30th April 1979
Murder suspects steal visitor’s boat from St Peter Port
The theft of a boat from St Peter Port alerted authorities to a pair of potential murderers.
The 42ft luxury yacht, called Memel, had been moored in Guernsey by its German owner, who was holidaying on the island. Nobody saw who had taken it, but a white Citroen car was abandoned close to the site of the theft.
The car had been seen leaving the scene of a murder in Surrey the previous week. It was then spotted on the ferry from Weymouth.
The chief suspects were antique-dealing brothers, Jason and Nicholas Richards, both in their early 20s. The victim, Thames Water engineer John George, had been tied up and shot in woodland near Dunsfold. The suspects were also being sought in connection with two armed raids on restaurants using a .22 rifle and a sub-machine gun.
Interpol, the navy and French coastguard were all called in to help with the search for the £60,000 boat, which had sufficient fuel onboard to sail 600 miles.
That wasn’t enough to get them as far as their parents’ house in Minorca, but Surrey police nonetheless travelled to the island to interview them.
Interception, arrest and trial
The brothers’ escape didn’t last long. They ran into trouble on a sandbank off the coast of Brittany and were arrested by three lorry-loads of French police.
The Foreign Office immediately put in an application for their extradition to the UK. Magistrates at Guildford approved the warrant 10 days later, but it still took until 22 August for them to be flown back to Britain.
When the trial reached court, the brothers pleaded not guilty. They claimed they’d gone for a walk and returned to their car to find some of their clothes missing. They hadn’t reported the theft to police because their illegal firearms were still in the vehicle. When they repacked their car, they noticed that the barrels of the weapons had been sawn off. At that point they decided to leave the country, taking the weapons with them.
They claimed to have first heard about John George’s death on the stolen yacht’s radio.
Ultimately the brothers turned against each other in court, and their claims of innocence were unsuccessful. They were jailed for life on 8 May 1980.
What else happened in Guernsey in April?
A body on a beach, an impossible alibi and an unstoppable race against time!
Check out the first book in The Sarnian series, set on the Channel Island of Guernsey.