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article imageJonathan Oates has murder in mind Special

By Alexander Baron     Oct 29, 2011 in Crime
London - Jonathan Oates is Borough Archivist for Ealing; he also has murder in mind, and on November 3 is giving a talk about three unsolved murders, each with a London connection. We asked him about his fascination for the deadly and mysterious.
Although he has published several books about murder, this is more of a hobby than a profession; in addition to his post as Borough Archivist, Dr Oates is the author of a recently published monograph on the Jacobite Campaigns. At £60 this is not a book for the general reader, but serious historians and library buyers can find further details here.
His November 3 talk at Ealing Library is one of a series. He has recently finished a book on one of the great enigmas of modern murder, Evans & Christie. The public perception of this case is that Evans was totally innocent; this perception owes much to the book by Ludovic Kennedy, 10 Rillington Place, and the even more gratuitously inaccurate film of the same name. Some background to the case can be found here, and here, and the photograph alluded to, here.
Dr Oates' new book on these two convicted killers will be published in 2013 to coincide with the sixtieth anniversary of Christie's execution, but what of these latest murder mysteries?
AB: So who are the victims in these three cases you will be addressing in your latest talk?
JO: One is the Countess Lubienska who was stabbed to death at Gloucester Road tube station in 1957. Her murder is discussed at greater length in my book.
(See picture below)
A scan of the front cover of one of his many books on murder  donated by the author.
A scan of the front cover of one of his many books on murder, donated by the author.
AB: I must admit I've never heard of her. Whodunnit and why?
JO: She was stabbed to death after a verbal confrontation with a group of teenagers who were later seen running from the scene and had earlier annoyed someone else, but their identity is unknown. Polish conspiracy theorists suggested a Soviet agent, but there's nothing to corroborate this, and the simplest solution seems best. The old lady was hot tempered and a stickler for good manners, and doubtless stood up for her beliefs in front of a group of dangerous youths.
AB: Is this another new book?
JO: It was published by Pen and Sword in 2009.
AB: Can you give us a brief description?
JO: It deals with a selection of unsolved murders in the 1940s and 1950s, using primary sources to do so. These include police files and contemporaneoous newspaper reports. The cases discussed include the shooting of a middle aged park keeper who was also a ladies' man, the murder of a middle class, middle aged homosexual, Countess Lubienska, and the fatal stabbing of a prostitute in Soho. There is also a reassessment of the murders of Beryl and Geraldine Evans. No answers are given but there is much food for thought.
AB: What are the other cases you will be covering on November 3?
JO: The park keeper and the middle aged homosexual.
AB: Both unsolved?
JO: Yes, though the homosexual was probably murdered by an unknown Canadian serviceman.
AB: You told me a while ago that things have improved today, one obvious area in which they have is forensics, in particular DNA which although far from perfect has led to a number of high profile acquittals, and some spectacular convictions. What else has improved for the better, and what for the worst?
JO: I'm not certain I am the best person to answer those questions in the level of detail they deserve. With the DNA issue, we have seen killers arrested due to the evidence here, as with a child murderer in the 1980s as the first UK case where this was crucial. In 1893 there as a case where bloodstains were found on the clothing of the chief suspect, but it could not be determined whether or not these were animal, and the man was released.
AB: There is a big debate going on, as ever, about the death penalty. What is your view?
JO: On balance I am pro, but don't pretend to claim it is the answer to rising crime in itself. I suppose I would probably go back to the post 1958 system, which would include death for burglars who kill and death for police and child killers (assuming killers adult). It is not an easy one, as errors do occur - would the Birmingham Six have been hanged? Of course, not all those found guilty were hanged in any case, but Irish bombers in the late Nineteenth Century were.
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