Jeanette Patricia Beard
This is the story of the murder of Jeanette Patricia Beard, a 15 year old schoolgirl from Brixton, who, on a summer’s evening, was brutally murdered. Her murder has never been solved. I have gathered together as much evidence as I could find from numerous newspaper reports at the time so that you can decide for yourself who killed Pat Beard…..
Jeanette Patricia Beard – The Victim
Jeanette Beard (known locally as Pat Beard) was born in the borough of Lambeth in 1935, the youngest of 8 children. Her mother was Maud Howlett and her father was William (Bill) Beard. They lived at 18 Medwin Street, Brixton. On 9th August 1950, 15 year old Pat was brutally murdered in Brixton whilst out buying some chips.
Victor James Boyle – The Accused
Victor was born in 1897 in Dartford, Kent. His mother was Isabel Burrows and his father called James Andrew Boyle who worked at the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich. It seems that Boyle became an habitual criminal as in 1911, aged just 13, he was an ‘inmate’ at Birkdale Farm Reformatory School for Catholic in Southport – a school for 200 boys who had been involved in criminal behaviour. It was a long way from home and his family who were still living in Kent.
Boyle eventually moved back to London and in 1921 was wanted by the Metropolitan Police in X Division (Willesden) for attempting to cash a stolen cheque.
In August 1924 Boyle was then charged with theft from a warehouse in Brunswick Place, City Road, Shoreditch. It was stated that he was a pugilist and was living in Pimlico when the crime was committed.
Eventually Boyle became a club doorman in Soho but he was due to start a new job as an engineer stoker at Paddington Station, earning £10 a week the day after Pat Beard was killed. He lived in Medwin Street as ‘man and wife’ with his landlady, Mrs Hilda Gallagher and her daughter, Audrey Gallagher. They lived next door but one to Pat Beard at 22 Medwin Street, Brixton. Victor was known locally as Boyle, Gallagher, Brown and ‘Boxer Brown’.
~ Pat’s Murder ~
9th August 1950 – The facts
It was alleged that Pat had struck up a friendship with Hilda Gallagher’s daughter, Audrey, and it was through Audrey that she became friendly with Victor Boyle in June 1949.
At 9:10pm on Wednesday 9th August 1950, Pat was given some money to go and buy some chips from the local fish shop. She was seen by witnesses in the area.
At 9:25pm, Pat was seen “staggering like a drunken woman down Allardyce Street and Ferndale Road, moaning something about ‘police‘” before she collapsed and died. A stain on a wall in Allardyce street and a trail of blood leading to Ferndale Road confirmed this version of events.
Pat had been killed by two cuts on the left hand side of her neck by her jugular vein by a very sharp implement, such as a razor. A number of cuts to her hands suggested she put up a fight against her attacker. Underneath her was 2s. 6d. (the money she had taken to go to the fish shop).
Officers from Scotland Yard issued an appeal for information on a man whom they wished to question in relation to Pat’s brutal murder. They described him as being about 53 years of age, with scars on his cheek and lips, and a tattoo on his left forearm that read ‘I love Polly, Pansy and Jessie forever‘. It was also reported that police had searched a home near to Pat’s and found a letter of suicide that was believed to have been written by a man who knew her. Police searched a number of Soho clubs and interviewed people who knew him.
~ Trial – October 1950 – Old Bailey ~
- Defence: Mr L J Belcourt
- Prosecution: Mr Christmas Humphreys / Mr F D Barry
- Judge: Mr Justice Byrne
- Pathologist: Dr F E Camps
- Witness: Frederick George – coffee stall owner
- Witness: George Patrick O’Brien – lorry driver
- Witness: Maud Beard
- Witness: Hilda Julia Gallagher – Boyle’s landlady/partner
- Witness: ‘Stiff’ – Friend of Victor Boyle
- Witness: Margaret Pennington
- Witness: Mr Ellis – barber
Before the trial began, Mr Belcourt objected to three women who were about to be sworn in as members of the jury and they were subsequently replaced by men.
The police had received a complaint against Victor Boyle in connection with an alleged assault on two young girls. It was alleged that Boyle mistakenly believed Pat Beard was responsible for the allegations and he wished to take revenge. It was on this basis that the prosecution claimed he killed Pat – in revenge for “shopping him“.
