce (Lord Haw Haw), a regular speaker at the Free Trade Hall in the 1930s, escaped to Berlin with his family just before the outbreak of WW2. Once a leading light of Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts, Joyce was eventually charged with treason and was hanged at Wandsworth Jail in January 1946. Appropriately we were close to Mosley Street, which connects neatly with Oswald Mosley whose family have roots in Manchester. Sir John Parker Mosley 1st Baronet was born 22 February 1732 at Manchester Cathedral and thus began the families’ influence on Manchester.
A short walk into the covered walkway joining Central Library and the Town Hall, brought us to the next stop to view the beautiful mosaic floor depicting Manchester’s worker bees, but also the names of those who were killed during the Peterloo Massacre which took place in St Peters Field, 16 August 1819. Fifteen people were killed and over 600 injured by the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry and the 15th Hussars.
Moving across St Peter’s Square and onto Oxford Street, we stopped at what once in the mid-1950s had been the Plaza Ballroom. The Plaza had been managed by Jimmy Savile and it was said that if you couldn’t find Savile in the Plaza at lunchtime, he’d be in the Ritz later or the Three Coins in Fountain Street. On Sundays he span platter at his Top Ten Club at Belle Vue. We may never find out who Jimmy Savile really was; whether the entertainer, the philanthropist, the discotheque pioneer, the loner, the Bevin Boy, the loyal company man, the daft-coiffed eccentric, the secure-mental-hospital administrator, the all-in wrestler, the sociopath, the counsellor to royalty, the morgue attendant, the marathon runner or the serial sex fiend. At various times he was all those things. But it seems that from the early Fifties until at least the mid-Sixties he was, above all, a crook.
A short walk along Mount Street, we stopped outside Manchester Central Complex to hear how 17-year-old Edward Evans met a terrible fate at the hands of Moors Murderers, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. On 6th October 1965 Ian Brady met Edward Evans at Manchester Central railway station, having spoken to him earlier in the day. He persuaded Edward to join him for a drink at his home in Hattersley and took him outside to meet his ‘sister’ Myra Hindley who was waiting in a car. After they had driven home and relaxed with some alcohol, Brady repeatedly struck Edward Evans with an axe and throttled him with a length of electrical cord. The attack was witnessed by Hindley’s 17-year-old brother-in-law, David Smith, who later that evening contacted the police. Police searched the house the following day, found Evans body and arrested Brady. A further search uncovered photographs of Saddleworth Moor and an old exercise book with the scribbled name of ‘John Killbride’ and a left luggage ticket in the back of Hindley’s prayer book which led police back to Manchester Central station left-luggage offices. They discovered suitcases containing pornographic photographs and tape recordings of Lesley Ann Downey. Hindley was arrested on 11th October after new evidence emerged that she had also been actively involved in the murder of Edward Evans, meanwhile police searched the moors for further victims.
At the committal hearing on 6 December, Brady was charged with the murders of Edward Evans, John Kilbride, and Lesley Ann Downey, and Hindley with the murders of Edward Evans and Lesley Ann Downey, as well as with harbouring Brady in the knowledge that he had killed John Kilbride. On 6 May, after having deliberated for a little over two hours, the jury found Brady guilty of all three murders and Hindley guilty of the murders of Downey and Evans.
A little further along Windmill Street, we stopped outside the Raddison Blu Edwardian Hotel, close to the Great North Tower. It was here in 2006 during the annual Labour Party Conference that a plot to assassinate then PM Tony Blair was foiled. Security forces erected a bulletproof covered walkway to ensure the safety of the Prime Minister and others. The threat was supposed to have come from a sniper in the Great North Tower, but no-one was ever found.
Our next stop was at what remains of Bootle Street Police Station to hear about the gruesome murders committed by the Peter Sutcliffe the Yorkshire Ripper, and a clue that should have led to his capture found in Chorlton. That clue, found in the handbag of his sixth victim, Jean Jordan, led police to serial killer Peter Sutcliffe’s door — and to him being interviewed twice by detectives from Manchester and West Yorkshire. In spite of that, Sutcliffe slipped through the net and went on to kill seven more women.
