Organist murder may be revenge (11.12.99)

The Times (London), 11th December 1999
by Stewart Tendler

An elderly church organist who was abducted and murdered may have been killed in a revenge attack related to paedophile activities, police sources said yesterday.

As detectives continued to question three men and a juvenile, police sources suggested that the victim, John Smith, 72, may have had paedophile links. When armed police raided a flat in Islington, North London, on Wednesday night, Mr Smith’s body was discovered hidden in a cupboard. He is believed to have been strangled.

Mr Smith, who lived alone in St Leonards-on-Sea in West Sussex and was a bachelor, was assistant director of music at Monkton Combe School, in Bath, in the late 1950s. It is believed that his parents both lived in a nursing home in the area, although his mother recently died. A spokesman for the school said it was believed that Mr Smith had a “behind the scenes” role and would not have been involved in direct teaching.

Mr Smith was well known in his home town for being the organist at a number of churches in Hastings and St Leonards.

The Rev Iain Morrison, rector of the Hastings Old Town parish, said: “What has happened to him is all very mysterious. I can’t think of any reason for him to have been abducted. It’s all very sad.” The Rev Bernard Crosby, for whom Mr Smith played the organ the day before he died, said: “I liked him a great deal. He was very upright, very steady. He used to get on with his job, a very quiet unassuming man. I don’t know what could have happened, he was just not that sort of person.”

The case is now the centre of an inquiry, directed by the Police Complaints Authority, into how the kidnap was investigated.Officers from Sussex, Surrey and the Yard were involved in the case, but the inquiry is likely to centre on how Surrey officers, who were in overall charge, controlled it.

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