Monday, 26 July 2021

The gate at number 6 Rua de São Jorge; Cemitério dos Ingleses, Lisbon


The Portuguese version of Time Out says that a trip to the English cemetery in Lisbon is “uma oportunidade de ir a Inglaterra sem apanhar chuva”, a chance to go to England without catching the rain. It also says that the “gate at number 6 Rua de São Jorge is a kind of shortcut to a very small, and very specific, portion of England.” In contrast English visitors have always focused on the cemetery’s exoticism, picking out every detail that makes it un-English. A correspondent from the Westminster Gazette went there in 1901 looking for the grace of the cemetery’s most famous inhabitant, Henry Fielding;

The English Cemetery at Lisbon, which is, I believe, the first Protestant burial-ground that was tolerated in the Peninsula, lies on a height at the back of the town. A succession of steep streets lead from the Tagus up to the Estrella Church, whose dome and towers are a landmark for seamen. In front of the church there is an open space, from one corner of which a narrowish street leads yet higher, almost into the outskirts of the town. On the left as you go up are shuttered houses; on the right a rough, white, plastered wall, over the coping of which the curling tops of the cypresses appear. We call it the English Cemetery; but to the natives it is known as Os Cyprestes — The Cypresses. Half-way up the street there is a green door in the wall, surmounted by the arms of England, with a bell-handle and wire by the side. You pull the handle and a feeble tinkling responds from the other side. A woman opens the door, and you pass through unquestioned, and are left to wander down the avenue of aged cypresses in front of you unmolested. Few travellers visit Lisbon, and far fewer visit Fielding's grave. The graveyard is some acres in extent, surrounded by high walls, intersected by pathways and thickly planted with venerable cypresses, straggling mimosas, and woody bay trees. On either side of the gravel paths, the tombs and gravestones rise among a tangled profusion of southern weeds. Tall scarlet geraniums and blue periwinkles are mingled with the grasses and the undergrowth. There is a group of aloes in an arid corner, and prickly cactuses grow against the sunny walls. The avenues of cypresses cast a grateful shade; the evening air is beginning to become cool; but the hum of insects and the warbling of innumerable birds give one a feeling of the South—the scent of box-hedges in the sun is mingled with the evening perfumes of the flowers. The scene is enchanting to one who arrives from a country where he has left winter weather and east winds.

Westminster Gazette - Tuesday 30 April 1901

The English cemetery is Lisbon’s oldest; the rights of British subjects to engage in Protestant worship and the need for a site “fit for the burial of their dead” was Article 14 of the 1654 Anglo-Portuguese treaty negotiated by Cromwell’s Protectorate and the Portuguese government. Opposition from the Catholic clergy stopped the accord being put into practice for over 60 years. English consul Poyntz was only able to confirm that space for a protestant burial ground had been secured in 1717 and the new cemetery opened in 1721. Even then the Tribunal da Inquisição ordered that a perimeter of cypresses be planted along the perimeter to hide the chão dos hereges, the heretics burial ground from the eyes of passing Catholics. In 1804 a corner of the cemetery was partitioned off for a Jewish burial ground, the first in Portugal since King Manoel the First had ordered the expulsion of the Jews from his Kingdom in 1497. The church of St George was built inside the grounds of the cemetery in 1822. The first church burnt down in 1886 and the current church built on the old site.  

Henry Fielding is by far the most famous person buried in the cemetery but there are some other interesting memorials. A simple wall plaque commemorates Thomas Barclay who died in Lisbon in 1793. Barclay was born in Strabane in Ireland in 1728 and emigrated to Philadelphia in his mid-thirties where he became a prosperous merchant and ship owner. He sided with the rebels during the war of independence and was made the new republics Consul in Paris in 1781 and sent to Morocco to negotiate a treaty with Sultan Sidi Muhammad ibn Abdullah in 1786. Barclay’s wall plaque contains several inaccuracies according to the official version of his life. He was not the first consul of the United States to Portugal as it claims; Barclay was in Lisbon to collect funds for a mission to Algiers where several Americans were being held hostage. He became ill in Lisbon and died on January 19, 1793, of inflammation of the lungs. The plaque says that he died in a duel! Evelyn Edson in an article for the Scottsville Museum in Virginia adds that the duel was “with a Spanish nobleman, who had cast aspersions on the character of American women.” I could not trace any newspaper accounts of his death which might shed light on the discrepancy. 

