Murder of Bernard Oliver

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Bernard Michael Oliver (1950 – January 1967) was a young British warehouse worker from Muswell Hill, North London. He disappeared on 6 January 1967, and his remains were found ten days later in the village of Tattingstone, Suffolk. His body had been cut into eight pieces and left in two suitcases. For this reason the crime is sometimes referred to as the Tattingstone Suitcase Murder. The case received widespread media attention, partly because police, unable to identify the body, took the unusual step of releasing a photograph of the victim’s head to the media.

The murder remains unsolved.

Disappearance and murder[edit]

On Friday, 6 January 1967, Oliver did not return home after spending the evening with friends, and was reported missing by his father the following morning.[1] Several days later, on 16 January, farm worker Fred Burggy discovered human remains in two suitcases left behind a hedge in a field near the village of Tattingstone, Suffolk.[2] It was believed that the murder had occurred around 48 hours before the discovery of the body.[3] Post-mortem tests showed that Oliver had been sexually assaulted and strangled before his body was dismembered.[4] Unable to determine the identity of the victim, police took the unusual step of releasing a photograph of the victim’s head to the media. Oliver’s family contacted the police after seeing the photograph.[5]

Investigation[edit]

The police investigation was initially headed by Detective Superintendent Tom Tarling of East Suffolk Police, before being taken over by Detective Superintendent Harry Tappin of the Metropolitan Police.[6] The location of the murder has never been identified,[5] although police believed that the murder and dismemberment had taken place in Suffolk.[4]

Following the murder, witnesses reported sightings of Oliver in and around the Muswell Hill area in the time between his disappearance and the discovery of his body.[1] In Tattingstone, a witness said she saw “a man, who was middle-aged and wearing a dark trilby and a long trench coat, walking in the direction of Tattingstone on the Harwich road, carrying a suitcase” on the night the suitcases were left.[7]

Several pieces of physical evidence were recovered. One of the two suitcases used to contain Oliver’s remains bore the initials “P.V.A.”.[4] The laundry mark “QL 42” was also found on a hand towel inside one of the two suitcases.[8] A matchbox found in the pocket of Oliver’s jacket was from a brand of matches marketed in Israel.[6]

The investigation was re-opened in 1977.[9] In 2012, a man reported seeing two unattended suitcases and a man wearing medical gloves in the Ipswich docks area days before Oliver’s body was discovered.[10] The investigation was once again re-opened in 2017 when police appealed for any information concerning the murder.[11]

Suspects[edit]

In 2004, documents released under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 revealed that the prime suspects in the murder were two medical doctors, Martin Reddington and John Byles.

Martin Bruce Reddington (26 June 1931-May 1995) had a surgery in Muswell Hill. In 1965 a warrant had been issued for Reddington’s arrest on charges of buggery and indecent assault of males.[9] However, before inquiries could be completed, he left the U.K. for South Africa.[12] Reddington made a number of return visits to the U.K., but no evidence has been found placing him in the vicinity of the murder.[9] In 1977, a private investigator claimed to recognise the suitcase with the initials P.V.A. on its side as belonging to three men who used a laundrette in Muswell Hill, one of whom was Reddington.[12] Reddington was never interviewed in connection with the offence, and it was decided there was insufficient evidence to extradite him from Australia.[9] In 1977 Reddington was charged in Sydney with committing an indecent assault on a male.[13] He died in May 1995, aged 63.[12]

John Roussel Byles (January 27, 1933-19 January 1975) was acquitted along with another man in November 1963 of assaulting a 16-year-old male at their flat in Earl's Court, London.[14] Byles left the U.K. for Australia in the early 1970s when inquiries began into the sexual abuse of boys aged between 9 and 14 in Huddersfield.[15][16][17] On 17 December 1974, Byles was arrested in Sydney in relation to an alleged indecent assault on a boy,[18] but absconded on $2,000 bail. His body was found in a room of the Prince of Wales Hotel in Prosperine, Queensland on 19 January 1975.[19] He left two suicide notes, one addressed to Scotland Yard, the other to Reddington. The note to the police contained an apology for his actions, but no direct reference was made to the Tattingstone murder.[9]

Reddington and Byles are also said to have been suspects in the murder of a boy in London in 1973, following an apparent homosexual relationship.[9]

Joe Meek (5 April 1929 – 3 February 1967) was a record producer and songwriter who ran a recording studio at 304 Holloway Road, Islington, in North London. Police in the Oliver investigation announced their intent to interview all of the homosexual men in London.[20] This would have included Meek, following a 1963 conviction for “importuning for immoral purposes” in a public toilet.[21] Some accounts claim that Meek was afraid of being questioned.[22] It was rumoured that Oliver had worked as a tape-stacker in Meek's studio.[23] On 3 February 1967, Meek killed himself after murdering his landlady, Violet Shenton.

