Murder of Leeds Poet 1978

Off-topic discussions, musings and chat
Post Reply
dogduke
Posts: 1378
Joined: Thu 03 Jan, 2008 6:47 am

Re: Murder of Leeds Poet 1978

Post by dogduke »

There may be many people still around Oakwood/Chapel A who lived in the areas around the murder year of 1978.
I have had a quick look to try and find local history groups but nothing much so far
1978 is 43 yes ago,still within the memory range of many people.
Any knowledge of how John Riley was killed and if he was robbed ?
Consciousness: That annoying time between naps.90% of being smart is knowing what you're dumb at.

User avatar
blackprince
Posts: 821
Joined: Tue 04 Sep, 2007 2:10 pm

Re: Murder of Leeds Poet 1978

Post by blackprince »

Hi dogduke,
As we found out there is very little information available , online at least.
Robbery or mugging gone wrong. 2 muggers.
Scene is a either outside a pub near his home or in the gardens near the Oakwood clock ( and toilets). Is there a pub near the Oakwood clock?
Ian has confirmed that one person was put on trial and convicted. No further details yet.
That's about it but Ian still has some feelers out.
BP
It used to be said that the statue of the Black Prince had been placed in City Square , near the station, pointing South to tell all the southerners who've just got off the train to b****r off back down south!

jma
Posts: 423
Joined: Fri 05 Aug, 2016 3:38 pm

Re: Murder of Leeds Poet 1978

Post by jma »

blackprince

I'd go easy on the cover-up theory. All the reply from West Yorkshire Police to the freedom of information says is that "Home Office records have been checked." ie What's on the computer. I'm surprised that the computerised stuff from those days includes as much as it does. I've no idea about crime recording nowadays, but in those days a crime report was recorded as "detected" as soon as somebody was charged. Because there are so many variation of result at court, ranging from convicted to "ordered to remain on the file," the only certain ways of discovering anything were elsewhere and all based on knowing the name of what I described as the ganiff. eg the convicted defendant's criminal record or the results endorsed on the prosecution file. I can see that the coroner's files will be recorded under the name of the deceased and I suspect that might be the only official source with a link to the convicted killer if starting a search from the name of the deceased.

On the other hand, if you want a bit more support for the Iron Curtain cloak and dagger stuff, I studied Russian at Bradford University in the 1960s so it's possible that I'm trying to throw you off the trail.

User avatar
tilly
Posts: 2141
Joined: Mon 11 Jan, 2010 2:32 pm

Re: Murder of Leeds Poet 1978

Post by tilly »

Hi blackprince I had to laugh at your last sentence if you pardon the pun.
No matter were i end my days im an Hunslet lad with Hunslet ways.

User avatar
blackprince
Posts: 821
Joined: Tue 04 Sep, 2007 2:10 pm

Re: Murder of Leeds Poet 1978

Post by blackprince »

Hi jma,
I have obviously read too many John le Carre novels.
Coincidentally I have been looking up another former West Leeds pupil called Cecil Shipp, who went on to be deputy head of the security service , MI5. He also served in Germany, learnt Russian and taught at the JSSL. He was considered a master interrogator with an unusually retentive memory who investigated the Cambridge spy ring.
Spasibo Tovarisch, ( the limit of my Russian)
BP
It used to be said that the statue of the Black Prince had been placed in City Square , near the station, pointing South to tell all the southerners who've just got off the train to b****r off back down south!

iansmithofotley
Posts: 533
Joined: Fri 28 Dec, 2007 4:10 pm

Re: Murder of Leeds Poet 1978

Post by iansmithofotley »

I have done a bit more research on the John Riley Murder. Nowadays, it is very rare that I visit the centre of Leeds but, two days ago, I spent a few hours at the Reference Library looking though old newspapers and I got some more information.

I had already learned that John Riley was the only child of Bilton and Hilda Riley and he was first brought up at 28 Winchester Road, off Armley Road, next to Armley Prison. Bilton Riley (B. 1904, M. 1936, D. 1982) was a milk man. Hilda Stead Riley, ne Peace, was a domestic servant (B. 1907, M. 1936, D. 1984). So it can be seen that John died (in 1978) before his parents.

I don’t know which school John Riley (B. 1937, M. about 1970, D. 1978) would have initially attended (possibly Castleton Primary School nearby). He then attended West Leeds High School where he was in the Sixth Form and then won a place at Oxford and/or Cambridge Universities. I know that he deferred his university attendance and served in the Royal Air Force from 1956 until 1958. National Service Conscription ended from 1957 but men that were born on or before 1st October 1939 still had to do National Service so John conscripted himself into the RAF. When he left the RAF in 1958, he went to Pembroke College at Cambridge University to study English. He graduated in 1961. He was then employed as a teacher in the Cambridge area and later in the Oxford area. At this time, with a friend, he started a magazine called ‘Grosseteste Review’. In 1970, he stopped teaching and returned to Leeds as a writer and poet. He wrote many poems and several books. The magazine ceased production in 1984 (6 years after John’s death).

