Memories of Kidsgrove

Monday 8 February 2021…

With the words of our club song when touring, “Bad news on my doorstep ?

Now l have my time right, it’s February, and l know it’s Monday because it’s Monday Night Football on SKY though it’s been a long day for not going out for only the second day in a long long time. This time it’s down to the dreaded snow, and once it turns into the stuff l only enjoy in my drink, l stay home, I’m going nowhere as my last disaster was slipping on ice and dislocating my shoulder outside a backstreet pub in Kidsgrove, the place that takes my mind back to driving through there in the early hours and saw a sign that told me that although l was a long way from London there was the same dangers.
If you can imagine watching Psycho, the movie, and the scene where the driver sees the sign swinging through pouring rain and through his windscreen wipers it read BATES MOTEL well this was more real as Norman Bates was fiction – although in real life Anthony Perkins looked the real deal. And wasn’t it funny that he chose Jamie Leigh-Curtis mother Janet, (married to Tony Curtis, whose house I used to frequent with Danny Gillen) who went on to make that other horror film Friday the 13th.

This didn’t cross my mind at the moment of driving but had it done I would have been a little concerned had it been Friday instead of Monday, maybe?
Reading up on that case to jog my memory I was surprised that it was almost going on under my nose and now l was on the doorstep of one of the most notorious killers of recent years. However, my job was to concentrate on the job ahead as the last thing l wanted to get breathalyzed in my first few weeks of moving into my new home now l had left the Hurst household. In recent years though, about 7/8 years ago, I spent quite some time closer to where The Black Panther, and though l always wanted to meet the man who played the far funnier and not so serious Pink Panther, it was very disturbing a period. This was all very new to me moving from London where in and around Stoke-on-Trent you can turn a corner and be in one of what they are known as The Five Towns, and as you’ll read on you just don’t know what that corner brings you into?
Kidsgrove is a town in the borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, near the Cheshire border. Newcastle-under-Lyme is where I had so much fun in my Night Club and other places after retiring from the game and missing the Stoke City management job by a whisker – a very unfortunate whisker, at that!
Fact: Why the ‘The Five Towns’? Arnold Bennett was born and raised in the Potteries which consisted of the six towns of Tunstall, Burslem (where Bennett spent most of his childhood and youth), Hanley (where he was born), Fenton, Stoke and Longton. The six towns amalgamated in 1910 to become the county borough of Stoke-on-Trent.
Strange how they missed out that the captain of the Titanic came from Hanley, as did Sir Stanley Matthews.
After reading the following it added up that my friend told me he was working at the Kidsgrove Police Station and told me that they had Nielson and foolishly let him go, otherwise that young girl might still be alive, didn’t I tell you earlier of how they let the driver in Mile End Road go, and I say that only because, say I had not returned to consciousness?
Profile of the murderers: British teenager Lesley Whittle was kidnapped on 14 January 1975 and her body discovered 7 March 1975. Whittle’s kidnapping and murder dominated national headlines for 11 months. The investigation involved over 400 officers from the West Mercia Constabulary, Staffordshire and West Midlands police forces and the Metropolitan Police. Whittle, aged 17, was kidnapped from her home in Highley, Shropshire, by Donald Neilson, who by that time had committed over 400 burglaries and three murders. He was known to the British press as the Black Panther, for the black balaclava he wore during robberies of post offices.
Neilson held Whittle in an underground drainage shaft of a reservoir at Bathpool Park in Kidsgrove, Staffordshire. He had placed a hood over her head, left her naked, and tethered her to the side of the shaft by a wire noose. After what was later seen as a bungled police operation, including two failed attempts to engage with Neilson’s demand for a ransom of £50,000, her body was found hanging in the shaft on 7 March 1975. After being arrested 11 months later in Mansfield, in July 1976 at Oxford Crown Court Neilson was convicted of the kidnapping and murder of Whittle, for which he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Three weeks later he was convicted of the murder of three post office workers, and given three further life sentences.

That was 46 years ago and young Lesley would have been in her 63rd year had the police had done their job.
Talking of The Police I missed out Sting in our Radio Show on Sunday, who hit the charts with Every Breath You Take which after reading this is pretty much similar to my case when my family were told not to hold out too much hope, with the great difference being I was in the hands of David Goodier and his terrific colleagues in the Royal London Hospital where Lesley was in the hands of a complete maniac in Kidsgrove.
The irony of it all is that I was told that he was caught when the police pulled him for driving a van with no tail-light. Just before my ‘hit’ a fella I knew and spoke to at Mile End Station, that witness I mentioned earlier, told my friend Johnny that he heard two cars revving up 100 yards away from where the ordeal happened, I ask ‘With it being right outside the Bow Police Station’ where were they?’