Boyle pleaded ‘Not Guilty‘.
Mr Humphreys opened the case by stating that the murder of Pat Beard was premeditated and planned hours before it was committed.
“The case for the Crown in a word is this. This man lived next door but one to the girl. He knew her well. Someone complained to the police of his conduct in relation to other small girls. He thought it was Pat, as this girl was known. He decided to have his revenge on her for what he believed she had done. Perhaps the most tragic feature of this case is that it is untrue that the girl had ‘shopped’ Boyle to the police. She had said nothing to the police. They had acquired their information in quite a different way. What matters is that he believed it to be true and had said so more than once. That is the motive for this murder”.
“He borrowed a cut-throat razor, made a rendevouz with the girl, and was seen with her a few minutes before she was murdered. Soon after the murder he confessed to it in detail in a public house. Soon after midnight he confessed again to two acquaintances at a coffee stall on the embankment”.
“After going to Liverpool, whether he wrote to his landlady a letter with tended to show that he tried to get away from the docks but failed, he gave himself up to the police. The story began at 2pm on 9th August and ended virtually 12 hours later with his confession on the Embankment”.
“Pat was seen by neighbours shortly before the time of the murder. When she returned she fell down in the middle of Medwin Street and there her life ebbed away from the terrible wounds in her throat caused by something like a razor. A half a crown was found near her”.
“Later in a public house, Boyle told Mrs Gallagher, ‘I’ve just done Pat in’ and when asked where, said ‘Outside the church in Allardyce Street where they have whist drives’. He produced a razor and there was blood on his hands”.
“Pat had said nothing to the police. No one saw the murder committed”.
Prosecution’s timeline of events:
- 1.30pm, Boyle was seen by a police officer as a result of a complaint made about him. (*See 3.30pm, below)
- 2pm he had met a man named ‘Stiff’ in a pub, (who knew Boyle as ‘Boxer Brown’) and explained that he had been interrogated by the police in connection with an alleged assault on a young girl and that he believed a 15 year old girl had been the one who had reported him and said he was “going to slap her“.
- 3.30pm Boyle was seen by a police officer*. (There are conflicting reports surrounding the time)
- 4pm it was alleged that Boyle was seen looking out of the window at his home address when Pat Beard and another girl walked past and had said he had a present for them and he was going away the next day.
- 5.15pm it was alleged Boyle was seen talking to Pat on the corner of Concannon Street and was heard to say “9 o’clock“. It was then, the prosecution alleged, that Boyle arranged to meet Pat outside the Church of the First Born in Allardyce Street.
- 5.30-5.45pm, he visited a barber’s shop and borrowed a cut-throat razor. (The case for which was found at Boyle’s address).
- 8.30pm Boyle left his home for 15 minutes to use the telephone. However, it was during this time that he was allegedly seen talking to Pat.
- 8.45pm Boyle, who had returned home, complained of feeling unwell to Mrs Gallagher and asked her to set the alarm for 10pm as he intended to go to sleep before his night shift.
- 8.50pm, Mrs Gallagher went out and left Boyle lying on the bed. The prosecution suggested that it may well have been an alibi as he had left the house just 10 minutes later.
- 9pm, Pat left her home to buy some chips. She had to walk past no.22 and as soon as she had, a witness claimed a man left no.22 and followed her. The witness failed to identify Boyle from a line up.
- Just before 9.30pm, Boyle was seen standing outside the chip shop. The prosecution stated that Pat had gone in to the shop and five minutes later was seen walking down Ferndale road. Minutes later she was then seen staggering back before collapsing.
- It was alleged that Boyle met Pat as arranged and brutally attacked her, slitting her throat. Mr Humphreys also claimed that Boyle had left a letter at his lodgings addressed to Hilda Gallagher, marked ‘To be opened at midnight’. In the letter, Boyle had written:
I have been trapped into something I cannot explain. I am taking great care that the person responsible will not get any other poor devil in the same way.
- At around 10pm Boyle went to speak to Mrs Gallagher in The Angel pub in Coldharbour Lane where he is alleged to have said “I have just done Pat in…. outside the church in Allardyce Street where they have the whist drives“, that he then produced a blood-soaked razor and had blood on his right hand.
- The prosecution claimed that Boyle had then changed before fleeing.
