Three teenagers were sentenced on November 24, 1972, at the Central Criminal Court (the Old Bailey) to terms of detention in connection with the murder of Maxwell Confait, 26, at his home: a bed-sitter in Doggett Road, Catford, SE6.
Mr. Richard du Cann, prosecuting, described the events as a “truly appalling crime.’ Mr Du Cann said that the three youths had broken into the house in the early hours of April 22, 1972, their motive being to rob or steal. Confait had discovered them shortly after they had broken in.
The court heard that 14-year-old schoolboy Ahmet Salih, of Nelgarde Road, Catford SE6 was a witness to the killing, by strangulation, of Confait.
Dead Man Was A Homosexual
Confait was said to be a homosexual who liked to dress in women’s clothing and was well-known in the locality. In the gay circles in which he circulated he was called ‘Michelle’.
After two of them had killed him all three of the youths set fire to the house, the rest of which was occupied by a Mr and Mrs Goode, and their five children. They awoke at 1.15am to discover smoke and flames coming from the basement. The fire was apparently started to “cover their traces”.
Colin George Latimore, 18, unemployed, of Nelgarde Road, Catford, was said to have strangled Confait by twisting some white electric flex around his neck. Lattimore was acquitted of murder, but found guilty of manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility and of arson. Said to have a mental age of 10, he was ordered to be detained under security conditions in a mental hospital without limit of time. In a statement he was alleged to have described the death of Confait as “an accident”.
Ronald William Leighton, 16, unemployed, who lived in the same road as the dead man, was described in reports as being “on the borderline of the subnormal”. Convicted of murder and arson, he was ordered by Mr Justice Chapman to be detained during Her Majesty’s pleasure (ie without limit of time) in such a place and under such conditions as the Secretary of State may direct.
Ahmet Salih, 14, schoolboy, also of Nelgarde Road, was convicted of setting fire to the house, with intent to endanger life; he was ordered to be detained for not less than four years in a place to be directed by the Home Secretary.
The police did not have to look far from the scene of the crime to find the accused. One of them lived in the same street as ‘Michelle’, the others just one street away.