Cell 4

The evidence room
A sniffer otter?

On October 12th 1984 the Grand Hotel on Brighton seafront was bombed by the IRA. Their intention was to kill Margaret Thatcher and as many of her cabinet as they could. It was the closest any group of terrorists had come to achieving this since Guy Fawkes and his colleagues in 1605.

Paul Solis

I had a group on a recent tour who were very interested in cell 4  ( the Grand Hotel ) and especially the registration card, filled out by Patrick Magee under the false name, Roy Walsh. Interestingly there was a Roy Walsh, a known Provisional, who was serving a life sentence at that time. Such a seemingly insignificant piece of paper, but one which played a huge part in his capture. Investigators had to trawl through the registration cards of every guest who had stayed at the hotel and check addresses etc. The card filled out by Magee revealed a false address and of course, became significant in the investigation. Not only did handwriting experts reveal that the suspect Magee could have filled it out, but the card was also examined by forensic science investigators. ( Forensic science is the application of science to the law)

It’s believed that the only time Magee did not wear gloves or similar, whilst in the hotel, was when he filled out that card. Not surprising  as it was a late summer day in September. Possibly the warmth of the weather coupled with adrenalin and nerves, meant that his hands were moist with sweat.

Generally, fingerprints are developed on smooth surfaces such as glass and painted surfaces. Paper however, is treated by dipping the article in a bath of ninhydrin, a chemical solution which turns the amino acid left by fingers touching the paper purple and therefore visible. It wasn’t unusual to find washing lines of paper exhibits such as cheques etc used in crimes, hanging in the examination room and laboratory of the Scenes of Crime Dept.

A latent right palm mark together with a left little finger mark were found on the card. These marks matched fingerprints taken from Magee after he had been convicted of three offences as a juvenile. Magee has never accepted that the fingermarks are his.

Find out the truth behind the events

How did Mrs Thatcher escape unhurt?

How close did the IRA come to achieving their aims?

What evidence led to the arrest of Patrick Magee?

How did the police reconstruct the events leading up to the bombing?

What future plans did Patrick Magee have in the pipeline?

Why did the IRA want to murder Mrs Thatcher?

Did they really believe planting the bomb was a good idea?

The last three Labour Party conferences held in Brighton were assigned the prefix Otter. One of the officers working on the planning for the operation had a garden ornament of an otter which she donated to the planning team as a mascot, which you can see in the corner of the cell dedicated to the Grand Hotel bombing. The otter was given the name Maj (pronounced Madge) being the initials of the officer in charge of the entire operation,  Chief Superintendent Mark Anthony Jordan, later promoted to Assistant Chief Constable. All personal associated with the conference who had access to the immediate area had to have a special pass and MAJ was no exception!

This page was added by Paul Beaken on 27/04/2012.

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