Victor John Terry

John Victor Terry
1961 Press Photo Valerie Salter, Court, Sussex Assizes
Wandsworth Prison
My mother attended this school over looking the prison in the 1930s. On the day of an execution all the blinds were pulled down.
Wandsworth Prison
Execution Chamber
Wandsworth Prison
Execution Chamber
A crowd demonstrates outside Wandsworth Prison at the execution of Derek Bentley in January 1953.
Crowds gather to view a notice of execution outside Wandsworth Prison in 1946

This case is often used by the anti-capital punishment lobby to illustrate that capital punishment does not serve as a deterrent.

November 10th, 1960

On November 10th 1960, armed with a shotgun, whilst on his way to hold up the sub branch of Lloyds Bank at Durrington near Worthing in Sussex, Victor John Terry heard on the radio that his friend Francis Forsyth had just been hanged for murder in Wandsworth Prison. Undeterred, Terry continued on his way.

It was a pretty wet, dreary morning when Terry, his girlfriend Valerie Salter and their two accomplices, Philip Tucker and Alan Hosier, arrived at the bank. Andrew Barker the cashier and his colleague John Pull, a 61 year old bank guard, had just opened the bank doors at 10 a.m.

Shortly after, they were startled by Terry and Tucker and appear to have hesitated when ordered to hand over the money. Terry produced the shot gun and whether by accident or design, he shot John Pull who died instantly. Baker handed over £1,372 and watched the men drive off in a small green car, driven by Hosier, before dialing 999.

Hosier, aged 20 and Tucker, aged 17 were arrested shortly after midday and soon confirmed that Terry had been the gunman and that he had fled with Valerie Salter, who had stayed in the car and took no part in the robbery. Both were eventually apprehended in Glasgow on November 13th when their landlady recognised them and informed the police.

29th March 1961

At his trial Terry pleaded ‘diminished responsibility’ claiming that he had been high on drugs and couldn’t remember what had happened. He later claimed that he had been possessed by the spirit of the American gangster ‘Legs’ Diamond.

‘When I get into one of these moods I have to destroy. I know it is wrong but I cannot stop it. I used to do anything I could to hurt people. I wanted to smash everything up. Nobody liked me.

I think one of the gangsters got into me. I am controlled by someone else. It is like a voice you can hear inside.’

The defence argued that he was suffering from schizophrenia, the prosecution, that he was a fraud. Later in the trial he changed his story and said that John Pull had made a grab for the gun and it had gone off accidentally.

‘He grabbed the gun. It was pointing at his legs. I had my finger on the trigger – it went off. All I remember is seeing him fall down.’

Whatever the case, the jury were unimpressed. Terry was found guilty and sentenced to death.

Hosier was jailed for life for non-capital murder, Tucker was detained during Her Majesty’s pleasure because he was still only 17, and Valerie Salter was given a year’s probation for harbouring Terry.

Concerning Valerie, Mr. Justice Stable spoke of the:

‘Frightening decision’ she had to make – when she learned that the Bank Guard had been murdered.. He told her to ‘Go home – back to her friends – and start life afresh.’

25 May 1961

On 25 May 1961, he was hanged on the same gallows as his friend Francis Forsyth at Wandworth Prison

Victor John Terry was a product of the culture of the Teddy Boys who, although not an integral part of the general drugs scene, were dabbling on the fringes. Purple Hearts were relatevely easy to obtain and were fast becoming the favoured drug of the young working class. Terry frequently indulged and also used benzedrex inhalers. No doubt fuelled by Terry’s trial, the use of drugs was fast becoming a hot topic for debate.

As early as October 1960, Lord Hailsham gave a speech where he described:

‘A new age, led by popular idols with the bodies of gods and goddesses and the morals of ferrets.’

Many local residents in Worthing would have been surprised and horrified to read in their papers about drugs rings operating in their sleepy seaside idyll.

Comments about this page

  • Tragic: Victor was a disturbed guy, –obviously was in need of medical help which sadly was not readily available those days.
    We were in the same class at Bordeston school Hanwell.
    He was an up, fun type of guy never causing any trouble at all.
    We fished together on occasion —-the whole episode was tragic for all concerned— RIP

    By Terry Slater (01/03/2018)
  • I`m afraid Victor Terry was NOT hanged by Albert Pierrepoint as stated in the article. Pierrepoint had resigned as the country`s number one hangman in 1956, the hangman who dealt with Terry was Harry Allen assisted by Samuel Plant.

    By Liam McDonald (20/03/2016)

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