The Kidnapping And Murder of Muriel McKay, The Woman Mistaken For Rupert Murdoch's Wife
In the sprawling narrative of true crime, the kidnapping and murder of Muriel McKay, a native of Adelaide, South Australia, and her husband Alick's relocation to Wimbledon, London, unfolds as a tale of unsuspecting tragedy. On 29 December 1969, sometime between 5.30 p.m. and 7.45 p.m., between driving her housekeeper home and her husband returning from work, Muriel Frieda McKay had her home invaded and her life devastated. She was never seen again.
Muriel McKay's husband, Alick, returned home that evening to a scene of disarray – the front door unlocked, the telephone ripped from the wall, and his wife's belongings scattered on the stairs. Muriel was missing, a development that sent shockwaves through the family. This distressing incident followed a prior burglary, prompting Muriel to become increasingly vigilant about her personal safety.
When police arrived, the burglary case was quickly upgraded to a kidnapping after investigators found items that were foreign to the house: Elastoplast, twine, a newspaper, and a billhook. After the phone was repaired, at 1am, a caller identifying himself as 'M3' (short for Mafia 3) contacted the house and demanded a £1 million ransom. Over the next forty days, M3 made eighteen more calls, demanding to speak to either Alick or their children Ian and Diane, and sent three letters (postmarked in Tottenham or Wood Green) demanding the money while repeatedly threatening to kill McKay. Five letters written by McKay and pleading for compliance were enclosed as 'proof' that she was alive, as were three pieces cut from her clothing.
Two successive attempts to deliver half of the ransom money were unsuccessful. The first one, on the A10 on 1 February 1970, was abandoned due to a large police presence in the area. A second attempt was then made on 6 February 1970. The Hosein brothers had specifically asked for McKay's daughter Diane Dyer to make the second drop off as she was always at the forefront of communication. However, following M3's detailed instructions, two disguised police officers (instead of Diane) placed the ransom consisting of two lots of £500,000 (primarily composed of fake banknotes) in two suitcases and left them at a telephone box in Church Street in Tottenham where they would receive further instructions. At 4:00pm, M3 rang and instructed to take the ransom money to a second phone box in Bethnal Green. At Bethnal Green, M3 rang again and instructed the officers to take the tube to Epping where they were to take the money to another phone box.
Upon the arrival to the phone box in Epping, M3 rang and instructed the officers to take a taxi to a used car yard with a garage in Bishop's Stortford called Gate's Garage where they were instructed to leave the cases next to a minivan that would be parked there on the garage forecourt.
The police conducted surveillance in the area and noticed that a blue Volvo sedan with a broken tail-light, bearing registration XGO 994G, and with a single occupant, slowly passed the garage four times between 8 pm and 10.30 pm. At 10.47 pm it passed again, this time carrying two men. However, a local couple noticed the suitcases and became concerned. The woman kept watching while her husband reported the cases to the police, who were unaware of the drop-off and took them to the local station.
The investigation then shifted to the Volvo, registered in the name of a man from Rooks Farm (now known as Stocking Farm owned by De Burgh-Marsh family) near Stocking Pelham, Hertfordshire . Reviewing previous reports, they noted that some witnesses had also described seeing a dark coloured Volvo sedan driving near Arthur Road in the hours before McKay's disappearance was reported, and another one reporting it as parked in the McKay driveway around 6 pm. Police also noted it acting suspiciously at the first drop-off attempt but had assumed it was either undercover police or a local. Rooks Farm, which covered eleven acres and was considerably run down, was then raided by police on 7 February at 8 am. The owners of the farm were Trinidad-born Arthur Hosein and his German wife, who also lived with Arthur's youngest sibling, Nizamodeen, who had worked there as a labourer since August. A notebook was found inside with torn pages that matched the tear patterns in McKay's letters. Further, twine and a matching roll of tape were found, and the billhook was revealed as belonging to a neighbour. The brothers' physical descriptions matched those of the men seen in the Volvo, and Arthur's fingerprints also matched those found in the ransom letters and a newspaper found in the McKay house. Similarly, Nizamodeen's voice matched that of recordings of M3 when he was tested on a telephone. However, no trace of McKay was found at the farm, even after it was searched for several weeks.
The Hosein Brothers and the Trial
Based on the available evidence, the Hosein brothers were apprehended and brought to trial on September 14, 1970, under the guidance of prosecutor Peter Rawlinson. During the trial, it came to light that Arthur, who worked as a tailor in Hackney, was grappling with financial challenges after acquiring the farm in May 1968. The historical farm, with roots dating back to the 17th century, served as a facility for raising cattle, pigs, and chickens.
The Hosein brothers' decision to embark on a kidnapping scheme was fueled by a misguided belief stemming from an interview on television. Specifically, they targeted Anna Murdoch after observing her husband's interview with David Frost regarding the acquisition of the News of the World and The Sun newspapers on October 30. The confusion arose when the brothers trailed Murdoch's chauffeured Rolls-Royce to a residence on Arthur Road, presuming it to be the Murdoch family home. Unbeknownst to them, the house actually belonged to the McKays, as Murdoch had loaned the car to Alick McKay during the couple's temporary stay in Australia.
Throughout the case, each brother tried to put the blame on the other, although it was soon determined that the older brother was the dominant one. The Hosein brothers were charged with murder, kidnap and blackmail, and convicted at the Old Bailey on 6 October 1970. When imposing life sentences on the pair, plus twenty-five years in Arthur's case, and fifteen in Nizamodeen's, for kidnapping, the trial judge, Justice Shaw, said their "conduct was cold-blooded and abominable". Despite investigation, it was never established what happened to McKay's remains, though there was speculation that the Hoseins had fed them to their guard dogs or pigs.
Aftermath and Media Frenzy
The Hosein brothers' incarceration marked the end of a judicial chapter, but media coverage persisted. Widespread attention, fuelled by hoaxes, prank letters, and even involvement by psychic Gerard Croiset, elevated the case's notoriety. The likeness of the brothers found a place in Madame Tussauds' Chamber of Horrors, alongside living murderers, Dennis Neilson and Graham Young.
Recent Developments and Ongoing Quest for Closure
In a surprising turn of events in 2021, Nizamodeen Hosein claimed that Muriel McKay died of a heart attack shortly after the kidnapping, offering details of the burial location at Rooks Farm. In 2023, Nizamodeen expressed a desire to return to the UK to reveal the burial site to the McKay family. McKay's daughter, Dianne, appealed to the Metropolitan Police to cooperate, reigniting the decades-old quest for closure.