Friday, January 24, 2014
This bear was photographed doing a dance because he was so happy to see his sister after a long absence in Russia. Photos taken by Nikolai Zinoviev
These photos below were taken by Rick Collins in Alaska as a baby grizzly gets a ride from mom
Recently I watched a documentary about a man who had murdered his female co- worker. He did it because she was promoted over him. Even though the police felt he did it, the first chance to get him indicted failed because the validity of the search warrant did not cover the basement of the house which excluded vital evidence in the case; this and DNA evidence then not being what it is today did not help either. His defense lawyer, commenting about that first attempt, smugly declared that he had always loved the challenge while happily boasting that “We had won”.
The second time around several years later, on a re-trial, the accused man was convicted of second - degree murder. His lawyer lost that the re-match, for that is what it always was and ever is: a game.
When I saw this pantomime play out on the TV screen, I could only think of Barry Scheck of the OJ Simpson trial. I believe it was only after that infamous trial that he started to find his conscience and become again what a lawyer is meant to be before it became a game and before all ethics, truth and facts went out the window, and is also when he found that 1 can be the loneliest number.
Since the trial, it is a paradox that Scheck is using the science of DNA now to get those wrongly convicted out of jail, after making sure that OJ, who should have been in jail because of it, got out too.
He threads the boards of shame in fine sackcloth cut from the finest tailors to wash and cleanse his guilt so that he will be remembered for all the good that he did. Yet, it is the stain of what that was, a stain so great where he laughed at all of us, that it will be the only thing to stay in the publics mind and the rest of his actions will be forgotten and interred with his bones.
Struggling debtors considering an application to the Personal Insolvency Service should consider the experience of Sean, a haulier who fell on hard times during the recession.
Burdened with debts of €720,000 after his business collapsed, Sean was declared bankrupt in June, three months short of the new Insolvency Service opening for business. The Insolvency Service has taken over the management of his debt.
Until he emerges at the other side of bankruptcy in three to five years' time, all of his financial affairs are under the control of officials at the Insolvency Service, who allow him a monthly budget to live on and take the rest to repay his creditors.
Sean doesn't want to give his real name because he is lucky enough to have found a steady PAYE job and doesn't want to jeopardise it. But he's willing to flag up his own experiences for other budding applicants to the Insolvency Service.
It's no walk in the park, he warns, but the fact that he is dealing with his €750,000 debt has taken a load off his mind.
"I can absolutely say it was the start of a new era," he says. "I worried about this thing day and night."
When his business folded, he languished for several months without an income, because like most self-employed people, he didn't qualify for the dole. His land was repossessed by the banks and he handed back his fleet of trucks to the finance companies who had lent him the money to buy them. His marriage broke down and he left the family home. The mortgage, which is in his name, is significantly in arrears.
He was lucky enough to find a job that pays him more than €500 a week after tax. But he didn't have a hope in hell of paying off a €750,000 debt. He felt bankruptcy was his only option.
So in June, he was declared bankrupt, and his debts were taken under thewing of the newly formed Insolvency Service of Ireland.
Within a month, he was called in for a formal interview with two officials who "put a tape recorder in front of me", he said. "They started off with my name, my address, where I went to school, my first, second, third, fourth jobs . . . A life history."
Then it was down to the nitty gritty of his living expenses and how he could cut back on them. After much laborious itemising of his day-to-day expenditure, the Insolvency Service came back with a plan.
Sean thought he might get away with paying back €100 a month to his creditors but the Insolvency Service proposed he should cut his living expenses to just over €1,000 a month, with it taking €1,046 to repay his creditors.
Sean says the plan is unworkable. For instance, it allows him €20 a month for car insurance but he says the cheapest he can get is €60. He thought it was a joke when he saw an allowance of 79 cent a month on personal expenditure.
Sean claims the €2,000 plus he earns each month is rapidly eaten up by the costs of going to work each day – a 55-mile journey each way from his home in the West to his job in the midlands.
He spends €400 on diesel; €430 on rent; €144 on drugs for medical ailments; €50 a month on his GP visits – vouched for in a letter from his doctor; €60 on his ESB; another €60 on his car insurance and €500 on his car.
