Tag Archives: murder

A Politics Free Post. Well Freeish…

It has always been my intention never to swear on this blog, and never to engage in politics. I’ve also always thought it impolite to comment on heads of state and various laws that strike me as ill-advised. After all, if a nation votes for someone, and their legislature passes laws, who am I to disagree?

Despite the temptation, I am not going to let myself deviate from my personal code.

Elect who you like, and have as many guns as you like, though I would be grateful if you’d keep them at home.

However, I would like to point out that I do not carry a knife when I leave the house. Nor have I ever seen a hospital floor covered in blood or noticed myself living in a war zone.

In the UK we have fewer murders per year than the city of Chicago. We also have fewer snowploughs, though I’m not sure there’s any link between the two statistics.

We haven’t had a school shooting since 1996 when we took decisive action to stop them.  In fact I think we’ve only ever had one school shooting. We have 80 massacres recorded in the UK according to Wikipedia, including two civil wars, a thirty year bombing campaign and the Romans, who make the first entry on the list in 61 AD when they slaughtered the Druids on Anglesey.

If anyone wants to do the research for America I doubt you’ll need to go back that far.

However, that’s getting a little close to criticism, so I’ll leave it there. I just wanted to emphasise that we aren’t all knife-wielding thugs wading through pools of blood as our society slides into a murderous abyss.

We’re actually quite peaceful though if we do take offence at a head of state we have been known to chop their heads off. Sic semper tyrannis, as they say.

The forthcoming State Visit is going to be interesting.

More Serious Stuff – Deep Thought, Castration and the Importance of Parents

I started doing more thinking after writing yesterday’s post. There was a lot to think about, mostly about murdered teenagers. After bringing two kids up in a city that had a poor reputation at one time, you can get quite thoughtful.

Interestingly, the writers blame the Labour government for the various problems, where most of the people these days blame the Conservatives. That is probably a sign that we should leave politics out of the discussion.

Youth clubs, youth sports and such things are, at best, distractions rather than a cure. If you are keeping kids off the street they can’t get into trouble. When looking at funding possibilities I’ve often seen the terms “distraction” or “displacement activity”.

We had quite a few difficult kids at the various rugby clubs we attended. Some were the typical sort of inner city kid you’d expect to be in trouble (who we used to work with in Rugby League) and others, in Rugby Union, were much more affluent and better educated.

One of the things I noticed was that you could put a lot of effort in and make no discernible difference. I also noticed that if the parents weren’t engaged nothing seemed to work. That held good for all the kids – parents who were at work all the time were just as bad as parents who deserted their family.

So my solution to the problem is to put the family back at the centre of things. I’d also be prepared to think about castrating absent fathers who didn’t live up to their responsibilities, though it’s likely that this would be a last resort.

It’s about the basics – decent places to live, education, jobs, reducing teenage pregnancies…

I’m starting to sound like a beauty queen here, but I’ll stop short of advocating world peace and an end to famine. It is, however, a matter of some regret that I didn’t start thinking forty years ago – it might actually have made a difference at that point.

Does anyone have any good ideas?

 

Murder – A Depressing Subject

I’m feeling very right wing today.

The murder rate in London is, I’m told, higher than the murder rate in New York. Of course, that’s just according to some papers; other papers actually looked at the figures.

It seems that the two cities are very close in total murders, with New York actually two ahead. However, it also seems that this is just based on the first few months of this year. This is not, as anyone with half a brain will tell you, statistically significant. So, if you can’t draw any useful conclusions from the figures what can you do?

Well, I suspect you can draw some useful conclusions about journalists and their approach to statistics when pursuing a story.

You can probably also draw some conclusions about a rise in the London murder rate and the necessity to do something about it.

There are plenty of statistics out there if you want them. I could discuss them at length, but if I did I might send people to sleep.

However, you might like to think about a few facts.

 

London is quite a safe city.

New York, after much work from the police, is also quite a safe city.

Teenagers are not the only victims, so talk of better youth facilities, whilst well-meant, won’t solve the problem.There are no easy answers.

Everybody has a choice – they are not forced to pick up a gun or knife before they leave the house.

Punishment doesn’t reduce crime, though hanging clearly prevents re-offending. Assuming you hang the right people.

You can’t believe everything you read in the papers.

You definitely can’t believe anything in this blog, which is just the view of one grumpy old man with firm ideas about personal responsibility and the decline of modern society.

Every murder is a tragedy for someone and, if that person was going to grow up to cure cancer or stop Global Warming, it’s a tragedy for us all. Any man’s death diminishes me, as Donne says.

And finally, a quote from the Office of National Statistics. “Over one-third of adult male victims…were killed by a friend or acquaintance”.

I don’t know about you, but my definition of “friend” tends to exclude the likelihood of murder.

 

When Did Grey Become a Colour?

