Date Of Execution: 28 Mar 1950
Crime Location: Cameo Cinema, Bird Street, Wavertree, Liverpool
Execution Place: Liverpool
Executioner: Albert Pierrepoint
Leonard Thomas and John Bernard Catterall were murdered at the Cameo Cinema, Bird Street, Wavertree, Liverpool during a robbery on the night of 19 March 1949. A man, George Kelly 27, was convicted of their murders and executed but his conviction was later quashed. Another man, Charles Connolly 26, was also convicted of being his accomplice and sentenced to ten years.
It was later heard in 2003 that a prisoner had made a statement in which he had said that George Kelly and Charles Connolly had confessed to the crime to him separately and that his statement was crucial to the conviction, but it was not heard that he had also taken the confession from an earlier suspect, a window-cleaner, a confession that was not brought to the attention of the court. There was no forensic evidence against George Kelly and Charles Connolly nor any witnesses and their convictions were made almost entirely on the evidence of the prisoner who claimed they confessed to him and their two alleged accomplices who came forward some months after the crime, a labourer with a criminal record and a Woman who was a convicted prostitute and who later was convicted for violent robbery of her clients. In 2003 their convictions were quashed after it was the matter of the other earlier confession was considered by an appeal court. It was heard that the fact that the prisoner had made multiple statements regarding prisoners confessing to the crime to him made his statements unreliable and that if that had been known at the trial that then men might not have been convicted along with the fact that it appeared to have been deliberately concealed in evidence at the trial.
There were two trials, the first, lasting 13 days, at the Liverpool Assizes on 12-28 January 1950, but the jury failed to reach a verdict. The second trial, which lasted 6 days, was held on 2-8 February 1950 during which George Kelly and Charles Connolly were tried separately. Charles Connolly pleaded guilty to his charges which undermined George Kelly's assertion that he was innocent and had not been involved. George Kelly appealed his conviction on 6 March 1950 but fails and was executed at Walton Prison on 28 March 1950.
Charles Connolly later died in 1997.
Both their convictions were quashed in 2003.
The general timeline of events are detailed below:
Leonard Thomas and John Catterall were shot as they were sorting the days takings at the cinema at the end of the evening 19 March 1949. They were both taken to hospital but died within two hours.
There had been a film showing at the time called Bond Street which was a murder film. The cinema had originally been a church before it was converted into a picture house and consisted of two floors, with the manager’s office and staff room and some other rooms on the first floor. The manager’s office consisted of a partition that had been built during the conversion from a church to a picture house. there were about 200 seats at the cinema.
The telephone wires to the cinema had also been cut at the bottom of the spiral staircase and the severed ends were shown in court.
A masked man had entered the cinema and demanded the money and there was a struggle during which the man shot both Leonard Thomas and John Catterall and fled without the money. The money bag that had been used to take the money upstairs from the cash office to the manager’s office was there, but it was empty and across the floor were some cash boxes that had been disturbed and money strewn across the floor.
It was thought that when the gunman had gone into the office that Leonard Thomas had been in there alone and that John Catterall had gone in after the gunman.
Whilst in the office, it appeared that Leonard Thomas and John Catterall refused to hand over the money the gunman fired three shots at them, killing them, and then fired three shots at the lock knocking it off, possibly thinking that it had been locked, in order to escape, before running off.
It was said that when he had run off, he had done so in a panic.
The description of the man circulated shortly after the murder on 21 March 1949 was that he was of medium build with a pale, rather full face and with dark hair. He had been wearing a brown tween overcoat which was double breasted and with a belt that had been tied all around. He had had black shoes and a trilby hat with the front brim pulled down.
Leonard Thomas and John Catterall's post-mortems were carried out on 20 March 1949 at the Smithdown Road Hospital.
The post mortem examination on Leonard Thomas showed that he had a superficial abrasion about three inches long under his left arm which could have been caused by a bullet travelling along the surface of the arm towards the chest, the arm being raised from the side of the chest at the time. The pathologist said that there was an entry wound in the mid axillary line of the left side of the chest between the fourth and fifth ribs, with no evidence of an exit wound. He said that both the fourth and fifth ribs on the left side were fractured round the entry, due, in his opinion, to the passage of the bullet between the ribs and said that his seventh dorsal vertebra of his spinal column was fractured die to the bullet having passed through it. He said that the wound was in direct line with the entry wound. He went on to say that there was a fracture of the seventh rib on the right side two inches from the vertebral column which was in his opinion caused by the same bullet as it left chest, and said that he then found the bullet lying in the muscles of the back of the chest over the seventh rib on the right side. He said that he removed the bullet which was later labelled exhibit CC22 at the trial. He added that in its passage through the chest, the bullet had lacerated both lungs. He concluded that death was due to shock and haemorrhage due to the laceration of the lungs by the bullet.
The pathologist next carried out the post-mortem on John Catterall. He said that he found several bullet wounds on his body, all on the right side. He said that one bullet had passed through his right hand from the back, but that no bullet was found in his right hand although some of the metacarpal bones were fractured. He said that there was a bullet entry wound above the right clavicle which had caused a commuted fracture of the right clavicle. He said that the bullet appeared to have left the body by being deflected by the clavicle about nine inches below the entry wound and that in its passage it had caused a light injury to the right lung. He said that there was also a bullet entry wound towards the back of the chest on the right side and that in his opinion that was a lethal wound. He said that the bullet fractured the ninth rib on the right side and had then passed through the lobe of the right lung and then inflicted considerable damage to the liver. He said that he located the bullet right at the top of the right thigh on the inside and removed it, it later being produced in evidence as exhibit CC23. He concluded by saying that in his opinion, John Catterall's death was due to shock and haemorrhage due to laceration of the liver.
He noted that the wound that had killed John Catterall could have been inflicted when he was either lying down or when he was in a kneeling position, because it was a wound due to the entry of a bullet which passed in at the back, and then it took a downward course, because it passed through the lung and liver and finally ended up at the top of his right thigh.