He doesn't drink and he doesn't smoke. As a separated man who probably isn't the best at looking after himself at home, he spends €10 on "dinner" every day and "makes do with a cup of tea" when he gets home at night. "As I treat I might have a tin of pears, if they're on special offer," he says. "I don't have a social life. There is no excess money."
Sean is appealing the living expenses set for him through the Insolvency Service's appeals system. But the financial plan it comes back with is the one he'll have to live by.
Even if the family home is sold, his interest in it has passed to the official assignee. Such are the realities of living under the rules of bankruptcy.
Despite the hardship, he plans to see it through. "I can carry on with it and hopefully I will be discharged in three years," he said. "I look at this as a big weight off my shoulders. I can talk about it. I am not ashamed of it. We figured that the best way forward for me was to get the bankruptcy in. It seemed to be the right way to go. I'd say I have done the right thing."
To others in financial trouble, he has this to say: "Sort it out. Go to see someone. Because if you don't, it will get on top you."
By F Meehan
Thursday, January 23, 2014
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Fingers just get in the way': Incredible jewellery designed and crafted by woman who was born without digits on her hands
• Annette Gabbedey, 48, is a goldsmith who creates intricate works of art
• She uses no special equipment to create rings, earrings and necklaces
• Frome-based jeweller says family always encouraged her to 'get out there'
• She trained at Hatton Garden in London before moving to Somerset in 1990
• Mrs Gabbedey, whose pieces sell for thousands of pounds, says: 'I'm quite normal and not disabled at all.'
A talented jeweller whose creations sell for thousands of pounds has told how she manages to create her intricate ornaments despite having no fingers.
Annette Gabbedey, 48, creates delicate rings, earrings and bracelets, inset with with diamonds, opals and other precious stones in her workshop in Frome, Somerset.
But the expert goldsmith, who was born without fingers, uses no special tools to help her work and says she cannot imagine how people with fingers manage to do it.
+12Shop: The goldsmith runs her own studio and boutique in Frome's picturesque Catherine Hill
Mrs Gabbedey said: 'I'm quite normal and not disabled at all. But I do appreciated that people are fascinated by me being able to create something.
'Making jewellery is very tactile, and something you do with your hands, and people ask how I manage to create jewellery, let alone the day to day things.
'My answer to that is: "How do you manage with fingers?", because they must get in the way.'
Mrs Gabbedey, who says she was always encouraged by her family to 'get out there and sort it out', studied jewellery-making at school and college before training amongst the jewellery experts of London's Hatton Garden.
She moved to Somerset 24 years ago, and now has a reputation as one of Britain's finest craftsmen and opal specialists.
She said: 'It is just your own perception of how you look at yourself, and for me I was born like it, sod I have never known anything different.
Mrs Gabbedey tucks a file under her leather wrist strap when she needs to file a piece of jewellery down
Exquisite work: This white-gold ring features a 4.5mm Tanzanite surrounded by brilliant cut diamonds
Covetable jewels: Mrs Gabbedey creates delicate pieces featuring diamonds and emeralds, among others
The jewellers wears a leather wrist strap under which she slides files if she needs them, and also has a vice to hold pieces while she works on them.
She said: 'I just find a different way of doing things. I have sensitivity all the way through my hands - I can feel everything I am touching and I have got quite a lot of movements in my hands.
'It really is just fingers that I am missing. I've got the joints and the movements which means I have got the dexterity to be able to hold small items.'
The jeweller has earned a reputation as a leading opal specialist - this ring features an opal set in yellow gold
Mrs Gabbedey made herself an opal and diamond necklace worth £25,000 to celebrate 21 years of trading
She said: 'They need to learn at a young age that this is normal, and this world is made up of all different types of people.
'People see my work first, and then they see me and think "Well, she can make this", so it's not really a question.'
The most expensive piece she has ever made was a £25,000, 18 carat yellow and white gold boulder opal and diamond necklace, which she made for herself to celebrate 21 years of trading.
She said: 'Lots of people have challenges of different types and mine, I suppose, is my hands.
