Victor John Terry

John Henry Pull, the son of Albert Edward (a plumber’s mate) and Eliza Pull, was born on 25 June 1899 at Arundel, Sussex. After working as a postman, he joined Lloyds Bank, Durrington, Worthing as a security guard.

Victor John Terry was the son of Alfred (painter and decorator) and Matilda Terry. He hated discipline at school and organised a school gang when he was eight. Eventually his teachers at St. Paul’s School, Brentford, Middlesex, had to ask the local authority to move Terry to a school outside of the area. At his new school in Hanwell, Middlesex, Terry was never caned for disobedience. When he left school, he took up weightlifting and started taking recreational drugs. Terry had the words “Vic.”, “Maureen”, “Knife” and “Mabel” tattooed on his right arm.

On 11 November 1960, a green Wolseley car pulled up outside the Lloyds bank sub-branch in Durrington. The occupants of the car were Alan Alfred George Hosier (age 20) of Hounslow, Middlesex, who was the car’s driver, Victor John Terry (age 20) of Chiswick, Middlesex and Philip Tucker (age 16) of Brentford, Middlesex.

A few minutes past 10am, Terry and Tucker entered the bank; Hosier remained in the car. They walked through the small bank towards the back of the bank. As they glanced around, John Pull emerged from the cloakroom holding a kettle to make the morning cups of tea. Terry was standing just in front of the bank’s safe, Tucker a bit further back along the branch. Pull raised his arm, which the bank clerk later testified was a mannerism that Pull often did before he spoke. As Pull’s arm touched Terry, Terry took a step or two backwards and shot Pull in the head. Tucker then went into the cashiers’ area and grabbed an empty Gladstone bag. In the stress and panic of the situation, the cashier then shouted not that one. Tucker then threw it on the floor and grabbed a cash bag, which contained £1372. Terry and Tucker then left the bank. The cashier rushed to the entrance and saw a green car. He then dialled the emergency number 999, activated the bank’s alarm and waited for the police.

When he heard the bank alarm, greengrocer Maurice Taylor left his shop next door to the bank, and entered the bank. He saw John Pull face down in a pool of blood. He went up to John Pull but it was clear that he was fatally injured.

After the bank raid and abandoning the green car including the gun, Terry, Tucker and Hosier split up and agreed to meet up later at the house of Terry’s girlfriend Valerie Salter (aged 18). They split up the proceeds of the robbery and then left.

The group had agreed to meet at Portsmouth. However, while Hosier and Tucker were waiting at a Worthing bus stop, they were arrested by the police who were suspicious of their behaviour. Once they found that each person had a sizeable amount of cash on their persons, they were both arrested and charged with the murder of John Pull.

Terry and Slater went to Portsmouth, then heading off to Glasgow via London. At 8am they arrived at the Lyndoch Hotel, owned and managed by Miss. Eunice Walker, in Glasgow’s West End. Later that evening, Valerie Salter’s picture appeared on the hotel’s TV as part of a UK-wide alert for Terry and Salter. The manageress contacted the local police, who arrested Terry and Salter in their hotel room. They were then flown back to London and then by road to Worthing, where Terry was formally charged with the murder of John Pull and Salter with receiving £928 of stolen money. Terry was remanded to Brixton prison and Salter to Holloway prison.

The trial of Terry, Hosier, Tucker and Salter opened at Lewes Crown Court on 20 March 1961 before Mr. Justice Stable. The prosecution case was presented by Mr. Geoffrey Lawrence, QC. Terry was defended by Alan King-Hamilton, QC.

The defendants faced the following charges

  • Terry: Capital murder of John Pull in the furtherance of theft.
  • Hosier and Tucker: Non-Capital murder of John Pull.
  • Salter: Harbouring Terry knowing he had murdered John Pull.

All four pleaded not guilty.

Terry’s barrister presented evidence that Terry believed that he was possessed by the spirit of an American gangster named Legs Diamond. His barrister then went on to say that this reduced the charge of murder to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

A London psychiatrist Dr. Arthur Spencer Paterson told the court about an hour’s conversation he had with Terry in January 1961. He said that Terry was not responsible for his actions, as he had a “split mind” – schizophrenia. Terry told him the spirit of Legs Diamond, an American gangster of the 1930s, was in his body. Terry added that he was born to destroy and end the same way. Terry also told Dr. Paterson that he laid awake at night, thinking that I am an alien from another planet. Terry also told that he could foresee events. He said “that in 1960 or 1961 there would be an atonic war or I would hang. My body was from another planet but my mind was from Legs Diamond.”

Cross-examined by the prosecution, Dr. Paterson said that at the time of the bank raid Terry was insane in a medical sense. But he said that Terry knew what he was doing was wrong and agreed that that he was not insane in a legal sense.

The prosecution called the psychiatrist Dr. John Wyndham Pearce of Harley Street and St. Mary’s Hospital, London, to rebut the evidence by the defence psychiatrist. Dr. Pearce told the court that Terry’s possession by Legs Diamond and his alien-space experiences were all fictitious and just play-acting. In his opinion, Terry was not suffering from any form of mental deficiency. Dr. Pearce stated that he thought that Terry “was trying to lead me astray by building up a picture of would-be mental abnormality, such as might led me to say he was suffering from abnormality with a view to obtaining diminished responsibility for his predicament.”

At 3.43pm on 28 March 1961, after deliberating for 163 minutes, the jury, of 11 men and 1 woman, returned guilty verdicts on Terry, Hosier, Tucker and Salter.

Victor John Terry was sentenced to death, Hosier to life imprisonment, Tucker was ordered to be detained during Her Majesty’s pleasure and Salter was placed on probation for one year.

All four appealed their convictions but the Criminal Appeals Court dismissed all their applications.

On 23 May 1961, the Home Office announced that there would be no reprieve for Terry.

On 24 May 1961, Terry saw his parents Alfred and Matilda Terry for the last time. The meeting lasted 95 minutes. According to the Daily Herald, Alfred Terry told their reporter that “his son took their farewells very well. Much better than we did. He asked us to remember him to members of the family.” The Terry’s also had another son Peter (aged 8). He had not been told what was happening to his older brother.

At 8am on 25 May 1961, Victor John Terry was executed in Wandsworth prison. The Home Office announced that the execution went as expected and all was quiet in the prison.

Six months earlier, on 10 November 1960, Terry’s friend Francis Robert George Henry James Forsyth, had been hanged on the same gallows for a murder during the furtherance of a theft.