Thursday, 25 July 2013


The initial legal proceedings took place at Taverham Magistrates' Court, and the three men were represented by Mr Kenneth Land (Southwell, Dennis and Land) When the case was moved to Terrington Magistrates' Court, a new element entered the proceedings. It became apparent that witnesses were being threatened, and here there is a distinct similarity to the events surrounding the trial of Tony Martin, over thirty years later. Wallace Virgo said, "Members of the public who have come forward as witnesses in this case have been threatened and intimidated." On March 31st, the men were remanded after threats to intimidate witnesses at Terrington St Clement Magistrates Court. 

The former court at Terrington St Clement

Later in the proceedings, Kenneth Holman of 134 Lynn Road was called to the witness box, but refused to take the oath. He later returned, and gave evidence. He was  declared to be a hostile witness. On April 20th, Collins said, after unsuccessfully applying for bail, "I have had time to think about this. As far as I am concerned, I know nothing about anyone being threatened, and I think the Superintendent should not have said that"
The eventual trial took place at Hertford Assizes, where the Presiding Judge was Mr Justice Glyn-Jones , who had represented the parents at the Aberfan enquiry Other people declared to be hostile witnesses were Valerie June Foley, who was asked if she lived at 24 Guild Road, but denied it. She refused to look at a statement she had previously made to the police. Friends of the suspects leapt to their defence. Warden said he had been to the fair, went to his parents' home, watched TV and then fell asleep in the chair. John Richard Warden, of 33 Bath Road, said he had come home to find his son asleep in the chair. Grace Evelyn Warden corroborated the story. At the time David Warden was living with Sandra Setchfield, but was always "popping in and out." At the trial, Mr Michael White, the landlord of The Bowling Green said that Cooper and Warden had been in there drinking, but did not return as they usually did before closing time. They had been whispering, and talking to each other outside. Cooper claimed that on the night of the murder he was trying to break into a garage in Lynn Road, Wisbech, to steal cigarettes. Due to give evidence, Kenneth Osborne Holman failed to arrive, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Holman was widely believed to have been intimidated into silence and he was later sentenced to three months in jail. Cooper was known as a local thief, had been in prison, but had no record of violence.

Against a background of intimidation, local loyalties and the fear that hardened criminals inspired amongst Waterlees residents, there were eventual convictions. The verdict was that the men were guilty of manslaughter. Glyn Jones said that it was "One of the worst cases of manslaughter ever to come before me." Cooper was judged to be the planner and was sentenced to fifteen years for manslaughter and five for burglary, to run concurrently. Warden, who used the violence received twelve and five, as did Collins. No-one, apart from the criminals themselves, has ever suggested that there was a miscarriage of justice in 1967. In his statements, Warden seemed to be saying that yes, he had done it, but the police would be hard pushed to prove anything, as the killers had been meticulous about leaving no traces.

And yet, and yet. In 1977, Commander Wallace Virgo, head of the Serious Crime Squad, was convicted of corruption, and sent to jail . As the ensuing corruption investigations widened, the obscene publications squad was replaced in its entirety with a new group of officers drawn from the uniformed branch, and in all over twenty detectives were dismissed or required to resign. When the cases ultimately came to trial in 1977 the presiding judge Mr Justice Mars-Jones summarised those involved as having engaged in "corruption on a scale which beggars description" Ten years earlier, had the case-hardened and confident London detectives arrived in the relative backwater of the Fens and 'done a job' on some local men who were certainly career petty criminals, but not very bright? The jury's verdict was certainly unequivocal, and the three men were perhaps lucky to have only been convicted of manslaughter. The last executions in mainland Britain had been in August 1964, so the three were never going to face the death penalty, but they were certainly reprieved from a much longer life sentence. The killing of John Auger is by no means an unsolved crime, but the suspicion remains that there were others involved who did not face justice.

Sunday, 21 July 2013


THE INITIAL INVESTIGATION was headed by Detective Superintendent Reginald Lester of the Norfolk County Criminal Investigation Dept, and after Mr Auger's grey Volkswagen truck, registration number HPW 327D had been found abandoned, and frogmen had searched the port area for the missing safe, the killing made headlines in the major national newspapers. 
JOHN AUGER'S VW TRUCK (top picture)

The safe was eventually found in a ditch beside Meadowgate Lane. The tragic irony, and a testament to the stupidity of the criminals, was that the safe had been virtually empty, while the thieves had ignored Auger's immensely valuable collection of porcelain

