Martin Allen – Missing for 36 years
On 5th November 1979, a young schoolboy disappeared in broad daylight on his way home from school in London. Like Vishal Mehrotra, he seemed to disappear without a trace but, unlike Vishal, he has not been seen or heard of and no body has been found. It is a mystery and, indeed, a torturous one for Martin’s family. Following new information given to Operation Midland, a new police investigation has been set up to look again at the disappearance of Martin. This is a massive opportunity to get some answers and reach new witnesses. The new Metropolitan Police investigation is called Operation Malswick.
I’ve conversed with Martin’s brother, Kevin, a number of times and what is clear both from from speaking with him and reading Anton Gill’s book, is that Martin was loved. He came from a loving, down-to-earth, close-knit family in a very desirable area of London. The thought that a child can simply disappear in to thin air is hard to comprehend. There was nothing in Martin’s personal life that would indicate he would have run away. On the contrary, Martin was a homely boy who spent most of his time surrounded by his family, who was afraid of the dark, who liked to meet up and travel home with his mum after school and whose loyalty to family caused him to divert his trip that day by heading home to pick up some money to then take to his sister-in-law. The not knowing for 36 years continues to haunt his family and the whole case throws up more questions than answers, especially as new, very odd, information comes to light. Both his parents, Tom and Eileen, have sadly passed away without ever having any answers. I have decided to put together the facts of the case, as well as the story of the events surrounding Martin’s disappearance. Hopefully someone, somewhere, might recall something relevant or offer suggestions for the person identified as a possible abductor. (Please note that some of the witness quotes used may cause offence. This is not intentional – I simply feel it important to report the facts accurately).
On a personal level, what jumped out at me more than anything was that, despite a witness’s claim that Martin was seen on a Richmond-bound District Line train, his disappearance warranted a small paragraph in the local Richmond & Twickenham Times newspaper. Imagine all those commuters that could have been reached had it been given better coverage. Nowadays families can create their own appeals via social media, but back in 1979 you were solely reliant on the goodwill of press editors and programme makers. I have included newspaper reports in this post. They may jog a memory. If you have information regarding Martin’s disappearance – however small – please contact Operation Malswick and help give some closure to his family.
This blog post will be looking at the simple facts of the case at the time. I will follow this up with a second post that will cover the later years and mysterious happenings surrounding Martin’s disappearance.
Martin Allen & Family
Martin and his mum, Eileen
Martin Duncan Allen was born on 19th October 1964 in Islington, North London. He was the youngest child in his family, which consisted of:
- Tom Allen – Father
- Eileen – Mother
- Jeffrey – brother
- Robert (Bob) – brother
- Kevin Allen – brother
- Sue – Sister-in-Law (Bob’s wife)
- Paul – nephew (son of Bob & Sue)
Tom became a chauffeur for the Ambassador of the Australian High Commission and the family moved to a grace & favour cottage in Reston Place, Kensington. This sometimes gave them a birds eye view of the rich and powerful – Martin even managed to photograph Margaret Thatcher as well as meet Charles and Diana.
Kevin and Martin
Description of Martin
- Under 5ft in height – small for his age and much younger looking
- Brown hair
- Brace on his teeth
- Wearing: Dark blue blazer which featured a gold and red quartered shield motif with a scrolled gold and blue motto (see pic below)
- White shirt
- Blue and yellow striped tie
- Grey trousers
- Blue leather ‘POD’ shoes with a white band
- Casio F100 black digital watch
- Gold neck chain with a gold ‘M’ within a circle charm
- In his pockets he had: yellow underground train pass in a clear plastic holder, keys and £1.30 in change.
- Schoolbag: Bright yellow bag with ‘Astral’ in black lettering. Inside was a small knitted blue balaclava within a BHS bag, a ‘Clipper’ model railway transformer, lunch box with ‘Kit Kat’ in red lettering on the lid, school books, ‘My Family & Other Animals‘ book and a calculator.
- Martin was passionate about his bike and had an intricate knowledge of cars. He also loved photography.
Martin’s friends and associates:
- Robert Toft)
- Michael Welsh) Close circle of friends
- David Herzberg)
- Paul Stokes
- Ian Fletcher
- Martin Shann – Martin’s Saturday job boss
- James Aldridge
- Mr Barnes – Martin’s headmaster
- Miss Reading – Martin’s teacher
Martin’s Usual Journey – mornings
In the mornings Martin would initially travel with his brother Jeff. From their home in Hyde Park Gate they would get the Circle Line tube from Gloucester Road to King’s Cross. Martin would change to the Northern Line to Old Street. There he attended The Central Foundation School for Boys in Cowper Street.
