Most people are familiar with the names of the major concentration camps - Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau, and Treblinka, for example - but few realize that these were not the only places where Jews and other prisoners were held by the Nazis. Each of the 23 main camps had subcamps, nearly 900 of them in total. These included camps with euphemistic names, such as “care facilities for foreign children,” where pregnant prisoners were sent for forced abortions.

The Nazis established about 110 camps starting in 1933 to imprison political opponents and other undesirables. The number expanded as the Third Reich expanded and the Germans began occupying parts of Europe. When the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum first began to document all of the camps, the belief was that the list would total approximately 7,000. However, researchers found that the Nazis actually established about 42,500 camps and ghettoes between 1933 and 1945. This figure includes 30,000 slave labor camps; 1,150 Jewish ghettoes, 980 concentration camps; 1,000 POW camps; 500 brothels filled with sex slaves; and thousands of other camps used for euthanizing the elderly and infirm; "Germanizing" prisoners or transporting victims to killing centers. Berlin alone had nearly 3,000 camps.

These camps were used for a range of purposes including: forced-labor camps, transit camps which served as temporary way stations, and extermination camps, built primarily or exclusively for mass murder. From its rise to power in 1933, the Nazi regime built a series of detention facilities to imprison and eliminate so-called "enemies of the state." Most prisoners in the early concentration camps were German Communists, Socialists, Social Democrats, Roma (Gypsies), Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, and persons accused of "asocial" or socially deviant behavior. These facilities were called “concentration camps” because those imprisoned there were physically “concentrated” in one location.

Millions of people were imprisoned, abused and systematically murdered in the various types of Nazi camps. Under SS management, the Germans and their collaborators murdered more than three million Jews in the killing centers alone. Only a small fraction of those imprisoned in Nazi camps survived. As many as 15-20 million people may have died in the various camps and ghettoes.

Welcome to Pastreunited, here you will find hundreds of videos, images, and over 80 pages about all aspects of the 20th century. A great deal of the content has been sent in, other content is the work of numerous writers who have a passion for this era, please feel free to send in your memories or that of your family members, photos and videos are all welcome to help expand pastreunited's data base.

You may also add a dedication to a loved one if you wish, we have been on-line for many years and intend to be here for many years to come as new family members will take over the website, all content is regularly backed up to safe guard the content, so what are you waiting for send us an email and we will do the rest.

                                                                           This is a page in progress

Italy became a Fascist state under Mussolini 1924 and its invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 sought to reclaim the territory it lost in 1896. Italy joined the German Axis and fought with Hitler's Africa Korps in North Africa. As a result of Allied victories large numbers of Italian soldiers were captured and the Allies had great difficulty in finding sufficient provisions for them. Many were shipped off to India however the conditions were not satisfactory. At Britain's request Australia agreed to take 18,000 Italian POW and the Cowra Camp (one of 28 in Australia) featured prominently by housing 2,000 of these at any one time. The overall numbers that went through Cowra may never be known but it is estimated at 4,000.

The Italians arrived in 1943 and onward and were housed in compounds A and C with approximately 1000 in each. It soon became apparent that many of these Italians were easy going and just wanted to work hard and see their time out. A number of them were trusted individuals who were able to drive vehicles and work on farms or do labouring work away from the camp. Many were allocated and stayed on surrounding farms. The property Mulyan had part of its area designated as the Cowra POW Farm.

Many residents in Cowra have spoken about their friendliness and kindness to children, their singing, their food and their love of life. There were a small number of Italian Fascist, Black Shirts, who were a security risk and they were housed in a separate compound. This Compound D had a smaller number of POW and was at different times split into smaller camps D1, D2 and D3 which housed Italian Fascists, Japanese Officers and Koreans and Chinese respectively. Some of the Italians died from natural causes and there was at least one suicide. They were initially buried in the Cowra Cemetery but their remains were later removed to Murchison in Victoria.

The Italians did not participate in the famous Cowra Breakout by the Japanese and saw their time out in Cowra with the last Italian not leaving until 1947. Under the Geneva Convention all POW had to be returned home before they could apply to come back to Australia. Only a few came back to this area when migration approval was finally given. The Italian people contributed significantly to the Cowra economy and in recent years memorials have been constructed to their presence in Cowra. After many years we have a much better understanding of the importance of the Italians role in our district and their subsequent post war contribution to Australia generally.

The Escape from Fort Stanton occurred on November 1, 1942, when four German sailors escaped from an internment camp at Fort Stanton, New Mexico. There were other minor escape attempts from the fort, however, the incident in November 1942 was the most successful and the only one to end with a shootout. One German was wounded as result and the three remaining prisoners were sent back to Fort Stanton.

Fort Stanton, located about seven miles northeast of Capitan, was an old United States Army post from the Wild West days, but when World War II began, a camp was built at the site for German and Japanese internees. Most of the German prisoners, including the four involved in the escape, were crew members of the SS Columbus, a luxury liner that was sunk by her own crew 400 miles off the coast of Virginia, United States, on December 19, 1939. The camp at Fort Stanton was originally built specifically for the crew of Columbus, which amounted to over 400 men, and was also the first American internment camp for civilians opened during the war. The guards were members of the United States Border Patrol, rather than the army. Fort Stanton was chosen because there were abandoned buildings from the Civilian Conservation Corps adjacent to the fort, which could be utilized, and there was also a hospital nearby. Furthermore, "the location ensured that any pro-Nazi activities would be isolated in this rather lonely part of New Mexico."

The first of the internees to arrive at Fort Stanton came in January 1941. At that time, the post was still under construction, so the Germans were tasked with building accommodations for the newcomers. The Germans built four barracks, a kitchen, a mess hall, a laundry room, lavatories and

washrooms, shops, an officer's quarters, and a medical dispensary. There were also gardens for fresh produce, a recreation hall, and a swimming pool in which "mini-Olympic" competitions were held with the local population.

At first, the camp resembled more of a small town than a prison. The Germans were allowed a lot of freedom because the United States and Germany were not yet at war, but after Adolf Hitler's declaration on December 9, 1941, permission to go to Capitan, or hike in the nearby mountains, was no longer obtainable. For two years the German sailors had waited to go home, and now that the war had begun they were no longer being held as "distressed seamen," but rather enemy aliens that could only be released when the war was over. It was at this time that the guard towers and barbed wire fences were built.
The escape

There were a few escape attempts before and after the incident in November 1942; the Germans "climbed fences, walked off work details, or dug tunnels", but all of the escapees were caught and returned to the camp. After a while, the Germans likely felt that escaping was futile because of the remoteness of the area. Apart from Mexico, which is over 100 miles south of the Fort Stanton, there was nowhere to escape to. Even still, four men attempted to make the journey.

On the night of November 1, 1942, Bruno Dathe, Willy Michel, Hermann Runne, and Johannes Grantz, managed to sneak out of the camp, using the darkness as cover, and make their way south towards border. Their absence from the camp was soon discovered though, so a large manhunt conducted by the police in New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico, began. The Germans did not get very far: On November 3, a rancher and member of a posse named Bob Boyce spotted the escapees while he was guarding Gabaldon Canyon. Boyce immediately sent word to the main body of the posse, which was under the command of Deputy Joe Nelson and consisted of about twenty-five men.

After a little trailing, the posse found the Germans about fourteen miles south of the camp, on a hill inside the Lincoln National Forest. According to contemporary newspapers, the Germans were either bathing in a stream or sleeping on the grassy hill when the posse men rode up to them on horseback. One of the escapees was armed with an automatic pistol. There was a brief shootout, resulting in the wounding of one of the Germans, but all were detained and quickly taken back to Fort Stanton.
Newspaper accounts

The following was reported in the November 3, 1942 edition of the Tucson Daily Citizen:
“German seamen prisoners in a federal detention camp at Fort Stanton were trapped by armed possemen in the mountains west of here today following their escape Sunday night. The quartet was spotted by Bob Boyce a rancher as they were taking a bath in a canyon stream. One of the Germans Boyce reported back was armed with an pistol. Boyce took up guard and sent word back to the posse which had been searching the mountains all night for the prisoners.

