Wartime murder at Kilburn station

Kilburn Station, 2012

At 12.30 am on 12 December 1942in Kilburn and Brondesbury Metropolitan Station, Josephine Chapman was cashing up after the last train had gone. She heard a knock on the door and a voice saying, ‘Can I have a word with you? When she opened the door two men ordered her to hand over the money, but her screams were heard by station foreman George Gardiner who was fire watching. As he went to her help one of the men shot him three times and they ran down the stairs and into the darkness. Josephine, who had only recently started work at the station, was able to give a description of the two men to the police. She said that the man who fired the gun was young, aged about 18 to 20, about five feet seven inches tall, with an injury to his face and he was wearing a brown suit. The other man was slightly older wearing an overcoat. Both the men had felt hats with the brims pulled down.
Forty six year old Gardiner was shot through the head, mouth and chest, and he died shortly afterwards. When the police arrived they found three cartridge cases from a .45 service revolver on the platform and a London-wide man hunt was started. The case was led by Superintendent L. Rundle from Scotland Yard, a very experienced man who had been head of the detective training school at Hendon, and Detective Inspector R. Deighton. The police stayed at the station until dawn and early morning passengers were unable to use one side of the pay box which was roped off. Detectives took away the door of the pay box to look for fingerprints and searched neighbouring gardens looking for the revolver, but found nothing. 
Site of Pay Box Today
George Gardiner, known as ‘Jock’ to his friends, had grown up and lived locally. He was born on 31 March 1896 at 6 Palmerston Road, where his father was a bricklayer. George had started work as a grocer’s porter. He was a quiet, reserved man and had worked at the station, today just called Kilburn Station, for several years. He lived at 15 Kenilworth Road, off Willesden Lane, and left a widow Alice Maud Gardiner and a son. He was buried at Willesden New Cemetery on 17 December (Section A, grave number 2510). Alice continued to live at the house until her death in 1965.
Coincidentally, an hour before the murder, a man was shot during an argument at ‘The Lido’ dance hall at the other end of the Kilburn High Road; however, the police believed the incidents were unconnected. In the previous week there had been seven armed robberies in London. But these had been carried out by two men wearing army uniforms. Despite the large man hunt, nobody was ever arrested for Gardiner’s murder which still remains unsolved.
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  • Fantastic detail. Shame nobody was brought to justice.

  • Hi Dick and Marianne, congratulations on the new blog! Excellent!

    Regarding the Kilburn murder, I suspect that the newspaper report is wrong in describing the weapon as a revolver.

    If it was a revolver, how come it left three spent cartridges on the floor? To do this it would have to have been broken open to eject them. This seems unlikely, as it would either mean that the gunman broke open the revolver to reload after having put only three bullets in the cylinder despite having more in his pocket, or broke the gun open ejecting more than three cartridges but picked up some of them, though not the three he had fired.

    It is of course possible that the gunman only had three bullets, fired all of them and then broke the revolver open accidentally, or in a panic, but it seems more likely to me that the cartridges were ejected from an automatic or semi-automatic weapon and the newspaper used revolver as a catch-all term for handgun, which, although wrong, was common practice.

    .45 automatic pistols were available, for example the 1911 Colt. From what I can glean on a quick internet search, some of these were genuinely .45, using the same ammunition as the Smith & Wesson revolver and the Thompson sub-machine gun, and some were .455 calibre, the same as a First World War British Webley revolver.

    All best

    Malcolm (Brent Archives)

  • Yes, I agree with you Malcolm. The spent cartridges would have stayed in a revolver, so the newspaper report must have used the term to cover an automatic weapon that ejected the cartridges. Obviously it was fairly easy to obtain firearms during the War. Awful that after such a vicious murder no one was found.

    Glad you like the blog, lots more stories to come.
    Best wishes,