The bullets that were recovered were all 9mm. There were six in total, three that had been fired at Leonard Thomas and Bernard Catterall and three that had been fired at the lock.
The police investigation revealed few leads following the murders and it was not until 4 April 1949 when two convicted criminals, a labourer and a Woman, wrote a letter to the police implicating George Kelly and Charles Connolly.
On 6 May 1949 a 22-year-old window cleaner was arrested on the charge that, 'Well knowing that a man known to you had murdered Leonard Thomas, on March 19, you did on the same day and other days afterwards receive, comfort, harbour, assist, and maintain that said man'. He had been seen at the police office in Park Road, Liverpool where he made a statement saying that he had been asked to take part in a hold up at the Cameo Cinema, but that he did not want to commit an offence in which a gun was to be used. He then went on to say that after the murder he had met the man that committed the crime and had received the gun used, but that as a result of a promise to the man, that he could not disclose where the gun was hidden or the identity of the man.
The window cleaner was described as being slimly built and of medium height with a shock of long fair hair. He had been wearing a brown pin-striped suit and a light belted raincoat.
He had been arrested the previous Monday night after what was described as extensive police enquiries and charged the following day. He was said to have told the police, 'If you don't charge me, I will get the gun for you tonight'.
He was also said to have confessed to the same prisoner that later took the confessions from George Kelly and Charles Connolly whilst they were on remand in Walton Prison in October 1949, and it was this confession that resulted in the murder conviction being quashed in 2003.
Although both George Kelly and Charles Connolly had alibis for the night of the murders and claimed that they had never met before, they were charged and tried, it being said that George Kelly had been the gun man whilst Charles Connolly had been a look out, both having planned the robbery.
Charles Connolly said that he had been at a church hall dance with his wife and George Kelly said that he had been drinking in the Leigh Arms public house.
George Kelly said that he had been drinking most of the day in Leigh Arms pub and a number of witnesses corroborated his story. It was further claimed that he had been quite drunk and that the witnesses to the murder had claimed that the gunman had been quite able and not visibly drunk at all.
A woman who had lived in Pengwern Grove in Liverpool and who had been employed at the Cameo Cinema as an usherette and relief cashier said that she had taken over the duties of cashier on 12 March 1949 and that on the evening of 19 March 1949 that she had commenced duty in the cash desk at 5pm. The cash desk was noted as being at the front, or the Webster Road entrance to the cinema. She remained there on duty in the cash desk until about 9.30pm.
She said that there was an electric light in the cash office and that that was left on until she left the office, at about 9.35pm, when she turned it off and took a bag of money with her, containing roughly £50, to the manager’s office, going off through the hall, out of a side entrance into a lobby and then up a spiral staircase. She noted that there was another woman on duty at the Bird Street side and that she spoke to her on her way and then when she reached the office, she handed the bag of money over to Leonard Thomas, the manager. She added that John Catterall, the assistant manager, was also in the office with Leonard Thomas at the time.
She said that after given them the bag of money that she went along the passage on the same floor to the staff room where she spoke to another woman there. She said that after she had been in the staff room for about ten minutes, at about 9.45pm or 9.50pm, that she heard a bang that appeared to come from the operating box which was between the staff room and the manager’s office. She later noted that she didn't have a watch but said that there had been a clock in the cash desk that night which she said was about right. She said that the other woman then left the staff room and that she followed, and the other woman then opened the door to the operating room and looked in. She said that after that they both went along to the manager’s office and that when they got there, they found that the door was open and that a stranger then came out with a gun. She said that the man pointed the gun at the other woman and that she then ran off towards the other woman that was on duty, going down another iron staircase. The said that a few minutes later that she returned to the manager’s office where she saw Leonard Thomas lying on the floor and John Catterall lying over a chair.
She said that she didn't see enough of the man who came out with the gun to enable her to identify him, but did say that she noticed that he had been wearing a brown overcoat which seemed to have a belt on it and that he had had his face covered up. She noted that she only saw the right side of his face and didn't know which part was covered up.
A fireman who lived in Gelling Street in Liverpool and who worked at the Cameo Cinema said that it was his duty at the end of each night, at about 9.30pm, to escort the cashier from the cash office to the office with the cash, but said that on the night of the murder, from 9pm, he had been engaged in putting bills up outside the cinema and so didn't escort the cashier upstairs. He said that he was outside at the front of the cinema putting up the bills but saw the cashier leave the cash office at about 9.35pm, noting that he saw the light in the cash office switched off before she left.
The fireman said that shortly after she had gone off with the cash that he went up to the staff room to change his trousers and that whilst he was there he heard bangs and screams and then went into the operating room which was next door to the staff room to see. He said that when he went into the operating room it was alright and that he then came out and went towards the manager’s office. He said that there was no one in the passageway, but that the partition in which the door to the manager’s office was appeared to be giving way as if someone inside was pushing it. He said that he then went to burst the door from the outside but said that a man came out pointing a revolver at him and said, 'Stand back'. He said that the man had a black silk scarf covering the lower part of his face and had been wearing a brown trilby pulled down all the wat round, a brown tweed double breasted overcoat with a belt all round, black shoes, dark eye brows and dark hair. At the trial he noted that the coat that the man that he had seen wearing was similar to the coat that he was shown there as exhibit CC1 and that it similarly had turned up cuffs.
He said that the man then ran down the spiral staircase and that he chased him down the staircase and out into the street as far as Garrick Street, but lost sight of him there and then returned to the manager’s office.
He added that as he returned to the manager’s office, before he went up the staircase, that he noticed that the telephone wire at the bottom of the stairs was cut. He said that then, after he saw Leonard Thomas and John Catterall in the office he tried to telephone for the police, but then found that the line had been cut and said that after that he went out into the street where he saw a policeman walking up with a bicycle who then went to the cinema.
