When kidnappers mistook Muriel McKay for Rupert Murdoch’s wife Anna, the case would go gone down in history as one of the most notorious murder cases of our time and Britain's first kidnapping.
Born in Trinidad in 1955, Arthur Hosein came to England as a tailor’s cutter. After completing his National Service he married a German woman named Elsa. Arthur had dreams of becoming a local squire and in 1967 he borrowed heavily to buy an old farmhouse on the borders of Hertfordshire and Essex. He applied to become a member of the local hunt, but couldn’t ride a horse or afford the subscription.
“We tried to get Rupert Murdoch’s wife. We couldn’t get her so we took yours instead. You have a million by Wednesday night or we will kill her.”
While watching media magnate Rupert Murdoch and his wife Anna on television one night with his 21-year-old brother Nizamodeen, Arthur thought of an easy way to make enough money to pay for the lifestyle he desired. Later they followed Murdoch’s Rolls Royce to a house in Wimbledon thinking they knew where the Murdochs lived, but they were holidaying in Australia.
At 7.45 pm on Sunday 29th December Murdoch’s deputy chairman, Alick McKay was dropped off at his Wimbledon mansion to find the front door open, the lights on and his wife Muriel gone. The phone was pulled out of the wall and the contents of his wife's handbag were strewn over the stairs and a rusty meat cleaver lay on the floor. The fire was still burning.
The police were suspicious that Alick’s 55-year-old wife may have left her husband and they were angered when Alick called the editor of The Sun newspaper, asking him to run the story the following morning.
Several hours later, Alick received a call from a phone box. “We are Mafia M3,” said the male caller, “We tried to get Rupert Murdoch’s wife. We couldn’t get her so we took yours instead. You have a million by Wednesday night or we will kill her.”
The kidnappers thought they had snatched the publishing tycoon's wife, Anna and had no idea that Mrs McKay was using the company's car while the Murdochs were on holiday.
The kidnappers called again saying that Alick would receive a letter from his wife Muriel. The following morning a scribbled note reading, “Please do something to get me home. What have I done to deserve this treatment?” arrived at the McKay’s home.
29th December 1969 - Muriel McKay kidnappedJanuary 1969 - Dutch medium Gerard Croiset consulted6th February 1969 - Bungled ransom delivery1st February 1969 - Bungled ransom delivery14th September 1970 - Hosein brothers found guilty
"It was him"
During the trial at the Old Bailey on 14th September 1970, the Hosein brothers blamed each other, but neither confessed. Arthur Hosein was sentenced to life imprisonment and 25 years for kidnapping, 14 years for blackmail and 10 years for sending threatening letters. Nissan Hosein received the same sentencing, except for 10 years less on the kidnap charge.To this day, no one knows what happened to Muriel McKay, except her killers.
The Drop Off
On 1st February the kidnappers called the McKay’s son, Ian, and told him to bring £500,000 to a crossroads on the A10. A policeman went in his place, but the kidnappers suspected a potential ambush and did not arrive at the meeting point.The 6th February became the new transaction date and the kidnappers insisted Alick and his daughter deliver the money in two suitcases. Detectives were to play the parts once again, with another hidden in the boot of the car.The McKay’s were to go by tube to Epping where they would receive a call, telling them to take a taxi to Bishops Stortford and to leave the money opposite a mini van near a garage, then they were to return to Epping. However, someone who knew nothing about the operation reported the suitcases to the local police.A Volvo had been spotted repeatedly driving past the cases and the number plate led the police to 34-year-old Arthur Hosein of Rook’s Farm in Stocking Pelham on the Hertfordshire/Essex border. Hosein's fingerprints matched those found on the ransom demands. Police scoured the farm for several weeks but could find no trace of Mrs McKay or of what had happened to her.Police were certain Muriel McKay was dead and charged the Hosein brothers with her murder.
Hot off the Press
One of the largest teams of detectives for such an enquiry was pulled together at Wimbledon police station. Meanwhile Alick, his daughter Diane and her husband appealed to the kidnappers on national television.On New Year’s Day the kidnappers called once again asking for £1 million and dismissing Alick’s pleas that he could not raise that amount of money. In desperation he asked an old friend, Eric Cutler, to fly to Utrecht to consult a Dutch clairvoyant who had helped police solve other crimes.
Gerard Croiset told Cutler that Muriel could be found in a white farmhouse in the north or northeast of London. Nearby to where Muriel was being held was another farm and a disused aerodrome and that if she was not found within 14 days, she would be dead.While police searched locally, others scoured the Hertfordshire and Essex borders, but found nothing.More calls demanding the money came, but no instructions as how to deliver it. In an attempt to motivate the kidnappers into giving instructions, the McKay’s doctor went on television claiming that Muriel needed urgent medication and if she did not receive it, she could die.
The Key Figures
Muriel McKay - victimAlick McKay - victim's husbandSir Peter Rawlinson - prosecuting attorneyAnna Murdoch - intended victimArthur Hosein - kidnapperNizamodeen Hosein - kidnapperEric Cutler - friend of the MckaysGerard Croiset - Dutch clairvoyant