Not everyone buried in the cemetery is English. Arguably the most impressive tomb belongs not to Fielding but to Christian August, Prince of Waldeck and Pyrmont who died in Portugal in 1798. The prince was born in 1744 and accompanied Goethe for part of the writers Italian Journey in 1786-88. Goethe called him “a perfect and well educated prince”. He became a general in the Austrian Army and served in several campaigns. He came to Portugal in 1797 to take over command of the Portuguese land army at the request of Queen Maria I but succumbded to illness almost as soon as he was in the country, dying shortly afterwards in the Royal Palace in Sintra. His impressive pyramidal memorial was donated by the Prince-regent, the future King João VI.

Many of the cemetery’s permanent inhabitants seem to have arrived here by accident.  Lieutenant B. Wallace of HMS Minotaur was “while on duty on the 1st of January (1877), was killed by a yard falling on his head” and was buried next day in the cemetery. Clement Colvin formerly of the India Office and lately director the Eastern Telegraph and Eastern Telegraph Extension Company (Limited), Winchester was visiting the Marquis of Montserrat at Sintra when he unexpectedly dropped dead of apoplexy. He was buried in the cemetery on 28 of August 1901. Also dying at Sintra in 1944 where 3 Canadian airmen who flew their plane into a hillside by accident. 

Then there is this from the Herts Guardian, Agricultural Journal, and General Advertiser of  Saturday 20 June 1863:

The Journal de Commercio records a melancholy accident which occurred on the 2b'th ult. at the patent slip Porto Brandao, on the south side of the Tagus. Mr. Thomas White, of Portsmouth, the chief engineer of the works, was giving some order, when a stone from one of the cliffs commenced rolling, and would have fallen'. on him. A workman seeing his danger, called out to him and pushed him to remove him out of the way. The push was so violent that Mr. White fell heavily, and his head came in contact with the stones, causing congestion of the brain, which proved fatal on the 2Sth. The man who thus endeavoured to save Mr. White was struck by the stone, and so seriously injured that he was removed to the hospital, where lies in a precarious state. The funeral took place on the 30th at the English Cemetery, Lisbon, with every demonstration of respect from the Government authorities, and universal regret was expressed that the deceased had not lived to see the completion of the important works which he had so ably and successfully superintended.

And more accidental deaths in the military in 1950 when 6 British naval officers, one of them the grandson of the novelist H. Rider Haggard, managed to kill themselves by driving a car off the end of a quay in Setubal and into the River Sado whilst on their way to a party;

CAR FALLS IN RIVER Commander Archibald Rider Cheyne. Naval Attache at the British Embassy in Lisbon. and five officers from a British destroyer flotilla (two lieut.-commanders and three lieutenants) were drowned last night when a motor-car in which they were travelling took a wrong turning in the narrow quayside streets at Setubal and fell 25 feet into the River Sado. They were on their way to a party given by an ex-naval officer, Captain Benson, at his country home, "Quinta Venezelos." Commander Cheyne, who was driving the car, had returned from Captain Benson's home to change from his uniform into civilian clothes and to nick up a further batch of officers to attend the party.

THE DRIVER'S HANDICAP The drowned officers were from British naval units which arrived at Setubal to-day for a five-day courtesy visit. Antonio Pereira. the British Naval Attaché’s chauffeur, who was not in the car, told Reuter that with the headlamps on and the quay wet, as it was, it was almost impossible to see where the quay ended. Commander Cheyne, a grandson of the novelist Rider Haggard. leaves a widow and a young son and daughter. His wife, whom he married in 1938. was Miss Marie Louise Brett. daughter of Mrs. Maurice Brett (the actress Zena Dare). The bodies were recovered from the car after four hours' rescue work in which Setubal dock workers co-operated with divers from the British warships.