It was on 1 October 1977, in the middle of a horrific series of sexually-motivated hammer and knife attacks on women, Peter Sutcliffe crossed the Pennines to find another victim, the unfortunate Jean Jordan who had run away from her parents’ home in Glasgow aged just 16. At the time of her death she lived in Hulme Crescents with her boyfriend. She had turned to sex work to feed her two kids. She was just 20 when Peter Sutcliffe picked her up in Moss Side, then a red light district, and murdered her. On 10 October Jean Jordan’s body was found on a patch of overgrown land next to allotments off Princess Road, near Southern Cemetery in Chorlton. The awful discovery was made by Bruce Jones. At the time he was a 23-year-old dairy worker, but he would later become an actor — starring in Ken Loach’s 1993 film Raining Stones, and then as Coronation Street’s Les Battersby. He would be haunted by the discovery for years to come. The police investigation quickly established that on the day Jean was killed her body had been hidden under a nearby hedge and lay there undiscovered for more than a week before being moved to the open, where Bruce Jones found it. Then, on 15 October, Jean’s handbag was found, about 50 yards from where her body was. Tucked away, in a pouch in one of the pockets, was a new £5 note. Police figured the killer had returned to the body frantically looking for Jean’s handbag to try and recover the note he had given her, knowing it could incriminate him. On his return the killer had subjected Jean’s lifeless body to a frenzy of violence. But he failed to find the note and left her body to be discovered. The banknote recovered was passed to the Bank of England, who were asked to trace where it was issued. The trail led to a parcel of notes which had been dispatched to the Midland Bank and dispersed to several branches in Leeds and Bradford. The suspicion was that the fiver had been distributed as part of a firm’s payroll. The serial number of the note, AW51 121565, was released to the Press and people were asked to check notes they had received in their pay as it was one of 69 consecutively numbered notes. Manchester police were drafted into West Yorkshire and the Shipley branch of the Midland Bank became the focus of their attention. Thirty four firms in West Yorkshire were scrutinised by police as places where the fiver could have been issued in a pay-packet. They included an engineering company in Bradford which had received money for the payroll at the relevant time. A list was obtained of every single employee so they could be individually seen by police. In the first week of November 1977 two detectives visited the home of one of the employees — one Peter Sutcliffe. He claimed to have been at home on 1 October and said that on 9 October he and his wife Sonia had held a house-warming party. It seems incredible now that detectives did not probe Sutcliffe’s alibis harder. Had they done so they would have discovered that the excuses did not account for all his movements on the days in question. Police were overwhelmed with information in an increasingly desperate, sprawling investigation. There was no CCTV and forensic technology was not what it is now. The £5 note lead ended up being wound down, and Peter Sutcliffe became just another of the 250,000 names on file.
In May 1978, Sutcliffe returned to Manchester to kill Vera Millward, a frail 40-year-old woman who he attacked with a hammer near Manchester Royal Infirmary after picking her up near her home at Grenham Avenue, Hulme. Luck finally intervened. He was stopped while in a car with a prostitute in Sheffield in January 1981 and arrested. She could have been the 14th murder victim. On 22 May 1981 Sutcliffe, now aged 71, was given twenty life sentences. At trial he pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, but this was rejected by a jury at the Old Bailey. By the time he was captured he had killed 13 women — mothers, wives, sisters and daughters — and attempted to murder seven more. He had terrorised Manchester and the entire north of England.
Walking along Hardman Street, we passed the People’s History Museum and went down along the side of the River Irwell to view New Bailey Gaol where public hangings took place and convicted criminals where kept before deportation. Not much remains except the foundations to the left of the old Mark Addy Tavern. In 1866 a new prison was built in Manchester at Strangeways and prisoners from New Bailey were transferred there and sometime in 1868 it seems that the New Bailey prison closed. William Philip Allen, Michael Larkin, and Michael O'Brien — were three men executed by public hanging at New Bailey for the murder of Police Sergeant Charles Brett in 1867, during an incident that became known as the Manchester Outrages. Public executions were finally abolished in 1868. Brett was the first Manchester City Police officer to be killed on duty, and he is memorialised in a monument in St Ann's Church.
