The Chronicles of Crime - The infamous felons of modern history and their hideous crimes Author: Martin Fido Publisher: Little Brown/Carlton ISBN: 0-316-90728-6 1993
The execution of 18-year-old Derek Bentley in January has divided the country. Crowds nearly rioted, and had to be restrained by Derek's brave father. Many see the hanging as judicial murder: an act of frustrated revenge by authorities who cannot kill the real criminal, 16-year-old Christopher Craig. Others feel it was a salutary reaction to youthful violence, and necessary retribution for PC Miles' death.
On November 2 last year the two teenagers were spotted on a Croydon warehouse roof. Police climbed up and arrested Bentley, who was armed with a knife and an evil spiked knuckleduster. Craig, armed with a pistol, shot at the police for about 20 minutes. In the course of this, PC Miles was killed instantaneously by a bullet through the head as he came on to the roof. At that time, Bentley was already securely in the custody of Detective Constable Fairfax.
Craig taunted the police, saying "Come on, you brave coppers! Think of your wives!" Finally, when he ran out of bullets, he hurled himself off the roof, breaking his pelvis. Bentley was contrastingly quiet and shocked after the death of PC Miles.
South London's climate of fear over "cosh boys" seemed to demand an execution in this outrageous instance of murder. Yet because of the two hoodlums' ages, the one whose finger was on the trigger inevitably lives. And so huge crowds accuse:
This disputed utterance lies at the heart of the Bentley and Craig case. According to the police on the roof, Bentley shouted the words to Craig as Detective Constable Fairfax arrested him, whereupon Craig wounded Fairfax in the shoulder. According to Bentley and Craig, the words were never spoken. According to some very unpersuasive Bentley sympathisers, the words, if spoken, really meant, "Let him have the weapon, and give yourself up, Chris!"
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