WE know the Met Police are busy right now for a thousand terrifying reasons. Yet it seemed a raw deal over Christmas that its press operation decided not to mark the 20th anniversary of the murder of one of their own with some sort of renewed appeal to catch a killer.
As cliched and contrived as it may sound, Alan Holmes, the police mechanic who was starved in his own home, is the ghost of NW1’s Christmas past. And it feels like he will continue to be until the thief – or thieves – who broke into his flat in Parkway and tied him face down to his bed at the end of Christmas Day in 1995 has been caught.
He was not found until everybody returned to work in January 1996. He was still conscious and gasped out some sort of account of what had happened, but died from days and nights without food and drink, and the blood clots caused by the tight binds on his wrists. And for what? The culprit or culprits managed to torture his bank pin code from him but escaped with little more than £1,000. In the middle of the season of celebration, in one of London’s busiest postcodes, where life bustled on outside the window, here was the most lonely, horrific deaths.
The New Journal has marked nearly every anniversary since, usually with interviews with detectives talking about how shifting loyalties change over the years; years that are now decades. Given the round figure of this year’s milestone and the fact that Scotland Yard so often marks significant dates in investigations with, at the very least, a press release, we thought the police would help us with a larger article. The response was surprising. No, we won’t be publicising this or making a new appeal, one press officer said. Another suggested we looked at our own archives to put the piece together, as we knew all the details so well. The apparent lethargy all seemed like a bit of leap from the vows early in the investigation that the killer would be hunted down and brought to justice.
In the end, former colleagues spoke to us about how the case still affects them. You may have seen it in the Christmas week edition. Officers who were working out of Kentish Town nick at the time say it felt like a family member had been tortured. The last tenant in the block next to the Odeon which was refurbished to create the building where GAP and the diabetes charity offices now stand, Alan’s cries for help went unheard. It may not count for much, it might not lead to an arrest, but we’ve made the decision over the years that they won’t be unheard in our newspaper’s pages.
Alan died in a hospital bed on January 5 1996; twenty years tomorrow. There is still time for the Met to mark this awful anniversary; it’s reasonable to think that even the simplest of press circulars might encourage the local BBC news, the Evening Standard and other newspapers to run a reminder that the case is unsolved. This is a murder case that, in reality, it is unlikely to be seriously looked at again without a new line of inquiry, without a new clue breaking off from somewhere. An appeal might seem like a token gesture, a shot in the dark, but it’d be something.