'But I don't really see then as a challenge - it is just how they are.
The Case Of The Missing Child-Porn Computer Seized by Gardai
A bishop wanted his computer returned. He wrote to Supt Gerry O’Brien of Bailiboro in Sept 2010, requesting that a hard drive seized from the parish house in Kill, Co Cavan, be returned to the diocese. The computer had been taken in the course of an investigation into a priest suspected of child abuse.
The priest, Michael Molloy, was subsequently convicted of child abuse and child pornography, and sentenced to five years in prison. Now, Bishop Leo O’Reilly was requesting a return of the hard drive as, he said, he suspected there might be some evidence of fraud contained in it.
“Computer? What computer?” was the initial reaction in the gardaí. A cursory examination soon established there was no such computer in possession of the force. This was a serious matter. A computer which had been seized from a by-now notorious abuser and child pornographer had gone missing in Garda custody.
Somebody had to be held accountable. And before long, the whole focus bore down on one individual, a turbulent cop who had been making uncomfortable waves, a whistleblower who had broken ranks within the force to report on alleged wrongs.
They came looking for Fr Molloy on Sept 14, 2007. A warrant had been issued by Judge Sean McBride for the search of the parish house in Kill, Cootehill. This followed on from a complaint by a teenager claiming he had been abused and filmed by the priest.
Three detectives, from Monaghan and Bailiboro, attended and searched the house. They took a computer and a TV/DVD set, brought the stuff to Bailiboro station, and handed them over to the exhibits officer. At the station, it was deposited in the property room, and labelled POS1.
The sergeant in charge of the station that day was a man who wishes to remain anonymous, but whom hereafter will be referred to as WB. The following year, he made a series of complaints about individual officers and operations that he felt reflected badly on the force’s professionalism and honesty. Among his complaints was the operation of the penalty points system, which ended up in the Dáil, and was the subject of a series of investigations.
That would all be later. In Sept 2007, there was nothing to distinguish him from his colleagues. A standard chart, drawn up by the exhibits officer, detailing the flow of exhibits, noted that WB had taken possession of the computer.
This would be standard procedure and didn’t infer that WB took physical possession of it. In fact, the exhibits officer wrote in her notebook that she had deposited the items in the station’s property room. WB says he knew nothing of the computer at this stage, and there is no reason why he should, as he had nothing to do with the investigation.
Then the computer vanished. It didn’t just physically disappear. There is no reference to it in the subsequent investigation. There is no record of an inquiry into its disappearance. It wasn’t sent to Dublin for forensic examination, as per strict policy.
There is no reference to it in the file that was sent to the DPP about the priest.
The file prepared for the DPP, and seen by the Irish Examiner, does state that the warrant, which was used in searching the parish house, was defective. Therefore, any evidence taken from the house would have been inadmissible.
This scenario had played out in the case of Judge Brian Curtain, who had been charged with possession of child pornography. His trial in Apr 2004 had collapsed over a defective warrant. If such a scenario were to unfold a few years later in a case involving a child-abusing priest, it would have been highly embarrassing for the force.
In any event, the evidence from the parish house was not crucial. Molloy pleaded guilty in Nov 2009 at Cavan Circuit Criminal Court to two counts of defilement and possessing images of the abused teenager.
He was sentenced to five years, and that was the end of the existence of the computer, or so it seemed, until the bishop came calling.
After being contacted by the bishop on Sept 21, 2010, Supt Gerry O’Brien of Bailiboro carried out an initial investigation which established that there had been a computer. The responsibility for such an item would rest with the officer leading the investigation, and certainly not the officer in charge of a station where it was deposited.
According to the Garda Síochána Charter: “The responsibility for any property seized lies with the member in charge of any such investigation.” Yet, pretty soon, the focus was on the sergeant in charge of the station at the time of the investigation, the turbulent cop, WB.
The first he heard of the computer was a letter from Supt O’Brien asking whether he had any knowledge of POS1. He didn’t know anything about it, and wouldn’t be expected to.