DANGER SPOT Antonio Pereira, the British Naval Attaches chauffeur, who was not the car. told Reuter that, with headlamps on. and when the quay was wet. it was almost impossible to see where the quay ended The funeral is on Monday at the British Cemetery in Lisbon

Belfast Telegraph - Saturday 21 October 1950

On Saturday 28 October 1893 The Era reported the sad death of a pantomimist:

Death of a Pantomimist. Mr Arthur Williams, the well-known pantomimist, died on the 13th inst. at Lisbon. The deceased was fulfilling an engagement with the Renad Brothers in the Portuguese capital. On the 11th he was with the company as usual, and retired to rest apparently in his usual condition. On the 12th he did not appear at breakfast, and shortly afterwards some of his friends called to see him. They knocked at his bedroom door and as they received no answer the door was forced open, and they found him dead in his bed, the cause of death having been cerebral apoplexy. Mr Williams was buried on the 14th inst. in the English Protestant Cemetery, Lisbon. The funeral was attended by most of the members of the company to which he belonged. He was only forty-one years of age, and has left a widow and two children totally unprovided for.

Friday, 16 July 2021

"A most awful tragedy"; Medi Oliver Mehra (2003-2014) Kensal Green Cemetery


When an 86-foot-long half circle of Corinthian columns, suddenly appeared in Kensal Green a few years ago I was slightly puzzled to see such a large new structure in the cemetery and assumed it was a memorial garden for the crematorium. Only one memorial ever appeared inside it, a life-sized statue of a boy who according to the inscription had died shortly after his eleventh birthday in 2014 but it still never crossed my mind that this enormous structure was a single grave memorial until I read ‘A Tomb with A View’ by Peter Ross. Kensal Green is the most exclusive and therefore the most expensive cemetery in the UK.  A 6’6” x 2’6” standard burial plot in a path side location costs a hefty £22,000; that is £1375 per square foot (plus £1550 for the excavation by mechanical digger). I don’t know the total area of the Medi Garden, as it is officially known, but it must be at least 3000 square feet. I have no idea either what the General Cemetery Company charged for the ground but if the rate was the equivalent of its grave fees, it would have cost millions. The memorial itself was built by Sino Sculpture using 350 tonnes of granite, 150 tonnes of steel and 200 tons of concrete. It is decorated with angels holding torches, books and flowers. 

There is no other monument on this scale in any UK cemetery. The price tag for the memorial reflects the enormous grief of Iranian businessman Mehdi Mehra and his wife Mary-Ann Bowring at the loss of their 11-year-old son Medi Oliver Mehra who died in a horse-riding accident in 2014. The Hampstead & Highgate Express of April 15 2015 carried the story of the inquest:

An 11-year-old Hampstead schoolboy died of severe head injuries after hitting a tree in a horse riding accident, a coroner has ruled. University College School (UCS) pupil Medi Mehra died on July 15 last year after he fell off a horse and hit his head at a polo club in Oxfordshire. He died at the scene despite wearing a riding helmet. Medi, of Maida Vale, lost control of the horse he was riding without stirrups when it cantered while he was also controlling another horse on a rope, known as leading. Oxfordshire coroner Darren Salter ruled his death was an accident, and said: “It was apparent Medi was a relative beginner in terms of riding ability. I do think there was a significant increase in the risk by having Medi leading a horse with no stirrups.”

