Killer called newspaper to confess he battered retired naval officer to death

Newspapers are used to getting unusual telephone calls from those who have opinions to share, complaints to make or hopefully astonishing stories to tell.

Despite this when the Daily Mirror received a dramatic telephone call at 10.15am on May 1, 1968 no-one could have predicted the tale which would emerge.

A man said he wanted to talk about "a friend" and a serious crime.

He was to solve a mystery which had baffled police who had been called to a countryside cottage where firefighters had found a body.

The mystery caller said he would arrive at the office in about fifteen minutes.

At 10.30am, the man arrived at the main door in London’s Holborn and was shown to a third floor waiting room.

He was scruffily dressed and looked tired. In quiet, jerky sentences, he told about a crime that he said he knew had been committed.

He said he had a friend who knew all about a murder and he was waiting at London Bridge railway station.

At first, he would not give his name, but as details tumbled out he could not keep up his pretence.

"There is no friend, it is me," he confessed.

He was 28-year-old Hungarian chef Imre Gathy, and he described how on the Saturday before he had left his wife and two young children, at home in Harrington Road, Brighton.

He said he had rowed with his wife after losing his job and had set out to look for work.

As he walked out of the seaside town along the A23 towards Gatwick a car pulled up.

Inside was a man who it later transpired was retired naval Lieutenant Commander Humphrey Gilbert Grace.

Grace had had a religious conversion almost a decade before when his mother had died suddenly. While he was away at the funeral his younger son was blinded in one eye in an accident.

Since then, he had developed a fondness for picking up down and outs and taking them back his family home while his wife was away.

On this weekend Mr Grace’s wife and teenage daughter were on holiday in Greece and two sons at boarding school when he offered Gathy a lift.

The 29-year-old got into the green 1965 Morris Mini-traveller and the pair drove off towards Gatwick.

As they got near Gatwick, Gathy said he asked to be dropped off as he knew the manager of the airline canteen. But Grace said that he could call him from his nearby home, and so they drove to October House.

Once inside Gathy said he had a wash and called his friend at Gatwick Airport at 4pm, but it was his day off.

He had tea with Grace, and, according to Gathy, the retired naval officer started to talk about God and read from the Bible until about 11pm.

Grace then showed his guest to a bedroom, which was a back room with a single bed where he slept until the morning.

The next morning, Gathy said that he wanted to contact his wife, but claims that Grace said that he should let her wait adding that the man should wear the trousers.

Reports at the time said that Gathy claimed later that Grace came out directly talking about the subject of homosexuality, saying that the Bible spoke of ‘Love thy neighbour’ – he took it to mean that you could love another man like your wife.

He claimed Grace’s response was to put his hand on the top of his leg.

Gathy said he struck Grace with the back of his fist and that the older man jumped up and started shouting and screaming.

He said that he then came towards him and he fell out of the back of his chair.

Gathy said he grabbed a doorstop and hit the commander over the head – killing him.

He said he panicked, and thinking he would make the crime look like a robbery, stole some silverware and fled back to Brighton.

He twice tried to set fire to the house where he had killed Mr Grace, but the fire did not take and smoke was spotted by neighbours who alerted fire fighters who found the body.

Gathy said he decided to hand himself in, but instead of going to the police station called the Daily Mirror to confess.

As his confession tumbled out to Mirror crime reporter Tom Tullett, Detective Chief Inspector Terence O’Connell, of the Flying Squad, arrived at the Mirror office with two other detectives.

Gathy was handcuffed to a detective and taken to Scotland Yard – albeit with a slight mishap on the way after the police car he was travelling in collided with a taxi and he had to be transferred into another car.

Later, he was driven to Horley police station, near Reigate, and charged with the murder of 59-year-old Mr Grace.

Six weeks later, after pleading guilty to manslaughter, he was sent to Broadmoor after medical tests showed he was mentally unstable when he killed Grace.

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