Leigh & District

Crime & Punishment Archive


Our April meeting will take place on Easter Monday the 22nd April and repeated on Tuesday 23rd. Both meetings are open to all U3A members and start at 1pm.

The topic will be 'British Renegades and Traitors in the Second World War'. This is a presentation by Brian Joyce which will look at four examples out of the many hundreds who, for various reasons, assisted the Nazi regime . The four have different backgrounds - one a cockney spiv, another a disgraced army officer, one was married to the BBC Chief Engineer and one was the son of a cabinet minister. Their stories are shocking and almost beyond belief. Please join us on either day for an entertaining and informative meeting.

In March we looked at Black Widows - women who have attempted or succeeded in killing their partners. There are many motives for this action - the most common being financial gain. In particular we looked at a case in the 1950s - The Widow of Windy Nook - when Mary Wilson poisoned 3 husbands and one lover in quick succession. We also examined a more recent case - that of Dena Thompson who is currently incarcerated for the poisoning of her husband. She was also a con woman and her outrageous behaviour is almost unbelievable.


The March 2019 meetings will take place on MONDAY 25th MARCH and repeated on TUESDAY 26th MARCH 2019 - both meetings start at 1pm.

The March meetings will look at cases of women who are often described as 'Black Widows'. They have murdered their partners for financial gain. We will start with Mary Wilson - the last woman to be sentenced to death following the murder of her husband - sadly not her first crime of this nature. We will then examine some other similar crimes before ending with Deena Thompson. Deena was a user and abuser of men and she is currently serving a deserved prison sentence. Another unbelievable story which should make your jaw drop! Join us in March - you don't need to book.

February's meeting provoked a lot of reaction and a consensus of opinion that the law can be an ass at times. The events were largely taken from a book written by Stephen Fulcher called 'Capturing a Serial Killer'. Worth a read as it is a great insight into how serious crimes are detected but also how the law works and the way in which (in my view) the Police Service let this man down. Read it and be frustrated, impressed, confused and dejected by turns.

Advance notice that our topic in April will be 'Renegades and Traitors in World War 2' - another set of stories that are stranger than fiction.


The meeting in February 2019 will take place on MONDAY 25th FEBRUARY with a repeat session on TUESDAY 26th FEBRUARY.

Both sessions start at 1pm at the Miners. I understand that our topic will be covered in a BBC drama doc later this year so it will be interesting to know something about the events prior to watching the tele version. In 2011 a young woman went missing from Swindon town centre and it was realised by the police that she had been abducted. Through excellent police work her abductor was identified rapidly and he confessed to the police and took them to her grave site. He also confessed to an earlier murder (2003) and led police to that site. Two young women killed and two families at least aware of where their daughters/partners were buried. What happened following the confession was remarkable and contentious. You will have strong views about this one way or the other - was it a travesty of justice or a police error which threatened the rights of an offender? Please feel free to join us on either session. No need to book and you will be made most welcome.

Our January meeting was very well attended and most informative. One of our members, Marlene, gave a talk on a topic close to her heart - which was crime at Kenyon Junction. The Junction was the first of its kind in the world (IE a junction between two railway company services) and it provided many crime opportunities. Marlene looked at the railway itself, gave us examples of the crime opportunities that railways created and then looked a the punishment meted out at Kirkdale Prison in Liverpool. Very interesting and thanks to Marlene for giving us her time and her knowledge.

I am always on the look out for presentations around crime. If anybody else has a prepared presentation I would be happy to shift the calendar around for you to deliver it. I would be happy to put anything onto Powerpoint and to provide the laptop/projector.

Hope to see you on 25th or 26th February. March's topic is about poisoners and in particular Mary Wilson - the last woman to be sentenced to death in England and Wales.


Our usual December meeting will not take place at the usual time as the 4th Monday and Tuesday of the month is Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. HOWEVER there will be one meeting on FRIDAY 28th December starting at 1pm at the Miners. Bring your leftover Christmas food and crackers and we will be having a (very) lighthearted quiz on the topic of Crime and Criminals!

The November meeting looked at lying and crocodile tears. We examined some of the academic work behind lie detection and the way in which some criminals attempt to convince the public of their innocence via press conferences where they lie and cry.

Any member wanting to see examples of Karen Matthews, Ian Huntley, Tracie Andrews, Stuart Hazell and Mick Philpott in full flow can find lots of video on Youtube. Very illuminating.

Hope to see you on the 28th December but meanwhile a Happy Christmas and all the best for 2019 to all our members.


Our November Meeting will be held on Monday 26th and repeated Tuesday 27th at The Miners Welfare starting at 1pm. We will look at how offenders lie to the Police, Courts and the Press and how to tell if they are lying through various clues.

At the October meetings we looked at The Hillside Stranglers. The best book on the subject is By Darcy O'Brien 'Two of a Kind - The Hillside Stranglers'. A difficult read but a very well written book which combines fact and with some fictional (but not made up) elements. Strongly recommended. There is also some interesting material on Youtube showing film of Kenneth Bianchi attempting (unsuccessfully) to prove that he had at least one evil persona (Multiple Personality) called Steve. He later brings 'Billy' in for good measure. One of our Monday attendees mentioned a Richard Gere film which examined a genuine multiple personality case. The film is called Primal Fear.