Armed men at once departed for the scene only a few miles from Fort Stanton Given The Federal Bureau of Investigation gave the names... Bruno Dathe Willy Michel Hermanne Runne and Johannes Grantz. They are among some 400 men interned by the government at Fort Stanton after they scuttled their ship the German liner Collumbus in the Atlantic at the out- break of the war in Europe They were brought to the central New Mexico mountains here from San Francisco”

The following appeared in the November 4, 1942, edition of the Montreal Gazette:
“A mounted, gun-toting posse of ranchers and cattlemen rounded up and corralled four escaped German prisoners from the federal internment camp at Fort Stanton today. On[e] prisoner was wounded slightly in a brief exchange of gunfire as the posse surprised the sleeping Germans on a hillside in the Lincoln National Forest about 14 miles from Fort Stanton.

The Germans, seamen from the scuttled liner Columbus, were interned after the outbreak of the European war in 1939. They escaped Sunday night. They were spotted earlier in the day in Gabaldon Canyon west of Ruidoso by Bob Boyce, a rancher. Standing guard at the Canyon. Boyce sent back word to the main body of the posse. He was joined by about 25 armed men led by Deputy Sheriff Joe Nelson. The group rode up on the Germans with guns out. It had previously been reported that at least one of the prisoners carried an automatic pistol.

In September of 1916 there were many escapes from prisoner-of-war camps, both located in Germany. The first men who escaped were James Jerry Burke, whose name was later found to be James Gerry Burke, along with Pte. H. Tustin, escaping on September 5th. From that same camp, Harry Saunderson escaped, but on a completely different day and with no knowledge of the other men's escape. Lastly, there were two more men that escaped who ended up meeting Burke and Tustin in Holland, named Lance Corporal Edwards and Pte. M.C. Simonds. Later on, Simonds was found to be named Pte. Melvin Cecil Simmons. Unlike the other stories, these two men escaped from a completely different prison in Germany but still in the month of September in 1916.

All the men had been previously captured as prisoners of war during the second battle of Ypres in 1915. This capture was during the time the Canadian’s had to surrender to the Germans and were sent to German prisoner-of-war camps where they were confined there for months. The Canadian’s were mistreated, more so than the Englishmen, but just as bad as the French, said escapee Harry Saunderson on his experience in the German prisoner-of-war camps. He was horrified to see the way they were treated compared to other nationalities such as Englishmen, and how others, such as the Dutch, treated them much better than Germany ever would.

Edward and Simmons’ story is not very detailed on how they escaped or their experience in the prisoner-of-war camps. It’s said that Simmons made two escapes, the first being after months of confinement. When he was sent a compass and map in a cake, he planned and went through with his escape. He was said to be caught at the border, sent back to the camp, his map and compass confiscated, and was punished. Later, he was sent a cake with a map and compass inside, the same way he was given the first map and compass, and was able to escape with Edwards, actually succeeding that time. It’s not said how they escaped and what happened, but they landed in Holland sometime after, meeting Burk and Tustin there, and were sent to England with the other two men.

Just like Simmons, Saunderson tried to escape twice, only being successful on his last escape as well. Due to his first attempt, he was a target and was taken out of his cell that night (after the escape) and was beat along with the other two men he tried to escape with. They were later sent into Munster for trial and were sentenced to fourteen days imprisonment. After being taken out of the prison, much to their dismay, they were forced to wear the letter ‘N’ on their clothes to show they had previously escaped. After some time of being forced to wear the ‘N’ proving their escapement, they were allowed to remove said letter.

The second escape was when they were working for six days with plenty of food saved up, hiding during the day time behind bushes. As they were idling by the frontier they were taken to a guard house and mistaken for Dutch so the guard let them pass. The Dutch, they said, treated them as equals with the Englishmen, only questioning why Canadians would send men to fight when they weren’t compelled to do so. Eventually, the Dutch transferred them to their superior authorities who sent them to the British consular services and the Brits were the ones to finally send them home.

Burk, another prisoner-of-war escapee from Germany, had a rougher time before and during his escape with the other prisoner, Tustin. Burke was not hurt when captured at Ypres, but was forced to work without rest and was suffering from the gas fumes. Once he was transferred to a Munster camp he was to be put to work with ‘light carpentering’ which turned out to be working in the coke ovens. After he worked there for a month without a single days rest, he was transferred twice more. The first transfer was to the mines for four months, and then the second was to Kattenvan to chop wood and clear land for about three more months. The last winter and spring was spent grooming horses and then bringing up English parcels.

Burk and Tustin’s escape was dramatic, the two of them managing to escape from the camp on September 5th on a dark and rainy night. They walked through the shallow river and got caught in a wire, sounding the alarm to which the guards responded and ran to catch them. The two prisoners escaped and hid in the woods, Burk’s clothes ripped and torn from the wire, and Tustin in much worse shape, losing his fingers in the wire.

When men, women, and children began to go outside near the woods where they were hiding, they stayed hidden until dark again. After leaving the woods they were caught by dogs and chased for some time before getting away and hiding all day in a ditch. Upon seeing another dog, they feared being chased once again but were lucky to have them pass by without seeing the two escapees.

All the men had with them were biscuits and chocolates that should have lasted five days but they managed to make them last twice as long, as well as the mangold (also known as chard or a type of beetroot) and raw potatoes, until they made it to Holland on September 15th. Almost half of their journey was in rainy weather, at one point they had to hide in a hedge due to mist rising while they were walking. After almost being caught by a dog again, but quickly getting away, they covered themselves in anything they could to stay hidden from the dog.

While hiding in a thick bush, they heard a man tell five girls and a woman about two Englishmen who had escaped from prison and left shortly after hearing about it. From there they hid in a ditch and walked for two nights, almost being caught by more dogs along the way. When they were about 250 yards from the German border, German sentries began to shoot at them, forcing them to run until they passed through the border to Holland.

Luckily, instead of being mistreated in Holland, they got the exact opposite. They were greeted, cheered for their escape, and given everything they wanted including cigars, money, chocolate, a hot bath, a meal, and a change of clothes. That’s where they met the other escapees Simmons and Edwards and the four of them were sent to England after their stay in Holland.

Many Canadian's and Englishmen weren't as lucky as the men who escaped. Germans had kept them prisoners for a reason and too many men died as a result of being held captive with the mistreatment they endured. It took a lot of strength and courage to be able to survive and escape the camps the way these men did.
This story has been researched and written by Jake Alfieri.

Lieutenant Airey Neave

Lieutenant Airey Neave was the first British officer to make a successful escape from Colditz, one of the most famous POW camps. Colditz Castle, in eastern Germany, was built high on the slope of a hill and the Germans believed it was escape-proof. Throughout the war, they sent their most difficult POWs there. Airey Neave was sent there in May 1941 after escaping from his previous camp.

On 5 January 1942, Neave and a Dutch officer managed to get into the German guardhouse. Disguised as German officers, they walked boldly out past sentries through a gate into the dry moat, across a park and over the wall. Wearing civilian clothes, they crossed into neutral Switzerland. On returning to the UK, Neave was employed by MI9 to help and advise other evaders and escapees, where he was codenamed 'Saturday'.

Mike Scott

Mike Scott was one of 65 officers who escaped from Oflag VIIB, at Eichstätt in Bavaria through a tunnel in June 1943. Plans for a mass breakout had begun in 1942 shortly after the arrival of two British officers, Lieutenant Jock Hamilton-Baillie (known as HB) and Captain Frank Weldon. They had been involved in an escape from their previous camp at Warburg. The plan at Eichstätt was to dig a tunnel starting from under a latrine, passing under a rocky slope and up to a villager's chicken coop about 30 metres away. Tunneling was difficult because of the rocky ground being excavated. However, the obvious difficulty of digging this terrain also meant that the Germans did not search this area of the camp for possible tunnels. Instead, they focussed their investigations on the other side of the camp, where they had discovered soil deposited by the tunnellers. The tunnel was completed by May and the break out took place on the night of 3-4 June. By dawn, 65 POWs were out. Traveling either in pairs or small groups, most headed for neutral Switzerland, but eventually all were recaptured. After two weeks held in detention, all 65 men were sent to Colditz. Their time on the run had occupied over 50,000 German police, soldiers, home guard and Hitler Youth for a week.

