‘Worst Christmas Day ever’ as police interrupt dinner to dig up murder victim

A family’s Christmas Day was interrupted in 1976 when police officers made a surprise visit to their house and asked to look under the floorboard.

The family has been tucking into their Christmas dinner when Humberside Police officers asked to dig up the floor, revealing the mummified remains of Geoffrey Middleton when they did.

As police unwound the plot that had led to the young man’s death they discovered a callous and horrific murder that captured the city’s attention, The Hull Daily Mail reported.

Forty years on from the gruesome events the story of Geoffrey Middle still reads more like a TV plot than something out of real life.

The roots of the appalling crime can be traced back five years before the grim discovery when Bertram Lund Holmes, a hairdresser living opposite East Park, met 18-year-old Geoffrey.

The two became lovers, with Geoffrey often sleeping over at Bertram’s ground floor flat.

Months later, in April 1972, 20-year-old Allan Victor Lawrence moved into the upstairs flat of 554A Holderness Road.

Allan and Bertram, who was in his sixties, became friends, with their relationship soon turning into a physical one some months later.

Eventually, in the middle of 1973, Allan moved downstairs to live with Bertram – and it was after here when his jealousy towards his partner’s other lover began to surface.

The tensions soon became problematic as Geoffrey would “drive Allan up the wall”, interrupting him when he was talking and often changing the topic of conversation.

It seemed as though the trio were heading for trouble, and on one occasion when Bertram and Allan were drinking they began talking about their ambitions – and Allan revealed he had often thought about stabbing or shooting someone.

When the topic came up again, this time when the pair were talking about Geoffrey, Bertram asked Allan how he would dispose of the body.

Allan said he would get rid of it in the drain, and Bertram told him his flat had loose floorboards in the front room.

Weeks later they opened up four of the 3ft floorboards and looked underneath, agreeing the space was big enough to fit Geoffrey in.

A month later, Allan Lawrence told Bertram Holmes he was going to kill Geoffrey.

When they returned home they took some of Bertram’s sleeping pills, crushed them, and added food dye to colour them.

The plot failed, however – so the pair thought of something much more brutal.

On a Friday afternoon in July 1973, a little after 3.50pm, Geoffrey was sat watching television in a rocking chair near the fireplace, with Allan sitting nearby.

Suddenly the door swung open and Bertram came rushing in with a claw hammer, hitting Geoffrey several times.

Allan then went for Geoffrey’s throat, sending the rocking chair flying backwards and both men fell to the floor.

Bertram put his arm around Geoffrey’s throat and grabbed a cord to tie around his neck.

Despite fighting against it, Geoffrey was unable to overpower them and he died.

His body was put under the floorboards, as previously planned, and his head was covered in a hairdressing gown.

Allan and Bertram poured a bag and a half of cement and water over him before putting the floorboards back down and covering them with canvas.

They swept the floor and tidied up before leaving for a drink.

A few days later, they saw a hole with one of Geoffrey’s hands protruding from the concrete, so put a brick on it.

A few weeks elapsed and Geoffrey Middleton’s mother began to worry.

She phoned Bertram Holmes, but he informed her that her son had gone to London.

After she made more enquiries she contacted the police, who began an investigation into his mysterious disappearance.

The investigation began on October 30, 1973, and the detectives visited Bertam, who stated that he last saw Middleton in July 1973.

No suspicions were raised about Bertram by detectives.

In July 1975, Allan Lawrence was in the Cross Keys pub in Delph, near Oldham.

He was drinking with some friends and they were all telling stories.

Allan told them he had killed a man at a place where he used to live.

One of the men asked him about it the day after, but Lawrence replied: “You don’t think I’d do a thing like that do you?”

On December 25, 1976, at 12.55am, Allan Lawrence walked into Queen’s Gardens police station.

He asked to speak to someone in CID, but no one was available to assist him.

He told the policeman on duty that he wished to confess to a murder that took place three years previously in 554A Holderness Road.

Police wasted no time in visiting the property, telling those inside that they had to dig up the floorboards as part of a murder investigation.

The shocked family granted permission and Humberside Police found the body of Geoffrey Middleton, encased in cement but preserved.

They were still able to read the tattoo on his arm. His body had been mummified.

The story hit the headlines and featured in the Hull Daily Mail with a front page spread, and also made national headlines in The Times and the Daily Mirror.

Detective Chief Superintendent Ronald Sagar, deputy head of Humberside Police CID at the time, led the case.

He would later become well known for his involvement in the Bruce Lee arsonist case.

Bertram Lund Holmes, and Allan Victor Lawrence both stood trial for the murder, and were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

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