Unsolved Murders

John Thomas Gregory

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Date: 4 Jul 1919

Place: Wineshop, Colindale Road, Hendon

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

John Thomas Gregory was killed at a wine shop in Henden. An 18 year old man was convicted for his murder but his conviction was quashed after it was found that the Criminal Evidence Act (1898) had not been complied with.

John Gregory was found on the floor in front of the fireplace with his face and head terribly smashed in. On the table there were two wine glasses and an overturned flower vase. On the floor near the body there was a bent poker and there were bloodstains on the ceiling.

A woman who had passed the shop on the Friday said that she heard the sound of smashing glass and when she turned back she saw blood splashed on the bottom of the window and then saw a man come to the window and pull the top curtain to and then rub the window with the bottom curtain from inside. She said that she didn't see enough of him to recognise him again.

The woman then called a man to the shop and he looked in through the letterbox and saw a boot or shoe disappearing down the passage.

A neighbour who lodged next door to the shop said that shortly after the murder he saw a stranger cross the lawn, unbolt the garden gate, close it hastily behind him and walk off in the direction of Edgeware Road.

When the man that was tried for John Gregory's murder was arrested he said that he would like to make a confession and said:

Some days previous to the 4th of July I met Gregory while on my way to look for a job at the Hendon Aerodrome. Gregory invited me to his shop, and gave me some wine. He asked me to call again. On 4th of July I went to the aerodrome again, and I called in at Gregory's shop, where I found an elaborate cold luncheon set for two. Gregory gave me some strange mixture, and I became partly unconscious and sat down on the couch. Gregory came and sat beside me and began pulling me about, and made an improper suggestion to me. I refused, and Gregory then said 'You young blighter, if you don't do as I wish I will make you pay for it'. He then came towards me in a threatening way. In self-defence I picked up a bottle of sherry and hit Gregory over the head. Gregory then seized the poker, and we struggled together, with the result that Gregory was knocked down. I honestly believe that if I had not killed Gregory he would have killed me. When I saw what I had done I was frightened, and I took the bus back to London and then took the earliest train for Sheffield.

John Gregory had come from Devonshire in August 1915 where he had kept a wine business in Devon for many years before. On the Thursday morning he told his daughter that he proposed to spend the night at the shop. He had the habit of carrying his own loose money in his pockets and notes in a wallet.

His daughter said that she had never seen a large suitcase that was found at the scene and noted that her fathers name was John Thomas Gregory and that the initials on the case were CWB. The suitcase was later found to have been leant to the man that was tried for John Gregory's murder.

At court the Counsel said that the man tried knew the kind of man that John Gregory was and said that when he accepted the invitation to his wine shop on 4 July he knew the purpose of the invitation.

After killing John Gregory the man had gone back to the YMCA where he was staying and said that he had received a telegram from his father saying that his wife was ill in Sheffield and so he borrowed the fare from a friend and went back to Sheffield.

The police said that on 11 July 1919 they went to Sheffield where the man had been found in Whiteley Wood suffering from the effects of poison but he was not apparently seriously ill.

At the man's trial the prosecution said that John Gregory's motive in entertaining the man was not in dispute but said that whatever grounds he might have had for offering violence, the violence was all on his side and that there was no justification for the degree of violence he had used.

The defence said that the man had killed John Gregory because he was obliged to and could not have done anything else and said that if the jury thought that the man had used more violence than was necessary then they should find him guilty of manslaughter, but under no circumstances could they find him guilty of murder.

The prosecution said that no credence could be placed on what the man had said as he had proved himself untruthful.

In the judges summing up he said that there were legal reasons which justified the taking of a human life and they applied in the case where a man was the subject of a felony being committed against himself. He said that it was not contended that that was the reason in this case but said that in this case it was stated that John Gregory was killed to preserve the man's life and the jury might take it as a case where some amount of violence was justifiable and proper, but that the man had gone too far and in doing that had killed a man and that in that case they should return a verdict of manslaughter.

The man was convicted at the Old Bailey of manslaughter and sentenced to 12 months hard labour.

However, the man appealed his conviction and sentence claiming there had been an irregularity at the trial and that the Ciminal Evidence Act (1898) had not been complied with. In particular he said that during his cross examination in court the prosecution had said that he had been guilty of another offence, namely obtaining £150 by false pretences from his firm and living on the proceeds with a girl. The technical error by the Crown Counsel was acknowledged and his conviction was quashed and he was released.


*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.


see Aberdeen Journal - Tuesday 21 October 1919

see Aberdeen Journal - Tuesday 15 July 1919

see Derby Daily Telegraph - Monday 15 September 1919

see Derry Journal - Friday 01 August 1919

see Dundee Courier - Saturday 12 July 1919

see Dundee Courier - Tuesday 21 October 1919

see Sheffield Evening Telegraph - Monday 20 October 1919

see Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette - Tuesday 08 July 1919

see The Scotsman - Friday 18 July 1919

see The Scotsman - Wednesday 17 September 1919