There will be one meeting only in December as the usual dates coincide with the Christmas holidays. Watch this space for the date which will likley be between Christmas and the New Year holiday. Meanwhile please feel free to attend the November meetings - no need to book. You will be most welcome.


CALENDAR FOR 2019 - these are the topics for next year - meanwhile we have our meeting on November 26th and repeated on 27th 2018 about lying to the police and media - and how criminals attempt to fool by using dishonesty

Kenyon Junction – Crime on the early railway January 28th/29th 2019
Christopher Halliwell – police procedures found wanting February 25th/ 26th
Mary Wilson – last woman to be sentenced to death in England and Wales March 25th/ 26th
British renegades and traitors in World War 2 April 22nd/ 23rd
Police corruption May 27th/ 28th
Civil disobedience June 24th/25th
MPs in trouble – Honourable Members who have acted dishonourably July 22nd/ 23rd
Profumo – the 1960s scandal August 26th/27th
Turning point trials –Trials that changed opinion and often resulted in changes in the law September 23rd / 24th
Cold cases – old unsolved cases reopened October 28th /29th
Julia Wallace case- murder in Liverpool November 25th/26th
Christmas Meeting Date to be advised


Monday 22nd 2018 and repeated Tuesday 23rd October at 1pm

We will look at The Hillside Stranglers. They were cousins called Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono who murdered 10 women in Los Angeles during the period 1977 to 1979. One of the men, Kenneth Bianchi almost succeeded in convincing psychiatrists that he was insane (a ruse to avoid the death penalty). Please feel free to join the group - no need to book and you can attend on either of the two days.

The September meetings were well attended and we examined how the law has changed over the past 150 years in order to reflect greater tolerance of homosexuality.

At Mondays meeting one of our members Michael spoke about Oscar Wilde and recommended a book. This was The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde by Neil McKenna.


24th September 2018 repeated 25th September 2018

The topic will be The Prosecution of Homosexual Men. We will look at the legislation underlying the prosecutions, how and why the legislation was amended in the 1960s, some famous cases in the 1950s and beyond and the impact that prosecution had on some individuals. Please join us for an interesting and important topic. No need to book.

Our August meetings were well attended and particularly the Monday meeting which took place on the Bank Holiday. We looked at the Cambridge Spies. These four men gave information to the KGB over a number of years. We looked at their backgrounds, their careers as traitors, their defection to the USSR and their lives there. We came up with a number of suggestions as to why they acted as they did.

There are a number of excellent books on the topic. One of our members, Kath, has mentioned Charles Rivers 'The Cambridge Five' and Christopher Catherwood 'The Cuckoo's Nest'. Andrew Boyle wrote a good account of the unmasking of Blunt. Ben McIntyre also has a good book on Philby (thanks to Kieron who lent me this one) called 'A Spy Among Friends'. There are also a number of good videos on You Tube.

Any suggestions for topics for 2019 gratefully received. In particular if anybody who would like to present a topic.


Meeting on August 27th and repeated on the 28th

It appears that following a brilliant summer the weather has taken a turn for the worse. So if you want to escape the rain on Bank Holiday Monday why not join us for our meeting when the topic will be The Cambridge Spies. Learn about Burgess, Maclean, Philby and Blunt. They met at Trinity College, Cambridge in the 1930s and were committed communists who ultimately put their belief in communism before loyalty to their country.

All members welcome to either meeting. No need to book. 1pm at the Miners Welfare Institute.


The meeting in July will be held on MONDAY 23rd repeated on TUESDAY 24th. Meetings start at 1pm and there is no need to book - just turn up. The topic is The Murder of Gianni Versace. This was the subject of a recent BBC2 series (not for the faint hearted as it is quite explicit). The series was based on a book called Vulgar Favors by Maureen Orth. It is quite a complicated story and we will look in some detail at the perpetrator Andrew Cunanan. The police response to the murder was found wanting and there is a belief that the police were out of their depth as they did not have any valid links into the Miami gay community where the murderer hid in plain sight for weeks after the murder.

Our June meetings were well attended in spite of the tropical weather. We looked at arson and in particular the events in Walkden last year, the Mick Philpott case and a 1970s case involving a man called Peter Dinsdale. Very sad as children lost their lives to fire in all 3 case.


All members are warmly welcome to our next meeting – Monday 25th June and repeated on Tuesday 26th June 2018. 1pm start at the Miners Institute. Our topic will be Arson. We will probably look at 3 cases and examine why arson attracts such lengthy sentences, the type of person who uses fire as a weapon and their chosen victims.

Our May meeting looked at the unsolved murder of 6 year old Pageant Princess JonBenet Ramsey. Who killed JonBenet in 1996 and why? The meetings provoked a lot of discussion and members were advised to look the case up on You Tube as there is a mass of information there. There are also many books analysing the events surrounding the murder. None of the theories make absolute sense and JonBenet has not received justice. Very sad but also a puzzle which made us speculate and debate. That is what our organisation is all about and I am sure it keeps us young!


Our next meeting – on Monday 28th May 2018 and repeated on Tuesday 29th May looks at the story of Jon Benet Ramsey. Six year old Jon Benet was the daughter of wealthy parents living in Colorado. She was murdered in her own home and the murder remains one of the USA’s best known unsolved homicides. You may recall Jon Benet as she was a ‘Pageant Queen’ and this drew a lot of media attention. All members are welcome to join us. The Monday group will go ahead even though it is the late Spring Bank Holiday.