- Between midnight and 2am Boyle headed to Charing Cross and stopped at a coffee stall owned by Frederick George, where he told a lorry driver – George O’Brien from Old Kent Road – that he had “slashed a girl in Brixton” who had shopped him to the police for interfering with her and that he “didn’t know if she was alive or dead“. He also said “the law” had visited him that afternoon. It was alleged that he produced the razor and demonstrated how he did it.
- He told Frederick George (whom he knew) that “I have done a murder. I am in it now“.
- He then hitchhiked to Liverpool with the intention of leaving the country. Whilst there he saw a priest.
- On Friday 11th August 1950 Boyle telephoned the police at Southport and handed himself in, asking the police for “a square deal” in return. He told them that he was “the chap they were looking for in London” but that “I don’t know nothing about the murder“.
- Boyle made a statement in Liverpool in which he declared that he was at his lodgings between 8pm and 10pm on the night of the murder.
- The prosecution also claimed that Boyle had previously been thinking about taking Pat to Ireland with him.
Witness: Mrs Gallagher:
Mrs Gallagher was extremely ill by the time of the trial and was taken from Bethnal Green Hospital (where she was a patient) to the central criminal court on a stretcher by ambulance, accompanied by a doctor and a uniformed nurse. At one stage of the cross-examination she lost consciousness and had to receive medical attention.
Her version of events was that Boyle had been a lodger at her house and that on 9th August he had told her that he had been accused of interfering with children but said that it wasn’t him and that he wanted her to believe it was not him. She also stated that when he arrived at the Angel pub and told her that he had “just done Pat in…“, she didn’t believe him and asked which Pat he meant, to which he replied “young Pat Beard“. He showed me the razor and on his hand he had blood“. She was horrified. Boyle also said that he had “meant to kill her“.
Mrs Gallagher claimed they then took a taxi to Victoria and Boyle held her wrist with his left hand and sat with his right hand in his pocket in which was the razor. She stated that she was petrified. “I realised I was alone with a mad man and could not get away“. When asked by the prosecution if he had threatened her, she replied “Yes, he said I was to say nothing. He implied that my life and my daughter’s life would be in danger“.
When cross-examined by the Defence, Mr Belcourt, Mrs Gallagher agreed that she had made two statements to the police – one after midnight on the night of the murder and one a few days ago. When asked why she had made no reference to the alleged Angel public house conversation in one of her statements to the police, she replied “I was too scared – he was still at large“.
Mr Belcourt stated that “not until 28th August did you refer to this alleged conversation in the Angel public house – that is so, isn’t it“? – “Yes“.
“I suggest that the conversation, or most of it, was invented by you, Mrs Gallagher?” to which she replied “I wish it were“.
When asked whether Boyle had told her that Pat wanted to go to Ireland with him, Mrs Gallagher replied “I don’t know what their arrangements were“. She denied that Boyle told her that when he got to the scene of the crime he saw a pool of blood and a crowd of people and that he then heard Pat had been stabbed, went back into the house and wrote a note for her. He did not tell her that he had looked for his “cut-throat” razor and found it was missing.
Referring to letters written by Boyle, Mr Belcourt said:
“In these letters addressed to you as “My own darling Zona” and “Darling Zona”, it was obvious that he loved you very much?, to which she replied “I think he was fond of me“.
He then stated, “He trusted you implicitly“. – “Absolutely”
“He had a complete and utter confidence that you would keep to yourself anything he confided in you“. – “I don’t consider that I betrayed his trust. I don’t see that he trusted me with anything. I trusted him, for that matter“.
Later on Mrs Gallagher said “He didn’t trust me. He frightened and terrorised me into a position“.
Witness: Mrs Beard
The prosecution asked Mrs Beard if she knew a man in the neighbourhood called Boyle. She replied “Yes. I do” before turning to look at Boyle and muttering “Filth“. She went on to say “I knew him by the name of John. As he was passing my door he would sometimes say ‘Hello Pat‘”. Mrs Beard explained that on 9th August, Pat went out at 9.10pm to buy some chips. “She took 2s. 6d out of my bag. She said ‘I will come back to go to bed early, Mum, because I don’t feel well’. I never saw her again“.
When cross-examined by the Defence, Mrs Beard said that Pat had no boyfriends.
Mr Belcourt asked – “she never went to the pictures with any young men?” – “Not to my knowledge”.
