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The Cofton Park Murder and Police Attitudes


Trevor talks about the murder of David Leonard Palmer, a young gay man, on 17th May 1964 and the repercussions it had for the still underground gay community. “I was coming back from London (after the May Bank Holiday) and a friend of mine had broken his leg, I took him into Birmingham in the back of the van and he was all in plaster, and we sat in the Imperial Hotel all night, and it was strange, not many people were in. The Police were looking for somebody with his leg in plaster and somebody came up to us and said, ‘Excuse me sir, have you ever seen this man?’, and I looked at it (the photo) and thought ‘Oh my God’, and he’d been murdered in . I must confess I said ‘No, I don’t know him’ - you’re frightened of things like that, It was still underground because the law (Sexual Offences Act 1967) hadn’t been passed. It was surprising how the Police got to know where you were at and where you live. The Police were so amazed that we didn’t know anyone’s last name, it was just Peter, John etc. They couldn’t get over this; they didn’t realise how many gay people there were in Birmingham I don’t think. Later, a group five of us went down Steelhouse Lane and told the Police what we knew, that we knew this person, we used to call him ‘Welsh Wendy’ but I think his name was David, he was a lovely little man. He was going out with this chappie – we saw him in the theatre 2 or 3 days before it happened, and he was with him then but I didn’t know him, couldn’t tell anything about him, but why it happened I don’t know”.

“But from that, the Police came to my home and talked to me about it and also came to interview me at work, made quite a show of it, which I thought was awful. They asked my employers where I was and they pointed me out, and they obviously told these employers or the foreman what it was all about, because it went round the factory. I found that very upsetting, because they couldn’t care less about you, or what they said. This was how the Police could be, it’s quite changed today. Previously at work it wasn’t out in the open, people may have had an idea, but there was no such thing then as ‘coming out’, that was way ahead in the future”.

Aftermath of murder and Police investigation

Trevor explains the repercussions of the Cofton Park murder and the Police investigation. “That killed the gay scene completely, the bars were empty. We didn’t go to town for a long while; we used to go to Stratford and places like that, but gradually we came back into town, and it all blew over. It was the fact that Police were there and they used to question people, they came round the bars for ages, trying to find things out, we couldn’t tell them anything because we didn’t know. They got someone but I think he got away with it, they didn’t tell you much then”.

Contributed by: Trevor Hall, 76

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