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Alan Kenyon Murder: Brutal Killing Of A Gay Man Who Was Beaten To Death With A Fire Poker In 1970

In 1970, In Harwood, a small suburb on the outskirts of Bolton, Alan Keyon was brutally beaten to death with a brass fire poker in his own home. He was murdered by Gordon Lee, a convicted burglar who was on the run from prison.

Alan Kenyon murder Bolton
Alan Kenyon was beaten to death with a heavy brass fire poker in Bolton in 1970

Alan Kenyon led a double life. To his neighbours, he was an easy-going, hard-working, pleasant, free-spending bachelor, but unknown to all but his closest friends, he was also a homosexual. By day, he was often seen out and about enjoying early retirement at the age of just 37, but by night he frequented numerous bars and gay clubs, often taking strangers back to his picturesque cottage at Harwood, a modern sprawling village on the northern tip of Bolton.

On Sunday, December 14, 1970, a local farmer and long-time friend of Kenyon's, called at the cottage on Lea Gate Lane after Alan had failed to turn up for the usual Sunday lunch and a pint at The Seven Stars, a few hundred yards away.

Approaching the cottage, he saw Alan's blue sports car standing in the drive, and trying the front door he found it unlocked. "Alan! Is anyone home?" he shouted as he entered the porch. Receiving no reply he entered the living room and called out again. He turned on the light as the heavy drapes were still drawn, and the room was in total darkness. Kenyon's friend walked through to the bedroom and knocked on the door. Still no answer.

"Alan?" he shouted, and opening the bedroom door, he recoiled in horror. Lying on the bed, naked except for a pair of socks, was the body of Alan Kenyon. The white top sheet was stained a deep crimson by the blood that had seeped from the number of lacerations to his head, and lying at the foot of the bed was a heavy brass poker.

Officers from Lancashire CID, led by Detective Chief Superintendent Alfred Collins, sealed off the house, and after setting up a murder headquarters at the nearby Liberal Club, they immediately began house-to-house enquiries in the village. Collins soon learned of Kenyon's double life and this presented him with a problem; the homosexual community was often reluctant to get involved with the police and this investigation was not to be different. The police did learn from other sources that Kenyon had sold a diamond watch for over £200 on Saturday afternoon and had £10 in cash and a cheque for the remainder. A search of the house failed to locate the cheque.

Seven Stars Harwood
Alan Kenyon's 'local' - the Seven Stars

In the living room of the house, they found three whiskey glasses, a sign that he had obviously had company on the previous evening. Police patched together the victim's last movements and learned that he was last seen in his dark blue Triumph GT6 sports car at the junction of Tongue Moor Road and Crompton Way, facing towards Bradshaw. He was returning home after dropping off a young man with whom he had spent the last couple of hours.

The next morning, a post-mortem confirmed that the injuries had almost certainly been caused by the poker found beside the body, and it appeared that the blows had been struck while the man was laying down on the bed. There were bruises on the hands and arms as though the victim had made a last desperate attempt to fend off the attack. Dr Woodcock said that Kenyon had survived the attack for about two hours and that death was due to cerebral hemorrhage caused by repeated blows to the head and neck.

Police pondered the motive. It seemed at first that a robbery was probably the cause, especially as the cheque was missing, but later when the safe in the bedroom was opened the cheque was located. Also missing from the house were two coats, and detectives believed the killer might have taken these to cover up the bloodstains on his clothes. They assumed that after having dropped off his friend, Kenyon had either picked up another man or perhaps telephoned the killer and invited him to call.

With over 90 officers assigned to the investigation, Collins concentrated on the two clues taken from the house. One was a cigarette lighter shaped like an automatic pistol, which friends claimed did not belong to the victim, the other was a white string vest. This seemed a major clue as it bore the name tag "David G. Whalley". The vest obviously did not belong to Mr Kenyon and a check on the files at the Criminal Recor Office failed to turn up anyone of that name.