A salesgirl at the cinema who lived in Drakefield Road in Liverpool said that she had gone into the manager’s office at about 8.45pm on 19 March 1949 and saw Leonard Thomas and John Catterall and that at about 9.15pm or 9.20pm the cashier girl came in with a blue calico bag, although at the trial she said that she couldn't remember the time exactly as it was a long time ago. She said that the cashier girl put the bag on Leonard Thomas's desk and stayed in the office for about for about ten minutes while the cash was counted and that after that she gave the cashier girl three pence out of the box and she then left the office and that she then put the money in the safe and then left the office herself leaving Leonard Thomas and John Catterall there and went into the projection box next door. She said that after she had been in the projection box next door for about three minutes, she heard a bang. She said that she then saw another woman run past the door shouting something and that she then followed her and went into the manager’s office and saw Leonard Thomas and John Catterall both lying wounded. When she was cross -examined at the trial she admitted that the evidence that she had given earlier, saying that the cashier girl had come into the office at about 9.30pm was probably more likely to be correct than the evidence that she had given at the trial, reiterating that it was such a long time ago.
A female supervisor at the Cameo Cinema who lived in Russel Road in Wavertree said that she had been in the staffroom with the cashier girl on the night of 19 March 1949 when she heard gunshots. She said that after hearing them that she left the staff room and ran along to the operating room and looked in but found that that was in order and then opened the rectifying room which she said was also alright and that she then went along to the manager’s office where she said was where it had come from. She said that the fireman then came along and then the cashier girl and that they were all outside the manager’s office and that she saw the office door rattling and that she then went towards it with the fireman and that just as they were going to try and open the door that there was a shot from inside which shot off the lock. She noted that there had been four previous shots and that after hearing the last shot the door opened and a man came out with a gun in his hand. She said that he was wearing a mask on the lower part of his face. She said that she then stood back and ran down the spiral staircase and then ran to the office and went to the assistance of Leonard Thomas who was lying on the floor. She noted that the cash bag and some of the cash was also on the floor and that the lock of the door was also on the floor. She said then that she saw that Leonard Thomas was badly wounded and that the assistant manager John Catterall was lying behind the door, also wounded. She said that she was the first to enter the office and that after she went in she shouted for help and quite a number of people then came in.
She said that the man that had come out of the office with the gun had been wearing a dark brown overcoat, a dark trilby and had had a dark scarf over his face. She added that the coat had had a thin line check and a belt that was loose and at the trial said that she thought the coat exhibited there, exhibit CC1, was the coat that the man had been wearing.
The wife of a man that lived in Webster Road in Liverpool who was an usherette at the cinema said that on the 19 March 1949 she was working at the cinema on duty at the exit door leading to Bird Street. She said that at about 9.30pm she saw the cashier girl come through the auditorium towards where she was, saying that she handed her two papers and smiled and then walked on. She said that she herself then walked through the auditorium to the front of the cinema to speak to another usherette. She said that whilst she was talking to the other usherette, about five minutes after she had seen the cashier girl walk past, she heard three shots. She said that she took it that they had come from the Bird Street end of the cinema which she said was more or less below the manager’s office. She said that when she heard the three shots, she walked through the cinema to the door leading to the foyer and that a man then rushed out through a swinging door at the bottom of the spiral staircase. She said that he had a scarf over his face, noting that it seemed to be all over his face and that he was wearing a brown overcoat that she thought had a belt on it. She said that he had his left hand in his pocket and that he was pushing the door as he was going out and that he went out into Bird Street and that the fireman then followed him down and went out through the same door and then out of sight. At the trial she said that the coat that the man had been wearing was like the coat exhibit CC1.
The usherette said that she said that it was 9.30pm when she saw the cashier girl because it of the particular part of the picture that was showing at the time, saying that it was the film 'Bond Street' and that it was when Jean Kent, one of the stars, first came into the picture. She added that there was a clock in the cash box at the time and said that it the cashier girl said that it was 9.35pm when she came out then she would accept that.
When she was asked about the coat, that the man had been wearing, she said that she was several yards away from the man when she saw him and that she was not told that the exhibit CC1 was the coat in question and had already described it to the police before she was told about it, saying that she emphasized to the police that the coat was not a herringbone patter, but that it had lines going across and lines going down. At the trial she said, 'I am serious when I say that I had a good view of the coat because the man struggled with the door which had been stiff all week'.
A cinema operator who lived in Carno Street in Liverpool who worked at the Cameo Cinema said that on the night of 19 March 1049 that he had been engaged in the cellar of the cinema when his attention was attracted by three bangs coming from upstairs. He said that the cellar was below the spiral staircase and that when he heard the bangs that he went up the spiral staircase to the top which was outside the manager’s office and then saw a man come out of the manager’s office carrying a gun in his right hand, noting that the gun had a black long barrel. He said that he also saw the fireman there on the landing and that the man pointed the gun at the fireman and said something to them and then ran down the spiral staircase. He said that the fireman followed the men down and that he followed the fireman and that they then went out into Bird Street after the man and saw him running off up Bird Street. He said that he then returned to the manager’s office where he saw the manager and the assistant manager both lying wounded.
A wife that lived at 23 Garrick Street in Liverpool near the Cameo Cinema said that on the night of 19 March 1949 that she had been sitting in her kitchen playing cards when her attention was attracted by a noise from the rear of her house. She said that it sounded like someone kicking on one of the doors and said that her husband said something to her and that she looked at the clock and saw that it had just turned 9.30pm. She said that when she heard the noise her husband went out into the back and her father followed him and that she remained in her kitchen with her mother. she said that she then heard her father say something when he was in the yard and that she then ran out into the yard and followed him to the corner of their entry and that when she got there she saw a few people about including the fireman from the cinema who said something to her the result of which she went to the house of the man at 38 Garrick Street and knocked on his door and asked him to call 999 on the telephone. She said that it was about ten minutes between the time that she heard the noise and when the neighbour called the police.