At the beginning of 1944, POWs held at Colditz Castle, Flight Lieutenant Bill Goldfinch, Lieutenant Tony Rolt and Flight Lieutenant Jack Best came up with an ingenious plan to build a glider. The full-size, two-man glider was constructed secretly in an attic from pieces of wood and mattress covers. It was to be launched from the roof on a trolley attached to a bath full of concrete weights. When the bath was dropped, it was thought that there would be enough thrust to propel the glider some 450 metres to land in a small flat field across the River Mulde. Although only four men at a time could fit into the attic, in all 52 prisoners helped in various ways, either as look-outs or assisting with the construction. When Colditz was liberated in April 1945, the assembled glider was revealed, to the astonishment of those who saw it. It was destroyed just after the end of the war, before it could be put to the test.

The Case of Frederick Mors (Part One)

It began with a coroner's inquest into eight deaths at a home for the elderly near Yonkers, New York. What emerged was a bizarre tale of madness and murder that, while largely forgotten today, is still fascinating to explore.

New York Coroner James P. Dunn, launched his investigation largely on the testimony of a former porter at the home named Frederick Mors. It was Mors who had barged into the office of District Attorney Charles Perkins in February 1915 and insisted that the recent deaths at the German Odd Fellows Home were all the result of poisoning. Though Mors' story was taken seriously at first, Perkins reconsidered on learning that the porter had recently been fired for laziness. Based on his bizarre antics and the incredible nature of his story, Mors was quietly placed in the psychopathic wing at Bellevue Hospital for observation.

On learning about the alarmingly high number of patients deaths that had occurred during the previous few months, not to mention Mors' claim, the coroner soon concluded that something odd was going on at the Odd Fellows Home. The home, which housed around 250 orphans and over one hundred men and women, had been a typical enough facility for that era until the first deaths began in late 1914. By the time Dunn launched his investigation, the death toll had risen to eight, all of whom had been listed as dying of natural causes. During the investigation that followed, the coroner quickly turned up a number of irregularities, including the fact that the physician who had signed the death certificates had never even seen most of the patients in question. He also discovered that the person in charge of the medications cabinet used at the home was a fourteen year old girl. When the first autopsies determined the patients had died from arsenic poisoning, Dunn arranged for the superintendent of the home, Adam Bangert, to be locked up at a local jail while another two orderlies were ordered held as witnesses.

One of these orderlies admitted that he had smelled chloroform in the room of of the victims, an elderly patient named Henry Haendel, but was warned off by Bangert to leave the patient alone. "He was my boss, so I left," he told Dunn. Even as the coroner made arrangements to exhume all of the bodies of recently deceased patients, he announced to the press that the recent deaths were all murders. "There was a plot to get rid of the oldest, the most senile, those that were most in the way and caused the most trouble," he said in a public statement. "In each instance I believe that a rag soaked with chloroform was held over the face of the victim. Each was found dead in the morning and was generally supposed to have died during the night of natural causes, without medical attention." While Adam Bangert seemed the most obvious suspect at first, attention quickly turned to Frederick Mors himself.

A native of Austria-Hungary, Mors had arrived in the United States in the summer of 1914 and quickly found work tending to the patients at the home. By all accounts, he was highly eccentric and showed signs of grandiose delusions about his own role at the home. Fascinated by medical procedures, he would often visit other hospitals and arranged to see surgical operations where possible. He also learned all that he could about different medications and their effects on the human body. Not only did he wear a white coat with a stethoscope, but he insisted that the elderly patients address him as "Herr Doktor" (despite having no medical credentials to speak of). While the younger patients thought he was entertaining, the elderly patients lived in fear because of his abusive manner towards them. Even though he had already been fired, police and the District Attorney's office decided to question him further about the deaths.

As for Mors, he was obviously enjoying the attention he was getting and promptly confessed to all of the killings. As he told the Assistant District Attorney in his confession, the patients were "so old, they were a nuisance." Though he admitted to using arsenic for the first murders, he switched to chloroform which was much easier to obtain. He showed absolutely no sign of shame or guilt and insisted that he had killed them to put them out of their misery. "They passed away as children fall asleep and their suffering ended for all of time," Mors said in his confession. "A little chloroform administered while they slept and the sting of death was removed." With one of his victims, he reported sitting at his bedside smoking a cigarette and waiting for the chloroform to take effect. With another victim, he had to usher her husband out of the room to ensure there were no witnesses when he administered the chloroform.

The investigation into Frederick Mors' confession became a legal nightmare as police officers from three different counties wrestled over jurisdiction. All of the children in the home, including the fourteen-year-old staff member, were removed by the local Children's society and James Dunn came under fire since Adam Bangert was still in jail over his suspected role over the deaths. In the meantime, Frederick Mors was thoroughly enjoying all the attention he was receiving and gleefully re-enacted his murders for the benefit of the medical doctors who were assessing him. Police even took him back to the Home so he could show them exactly where he obtained the poison he used to kill his victims. Newspapers also continued to publish every lurid detail they could dig up, including the various allegations of abuse and neglect that had been occurring at the home, whether or not Mors was directly involved.

While all of this was going on, authorities received a letter from a man in Germany claiming to be Frederick Mors' father. According to the letter,Mors' real name was Carl Frederick Menarik and his father described him as being prone to odd behaviour even before leaving his native country. This included a suicide attempt. Based on his entering the United States under an assumed name, not to mention the question of what was to be done about Mors/Menarik, attempts were made to have him deported. Finally, after months of deliberation, Mors was simply transferred to the Hudson State River Hospital in Poughkeepsie, New York.

Since the only real evidence against Mors was his own confession, he never stood trial and was ordered confined pending deportation back to Austria-Hungary. As for the German Odd Fellows Home, it managed to remain open despite a name change (with no word of what happened to Adam Bangert and the others implicated). As for the investigation into the deaths at the home, that was left largely at a standstill.

And there the saga might have remained except that Frederick Mors managed to escape the hospital on May 12, 1916. Though police in surrounding towns were alerted to remain vigilant, there was remarkably little fuss at the idea of an escaped suspected murderer on the loose. As World War I continued in Europe and with calls for the United States to become involved, there were suddenly more important concerns.

As for Frederick Mors, nothing more was ever heard of him. Until...

After Frederick Mors' successful escape from the Hudson River State Hospital in 1916, a police manhunt turned up no trace of him and, after months of investigating, public interest largely died down.

In the meantime, World War One continued to rage in Europe and industrial output in many U.S. factories rose sharply as a result. Due to the numerous military contracts that had become available, not to mention growing confidence that the United States would be eventually entering the war, the need for factory workers was greater than ever. Certainly that was the case at the Torrington Factory located in Torrington, Connecticut (hence the name). Though regulating industrial safety standards were largely hit or miss depending on where factories were located and how dangerous the factory work actually was, the Torrington Factory boasted its own first aid department with a staff physician to deal with any injuries that occurred.

It still isn't clear how and when "Frederick Maurice Beno" began working as an physician's assistant at the factory. By all accounts, he soon became a well-known fixture in Torrington, Connecticut where he was living, as much for his peculiar manner and strange way of dressing as for his work treating injured workers. And there he might have gone on living quietly had it not been for one problem: being a German national living in the United States meant that he was officially designated an enemy alien and needed to be registered with the U.S. government to remain in the country. More importantly, authorities belatedly checking his file discovered that nobody by that name had ever entered the country legally and, for all intents and purposes, "Frederick Maurice Beno" didn't exist. Aside from his claim to being born in Munich, Germany, there was absolutely no evidence to support his identity. When police picked him up in February, 1918, Beno raised suspicions by being deliberately vague about his activities between 1915 and 1917 when he arrived in Torrington. He was charged with violating his residency permit though he was soon released (presumably he wasn't considered a flight risk).

