Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The Pig Alley Murder

Britain and its ports have always had a rough, tough tradition, whether it is London, Liverpool, Salford, Glasgow, Newcastle, Bristol, Hull, Southampton.  All had their heydays and then the gradual decline.  One thing these places always had to link them, and that was the dark side of life; theft, prostitution, smuggling, violence and murder.  Hull never gravitates to the big time like some of the other ports like London, Liverpool & Salford, but it certainly holds its own when it comes to violence and murder.  An alley in the centre of the dockland area known as Pig Alley, was the scene of a brutal murder of a schoolgirl in May 1966.  A Police Constable stumbled across the body of 15 year old Margaret Lowson.  She had been savagely beaten.  The Police immediately put in a call to Scotland Yard and two officers quickly made their way to Hull.   They were Detective Superintendent Rouse and Detective Sergeant Bennett.

    They established a huge manhunt which involved officers travelling abroad to interview sailors whose ships were moored at the docks.  Indeed, one sailor was brought back to this country for further questioning but was later released.  After months of enquiries, they did not trace the killer.  Six months after the crime, the stepfather of the victim, started receiving taunting letters about the killing Margaret and how stupid the Police were.  Soon other local girls started receiving threatening letters, stating that he will kill them, he had been watching them secretly, and they will never know when he will strike.  Police rechecked all the 1100 statements they had taken during the investigation, but found nothing to lead them to the anonymous letter writer.

    18 months after the murder of young Margaret, a 17 year old girl, lodging at a house in Louis Street, found herself being pursued by another lodger in the same house but she did not want anything to do with him.  He asked her again, and still she was not interested.  When she went to her room later, bedsheets moved and she seen feet protruding from underneath.  Wielding a paper knife, she told him to get out, upon which he attacked her, knocked her down and then tried to cut her hair.  He reacted with kicks when she started screaming.  She managed to escape through a window and shinned down a drainpipe, and escaping.  PC John Lawrence was on duty when a man approached him and told him he wished to give himself up.  The man, Sam Stephenson, confessed to the assault on the girl in the house.  He also made a lengthy statement to Police, which resulted in him being charged with the murder of Margaret Lowson.  It was October 1967.

    His trial began at Leeds Assizes on December 14th 1967, with the statement he made to Police outlining the murder of Margaret.  He claimed that it was his birthday and he wanted to talk to her - she 15, he 32! - but she was frightened and started to scream, so he grabbed her and they struggled, then he resorted to punches and kicks to a schoolgirl.  He tore at her clothes.  He also admitted the attacks on the 17 year old and also another on a 15 year old girl.  He pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, and was sent to Rampton Psychiatric Hospital.  A psychiatrist called by the defence said that he had no women friends, no relationships, so he fantasised about sex.  These fantasies had violence and sadism in them.  He regarded him as very dangerous!  Too right there, pal.

    Do I buy the "diminished responsibility" angle?  No!  He took the time to target the family of his first victim with taunting letters.  He took the time to hide himself under the bed, before attacking the 17 year old.  He planned it.  He also singled out other young girls with threatening letters, taking the time to seek out their home addresses.  As he could not get women, my view is that he went after young girls because they would not be more worldly wise like women his own age, plus it would be easier to subdue them as they would not be fully grown.  That is my view but then again, I am not a psychiatrist.  You do not need to be a specialist to see the writing on the wall.