To Encourage The Others By Michael Taylor

Michael wrote this in 1992, having been told me about this case by his father.

               To Encourage The Others 
              By Michael Francis Taylor
"Mummy come and see this", the girl was heard to say
Peering through the curtains at the building 'cross the way
"Look at those two men" she whispered from her room at 74
And minutes later her father slipped quietly out the door.
Down to the nearest police box, he knew just what to say,
Call the Bill and tell them, don't let the buggers get away.
His duty done, he headed home, the police would be there soon,
Then went inside to watch events from the safety of his room,
Outside a Croydon warehouse in the fall of '52
The police arrived upon the scene just like they always do.
Suspects on the roof, they heard, routine stuff they reckoned,
But in this violent playground a deadly nightmare beckoned.
Christopher Craig was up there, his eyes nervous and wide,
With his friend called Derek Bentley, along just for the ride.
Simple-minded Derek, just too easily led, i guess,
Would sooner be home with his cats and dogs than caught up in this mess.
His family had tried to protect him, they knew that Craig was bad,
He'd get them both in trouble and Derek was such a nice lad.
They didn't know where he was or who he was with that night,
And hoped he was home for supper and not caught in some kind of fight.
In the cold night air of Croydon tensions were running high
And from events that November evening two men were destined to die.
On the rooftop of Barlow and Parker Craig was concealing a gun
Now trapped like a dog his blood was up with nowhere left to run.
The coppers moved in to challenge, but Craig backed off defiant,
And as he slipped into the shadows, they made a grab for his client.
Bentley gave in without a fight and the handcuffs made him cry
But they never knew that Craig was armed and soon someone would die.
What happened next is a mystery, as Craig pulled out his gun,
And the world will never really know just what was said or done.
Did Bentley shout "Let him have it Chris!"  or was the cop a liar?
Did those five words incite Chris Craig to pull the trigger and fire?
But whatever was said, the gun was fired, either with fear or intent,
Bentley turned away in fright, this was not how it was meant.
More cops arrived, a shot rang out, and PC Miles fell dead,
But they never found the bullet that struck him in the head.
As Bentley was bundled down the stairs, the cops were moving in,
Craif tried leaping off the roof and they quickly pounced on him.
The rooftop battle was over and there were heroic deeds to tell,
Craig was taken to hospital and Bentley to a cold damp cell.
The trial was set for December, the verdict cut and dry,
Craig was too young for his neck to swing, so Bentley had to die.
"Everyone knows i didn't kill him" poor Derek argued his case,
But the Counsel disbelieved the innocent look on his face.
Although technically under arrest when PC Miles was struck
The judge ignored the evidence, doing everything by the book.
He said they both had pulled the trigger that cold November night,
They both must be found guilty, the verdict must be right.
"To encourage all the others" Judge Goddard stated his view
Sentence had to fit the crime, he told the jury what to do.
And as they found him guilty, you could cut the air with a knife,
Craig would go to prison, but Derek Bentley would lose his life.
Of course, they knew reprieve would come, just a matter of time,
Derek had only been a witness to another man's deadly crime.
The Home Secretary could save him, but he would not grant reprieve,
Whatever new evidence came to light he simply refused to believe.
To the very end there was confusion, hope, doubt and debate.
They tried again for one last appeal but knew it was now too late.
His parents said goodbye to him, knowing what was to follow,
But Derek smiled and shook their hands, "See you all tomorrow".
His Dad had done all he could to ease poor Derek's fear
"I won't let them hurt you Son, you know i'm always here"
And as Derek walked back to his cell on the eve of that fateful date,
Pierpoint watched with expert eyes to calculate his weight.
As dawn broke on that January morn, Derek knelt to pray,
Hanged by his neck until he was dead, his body left to sway.
The crowd outside of Wandsworth were told the deed was done,
While the Bentleys began to grieve for the loss of their oldest son.
Derek knew he was innocent as he walked away to die,
And in a final letter, he asked his parents not to cry.
"Just look after my cats and dogs, and keep them all well fed,
And keep an eye on young Dennis, you know how he's easily led"
He spoke of the truth being told one day, and all the wrongs put right,
And people finally admitting what really happened that night.
"Give my love to Irene" he said, dignified to the very end,
An innocent man accepting his fate and taking the blame for his friend.
Now Christopher Craig is free  to boast of the things he did that night,
And maybe after all these years he can put the record right.
And if one day they grant a pardon for the boy who slipped off track,
To clear his name is one thing, but it can never bring him back.
© Michael Francis Taylor (1992)

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Last updated 13-Sep-09