Despite his release however, the publicity over his arrest cost Beno his job and generally made life in Torrington unbearable. By April, he had disappeared after leaving behind three letters to people he had known in town In all three of the letters, Beno announced that he would be committing suicide. Fearing the worst, police and local scout troops searched the local woods for any trace of his body but nothing was ever found. And that would have been the end of the story for Frederick Beno if it hadn't been for a factory worker named Henry Godere.

While he was having his lunch at the factory where Beno had once worked, Godere happened to be reading the magazine section of the New York Herald dated March 21, 1915. And there, along with the story of Frederick Mors and his murders, was a picture of the man he knew as "Doctor" Frederick Beno. Godere was so struck by the resemblance that he began showing the picture to his co-workers,many of whom had been treated by Beno, and all of them agreed that that he strongly resembled the picture of Frederick Mors in the magazine. When Godere notified the police, a new investigation was launched, including checking with New York authorities about Mors/Beno's prison status.

After learning that Frederick Mors had escaped custody in 1916, Torrington police launched a full investigation. Not only did Beno fit all the available descriptions of Frederick Mors, including his odd manner and way of dressing, but police also learned that he had given a cigarette case with the initials "F.M." to a man with whom he had been boarding. Though all the nearby towns were notified, no trace of the escaped fugitive ever turned up. People in Torrington were understandably disturbed to learn that the man who had been living in their town was suspected of being a multiple murderer but interest in the case of Frederick Mors/Frederick Beno largely died down after a few months.

It was only in 1923 with the discovery of a skeleton at a farm in Northfield, Ct., not far from Torrington, that the question of what had happened to Mors could finally be answered. Despite having no head and the absence of any identifying marks, a coroner formally identified the body and concluded that Mors had poisoned himself at some point after he disappeared from Torrington. Two bottles were found next to the corpse, but , while one contained whiskey, there was no way to tell what the other bottle contained. Given the condition of the skeleton, there was also no way to tell how long he had been dead. The spot Mord had picked to end his life was isolated enough to ensure that his body would not be discovered until years later. Only after a thorough investigation were police able to solve a mystery that had been haunting Northfield for weeks after the body was found. It also meant that police in New York could finally close the file on the eight patient deaths linked to Mors once and for all. The mystery of what he did in those final months before his death died with him.

If there was ever an inmate who was destined to escape from Alcatraz, it was Frank Lee Morris. In the movie entitled "Escape from Alcatraz" starring actor Clint Eastwood, Morris was accurately portrayed as the keen and brilliant mastermind of one of the most famous prison escapes in history. The escape plan took several months to design, and it would necessitate the fabrication of clever decoys and water survival gear.

Frank Lee Morris had spent a lifetime navigating the prison system before his arrival on Alcatraz. From his infant years until his teens Morris was shuffled from one foster home to another, and he was convicted of his first crime at the youthful age of only thirteen. By the time he reached his later teens, Morris's criminal record would include a multitude of crimes ranging from narcotics possession to armed robbery, and he had become a professional inhabitant of the correctional system. He spent his formative years in a boys' training school, and then graduated to a series of ever larger penitentiaries.

Morris was credited by prison officials as possessing superior intelligence, and he earned his ticket to Alcatraz by building an impressive resume of escapes. In 1960, Federal officials decided that his pattern of escape attempts, termed as "shotgun freedom" (although his escapes had never involved the use of a shotgun), would end at The Rock. On January 18, 1960, Morris disembarked from the prison launch and became inmate #AZ-1441.

Frank's accomplices in the "Great Escape" were equally well acquainted with the dark world of organized crime. Brothers John and Clarence Anglin were also serving sentences at Alcatraz for bank robbery, having been convicted along with their brother Alfred. All three had been incarcerated at the Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta when they first became acquainted with Morris, and John and Clarence were eventually sent to Alcatraz following a sequence of attempted escapes.

Alcatraz inmate Allen West, who occupied an adjacent cell, was also brought in on the scheme. He was serving his second term on The Rock and carried a reputation as an arrogant criminal, and he knew John Anglin from the State Penitentiary in Florida. The escape plan started to take shape in December of 1961, beginning with a collection of several old saw blades that West allegedly found in one of the utility corridors while cleaning. In later interviews, West would take credit for masterminding the clever escape.

The plan was extremely complex and involved the design and fabrication of ingenious lifelike dummies, water rafts, and life preservers, fashioned from over fifty rain coats that had been acquired from other inmates - some donated and some stolen. They would also require a variety of crudely made tools to dig with, and to construct the accessories necessary for the escape. By May of 1962, Morris and the Anglins and had already dug through the cell's six-by-nine-inch vent holes, and had started work on the vent on top of the cellblock.

The Anglins inhabited adjacent cells, as did West and Morris, who also resided nearby. The inmates alternated shifts, with one working and one on lookout. They would start work at 5:30 p.m. and continue till about 9:00 p.m., just prior to the lights-out count. Meanwhile John and Clarence started fabricating the dummy heads, and even gave them the pet names of "Oink" and "Oscar." The heads were crude but lifelike, and were constructed from a homemade cement-powder mixture that included such innocuous materials as soap and toilet paper. They were decorated with flesh-tone paint from prison art kits, and human hair from the barbershop.

In the biggest prison escape in British history, on 25 September 1983 in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, 38 Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoners, who had been convicted of offenses including murder and causing explosions, escaped from H-Block 7 (H7) of the prison. One prison officer died of a heart attack as a result of the escape and twenty others were injured, including two who were shot with guns that had been smuggled into the prison. HM Prison Maze was considered one of the most escape-proof prisons in Europe. In addition to 15-foot fences, each H-Block was encompassed by an 18-foot concrete wall topped with barbed wire, and all gates on the complex were made of solid steel and electronically operated.

Shortly after 2:30, the prisoners took control of the H-block holding the prison guards hostage at gunpoint. Some of the prisoners took the guards clothing and car keys in order to help with their escape. At 3:25, a truck bringing food supplies arrived and the prisoners told the driver that he was going to help them escape. They tied his foot to the clutch and told him where to drive. At 3:50 the truck left the H-block, and soon after the prison, carrying all 38 men.

Over the next few days, 19 escapees were caught. The remaining escapees were assisted by the IRA in finding hiding places. Some of the group ended up in the USA but were later found and extradited. Due to politics in Northern Ireland, none of the remaining escapees are being actively sought and some have been given amnesties. Note the wires strung across the yard in the picture above – this is to prevent helicopters from landing due to another escape attempt at Maze Prison.

Alfie Hinds

“Alfie” Hinds was a British criminal and escape artist who, while serving a 12 year prison sentence for robbery, successfully broke out of three high security prisons. Despite the dismissal of thirteen of his appeals to higher courts, he was eventually able to gain a pardon using his knowledge of the British legal system. After being sentenced to 12 years in prison for a jewelry robbery, Hinds escaped from Nottingham prison by sneaking through the locked doors and over a 20-foot prison wall for which he became known in the press as “Houdini” Hinds.

After 6 months he was found and arrested. After his arrest, Hinds brought a lawsuit against authorities charging the prison commissioners with illegal arrest and successfully used the incident as a means to plan his next escape by having a padlock smuggled in to him while at the Law Courts. Two guards escorted him to the toilet, but when they removed his handcuffs Alfie bundled the men into the cubicle and snapped the padlock onto screw eyes that his accomplices had earlier fixed to the door. He escaped into the crowd on Fleet Street but was captured at an airport five hours later. Hinds would make his third escape from Chelmsford Prison less than a year later.

While eluding Scotland Yard, Hinds continued to plead his innocence sending memorandums to British MPs and granting interviews and taped recordings to the press. He would continue to appeal his arrest and, following a technicality in which prison escapes are not listed as misdemeanors within British law, his final appeal before the House of Lords in 1960 was denied after a three hour argument by Hinds before his return to serve 6 years in Parkhurst Prison.