What happened thereafter in the quest to track down the computer is unclear. There is no record of any investigation into what actually happened to a hard drive that could likely contain child pornography. There is no record of interviews with the officer who led the Molloy case. There is absolutely nothing to suggest that there was a proper investigation into what exactly had happened a dangerous and sensitive piece of evidence.
However, the process of fingering somebody to blame gathered momentum. In early 2012, a superintendent was appointed to investigate “an alleged breach of discipline” by WB, arising from the “loss of a computer”.
It had effectively been decided that WB was the man at the centre of the affair, and it was now a question as to whether there was enough proof to discipline him.
Det Supt Tom Maguire, from the Special Detective Unit in Dublin’s Harcourt Square, was appointed to determine whether WB should be disciplined. He would eventually report that he “carried out a full and thorough investigation into this allegation against... WB”.
There is no reference in his report to any interviews, other than with WB. There is no reference to asking any officers involved in the case: “What happened the computer?” There is no reference to asking any officers: “Why was there no mention of the computer in the file prepared for the DPP?” There is no reference to any prior investigation establishing what had happened.
In fact, there is no reference to even obtaining statements on the matter from the officers involved in the case. Supt Maguire notes that he sought statements from three named gardaí. “These statements were supplied for the Fr Molloy investigation and were later obtained by Supt O’Brien in his initial investigation into this matter.” The statements referred to had actually been taken some three years previously when the priest was being investigated.
In other words, the only statements used in investigating responsibility for the disappearance of the computer were those prepared back before the disappearance became an issue.
Nowhere in his report does Supt Maguire make any reference to interviewing or obtaining a statement from the detective who actually led the initial investigation. Under the Garda Charter, this man would bear ultimate responsibility for seized property.
Instead of inquiring what exactly happened, the focus was on deciding whether there was evidence that WB was culpable.
Supt Maguire met with WB and arranged for a formal interview. After a few false starts, the interview went ahead in a Midlands hotel. According to the report compiled by the superintendent, WB was responsible for most of these delays.
However, the Irish Examiner understands that WB disputes this version and claims that 10 adjournments were initiated by Supt Maguire. The whistleblower also claims the whole process was dragged out for an inordinate length of time.
At the interview, WB was accompanied by a representative of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors.
By then, WB had been alerted by other members in the force as to what exactly was afoot. He made inquiries into the original investigation, and established that there appeared to be little or no record of the computer. He was shocked, but decided to fight to protect himself.
He requested of Supt Maguire copies, statements, and interviews that had formed part of the investigation into the missing computer. Natural justice would demand no less. He also requested sight of case conference notes from the investigation into the priest, which might give a clue as to what had actually happened the computer.
Sharing this information would be a matter of course in any legal process which involved potential discipline. Natural justice would demand no less. Supt Maguire referred the request to the head of legal affairs in the force. Eventually, word came back that no information of that nature was to be forwarded to WB.
By then, WB had taken legal advice. A legal opinion, provided to him by counsel, outlined what was afoot.
The lawyer wrote: “I think we are all agreed the investigation has most likely been promoted by virtue of the fact that ‘WB’ availed of the confidential reporting regulations and charter. Indeed the investigation has all the hallmarks of a shambolic exercise.”
Had WB been disciplined thereafter, it is likely that a High Court challenge could have been mounted citing unfair procedure, opening up a vista in which the dirty linen of the case might be aired in public.
In the end, Supt Maguire decided that no action was warranted.
He reported: “Having regard to all the foregoing and specifically the obvious inconsistency in the evidence of [the exhibits officer], the only evidence against ‘WB’, I believe that finding ‘WB’ in breach of discipline in this case would be unsafe.”
If WB had not been alerted by colleagues as to the actual existence of the computer, and thus prompted to make inquiries as to what had happened, he would have had no defence, and would therefore probably have been subjected to sanction.
If he had been disciplined, it is likely that the whole affair would have ended up in the media. Headlines with “whistleblower”, “discipline”, and “missing child porn computer”, would, for the casual reader, tell their own story. His credibility would have been compromised, and his good name smeared.
According to a spokesman for the diocese of Kilmore, they last recorded contact with the gardaí a week after the bishop’s written request for the return of the computer.
