Obituary: Gerald McArthur

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The Independent Online
Dick Hobbs's obituary of Gerald McArthur [17 September] is too soft on crime, writes Paul Trewhela. The 1960s gang leader Charlie Richardson, whom McArthur helped convict, is quoted as saying of his criminal operations in south London: "Nobody was dead, maimed or even scarred . . ."

This is disingenuous. In fact it took a murder and the gallows for the Richardson gang to be convicted. Thomas Waldeck, a business partner of Richardson, was shot dead on his doorstep in South Africa in 1964. A member of the Richardson gang from London, Johnny Bradbury, was arrested by the South African police on suspicion of having driven the getaway car.

The murder weapon was recovered, and identified as belonging to Gordon Winter, a Johannesburg journalist (and later agent of the Bureau of State Security), who had grown up in London. Winter was arrested in Johannesburg, threatened with being charged with complicity, and prevailed upon to assist the police.

With Winter's assistance, Bradbury was sentenced to hang. My fellow white political prisoners and I frequently saw him exercising in "B" Wing (the Condemned section) in Pretoria Central Prison in 1966. Every few weeks he (and we) could hear batches of his fellow "Condemneds" going to the gallows.

Bradbury saved his neck by giving detailed information on the victims of Richardson's fraud and torture operations to British detectives, who visited him in the death cells. A deal was struck, and his sentence commuted to a prison term in South Africa, which he served.

This comprehensive and conclusive information coming from Bradbury finally gave Richardson's victims in Britain the confidence to speak to the police. Otherwise, they were too terrified. This was crucial to the prosecution's success.

Autobiographies first by Winter and later Richardson, as well as a British television interview with Bradbury a few years ago, following his release, confirm this interpretation.

I'd worked with Winter on the Johannesburg Sunday Times, and followed the Richardson trial in London in 1967, after my own release. The international mechanics of these criminal and police operations deserves a better press.

The caption to Gerald McArthur's photograph was erroneous: he is the figure on the left, not the right.