I’ve noticed a growing trend over the last few years, particularly in village gastropubs, to paint pubs and restaurants in shades of grey. Recently I’ve even noticed houses being painted grey. My father tells me that when he was an agricultural rep in Yorkshire during the 1950s grey was a very common colour for farms. This state of affairs came to an end once the stocks of wartime surplus battleship grey came to an end, though some farmers still use it to this day.

I really should have taken more photos to illustrate the point, but my blogging, like the road to Hell, is paved with good intentions. Fortunately, as we were passing Nottingham’s newest pub this morning we noticed it was grey and Julia snatched a photo through the window.

The word “newest” in this context, means most recently renovated.

After being empty for 10 years the pub formerly known as The Peggers Inn narrowly escaped being known as Pubby McPubface, a trend in public votes that seems to be eternally amusing to some people. It is, as you can see, now known as The Fox and Grapes, the name with which it opened .  This link shows some of the architectural detail, including the fox and some grapes.

It’s being run by Castle Rock Brewery, I thought I’d give it a mention as I quite like Harvest Pale and if they read this they may send me some. They probably won’t, but I just thought I’d have a go. Julia’s niece works there, so it won’t harm to help the company along.

That’s about it for the moment – grey, pub, Castle Rock Brewery. That just leaves the murder.

In 1963 the Pretty Windows murder made the national headlines. As you’ll have gathered if you looked at any of the links above, the pub was generally known as the Pretty Windows and the landlord was brutally stabbed in slightly mysterious circumstances. Why, for instance, was he wearing a suit to walk his dog that night?

The murder, despite the assistance of Scotland Yard, was never solved.

After the photo raid we went home – see here for the Magpies.

 

 

 

Tsundoku revisited

I’ve written about tsundoku before – the habit of piling up unread books. It was brought into painful focus earlier today when I opened up  a box of books that has been undisturbed for several years. For “several” you could probably substitute “ten” judging by the publication dates.

When I read The Elements of Murder  last month I was surprised at my familiarity with poisons and notable poisoning cases. Not only surprised, but quietly impressed with the breadth of my knowledge.

So when I found a copy of the paperback edition in the box today it was a bit of a downer. Not only is my knowledge based on reading the book ten years previously, but my memory is in fact so bad I didn’t remember buying the book twice.

It’s also a reminder that when I pictured the seven books in the photograph I was intending to review them swiftly. I’ve actually managed two and started two more. I haven’t even finished reading one of them. But I have bought more, and read several of them.

Ah well.

I suppose this officially the start of old age…

 

Sad Stories of the Death of Kings (Part II)

…let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings

Richard II  William Shakespeare

It’s time for Richard II now. He was the son of the Black Prince, who didn’t live long enough to be King, though he was quite kingly and was the victor of Crecy and Poitiers, the battles that, with Agincourt, make up the only three battles of the Hundred Years War most of us have ever heard of.

Richard was eventually imprisoned and was probably starved to death by his gaolers. Quite honestly, he had it coming, as he wasn’t an easy man to work with and seems to have gone out of his way to upset people. He didn’t, as I recall,  do right by the leaders of the Peasants’ Revolt , though he was only a boy at the time. Later, he took on the political establishment, was accused of tyranny, and even madness, and was given a bad write-up by Shakespeare. His body was put on display to show he was really dead, and to stop anyone believing the was hope of a restoration.

Henry IV and V were interesting enough, but shuffled off this mortal coil due to natural causes, whereas Henry VI was said to have died (whilst imprisoned in the Tower of London) of melancholy. I’m sure it can be a melancholy place, but let’s face it, he was in there, out of sight and imprisoned by the man who had taken his throne (Edward IV). Several centuries after his death he was exhumed and examination showed damage to his skull and blood in his hair – more a sign of murder than melancholy.

Edward V ruled briefly before being replaced by his uncle, who became Richard III. He is one of the two Princes in the Tower and as nobody knows what really happened (though we all have an opinion) I will leave it there.

Richard III is well known, though mainly via Shakespeare, as is his death and his rediscovery under a car park in Leicester.

At that point we can leave the Wars of the Roses and get on with something a little less complex. Henry VII, who had no real right to the throne, came out on top and died of natural causes. Henry VIII also died of natural causes, unlike several of his wives. Edward VI was sickly, and died aged 15, bequeathing the throne to his cousin Jane.

Lady Jane Grey ruled 9 days, becoming a protestant martyr and making Edward V’s 86 days look like a lifetime, which, of course, it probably was. I know she’s a Queen rather than a ing but it seems out of step with modern views to exclude people for being women. She is the only monarch of the last 500 years of whom we have no proven portrait. I don’t suppose she had the time. Eventually she was executed. For details of how the Duke of Monmouth coped with this problem you will have to read the post Kings we Never Had. I can’t supply a link because I haven’t written it yet.

