Murder at Leatherhead Theatre

Officers at Leatherhead Theatre

1968, 2 November: Leatherhead Theatre Murder: The News of the World:

Sudden death struck at a theatre yesterday and turned the spotlight on a real-life whodunit - the Murder of the Major. The crime that shocked a quiet country town had all the drama of a stage thriller----. It was 6.27 am in Leatherhead Surrey, and the rain lashed down. In the dim light a PC stumbled over a man's body, crumpled below the stone steps leading from the back door of the stage at the town's tiny repertory theatre. The dead man was 53-year-old Lawrence William Byrne, a retired major in the Northumberland Fusiliers, and secretary of the theatre's Green Room Club. He had died from injuries to the head but there was no sign of the weapon.

At 8.30 am on the Sunday morning present at the scene were the Chief Constable Peter Mathews, ACC John Maskell, Detective Ch. Supt. Plaice, Detective Supt Simmons, and Detective Chief Inspector Doyle.

Incident Room: Inspector Short, DS Carter, DC Illing, DC Corbett and PC Joyce.

Scene of crime search: DI Haynes, DS Ellerby, PC Hopkins, PC Woodhams, PC Bartlett, DC Anderson, DC Newman, DC Fordham and DC Green. PC Woodman was with the body.

Enquiries: DI Brunt, DI McGregor, DS McFadden, Detective Constable Hughes, Detective Constable Hammond, PCs Murphy, Hancock, Joyce, Harrison, DC O'Riordan, Byrne, Pratt.

image of The News of the World's story of the theatre murder

The barman was arrested by DI Brunt at 8.30 am and later that evening admitted the crime. A bogus telephone call lured the major to the theatre where he was murdered. The barman William Ryan pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, and was sent to Broadmoor.

It turned out that Ryan had pretended to be a police officer and called the victim back to the theatre where he suffered, according to the prosecuting counsel "a prolonged, sustained, brutal and violent series of attacks".

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