Hinds grew up in a children's home following the death of his father, a thief who died while receiving ten lashes (from a cat 'o 6) as a form of corporal punishment for armed robbery, before running away at the age of seven. Eventually arrested for petty theft, he would later escape a Borstal institution for teenage delinquents.

Although drafted into the British Army during the Second World War, Hinds deserted from the armed forces and continued his criminal career before his eventual arrest for a jewellery robbery in 1953 ($90,000 of which was never recovered by authorities).[citation needed] Although pleading not guilty, he was convicted and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment.

However, Hinds later escaped from Nottingham Prison after sneaking through the locked doors and over a 20-foot prison wall for which he became known in the press as "Houdini" Hinds. He worked as a builder-decorator in Ireland and throughout Europe until his arrest by detectives of Scotland Yard in 1956 after 248 days as a fugitive.

After his arrest, Hinds brought a lawsuit against authorities charging the prison commissioners with illegal arrest and used the incident as a means to plan his next escape by having a padlock smuggled in to him while at the Law Courts. Two guards escorted him to the toilet, but when they removed his handcuffs Hinds bundled the men into the cubicle and snapped the padlock onto screw eyes that his accomplices had earlier fixed to the door. He escaped into the crowd on Fleet Street but was captured at an airport five hours later.

Hinds would make his third escape from Chelmsford Prison less than a year later. He then returned to Ireland where he lived for two years as a used car dealer under the name William Herbert Bishop before his arrest after being stopped in an unregistered car.

While eluding Scotland Yard, Hinds continued to plead his innocence sending memorandums to British MPs and granting interviews and taped recordings to the press. He later sold his life story to the News of the World for a reported $40,000.

He would continue to appeal his arrest and, following a technicality in which prison escapes are not listed as misdemeanors within British law, his final appeal before the House of Lords in 1960 was denied after a three-hour argument by Hinds before his return to serve 6 years in Parkhurst Prison.

In 1964, Hinds won a £798.98 (about $1,000 USD) settlement in a libel suit against the arresting officer Herbert Sparks, a former chief superintendent of Scotland Yard's 'Flying Squad', after Sparks had written a series of articles in the London Sunday Pictorial criticizing Hinds's claims of innocence. After failing to prove to a London jury the accuracy of his statements regarding Hinds's original conviction, Sparks was ordered to pay Hinds damages.

John Herbert Dillinger; June 22, 1903 – July 22, 1934) was an American gangster in the Depression-era United States. He operated with a group of men known as the Dillinger Gang or Terror Gang, which was accused of robbing 24 banks and four police stations, among other activities. Dillinger escaped from jail twice. He was also charged with, but never convicted of, the murder of an East Chicago, Indiana, police officer who shot Dillinger in his bullet-proof vest during a shootout, prompting him to return fire; despite his infamy, it was Dillinger's only homicide charge.

He courted publicity and the media of his time ran exaggerated accounts of his bravado and colorful personality, styling him as a Robin Hood figure. In response, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover developed a more sophisticated Bureau as a weapon against organized crime, using Dillinger and his gang as his campaign platform.

After evading police in four states for almost a year, Dillinger was wounded and returned to his father's home to recover. He returned to Chicago in July 1934 and met his end at the hands of police and federal agents who were informed of his whereabouts by Ana Cumpănaş (the owner of the brothel where Dillinger had sought refuge at the time). On July 22, 1934, the police and the Division of Investigation closed in on the Biograph Theater. Federal agents, led by Melvin Purvis and Samuel P. Cowley, moved to arrest Dillinger as he exited the theater. He drew a Colt Model 1908 Vest Pocket and attempted to flee, but was killed.

Within Indiana Reformatory and Indiana State Prison, from 1924 to 1933, Dillinger began to become embroiled in a criminal lifestyle. Upon being admitted to the prison, he is quoted as saying, "I will be the meanest bastard you ever saw when I get out of here. His physical examination upon being admitted to the prison showed that he had gonorrhea. The treatment for his condition was extremely painful. He became embittered against society because of his long prison sentence and befriended other criminals, such as seasoned bank robbers like Harry "Pete" Pierpont, Charles Makley, Russell Clark, and Homer Van Meter, who taught Dillinger how to be a successful criminal. The men planned heists that they would commit soon after they were released.Dillinger studied Herman Lamm's meticulous bank-robbing system and used it extensively throughout his criminal career.

His father launched a campaign to have him released and was able to get 188 signatures on a petition. Dillinger was paroled on May 10, 1933, after serving nine and a half years. Dillinger's stepmother became sick just before he was released from the prison, and died before he arrived at her home. Released at the height of the Great Depression, Dillinger had little prospect of finding employment. He immediately returned to crime.

On June 21, 1933, he robbed his first bank, taking $10,000 from the New Carlisle National Bank, which occupied the building at the southeast corner of Main Street and Jefferson (State Routes 235 and 571) in New Carlisle, Ohio. On August 14, Dillinger robbed a bank in Bluffton, Ohio. Tracked by police from Dayton, Ohio, he was captured and later transferred to the Allen County Jail in Lima to be indicted in connection to the Bluffton robbery. After searching him before letting him into the prison, the police discovered a document which appeared to be a prison escape plan. They demanded Dillinger tell them what the document meant, but he refused.

Dillinger had helped conceive a plan for the escape of Pierpont, Clark and six others he had met while in prison, most of whom worked in the prison laundry. Dillinger had friends smuggle guns into their cells, with which they escaped, four days after Dillinger's capture. The group, known as "the First Dillinger Gang," comprised Pete Pierpont, Russell Clark, Charles Makley, Ed Shouse, Harry Copeland, and John "Red" Hamilton, a member of the Herman Lamm Gang. Pierpont, Clark, and Makley arrived in Lima on October 12, where they impersonated Indiana State Police officers, claiming they had come to extradite Dillinger to Indiana. When the sheriff, Jess Sarber, asked for their credentials, Pierpont shot Sarber dead, then released Dillinger from his cell. The four men escaped back to Indiana, where they joined the rest of the gang.

Two men who shot their way out of Brixton prison in London in 1991 while awaiting trial on IRA charges will not be prosecuted.

The Crown Prosecution Service said there was "no realistic prospect" of convicting Pearse McAuley and Nessan Quinlivan.

The move was announced as McAuley from Strabane, County Tyrone, was released from prison in the Irish Republic.

Two other suspected IRA men will also not be pursued.

The CPS said it had advised the Metropolitan Police that it would no longer be seeking the extradition of the four men from Ireland: Nessan Quinlivan, Pearse McAuley, Andrew Martin and Anthony Duncan.

It said it had considered evidence as well as the likely arguments which would be put forward by the defence, who would argue that an abuse of process had occurred so a trial could not go ahead.

The CPS said one of the probable defence arguments it considered was "statements made by ministers in respect of terrorists on the run."

Having reviewed the cases, the CPS decided there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction.

This means that an extradition can no longer go ahead and the extradition requests to the Irish authorities will be withdrawn.

Before their escape Nessan Quinlivan and Pearse McAuley were being held for conspiracy to murder the brewer Sir Charles Tidbury and conspiracy to cause explosions.

Attempts to return them to England for trial stretch back to the mid-1990s.

On Wednesday McAuley was freed from Castlerea prison where he had served a sentence for killing Detective Garda Jerry McCabe during an armed raid on a post office van in County Limerick, in 1996.

Anthony Duncan was wanted for questioning over bombs attached to bicycles in Brighton and Bognor Regis in 1994.

Andrew Martin was wanted on bomb making offences and conspiracy to cause explosions.

He was identified as a suspect in 1995 and arrested in 1998. In 2001 he was successful in appealing against extradition.

Sinn Fein have welcomed the move but Jim Allister of Traditional Unionist Voice described it as "nothing short of outrageous".

Jeffrey Donaldson of the DUP said Ulster Unionist Party policies had led to the move.

