Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Does a new book lift the lid on a controversial UK murder case?

Although I tend to focus on fictional crime rather than true crime, occasionally a real-life case catches my eye, as has happened in the past day or so thanks to reports about the publication of a new New Zealand book that might be about to create something of a storm in the international security intelligence world, apparently lifting the lid on a strange and intrigue-filled true life British murder case from the 1980s.

A Christchurch man claims in A THORN IN THEIR SIDE: THE HILDA MURRELL MURDER, that he has "explosive new evidence" suggesting the British security service was responsible for the murder of the rose grower and anti-nuclear campaigner, and framed then-teenaged petty thief Andrew George(who was eventually arrested in 2005).

Christchurch-based Robert Green is the nephew of 78-year-old Hilda Murrell, who was kidnapped, stabbed, bashed and left to die in a field in England in 1984. A former British Navy commander, Green has never believed the official story that the murder was a botched burglary, and after years of research has now written, under extreme secrecy, A THORN IN THEIR SIDE: THE HILDA MURRELL MURDER.

George is serving a life sentence after being convicted of Murrell’s abduction and murder following a five-week trial in 2005. "We have discovered fresh evidence which would acquit him," Green told ONE News yesterday (read story here). Such evidence apparently includes DNA and witness statements, and Green now believes that the murder was committed by "state security operatives for political reasons".

As reported by the Shropshire Star this week, "While police favoured a ‘burglary gone wrong’ theory, there were allegations that it was a state murder connected to Hilda’s work to expose risks at the planned Sizewell nuclear reactor, and also to the sinking of Argentine cruiser General Belgrano in the Falklands War, when Mr Green was working in Navy intelligence."

It's always hard to know with these things - there are so many conspiracy theories out there in the world, but then again, there are also plenty of examples of governments and people in power, in western democracies - not just dictatorships and third world continents - putting what they believe is important and in the 'national interest' etc, ahead of the rights and even lives of others. Growing up in a place like New Zealand, as a kid you see the world through a 'good guys and bad guys" lens, always assuming that 'we' are the good guys. As you get older, you learn that there are plenty of examples where bad things have been done by those on "our" side too. So who knows what the truth is in the Murrell case?

For me, I'd never heard of this case before, but it certainly sounds intriguing. One of those real life cases that rival fictional crime or thriller tales - although of course we should never forget that it is real-life people involved, and who have faced nasty consequences. Green and co-writer Kate Dewes have reportedly written the book, following years of research, largely in secrecy due to security concerns - their homes have reportedly been burgled, and bugged, and their car tampered with, etc.

A press release on Beattie's Book Blog suggests that A THORN IN THEIR SIDE "is likely to be a major embarrassment to politicians, security services, police and the justice system in the UK, so Green and Dewes were anxious to ensure that publication could not be stopped, as has been the case with other books involving the British security services. Hence the decision to publish in New Zealand and the high level of security." Apparently the publishers even had to contact the authors by sending mail to other addresses and arranging phone calls to be made from other people’s homes. Meetings in Christchurch and Masterton, where the publsihers are based, were always held in noisy cafes, with cellphones left in respective cars.

It almost sounds like a movie. You can read much more about Hilda Murrell and various theories etc, here and here.

Do any of my international readers of Crime Watch remember the Murrell case? What do you think of the allegations - paranoid conspiracy theory, or do you think there might be something to them? Do you enjoy reading true crime books, and getting behind the headlines and soundbites to learn more about real-life cases? I'd love to read your perspectives on this.

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