Murder of Geoffrey Dean, 1952
Ash Vale station was the scene of one of the most violent
robberies seen on the railways. Booking clerk Geoffrey
Dean trusted his murderer, fellow railwayman John Alcott, and
lost his life after a savage and unexpected attack.
In early August 1952, 28-year-old booking clerk Geoffrey Charles
Dean, lived with his wife and small child in Ash Vale near
On the night of Friday, 22 August 1952, tragedy struck. Geoffrey
was brutally murdered while on duty. He was stabbed 20 times
for the sum of £160.
The murderer, John James Alcott, a 23 year old railway fireman from
Hither Green, London, commenced his annual holiday on Monday 18
August 1952. When he left home on that Monday morning he told his
wife he was going to collect his holiday pay.
Preparing for the crime
Alcott travelled to Aldershot and stayed the night in a hotel,
after purchasing a dagger type of sheath knife. It can be safely
assumed, that he was already planning the murder he committed four
On Wednesday, 20 August, he made the first of several visits to the
Ash Vale booking office, this time enquiring the time of the boat
trains to Dover from Victoria.
Early the following day, he was back again, asking the porter on
duty about a railway lineman before being seen in the porter’s room
cleaning his finger nails with the dagger-type knife.
On the evening of Thursday 21 August, Alcott was again at Ash Vale
booking office, asking to use the service telephone. He showed a
railway pass and was given permission to enter the booking office
to use the telephone.
He left the office but returned there at about 7.10pm where he
stayed, talking to the booking clerk until the office closed at
It would appear he was watching the movements of the staff, and
later remained in the booking office talking to the clerk to see
how the cash was dealt with.
On the day of the murder, Friday 22 August, he was again seen in
the booking office using the telephone, and later at 7.30pm when
booking clerk Dean was preparing to close the booking office.
Dean told the porter that although he was closing the office he
would be working late on his accounts. Alcott was then in the
office and seen by the porter.
The murder takes
Alcott remained in the booking office until the crime was
committed at approximately 8.45pm. At about that time a soldier
went to the booking office, but found it closed. As he stood there,
he heard some shuffling of feet inside the office and what he
thought was two voices.
The soldier saw the notice on informing passengers that tickets
were issued on the platform after 8pm and went in search of the
porter. He thought no more of it until told about the murder early
the next morning and reported what he had heard to the
The murder was discovered at about 8.55pm. A junior porter noticed
a light still on in the booking office, and thinking this unusual,
climbed on the outside sill of the booking office window and,
peering through, he saw the legs of a man lying on the floor in a
pool of blood. He also saw that the safe was open.
The station master was called and ordered the door of the
booking office to be forced open. As he entered, he saw Dean’s body
on the floor, face upwards, covered with blood.
The local police were informed, and officers arrived at the
station at 9.45pm. In a short time Divisional Superintendent
Roberts and other officers, including BTC Police of the South
Western Area were on the scene.
Intensive enquiries began. A police incident room was set up at a
waiting room at Ash station. All hotels and lodging houses in the
neighbourhood were checked.
The morning after the murder, two officers visited a lodging
house in Victoria Road, Aldershot. They went to a first floor
bedroom, and found a blood-stained jacket, a blood-stained wallet
and two 10/- treasury notes badly stained with blood.
The officers were instructed to remain at the premises and
question the owner of the jacket should he return. At 11.15pm that
night, Alcott returned to the room and was arrested. In his pocket
was found a roll of treasury notes.
Alcott said: “That's some of the money,” and made a statement
implicating himself in the crime. He told the officers the knife
was hidden in the chimney of his room. The knife and a number of
railway documents were found there.
The jacket he wore during the murder was found at his lodging,
the trousers had been hidden in some gorse bushes in the
neighbourhood and the shoes had been left at a local shop for
Apart from his admission, a long chain of evidence was built up and
twenty four witnesses, including the soldier, bus conductors,
tradesmen etc. were called to give evidence at the trial.
Dr Arthur Keith Mant, of the Department of Forensic Medicine,
Guy's Hospital, giving evidence on his autopsy of the body, said he
found a stab wound behind the right ear which had severed the
jugular vein and the lingual artery, nine stab wounds in the back
of the chest and seven in the front of the chest, one of which had
been done with great violence and had passed through the breast
bone and the heart. There were also wounds on the face, in the
abdomen, arms and legs.
The director of the Metropolitan Police Laboratory gave evidence
that the blood stains on the jacket, trousers and shoes of the
accused, on the sheath knife and towel in the booking office were
all of the same group ‘O’ as that of the deceased. Also that
maroon-coloured fibres found on the knife were similar to the
fibres of the pullover which Dean was wearing.
Alcott stood his trial on 18 November 1952. He was found guilty
and sentenced to death. His appeal on the grounds of insanity was
dismissed, and he met his due on 2 January, 1953. If he had been
hanged for a previous murder, committed while serving with the Army
in Germany, Geoffrey Dean would have lived.