We had two good meetings in April. On the Monday, Eddie Tarry from Styal Prison spoke about the prison regime, the work undertaken by the female prisoner and some of the success stories. It was a very good talk with lots of questions from the members.
On Tuesday we looked at the Spalding murders where a 14 year old girl and her boyfriend planned and executed the murder of the girl’s mother and sister. We followed this by looking at ‘toxic’ homicidal relationships such as Brady and Hindley and Fred and Rosemary West.

Our March 2018 meetings will be held on Monday 26th March and repeated on Tuesday 27th. Both sessions will start at 1pm. No need to book. Just turn up and you will be most welcome.

Our topic for March is Dr Neil Cream and Dr Crippen. Crippen is much better known but Cream is very interesting as a Victorian murderer.

We looked at 2 murderers in our February meeting. These were Neville Heath and John George Haigh. They were contemporaries and both operated in the Kensington area. However they were motivated to kill for very different reasons. Haigh was almost certainly what we would now call a psychopath. Heath was possibly psychotic (insane) but he was found sane at his trial and was hanged for two sadistic murders in 1946. Haigh was hanged 3 years later and their wax works were placed side by side in Madame Tussauds House of Horrors. Horrendous indeed.

The book mentioned in the meeting which chronicles the life of Heath is SEAN O'CONNOR 'HANDSOME BEAST' - a good, well researcjed true crime read


In February we will look at two famous murderers. The first is John George Haigh (The Acid Bath Murderer) and the second is Neville Heath. Both men attracted a great deal of media interest and their crimes became notorious. Join us on MONDAY 26th FEBRUAY 2018 with a repeat on the following day at the same time – 1pm. All members welcome. No need to book.

Advance notice that on MONDAY 23rd April we will have a presentation concerning life at the Women’s Prison at Styal. The presentation is by Eddie Tarry who is the Community Engagement Manager attached to the prison. All welcome and, as Eddie is giving his talk for free and without expenses, the usual room hire fee of £1 only is required. The Tuesday meeting (24.04.18) will be the usual format and will look at the Spalding Murders. So gluttons for (crime and) punishment could choose to attend both sessions.

Our January meeting took us all back to 1963. It was an eventful year which included Beatlemania, the Profumo Affair and the Kennedy Assassination. It was also the year of the Great Train Robbery. We looked at the planning of the robbery, the robbers themselves, and the military precision with which the robbery was executed. We then examined the police investigation, the trial, the subsequent prison escapes and the later lives of the robbers. We also gave a thought to the train driver and fireman who were traumatised by their experience. A fascinating subject and it is not surprising that the robbery has been the subject of so many books and dramas. If it was not real you would struggle to make it up.

Thanks again to Jo and her cake contribution which is always so welcome.


Back to our usual 4th Monday and Tuesday in the month now that Christmas is over. So on Monday 22nd January 2018 and repeated on Tuesday 23rd - both meetings at 1pm - we are looking at The Great Train Robbery. In the summer of 1963 15 London villains planned and executed the robbery of a mail train. We will look at the gang itself. the planning of the robbery, how the robbery was undertaken, how the robbers were caught, their trial and subsequent lives. Only one robber is now still alive and the story will soon be distant history. However it is a fascinating look at the past and one that we can probably all recall to some extent.

All welcome. No need to book. Just turn up.

Marlene Nolan gave us an excellent presentation on some Culcheth characters at our joint Crime and Punishment/Local History meeting on 2nd January. The talk was much appreciated and provoked a lot of questions and discussion. Thanks again to Marlene for a fascinating afternoon. If anybody else has a presentation up their sleeve please contact me as I am always on the look out for speakers.


As the 4th Monday and Tuesday in December is Christmas Day and Boxing Day there will not be a regular Crime and Punishment meeting.

However we have joined forces with the Local History Group to offer a presentation on TUESDAY 2nd JANUARY 2018.

The presentation will be by Marlene Nolan and will incorporate information about a Victorian criminal from this area called Thomas Unsworth. Thomas was incarcerated in various local gaols and was subject to all types of criminal justice interventions. In addition the talk will look at the role of the local workhouse and at weaving families.

Please feel free to join us on the 2nd January 2018 and start your new year with a great presentation. The presentation should be of interest to those who attend our group. Local History, Women’s History and Family History. 1pm in the Lounge at the Miners and no need to book.

Our usual 2018 January meeting will be on Monday 22nd and repeated Tuesday 23rd . The topic is The Great Train Robbery. We can probably all recall the robbery and the focus will be on the men in the gang committing the robbery, their history and what happended to them.

The November meeting was well attended and we looked at 3 serial murderers who targeted men as their victims. These murderers were Jeffrey Dahmer, Peter Moore and Colin Ireland. The theme was how and why gay men were chosen as victims and possible motivations for this abhorrent behaviour. Not an easy subject but it gave an insight into the dark side of human behaviour.

Happy Christmas to all our members and looking forward to another year of learning about crime and how we deal with it.


Our November 2017 meeting will look at SERIAL KILLERS. I have attempted to look at this from the point of view of victim choice; so will likely think about the murder of gay men. As such we will be looking at Denis Nilsen amongst others.

Please join us on MONDAY 27th or TUESDAY 28th November at 1pm. All members are welcome. No need to book – just turn up. In spite of the grim topic it should be an interesting session.