Mary I, Elizabeth I, James I (or VI if you are Scottish) all had their foibles but died of natural causes, and Charles I has been covered in an earlier post.

Charles II could have died of several things. With twelve illegitimate children it could possibly have been exhaustion. Two of his illegitimate sons had a place in the family tree of Diana, Princess of Wales, which means that when Prince William eventually ascends the throne he will be the first descendent of Charles II to do so.

It could also have been apoplexy or his kidneys, though I prefer the mercury poisoning explanation. It seems that one of his plans for financial security was to turn lead into gold.  He was a bon viveur, but, let’s face it, no financial genius. There was a lot of mercury involved in the process and though he obviously had people to do the work for him, he must have inspected his laboratory regularly and taken it in.

Charles’s last illness shows all the signs of mercury poisoning according to recent scientific examination and analysis of a lock of his hair shows ten times the normal levels of mercury.

William III, who ruled alone after the death of his wife Mary (daughter of the deposed James II) fell off his horse after it stumbled on a molehill, and died from pneumonia that came on as a complication. It was ironic that the horse had been confiscated from a Jacobite plotter. The Jacobites took the opportunity to toast the mole (“the little gentleman in the black velvet waistcoat”).

After that there were 234 years when Kings and Queens just died of natural causes.

That brings us to George V, who seems have been given an overdose to make sure he died at a time convenient for the morning papers. The evening papers, it seems, were not seen as respectable enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sad Stories of the Death of Kings (Part I)

…let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings;
Richard II  William Shakespeare

After writing about Charles I and his execution in a previous post I thought I’d write about a few more Kings and their deaths. I’m starting in 1066 and confining myself to Kings of England. To start earlier than that is to invite trouble from a raft of Kings called Ethelsomething and to include the Scots is to open up a story of multiple murders.

So, we will start with Harold Godwinson. He reigned for nine months, fought two big battles, beat the Vikings (and his brother Tostig) at Stamford Bridge and died after being shot in the eye at the Battle of Hastings. Or do we? As usual, someone has come up with a theory that this isn’t true. Nobody has any respect for legends these days. As the new theory draws on contemporary and near-contemporary sources it could well be true. It’s likely that he was cut down by Norman knights (including William) who then put the arrow story about to show that their victory was due to God’s Will rather than force of arms.

As usual, if God did have a view of the matter, he was on the side of the big battalions, as Napoleon didn’t say.

From there we will go to William Rufus, or William II to give him his formal title. He was out hunting in the New Forest one day (2nd August 1100 in fact – sounds like a nice time of year to be out in the woods) when he was killed by an arrow fired carelessly by Walter Tirel. Strangely, his nephew Robert had died in a hunting accident in the same forest in 1099 and his brother Richard in 1075.

It may well have been an accident, or part of a series of accidents. Who can say after this lapse of time? However, it was a very fortunately timed accident for Henry, youngest of the three surviving sons of William the Conqueror. As his brother bled to death Henry wasted no time in securing the treasury in Winchester before he headed off to be crowned in London. Things might have been different if his elder brother Robert had been there, but he was still on his way back from the First Crusade.

As I say, fortunate timing. Henry managed to hang on to England on Robert’s return, took the Duchy of Normandy from him in 1106 and held him prisoner for the next 28 years.

Henry himself died in France in 1135, supposedly from a surfeit of lampreys. Each to his own, I suppose, but they are very unattractive creatures.

We then skip a few kings, and ignore Richard I because I can. Despite his legendary status, Lionheart name and appearance in the Robin Hood legend he hardly spent any time in England, probably around 6 months. Basically he just used the country to finance his many military adventures.

It hardly seems fair that John, his brother, has a bad reputation when he seems to have been better for the country than Richard. John died in Newark Castle in 1216, which may have been the result of poison, a surfeit of peaches (in October? Really?) or dysentery.  Surfeits seem to have been quite fashionable in the Middle Ages. His troops took the body for burial in Worcester Cathedral.

We’ll skip a few kings and get to Edward II, one of the more famous murdered monarchs. He didn’t have a great reign, with trouble from the Barons, the Scots and a famine. He had favourites at court, first Piers Gaveston, then the Despensers, who took advantage of his patronage. As if that wasn’t enough he married a woman nick-named The She-Wolf of France.  Now, I have no way of knowing what she was like as a wife, but I’m guessing the nick-name may be a clue that suggests she wasn’t an easy woman to live with.

She deposed Edward and took up with Roger Mortimer. Edward died whilst imprisoned in Berkeley Castle, and in the years after his death lurid tales about his death started to circulate. These mainly centred on the insertion of a red hot poker into an orifice not normally associated with such things. It may or may not be the most accurate story of how a king died, but it is the one you’re most likely to remember.

The son of Edward II, or Edward III as he was known, eventually seized power back from Mortimer and his mother, capturing them in Nottingham Castle by means of a secret passage known as Mortimer’s Hole.