WITHIN DAYS the investigation into Auger's death was moved 'upstairs'. None other than Detective Superintendent Wallace Virgo, of Scotland Yard, was brought in to spearhead the search for the killers. At this point in the investigation, there were over sixty officers involved in the search for the perpetrators. Days passed, as the police rounded up 'the usual suspects'. At first, based on the initial eyewitness accounts, police were looking for five men, and the search was beginning to focus on the Waterlees area of Wisbech. Two weeks after the death of Mr Auger, the police swooped.
David Warden, of Guild Road Wisbech, was arrested in a betting shop in Hill Street on March 23rd, and said, "I suppose somebody has squealed. I was there, but you will have a job to make this one stick" He is also alleged to have said,"You will look sorry if you've got the wrong Warden." and "Even if you are from the Yard, you won't prove anything. I was there....but there was nothing left behind and you know it."
Patrick Joseph  Collins had been arrested at his parents' home in Mosely, Birmingham. He said, "If only I could turn the clock back I would not have done what has been done. I will tell them about it when I get to Wisbech." When arrested, he had tried to hide under the bed, and was told he was being arrested for housebreaking. He said, "Thank God: I thought you had come about something else" He said he had been at Outwell, but denied doing "the thumping" The third man arrested was Barrie Paul Cooper, who lived with his schoolteacher mother at the School House, Sutton St Edmund.



Saturday, 20 July 2013

WISBECH HAS HAD ITS FAIR SHARE OF MURDERS.  Some might say more than its fair share. In recent times, we have had, in no particular order, Una Crown, Virginja Jurkiene, Jolanta Dumciuviene, Dainus Kigas, Christopher Garford, Erikas Ulinskas, Alisa Dmitrijeva, Emily Bates and, if you include manslaughter, Fred Barras. For a town with a population of 20,000 or so, this might seem excessive, and you are free to draw your own conclusions from the list of names. But Wisbech was not always an idyllic rural paradise, despite the rosy memories of some residents. In 1967, a brutal killing happened in the area which, although the perpetrators were eventually convicted of manslaughter, achieved national notoriety, and resulted in the case being handled by top detectives from Scotland Yard.

On the night of March 10th, 1967, Dial House, an old, sprawling farmhouse in Outwell, was invaded by three men wearing stockings and balaclavas over their faces. The owner, John 'Robbie' Auger. a wealthy fruit farmer, was beaten to death with an iron bar, and his safe was dragged out, and put into his truck, which the killers drove away. Auger's wife had been bound and gagged during the attack, and the crime was discovered when Auger's daughter Audrey, aged 33, returned home to find her stricken father and helpless mother. She alerted a neighbour, saying, "Come quickly, Dad's been attacked.." 