The spokesman said there may have been a call from the gardaí, relaying that the computer was missing, but there was no official contact.
Questions remain about the computer. How could it, and any reference to it, disappear? Why, when the bishop came calling, was the detective who headed up the investigation not even formally interviewed? And who is responsible for property seized?
It might well also be asked whether the whole action against WB had any real foundation, or whether it was merely as a result of WB blowing a whistle on errant behaviour within the force.
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Two whistleblowers in the gardaí have been subjected to disciplinary action in highly unusual circumstances after their respective decisions to speak out on what they saw as malpractice within the force.
Both men believe the actions taken against them were entirely due to their status as whistleblowers. One of the officers, John Wilson, has since retired, but the second, a serving sergeant, is to give evidence to the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday on an investigation into cancelled penalty points.
The serving officer was subjected to a disciplinary action in relation to a computer seized from a paedophile priest, and suspected of containing child pornography images, which went missing.
Although the sergeant had nothing to do with the investigation in which the computer was seized, he was the only officer subjected to disciplinary action in relation to the loss. One barrister who examined the case offered a legal opinion that: “I think we are all agreed the investigation has most likely been promoted by virtue of the fact that [whistleblower’s name] availed of the confidential reporting regulations and charter. Indeed the investigation has all the hallmarks of a shambolic exercise.”
The sergeant fought the charge and highlighted the shortcomings in the internal investigation. In the end, it was decided that disciplining him would be “unsafe”, but he emerged from the process shocked that it could have linked him, even in a tenuous manner, with child pornography.
The other whistleblower, former officer John Wilson, was disciplined last year before he left the force on the basis that he had appeared in court while off-duty. He was asked to account for his presence in a case in Cavan. There was no allegation he had done anything wrong in being there, but when he refused to account for his actions while off-duty he was subjected to a disciplinary process.
Wilson initiated legal action against the findings of the internal process and the High Court is due to rule on his application in the coming weeks. Both cases once again highlight issues as to the treatment of whistleblowers within An Garda Síochána. Wilson retired from the force last July, after what he described as being subjected to constant harassment since he had gone to the confidential recipient.
By Michael Clifford (no relation)
Monday, January 20, 2014
The Great Escape murders: How the Nazi slaughter of escaped heroes led to one of post-war Europe's biggest manhunts
By SIMON READ
Immortalised in the film The Great Escape, the mass breakout from PoW camp Stalag Luft III on March 24-25, 1944, was swiftly followed by terrible retribution – the cold-blooded murder of 50 recaptured prisoners, on Hitler’s direct orders
Fifty of the Allied airmen who tunnelled out of Stalag Luft III were executed in chilling scenes like this. In 1946, RAF Special Investigation Branch officers reconstructed the murders of Squadron Leader Thomas Kirby-Green and Flying Officer Gordon Kidder near Zlín, Moravia, (above). Gestapo officer Erich Zacharias was hanged for his role
On March 29, 1944, Australian Squadron Leader James Catanach and three fellow Allied airmen found themselves languishing in a Nazi prison just a few miles short of the Danish border.
After being prisoners inside Stalag Luft III, a notorious PoW camp located 100 miles south-east of Berlin, freedom had seemed so close just days before.
Two years after being shot down over Norway, Catanach had been part of the most daring escape of the war. Some 76 Allied airmen had tunnelled out, before attempting to disperse across Europe and escape back to Britain.
The 22-year-old Aussie spoke fluent German and believed – wrongly, as it transpired – that he had a reasonable chance of making it to neutral Sweden.
Catanach and Arnold Christensen of the Royal New Zealand Air Force had managed to make their way to the railway station at Sagan, the town nearest the camp, and catch the express to Berlin. They spent the night in the capital, avoiding detection, and purchased train tickets to Flensburg.
It was here, in this ancient city on the Baltic coast, that they were spotted and arrested.
Now, with Christensen and fellow escapees Hallada Espelid and Nils Fuglesang, Norwegians with the Royal Air Force, Catanach sat wondering what awaited them. They assumed the Germans would return them to a prison camp, as was normal protocol.