The night telephonist at Sefton Park Telephone exchange said that on the night of 19 March 1949 that she received a telephone call from the subscriber Sefton Park 1939 and that the number required was 999 which she connected to Central 6666 which was for the central police office. She said that she received the call from Sefton Park 1939 at 9.45pm.
A policeman said that on the night of 19 March 1949 that he was in Lawrence Road in Bridewell when the telephone rang at 9.47pm with a call from the station keeper at Alleston, Bridewell. He said that as a result he checked on the time of the call and then went on his cycle to the Cameo Cinema. He said that he first went to the front of the cinema and then, after hearing exciting voices from the rear in Bird Street went there where he saw the fireman and followed him up the spiral staircase to the manager’s office where he saw Leonard Thomas and John Catterall lying wounded and being attended to by several people. he said that he then went to the rear of the cinema to await the arrival of the ambulance and when it arrived helped to bring the wound down to the ambulance.
Shortly after the murders, it was reported that two men had called on Leonard Thomas and Bernard Catterall in their office about three hours before their murders, but it was not known who they were and the police appealed for them to come forward.
On 2 April 1949 three Liverpool youths were arrested by the police after being accused of breaking into the Cameo Cinema on 2 February 1949. They were an 18-year-old labourer of Albert Road, a 17-year-old labourer of Kensington and an 18-year-old soldier of Boyton Street. They were alleged to have broken into the Cameo Cinema on 2 February 1949 and to have stolen cigarettes, chocolate and 10s , worth in total about £5. They were also accused of having broken into two shops in Kenington and stolen property worth £62 16s. With regard to the Cameo Cinema break in, it was said that an insecure grid in the cinema had been used for entry and that cupboards in the manager’s office were forced.
Later on in the investigation, on 14 October 1949, a man employed by the Liverpool Corporation City Engineers and Surveyors Department, under the supervision of the police cleaned out the street gulleys in Blake Street and Copperas Hill and when he examined the sediment he found a bullet like exhibit CC2 shown at court which he handed to the police which was then handed to the chief detective inspector of the Liverpool City Force.
At the trial, evidence was given by the licensee of The Spofforth Hotel public house who said tat on he night of 19 March 1949 that whilst engaged there with his wife George Kelly came in at about 9.20pm. He said that he had known George Kelly since about 1945 and had known him from when he had been the licensee of the public house 2 Crown House. He said that George Kelly called for a pint of beer which he served him with, noting that he only had one pint of beer and only remained in the public house for about three or four minutes. He said that George Kelly had been alone when he came in and that he was not wearing a coat, only a brown suit, noting that he could not tell the colour of his tie. He added that George Kelly had not been wearing a hat.
A motor driver who lived in Cambridge Street, Liverpool said and who drove private hire cars said that he had been in the Leigh Arms public house in Picton Road, Liverpool at about 9.10pm in the buffet standing up by the buffet bar when George Kelly walked in and touched him on the shoulder and said 'Hello pal'. You can have the best in the house with me'. He said that he had never drunk with George Kelly before and said that he looked at him and asked him 'Have you been in the sun', noting that he had had some drink and said that he appeared on the excited side and said that George Kelly replied 'I've been having a go'. The motor driver said that George Kelly persisted in asking him to have a drink and so he and the friend that were with him each had a glass of bitter. He said that George Kelly then ordered a glass of bitter for himself and then invited two ladies who were in the corner to have a drink but said that he didn't think that they did. He said that George Kelly had just ordered the two bitters when the lights were dimmed, indicating last drinks. He added that the manager came to see about the time and George Kelly invited him to have a drink as well along with his wife and his daughter. The motor driver said that he partly drank his glass of beer and then ordered a pint for George Kelly and that he then left the pub at about 10.05pm. He said that when he left George Kelly had three parts of a glass of beer and a full pint in front of him and was talking to the manager. He added that when he left, the other customers were also nearly all on the way out.
When the motor driver was questioned at the trial he said that the buffet of the public house was not crowded on a Saturday night and that it was situated between the bar and the smoke room and that just behind the door leading from the bar to the buffet there was a dart board. He said that it was possible that someone wishing to leave the bar and come to the buffet might have to leave the hotel and come round the street and that he didn't know whether George Kelly had been in the public house before he saw him. He said that he had been in the public house with a female friend. He said that when he saw George Kelly in the public house, he was well 'bevvied'. He said that he remembered hearing George Kelly speak to his woman friend, saying that he said to her, 'Have a drink Ma' and that he then said, 'Don't take any notice of me, I've been on the 'bevvy''. At the trial the motor driver said that George Kelly did not say 'I've been having a go on the bevvy', saying that he actually said, 'I’ve been having a go' and that he then put his hands on the public bar and that he had his fists clenched, noting that what he meant when he said 'having a go' was that he had been having a fight, however, he added that he did not look as if he had been having a fight.
At the trial the judge observed that George Kelly's behaviour was extremely unusual as though he were trying to call attention to himself and it was noted that the motor driver was only on nodding terms with George Kelly ordinarily and that no one could have been more surprised than him when George Kelly offered to buy him 'the best in the house'. It was also head that he bought the landlord and his wife a drink and also offered to 'mug' the staff which meant to buy them all a drink. In short the judge suggested that George Kelly might have been attempting to draw attention to himself such that if he was ever questioned, he could say, 'Well, I could not have been in the Cameo Cinema because I was having a drink, I was in the Spofforth Arms' or 'I was in the Leigh Arms'.
A barmaid who lived in Botanic Road in Liverpool said that she had been serving in the Leigh Arms in Picton Road on 19 March 1949, noting that she knew George Kelly as a customer and also a lady that was sometimes with him when he came in. She said that she remembered seeing the lady friend of George Kelly in the bar at about 8.45pm and remembered the lady friend speaking to her, saying that she replied to her. She said that at about 9.45pm she remembered seeing George Kelly whilst she was serving in the bar but didn't notice how long he remained there, noting that she was far too busy.
