2nd November 1952. Derek Bentley (aged 19)
and Christopher Craig (aged 16) broke into a London
warehouse Craig was armed with a revolver. The 2 were seen entering the premises and the police
were called. Bentley and Craig then went on to the flat
roof of the building (Barlow & Parker's Warehouse, Tamworth Road, Croydon) and hid behind a lift-housing.
Detective Sergeant Frederick Fairfax
climbed on to the roof, and managed to grab Bentley.
Craig shouted defiantly at the detective and Bentley
managed to break Fairfax's grip. At this point, Bentley
is supposed to have shouted "Let him have it
Chris". Craig then fired the gun grazing the
police officer's shoulder. Despite being wounded Fairfax
continued after Bentley and managed to finally arrest
him. Bentley told Fairfax that Craig had a Colt .45 and
plenty of ammunition.
Following the arrival of more police
officers, a group were sent on to the roof. The first
policeman to appear on to the roof was Police Constable
Sidney George Miles (age 42). He was immediately shot
dead by Craig; shot in the head. After exhausting
his supply of bullets, Craig leapt from the roof on
to the road some 30 feet below. He landed badly, fracturing
his spine and left wrist. Craig was then arrested.
9th - 11th December 1952, Craig
and Bentley are charged with murder and appear at the
Old Bailey in London.
It was clear that even if Craig was found
guilty of murder, he could not be sentenced to death;
being 16 he was below the minimum age of 18 for
execution. However, Derek Bentley was over 18 years' of
age and could be sentenced to death.
The case appeared to be a relatively
simple one for the prosecution. However, as the trial
progressed before Lord Chief Justice Lord Goddard at the
Old Bailey, the prosecution case appeared far less
certain. The police seemed unsure how many shots were
fired and by whom. A ballistics expert failed to
positively identify Craig's gun as the weapon that fired
the bullet that killed PC Miles. Also what was meant by
Bentley's phrase "Let him have it Chris"? Did he mean
that Craig was to give the gun to the officer and
surrender? Did he mean that Craig was to shot the
What was clear was that Derek Bentley
was;- Quote - "illiterate and mentally subnormal".
He was ill prepared to undergo cross-examination and did
not present a 'good image' to the jury; not surprising
considering his mental age of 11.
The jury took just 75 minutes to find
both Craig and Bentley guilty of PC Miles' murder. Due
to his being below 18 at the time of the offence, Craig
was sentenced to be detained at Her Majesty's Pleasure.
Bentley was sentenced to death.
Various appeals highlighted the ambiguous
evidence, Bentley's mental age and the fact that he did
not fire the fatal shot, were all rejected by the then
January 1953, Derek Bentley
was hanged at London's Wandsworth Prison at 9am by
executioner Albert Pierpont.
Christopher Craig served 10 years in
prison before being released in 1963, he settled in
Since Bentley's execution in January
1953, there have been numerous campaigns to obtain a
posthumous pardon for Bentley. In 1991 the public were
surprised when the Home Secretary of the time, Kenneth
Clark, rejected a report by the Metropolitan Police
stating that there were "reasonable doubts in this case"
for a review.
30th July 1998,
the Court of Appeal overturned the controversial
conviction of Derek Bentley who was hanged over 45 years
ago. In an unprecedented and very damning attack, the
Lord Chief Justice, Lord Bingham, ruled that his
predecessor and Bentley's trial judge, Lord Chief
Justice Goddard, had denied Bentley "that fair trial
that is the birthright of every British citizen." In a
52-page judgment, Lord Bingham placed the blame for the
miscarriage of justice with Lord Goddard. Describing
Lord Goddard as "blatantly prejudiced", Lord Bingham
concluded that he had misdirected the jury and that in
his summing-up had put unfair pressure on the jury to