Liverpool City Police

Cameo Cinema murders

by, chris kelly retired

The Cameo Cinema was a converted Methodist church situated on the corner of Bird Street and Webster road, Wavertree, Liverpool 7.

On the night of Saturday 19th March 1949 the Manager Leonard Thomas and Assistant Manager Bernard Catterall were apparently counting the evenings takings upstairs in an office whilst the feature film “Bond Street” was showing. It was a small cinema of about 200 seats and the takings were around £50 for the day.

The theory is that the gunman burst into the office to rob the takings and both men were shot. In truth nobody knows what happened in that room or why. The money was left behind along with one man dead and another fatally wounded and the gunman was seen to leave wearing a brown overcoat and a scarf wrapped around his face with a hat pulled down over his eyes. He was chased and escaped onto Smithdown Road and away into the night.

The Detective in charge of the case was Herbert Balmer who received information about the alleged offender George Kelly and his accomplice Charles Connolly. Subsequently after two trials, both men were convicted. George Kelly was hanged and Charles Connolly received ten years imprisonment.

In 2003 the convictions for both men were quashed. As a result of a case put forward to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, an appeal adjudicated that a miscarriage of justice had occurred. The main reason for this was a statement found in the archived file by the author George Skelly and local businessman Lou Santangeli who had been researching the case. This was a statement from a witness in prison in 1949 who claimed he had spoken to another man on remand who had admitted the killing to him. The same prisoner witness had later given a further statement stating that he also had conversations with Kelly and Connolly who had also admitted the killings to him. The court had never been made aware of the first statement at the time of the trials and this would almost certainly have acquitted Kelly and Connolly.

The story of the Cameo Case is a complicated one with many players and turns of events. A few books have been written about the case and the most authoratative is “The Cameo Conspiracy” by George Skelly.

The Cameo cinema case remains undetected.

Chris Kelly

Cameo_Cinema - Click to enlarge
cameo_cinema - Click to enlarge
George Kelly - Click to enlarge
police_st_georges_plateau_8_2_1950c - Click to enlarge
Cameo cinema book cover

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