She said that the bar was very crowded on a Saturday night and that they would get really busy from about 9pm. She noted that there were four parts to the public house and that she had seen George Kelly in the bar but could not say whether or not he had been in any other part of the house. She said that the manager shouted 'Time' and that she guessed that it was just about 9.45pm and noted that he usually shouted 'Time' at 9.45pm when they were very busy. She said that George Kelly had been dressed in a suit, but had had no hat and had no overcoat on and observed that he had seemed a little merry in the alcoholic sense.
In his statement, the landlord of the Leigh Arms said that George Kelly was not in his house at 9.30pm, but at the trial he said that George Kelly might have been there. The judge said, 'Its one to say 'I do not know whether Kelly was there' and another to say 'He might have been there'' and noted the difference between what the landlord had said in his statement and what he was saying in court.
At the trial a man that lived in Cadogan Street in Liverpool said that he remembered seeing George Kelly in the Leigh Arms at about 9.30pm on 19 March 1949 and that when he left with his brother 20 minutes later, George Kelly was still there. He said that he heard the following day that George Kelly had been questioned and said that had he known that George Kelly had been in custody that he would have told the police about him having seen him in the Leigh Arms at 9.30pm and 9.50pm on the night in question.
It was noted that the landlord of the Leigh Arms had said that he had seen George Kelly come into his public house the day after the murder at 12.30pm with his friend and said that he stayed until 2pm. The judge noted that if he had of done that, then he could not have been in the Star as the prisoner who he was said to have confessed to stated. The judge noted that the landlord had said that George Kelly had looked 'terribly white' and then pointed to George Kelly who was in the dock and said, 'Whatever might be good or bad about him, the jury might think he was a rather tough individual' and then addressed the jury stating, 'Not much trepidation there. Can you see that man sitting for one and a half hours in this public house cringing and miserable because he had been interviewed by the police? If you do not think that description by the landlord is true, what do you think of his evidence? I give you that to your consideration'.
After hearing the evidence from the landlord of the Leigh Arms at the first trial, the just addressed the jury and said, 'You cannot convict Connolly unless you are of the opinion that the case against Kelly is proved, and I make this suggestion, you should first make up your minds about Kelly, and if you think the case is proved against him then you should consider the case against Connolly. The view of our law is that all who take any active part in offences of this sort do so at their peril. The sooner the criminal classes realise that, the safer will our society be'.
A detective gave evidence at the trial stated that on 3 October 1949 he paced the distance between several key locations using a normal walking pace:
At the trial, the inspector in charge of the investigation said that he had seen George Kelly frequently about two or three months after the Cameo murders and that right from the start George Kelly had been assuring him that he could get him information that counted in the Cameo murders investigation. When the inspector was questioned over whether he had paid George Kelly any money for information, the inspector said 'I paid him money on occasions when he supplied me with information, but not about the Cameo murders. He went on to deny that he had offered George Kelly £50 for information on the murders. He also denied telling George Kelly that the police were getting 'an awful rollicking' about the murders and then telling him that they had to 'pin it on someone'.
No significant leads established in the case until 4 April 1949 when the chief superintendent of the Liverpool City Police received an anonymous letter making certain claims regarding those responsible for the murders. The anonymous letter read:
This letter is not a cranks letter, or suchlike nor am I turning informer for gain. You have been searching Wavertree and district for the persons responsible for the death of the two men killed in the Cinema when the persons responsible live nowhere near where the crime was committed it says in the papers you are looking for one man, I know 3 and a girl not including myself who heard about his plan for the robbery. I would have nothing to do with it and I don't think the girl did. When I met her Sunday she had not been with them and another man dropped out on account he wanted to unload the revolver before they went so only two went, the man he took with him lost his nerve and would not go in with him but said he would wait outside but did not, he has not been seen since nor has the girl he lives with been seen about the town, 5 days ago I seen the man who had done the job and we got talking. I said I wanted nothing to do with him and he said I’m in it with him. What I want to know is how I stand, I knew they were going to do the job but I did not go with them. I have proof I was in a pub not far from Dale Street till 10pm and was talking till 11pm in Brownlow H. to two people, I want to know if I turn Kings Evidence or something like that will I be charged. I have a record you see, and he might say something to frame me with him, to prove I speak the truth the gun he used he threw it in the pond in the Park. The Park is in Edge Lane next to Littlewoods. He cut through the Park for a 6A Car, I am scared of him he wants me to go away with him and I can't go down the town I'm afraid of him finding where I stay. I don't know how you can get in touch with me. If I give my address you might charge me with [unfortunately next continued page missing from notes].
When the police questioned Charles Connolly at 2.30am on 14 May 1949 and asked him to account for his movements on the evening of 19 March 1949 he said, 'I was at work on the afternoon shift. I didn't get off until after ten', noting that he had worked at Bibby's in Great Howard Street. When the police asked him whether he had written a letter to the police regarding the Cameo Cinema murder, Charles Connolly replied, 'No, I've written no letter, because I know nothing about it. But who told you this?'. He was then told that they had received information from the woman. Charles Connolly then replied, 'Oh, I know her all right, I see her round Lime Street, but she's telling lies when she says anything like that about me'. He then gave a specimen of his handwriting.
However, it was later determined that he had not been at work on that night. In October 1949 his wife and family and friends attempted to establish an alibi for him, tracing a dance that they thought he had attended and a photographer that had taken his photograph. It was later suggested that the police had adjusted his work records in some way, but it is not clear how they might have done that if that allegation is true. It was also later questioned why he would have given his shift work as an alibi to the police when he should have known that it was so readily checkable.