There will be no meetings on 25th or 26th December.


We looked at Jeremy Thorpe and the trial he faced for conspiracy and incitement to murder. It is a complex story – full of twists and turns. There may have been an establishment cover up – who knows as so many of those involved were lying. There is a very good book by John Preston called ‘A Very English Scandal’ which is a real page turner and recommended reading.

Calendar for Crime and Punishment 2018

22nd January/23rd January The Great Train Robbery
26th February/27th February Neville Heath and John George Haigh
26th March/27th March Dr Crippen and Dr Cream
23rd April/24th April Spalding Murders
28th May/29th May JonBenet Ramsay
25th/26th June Arson
23rd July/24th July Victims of Crime who are famous
27th August /28th August The Cambridge Spies
24th September/25th September Prosecution of Homosexual Men
22nd October/23rd October The Hillside Stranglers
26th November/27th November 2018 Crocodile tears
December meeting date 2018 to be announced

See you next month


The topic for October 2017 will be The Jeremy Thorpe trial.

Jeremy Thorpe and three other men stood trial for the attempted murder of a man called Norman Scott. Although Thorpe was acquitted it is generally acknowledged that he was responsible for organising the attempted murder, as the victim was an ex-lover who was a blackmail risk. This is a complex but fascinating story of intrigue, lies and an establishment cover up. It is also darkly humorous and should be an interesting topic

Our September 2017 meeting looked at the kidnapping of Shannon Matthews. It was interesting trying to work out Karen Matthews (mothers) motivation. Shannon was a neglected child and opened the lid on the life of many children who lack proper parenting.

Our November 2017 meeting will take another look at SERIAL KILLERS. What makes a serial killer? Why were they rife in the late 20th Century? Why and how do they choose their victims?

All members are welcome on Monday 27th November 2017 and repeated on Tuesday 28th at 1pm. No need to book.


Our September 2017 meeting will be held on MONDAY 25th SEPTEMBER REPEATED ON TUESDAY 26th. Both meetings will start at 1pm and all members are very welcome to attend. The topic is Shannon Matthews. Shannon was kidnapped by her own mother Karen. It is a fascinating story.

The August 2017 meetings looked at the Hatton Garden Jewel Theft in 2015. This offence was carried out by a band of elderly career criminals. We discussed the ingenious planning of the offence and how the robbers were caught when one of them was detected by number plate recognition technology. The men are currently in custody with the exception of one man who is probably abroad. This led to some debate about what had happened to him and the possible motivation behind the offence.


August 2017 meeting

We will be meeting on our usual 4th Monday and Tuesday (28th and 29th) even though the 28th is the summer bank holiday.

Our topic will be The Hatton Garden Robbery which was committed over the Easter weekend of 2015. The career criminals who pulled off this daring robbery were third agers. Led by a 76 year old the robbers were called ‘The Bad Lads Army’ by the press.

All members are welcome to both session and both start at 1pm. No previous knowledge of the subject is required.

July meetings

We looked at kidnap and particularly the kidnaps where a child of a wealthy person is abducted for a ransom. Our members could recall the details of some of these cases and it is interesting to look afresh at some of the events of our younger days.

As always I am always on the lookout for new topics and will soon begin to produce the calendar for 2018. So far I am thinking about the Black Dahlia murders in the US, The Lindbergh kidnapping, people trafficking and modern day slavery.


Our July 2017 meeting will look at kidnapping. We will likely look at the Lindbergh case in the 1930s and at least one other case where the child of a famous person (Perhaps the Frank Sinatra Junior case?) has been kednapped. Lesley Whittle was kidnapped by Donald Neilson (Known as The Black Panther) in 1975 and again the motive was to gain money. Finally we we look at cases where the kidnapped person has become supportive of their kidnappers (Stockholm Syndrome) and the most famous example of this is Patty Hearst. Please join us either on MONDAY 24th JULY or Tuesday 25th when the repeat session takes place. No need to book - just turn up and you will be made most welcome

The June topic (medical murderers) proved to be popular and as it overran on Monday I shortened it for Tuesday. We concluded that the medical practitioners who do harm are most definitely in a weird minority. They get away with their behaviour as it is almost impossible to believe that a doctor or nurse would deliberately harm a patient. In addition the opportunities to harm are there, as are the means (mainly the administration of drug overdoses). We considered that the motive is that these psychopaths enjoy having the power over life and death. Our knowledge of psychopaths grows with each session, but still cannot fail to shock and dismay us.


The June Crime and punishment meetings will look at medical murderers and will concentrate on Harold Shipman. What motivated him? Was there anything in his background which can explain his behaviour? Was there a lack of vigilance which enabled him to get way with serial killings?
Join us on 26th or 27th June at 1pm. No need to book, just turn up

Our May Crime and Punishment meetings listened to a presentation by our group member Mary Halliwell. The presentation was an examination of her ancestor who was hanged in the 1820s for a murder. Mary took us through the circumstances of the murder, the trial and the fate of the body following the execution. This was gruesome and the man had been anatomised and his skin was cured and used to bind a book. Mary gave details of her research and her campaign to give her ancestor a proper burial which involved obtaining his skeleton from storage. Thanks to Mary for an interesting presentation which was very well received by our group.