On 13 August 1964 the last murderers were hanged in the UK — Peter Allen in Liverpool and Gwynne Owen Evans at Strangeways Prison, Manchester.
A walk across the Irwell into Salford on Trinity Bridge to the Lowry Hotel where Ed elaborated on L. S. Lowry’s complex character which came to light after his death. Lowry's estate, which was bequeathed to Carol Ann Lowry, the painter's 'adoptive goddaughter', was one of the several young girls Lowry befriended, and who helped to fuel his artistic fantasies. The bequeathed archive contained Lowry's extensive library and some of the hoarded artefacts that filled his Victorian house on the edge of the Moors. It also included a series of his obsessively reworked erotic paintings which begin to suggest a different artist to the northern heritage industry's favourite icon.
Lowry’s own question of his work always was: 'Will it last? Will I live?' In recent years, it has been unfashionable to take his painting too seriously. The new gallery invites us to look at Lowry again. What we see could well come as something of a shock. A stroll along the banks of the Irwell to Blackfriars Bridge and back into Manchester to Corporation Street outside Marks & Spencer store. Here we heard about the Provisional IRA bombing on 15 June 1996, the biggest bomb the IRA detonated (3,300lb) on the British mainland and the biggest bomb detonated in Great Britain since WW2.
The IRA had sent telephoned warnings about 90 minutes before the bomb detonated. At least 75,000 people were evacuated from the area, but the bomb squad were unable to defuse the bomb in time. More than 200 people were injured but no-one was killed despite the strength of the bomb, which has been largely credited to the fast response of emergency services in evacuating the city centre before the bomb could explode.
A pillar box that survived the blast, despite being yards from the explosion, now carries a small brass plaque recording the bombing. It was removed during construction and redevelopment work, and returned to its original spot when Corporation Street reopened. The plaque reads:
“This postbox remained standing almost undamaged on June 15th 1996 when this area was devastated by a bomb. The box was removed during the rebuilding of the city centre and was returned to its original site on November 22nd 1999”
[Not quite true according to Ed, the original pillar box did survive the blast, but was damaged when removed. The replacement was an identical pillar box, but not the original.]
Our final stop before lunch – the Press Club on Queen Street and to hear from Ed that the editor of the Daily Express’s scoop on the Harold Shipman murders brought his gruesome story to the public eye.
Between 1971 and 1998 Shipman killed mostly elderly female patients by injecting them with diamorphine - a pharmaceutical heroin. It was greed that eventually led to Shipman's downfall.
hipman's last victim was 81-year-old Kathleen Grundy, the former mayoress of Hyde. Despite her years she was fit and healthy. Shipman visited Mrs Grundy early on 24 June 1998, to carry out what she thought would be a routine blood test. Instead of drawing blood, he delivered a lethal dose of morphine. Concerned friends found her dead later that morning. Shipman was called and he certified that she had died of old age.
This was typical of the way he liked to kill — he used his skills as a doctor to end life and then used his status as a GP to cover his tracks.
But the murder of Mrs Grundy was different. He had forged her will on his old typewriter, making it look like she was leaving her entire estate of almost £400,000 to him. This was a huge shock to Mrs Grundy's daughter Angela Woodruff, a solicitor. She began to make her own enquiries and Shipman’s horrific crimes began to unravel and eleven more bodies were exhumed.
Shipman was arrested on 7 September 1998. It is believed that he was responsible for the deaths of at least 218 people. He was finally charged with 15 counts of murder, and one of forgery, and was convicted of them all, following a trial at Preston Crown Court in October 1999.
Phew, after all that excitement we sojourned to GUSTO on Lloyd Street for an excellent lunch AND a free alcoholic beverage!
Thanks once again Barry for organising this enjoyable event for us and also a big thank you to Di for this write up, her time spent researching is much appreciated.