Thursday, 25 April 2013

Duncan Webb "The Greatest Crime Reporter of Them All"

Duncan Webb was a crime reporter synomonous with the big scoop for The People sunday newspaper during the 1950`s.  He is credited in some quarters with the coining of the legendary phrase "I made my excuses and left".  A phrase that decades later became synomonous with investigations into prostitution, vice & sexual antics of the population.
    His big scoop that truly put him on the map was that of the Maltese Messina Brothers, who were the vice lords of London.  Webb made enquiries and indeed approaches to prostitiutes, discovered where they worked from, and who owned the flats they used.  Usually it was the Messinas.  His big expose` read "Arrest these four men" and told how he had established that they had a number of working girls operating from properties they owned.  The Messinas were, quite naturally, very upset with the attention that Webb had brought upon them.  They went looking for him in his local bar, but found him drinking with a number of tough looking men, whose presence made it clear to the Messinas that attacking Webb would bring dire retribution.  These men worked for Billy Hill.  And as Webb was his tame reporter, naturally, he looked out for him.  Also, it is believed that Webb would never have been as successful as he was, without help from Hill.  In return, Webb made attacks on Jack Spot in The People, casually referring to him as a "Tinpot Dictator".

    The Messinas slipped abroad and carried on running their empire from afar.  Webb went abroad to track them down and report on them to his readers.  Webb covered some of the big murder cases such as Neville Heath, the sexual sadist, John Haigh, the acid bath killer, Donald Hume, who was cleared of killing Stan Setty, who then claimed he did it.  The Double Jeopardy Law ensured he was not retried.  He also wrote about the murder of cabbie George Heath, known as the "Cleft Chin Murder".  I have two old books by Webb and the manner of his writings make it seem that he was a real-life Sherlock Holmes who uncovered everything.  He also had a habit of trying to advise Police on just how to conduct an investigation.  Webb married the widow of Donald Hume but died two weeks after they wed.