The meetings in May 2017 will be held on Monday 22nd and repeated on Tuesday 23rd. The topic will be ‘An Unjust Hanging’. This is the story of a real life hanging in the 1820s and the investigation into the hanging of her ancestor and is presented by one of our U3A members. All members are welcome – even if you do not normally attend our meetings.

Our April meeting looked at hanging in the 1950s. We examined the legislation behind capital offences, some of the miscarriages of justice that added to the abolitionist cause and the major characters working for abolition.

We also looked at the work and life of Albert Pierrepoint who was the hangman in this era. A book was mentioned but I could not remember the title. This is ‘Executioner Pierrepoint, an Autoboigraphy’.

This was a difficult subject which was expected to raise a lot of discussion. The ability to air ones views is important and the group always respect different takes on our topics. This month was no exception.

Thanks to Jo for a delicious cake - worth attending for that alone


Our April 2017 meetings will take place on Monday 24th and repeated Tuesday 25th April. Both starting at 1pm at The Miners. All members welcome and just turn up as there is no need to book. You can come to either meeting and each session makes sense in its own right so you can attend as and when the fancy takes you

The April topic will be capital punishment in the period from the end of the Second World War to the final abolition in 1969, but concentrating on the 1950s. We will be looking at a brief history of capital offences, why the death sentence was used less frequently in the 1950s, some of the protagonists who were instrumental in the abolition of hanging, the role played by the media and the cases which added fuel to the debate.

The March meetings were well attended and we looked at crime and the newspapers. This included a brief history of early crime reporting, some famous cases and their reporting in the Victorian era and the early 20th Century cases that hit the papers. The period from the Second World War to the mid-60s was said to be the golden age of crime reporting. Unfortunately this also meant that in their struggle to keep their massive circulation figures the crime reporters were using cheque book journalism, the purchasing of information from the police and often wrote stories which were dubious to say the least.

Things did not improve in the later 20th Century, as the coverage of the West abduction and murders showed. We also looked at cases where the newspapers homed in on the wrong suspect and made damaging revelations about people who were in fact innocent, such as Christopher Jefferies who was defamed in the papers when he was questioned by the Bristol Police on suspicion of the murder of his tenant Jo Yeates. Finally we looked at the Levison Enquiry and the recommendations

A web site was mentioned in the session which contained details of the work of the Ordinary Reporters at Newgate Prison. The site is oldbaileyonline.com


In February 2017 we looked at victims in the Criminal Justice system. Victims are now of interest to academics and there are many studies on ‘victimology’. We looked at the chances of becoming a victim, how crime impacts on victims, some theories around victims and why victims have become more centre stage in the court process.

Both sessions were well attended and added to our growing knowledge about criminology in the UK

A book was recommended by one of our members which looks at the murder of Lucy Partington by the Wests – this is ‘ If You Sit Very Still’ by Marian Partington who is Lucy’s sister.

Next month our meetings are on Monday 27th March and repeated on Tuesday 27th when the topic is Crime and the Press. We will be looking at how crime has been reported from the 17th century right up to Leveson. This will include the ‘Golden Age’ of crime reporting from the end of the war to the end of capital punishment.

This will take us nicely into April’s meeting which will look at the 1950s and the death penalty. Ruth Ellis, , Derek Bentley, John Reginald Christie, John Haigh and Peter Manuel are amongst the most famous cases. We will look at these and the men tasked with hanging them.

All members are welcome to these meetings – you do not need to have attended earlier meetings as each session makes sense in its own right.


Our January meetings looked at drugs. We looked at how the new psychoactive substances were adding to the problem of addiction, crime, and social isolation in users. We examined how all drugs (including those that we are taking on prescription) work by impacting on the central nervous system. We considered the way that users administer drugs and the dangers of things like glues and gasses and all drugs that are injected. We examined the way that illicit drugs are classified and finally we looked at the sad story of heroin abuse.

There is an excellent web site with a game (very easy to do) called Mouse Party. Impress your children/grandchildren by knowing more than they do about how drugs work


We all agreed that our baby boomer generation is not really up to speed (forgive the pun) on illicit drugs and that it is a good thing to learn at our age the things that our grandchildren are being taught at school

The cake addicts were also able to indulge in some carrot cake on Tuesday and thanks to Jo for cooking that - now we all know how to cook up crack cocaine we still prefer your cakes to any other substances


27th February repeated 28th at 1pm.

The topic is VICTIMS and Crime. How does being a victim of crime impact upon the individual? Are some victims viewed as more worthy than others? Who is most likely to become a victim? Why have the Criminal Justice Agencies become much more aware of the rights of victims and what are the problems involved in granting these rights? It is an important and interesting topic.

All members are welcome to either meeting – just arrive as you don’t need to book.

March will be looking at Crime Reporting mainly in the press.


Our December meeting was on the subject of the trial of OJ Simpson. He was acquitted of the murder of his ex-wife and her friend in 1994. The verdict was likely to have reflected the belief by the predominantly black jury in Los Angeles that the police could have ‘set up’ the defendant. This would have reflected the experience of the black population regarding the police, who were at that time considered to be racist.

Simpson was later prosecuted by the victim’s families in a civil action and was ordered to pay damages. Many of his belongings were ordered to be sold to raise money, including his various football trophies. He, along with others, committed an armed robbery to acquire these trophies from their new owner and is currently serving a sentence but will be parole eligible in the New Year.

