HEAD

Derek Bentley & Christopher Craig

  • Christopher Craig
  • Derek Bentley
AKA
DOBBentley - 30 Jun 1933
Craig - 1937
OccupationBentley - none
Craig - Schoolboy
Kill Total1
Kill PlaceCroydon
Kill Date2 November 1952
M.O.Shooting
VictimPC. Sidney Miles
CourtOld Bailey, London
JudgeLord Chief Goddard
ProsceutionChristmas Humphries
Defence
Case No:
Derek William Bentley had a rough time as a child and young adult.

April 1938, 5-year-old Derek fell 15-feet (5-Metres), from a lorry and hit his head on the pavement, which was allegedly the cause of his subsequent epilepsy.
To add to Derek's bad luck, the house that Bentley’s lived in during World War 2, was bombed during an air-raid, it collapsed leaving Derek with serious head injuries and severe concussion.

1944, aged-11 Derek attended Norbury Manor Secondary Modern School, just north of Croydon, he had failed his 11-plus.

March 1948, Bentley, now 15-years-old, and another boy were arrested for theft.

September 1948 Derek was sentenced to serve 3-years in Kingswoods Approval School near Bristol. While at Kingswood they did serveral diagnostic tests on Bentley, the results showed his mental age was estimated at about 10 years 4 months, his actual age was 15 years 6 months.  An I.Q test scored Derek at 66 points.

28th July 1950, Derek was released from Kingwoods School and became a bit of a recluse for the rest of the year.

March 1951, Derek was employed by a furniture removal firm but forced to leave after he injured his back.

11th February 1952, Bentley was deemed unfit for National Service, due to his EEG test findings and reports of low intelligence.

May 1952, Derek was employed by Croydon Corporation as a waste Collector; but for unsatisfactory performance he was demoted to a street cleaner in July 1952. By September the Corporation fired Derek William Bentley.

2nd  November 1952. Derek Bentley (aged-19) and Christopher Craig (aged-16) broke into a London warehouse, the lads had decided to rob the warehouse.  Craig went armed with a revolver. Bentley aremed with a sheaf knife and a knuckleduster, on Craig's instructions, although Bentley did not want to carry them.  The 2 were seen entering the premises by a girl in the house opposite the warehouse, She told her parents what she had sen,. Her father then went to the nearest telephone box and called the police.
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 up the drainpipe, on to the roof, and managed to grab hold of 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". This became a phrase of much argument, did Bentley mean 'let him have the gun', Or, did he mean 'shoot him'?
Both Craig and Bentley denied that those words were ever spoken, as did Christopher Craig, interviewed nearly 40 years later in September 1991.
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).PC. Miles 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.

After his arrest Derek Bentley was assesssed by a psychiatrist while being held at Brixton Prison. More I.Q. tests were carried out and administered, he was classified as “Borderline feeble – minded with  verbal score of 71 a performance I.Q. of 87 and a full scale I.Q. of 77. They deemed Bentley to have had a reading age of 4 years 6 months.

9th - 11th December 1952, Craig and Bentley were charged with murder and appeared 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 aged-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 officer?

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 Home Secretary.

January 1953, Detective Sergeant Frederick Fairfax was awarded the George Cross For his gallantry. In addition Police Constables Norman Harrison Page, and James McDonald were awarded the George Medal, Police Constable Robert Jaggs the British Empire Medal, and Police Constable Sidney George Miles was posthumously awarded the Queen's Police Medal for Gallantry.

28th January 1953, Derek Bentley was hanged at London's Wandsworth Prison at 9am by executioner Albert Pierpont.
Interesting fact; Wandsworth was the site of 135 executions, between 1878 and 1961.

Christopher Craig served 10 years in prison before being released in 1963, he settled in Buckinghamshire and became a plumber, little else is know about Christopher Craig's life.

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 convict. See the full judgement  HERE >>

After the hearing Chris Craig broke his years of silence on the matter, releasing a statement, which read:
"Today, after 46 years, the conviction of Derek Bentley has been quashed and his name cleared. While I am grateful and relieved about this, I am saddened that it has taken those 46 years for the authorities in this country to admit the truth.

"I am truly sorry that my actions on 2 November 1952 caused so much pain and misery for the family of Pc Miles, who died that night doing his duty.

Also, for the Bentley family, I regret that Iris, Derek's sister, who fought all those years for Derek's pardon, died recently before this appeal was concluded.

Finally, I apologise to my family, who have had to endure Press attention over the years."


See video below on this case, and more on our YouTube Channel HERE >>

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