The labourer that gave evidence against George Kelly and Charles Connolly, stating that they had conspired to carry out the robbery in the Bee hive public house earlier in the evening of 19 March 1949 said that t the time he had been staying in Birkenhead and had gone to Liverpool at about 7.30pm with the Woman and that they both went to the Bee Hive public house in Mount Pleasant. He said that the right-hand side door there led into a passage and that in the passage he saw Charles Connolly. He noted that there was a small counter window that opened into the passage where the drinks were served from and that he ordered drink there for himself and the Woman that he was with, noting that as he did so he saw the woman talking to Charles Connolly and that after receiving the drinks he took them to where they were talking. He said that when he got the Woman said in Charles Connolly's hearing, 'This is Connolly', but the labourer said that he had already known Charles Connolly for about four years. He said that after about fifteen minutes George Kelly came in and said hello and then walked into the back room but returned after about ten or fifteen seconds and then ordered a round of drinks for the four of them. He said that whilst they were drinking some girl came from the back room and that she started to talk with George Kelly on the side out of his hearing, noting that they remained talking like that for about five minutes and that they then both re-joined the group. The labourer said that at the time he had been carrying a brown overcoat, the coat which was later presented in evidence as CC1 at the trial, noting that at that time it had a belt and some buttons, but that he had since lost the belt. He said that George Kelly said that it was cold and asked if he would lend him his overcoat and said that he replied, 'Yes, you can have it'. He said that George Kelly put it on and that it was a good fit.
The labourer said that they then commenced to talk about 'jobs' of breaking into places and said that a shop in Islington was mentioned but said that one of them remarked that it had a burglar alarm and was no good. He said that George Kelly then mentioned a place at the New Brighton Fair Ground, and a taxi driver was mentioned who they wanted to do up. He said that Charles Connolly then said that he had a smasher up Webster Road, going on to say that it was a picture house called the Cameo. The labourer said that Charles Connolly went on to describe it and how to reach it, saying that one would have to wait outside until the lights went out in the cash desk. The labourer said that Charles Connolly then said that he girl there would then take the cash upstairs, which would be about 9pm or 9.15pm when the big picture had started. He said that Charles Connolly also said that a gun would be needed for the job and said that George Kelly then said that he had just the thing and pulled out a gun from his back pocket. The labourer said that when George Kelly pulled out the pistol, Charles Connolly said, 'This is like an air pistol', to which he said that George Kelly replied, 'This is not an air pistol, this is a .38'. The labourer said that he saw that the magazine was empty and said that George Kelly then put his hand in his pocket and pulled out some shells. The labourer said that the Woman that he was with then said 'You want to put that away before someone sees it, but said that George Kelly replied, 'I don't mind who sees me, my name's Kelly'. He said that George Kelly then put one of the shells into the breach of the gun and six in the magazine and the rest in his pocket and then put the pistol in his back pocket.
The labourer said that George Kelly then said to him, 'Are you coming?' and said that he replied, 'No'.
He said that the girl who had come from the back room had been present during the conversation and that she gave George Kelly a small dark apron, but added that before that, George Kelly had put a handkerchief over the lower half of his face, but that it was too small. He said that George Kelly put the apron in his pocket. He said that soon after that George Kelly, Charles Connolly and the woman left the public house with George Kelly wearing his overcoat, exhibit CC1. He noted that before they left that they made an appointment to meet the next day in a public house in Brownlow Hill. He added that about five minutes after they all left, the Woman returned to the Beehive public House and hat they then returned to Birkenhead.
The labourer said that he learned about the murder at the Cameo Cinema the following morning.
The labourer said tat the following day, 20 March 1949, at about 1pm, that he went to the public house in Brownlow Hill where he saw one of George Kelly's friends and Charles Connolly. He said that Charles Connolly looked scared and pale and worried and that he was talking about leaving the country. He said that Charles Connolly was still talking when George Kelly came in with the girl that he had been with the previous night at the Beehive public house. He said that when George Kelly came in Charles Connolly said that he was going to leave the country and that George Kelly said, 'Don't' and then called him a yellow bastard.
He said that George Kelly then said that the police had been up to his house that morning.
The labourer added that when Charles Connolly had been talking about leaving the country, that George Kelly had made threats against him and also against him and the Woman that he was with. He said that George Kelly also said that when the policeman had gone to his house that morning that he wished that he had had the gun and that the policeman would not have stood there so cocksure of himself. (It is worth noting that the policeman that he was referring to was the Chief Superintendent in charge of the case who was claimed to have been involved in the similarly unsafe murder convictions of Alfred Burns and Edward Devlin two years later). He said that George Kelly then said, 'I have a good alibi' and that he then said to Charles Connolly, 'If the policeman comes up, just say we don't know each other'. The labourer said that he then asked for his overcoat back and said that George Kelly told him that he would fetch to the following day. The labourer said that he and the Woman then left the pub.
The labourer said that the following day, 21 March 1949, that he and the Woman again went to Liverpool and saw George Kelly in Lime Street on the corner by the waste ground. He said that he asked for his overcoat and that George Kelly then walked away saying that he would fetch it and that he returned in about ten to fifteen minutes and handed it back to him. The overcoat was the one presented as exhibit CC1 at the trial. He said that George Kelly told him that he had better burn it and added that he would have slung it himself, but it might have been raced back to the labourer.
hte labourer said that he then said to George Kelly, 'Well you made a mess of things up at the Cameo', and said that George Kelly replied, 'Shut your fucking mouth'. He said that he then asked George Kelly how it all turned out that way and said that George Kelly replied, 'It was Connolly's fault for not warning me', adding that George Kelly should have warned him that the second man was coming up the steps, adding that he had had the bag in his hands then and just could have walked out.
The labourer said that he then asked George Kelly where the gun was and said that George Kelly replied, 'I slung it in the Park'.