Another series of events that is stranger than fiction.

Some members had seen the US made series about the trial. This was an excellent docu-drama and highly recommended

Our meeting was well attended and does appear to justify holding a meeting between Christmas and New Year.

Next month we meet on Monday 23rd repeated Tuesday 24th January. Our subject is illicit drugs and crime and especially the drugs that fuel acquisitive crime – crack cocaine and heroin. We will look at the way that drugs work, the control of drugs, how various drugs are taken and the nature of addiction. Substance misuse has been with us for centuries and in our modern age is a sad fact of life. Why not find out more about this topic by joining us? All members welcome to either meeting. You don’t have to have attended previous meetings as all sessions will make sense on a stand-alone basis.


We examined matricide in our November meetings. The sessions were based on a book by Kate Summerscale called 'The Wicked Boy'. The boy was Robert Coombes who murdered his mother in 1895. It is a fantastic book and thoroughly recommended. Kate Summerscale takes real life events and relates them in a fascinating way using sources such as court records and newspaper reports. She was the author of the (true) Inspector Whicher story. Additional fictionalised stories were later and made into a television series.

The Wicked Boy book also gives information about another matricide which was committed just a few years later in Cambridge by a 15 year old called Frank Rodgers. Robert and Frank were both found guilty but insane by juries who were keen not to risk them being hanged, which may have been inevitable in a non insanity verdict. Hence the two boys were in Broadmoor Hospital for the Criminally Insane together. Amazingly Broadmoor was, at that time, a therapeutic regime and both boys thrived there. They were both discharged in time for them to volunteer to fight in the First World War and served bravely and without any trace of the insanity which had been the alleged reason for the murder of their respective mothers. It is a story of redemption and really makes the reader think about what really happened. A grisly topic but one which - viewed through our 21st century eyes - may have been a dramatic response to an abusive home life.

Next month we have only one meeting which is on 27th December 2016 when we look at the trial of OJ Simpson. Was he guilty of the murder of his ex wife and her friend but found innocent by a jury who were convinced that the Los Angeles police had framed him due to race hatred? Were his 'Dream Team' posse of lawyers able to sow sufficient doubt concerning his guilt? The verdict split public opinion in the United States as never before. Well probably until the events of this month!

We start our 2017 meetings with illicit drugs! How do drugs work? Does taking the softer drugs automatically escalate into heavier drug use? Why is substance misuse associated with crime? Why do some people become dependent on drugs whereas others can easily give them up? Why are drugs controlled and classified? All this and more.

Our meeting is on 23rd or 24th January at 1pm both days.

Happy Christmas to all our members and hopefully see some of you on the day following Boxing Day when you may appreciate a few hours away from the grandchildren/relatives/post Christmas sales etc

PS Those television producers have been eavesdropping on our meeting yet again - new series about Reginald Christie starts today - 29/11. This is followed by a programme about female crime writers. Then in a few weeks a programme about serial killer Peter Manuel.

PPS Also thanks to our anonymous biscuit monitors - your kindness is much appreciated

Crime and Punishment Meetings 2017

January 23rd or 24th Illicit drugs and crime
February 27th or 28th Victims
March 27th or 28th The media and how crime is reported
April 24th or 25th The death penalty in the 1950s
May 22nd or 23rd Preston Guild robbery
June 26th or 27th Medical murderers
July 24th or 25th Kidnapping
August 28th or 29th The Hatton Garden Robbery
September 25th or 26th Shannon Matthews
October 23rd or 24th Politicians who have committed crimes
November 27th or 28th Serial Killers
December Date to be announced


Please note we will not be meeting on December 26th 2016 but will meet on December 27th (see below)

Our October meetings looked at personality disorders, focusing on those that affect criminality. We looked at Dr Robert Hare’s Psychopath Test and how non-violent psychopaths are probably more common that we would like to think. To finish a quite demanding session we looked at some films and TV series which had psychopaths as their central character. Our Tuesday meeting threw up a movie buff that could name all the actors and had seen most of the films!

The meetings in November will take place on Monday November 28th repeated on Tuesday 29th. Our topic is matricide. We may all have occasionally thought of murdering our mum but this is about people who actually did it. It will focus on child murderers and will look at some of the famous cases from history.

Only one meeting in December. Monday 26th is Boxing Day so that session will not take place. By Tuesday 27th December, however, you may have had enough of turkey sandwiches and wilting Christmas trees and be ready to join us for our look at the trial of OJ Simpson.


In our September groups we looked at terrorism. We discussed the definition of terrorism and how (using the example of Nelson Mandela) we thought that one man’s terrorist could be another man’s freedom fighter.

We then looked at the provisional IRA and their bombing campaign on the mainland. We examined the Warrington bombings in more detail and the impact of the death of Jonathan Ball and Tim Parry. After the break we examined the London bombings in 2005. In particular we looked at factors that may have motivated the bombers and ideas such as the desire for martyrdom.

A serious topic but one which facilitated debate and may have increased our understanding a little bit

Just a note about the next Women’s History meeting which should be of interested to members who attend the Crime and Punishment Group. On the 17th or 18th October at 1pm Terry Creaney is giving a presentation on female criminals in the 19th Century who were deported from this country to Tasmania. Terry undertakes research on these prisoners as part of a scheme aiding the prisoner’s descendants to trace their history. You are welcome to attend even if you don’t normally come to Women’s History. As always it is important to reiterate that this group welcomes men (and indeed we have a number who attend!)