Martin’s Usual Journey – afternoons
Martin and his friend, Ian Fletcher, would travel the two stops together from Old Street to King’s Cross on the Northern Line. There – at around 3.50pm – Martin would board a Southbound Piccadilly Line tube (quite often meeting up with his mum, who always sat on the same seat so that he knew where to find her*) and alighted at Gloucester Road – a total of 17 minutes journey. He’d turn left out of the station and cross the Cromwell Road, then walk up Gloucester Road until he reached Reston Place – a 5 minute walk. He would normally reach home at approximately 4.20pm.
*On Monday’s Eileen went to a class after work so would not be able to meet up with Martin and would be home later than normal.
Monday 5th November 1979
Martin had decided to stay at Bob and Sue’s home in Holloway that evening as his mum wouldn’t be home until late and he hated being indoors on his own in the dark. He quite often did this. His mum gave him a small knitted balaclava to take with him for his nephew, Paul, and he also took a model railway transformer for Bob. In the afternoon, he should have got the Northbound Piccadilly Line to head to Holloway except he had made a last minute decision and told friends he was returning home first in order to collect £1 he owed Sue.
As normal, Martin and Ian travelled on the Northern Line from Old Street to King’s Cross. Ian watched Martin walk down the foot tunnel leading to the Southbound Piccadilly Line platform. It was 3.50pm. That was the last time Martin would be seen. There is no evidence he ever arrived home. His items have never been found.
It’s important to remember that in 1979 not many people had telephones in their own homes, and so when Martin’s parents returned home to find him not there on Monday 5th, they assumed that he had gone to Bob and Sue’s as planned. Bob and Sue simply assumed Martin was at home. It wasn’t until Tuesday 6th November 1979, as Eileen dished up the dinner, that it became apparent that Martin was missing – a crucial 24 hours later.
Martin was sighted by 10 witnesses between 3.50pm-4.45pm at three stations.
Witness 1 (Ian Fletcher) stated that both he and Martin had travelled from Old Street to King’s Cross station as usual, where they parted to go their separate ways. He last saw Martin heading down the foot tunnel that lead to the Southbound Piccadilly Line.
Witnesses 2 & 3 (James Aldridge & his friend, David). James states that they went to the same school as Martin and knew him to say “hello” to. As they descended down the escalator towards the Victoria Line they saw Martin on an escalator heading to the Piccadilly Line. Neither of these boys were interviewed by the police despite contacting them.
Witness 4 A woman claimed to have seen a boy matching the description of Martin outside Gloucester Road Station, and said that she saw a man throw a boy against a wall. If this was Martin, it suggests he left the station before going back in.
Witness 5 claimed to have seen a boy matching Martin’s description and a man descending in a lift at Gloucester Road station.
Witness 6 (main witness) who was waiting on the Gloucester Road Westbound Piccadilly Line platform (4), claims he saw a boy matching Martin’s description and a man waiting for the same train. They got on a train heading to Rayner’s Lane but when they reached the next stop (Earls Court), they got off. The boy was described as looking “distressed, uneasy and apprehensive” and didn’t seem to want to leave the train at Earls Court. It is claimed the suspect prodded him in the back twice and said to him “Don’t try to run“. He had hold of the boy by the back of his neck.
Outside: Witnesses 7 & 8 claim to have seen a boy matching Martin’s description and a man at both the Earls Court Road and Warwick Road exits.
Inside: Witness 9 claims to have seen a boy matching Martin’s description and a man board a Northbound District Line train.
Witness 10 – a 12 year old boy claims to have seen a boy matching Martin’s description and a man boarding a Richmond-bound District Line train at approximately 4.30pm. The boy was said to seem “reluctant”.
If this IS the last confirmed sighting of Martin and the suspect, did they alight at any of the following stops?:
- West Kensington
- Baron’s Court
- Ravenscourt Park
- Stamford Brook
- Turnham Green
- Kew Gardens
If the emphasis is on the Piccadilly Line (which seems to be a recurring factor in most witness statements) – the following District Line stations had connections back to it:
- Baron’s Court
- Turnham Green
Did you use any of the above stations – particularly the bottom three? Do you remember seeing anything unusual?