“Did she ever go dancing?” – “No“.
Mrs Beard, weeping, turned to Boyle and shouted “YOU BEAST, YOU SCOUNDREL”!
Witness: Dr F E Camps, Pathologist
Dr Camps confirmed that Pat had died from wounds to her neck caused by a very sharp instrument such as a sharp knife or razor. Dr Camps went on to state “The girl knew what was happening. She clearly put up a considerable defence“.
Witness: Mrs Pennington
Mrs Pennington said she saw Pat “Staggering along like a drunken woman. She was moaning and I heard sounds which, when I think about it, were like ‘police, get the police’“. She went out and found Pat lying in the road covered in blood.
Witness: Mr George
Mr George stated that at around 12.30am, Boyle had came to his coffee stall at Charing Cross and told him “I’m well in trouble. I’ve done a murder“. Mr George also picked Boyle out in an identity parade.
Witness: Mr O’Brien
Mr O’Brien stated that “Boyle told me he was in dead trouble. He said he had slashed a girl in Brixton and he did not know whether she was alive or dead“. Mr O’Brien had also picked Boyle out in an identity parade.
When the prosecution asked if Boyle had anything to say, his Defence Mr Belcourt, said “Through me he says he is innocent of the charge and he has a complete answer to it“.
Mr Belcourt claimed that Boyle had admitted that he had arranged to meet Pat at 9.30pm outside the church in Allardyce Street on 9th August, but when he got there she was lying in a pool of blood and he panicked as he thought he’d be a suspect, so fled. He returned to his flat where he wrote a note to Mrs Gallagher.
He then visited Mrs Gallagher at a pub in Coldharbour Lane and asked her what she had done with his razor, to which she denied having seen it. She was then said to have become very agitated when Boyle had told her that Pat had been killed and she then produced a razor blade from her handbag. Mr Belcourt went on to allege that Boyle had asked her why she had taken his razor, to which she replied that she had seen some of the Brixton mob and told them that Boyle was meeting Pat outside the church in Allardyce Street.
Mr Belcourt referred to the evidence that five razors, one bloodstained, had reached the police after inquiries started.
When asked by the defence if he killed Pat Beard, he replied “No, sir“. Boyle went on to say
He first met Mrs Gallagher in February 1949. His relationship with her was almost that of man and wife. He met Pat Beard around June 1949 when she became friendly with Mrs Gallagher’s daughter, Audrey Gallagher. She seemed very fond of him. They were merely friends and there was nothing improper in their relationship. Mr Belcourt asked him what was his reaction? “I felt rather flattered that a young girl like her should be fond of me. I thought she was a nice girl and in a way I was fond of her. There was nothing more to it“. He went on to state that Mrs Gallagher had eventually ordered Pat Beard out of the house as she did not like his association with Pat in any way. He said he had met Pat at 5.15pm and made an appointment to meet her at 9.30pm. He made no attempt to conceal himself and people saw him talking to her in the street.
After leaving her he borrowed a razor from Mr Ellis. There was nothing sinister in this.
While waiting for Pat later he saw a big pool of blood against a wall and thought someone had had an accident. He realised Pat was not there so thought he would go back to Medwin Street to meet her so that she would not have to see the blood and retraced his steps. At the corner of Medwin Street, he saw a big crowd of people, and a woman told him “It is Pat Beard – she has been stabbed“. He realised he would be a likely suspect and decided to get away. He went back to the flat and wrote a note to Mrs Gallagher.
“When I went into the kitchenette to collect my razor the case was there, but the razor was missing, and I did not know what to think“, said Boyle.
Boyle said that he asked Mrs Gallagher what she had done with his razor and she had denied having seen it. He then said “Pat Beard’s been done” and Mrs Gallagher said “No, no, no – she can’t be dead. Perhaps she’s only injured“. She was in a very agitated condition and he bought her a scotch whisky.
When they went outside, he asked her again what she had done with his razor. “She got hold of my arm and said ‘In my handbag’. She took it out of her bag and gave it to me. I opened the razor and it was clean. There was no blood on it whatsoever“. He asked her what she had taken his razor for and she said she had seen some of the Brixton mob and told them he was going to meet Pat outside the church in Allardyce Street.