The court heard that Medi’s father, Mehdi Mehra, asked friend and professional polo player Pedro Harrison to look after Medi and have him work in the stables at the club for a few days. Mr Harrison’s groom William Newman was the only adult with Medi when he died. He was riding one horse and leading four others at the time. Mr Newman told Oxfordshire Coroner’s Court: “Medi seemed quite confident on a horse, he seemed happy. I thought I’d push him a bit more and told him to take his stirrups up and have a canter. “But then there was a gradual increase in speed as Medi lost control, and I quickly lost sight of him over the crest of the hill.” Mr Harrison, who was in his yard at the time, said: “I heard Medi scream. “I looked up and saw him riding past on the grass, still leading the horse, and going very fast. I got in my car immediately and went after them. When I found Medi he was lying by the tree and had blood coming from his nose and ears.” Mr Newman told the court: “I obviously over-estimated his riding ability and hugely underestimated the horse’s quietness. It’s something I regret hugely.” Before Medi died, his mother Mary-Anne Bowring had specifically chosen an older horse called Rubia for Medi to ride on. But on the day he died, he was riding another horse. She said “there was no way in hell” she would have left Medi stay with Mr Harrison if she knew he would ride a different horse. But Mr Harrison said Mr Mehra had told him to give Medi “whatever horse I thought was suitable.”

Mr Salter told the court: “This is obviously the most awful tragedy, an accident.”

Friday, 9 July 2021

The Death of the King of the Beggars; Andrew Whiston (1770-1826) St Saviour's churchyard, Southwark

Detail from "30 Extraordinary Characters..." showing Andrew Whiston in his homemade carriage

When Andrew Whiston, a renowned dwarf, died on Monday 3rd April 1826 the surgeons of Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals offered £100 for his body.  Hearing of his death, and knowing that he had no relatives, the night constable of St Saviour’s parish called at his lodgings to claim the body but found his fellow lodgers unwilling to surrender the corpse. They claimed that Whiston had not paid his rent for a month and admitted that they planned to settle the debt by selling his cadaver to the surgeons. The night constable was having none of it; he took charge of the body and removed it to the watchhouse where he could keep an eye on it. As no relatives came to claim him Whiston was buried by the parish on April 7 in the churchyard of St Saviour’s (now Southwark Cathedral). To stop the body being claimed by resurrectionists the sexton dug a grave 14 feet deep and placed Whiston’s child sized coffin at the bottom. There were three other parish funerals that day; 15-year-old James Harvey, 54-year-old Elizabeth Marks and 58-year-old William Walters. The sexton placed the three paupers’ coffins on top of Whiston’s and then filled up the grave. As far as we know the resurrection men did not manage to get their hands on Whiston’s mortal remains.

Contemporary accounts of Andrew Whiston (or sometimes Whitson or even Weston) described him as a ‘miserable’ or ‘wretched -looking object’, as ‘little, diminutive, and deformed’, and as a ‘remarkable production of the human species’. Just two feet four inches tall and known as the King of the Beggars, he was born in Dundee in 1770 but spent most of his adult life in London where he wheeled himself around in a handmade cart between his home in Southwark and his prime begging spots north of the river in the Adelphi.  His unusual appearance and irascible disposition earned him a degree of fame in Regency London; Pierce Egan featured him as one of the picturesque cadgers in ‘Life in London’ and his exploits frequently made the newspapers. On 29 December 1825 the Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser reported that the magistrates at Union Hall had listened to the evidence against a ‘respectably attired young man, named Stokes’. The young man was accused of being one of a gang of raucous and high-spirited young men who had ‘exceedingly ill-treated' the dwarf by burying him beneath a pile of mud. Stokes was acquitted after he explained he had tried to come to the rescue of the dwarf but had been interrupted by a patrol of Bow Street runners who immediately assumed he was the guilty party and, after exchanging a few words with him, “struck him on the eye”; the newspaper admitted that “the defendant bore visible marks of having received a severe blow”. When Andrew was placed on a chair to give his evidence, he admitted that he could not say whether the defendant had assaulted him or not.  Stokes was acquitted and the case was about to be dismissed when the members of the Bow Street patrol suddenly felt the urge to acquaint the magistrates with the true character of the victim;

Some of the Officers now said that the dwarf was great nuisance in the street; that he was very prone to insult females as they passed, using towards them some of the lowest and most indecent expressions of which the English language was capable; that he was apt to abuse all passengers when he was intoxicated, which in fact took place almost every night; for although he subsisted chiefly by begging, and could drink 30 glasses of gin, yet obtained enough of money to do this, from the Public; and, finally, that he was a sort of pet among the porters, who often treated him, and laughed at his indecent allusions; and was, indeed, occasionally encouraged by them in his wonted abuse towards the more respectable part of the passengers.

