THE LOVERS' LANE MURDERS
Historic Gangland Execution Re-Opened After Ex-Cop's Corruption Claims
The crime scene photos were unsettling even to the most weathered detective with a ready shield of flippancy.
Two distorted torsos could be made out through a windscreen impacted by blood and human tissue.
The man in the driving seat of the Mercedes was probably the first to be shot in the head at close range from the back seat. The 12-bore shotgun then turned on his girlfriend in the passenger seat.
“It was one of the most vicious things I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen some ‘orrible things,” one veteran homicide detective recalled.
The couple had been kidnapped from her nearby home and forced to drive through rush hour on the last working day before Christmas.
Witnesses, including an off duty police officer, were struck by the erratic driving. They saw two men in the back seat of the Mercedes and one man in a Golf GTi with very low spoilers directly behind it.
At a junction, a driver got between the two cars until one of the men in the back of the Mercedes turned with a look so scary that the eyewitness pulled away.
Eventually, the Mercedes and Golf turned off the busy Epping Road into Lodge Lane. The dirt track led to an unlit lovers lane car park enveloped by forest and far enough away that two flashes of shotgun fire could get lost in the glare of headlights on the main road.
It was 7.30pm on Friday 22 December 1989. The two assassins covered in blood splatter and firearm residue slid into the Golf, which joined the metal crowd heading home through east London.
The black Mercedes remained unnoticed until the early hours of Saturday morning, when a police car turned into Lodge Lane looking for doggers.
The Essex cops were hoping to try out a new hand held thermal imaging device on the Mercedes, which was parked facing the forest. But neither passenger gave off a warm Ready Brek glow. Either the equipment was faulty or they were dead.
Within hours a Metropolitan police murder squad detective and crime scene manager arrived. A fleeting theory of murder-suicide was dispelled when no gun was found in the car.
After the Christmas break, a well-placed informant told his police handler the names of two men apparently responsible for the kidnap and shooting and a third man said to be behind it all.
The trio were well known gangland faces. The informant, also a face, was concerned for his safety because one of the three had “bent old bill wrapped around him,” he warned.
Three decades later the murders of Terry Gooderham, 39, a pub stock taker, and Maxine Arnold, 32, an insurance clerk, remain unsolved. Corruption had been a problem from the start, police sources say.
Some time ago, The Upsetter learned that the detective who handled the informant was retired and still troubled by the double murder. ‘Mark’ (not his real name) couldn’t shake the case.
“It involves people’s lives and most importantly the lost lives of two young people in the most vicious and appalling circumstances,” he said.
We made ourselves busy in the underworld and among retired detectives. Last week, our efforts paid off.
The double murder of Gooderham and Arnold is being re-examined. The new investigation is run by a joint group of anti-corruption and cold case murder detectives overseen by a ‘gold group’ of senior officers at Scotland Yard.
This is what we understand so far.
The Grey Overcoat
Mark heard about the lovers’ lane murders on his way back from a holiday abroad. “I know someone who’ll know about that,” he told his wife.
It wasn’t Mark’s case, but what’s the point having quality informants if you don’t tap them when something like this happens. The informant he had in mind had proved himself over the last six years.
The meeting took place in the first week of January 1990. The informant appeared on edge, wired even. He didn’t know Mark was coming. But after three hours he offered up three names and a motive.
David Hunt and Jimmy Holmes, he said, had allegedly taken up the contract because Gooderham was on the verge of going to the police about a pub protection racket.
The man behind the racket was named as Connie Whitehead, who in the late 60’s had gone down with the Kray twins as an accessory to their murder of Jack ‘the hat’ McVitie.
The informant was no stranger to violence but Mark recalls his man was “terrified” of Hunt and Holmes, two up-and-coming violent gangsters operating in east London. There was also concern that what he was saying would get back to Hunt through his supposed corrupt police contacts.
Mark knew of Hunt’s reputation and had heard the corruption rumours. He immediately drove to a police station near the lovers’ lane crime scene, sat in his car and wrote a two-page intelligence log of what he’d just heard.
An informant’s name never appears on the log. Mark’s was registered under the pseudonym ‘David Hampshire’. The real identity was held in a central registry at Scotland Yard and by a senior officer on the police division where Mark worked.
“I sat for a long time thinking how the fuck do I get this [log] into the system” without any corrupt interference. The next day Mark confided in a trusted superior who assured him the murder squad would be made aware of the intelligence.