Reginald Kray (24 October 1933 – 1 October 2000) was a gangster from the East End of London, sentenced to life imprisonment along with his brother Ronald in 1969 for the murders of George Cornell and Jack McVitie. In September 2000, Kray confessed to a previously unknown murder while being interviewed for the BBC documentary Reggie Kray: The Final Word.[24] A former cellmate of Kray’s, Pete Gillett, claimed that Kray had also confessed the murder to him, and that the victim was “a young gay boy”.[25] It has been suggested that this is a reference to Oliver's murder,[22] although the confession is widely believed to relate to the disappearance of Edward “Mad Teddy” Smith in 1967.[26] The Kray brothers were sent to Suffolk as evacuees during World War II, and bought a house at Bildeston – approximately 16 miles (26 km) from Tattingstone – in 1968.[27]

In popular culture[edit]

The murder of Bernard Oliver forms part of the background to the 1998 novel The Long Firm, by Jake Arnott.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Suffolk Constabulary: Bernard Oliver". Suffolk Constabulary. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  2. ^ "Dismembered Body Found in Cases". The Times. 17 January 1967.
  3. ^ "Body in Suitcase Victim". Glasgow Herald. 18 January 1967.
  4. ^ a b c "Suitcase Clues Report Today". The Times. 23 January 1967.
  5. ^ a b "Brother's Anguish Over Tattingstone 'Suitcase Murder'". BBC News. 30 December 2011. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  6. ^ a b "Matchbox Clue in Murder Case". The Times. 15 November 1967.
  7. ^ "'Suitcase' Murder Victim Named". The Canberra Times. 21 January 1967.
  8. ^ "Doorstep Calls in Suitcases Murder". The Times. 13 February 1967.
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Doctors Were Murder Probe Chief Suspects". Ipswich Star. 29 October 2004. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  10. ^ "Police Probe New 1967 Tattingstone 'Suitcase Murder' Lead". BBC News. 18 January 2012. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  11. ^ "Tattingstone suitcase murder: Police appeal over Bernard Oliver death". BBC News. 6 January 2017. Retrieved 6 January 2017.
  12. ^ a b c "Suffolk: Two Doctors Were Prime Suspects in 1967 Killing". East Anglian Daily Times. 30 December 2011. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  13. ^ "Doctor On Assault Charge". The Canberra Times. 5 February 1977.
  14. ^ "Doctor Cleared of Assault". The Times. 11 November 1963.
  15. ^ "Vicar Allowed Church To Be Defiled, Judge Says". The Times. 22 March 1975.
  16. ^ "Vicar Named As Leader in Case Over Young Boys". The Times. 15 January 1975.
  17. ^ "Teacher and Vicar Corrupted Boys - QC". The Times. 10 June 1975.
  18. ^ "Police Seek Doctor". The Canberra Times. 18 January 1975.
  19. ^ "Body Identified". The Canberra Times. 22 January 1975.
  20. ^ Bondeson, Jan (2014). Murder Houses of London. Stroud: Amberley Publishing. p. 362. ISBN 978-1445647067.
  21. ^ Mikul, Chris (1999). Bizarrism: Strange Lives, Cults, Celebrated Lunacy. Headpress. p. 111. ISBN 978-1900486064.
  22. ^ a b Fry, Colin (2011). The Krays: A Violent Business. Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 978-1845967741.
  23. ^ Arnott, Jake (12 June 2009). "Joe Meek and Me". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
  24. ^ "Kray's Deathbed Murder Confession". BBC News. 25 March 2001. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  25. ^ "Police to Investigate Kray Case". BBC News. 14 January 2002. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  26. ^ "Kray Made Deathbed Murder Confession". The Telegraph. 25 March 2001. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
  27. ^ "Hard Men With a Soft Spot for Suffolk". East Anglian Daily Times. 28 April 2008. Retrieved 2 May 2016.