From the Morning Advertiser of Monday 10 April 1826;

CORONER’S INQUEST ON THE BODY OF ANDREW WHITSON, COMMONLY DESIGNATED THE KING THE BEGGARS. On Friday last an Inquest was held at the Rose and Bell public-house, Bankside, Southwark, before R. Carter, Esquire, on the body the above-named extraordinary diminutive individual, an account whose death appeared in most of the public prints during the last week. The Jury, upon being sworn, proceeded to St. Saviour’s watch-house, where the remains were placed in order to secure them from the clutches of the Resurrectionists, many of whom hovered about the neighbourhood on the report of his death gaining wind. The body was deposited in a box purposely contrived for its reception, and from its peculiar formation was, perhaps, one the most remarkable productions of the human species. The legs were curved, and had the appearance thin planks, having no calves; the shin bones were greatly protruded, also his chest, which was excessively contracted, and which might well be termed Pigeon breasted. His bead was of an extraordinary size, and his neck short and thick, which peculiarities evinced a predisposition to apoplexy. This extraordinary man when alive, was about two feet four inches height, and was thirty-three inches round the body, twenty-seven inches round the head, and thirteen inches from the chin to the crown. From the heel to the knee-joint he measured sixteen inches, ten from the knee-joint to the hip-bone, and seven inches and a quarter round the wrist. He was double jointed throughout, and possessed considerable strength, particularly in the hand, he slept on the floor, dressed and undressed himself, without assistance. The machine upon which travelled about the town cost him, wheels and all, about three shillings, and generally lasted him about three years.  

Richard Uwell, a shoemaker, residing in Holland-street, Southwark, deposed, that he had known the deceased from seeing him pass up and down the street in a little truck or box on four wheels, which he impelled along with the assistance of crutches. He obtained his living principally by begging, and resided in William’s-court. On Monday night last witness was drinking at a public-house called the ‘Duke on Horseback’, Holland-street, with a man named Mist. Between nine and ten o’clock, Little Andrew as he was called, entered the tap room, and addressing witness, said, “I say, boy, take and carry me home, for I feel unwell all over”. Mist, the man who was with witness, observed, that they would convey him home between them if he gave them a pot of beer. Andrew consented, and they accordingly proceeded with towards his lodging, each taking him under the arm, the way in which he was usually carried home when he was unable to go by himself. On reaching the end of the court they set him on the pavement, when another man came up and requested they would place him on his shoulders and he would carry him home. They did so, and witness and Mist went away. 

A detail showing Andrew Whiston as the head of the cadgers' table from George Cruikshank Illustration to Pierce Egan's 'Life in London- Tom and Jerry "Masquerading it"', 1821 

The Coroner here observed that a report had gone abroad in the neighbourhood, that the deceased was carried home with his head downwards. He asked the witness whether there was any foundation for such a report? The witness declared that the deceased was carried along in a perfectly upright position, and   and no tricks whatever were played upon him.

James Keaton, the man who carried the deceased on his shoulders up the court, deposed that when the last witness and Mist set down the deceased, he perceived his head droop down. Believing it was caused by intoxication, he did not feel any surprise at that circumstance, but went forward to the lodging and knocking at the door, it was opened by the landlady, who seeing it was her lodger (Little Andrew), immediately shut the door, saying that he should not enter the house. Witness then set down the deceased outside the door and informed the watchman of what had taken place, who eventually gained admission for him into the house, in the space of about ten minutes. Soon afterwards the landlady called the watchman saying that she believed Andrew was dead. Upon entering the room, the deceased was discovered sitting at a table which was purposely made for him, with his head reclining upon it. He then appeared to be dead, and on the arrival of a surgeon, life was pronounced extinct. One of the Jury asked the witness whether he could state the deceased was in liquor? Keaton replied, that to the best of his belief the deceased was sober at the time. As no surgeon was in attendance to give evidence as to the immediate cause of the deceased’s death, one was sent for, who described it to have occurred in consequence of apoplexy.