But a few days later something extraordinary happened. “I was at Snaresbrook Crown Court when a high-ranking officer based at Scotland Yard arrived in his chauffeur-driven car.”
The senior officer wore an expensive grey overcoat and wanted a private word with Mark.
“I was told the information I had submitted on the log was wrong, the informant had been spoken to and basically retracted, he’d been on pills, his head fucked. I was told thanks very much now leave it to the murder squad.”
The whole set up felt wrong. If the informant woke up the next day and realised he had mouthed off while on drugs he could have phoned Mark personally and retracted. They had that sort of relationship, but he never called.
Instead, the high ranking officer was standing in front of him. The man in the grey overcoat had nothing to do with the murder squad but he was responsible for all other serious crime in London, which meant his was the word of God.
Who was Mark, a detective sergeant, to question God’s word over that of a criminal informant, whose motives are almost always dishonourable - money, revenge or taking out the competition.
At the time, Mark was waiting for a transfer to south London. “I was glad to leave the east end after eleven years. The informant was going to be no use to me in south London so I left him behind. I would recruit new ones. I accepted what I was told, that [Hampshire] had got it wrong.”
Terry Gooderham and Maxine Arnold led an unorthodox life. He spent half the week in her Walthamstow flat from where they were kidnapped, and the other half with another woman in Chingford.
A detective close to the Chingford woman said she was unaware of Maxine. “Until Old Bill turned up with sniffer dogs to do the Christmas tree - they thought drugs didn’t they. That’s the obvious thing when someone gets their head blown off,” he said.
Maxine’s mum, Violet, had gone round to her daughter’s flat after the couple didn’t show up for a drink on the Friday night of their murder. It looked like they had left in a hurry and Violet also noticed that Terry’s auditing books were no longer there, a retired detective told Mark.
Terry kept these books and loads of cash at the homes of the two women with whom he was living a double life, the source added.
On the twelfth anniversary of the double murder, Violet made a TV appeal for witnesses to put her mind at ease “and let Terry and Maxine rest in peace.”
A former detective joined in to offer a possible motive for the unsolved crime. “I personally think [Terry] did stumble over something in the course of his bookkeeping and it was so important there was a large risk of him coming to the police about it, and because of that he was killed.”
The TV appeal yielded no actionable intelligence. That remained the position come the twentieth anniversary of the murders in 2009.
By then, Mark had recently retired after a 30-year career that took him all over the world as a specialist organised crime detective.
But the more he relived that day in January 1990 when the grey overcoat approached him outside court, the more he believed there was something improper going on.
Firstly, the high-ranking officer had nothing to do with the murder, so why was he getting involved and personally? Secondly, irrespective of his seniority in rank, he should never have known the real name of the informant. Thirdly, the informant should not have been seen without going through Mark first.
A ‘flagging system’ in operation at the time had been set up to stop blue-on-blue situations where one police officer is chasing a criminal who is an informant for another officer.
Officers can flag informants, criminals, operations, locations as an early warning if information comes into the central police intelligence collating system. Flagging can be done for honest reasons and crooked ones.
The protocol at the time was that the officer with the flag is told about the intelligence and the officer who runs the informant, but never the informant’s real name. The two officers are then supposed to speak and consider options. It allows the informant handler to also assess if the approach is legitimate or for some corrupt motive.
Mark was coming to the view that the high-ranking officer had flagged one of the three names, then used his rank to find out who was giving information about him.
The question was whether this was for a corrupt purpose, to tip off one of them, or possibly to protect another police operation at an advanced or crucial stage.
In those days, said Mark, a murder did not always trump other police investigations.
Tiger to Crocus
One year before the lovers’ lane murders, east London detectives had launched an operation against Hunt and his organised crime group.
Operation Tiger ran from a secret base because Hunt was suspected of having corrupt contacts in Plaistow police station, which covered his stomping ground of Canning Town and Custom House.
Operation Tiger also looked at Hunt’s key associates Jimmy Holmes, Tony Bowers and Bobby Reading. The gang was variously suspected of involvement in lorry hijacks, pub and club protection, prostitution and drug supply.
Detectives on Operation Tiger said it was not sophisticated police work in that they lacked funding for a surveillance team and there was no phone taps. Tiger’s strength was in a number of local informants and the determination of its detectives.
Legend has it that two turned up at Hunt’s house in Varley Road and gave him the option of leaving Canning Town or facing the consequences. Whatever his reasons, Hunt did leave in October 1988 and moved to a new, bigger home in Rahn Road on the edge of Epping Forest.