STILL IN THEIR ESCAPE CLOTHES: Photographs of (from left) Lieutenants Hallada Espelid and Nils Fuglesang, Norwegians with the RAF, Australian Squadron Leader James Catanach and Pilot Officer Arnold Christensen of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, taken by the Kriminalpolizei shortly after their arrest in Flensburg in March 1944. All four were murdered by the Nazis
But that afternoon, Major Johannes Post of the Gestapo and his comrade Oskar Schmidt arrived to question the quartet.
Post, 38 years old and a stocky five-and-a-half-feet tall, was an ardent Nazi, fanatical in his loyalty to Hitler and intimidating to all who knew him.
The interrogation proving futile, the prisoners were handcuffed and marched to the waiting cars outside. Post took custody of Catanach in his car and set off with his driver, eyeing his captive in the rear-view mirror. Out in the countryside, where the road curved sharply to the right, the Mercedes came to a halt.
Catanach was told to get out and cross the road, where a gate opened into a meadow. Without uttering a word, Post then pulled a Luger 7.65mm pistol from his pocket and shot Catanach between the shoulder blades, killing him instantly.
As Post pocketed his weapon, the second car arrived. Schmidt ordered his driver to pull in behind the Mercedes. The journey back to Sagan, he told his three prisoners, would take several more hours. The men would be wise to relieve themselves.
Schmidt and his two partners marched the prisoners across the road. One of the airmen saw a dark object lying in the grass. The realisation that it was Catanach drew a panicked scream.
Frances McKenna had been a detective-sergeant in Blackpool, where his dedication had earned him the nickname 'Sherlock Holmes'
All three jumped backward and tried to scramble away before three gun reports echoed across the meadow.
Two of the airmen fell lifeless; the third hit the ground but struggled, opening his mouth as though wanting to speak. Post approached the airman and put a bullet in his head.
Built on Hermann Göring’s orders, Stalag Luft III sat in a clearing in pine forest 200 miles south of Germany’s Baltic coast. The camp holding Allied airmen was designed to be escape-proof. The barracks were set on stilts.
Concrete pilings that served as foundations for each washroom and kitchen were dug into the earth. Prisoners would have to dig through these before they even hit soil.
And the Germans sank microphones 10ft underground to pick up the sounds of any subterranean activity.
Squadron Leader Roger Bushell was 32 years old when he arrived in 1942. He had already been a prisoner for two years and had a reputation as a veteran escape artist.
Assuming command of the escape committee, Bushell hatched a plot to break out 250 inmates.
The audacious plan called for the simultaneous digging of three tunnels named Tom, Dick and Harry. To avoid the microphones, vertical shafts would be dug 30ft down before horizontal digging commenced.
To reach the cover of the nearby forest, he estimated that tunnels would have to reach at least 200ft.
Disaster struck in September 1943 when Tom was discovered, but by March 1944 it was thought Harry – at 336ft – had reached the cover of the trees. The escape was set for Friday, March 24, a moonless evening.
On the night, freezing temperatures had hardened the ground. It took more than an hour to open the exit shaft, only to reveal a near-catastrophe: Harry fell a good 20ft short of the forest, meaning escapees had to risk crawling across open, snow-covered ground to the trees.
By four in the morning, it was decided the 87th man in the tunnel would be the last to go. Above ground, meanwhile, a sentry patrolling the perimeter approached the edge of the woods to relieve himself, only to notice steam rising from the ground.
As he approached, three escapees broke cover with their arms raised high. Startled, the guard fired a single shot into the air.
Armed guards swarmed the compound and eventually a roll call was taken. The numbers tallied were startling. Seventy-six men had escaped.
Hitler’s rage was all-consuming. He summoned SS chief Heinrich Himmler and Reichsmarschall Göring and ordered that all 76 fugitives be executed upon recapture.
Word of such an atrocity, Göring explained, might result in fierce Allied reprisals. Himmler agreed, prompting Hitler to order that ‘more than half the escapees’ be shot. Random numbers were suggested until Himmler proposed that 50 be executed. Hitler ordered his SS chief to put the plan in motion.