Wednesday, 17 July 2013

BLOGGING IS A PECULIAR PASTIME. It presupposes so many things. Firstly, that the blogger has something valuable or entertaining to say. Secondly, that the blogger suspects there might be an audience for what he or she has to say. In the absence of anything more productive to do, some bloggers actually seem intent on making a living out of their effort, by attracting advertisers and niche marketers to their site.
REJECTED POLITICIANS are a particular sub-species of blogger. Long after they have faded from public view, they stand like some M&S-suited King Lear, mouthing off into the tempest, resolute in the belief that their election defeat was an aberration, and that they still have an audience.
BUT WAIT…Is not this a blog? Is Pickwick not guilty of the same hubris and self-importance that he criticises others for? Guilty as charged, m'lud. Yes, of course I am. I love words. I love writing them much more than I love saying them. Think of this blog as little more than an elderly gent sitting in front of a recording device, and emptying his thoughts in your general direction. Bloggers are the digital inheritors of the mantle of generations of eccentrics and losers who have stood on boxes in Hyde Park, and berated their deriding audience.
POLITICS AND MORALITY DIVIDE US ALL. Everyone has the answer. No-one has the workable solution, despite what they say, tweet and blog. I grew up in a working class family with strongly traditional values. You didn't lie, you didn't cheat, you played fair, and you voted Labour, even if the rich bastards three streets away were getting away with all sorts, because they 'knew people', and were smart with their investments. I was lucky enough, and clever enough to go to a Grammar School, where I was taught discipline, perseverance, and - most importantly - that 'self' didn't matter. You did things because they were right or because they benefited other people. You opened the door for ladies, gave up your seat on the bus, and were generally what modern class warriors would call an Uncle Tom.
WHERE IN THE WORLD HAS THIS LEFT ME? Basically on a desert island, along with a few other gentle souls who were brought up to be God Fearing, respectful (where it was due) and polite despite provocation. Politically, no party seems to understand my heritage. The Labour party is a lost cause. Conservatives are the Devil's Spawn. UKIP? - they come closest to embodying what I feel about life and responsibility, but they are a candle in the wind, hamstrung with fascist baggage and beset by unchallenged schoolboy reporting by the mainstream media.
BRITAIN IS PROBABLY AS DIVIDED AS IT HAS EVER BEEN. OK, we have done away with The Poor Law, and  workhouses, but we are likely to define the relative poverty of a family by how many Sky channels they can access. What passes for the moral high ground is fought over, captured and retaken with the monotonous regularity of WWI trench warfare. The main voice the Left is a middle-class, twerpy Oxford MA, who fits his Pound-Shop-Philosophising around his frenetic media commitments. Does he return each evening to his grimy brick terraced house, wash the coal dust from his calloused hands, and sink into his bed safe in the knowledge that he has completed an honest day's labour? What do you think? On the other bench we have the  Conservative Party Old-Etonians, who occasionally hand out tit-bits to their more plebeian supporters around the counties, and continue to protect their own interests, and those of their powerful friends. I do support their efforts to get rid of Britain's corrosive 'something for nothing' welfare budget, and broadly agree with the simple idea - "Put something in, and you can take something out." Whether they will have the bottle to clamp down on feckless fecundity is another matter. No matter that we can't afford to feed or clothe them, we'll have as many kids as we want. Because we can. And because someone else will pay.
I HAVE HUGE ISSUES WITH THE CRIES OF 'CHILD POVERTY' that are shrieked whenever someone tries to get a grip of the huge benefits bill. When I used to work with the school attendance team, we were summoned to a house in a certain Lynn suburb, after a mum had said she couldn't get her 15 year old daughter into school. This family were officially 'poor' - free school meals, the works. I went with a woman from Children's Services, and parked outside their council house, taking care not to scratch the silver BMW 3 series parked on their front, with my tatty Citroen. Went inside. Beautifully decorated house. Dad/ boyfriend/partner playing GTA on a a wide screen just a bit short of the one in The Luxe. He didn't even turn round or get up off the couch. "They're out the back mate", was his only contribution. Eventually managed to prevent young lady from throttling mum, and hauled her off to school, having persuaded her to leave her £60 trainers behind, and wear her school shoes. We used to have episodes similar to that three or four times a month - different families, same scenario. Let no-one tell me Britain is not a broken, screwed up society, where decent people slog their butts off to provide for wastrels. 

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

WELL, THE CONCERNED PARENTS AT PECKOVER SCHOOL have had enough of all this multicultural nonsense. Some of them have organised a petition to prevent their innocent (English) children being forced to learn a Lithuanian song for a concert at the Thomas Clarkson Academy. The children are heartbroken. They are coming home in tears because they don't understand what the song is about.
I have the utmost sympathy for these doughty campaigners. My bitterness and sociopathic view of life is the result of my being forced to learn and sing Frere Jacques at a very impressionable age. Coupled with the time my parents made me dress up as Harry Lauder and sing 'Loch Lomond in the Leamington Spa Methodist Chapel Variety Show in 1953. I had just begun to recover from this double trauma when disaster struck again. I paid a very high price for passing the scholarship exam to a local posh school. The devastating quid pro quo was that I was brutally forced to learn a poem in Latin about some bloke called Horatius who stood on a bridge and whacked the enemies. Those chilling words still resonate in my nightmares:
"Lars Porsenna, Clusinorum rum, per deos ille iuraverat, novem
Maiorem iniuriam pati non Tarquiniae.
Deos ille iuraverat, per novem et dies trysting nominatur,
Ascendemus nuntii eius, et iussit foras,
Oriente et occidente et aquilone et austro,
Accersere ordinata."

There is a tiny, tiny voice in my head that whispers about worthy organisations trying to be too politically correct. We have all heard of councils naming streets, parks and community centres after revolutionary terrorists (sorry, make that Freedom Fighters, and keep the capitals) Our own esteemed Thomas Clarkson Academy has one of its houses/teams called 'Madiba' after the old gentleman currently on a life support system in a South African hospital. But, but, but. One of my most talented guitar pupils is Latvian. She speaks better English than some local born-and-breds. She writes her own songs, and is happy to sing them in English, and Latvian. Contrast this with a comment from a local resident about the Peckover affair on a social media site about Wisbech.
"this is the uk u dount have to sing if u dount wount to stick by ur guns."
I think the scholarly bit that goes after that is "sic erat scriptum"
Maybe the teachers at Peckover were trying a bit too hard. Maybe The Wisbech Standard is just trying to stir la merde again, and shouldn't have given these people publicity. Maybe some people have too much time on their hands.