The labourer said that he then asked George Kelly how it all happened at the Cameo and said that George Kelly told him that he had stood outside until the lights in the cash desk went out and that he then went round to the side door and that Charles Connolly waited outside the picture house without going in. He said that George Kelly then said that he went up the spiral staircase and saw the door leading into the office and walked in and saw an old fellow sitting down at the desk and that there was a bag on the desk. He said that George Kelly told him that he then told the man 'I want that bag' and that the man turned round and said, 'don't be such a fool, and put that away', meaning the gun. He said that George Kelly then said that he told the man, 'This is no toy' and said that the man then said, 'You can't take that money it belongs to the company, but you can take some of my money'. He said that George Kelly went on to say that the man pushed his gun aside and so he shot him as he could not be bothered with him anymore. He said that George Kelly then told him that he picked up the bag and put the gun in his pocket and turned to go out and that he got about two or three paces from the door when the door opened and another man came in. He said that George Kelly told him that the other man stood with his back to the door and with his hands behind his back.
He said that George Kelly told him that the bag was in his left hand at the time and that his right hand was free and that the man then oved towards him as if to put his hands around him t prevent him from getting his gun out. He said that George Kelly then said that he butted the man and then took out his gun and shot him in the chest and that the man fell to his knees and started to tear at his shirt on his chest. However, he said that George Kelly then told him that the man continued to tackle him and so he shot him again and the man fell by the door. He said that George Kelly told him that by then that the money was scattered all over the floor and that he thought that the man had locked the door and so he shot off the lock which fell on the floor. He said that George Kelly told him that he had had to pull the man that he had shot twice away from the door to get out and that he had then gone down the spiral staircase and dashed out, but didn't see Charles Connolly who had by then apparently gone.
The labourer said that George Kelly then told him that he had a cast iron alibi and that the police would not be able to crack it in a thousand years, especially the one that had come to his house the following morning.
The labourer said that it was about two weeks after that, in the company of the Woman, that he wrote the anonymous letter to the police.
He said that some little time after 19 March 1949, that the Woman handed him a handkerchief with some shells in it, but when questioned said that he had not seen them before, saying that they were the same size as the ones he had seen before, but a different make. He said that he kept six of them, giving the remainder back to the Woman, but then later gave the six shells back to the Woman.
When the Woman gave evidence of the events in the Beehive public house and after, she said that she was married but had known the labourer for about three years and had known George Kelly and Charles Connolly for about three or four years.
She said that on the evening of 19 March 1949 she had left Birkenhead with the Labourer at about 7pm and gone to Liverpool with him to the Beehive public house, arriving at about 7.30pm where they saw Charles Connolly in the lobby. She said that the labourer then went to a window and ordered drinks and that she went over to talk to Charles Connolly and said that when the labourer came back over to them with the drinks that she introduced him to Charles Connolly. She said that they spoke to each other and that general talk took place and that after about fifteen minutes George Kelly came in and said hello to them all. She said that he was only there for a couple of moments and that he then came back and ordered drinks for them all. She said that a girl then came over from the back room, noting that she was a dark girl, wearing dark clothes and was heavily made up, and that George Kelly drew aside from them all in order to talk to her and that a little bit later they came back.
She said that the labourer had an overcoat over his arm at the time and that George Kelly then asked, 'Aren’t you wearing that?' and that the labourer then replied, 'No'. She said that George Kelly then asked, 'Will you loan it to me because I feel cold' and said that the labourer then gave the coat to him and that George Kelly put it on and said, 'It's a smashing fit'. He said that they then started talking about jobs which were ready to be done, including one in particular in Islington but said that one of them, either George Kelly and Charles Connolly, that they would not do that one because there was a burglar alarm. The Woman said that they went asked her to go down town and bring up a taxi cab driver, noting that she thought that it was Charles Connolly that asked, saying that he was a stool for the police and had lots of money on him. however, the Woman said that she refused to go there for the taxi man at first. She said that Charles Connolly then said that said that she should bring him there to do him over and get what he had. she said that Charles Connolly then mentioned a place in New Brighton which he said he had mapped out in a little notebook which he had fastened at the top with two rings with loose pages in it. She said that George Kelly then said that it was hard cash or cigarettes that they wanted as they could get rid of cigarettes but could not get rid of anything else.
The Woman said that Charles Connolly then said, 'There’s a smashing place up in Webster Road, it's a cinema', noting that she couldn't remember if he mentioned the name. She said that he mentioned how to get there and that it would have to be a stick up either with a gun or a dummy and that George Kelly then pulled out a flat gun from either his pocket or belt and that one of George Kelly and Charles Connolly said, 'That's a Webley' and that George Kelly then said, 'It's the real thing'. She said that George Kelly then took some shells from his jacket pocket and with the gun in his hand, pulled out the butt end of the gun and stated placing shells inside, noting that whilst he was doing it he was swearing as though he was having an awful job getting them in. She said that he got the shells in, but didn't know how many and then said, 'Why don't you put that thing away, someone might see you', and that George Kelly replied 'I don't care' and then put the gun back from where he got it from.
The Woman said that George Kelly then tied a handkerchief around the lower part of his face but said that it wouldn't fit. She said that the girl that was with George Kelly who had had a holdall with a zip fastener at the top with her then took out either a dark brown or a nigger brown apron, describing it as a small one, and that George Kelly then said, 'Oh that will do fine' and that he then put the apron in his pocket.
The woman said that George Kelly then asked her whether she was going and said that the labourer said 'No'.
She said that she, George Kelly and Charles Connolly then left the public house, which would have been about 8.30pm and crossed the road to the No. 8 car stop and waited at the tram stop. She said that a tram came along, and that Charles Connolly said, 'This is ours'. She said that quite a number of people got on the tram before their turn and that George Kelly and Charles Connolly got on but that she took a tumble and went back to the Beehive public house where the labourer was still drinking. She added that before they parted, they had arranged to meet the following day at a public house in Brownlow Hill that George Kelly knew about.