The beadle here informed the Coroner that a person was in attendance, who claimed the body of the deceased. It was asked upon what ground, whether he was a relative to the deceased? The beadle said the individual was in no way related to the deceased, that he had merely got a document in his possession, whether true or fictitious, he (the beadle) could not say, authorising him to receive the body after death.  The person however refused to come forward and put in his claim. Upon which the medical man observed, that as none of the deceased’s relations were anxious to bury him, he was convinced the College of Surgeons would consider it a great favour to have the body presented to them for the benefit of science. The Coroner, however, stopped short the application, observing that when the verdict was pronounced, he would immediately issue his warrant for the interment of the body.  It would be then given up to the parish authorities, who would of course act in a legal manner with it. The Jury having retired for a short time, returned a verdict that the deceased ‘Died of Apoplexy’. The day after the Inquest sat on the body it was conveyed to St. Saviour’s burial ground, and interred in a grave fourteen feet in depth from the surface, over which were placed other coffins in order to secure it against the resurrection men who were anxious to have the corpse to dispose of.

Saturday, 3 July 2021

The Elusive Satanists of Abney Park

“It’s used a lot by Satanists” says Iain Sinclair, London’s foremost psychogeographer, as we approach a menacingly derelict church.  “Stoke Newington’s an epic centre of black magic. You can see the symbol of the eye in the triangle on the wall there. A lot of bodies have been dug out of graves, it’s a fake gothic church that has been overwhelmed by a gothic reality.”

Interview with BBC (2006)

Over the years Abney Park has acquired a murky reputation though for most people it’s not Iain Sinclair’s Satanists that they find troubling. Rustykey on tripadvisor says “very disappointed to find out that this beautiful place is actually a dangerous and unsafe area. Lots of homeless, weird and dangerous people...Wouldn't recommend to go in there alone.” Colin P from Chelmsford whose father, amongst other relatives, is buried at Abney, is a bit more explicit about what the weird and dangerous people get up to and, after complaining that the lush undergrowth makes it difficult to access graves, tells us “Unfortunately my mother is now refusing to come to the Cemetery to visit my father’s grave, due to the amount of men having sex openly with each other!”  I have spent many dozens of hours in the cemetery since I first went there in the early 90’s and I have never seen men openly having sex. In my experience they always retire discreetly into the bushes with nothing more to give them away than a little shaking in the shrubbery.  I don’t think I have ever seen a Satanist either but unless they were kitted out in full regalia like the cast of ‘The Devil Rides Out’ I don’t think I could tell the difference between a demon worshipper and your average Methodist or Anabaptist. The cemetery’s reputation has travelled far; tru_echo, a female photographer from the States who specialises in taking pictures of abandoned buildings in Detroit (327 homicides in 2020 in a city of 3.5 million) worries on the Fodor website about coming to London (126 murders in 2020 for a population of 9 million) and in particular about visiting Abney Park which she would love to photograph; ‘I've read everything from it being a safe place where families hang out to reports of satanic rituals taking place at night (recently, and I've seen some photographic evidence of this, including a decapitated pigs head left on a trail) and at least one person being attacked.’ Helpful locals assure her that the cemetery is safe and that reports of black magic are greatly exaggerated but whether she believed them or not I don’t know.