Shortly before the double murder in December 1989, Operation Tiger was closed down for lack of resources, said the detective chief inspector who ran it.
But immediately after the murder, an increased amount of intelligence started coming in, recalled former detective chief inspector Norman McNamara. The intelligence concerned corrupt east London police helping local villains.
A new secret operation codenamed Crocus was set up in 1990 to deal with this corruption intelligence, which became the forerunner of Scotland Yard’s anti-corruption Ghost Squad set up a few years later.
The high-ranking officer in the grey overcoat had no involvement with Operation Tiger, or the double murder inquiry and, according to sources, had shown an unusual concern about the corruption intelligence being collated by Operation Crocus.
At the time he was secretly under investigation for unrelated corruption offences.
By Universal Repute
A May 1990 police report on the double murder linked the deaths to “prolific organised crime operating primarily in east and north London.”
The report went on:
“Preliminary research into Hunt and Holmes have revealed they are engaged on various criminal activities, primarily protection in respect of pubs in east London, the organisation of Acid House parties and the supply of drugs and the take over of clubs in the West End.
Hunt is presently being paid protection money by several public houses in the Canning Town area … By universal repute, no criminal activity takes place in that area of East London without his agreement.
It is also said by sources that very little of what occurs in Plaistow police station remains secret from this criminal fraternity and they even target this police station with long range listening devices.”
The murder squad were also onto Cornelius ‘Connie’ Whitehead. According to sources, detectives had set up a covert observation post on a warehouse Whitehead had in Stratford.
Lorries full of booze were hijacked and allegedly slaughtered (unloaded) in the warehouse and then sold to various pubs at a cheap price. Whitehead had numerous pubs, including the Beckon Arms, in east London.
The murder squad suspected the pub protection racket involved taking over pubs in distress by getting the licensee in debt or using menace. Mark’s informant had told him the same thing during their three-hour chat.
Although never arrested for the double murders, Hunt became aware he was a suspect when Peter Wilson, a crime reporter on the Sunday Mirror, knocked his family home in Rahn Road in March 1992.
Wilson had just received a briefing from detective superintendent Bill Peters, the senior detective in charge of the murder. But when Wilson made his enquiries Hunt flew into a rage and head butted the reporter so expertly it broke his eye socket.
Wilson reported the assault and Hunt was arrested. But on reflection, the journalist withdrew the charges fearing for his safety.
Peters told The Upsetter that a number of criminal families, including the Adams family from Islington, were linked to the double murder. One theory was Gooderham was suspected of stealing, while Maxine Arnold was simply “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Hunt, said Peters, was a rising star who despite their efforts “had the propensity to not get touched by the Met.”
Holmes is Where the Hatred Is
Jimmy Holmes was arrested in 1992 for robbery and possession of a gun. The detectives, who were not connected to the murder squad, interviewed him about other alleged crimes, including the double murder. He stayed quiet but was jailed for mortgage fraud connected to the gang’s porn interests.
However, in 1995, when Holmes came out, he fell out spectacularly with Hunt, who had moved into a 20-acre mansion called The Morleys.
The fall out was over the spoils of their criminal enterprise, Holmes claimed in an interview with The Upsetter in 2010.
He explained how cocaine abuse had become a way of blocking out the horrors of his life of violence since he joined up with Hunt in the mid-Eighties.
After the fall out, Holmes embarked on a guerrilla campaign to embarrass and undermine his former friend. This included speaking to intelligence officers from the Met. But when they asked about the lovers’ lane murder Holmes denied any involvement.
Only, in our interview about his time with Hunt, he said:
“We moved into serious armed robbery, drug smuggling, pub protection rackets, porn, prostitution and other serious stuff, which I can’t mention because loads of it is still on Old Bill’s open files.”
Holmes claimed he and Hunt carried out contract shootings, but not killings. “I can ride a bike,” he said enigmatically. “So sometimes I rode a bike for him.”
Pressed if he and Hunt were involved in the double murder, Holmes said:
“Some things I just can’t go any where near and I wouldn’t like to speculate. I’ve been put in the frame for that. There are certain things I can say and I can’t say.”
For his part, Hunt has always denied any involvement in any murder, contract shootings, torture or the assault on the Mirror journalist.
He said Holmes was his friend, godfather to one of his children and legitimate business partner who he tried to help through his drug addiction.