The Woman said that the following morning that she read about the murder at the Cameo Cinema.
She said tat she and the labourer left Birkenhead later that morning, 20 March 1949 and arrived at the public house in Brownlow Hill at about 1pm where they saw Charles Connolly and a friend of George Kelly. She said that Charles Connolly looked very shaken up and very frightened and that he said he was going to blow town and in fact was going to beat the country, and added that the other man there, the friend of George Kelly said to him, 'Well I can try and get you on a ship'.
She said that George Kelly then came in with the girl that he had been with in the Bee Hive the night before and that she heard Charles Connolly say to him, 'I think I will leave the country' to which she said that George Kelly called him a yellow bastard. She said that George Kelly then said 'I'm staying here in Liverpool'. She said that George Kelly then went on to say 'I had that bastard policeman up at our place this morning. If I'd have had the gun on me then, he would not have stood so cocksure of himself'. She said that George Kelly then said to Charles Connolly, 'I have a good alibi, you better figure one out for yourself' and that Charles Connolly replied, 'Oh alright, I'll figure one out with my wife'.
The Woman said that George Kelly then said to Charles Connolly, 'If the policeman comes to see you as he most likely will, tell him you don't know me'.
She said that the labourer then asked George Kelly for his coat back, but that George Kelly said, 'I can't go for it now. I'll give it to you tomorrow'. She added that before they left the public house that George Kelly threatened them all, stating that if any of them said anything either he or his brother would attend to them.
She said that she and the labourer went back to Liverpool the following day, saying that she left the labourer for about an hour and that when she next met him, he had his overcoat with him.
The woman said that a few days later she was on the waste land near Lewis's when she saw Charles Connolly and that when she joined him he pulled out a handkerchief from his pocket and gave it to her asking her to give it to George Kelly. She said that she didn't examine it at the time but that when she got home straight after that she gave the handkerchief to the labourer who opened it and found that it contained twenty three shells. She said that the labourer kept six of the shells and hat she took the other seventeen shells back to Charles Connolly, noting that she thought that she took them back the following day but was not certain of the day she gave them back to Charles Connolly, and said that she told him that she had to give them to George Kelly himself.
The Woman said that the following Saturday that she met Charles Connolly again at the Central Station and that they went into Littlewood's Cafe and that while they were there he told her about the murder. She said that he told her that he and George Kelly had both gone up to the cinema and that he had stood outside the door whilst George Kelly went in. He said that when George Kelly shot the first man he ran away as he didn't think that there would be any shooting. The woman said that Charles Connolly then told her that George Kelly had afterwards told him that the second man came at him and that he got panicky because he didn't know whether the door opened in or out and that he also thought that it migt have been jammed. He said that Charles Connolly told her that George Kelly said told him that he had then shot the second man and had then got out of the cinema and had run across the park and thrown the gun in the lake.
She added that when Charles Connolly told her about the murder that Charles Connolly had asked her to go to the 'smoke' with him, meaning London.
She said that later that night, after speaking to Charles Connolly about the murder, that she and the labourer wrote the anonymous letter to the police, which she posted on the Sunday at about 4.30pm. She said that the following day she looked in the labourers pockets for the six bullets that he had taken from the twenty three and that she took them off to a place near Reeces at the side of the Adelphi Hotel and hrew them down the drains, noting that she put them down different drains.
The Woman said that she saw Charles Connolly once more after that on a tram but that she didn't speak to him.
She said that she next saw George Kelly outside the Palais di Luxe cinema in Lime Street about a week after she and the labourer had written the letter and said that he asked her what as wrong with her and said that she told him that a fellow was going to batter her. She said that George Kelly then took her to a public house via the back door, noting that it was either the Caledonian or O’Connor’s, which they had to go down a few steps to enter and that the sat down behind a partition and George Kelly bought her a whisky and said, 'This is the stuff to calm you down'. She said that after that he bought two more whiskies and she said to him, You seem to have plenty of money to throw away on this stuff' and said that George Kelly replied, 'I would have had more if I'd have got what I went for at the Cameo'. She said that she then told George Kelly that she had better be going back to Birkenhead but noted that she was scared of the man and said that George Kelly then said, 'There's no need to be scared while I have this' and tapped something in his pocket. She said that she didn't see what it was, but said, 'Why don't you get rid of that thing?' and said that George Kelly replied, 'I will, that's easy, I'll take it to pieces and throw it down some drains somewhere'.
However, she said that before she left for Birkenhead that George Kelly said 'If you say anything about what has happened, I'll knife you. If you I don't someone else will'. The Woman said that she was awfully frightened because she knew what he was and said that she started to cry and said that George Kelly then took out a handkerchief from his pocket and said, 'Eh nark that, or people will think I've done something to you'. She said that she took the handkerchief and wiped her face with it after which George Kelly took her to the Underground and she went back to Birkenhead. She noted that the man in charge of the bar they had been in was a big gentleman with a moustache.
At the trial she confirmed that the bullets shown in exhibit CC2 were just like the ones that she had thrown away.
After the police interviewed the labourer and the Woman they continued their investigation, with particular attention to the movements of George Kelly and Charles Connolly who they saw together on a number of occasion
see Liverpool Echo
see For Justice
see Crime Scribe
see The Guardian
see National Archives - ASSI 86/32, ASSI 52/646, ASSI 52/660, DPP 2/1949, HO 45/25623, HO 45/25623/1, PCOM 9/2376
see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Saturday 22 October 1949
see Leicester Daily Mercury - Wednesday 25 January 1950
see Manchester Evening News - Thursday 31 March 1949
see Liverpool Echo - Saturday 02 April 1949
see Belfast News-Letter - Wednesday 25 January 1950
see Liverpool Echo - Thursday 20 October 1949
see Birmingham Daily Gazette - Monday 21 March 1949
see Liverpool Echo - Wednesday 23 March 1949
see Liverpool Echo - Friday 06 May 1949