At one stage during his evidence, Boyle turned to the jury and said “Please do not think that I think Mrs Gallagher did this thing“. He denied that he ever confessed to killing Pat Beard as Mrs Gallagher had alleged.
When cross-examined by the prosecution he was asked “You were fleeing the country, though you were innocent?” to which he replied “I was frightened“.
Summing up, Mr Humphreys said to the jury:
The case for the prosecution was still that the man lived next door but one to the girl who was murdered, that he knew her well, that someone complained of his conduct about two small girls and he thought it was Pat, and that he decided in the words of one of his witnesses “to go and slap her”. He borrowed a cut-throat razor for the purpose. He made a rendevouz with the girl for 9.30pm and he kept it. He had no alibi for the time of the murder and, indeed, he now did not want one because he said he was there just about the time the murder was committed. Soon after the murder he had confessed it in detail to his landlady, and shortly after that confessed to acquaintances on the Embankment. He then changed his clothes, hoping to escape recognition, tried to get out of the country and failed, saw a priest, and gave himself up. Counsel suggested there was evidence Boyle killed the girl for revenge, because he believed, though wrongly, that it was Pat Beard who was “shopping” him in respect of some alleged indecent assaults on to other little girls.
Summing up, Mr Belcourt said to the jury:
The jury had heard the medical evidence.
Might not somebody else have had some motive out of jealousy or spite, who might have heard that Boyle was going to meet the girl; who might have heard that Boyle was thinking of taking her (Pat) to Ireland – or that Pat Beard herself might have said to somebody that he was asking to take her away to Ireland?
Boyle had no reason at all to murder the girl – there was no question of gain or sex and no question of jealousy so far as he was concerned. It had been said by the prosecution that Boyle had given himself up to the police. “What he had done was to tell the police that he wanted a square deal”.
He had stoutly protested his innocence throughout.
Counsel referred to evidence that five razors, one of them bloodstained, had come into the hands of the police after inquiries had begun. It is a coincidence, is it not, that there should be found round the place where this crime was committed, a blood stained razor?. They knew that Boyle had nothing to do with that razor, he declared.
Summing Up: Mr Justice Byrne:
The Jury would not allow their minds to be prejudiced by the fact that the police had been making inquiries from Boyle concerning alleged acts of impropriety against two girls. They would assume that the charges concerning the two girls were unfounded.
The Verdict – 26th October 1950
The court sat late at the Old Bailey and the jury retired for just 50 minutes before returning to say “We are not unanimous in our verdict“. The judge, seemingly irritated, remarked “You have not been out for very long. I do not feel inclined to release you at the moment. I think you had better take further time for consideration. Is there any matter with regard to which I can help you – any piece of evidence you would like me to remind you of?“. As the foreman replied “We are seven to five, my Lord….“, the Judge interrupted “No, I do not want to know how you are divided. I want to know if there was any point of law with which I could assist you.” The foreman replied “no, my Lord“. The judge responded “Am I to take it there is no prospect at all of you reaching an agreement, or would you like further time to consider it?”.
The jury retired again and 1hr 45mins later returned with a verdict. In a hushed courtroom, the jury foreman quietly announced the verdict of ‘Not Guilty‘. Boyle was acquitted.
Boyle swiftly left through another exit and said to the waiting press “It is marvellous. I have some friends in the country and I shall be going away to them for a while. I intend to ask the British Railways if they will give me back my old job. If I cannot get my old job back what hope is there for me at my age? In that case, the only thing I can think of doing is, perhaps, going to Ireland.
Unfortunately for Boyle, things didn’t go according to plan…..
(The file concerning this case is held at The National Archives and is closed until 1 January 2051).
~ Further trial for assault – Nov 1950 ~
Further trial – Improper assault of two girls – Case 1: 15th November 1950
- Prosecution: Mr R E Seaton
- Defence: Mr Norman Beach
- Judge: Mr W B Frampton
- Police: Det Insp Jerden
- Police: Det Insp Frederick Clark
Just three weeks after being acquitted on the Pat Beard murder, Victor Boyle, by this time living at 6 Cheltenham Road, Peckham, found himself back in a court room. On 15th November he appeared at South Western Court on remand charged with assaulting two girls:
- Alleged that on 31st July 1950 he assaulted a girl aged 11 at Medwin Street;
- Alleged that on 4 August 1950 he assaulted a girl aged 7 at the same address.