According to the newspapers, John Riley was married, around 1970, to a lady called Carol Barbara ---------, but I couldn’t find a record of the marriage.

At the time of the murder on the night of Friday 27th October 1978, John and Carol were living at 31 Norfolk Gardens in the Chapel Allerton area of Leeds, not far from Harrogate Road.

On the night of the murder, Friday 27th October 1978, John visited his local pub – the Nag’s Head in Town Street, Chapel Allerton. This pub is situated about 150 yards from Chapeltown Police Station (now a restaurant) and about 500 yards from John’s home address. Apparently, he was a ‘regular’ and, on that night, he drank his usual 5 or 6 pints of beer and he left alone, according to witnesses.

Apparently, according to his wife, after leaving the pub, he often went walking in the area until the early hours of the morning.

At 9.20am on Saturday 28th October 1978, a man called John Wharton found John’s body in a small copse immediately behind the Gents Public Toilets at Oakwood.

These toilets were situated about 50 yards, north west, from what is known as ‘Oakwood Clock’. ‘Oakwood Clock’ is a four sided clock mounted on a small tower with a sheltered seating area beneath it. In 1904, it was built and originally located in Leeds Market but was moved to Oakwood in 1913.

The public toilets consisted of a single storey building and the gents toilets were on the north side. There was a small foyer, urinals and W.C.’s, but also an ‘attendant’s office’, which had a large window (with an internal screen) which allowed a view of the public area, and an access door. Members of the Chapeltown Police Vice Squad had keys for the attendant’s office and I spent hundreds of hours there detecting indecency offences between men in those toilets. When offences were seen committed, the office door was unlocked and the offenders were arrested and taken to Chapeltown Police Station. Often it was just one person loitering for long periods of time and repeatedly loitering/importuning for immoral purposes. It was unique for the Police to have the benefit of an observation point like this office as most gents’ toilets didn’t have one. These toilets were probably the most well known and most frequently used ‘cottages’ in Leeds for male persons seeking sexual activity with others. It was a constant problem in the area and, often, entirely innocent men/boys were approached either inside the toilets or in the vicinity outside. Also, there were men sat inside their cars observing the activity at the toilets and monitoring whom went in or out and for how long, so they could approach them. There were constant public complaints about the problem.

A few years ago, the public toilets at Oakwood were demolished and a new ‘ultra modern design’ restaurant was built on the site. The restaurant is called ‘The Chophaus’.

When John’s body was found, he was dressed in a blue pullover, white shirt, brown trousers, beige jacket, beige corduroy overcoat and black shoes. The body and his head were very heavily battered and bloodstained.

The Police enquiry was led by Detective Chief Superintendent Jim Hobson, the head of Leeds C.I.D., at that time.

A large area of search and local house to house enquiries were conducted by Police Officers from Chapeltown Police Station and also the Task Force. I don’t know if it was by the Police, or a member of the public, but John’s wallet and £15 in cash were found discarded in Old Park Road a few hundred yards away, north of the crime scene.

I found most of this information in the Yorkshire Evening Post dated Saturday 28th October 1978. I looked at other copies of the paper and also the Yorkshire Post, both dated Monday 30th October 1978 and I found that two men had been arrested on suspicion of murder.

The suspects were named as Colin Stuart Huckerby (20 yrs.) of Alaska Place Chapel Allerton, and Gerrard Grasby (21 yrs.) of Allerton Grange Avenue, Chapel Allerton. I could not find out why or how they became suspects.

Both of the suspects were, later, jointly charged with the offence of murder by Detective Inspector Paul Briggs. They both appeared at Leeds Magistrates Court and were remanded in custody. Huckerby was represented by solicitor David Ake and Grasby by solicitor (later a judge) Freddie Apfel.

A post mortem on John Riley’s body was carried out by the Home Office Pathologist Prof. Michael Green. John had many serious injuries to his head and body and Michael Green described it as a ‘senseless killing’ and John had been kicked to death.

Personally, I am unsure about the correct name of the suspect ‘Grasby’ as I could not find out anything about him, only a person with a similar sounding name. There may possibly have been a Press typing error.

I suspect that Huckerby and Grasby appeared several times at Leeds Magistrates Court before they were finally committed for trial at Leeds Crown Court. I have no idea of when they eventually faced trial and just what charges were in the indictments other than the murder charges. The trial date would probably have been in 1979, depending on their pleas.

Because I didn’t know when Huckerby and Grasby were finally dealt with at court I had no idea where or when to search for further information from the newspapers. Also, there may have been information in the National Press and other newspapers (not just local). It is possible that one, or both of them, were convicted of murder, manslaughter, wounding or robbery, and it is possible that one or both of them were found not guilty of certain offences. I will have to research this further to get a final result and what sentences were imposed.