"These terrorist criminals who shot their way out of Brixton Prison are now enjoying the benefits of policies enacted by David Trimble and Reg Empey.

"Thanks to the Belfast Agreement, which the UUP negotiated and implemented, terrorists were released from prison and even if these men were extradited and convicted it is likely that they would never serve a day in jail."

Sir Reg described Mr Donaldson's criticism of the UUP as "absurd" and called for the CPS to present the detailed reasoning behind their decision.

Ronnie Biggs, one of the gang who carried out the notorious Great Train Robbery in August 1963, escaped from Wandsworth Prison on this day in 1965, setting in motion a manhunt which would lead to his eventual enforced exile in Brazil.

Biggs, 35, escaped with three other inmates by scaling the 20-foot wall of the prison yard during afternoon exercise, after ladders of rope and tubular steel were thrown over the wall by accomplices.

Warders supervising the exercise session were hampered by the other prisoners in the yard, allowing the four men to lower themselves onto a red furniture van waiting below (pictured). They were then split into three cars to make their escape.

Police study the truck used in Ronnie Biggs' escape from Wandsworth Prison.

When police arrived on the scene they found prison overalls and a loaded shotgun in the abandoned van. Later they discovered one of the cars used in the escape, a green Ford Zephyr, which had been left outside Wandsworth Common station.

Biggs had been captured a little over a month after the robbery and was tried with 12 other suspects. He was convicted in April 1964 of armed robbery and conspiracy to rob, and was sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment.

His fellow robber Charlie Wilson had escaped in August of that year when three men broke into Winson Green Prison in Birmingham. Wilson would be recaptured in Canada in 1968, but the police had no such good fortune in apprehending Biggs.

He would travel to Paris to undertake plastic surgery and receive falsified identity papers, before spending three years in Australia and then fleeing to Brazil, where he remained until voluntarily returning to the UK in 2001.


Having 28 years of his sentence left to serve, Biggs was aware that he would be detained upon arrival in Britain. His trip back to Britain on a private jet was paid for by The Sun newspaper, which reportedly paid Michael Biggs £20,000 plus other expenses in return for exclusive rights to the news story. Biggs arrived on 7 May 2001, whereupon he was immediately arrested and re-imprisoned.

His son Michael said in a press release that, contrary to some press reports, Biggs did not return to the UK simply to receive health care which was available in Brazil and he had friends who would've contributed to such expenses, but that it was his desire to "walk into a Margate pub as an Englishman and buy a pint of bitter". John Mills, son of train driver Jack Mills, was unforgiving: "I deeply resent those, including Biggs, who have made money from my father's death. Biggs should serve his punishment. Mills never fully recovered from his injuries sustained during the robbery. He died of an unrelated cause (leukaemia) in 1970.

On 14 November 2001, Biggs petitioned Governor Hynd of HMP Belmarsh for early release on compassionate grounds based on his poor health. He had been treated four times at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich in less than six months. His health was deteriorating rapidly and he asked to be released into the care of his son for his remaining days. The application was denied. On 10 August 2005, it was reported that Biggs had contracted MRSA. His representatives, seeking for his release on grounds of compassion, said that their client's death was likely to be imminent. On 26 October 2005, the Home Secretary Charles Clarke declined his appeal stating that his illness was not terminal. Home Office compassion policy is to release prisoners with three months left to live. Biggs was claimed by his son Michael to need a tube for feeding and to have "difficulty" speaking.

On 4 July 2007, Biggs was moved from Belmarsh Prison to Norwich Prison on compassionate grounds. In December 2007, Biggs issued a further appeal, from Norwich Prison, asking to be released from jail to die with his family: "I am an old man and often wonder if I truly deserve the extent of my punishment. I have accepted it and only want freedom to die with my family and not in jail. I hope Mr. Straw decides to allow me to do that. I have been in jail for a long time and I want to die a free man. I am sorry for what happened. It has not been an easy ride over the years. Even in Brazil I was a prisoner of my own making. There is no honour to being known as a Great Train Robber. My life has been wasted."

In January 2009, after a series of strokes that were said to have rendered him unable to speak or walk, it was claimed in the press that Biggs was to be released in August 2009 and would die a "free man".[38] His son Michael had also claimed that the Parole Board might bring the release date forward to July 2009. On 13 February 2009, it was reported that Biggs had been taken to hospital from his cell at Norwich Prison, suffering from pneumonia.This was confirmed the following day by his son Michael, who said Biggs had serious pneumonia but was stable. News of his condition prompted fresh calls from Michael Biggs for his release on compassionate grounds.

On 23 April the Parole Board recommended that Biggs be released on 4 July, having served a third of his 30-year sentence. However, on 1 July Jack Straw did not accept the Parole Board's recommendation and refused parole, stating that Biggs was 'wholly unrepentant' On 28 July 2009, Biggs was readmitted to Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital with pneumonia. He had been admitted to the same hospital a month earlier with a chest infection and a fractured hip but returned to prison on 17 July 2009. His son Michael said, in one of his frequent news releases: "It's the worst he's ever been. The doctors have just told me to rush there."

On 30 July 2009, it was claimed by representatives of Biggs that he had been given "permission" to challenge the decision to refuse him parole. However, the Home Office stated only that an application for the early release on compassionate grounds of a prisoner at HMP Norwich had been received by the public protection casework section in the National Offender Management Service. Biggs was released from custody on 6 August, two days before his 80th birthday, on 'compassionate grounds'.

Six inmates facing the Virginia electric chair made a daring escape from the facility on May 31, 1984. The inmates who escaped consisted of two of the notorious Briley Brothers (James and Linwood), along with Lem Tuggle, Earl Clanton, Derick Peterson, and Willie Jones. They had observed how correctional officers were complacent in following procedures. While returning to the building from evening recreation time, the hulking Clanton hid in a correctional officer (CO) station restroom, then charged out on cue from another inmate when the CO station door was open.

Clanton overpowered the CO and released all of the locks in the housing unit. Inmates took over the unit and stole the uniforms of COs who subsequently entered on rounds. They bluffed their way out of the unit by putting on riot helmets to conceal their faces as they carried a purported bomb, which was in actuality a cellhouse TV covered with a blanket. They carried the TV out of the unit on a stretcher spraying it with fire extinguishers and put it into a waiting van, which they then drove out of the prison.

Once the six men were free of the prison, they escaped across the nearby North Carolina border. The men soon split up, unsure of what to do after re-entering free society.

Earl Clanton and Derick Peterson were caught the following day when a patrol car driving past a laundromat spotted two men inside, one of them wearing what appeared to be a CO's jacket with the badges torn off. The two had stopped to eat some cheese and drink cheap convenience store wine.

Tuggle, Jones and the Briley Brothers stole a pickup truck with the vanity tag 'PEI-1' from the driveway of its owner. The Brileys were dropped off in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where they went to work as mechanics for a friend of a local uncle. Tuggle and Jones got as far north as Vermont, where Tuggle was apprehended at gunpoint by Vermont state troopers after robbing a souvenir shop for $80.

Jones gave himself up the following day, just five miles south of the Canada–US border. He was cold, hungry, and bitten by flies, so he called his mother. She persuaded him to turn himself in. The Brileys were caught after the FBI traced a phone call they made to a contact in New York City back to the garage where they were working. All six men were returned to Virginia under heavy security. Upon their return, they were held on $10 million bond each.

Much of what has been revealed about the escape came from fellow inmate, Dennis Stockton. Stockton was also on death row for murder and originally planned to escape with them; but backed out because he anticipated his case would be overturned on appeal. During the escape, he wrote down everything that happened minute by minute in his diaries, which were later published in a Norfolk, Virginia newspaper, the Virginian Pilot. Stockton did not succeed in his appeal and he was executed in 1995.

Dennis Stockton's story is one of two jurisdictions: Mount Airy, N.C., where he grew up and lived during infrequent periods out of jail. And Stuart, Va., due north in Patrick County, where in March 1983 a jury said he should die.