The Kriminalpolizei (the criminal-investigations department of the Reich police) issued a Grossfahndung, a national hue and cry, ordering the military, the Gestapo, the SS, the Home Guard and Hitler Youth to put every effort into hunting the escapees down. Nearly 100,000 men needed to defend the Reich were redirected to the manhunt.
By Wednesday, March 29, five days after the breakout, 35 escapees languished behind bars in the cramped cells of the jail at Görlitz, not far south of Sagan.
Those who remained on the run hoped to make destinations in Czechoslovakia, Spain,
Denmark and Sweden. Luck, however, worked against them.
They were seized at checkpoints, betrayed by informants or simply thwarted by freezing temperatures. Before long, all but three of the fugitives were back in captivity.
Two weeks after the escape, the whereabouts of the escapees remained a mystery to the prisoners inside the camp. Just six men had thus far been returned to Stalag Luft III and marched directly into the cooler, the solitary-confinement block.
Murdered in cold blood: A list of the escapees, with photos, who were shot. Among the dead were 25 Britons, six Canadians, three Australians, two New Zealanders, three South Africans, four Poles, two Norwegians, one Frenchman and a Greek
But on April 6, Group Captain Herbert Massey, the senior British officer in the camp, was to learn the fate of so many of his men.
The camp commandant, Colonel Braune, informed him that 41 had been killed while resisting arrest or attempting to escape after being captured; not one had been merely wounded. Braune was unable to look Massey in the eye as he told him the lies.
On April 15, a list identifying the victims appeared on the camp’s noticeboard. The list now contained not 41 names, but 47. Two days later, a representative of the Swiss Protecting Power visited Stalag Luft III on a routine inspection and was given a copy of the list.
Among the dead were 25 Britons, six Canadians, three Australians, two New Zealanders, three South Africans, four Poles, two Norwegians, one Frenchman and a Greek.
The Swiss government then reported the killings to the British government, including three additional victims, bringing the total number of those murdered to 50. Churchill was incensed, and even amid the final push for victory made finding the killers a priority.
‘His Majesty’s Government must record their solemn protest against these cold-blooded acts of butchery,’ Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden told Parliament.
‘They will never cease in their efforts to collect the evidence to identify all those responsible… When the war is over, they will be brought to exemplary justice.’
In August 1945, three months after the Allied victory in Europe, the man to mastermind the hunt for the killers was found. Tall and lean, Frank McKenna had been a detective-sergeant in Blackpool, where his dedication had earned him the nickname ‘Sherlock Holmes’.
He could have spent a relatively safe war in the police, but instead joined the RAF and volunteered to join a bomber aircrew, flying on 30 missions.
He subsequently secured a posting with the Special Investigation Branch (SIB) of the RAF Police, where Group Captain WV Nicholas, the head of SIB, quickly came to admire McKenna’s puritanical work ethic. When the Sagan case file hit his desk, Nicholas knew who to send it to.
In McKenna’s view, the odds of conducting a successful investigation were daunting but not impossible.
His plan was to comb the files of regional war-crimes record offices in the hope of establishing leads.
Despite the obstacles and the sheer numbers involved, McKenna believed the investigation would last several months at most. It was an optimistic assessment.
Joining McKenna in the hunt for those responsible for the 50 murders was Wing
Commander Wilfred ‘Freddie’ Bowes, chief of the Special Investigation Branch, British forces, Occupied Germany.
Powerfully built, he had served in the RAF since 1918, the year it was founded, and didn’t suffer fools gladly.
Their investigation saw them criss-crossing the rubble-strewn landscape of post-war Germany and Europe. Each murder case proved to have its own challenges, as they pursued every clue in the search for justice.
In February 1946, Bowes left for Czechoslovakia to pursue a lead in the murders of Squadron Leader Tom Kirby-Green and Canadian Flying Officer Gordon Kidder.
The two airmen had got as far as southern Moravia in their attempt to reach Hungary before they were murdered. Now, a prisoner called Friedrich Kiowsky had implicated Gestapo officer Erich Zacharias in the killing.
Two years earlier, while working as a driver for the Frontier Police in Zlín, Kiowsky had seen Zacharias take part in the killing of the two Allied prisoners. The handcuffs were taken off the dead men, and everyone present was given the strictest instructions to discuss what had happened with no one.
