Derek Bentley (Derek Bentley)

Derek Bentley

Execution Victim. Considered the victim of one of the greatest miscarriages of British justice. He suffered from epilepsy, had been injured during the War when a bomb fell on his house, was unable to read or write, had an I.Q. of 66 and the mental age of a four year old. He had never been in any trouble with the law, except for two minor offences of petty theft for which he was bound over to keep the peace, until the November 2, 1952, when he and a boy of sixteen, Christopher Craig, broke into the premises of Barlow and Parker’s wholesale confectionery warehouse in Tamworth Road, Croydon (demolished in 1977 and replaced by houses) and climbed onto the roof in order to gain entrance through the skylight. Before they could do so, the police arrived. Bentley surrendered at once, but Craig produced a .455 Eley ; not, as is often claimed, a Colt .45. Bentley shouted “Let him have it, Chris” (although this is under dispute) and Craig shot Police Constable Fairfax in the shoulder. Armed reinforcements were called and the first to arrive, Police Constable Sidney Miles was shot dead. At the trial, both Craig and Bentley were found guilty of murder although, in Bentley’s case, the jury added a recommendation of mercy. Craig was too young to be hanged and served ten years. It was expected that Bentley would be granted a reprieve, but none was forthcoming. Bentley was buried in Wandsworth Prison until 1966, when his remains were re-interred in Croydon Cemetery. Ironically, that was where P.C. Miles’s ashes had been scattered. ¬†However, his parents and his sister Iris were not allowed to have the words “A Victim of English Justice” inscribed on his tombstone. Consequently, there was no marker until a few years ago. In 1992, the Conservative Government refused to re-open the case, but one of the first acts of Tony Blair’s Labour Government was to grant Derek Bentley a posthumous pardon. At the time of the execution, Reginald Paget, the Labour M.P. for Northampton, had summed up the case as follows : “The great condemnation of the German people was that they stood aside and did nothing when dreadful things happened. Now, a three-quarter witted boy of nineteen is to be hanged for a murder he did not commit and which was committed fifteen minutes after he was arrested. Can we be made to keep silent when a thing as horrible and as shocking as this is to happen?” (bio by: Iain MacFarlaine)


  • June, 30, 1933
  • England


  • January, 01, 1953
  • England


  • Croydon Cemetery and Crematorium
  • England

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