In a 2010 article in the now defunct Pen Pusher magazine Hackney author Jeremy Worman wrote of the Chapel; There used to be occult symbols – a pentagram, an ankh, an upside-down image of Christ on the Cross – painted on to the church. On a bench outside the chapel was the inscription: ‘Do What Thou Wilt is the Whole of the Law’, a quote from Aleister Crowley, the most evil of magicians. In the eighties there were articles in the local press about satanists and witches holding ceremonies here (I gather there is still a group of black magicians practising their craft in the locality). These inscriptions have now been removed. Yet to stand here at night is to sense a force that is frightening.” I can imagine that standing by the chapel at night, in the pitch black (there is no lighting in the cemetery!) knowing that you are stuck there until someone opens the gates in the morning would be quite frightening. I am not convinced that the sensation would be anything to do with occult forces though. When the Victorian Society listed the cemetery chapel as one of the countries most endangered 19th century buildings in 2014, it rather sensibly put down the rumours of Satanism to overactive imaginations “over the years the site became overgrown and the chapel suffered severe vandalism,” it said, “even the chapel’s catacombs’ contents were scattered leading to rumours of black magic.”  

I diligently followed up Jeremy Worman’s assertion that the local press featured stories of black magic and witchcraft in the cemetery but was unable to locate any of these old articles. The nearest I came was a short piece in the Reading Evening Post in May 1986 which raises more questions than it answers:

SKULL CASE REMAND A sex change woman has been remanded by magistrates for allegedly taking a skull from a cemetery which was discovered by a man rotavating his garden at Sparsholt near Wantage. Unemployed Vivienne West, aged 26, of St Stephen's Gardens, Bayswater, was accused of removing part of a corpse from Abney Park Cemetery at Stoke Newington in March. She was remanded on unconditional bail until June 5 by magistrates at Highbury Court.

How did the skull end up in Wantage? And how did they know that 26-year-old Vivienne West had taken it from Abney Park? Vivienne sounds an intriguing character but I haven’t been able to find out anything else about her.

Searching for the elusive Satanists of Abney Park I did come across one truly horrific story from the 1980’s. On the morning of 11 August 1985 14-year-old Keighley Barton took the family Alsatian Rex for a walk on Wanstead Flats. All 11.30 the agitated dog returned alone to the family home in Sebert Road, Forest Gate; Keighley had disappeared. Her stepfather, Ronald William Barton, was convicted of her murder in October 1986 despite her body never having been found. Barton was a serial sex offender whose underage girls as his victims. In 1980 he had been convicted of two acts of gross indecency with his eight-year-old stepdaughter; amazingly he was given a 12-month suspended sentence and allowed back into the family home.  He was rearrested in 1982 accused once again of sexual abusing Keighley but because she refused to testify the case was dropped. Only in 1985 did Keighley’s mother find the will to throw Barton out of the house and keep him out with a court injunction.  Barton took revenge on his estranged wife by abducting and murdering Keighley. Whilst on remand he told fellow prisoners that he had disposed of her body by putting it in the boot of an old car and getting the vehicle crushed for scrap. Following his conviction he told the prison governor that he had dumped the teenagers corpse in Abney Park Cemetery. It took a two-week search for the police to finally locate the decomposed remains. The Daily Mirror of 19 February 1987 reported on Keighley’s inquest:   

Murdered schoolgirl Keighley Barton was stabbed 11 times by her stepfather as she fought for her life, an inquest heard yesterday. The 14-year-old received five chest and six arm wounds, in the frenzied attack, said pathologist Dr Peter Vanezis. He examined Keighley's body after it was found in undergrowth where it had lain undiscovered for 14 months. A verdict of unlawful killing was returned at Poplar Coroner's Court in East London—and the funeral next Wednesday will end 18 months of anguish for Keighley's mother, Teresa Barton. Keighley vanished in August 1985. Stepfather Ronald Barton, 46, joined in the searches—but he had killed her to cover up sex offences against her and in revenge for Keighley's mother splitting with him. He was finally arrested, and jailed for life last October. The next day he told the governor of Wandsworth Jail in London that he had hidden the body in 32-acre Abney Park cemetery in North London. After a two-week search Keighley's decayed remains were finally found under a jungle of bushes. Det Supt Charles Farquhar, who led the hunt for Keighley, said yesterday: "It is very sad--but at least the family now have peace of mind and can bury her decently."

The grave of PC 403 William Frederick Tyler who was shot by Latvian anarchists during the Tottenham Outrage of January 1909