The October Crime and Punishment Meetings will look at the psychology of offenders and the differences between those who are assessed as having personality disorders and those who are psychotic. The distinction is critical as those who are psychotic are treated in secure hospital following serious offences whereas those with personality disorders are punished by being placed in prison. In the past the assessment resulted in the difference between being hanged and remaining alive so was critical. Personality disorders in offenders can range from mild through to those who are assessed as psychopaths. Not an easy topic but fascinating.

Crime and Punishment Meetings are on the 24th or 25th October both at 1pm. All members most welcome .


Our August meetings were treated to a presentation by Brian – one of our members who gives a presentation (amongst other subjects) on William Joyce – Lord Haw Haw.
This was a fascinating presentation on a complex man who although an anti-Semitic Nazi was clearly an interesting and physically courageous man. Thanks to Brian for another brilliant presentation.

Our September meetings are to be held on Monday 26th and repeated on the 27th at 1pm. The topic will be terrorism and will be based on an examination of the 2005 London bombings and the activities of the IRA on the mainland. These are events we can all recall but that we struggle to make sense of.

All members are welcome to attend and you can pick and choose which sessions as each meeting looks at a separate topic.

Our July meetings looked at gangs and concentrated on those in Manchester. We looked at the Salford Firm led by Paul Massey and at the gangs based in Moss Side, Cheetham Hill and Longsight. We discussed why young men want to get involved in gangs, and why they rise and fall.

Our August meeting promises to be a treat. Brian - one of our U3A members - will present a study of Lord Haw Haw and his trial. Brian is an experienced presenter and anybody who saw his presentation on the Contagious Diseases Acts will know that they are in for a treat with this presentation.

The meeting are on Monday 22nd August repeated on Tuesday 23rd both at 1pm. All members welcome even if you do not normally attend the group.

Thanks again to Jo for her lovely lemon drizzle cake


The June meetings were both well attended even though in the week of BREXIT, JEXIT and CODSWALLOP we were unable to cheer ourselves up as the topic was spree killers. However we did get a clearer understanding of what motivates these people to take so many victims to their deaths (usually including themselves as suicide is a common ending to these rampages).

In July (Monday 25th repeated Tuesday 26th we will look at gangs – the different types, why people join gangs and how the police deal with them.

All members very welcome – just turn up at either meeting – both at 1pm at the Miners Institute.

Advanced notice of an exciting August meeting (Monday 22nd repeated on the 23rd) when one of our members, Brian, will give a presentation on William Joyce (Lord Haw Haw) and the trial he faced as a traitor. This is a fantastic opportunity to hear a presentation on a controversial and complex character and one that will be of value not only to those interested in the legal system but also second world war history. You are most welcome to attend even if you do not ordinarily come to the Crime and Punishment meetings.

Please feel free to join us - each monthly topic makes sense in its own right so you can dip in and out as you think fit. Whether you attend once in a while or every month you will be made to feel most welcome and in spite of the subject the sessions are designed to be informative and enjoyable.


The May meetings on Monday 23rd repeated Tuesday 24th May looked at retail theft. We discussed the characteristics of shoplifters, the type of items stolen, the sentences received and the cost to society. We also looked at some of the tactics used by shop lifters.

June will be about spree killings – sometimes called rampage killings. These are quite rare in this country and we will look in detail at three recent examples – Michael Ryan at Hungerford, Derek Bird in Cumbria and Thomas Hamilton at Dunblane. Using these examples we will then look at what motivates these outrageous incidents and whether they can be predicted. We will also look briefly at Anders Breivik and at some of the school rampage killings in the US.

Your attendance would be most welcome either on a regular or one off basis.

The June meetings are on MONDAY 27th and repeated TUESDAY 28th - both starting at 1pm at the Miners.


Crime and Punishment April Meeting
We looked at Miscarriages of Justice in April and what were the common factors in these cases. Many of the most famous cases were in the 1970’s and do seem to reflect the ‘Life on Mars’ view of the police service at that time. We also looked at the changes which were made in order to attempt to prevent future miscarriages of justice and at how Crown Court appeals work.

Next month we will be looking at Shop Theft – who does it, what motivates offenders, how they are detected, what it costs us as a society, who benefits from buying stolen goods and how offenders are dealt with.

If any member would like to do a presentation at any time on any crime related topic please feel free to volunteer.
Our May dates are Monday 23rd May repeated on Tuesday 24th May. Both meetings will start at 1pm and finish before 3pm. All members are most welcome to attend either meeting. Look forward to seeing you there – when you will learn the secrets of shop lifting!

The March meetings looked at fraud. We set up a Ponzi scheme by doing a role play (thanks to all who ‘volunteered’ to be part of it). We looked at the Ponzi scheme operated by Bernard Madoff who is currently serving 150 years for taking money from investors in a non-existent scheme. We looked at romance scams and some of the ways that these these trap the unsuspecting. We then looked at Nick Leeson – the rogue trader who brought down Baring’s Bank single handedly. After a look at some other scams we looked at why we are all prone to become victims but how some of the worst scams can be avoided. Finally we examined the motivation and personality traits of the perpetrators.