The tag name was the type used by institutions like the military and officers were detailed to check through records of like any likely user of such a tag. It was an enormous task and many officers were assigned to methodically work through the organisations.

Meanwhile, detectives in Bolton learned that on the Sunday morning, a driver had given a man a lift on Crompton Way, a couple of miles away from the cottage, and dropped him off on Chorley New Road, believing him to be heading for Atherton. He gave a good description of the man whom he said had dark curly hair with long bushy side-boards, a full face, high cheekbones, and dark eyebrows, aged about 19 years old and about five foot ten inches tall.

There were literally dozens of fingerprints in the house and when Collins learned that Kenyon was very house-proud and fond of showing neighbours around, he wondered if there was a single person in Harwood who had not been inside the house. Detectives also checked through the victim's numerous confidential telephone numbers in the hope that someone could throw light on the investigation.

Four days after the murder, Collins and his officers had the breakthrough they had been searching for. While enquiries continued slowly in Bolton, the trail led to Preston and an unsolved robbery from the previous springtime.

'David G. Whalley' was found to be a House Surgeon at Preston Royal Infirmary, and the vest was among a number of items he had reported stolen from the hospital laundry sometime around the 6th of March in the previous year. The description of the wanted man, and the theft of the laundry at Preston, led officers to check up on the whereabouts of a convicted criminal currently on the run from Wakefield prison.

On Tuesday, December 22, 1970, just when it seemed as if the officers would have to cancel their Christmas leave, they had a man in custody. Acting on information received, Detective Chief Inspector Ian Hunter of Blackburn's number 2 Task Force called at a house belonging to 22-year-old Gordon Leonard Lee on Aqueduct Street, Preston. His wife, Florence Lee opened the door and let the officers inside. The house was searched and Lee was found hiding in a small cabinet under the Kitchen Sink.

"Well, you've got to try, haven't you," he said to the officer as he was placed under arrest. He was taken back to Bolton and under police interrogation, he admitted the attack.

"All right, I'll give it to you straight," he said when questioned at Astley Bridge police station. "This is how it happened. I had been drinking in town and was walking up Blackburn road where I intended to spend the night with friends. A man in a two-seater sports car stopped and offered me a lift. It was raining and I accepted. He invited me back to his house for a drink, and again I accepted. He made advances and asked me to stop the night, but I didn't think anything of it at first. I had got my shirt off when he made a grab at me. I pushed him away, but he would not stop, so I hit him with the poker. When I left he was still breathing and I didn't know he was dead until I read it in the papers."

It seemed clear to detectives that Lee was probably hoping for a manslaughter charge, emphasising the provocation on a number of occasions. When questioned about the stolen coats he admitted that he had sold them; one in Buckley, the other in Blyth, Northumberland. He said that after returning to Preston he decided to "jump ship" and fled, first to Buckley in Flintshire, where he sold one of the coats, then to North Sheilds from where he planned to sail to Europe. For some reason, he decided to return to Preston and it was while he was at home he was arrested.

Gordon Lee stood trial for murder at Manchester Assizes before Mr Justice Cusack in May 1971. He pleaded not guilty to the murder of Alam Kenyon but admitted to the theft of two coats.

He reiterated his plea of manslaughter and the court heard how Kenyon had made unwelcome advances which he fended off by hitting him with the poker. The prosecution's claim, backed up by medical evidence, that many of the blows had been delivered while the man was laying on the bed seemed to contradict this account and when the jury came to weigh up the verdict, after three days of evidence, they found Lee guilty of murder.

When the judge had passed the sentence of life imprisonment, the court was told that Lee was on the run from prison where he was serving four years for aggravated burglary. He also had numerous convictions for violent crimes.

Thus Alan Kenyon, the man whose door was always open to his friends and neighbours, died because he made unwelcome advances to the wrong kind of guest. The Harrowing Story Of Danny Rolling: The "Gainesville Ripper" The Inspiration Of The Movie Scream.


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