At a pre-hearing, Mr Beach stated that the charges against Boyle were an outrage.
I do feel that some protest ought to be made that this man should be subjected to and the victim of this charge. He was recently tried upon a charge of murder and these alleged assaults were part of the res gaestae of that charge. It was an outrage of public morality that a man who had been falsely charged with murder, and detained in custody with that grave charge over his head, should find himself at this stage, three weeks after he had been acquitted, charged with these offences. He went on to say that the Director of Public Prosecutions had not brought the charges now before the court. They were brought by the Commissioner of Police.
The Magistrate, Mr Frampton, said in reply:
The fact that on one charge he was acquitted is no grounds for saying other charges of a lesser nature should not be proceeded with. The man would not be charged with any other offences while he was charged with murder. The fact that he was acquitted on a much more serious charge was no reason why he should not be charged with another offence.
The prosection, Mr Seaton, stated:
If complaints were made about these matters the police had a duty to perform. The complaints were made before Boyle was charged with murder
Witness: Det Insp Clark
Det Insp Clark said that on 9th August 1950 at 10.30pm he searched the rooms in Medwin Street and found a sealed envelope addressed in pencil to “Mrs H Gallagher, to be opened at midnight, 9/8/50“.
Mr Seaton, putting the prosecution’s case, said it was alleged that on one occasion Boyle called one of the little girls “beautiful darling” and kissed her and that another girl had said she had been assaulted and given a shilling by him. Boyle said “I cannot remember what I did“.
The 7 year old girl appeared in court, where speaking in a tiny voice, she said:
… She knew Boyle as ‘Johnny’ and she had seen him in the street one day and he said “Oh, you beautiful darling, oh you beautiful girl“, and asked her to go up to his flat. She went and after some conversation on a settee in the front room he gave her a 1/-.
He had kissed her on the face while they were sitting on the settee, but “they were not like mummy’s and daddy’s kisses – they were horrid“. She told no one about it because Boyle told her not to.
The judge, Mr Frampton, dismissed the charge of assault against the 7 year old girl, deciding that there was no case to answer.
- Defence: Mr L J Belcourt & Mr N Beach
- Prosecution: Mr R E Seaton
- Judge: Mr Justice Streatfield
On 23rd November 1950, Boyle appeared once again at the Central Criminal Court charged with improperly assaulting an 11 year old girl in Medwin Street between 1 July-9 August 1950.
Mr Seaton opened the trial with the comment
“The jury might take the view that the girl in this case was not a particularly moral child and that she consented to what it was alleged took place. That made not the slightest bit of difference because the law was designed to protect children against their own evil inclinations“.
He explained that Boyle was living in Medwin Street and the girl (who lived with her parents nearby) would visit his house to assist in odd jobs for which Boyle paid her 6d. a week pocket money. The girl had claimed Boyle had indecently assaulted her on a number of ocassions and medical evidence confirmed this.
Mr Seaton said he was not producing the statements as only two were relevant to the case to which Mr Beach stated he would ask for a subpoena against the Commissioner of Police to produce the statements. The judge stated he had no authority to demand that Mr Seaton produce the statements.
Mr Beach cross-examined the 11 year old girl who claimed that Boyle had asked her to go to his flat, and he had thrown the keys from his window so she could let herself in. She had made 4 statements to the police. She said that she knew Boyle as ‘Johnny’ and that he had been abusing her for over a year – up to three times a week. Boyle was well known for being generous to local children.
The girl was also cross-examined by Mr Belcourt where she admitted that with dates and other matters she had not told the truth in the witness box. She went on to state that she had been too scared to tell her parents about the abuse because Boyle had told her that he owned a gun.
Boyle said the girl went to his house in order to play the piano and, as she also ran errands for him, he gave her 6d. a week until July. On 28th July he saw the girl leaving a basement flat in Ferndale Road and she admitted to Boyle she had been “misbehaving with a man” she had previously met in a cinema. He said that he refused to allow her to enter his home after that and stopped her pocket money, denying any abuse took place.
Mr Justice Streatfield, summing up, said that although it was open to the jury to act upon the sworn evidence of a young girl, even though the evidence was completely uncorroborated, it was not safe to do so unless they could find some corroboration of her story.
Boyle was found not guilty and discharged. He died in 1994.