THE CASE OF GUENTHER PODOLA

By Tim Lambert

Guenther Podola was the last person in Britain executed for killing a policeman. Podola was born in Germany on 8 February 1929. In 1952 he went to Canada. However Podola had convictions for burglary and he was deported to West Germany in 1958. But he moved to Britain on 21 May 1959. Guenther Podola was soon in trouble again. He stole jewelry and furs worth 2,000 (a very large sum of money in those days) from an American model named Verne Schiffman. Podola then tried to blackmail Mrs Schiffman. He phoned her and claimed to have embarrassing photos of her. (He was lying, no such photos existed). Mrs Schiffman contacted the police and the next time Podola phoned, on 13 July 1959, they were able to trace the call. It came from a phone booth in South Kensington underground station. Detective Sergeants Raymond William Purdy and John Stanford found Podola and arrested him but he managed to get away as they were walking to the police car. The policemen chased Podola to flats in Onslow Square where they caught up with him. However one of the detectives, Standford went to fetch the police car. When he went Guenther Podola produced an automatic pistol and he shot William Purdy. However the police traced Podola to a hotel in Kensington, London. The police forced open a door and Podola was knocked to the ground. Podola injured his head and was taken to hospital. He spent 4 days in hospital.

Guenther Podola claimed he had no memory of events before 16 July due to the blow to his head. On 10 September 1959 a hearing was held before a jury to decide if Podola was fit to stand trial. After deliberating for 3 and a half hours the jury decided he was. The murder trial then went ahead. Podola still claimed he could not remember what happened. Nevertheless on 25 September 1959 the jury found him guilty. Podola was duly sentenced to death. Guenther Podola was hanged on 5 November 1959 in Wandsworth prison.

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