Thanks to Jo for bringing her meringue – very apt as it was made to resemble a nest and was full of little Easter eggs. She fooled the Tuesday attenders by coming on a Monday - very sneaky

April’s topic is miscarriages of justice. This will look at 3 major cases and several examples of less well known ones. The major ones are Stefan Kiszco, The Birmingham Six and Stephen Downing. Three very different, cases but all miscarriages of justice have certain common factors which we will look at.
Dates are Monday 25th or Tuesday 26th April.

May’s meeting is about shop theft and looks like it will be interesting.

Advance notice of a presentation to be given by one of our U3A members. This will be a presentation on Victorian prostitution and the Contagious Diseases Acts. Brian will be presenting this at the Women’s History meetings but it is of interest to the Crime and Punishment Group. We did mention this act when we did our session on Victorian crime in December. The presentation is on Monday 16th May and repeated Tuesday 17th May. You are welcome to attend even if you do not ordinarily come to the Women’s History meetings.

March 2016
Just a quick note to all members who attend the Crime and Punishment Group - you will recall that we looked at the Scuttlers in our January 2016 meeting - on Thursday 24th March there is a programme on BBC2 at 8pm where descendants of the Salford Scuttlers look at their ancestors.
Meanwhile even if you can't catch the programme on TV please join us on Easter Monday or Tuesday (28th or 29th March) when we will be looking at cons, scams and white collar crime

Barbara writes: We looked at a vexing and distressing topic in February - family annihilation. After studying some cases we looked at how these crimes are categorized, at why women are rarely family annihilators and why this crime is becoming more common. In spite of the topic these were informative meetings and ones where we again looked at the psychology of the offenders.

As a change from murder and mayhem our March meetings will be looking at white collar crime. This can cover things like fraud against employers; frauds by people offering get rich quick schemes and internet frauds.

We will meet on the 28th or 29th March. The 28th is Easter Monday but we will be holding our meeting. All members are welcome to attend and if you are clever you will make sure that you come on the day that Jo brings her lovely cake – otherwise you will have to make do with biscuits!

Our January meetings were both well attended. We looked at The Scuttlers using information in a book by Andrew Davies called 'The Scuttlers'. We concluded that the saying that there is nothing new under the sun is very true as these young men and women in the 19th century shared a few characteristics with today's youth and indeed with us when we were young and rowdy!

Our December meetings were very popular - people must have had enough peace and goodwill and joined us in the week between Christmas and New year for a session on Victorian Crime. We looked at reasons for the increase in crime and then at poisoners and prostitutes. In the Monday meeting Mary brought some information on a local crime at Ince in the 19th century. Thanks also to Mary for bringing a number of local history books looking at crime.

We will follow up our Victorian Crime theme on Monday 25th January (repeated Tuesday 26th) when we will look at The Scuttlers. They were Manchester gangs in the 19th century. There is a very good book by Andrew Davies on the Scuttlers called 'The Gangs of Manchester - The Story of The Scuttlers. Britain's first Youth Cult'. You are very welcome to attend either group and no previous knowledge is requires.

Our October meeting looked at two very different cases. One was the 'Beast of Manchester' - Trevor Hardy - who murdered 3 young women in North Manchester in the 70s. The other was Claus von Bulow who was tried twice for the attempted murder of his wife Sunny. This was the first 'celebrity trial' in the USA and paved the way for the OJ Simpson trial and many other cases.

The September Crime and Punishments meetings were well attended and our topic was 'historic murders'. We looked at Peter Manuel, The Beast of Birkenshaw and Scotland's only serial killer. After the break (with biscuits kindly provided by group members) we looked at Crippen and the murder of his wife Belle Elmore. The session on Crippen was based on a book called 'Supper with The Crippens' by David James Smith which is a well researched insight into the life of Crippen. it is also a book with humour in spite of its subject.

The August meetings looked at television crime series. We examined how these programmes have developed and changed over the years and then at some of our favourites and why we liked them. The recent series to gain the most praise from us Third Agers was Happy Valley. We liked this because it was well acted, fast moving, dramatic and involving.

Our July meetings on Monday 27th and repeated on Tuesday 28th were both very well attended. Our topic was literature and crime. Hence we looked at the detective in fiction from Sherlock Holmes to Harry Hole. members talked about their favourite genres from cosy to grisly with spy novels, courtroom dramas, historical detectives and other types of setting.

The June group was well attended on both days. The topic was child sexual exploitation. We looked at the abuse and murder of a young person called Jason Swift ,and two other children, by a paedophile gang led by Sidney Cooke. We also looked at Operation Yewtree which examined the activities of Jimmy Savile and some living celebrities. We had a discussion about the changing attitudes of the police, the courts, the public sector agencies, the general public and the media during our lifetime. Thanks as always to Jo for providing a lovely cake which lifted out spirits somewhat.

Our meetings in May looked at criminal profiling and some of the cases where this was used.

At our June meetings (on Monday 22nd and repeated on Tuesday 23rd) we will be talking about child sexual exploitation and sex offending against children. This is an important topic at present and we will be looking at Operation Yewtree which was set up to look at the Jimmy Savile case, but had to open up the investigation to living suspects. We will also look at Sidney Cooke who is still in prison following his role in a paedophile ring in the 70s and 80s, and in particular the manslaughter of Jason Swift aged 14 years. Not pleasant but a subject that we cannot ignore and are now treating with the gravity that it deserves.