Mount Airy was Andy Griffith's home, but the Surry County mill town, dubbed "Little Chicago'' for its criminal element, is a far cry from TV's Mayberry. Stuart, 40 miles away, prides itself on Virginia gentility. The home of Mary Sue Terry and Gerald Baliles, it is also a town steeped in politics.

In 1983, Stuart was the home of assistant prosecutor Anthony Giorno and sheriff's investigator Jay Gregory - both of whom ran for, and won, their respective offices eight months after convincing jurors that Stockton must die.

"Stuart is a different world than Mount Airy,'' said Tom Joyce, managing editor of The Mount Airy News. "People there don't question authority. Giorno and Gregory are demagogues. If they say something's true, it must be.''

In September 1986, the tiny paper, which calls itself pro-capital punishment, said that justice bypassed Stockton.

The condemned man said that all along. He alleged that Giorno failed to disclose a deal-for-testimony with the prosecution's main witness, Randy Bowman; that Giorno knowingly allowed perjured testimony by Bowman; and that prosecutors failed to turn over a questionable statement by another key witness, Robert Gates.

Until 1990, Giorno denied this evidence existed. Then, seven years after the trial, he sent the evidence to Stockton's lawyers. In a letter dated Feb. 28, 1990, he wrote: "I am not aware of any exculpatory evidence in this matter. In an abundance of caution, however, I am writing to disclose'' evidence which could have helped Stockton avoid a death sentence.

"It's repugnant to suggest that I would use tainted evidence that would lead an innocent man to death row,'' Giorno said recently. "I am convinced I did nothing wrong.''

Stockton and his lawyers disagree. "The commonwealth finally admitted, for the first time, that it had lied,'' they claimed in court papers. "For the first time, the commonwealth revealed that it had knowingly elicited perjured testimony from an essential prosecution witness.''

Stockton, now 53, was no choirboy when he ran afoul of Virginia law. His record was peppered with burglary, forgery, weapons and drug charges. Then, in 1982, he was charged with the 1978 murder of Kenneth Wayne Arnder, 18, whose body was found near Mount Airy. Arnder was shot in the head and his hands were hacked off above the wrists. Arnder's mother said she last saw her son alive with Stockton. North Carolina officials investigated, but they never filed charges.

Then Virginia jumped in. According to the state, Stockton killed Arnder in a remote Patrick County picnic area, then moved his body to North Carolina. But no physical evidence linked Stockton to Arnder or the murder to Virginia. And no weapon was found.

The state, however, had Randy Bowman, a small-time felon who said he was present at a meeting during which Stockton agreed to kill Arnder for $1,500. Bowman testified that Tommy Lee McBride, another felon, wanted Arnder killed because of a soured drug deal. McBride, Stockton and others denied this.

The state's case lived and died with Bowman, who not only named the co-conspirators but placed the murder in Virginia. Prosecutors requested death because of Bowman's claim that it was a murder-for-hire case.

Then there was Robert Gates, who testified he was present in June 1979 when Stockton killed another man for "running his mouth'' about Arnder's death. Gates said he watched Stockton shoot Ronnie Lee Tate three times, then helped him bury Tate between Mount Airy and Winston-Salem.

Stockton never denied killing Tate, but he said it was self-defense. He denied killing Arnder, and he said Tate once admitted to killing the teen.

Gates' testimony "was critical'' in sending Stockton to death row, said Philip Gardner, Stockton's trial lawyer.

Almost immediately, questions arose about the fairness of the trial.

The first involved charges against McBride, who allegedly paid Stockton to kill the teen. McBride, now 55, was charged with conspiracy to commit capital murder on March 7, 1983, two weeks before Stockton's trial. His charge was deferred July 1. Virginia authorities said they would send the evidence to North Carolina and let prosecutors there try him. North Carolina authorities later said there was no "credible'' evidence to try McBride.

McBride declined to comment recently. "They arrested me on nothing, and they just nolle prossed the charges,'' he said. "If I talk, they could reinstate the charges.''

A motion to dismiss McBride's charges alleged that his indictment ``was designed only to impeach'' McBride's credibility.

Gardner immediately filed for a new trial. A July 6, 1983, letter to the Patrick County trial judge said: "The McBride cases have now been dismissed. This is a fact which I contend the prosecution knew from the inception. . . . (McBride's lawyers) have both told me emphatically . . . that it was understood shortly after they were appointed that they would not have to worry about the case or do any work to prepare for the case because the charges against McBride were going to be dropped.''

But the court did not consider this grounds for a new trial.

Even today, Gardner is outraged. "I said to the Supreme Court that the indictment against Tommy McBride was a flat-out sham,'' he said. "The commonwealth would have been in an untenable position without charging McBride, asking the jury to send one man to the electric chair while the man that allegedly hired him had never been charged.''

Next, Bowman allegedly recanted. In a 1984 civil case challenging Patrick County jail conditions, inmate Frank Cox testified he was in jail with Bowman when "Randy did tell me . . . that he lied on Dennis, because he said, `I hate that son of a bitch.' '' Another inmate, Cleveland Martin, echoed this: ``He said he would . . . say anything for anybody if the money was right.''

In 1987, a federal judge vacated Stockton's death sentence when it was learned the 1983 jury was tainted. The owner of a diner told jurors eating lunch that Stockton should be executed. The judge gave Stockton a choice: Hold a new sentencing or settle for a life term.

Insisting he was innocent, Stockton chose the trial. But, under law, no new evidence on the murder could be presented. Stockton again was sentenced to die.

Stockton and his lawyers continued papering state and federal courts with appeals. Then, in 1989, the case took an unexpected turn.

That year, Stockton's lawyers took affidavits from two former Patrick County employees, deputy Clifford Boyd and former sheriff Jesse Williams. The two then repeated their tales to officials in the attorney general's office.

Both men said Randy Bowman was angry after Stockton's trial ``because promises allegedly made to him were not kept,'' records show. Boyd said Bowman was angry because he claimed "Jay Gregory and the Surry County authorities had promised that he would be transferred to another penitentiary or would receive a sentence reduction.'' Bowman claimed both Gregory and Giorno promised he would not be sent back to North Carolina, Williams said.

Stockton's lawyers had made an end run around Giorno, whose hand was now forced. In February 1990, Giorno sent the letter saying: "I am not aware of any promises made to Bowman other than that I told him I would endeavour to see that he would be transferred.''

Before this, Giorno had said there were no promises at all.

In the package accompanying Giorno's letter was a letter from Bowman, dated March 2, 1983 - two weeks before Stockton's trial. Bowman was writing from prison in North Carolina, where he served time for firearm and larceny charges. In it, he told Gregory: "I'm writing you to let you know that I'm not going to court unless you can get this 6 or 7 months I've got left cutoff where I don't have to come back to prison.''

Gregory said recently he was not aware Giorno had sent the letter to Stockton's lawyers. He would not comment further. Giorno reiterated there never was a deal. ``People ask us for stuff all the time,'' he said. "We say, `We can't promise you anything.' That's exactly what happened here.''

Transcripts of Bowman's testimony show that he denied any promises had been made and never mentioned the letter. Gardner asked Bowman: "So you've helped yourself considerably by coming forward with this story by getting charges against you dropped, isn't that a fact?''

Before Bowman could answer, Giorno broke in: "Objection. Objection to that. I think he's trying to lead the jury to believe that some charges were dropped and that's certainly not the case.''

But court records show otherwise. On Aug. 17, 1982, Bowman was taken from Surry County jail to Stuart to testify in Stockton's preliminary hearing. Seventeen days later, Surry County prosecutors dismissed a charge of obtaining stolen property against Bowman.

Court records show that Bowman also received favorable treatment after Stockton's trial. In 1981, he was sentenced to 4 1/2 years for several charges. But records show he was out on parole by November 1983. For the rest of the decade, Bowman was in and out of jail for repeat offenses with only minimal sentences.

Giorno said he had nothing to do with any of this.