So far as relates to John Riley’s wife – as I have mentioned, I was unable to find details of their marriage. However, I found that a Carol B Riley married a man called Alistair Brown in 1980 at Leeds. This may or may not be John Riley’s ex-wife.

As has previously been highlighted in this thread, there has been a large amount of wrong information and speculation about the murder in the press and elsewhere and much of it has just been ‘copied’ from any source. I will try and address some of these issues.

The Nag’s Head Pub is about a one and a half to two mile walk from where Oakwood toilets were situated, depending on the route taken. The distance is a bit shorter from John Riley’s home in Norfolk Gardens.

There is not a pub near to the crime scene at Oakwood. The nearest ones would be the ‘White House’ in Wetherby Road (about 500 yards away), the ‘Roundhay Fox’ in Prince’s Avenue/Street Lane (about 1200 yards away) and the ‘Roundhay’ in Roundhay Road (about 500 yards away). Therefore, John was not attacked outside a pub as has been reported.

The incident occurred at Oakwood/Roundhay, not at Chapel Allerton, which is over a mile and a half away.

John was the subject of a murder but he was also the subject of a robbery.

It begs the question as to why John Riley travelled on foot, late at night, from the Nag’s Head Pub in Chapel Allerton to the toilets at Oakwood, nearly two miles away, after drinking 5 or 6 pints of beer. As far as I am aware he was a happily married man. It is possible that he also had homosexual tendencies but there is no evidence of that. During my work at Chapeltown Vice Squad I arrested dozens of offenders in and around those toilets at Oakwood and I would say that over 50% of the men were, on the face of it, normal happily married men or single men who were not openly or apparently homosexuals. They just went there (and elsewhere) for additional sexual gratification or for a different type of sexual activity. The married ones, and those with female partners, were frightened to death that their wives would find out about their behaviour and also had great fear of criminal convictions and publicity.

Without having any knowledge or details about the final court case and the outcome, I don’t know why Huckerby and Grasby were in the Oakwood area at the same time as John Riley. It is possible that they may have had a plan to just rob someone or to attack/assault one of the men who attended the toilets through some kind of hatred of homosexuals. I also wonder why they stole John Riley’s wallet and £15 cash and then discarded it. I am surprised that they didn’t keep the cash.

I knew all of the people that I have mentioned. Jim Hobson is still with us and still attends some Police social events, although I haven’t seen him for over 25 years. Paul Briggs retired as a Detective Superintendent and he died in 2006 aged 68 years. I knew both of these officers very well. Prof. Michael Green died just a year ago in 2021 aged 82 years (he used to be a G.P. in the Chapeltown area and he also worked at St James’s Hospital in his former career). David Ake used to work with the Leeds City Police as a prosecutor in the Magistrates Courts, he left to set up his own practice with others. Freddie Apfel was a well-known Leeds solicitor who later became a barrister and judge.

That’s about it for now. If I get any more information, I will update the thread.

User avatar
tilly
Posts: 2141
Joined: Mon 11 Jan, 2010 2:32 pm

Re: Murder of Leeds Poet 1978

Post by tilly »

Thank you for your input Ian very interesting you are putting wrongs right after all these years, i would think its in your blood. I look forward to any more research you do stay safe.Sid Ps I think you could write a very interesting book about your time in the force i would be one of the first to buy it food for thought.
No matter were i end my days im an Hunslet lad with Hunslet ways.

User avatar
uncle mick
Posts: 1539
Joined: Wed 14 Jan, 2009 6:43 am

Re: Murder of Leeds Poet 1978

Post by uncle mick »

Great research Ian, here's a possible marriage for John Riley & Carol B ??
Screenshot (8).png
Screenshot (8).png (11.54 KiB) Viewed 58 times

iansmithofotley
Posts: 533
Joined: Fri 28 Dec, 2007 4:10 pm

Re: Murder of Leeds Poet 1978

Post by iansmithofotley »

Hi uncle mick,

I think you are right and it is the correct marriage. In my newspapers research, the couple were supposed to have been married for seven years (say 1971) which was obviously wrong. I use Ancestry and 'Jones' is wrongly spelt (Jores) in the marriages section. I should have realised. Thank you.

Ian

jma
Posts: 423
Joined: Fri 05 Aug, 2016 3:38 pm

Re: Murder of Leeds Poet 1978

Post by jma »

For any younger readers, it's worth mentioning that in 1978, £15 was a lot of money. I don't think many ordinary people would walk around with that sort of cash in their pocket, except perhaps the weekly pay packet in a lot of jobs. It certainly wasn't petty cash so for muggers not to take it seems extraordinary.

Post Reply