Gransnet forums


Defending My Murdered Aunt's Memory

(37 Posts)
LankyDolly Tue 09-Feb-21 18:29:30

Sorry this is a long thread.

Dear Gransnetters

I would really appreciate some advice on two levels: practical and philosophical. I’ve discovered my Aunt on a Murder Tour and Podcast Website. I knew she had been murdered in 1942 in London, before I was born. She was 42 and was walking home from a café in the blackout when she was pulled into an air raid shelter and strangled by a serial killer who went on to murder 3 more women that week.

The most upsetting part of reading this account is that some of the facts are just made up and the characterisation is cruel and biased. The name of my grandmother is wrong, a life insurance payout is invented, which “paid for good schools for the 4 sisters”, (3 - they were 37,27 and 19!) etc. etc.

On a personal note my Aunt is described as never having had a boyfriend, lonely, depressed and dowdy, with a photo of her looking very serious and plain. However, a newspaper described her as charming and intelligent and published a photo of her smiling and happy in a glamorous looking coat. My mother idolised her - she studied hard to leave a humble home in County Durham to become a pharmacist and was about to catch a train from London to Grimsby to take up a position as manager of a pharmacy when she was so cruelly murdered.

I have written very tactfully to the person who has published this podcast and leads this tour to ask him to correct the factual mistakes and to give a more rounded picture of my Aunt, perhaps to include the report of her as charming and intelligent and asking how he knew she had never had a boyfriend? He said he obtained his information from police files and I expect he did get much of it, but I can’t understand any researcher who would not want to hear from actual relatives.

He has replied that, IF I can prove correct facts and that she had another side to her he would put it in the amendments. This would be futile, as I doubt whether anyone would bother to look at them. My questions are: do I have any powers to compel him to amend his version of things? His account appears on the Wikipedia page in the citations. I am so sad to think that my Aunt might be remembered in the way this vile man depicts her. I feel compelled on my family’s behalf to honour my Aunt’s memory but this has been going on for about six months and is very distressing, even though I never knew her. Any advice would be very welcome.

Tangerine Tue 09-Feb-21 20:49:47

I think you ought to take legal advice.

Perhaps I am wrong but I think it might be difficult to make him amend his version.

MissAdventure Tue 09-Feb-21 20:57:37

This may help you.,about%20how%20to%20handle%20it.

trisher Tue 09-Feb-21 21:10:02

I was going to say you can add or alter anything on Wiki. I don't know who is organising the London walk. There is an assocation of London Guides, if it is organised through them I would advise you to contact them and make your points if he won't accept them. If he is independent you can always keep posting your own story as a review or comment.
Most local guides love to meet relatives or anyone else with a link to the stories they tell. Hope you get some satisfaction.

Elegran Tue 09-Feb-21 21:12:25

Are the police allowed to let just anybody read their files? If al he had to do was ask, then you, as a relative, can surely do the same and see exactly what was said in them.

You say he has verifyable facts wrong - her name and the insurance payout at least. Education for sisters who were already adult? Not accurate - made-up in fact.. Those are facts which can be refuted. Dowdy and never had a boyfriend? the attractive newspaper photo can disprove that.

I don't know whether this organisation can help you but it could be worth reading, at least.

NotSpaghetti Tue 09-Feb-21 21:30:06

I would look at it to see if it is libellous. If the characterisation is cruel then maybe it is.

Also, have you checked the links on the Wikipedia page - the originals may be also at fault.

Once I’d checked these out, I’d chase up the Police Record info. I’d be surprised if they just let anyone read them but don’t honestly know.

Good luck!

lemsip Tue 09-Feb-21 21:45:33

This was the Gordon Cummins murders I have just been able to read about on wiki includes your relative the pharmacist a very respectable lady

NellG Tue 09-Feb-21 22:19:00

As I understand it from a legal point of view (definitely not a moral one) it's considered impossible to defame someone who is dead as the injury must occur to someone who can prove that the defamation has affected their quality of life and damaged their reputation etc.

However, there have been cases brought via the Human Rights Act that have tackled the issue of misrepresentation of people who have died - but this is a long route.

In your case it may well be an idea to see a Solicitor and discuss the possibility of sending a 'take down' or cease and desist letter. It might help.

It's pretty awful that the burden of truth regarding your aunts character and the truth about her lies with you and that this unscrupulous man expects you to do the work that he should have undertaken, and I can completely understand why you're so hurt by this. Unfortunately such things lie within the ethics of the people who post to the websites and run the tours. I admit I find them pretty unethical per se.

Philosophically, your Aunt can't be hurt by any of this and as long as she lives in your memory as a a respected and dignified woman of substance that image can't be altered.

For your own sake, and to feel that you've righted a wrong, perhaps you could write her story and consider publishing it? Or even if you just write it for family it might help you feel you have been able to do something positive in her memory.

I really do wish you the best of luck with it, your Aunt deserves better than that and I hope you find a way forward that helps you to feel she is remembered with respect.

