The misdirected passports that showed up at the wrong post box in Algers made me seriously question the death of Richard Bros, the 22nd of November 1970. The passports were clearly meant for two members of the DEFLQ in Algers, and the reference on one of the passports to Dover then Dover again meant that the two passport holders had travelled from France, the Port of Calais, by ferry to Dover on the 31st of October 1970 and returned on the 4th of November, with one continuing through Luxembourg and France on to Basel, Switzerland; the other, no doubt because of a criminal record or being on a Canadian wanted list, required a visa to navigate borders, through Luxembourg and France to Algers. From other information, I was pretty sure of their identities, which we shall later discuss. I was confident that they were the couple who, 5 months later, would murder Mario Bachand in Paris.
Which brings to mind a comment by French writer Martin Monestier, in his book Tuers à Gages, that assassins who apply their talents for a government or a special service can never be comfortable, for a document or testimony that reveals their crime might surface at any time, even years after. A concern for which I have little sympathy.
A terrifying prospect and Basel Switzerland
A terrifying prospect if Richard Bros had been in Paris when the two passport holders were there also, which would suggest that the two had accompanied or followed Bros when he returned to London; shortly before his arrest and death. And if Bros’ death in that Islington Station police station jail, that 22nd of November, 1970, was not suicide, but something else.
Not that the two persons named in the passports were responsible for his death, which took place in a locked police cell. But if the two followed Richard Bros to London, returning from Paris, which seemed likely, they had done so for a reason. A remote possibility, but one that required investigation, that they were part of a plan later replaced by another.
Here is the terrifying prospect. If the above scenario was true, then I might not dealing with a single murder, that of Mario Bachand, perhaps by unbalanced felquists. I might be investigating a hit team, established for that type of action. Hit teams, and the Governments and services that create and maintain them, are scary indeed.
Here’s the reality. Whatever should happen, no one would investigate, no journalist, academic specialist, government official or citizen would ask a question, raise a motion in whatever forum. A deep, impenetrable silence would descend. Night and Fog. That has been my observation and experience.
Of course I had to investigate that aspect, which was why I boarded a Eurostar train from Gare de Lyon in Paris to London. My plan was to go to where Richard Bros had lived and died and ask a few questions. If I were to be fortunate, it would all be explained and I could return to Paris, my mind at ease.
34 Theberton Street, Islington, London
The media reports and the External Affairs messages about the death of Richard Bros said he had assaulted his landlord or landlady, and had been arrested accordingly. Curiously, however, while they gave the date of his death, the 22nd of November 1970, they did not give the date of the alleged assault. A curious and important lacune that I would later come to understand.
I would have to speak with current residents and neighbors of 34 Theberton, to ask a few questions.
Which brought me to a station of the London underground, where I boarded a Northern Line train to Angel Station in Islington. Then a ten-minute walk Along Upper Street, the main thoroughfare, to Theberton Street. There I turned left and saw, a short distance ahead on my right, the Georgian terrace building where I found number 34. It uniquely had a bright red door, the colour of fresh blood. I approached, climbed two steps, raised and let fall the large brass knocker.
The Swiss Psychiatrist
The door opened and a middle-aged woman stood before me. She had a serious mien, not unfriendly but serious. I excused my presence and explained that I was writing about a death, related to her address, 25 years before. Would you mind if I ask you some questions, and could I trouble you by having a look at the interior, just inside. She kindly invited me in, someone perfectly unknown to her, an act of extraordinary generosity.
The interior layout of 34 Theberton
The entranceway opened onto a medium sized room with dark wood paneling. On my right were stairs going down to a below-ground room, where Richard Bros had resided; on the far side was a banister and a small table with a black telephone. Beyond the banister were stairs going up.
Almost certainly, the black telephone, from it’s 1960’s style, was the same telephone that played an important role in the death of Richard Bros, a topic to which, in a future post, we shall return.
These details, and my experience inside 34 Theberton, would be important to my inquiries, because I would later have access to official documents, and to witnesses that told me precisely what took place there. The events that led to Richard Bros to Islington Station, and there to die. And how, precisely, he did so.
A helpful retired academic
I asked the Swiss woman if she know of neighbors who were living there in 1970. She did not but referred me to a woman three doors down, who possibly did so. I thanked her very much and proceeded to the door she had referred me to and again knocked. The woman who answered immediately invited me to enter and soon we were having tea and biscuits, sitting together on the sitting room sofa. An American retired academic, friendly and helpful. The informed me that the woman I had just spoken with at number 34, with the blood-red door, was a doctor, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, from Basel Switzerland, someone who had recently lost her only child, a young man, by suicide. An event so terrible that no doubt my questions about Richard Bros were a hammer blow to her. An event that explained the unique blood-red door, all the other front doors being black.
Suffering, at times, has an associated colour.
If she is to read these lines, I beg her forgiveness.
No, the American academic she was not living there in 1970. Was there anyone who had? I asked. “Oh Tony was here then”, she said, “and he knows everything about people here. Go see Tony”, pointing to a house directly opposite on the other side of Theberton.
The Swiss landlord, and Basel Switzerland
I thanked her, hurriedly crossed the street and knocked on the door. There was no answer. After a minute or two waiting, I turned to leave when a man approached and clearly it was he. Soon we were together in his kitchen discussing 34 Theberton, Richard Bros and the events of 1970. I asked him about the story of the fight between Richard Bros and the landlord which, according to media and official accounts, led to his arrest. “Oh that’s quite impossible,” Tony said. “They never met.”
“Who was the landlord”, I asked?
Tony replied, John McKeown, professor of music theory, Basel Switzerland. More particularly, at the renowned Musik-Akademie der Stadt Basel.
Basel Switzerland, beautiful city on the Rhine, has an history going back over 1000 years, and can, with good reason, be called the cultural and intellectual capital of the country. One particular aspect is that, because Switzerland is neutral, is a major banking centre, and because Basel is bordered by both France and Germany, it has traditionally been the playground of special services of many countries.
I called McKeon in Basel Switzerland that afternoon. He confirmed that he had owned 34 Theberton at the time Richard Bros lived there. He also confirmed what Tony had told me, that he had never met Bros. “I don’t know how he got in there”, he said. “He never payed the rent.” He said that a Swiss man had rented the residence, and had others sublet. Mostly Swiss students.
“What was his name?”, I asked.
“I’m sorry, I don’t remember.”
Which I did not believe for even a moment. Later I found to be a well-founded disbelief, not only because of Professor McKeon’s acute intelligence but because the ‘landlord’ in question was a well-known figure in Basel.
A topic we shall further discuss in a future post.
Which meant that I would eventually have to spend time in Basel Switzerland, Zurich also, chasing down ghosts from the past. And return to France, and visit Sommières, in the French Midi, the birthplace of Richard Bros, also to ask a few questions.
I was certain, although I did not yet have the evidence, that the murder of Mario Bachand in Paris and the death of Richard Bros in London were, in some deep, mysterious and frightening manner, linked.