A Gestapo lawyer later helped witnesses orchestrate their alibis should the International Red Cross launch an investigation. They were to say the two fliers had tried to escape while relieving themselves and were shot at a distance of 20 to 30 metres.
Bowes wanted to see the actual crime scene for himself, so he and a member of his team travelled by jeep until Kiowsky told them to stop.
Bowes pulled the jeep over and surveyed the landscape: open country, with no possible cover for anyone attempting to escape.
Johannes Post at his trial, at the moment the death sentence was passed
A few weeks later, McKenna arrived in the American-held port of Bremen. Records showed that a German national by the name of Erich Zacharias worked as a clerk at the U.S. Army Refrigeration Plant at the docks.
McKenna arranged a U.S. Army military police escort, and that afternoon descended on the docks, where he spotted Zacharias standing outside the refrigeration plant. He was taken under armed guard to an American-run prison while McKenna sought permission to transfer him to British control.
In the interim, however, Zacharias managed to escape, running off and disappearing into the nearby wreckage of a bombed-out building.
Weeks later investigators intercepted a letter addressed to a friend of his and sent American soldiers to storm the return address – a house in Brunswick – where they found the fugitive Zacharias packing for a long trip.
McKenna took Zacharias into custody and placed him in a British holding facility in Minden. A strip search revealed a wristwatch of the kind worn by British aircrews. Zacharias made no attempt to assert his innocence.
On April 5, 1946, McKenna then escorted Zacharias to the London Cage: three large white mansions in Kensington Palace Gardens operated by MI19, the branch of the War Office charged with the interrogation of captured enemy personnel.
Lieutenant Colonel AP Scotland oversaw the facility’s operation. When Scotland received Zacharias at the London Cage, the Gestapo man struck him as being ‘a wild young brute’. McKenna warned the colonel that his new inmate had a penchant for escaping, but Scotland dismissed McKenna’s concerns.
Zacharias was soon transferred to a holding facility at Kempton Park Racecourse in Middlesex. But on the night of May 13, he took his tin dinner plate and began scratching away at the wood surrounding the lock on his cell door, eventually scraping away enough to release the mechanism and escape for a second time.
Officials sounded a national alarm, while the BBC broadcast news of the escape, warning that Zacharias, ‘a Nazi police officer’, was extremely dangerous.
He was not at large for long, for later that morning a member of the public spotted a man hiding in a local park. Zacharias was discovered beneath a bush, nursing a sprained ankle.
By May 1947, the investigation appeared to be winding down. The RAF had tracked down 329 suspects, 23 of whom were directly complicit in the Sagan murders. Two of those individuals were dead by their own hand, and one – Kiowsky – was in Czech custody.
Soon afterwards, the commandant of the holding facility in Minden called McKenna to say that the North West Europe War Crimes Unit had just brought in a man working as a haulage contractor.
The man’s name was Johannes Pohlmann, but he had been identified by a witness as former Gestapo officer Johannes Post. McKenna went to see the prisoner, and pulled from his tunic a picture of Post.
The face was thinner – but the eyes and prominent chin left no doubt in his mind.
His cover blown, Post freely admitted to knowing all about the murders of Catanach, Christensen, Espelid and Fuglesang, adding with apparent pride that he was in command of the execution squad. He even admitted that the last word Catanach had uttered was ‘Why?’
On July 1, 1947, 18 defendants in the Sagan case went on trial at the British Military Court in Hamburg charged with committing war crimes by killing and ordering to kill prisoners of war who had escaped from Stalag Luft III. All the defendants pleaded not guilty.
The defence argued that orders issued by Hitler were legal; disobeying them was not. International law, however, deemed the following of such orders to be illegal, and on September 3, 1947, the court rendered its verdicts. All were found guilty.
Post, Zacharias and 12 others were sentenced to hang.
Six months later, on gallows built by the British Army’s Royal Engineers, the 14 Sagan murderers went to their deaths at the end of a rope, bringing to an end one of the most extraordinary manhunts of the 20th century.