Nonogran Tue 09-Feb-21 22:19:41

I don't know for sure but could you approach the police with a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for your dear Aunt's file? After all this time it's possible it could be released to you? The perpetrator of the duff information must have got into police files so how did he do so? If he can do it so can you. The Police would be legally bound to respond to a request which is clearly labelled Freedom of Information request so don't forget to do that.
I'm sorry for the upset you're being caused.

geekesse Tue 09-Feb-21 23:00:45

You can’t libel someone who is dead, NotSpaghetti.

Does it really matter? Your own family memories of your aunt are precious, I’m sure. But what real harm does it do if some self-appointed expert got your grandmother’s name wrong, used a photo that you find unflattering, and included inaccurate information about her family circumstances? You tried to correct the record and the guy wasn’t willing to take your word for it. I’d encourage you to let it go.

If you are dead set on telling your own version of the story, do just that. Write a blog about her. Make your own YouTube video. Publish a book about her. Post nicer pictures online. The fact that you are a blood relative makes your account more authoritative. But if it were me, I wouldn’t bother.

The past is history, and deceased relatives are ancestors. The words of the living can neither harm nor help them. How about making a donation to a women’s refuge in her honour? That would be something that would make a practical difference here and now.

lemsip Tue 09-Feb-21 23:06:04

the murder happened 79 years ago . ......

BlueBelle Tue 09-Feb-21 23:13:25

Well of course it matters geekesse what if it was your mum or a relative you loved I d be hopping mad if someone had described a close family member in an untruthful way
How can you ever believe anything if so much artistic license is used it’s important to report facts not fiction unless you make it quite clear that it’s the writers interpretation
Good luck with this one I m angry for you

Callistemon Tue 09-Feb-21 23:18:50

The dead cannot be defamed in UK law, unfortunately. You cannot bring an action on behalf of anyone else.

You could amend the Wiki entry or add a paragraph correcting the statements which are wrong.
I doubt that he got his information from police files, possibly he read newspaper reports and has embellished them himself.

geekesse Tue 09-Feb-21 23:19:24

*BlueBelle”, the OP says that her aunt died before she was born. She didn’t even know her.

Chestnut Tue 09-Feb-21 23:38:45

Some very good advice for you here LankyDolly and I hope you get this matter resolved to your satisfaction. I have the greatest sympathy as I am a family historian and would be very upset if this happened to someone in my family. I think know exactly how you feel and I would feel the same.

Eloethan Wed 10-Feb-21 00:20:34

That's really sad. Even though you didn't know your poor Aunt, I can understand how much this has upset and angered you.

I can't offer any useful advice but I do sympathise very much with you.

I really don't understand why anyone would want to go on these "Murder Tours".

BlueBelle Wed 10-Feb-21 06:46:37

What difference does that make geekesse

Ro60 Wed 10-Feb-21 08:01:25

I hope you can correct this awful misrepresentation.
The other issue is this man is making a living out of this and who else is he doing this to?
I'd say he needs to to be stopped.

Shropshirelass Wed 10-Feb-21 08:09:25

I hope that you can correct this, factual information should be correct and unbiased. I think police records are available to the public after a period of time. Could you obtain the records to see where he found the information he has listed. I would certainly do everything you can to put this record straight, even if it is for your own peace of mind.

Esspee Wed 10-Feb-21 08:35:59

I understand your distress and hope you can find a way to stop this person. I would be constantly be reviewing his podcast by stating facts. He is making up stories and when given correct facts refuses to change the fiction.

geekesse Wed 10-Feb-21 09:16:02

Esspee, would you say the same with reference to, say, Hilary Mantel re “Wolf Hall”?

NellG Wed 10-Feb-21 09:24:40

Ah, negating someone's feelings of upset and concern for a MURDERED woman's reputation by citing historical fiction and hinting a the 'living memory' chestnut. Bit insensitive given the context of the OP. But well done, feel free to parade some insensitivity regarding a moot point - it adds so much value...

Elegran Wed 10-Feb-21 09:34:20

Had it been a different story - a murdered woman who was portrayed as a prostitute but was in reality a virgin who just happened to be walking along a darkened street when a serial killer was looking for another victim - her reputation would have been restored by vigorous representation and the old cliches removed from the account.

But because it didn't fit his story, this liar has made her out to be what she wasn't.

LankyDolly Wed 10-Feb-21 13:17:07

Thank you so much, everyone, for such supportive and helpful comments. I love the idea of donating to something like a women's refuge in my Aunt's name, Geekesse. Good idea about the London Guides, Trisher.

Wikipedia states that there is no editor as such and the main entry is fine, it's the links/citations that contain the offending item. Regarding police records, the man who does the tours/podcasts apparently went in person to Somerset House and I planned to go myself, but then we went into lockdown last year, which has been very frustrating. I believe he did get some facts there, he was just very selective and changed what he felt like.

I would very much like to be able to write an article about my Aunt, but can find almost nothing about her - there are no family photos or letters and little in the public records. It was a humble mining family; my poor grandmother suffered 3 infant deaths as well as her daughter’s later murder. I just remember what my mother told me about her eldest sister – she was kind and caring and an inspiration, as I suppose she had to be to progress so far from her back ground.

Esspee Wed 10-Feb-21 13:23:58


*Esspee*, would you say the same with reference to, say, Hilary Mantel re “Wolf Hall”?

Sorry geekesse I know nothing about Wolf Hall so have no idea of your point.