Sunday, 28 September 2014

The Murder Spree of Charles Corbett Kennedy

As a follow on to the previous post, this concerns the killing spree that Kennedy committed up in Cumbria in September 1949.  Events began on Tuesday September 13th 1949, when a large saloon car stopped outside the branch of the Midland Bank in Front Street, in the Cumbrian village of Alston.  A man emerged from the car, wearing a raincoat, blue suit and wearing a trilby hat, walked into the bank.  He was also carrying a briefcase.  There was only one bank clerk on duty, James Rush, and the man told him that he wanted to open an account.  Mr Rush ushered the prospective client into the office of branch manager Andrew Steele, and went back to his post.  About one minute later, a shot rang out and the man ran out of the bank and set off in his car.  Mr Rush found Andrew Steele with a bullet wound to his upper chest.  He quickly summoned an ambulance and Police.  On the way to the hospital, Mr Steele told the ambulance men that the man demanded to know how much money was in the bank, but Mr Steele refused to say.  The man then shot him.  Mr Steele later died in Cumbria Infirmary.  

    Police discovered witnesses outside the bank.  A lady working at an ice cream & mineral water shop opposite, witnessed the entire incident.  Ailsa Sparks had seen the car pull up, the driver go into the bank, heard the shot and the man run out and drive away fast.  Three electricity workers nearby, also witnessed the getaway.  The local Police were not used to an incident like this and  so Sergeant Mounsey called area headquarters in Penrith.  They immediately dispatched officers to Alston, and one of them was a very experienced constable named Henry Inglis, who arrived by motorcycle.  Not knowing which direction the killer took, PC Inglis patrolled the roads of all surrounding areas.  He came upon a stationary car on a road between Winskill & Melmerby.  Aware that the car could be the getaway vehicle, and the driver was armed, he took no chances.  The driver could have been hiding with the gun trained on him.  He rode into Melmerby to report the car, and was told that the driver was found dead in the car, with what was thought to be a self inflicted bullet wound.  The pistol he carried was a German Mauser.

    A card was found with his identity on it.  He was Charles Corbett Kennedy.  A trace was placed on the car, and it was found that Kennedy hired the car from a garage in Durham.  A mechanic named Ernie Ingram drove Kennedy to Stanhope, but never returned.  His body was discovered in a ditch outside Stanhope.  Mr Ingrams had been shot in the back of the head.  At an inquest into all three deaths, details about Kennedy emerged.  He was from Morpeth in the North East, and the son of a grammar school maths teacher.  He went to Queen's College, Oxford, but this was cut short by military service.  He joined the Royal Armoured Corps, then went into the 8th Hussars, rising very quickly to the rank of Captain.  Why he turned robber and murderer was never established.  The murder earlier in the year of Bristol Bank Manager George Black was thought to have been carried out by Kennedy.  Two witnesses from Bristol travelled up to Cumbria to view the body, but it is not known if they identified Kennedy as the killer.