These matters were aired during an unsuccessful libel action that Hunt brought in 2013 against The Sunday Times. When considering the circumstances leading to the assault on Wilson, the judge, Mr Justice Simon, said:
“I am quite clear that Mr Wilson’s evidence of an assault was a truthful account, and that the Claimant’s denial was knowingly untruthful. Although the Claimant came across as mild-mannered and courteous, this part of the case showed that he could not be relied on as a witness of truth, that he was capable of sudden violence when his interests were directly threatened and that he was not frightened to ‘take on’ a journalist, notwithstanding the possible consequences.”
The judge found that Hunt was a violent organised crime boss involved in fraud, money laundering and witness intimidation. He did not find that Hunt was involved in murder or drug trafficking.
On the 30th anniversary of the double murders, The Upsetter and The Mirror published an article revealing for the first time the corruption concerns of Mark.
Retired detective superintendent Albert Patrick, who carried out a review of the double murder in 2012, recalled seeing an intelligence log on the file and confirmed that Hunt, Holmes and Whitehead were suspects.
“There was more than one source of intelligence,” naming the suspects, said Patrick, adding that a witness had provided “almost a spitting image” of one of the two men in the back of the Mercedes. “Sadly we submitted DNA but nothing came out of it,” he recalled.
Whitehead, now 84 and in poor health, was approached at home. “I don’t know nothing about it,” he said.
Mark had hoped the Met would get in touch after the Mirror article and maybe even start an investigation. The police did neither.
So he contacted Crimestoppers, his local chief constable and finally, in June 2020, the police watchdog. He had a list of concerns: Had his January 1990 intelligence log gone missing? Why had no one from the murder squad come to see? Had his informant been frightened off? Why had the high-ranking officer in the grey overcoat interceded?
The watchdog passed Mark’s complaint to the Met’s anti-corruption squad in July. Initially, he was told they were satisfied the January 1990 intelligence had reached the murder squad.
But Mark felt fobbed off and a face-to-face meeting was arranged with the anti-corruption head of intelligence. “Why are you doing this?” he asked. “I’m here to wake up the Met,” Mark replied.
They discussed a 2002 anti-corruption report, Operation Tiberius, which said the Hunt and Adams organised crime groups had corrupt east London detectives working for them since the 1990s and could infiltrate and contaminate murder inquiries “at will.”
The intelligence chief said he had spoken to the author of the Tiberius report and felt “two thirds was speculative.” Mark knew many of the 42 officers named in the report as corrupt.
“I joined a police corrupt force,” he replied. “The Met needs to open its eyes. If I was a corrupt officer I would have had Hunt flagged. It’s not going away. The only reason you are not looking at this is because you don’t want to open up Tiberius.”
In September, Mark got word that the Met didn’t have the resources and the matter had been put to bed. The intelligence chief had also retired.
Last month, Mark put out a call to former detectives announcing he was investigating the case himself. Two detectives on the original murder inquiry made contact.
“They were both adamant my intelligence log was never given to the murder squad,” said Mark. One of the former detectives said the same high-ranking officer in the grey overcoat had tried to get information out of him. He was particularly interested in a corruption briefing given to Scotland Yard that led to Operation Crocus.
Further information came to Mark that the initial crime scene cordon was poor and by the time CCTV was recovered from a nearby petrol station it had been wiped.
Last week the Met confirmed in an email to Mark it had started a "homicide investigation" with anti-corruption and cold case murder detectives.
In a statement this evening, the Met said:
“These murders were subject to a homicide investigation at the time. As with all unsolved cases, these murders are subject to periodic review to consider if they can be advanced with the passage of time. No charges have been brought.
The murders were last reviewed in 2015 but the case could not be progressed further. The MPS has recently been contacted by a former officer presenting possible new information relating to the murders. As with all information this will be carefully assessed and this is ongoing at this time.”
A statement from Hunt’s lawyer said:
“Mr Hunt denies any involvement in the murders of Terry Gooderham and Maxine Arnold or that he had any role involving shooting and torture with Jimmy Holmes. He also denies that he was involved in any way with any corrupt police officers.”
Maxine Arnold’s mother died without seeing justice. But her remaining family have welcomed the new probe. A relative said:
“It's a good thing that they are looking at it again, hopefully it will come to something. I just feel so sorry for Maxine, she was such a lovely girl and her life was wasted. She would have been 64 in September and she was just 32 when she was taken from us. What happened destroyed her mum who never got over it. She used to say to me how she hoped the killers would be caught before she died but they never were. It was all too much stress for her, her heart was broken.”
And so it goes.