Saturday, July 14, 2018

Thomas Ley, the Australian politician who committed murder in England

Embed from Getty Images

The immediate postwar years saw a host of murderers who entered the nation's collective memory.

There was John George Haigh, the acid bath murderer. There was the charming Neville Heath. There was Reginald Christie of 10 Rillington Place.

Perhaps it is because it also comes from those years that the case of Thomas Ley, the chalk pit murderer, is not better known.

Ley was born in Bath in 1880. His father died two years later and in 1886 his mother emigrated to Australia with her four children.

Living in Sydney, Ley qualified as a solicitor and was elected to the local council in the suburb of 1907. Ten years later he became a member of the New South Wales legislative assembly and he served as a minster in the state's government in 1921 and again between 1922 and 1925.

He was elected to the national parliament in 1925, but failed to win ministerial office there and was defeated in the election of 1928. He left for England shortly afterwards with a woman called Maggie Brook.

By 1946 he was living at Beaufort Gardens in Kensington. He became convinced that Brook was having an affair with a man called George Mudie. He recruited two men to help him abduct Mudie, whose body was in a chalkpit on Woldingham Common in Surrey.

Ley was convicted of murder at the Old Bailey in March 1947. His death sentence was commuted after he was found insane and he died in Broadmoor a few months later.

Mudie may not have been the only man he killed:
Thomas John Ley is a man who can be connected, although only circumstantially, to a number of deaths, all of which occurred in Australia under clouds of suspicion. 
One political opponent, Frederick MacDonald, accused Ley of trying to bribe him to withdraw from a Federal campaign election. Ley won the seat regardless but McDonald continued to push against Ley and his character seeking to void his election win. In the middle of this work, MacDonald mysteriously disappeared in April 1926. 
The following year, Ley had established a legal firm and was facing many allegations of irregularities, with one accuser being his legal partner, Hyman Goldstein. In September 1928, Hyman Goldstein was found dead at the bottom of cliffs at the beachside suburb of Coogee in New South Wales, conveniently ensuring his allegations against Ley went away. 
A third death surrounding Thomas Ley was that of Keith Greedor. He was a man appointed by a group of businessmen to investigate the dealings and operations of Ley, who fell overboard and drowned on a boat trip in the middle of his investigation. Another suspicious death of a man accusing Ley of wrongdoing which could damage his reputation and career.
A telling of this story in the Australian Daily Telegraph suggests Mudie was known there as "the minister for murder". It is a story that deserves to be better known.

No comments: