Three masked men had raided a jeweller’s in Charlotte Street in London’s West End. They had beaten the shop owner about the head with a revolver, which one of them fired as they ran onto the street. Motorcyclist Alec de Antiquis saw the men and drove his machine into their path. One of them took aim and shot him through the head, leaving him dying in the street.
Alec de Antiquis was married, with six children now orphaned by a ruthless gunman whom police were determined to catch. Superintendent Robert Fabian, known as Fabian of the Yard, took over immediate responsibility for the case. He had eye-witnesses to the shooting but their descriptions of the gunmen varied. However, a taxi driver had seen two masked men run into Brook House in Tottenham Court Road only minutes after the murder.
A search of the building turned up a raincoat and a scarf folded to make a mask. Eventually Fabian traced the raincoat to 23-year-old Charles Henry Jenkins, a known south London criminal. Meanwhile the murder weapon was found by a schoolboy in the mud on the foreshore of the Thames. Tests proved it had fired the fatal bullet. In fact the gun was still loaded, with only one chamber fired.
At first there was consternation because witnesses failed to pick out Jenkins on an identity parade, and he would admit nothing. But by now two of his mates were in custody and they began to squeal. Twenty-one-year-old Christopher James Geraghty confessed first and then Terence Peter Rolt told police about the raid, implicating Jenkins. All were found guilty of murder. Geraghty and Jenkins were hanged at Pentonville Prison on September 19th, 1947, and Rolt, being too young to hang, was detained during His Majesty’s pleasure.
Heated debates about capital punishment followed. There was public outcry against the hangings and Parliament became involved. The Criminal Justice Bill, which halted all hangings for a time during 1948, was in the offing, so why, argued the abolitionists, hang people now? And the person forgotten in all this? Little attention was given to the father of six who gave his life as a brave citizen – Alec de Antiquis, perhaps the earliest have-a-go hero.