One other document was included in Giorno's package: the statement Robert Gates made to Surry County officials in February 1980. In it, Gates gave a detailed account of Ronnie Tate's killing. But he failed when he tried leading police to the body. Later, Stockton showed police where Tate was buried.

According to Gates, Tate was murdered on the night of July 3, 1979. It was between midnight and 12:30 a.m. as they rode back from the killing, Gates said. Stockton was driving.

"He (Stockton) stopped at the Pinnacle exit'' off U.S. 52, Gates said in a statement to police. ``I remember that just as plain as day because there was a sandwich shop there and he stopped . . . and they was a couple police cars setting there in the parking lot that night and I remember I looked inside and I seen a black-headed woman running the cash register and Dennis had to write a check.''

The shop was the Pinnacle Sandwich Shop, which still stands today. It has been owned since May 14, 1967, by Charles Watson.

"We were never open that late,'' Watson recently told a reporter. "Back then, we closed at 10 p.m. weeknights, 11 on weekends. We never had a black-haired woman at the cash register. . . . And July 3, we wouldn't have been open anyway. We always closed up for the Fourth of July.

"Nobody ever came and checked this story till now,'' Watson said. "This is the first I ever heard of it. No Surry County sheriffs, nobody from Patrick County. This was a man's life. It's not that far from Mount Airy. You'd think they'd want to check everything out before they sent some guy to the chair.''

When Roger Keith Coleman was strapped into the electric chair on May 20, 1992, officials put his glasses on his face and he read this statement:

"An innocent man is going to be murdered tonight. When my innocence is proven, I hope Americans will realize the injustice of the death penalty as all other civilized countries have. My last words are to the woman I love. Love is eternal. My love for you will last forever . . . ''

A year-and-a-half later, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee's report on innocent men sentenced to death singled Coleman out:

"The reviews afforded death row inmates on appeal . . . simply do not offer a meaningful opportunity to present claims of innocence,'' the report stated. "Coleman's innocence was debated only in the news media, and considerable doubt concerning his guilt went with him to his execution.''

In March 1982, Coleman, a 33-year-old coal miner from Grundy, was sentenced to death for raping and murdering his 18-year-old sister-in-law, Wanda McCoy. Since Grundy police did not initially find any signs of forced entry into her house, they assumed McCoy opened the door to her killer. Her husband said his timid wife would only allow three people inside their Slate Creek cabin. This included Coleman, who had a previous record of sexual assault.

Soon, Coleman was charged. He maintained his innocence, but prosecutors told the jury there was no forced entry and picked at Coleman's alibi defense.

Yet, from the beginning, these crucial pieces of evidence were withheld from Coleman's court-appointed lawyers:

A police report written 13 days after the murder showed there was, indeed, "a pressure mark which appeared to be a pry mark'' on the door's molding. The mark "appeared to have been made with very little pressure.''

A police report, written six days after McCoy's death, indicated that a fingerprint was lifted from the door. But the print never was analyzed.

A timecard corroborating Coleman's alibi was not turned over.

Coleman's defense depended on a detailed accounting of his every move from 10 p.m. to 11:10 p.m., the time when the murder occurred. Prosecutor Tom Scott tried to show that 22 minutes of that time were unaccounted for: enough time, he said, for Coleman to park his truck, climb a hill, wade a creek, kill McCoy, then return to the truck.

Yet, during a 1985 hearing, "the state trooper who timed the route admitted he had not timed the complete route and had gone a different and shorter route,'' records show. Thus, the state's time estimate was wrong.

A statement by McCoy's husband, taken the night of the murder, was also withheld, said minister James McCloskey, who investigated Coleman's case. In the statement, the husband said he and his wife had argued with Donald Ramey, a man later implicated by five Grundy residents in Wanda McCoy's killing. Ramey never was charged.

Scott, the prosecutor, disagreed that evidence was withheld. "An affidavit signed by Terry Jordan, Coleman's trial lawyer, showed he knew about'' the timecard and the reports on the pry mark and fingerprint, Scott said. "He just didn't think they were important. Whoever said the commonwealth withheld evidence made a bald-faced lie.''

Yet court records question Jordan's changing statements.

In an April 27, 1992, affidavit, Jordan said he was aware of the two police reports and the timecard, but he said he did not think they could help his client. He called the pry mark a "light pressure mark'' and concluded it "would have been laughable'' to use in Coleman's defense.

Yet in a Nov. 12, 1985, hearing, Jordan told a different story. He said he was not aware of any fingerprint and admitted it would have been important evidence. He said he never personally examined the door for pry marks; he did not admit knowledge of the pry-mark report, as he would later. He said he was aware of the timecard and believed it could have been used in the trial, but he never requested it from police.

Other unheard evidence, discovered after Coleman's conviction, also cast doubt on his guilt:

The testimony of inmate Roger Matney, who told jurors that Coleman confessed to the murder while they were in jail together. Yet in a 1991 affidavit, Matney's mother-in-law said she heard Matney say he lied. He said, "If you use your head for something besides a hatrack, you can get out of a lot of prison time that you would have to pull,'' the mother-in-law said.

Court records show that in February 1982, the court released him from jail and suspended his four-year sentence.

The statements of six Grundy residents, who told McCloskey that Donald Ramey had confessed to killing Wanda McCoy. Teresa Horn said that when Ramey tried to rape her in 1987, he said he'd "do her like he did that girl on Slate Creek'' if she didn't quit screaming. Kenneth Clevinger corroborated her statement. During a party, Ramey told Harold Smith and others that he "had a hand in the incident at Slate Creek,'' McCloskey said.

Four women, including Horn, told McCloskey they had been sexually assaulted by Ramey during the 1980s. Yet Ramey never was charged.

In 1992, Horn voiced her charges on a Roanoke TV show. The next day she was found dead. An autopsy later said she died of a drug overdose.

Other unanswered questions remained. Why, in such a grizzly murder, did only three drops of blood wind up on Coleman's trousers? Why, when Coleman's clothes were covered with coal dust, was no coal dust found at the scene? Why was there dirt on Wanda McCoy's hands, arms and fingernails if the entire attack happened inside?

Yet none of this new evidence was reviewed by a court.

Notwithstanding this, DNA tests showed Coleman was the killer, said Scott, the prosecutor. According to expert testimony, 10 percent of the population had B-type blood, as did Coleman and the killer. About 8.5 percent are secretors, meaning their blood type can be detected from body fluids.

As his execution neared, Coleman's attorneys fought for and won a DNA analysis of the semen taken from McCoy's body. Yet their own expert concluded that the alleles - genetic markers - of the rapist matched Coleman's, a match the expert said is found in only 2 percent of the population. Coleman's defenders could never dispute these results, which ultimately swayed Gov. L. Douglas Wilder to deny Coleman's clemency plea.

"With those results, I would have retried the case if I had to,'' Scott said. "I would have been a national folk hero. I would have loved to retry him just to prove to all those do-gooders that we had the right man all along.''

But not everyone in Grundy is convinced. Susan Van Dyke's husband, Philip, was the man whose withheld timecard could have been used in Coleman's defense. Before Coleman was executed, she publicly said she thought Coleman was being railroaded. Shortly thereafter, she received a death threat.

"Somebody called and said I needed to shut my mouth or my body would be the next they found beside a cabin in the woods,'' Van Dyke recently said.

"Roger was innocent as could be,'' she said. "Not many people talk about it now in Grundy, but nobody forgets. If you're poor, like Roger, once the court says you're guilty . . . it never admits it was wrong. You know the right people, get a good lawyer, you get away with murder.

"That's what we learned from Roger Coleman,'' Susan Van Dyke said softly. "It makes me sick. Some of us still hope the truth will come out someday. But we're not holding our breath. Not here in Grundy.''

Just a few words to say thank you, for all the images and text you have kindly sent in, it is very much appreciated, having said that, if an image or some text is copyrighted, and you wish for it to be removed we will remove it A.S.A.P. © Copyright 2003-2017, No animals were harmed in the making of this site although a few contributors were recycled.