The man seen with Martin was described as follows:
- Aged between 30-40
- Powerfully built
- Approximately 6ft
- Blonde hair
- Denim casual suit with a ‘Levi’ or ‘safari’ type jacket
- Shirt and tie
- Reasonably well spoken
- Described as looking like “a raving poof“.
Please look at the photofit pictures. Do you recognise this man from the past? If so, please contact the Metropolitan Police.
Apart from the description of this man, we know little else aside from the fact he abducted a young boy in broad daylight in front of commuters. Is it possible he had offended before? Did he progress to abduction? Was he based in another country and therefore able to disappear after the abduction?
The police became pretty certain there was no underworld involvement as even they joined in the hunt in order to get the case solved as quickly as possible to stop the police from constantly snooping around.
Are you an ex-police officer that may have dealt with this man before or since? Are you someone who encountered this man in your past? If so, please contact the Metropolitan Police.
Those involved in the investigation:
- DS Tony Polley
- PC Henryk Pycz
- DCI David Veness
- Commissioner Sir David McNee
- DI Bill Ilsley
- Cdr George Rushbrook
- DS Margaret Goodwin
- WPC Gwen Underwood
- PC Kevin Hull
- PC Ian Wilson
- PC William Lambeth
- PC Maurice Maylin
- PC Ted Larwood
Police initially treated Martin’s disappearance as a runaway due to the high levels of children that did so in London. It wasn’t until a few days later they began to suspect that things may have taken a sinister turn and eventually concluded that Martin had been abducted outside Gloucester Road station. As we now know, the initial few hours following a child’s disappearance is crucial but unfortunately, in Martin’s case, this had been lost.
His friends were interviewed but Martin hadn’t confessed to any worries or concerns. His family felt as if they were on trial at times, such was the line of questioning they faced, but police had the job of investigating everyone in Martin’s life. His school painted a picture of a boy who, although timid, was a home-loving, funny boy, who wouldn’t run away, who would be submissive to someone claiming to be in authority but who would put up a fight if necessary.
One of the strangest aspects of the case – and one that seems to be glossed over – is the absence of fingerprints in Martin’s room – none whatsoever – not even Martin’s own! He was a 15 year old boy and not one single fingerprint of his could be found.
The main newspapers that cooperated with the investigation and published many articles on Martin’s disappearance included:
- Kensington & Chelsea News
- Daily Express
- The Sun
- Daily Mail
- The Evening News
A number of reporters obviously met with detectives over the course of the investigation, and as we know from cases such as Ian Huntley and Maxine Carr, those responsible sometimes like to talk to the press.
Were you a reporter on this case? Do you have any information you could share with Martin’s family? Was there someone you had suspicions about at the time?
Following police appeals, more people came forward:
Witness 11 claims to have seen someone matching the description of the abductor eating in a restaurant in St Helier, Jersey. This came to nothing.
Witness 12 – two months after Martin disappeared a young boy came across the story in an old newspaper whilst in a barber shop which caused him to contact the police. He said that shortly after 5th November he had been walking his dog when he noticed some schoolbooks that had been dumped in the porch of an empty shop in a parade opposite Gloucester Road station. A subsequent search by police found nothing.
Witnesses 13 & 14 were two prostitutes who contacted the police with concerns after a Canadian/German client had expressed an interest in young boys and had let slip certain facts which suggested he may have known something about Martin’s disappearance. Police questioned him but nothing could be proved. (He was already known to Canadian authorities and had been in Canada on or before 5th November).
Outcome of the investigation
Despite the fruitless hunt to find Martin or discover what happened to him, as a result of the investigation, four suspected child abusers were caught. Sadly for Martin’s family, they are no further forward in knowing what happened to Martin on 5th November 1979. More recent press coverage has thrown up more theories and questions, as well as some very surprising events but I will cover these in a follow-up post.
Original newspaper articles
DO YOU HAVE ANY INFORMATION REGARDING MARTIN’S DISAPPEARANCE? DO YOU REMEMBER SEEING SOMETHING STRANGE DURING YOUR COMMUTE HOME FROM WORK/SCHOOL? DID YOU EVER COME ACROSS A DISCARDED YELLOW ‘ASTRAL’ BAG? WERE YOU EVER APPROACHED BY A STRANGER MATCHING THE SUSPECT’S DESCRIPTION IN ANY OF THE ABOVE LOCATIONS? If there is anything whatsoever you know – no matter how small – please contact Operation Malswick c/o – Metropolitan Police.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. I’d be so grateful if you would reblog to help spread the word on Martin’s case.
Part two – coming soon!