20th February 1956

A suspected arms dealer is arrested at his father’s funeral

Garnet Walter Renouf found himself in the dock on 20 February 1956, after being arrested at his father’s funeral. Renouf, 31, who was accused of making a false application for a passport, put up no defence when approached by police, stating “that’s perfectly correct”, when arresting officer Emlya Howells explained the charge. By then, the offence was nearly five years old.

Who is Thomas Brown?

Renouf had applied for the passport under the name Thomas Brown. According to the application, the real Thomas Brown had been born in Paisley on 28 March 1922 (making him three years older than Renouf actually was) and had since moved to Broughton Street, London. Renouf had supported the application with a birth certificate and photographs. A Thomas Brown did indeed live at Broughton Street, but was unaware of the passport ruse.

But the mystery of the passport was only half of the story. Renouf’s real passport had been impounded by the British Consulate in Mexico when he had been repatriated from the country. Thus, when he wanted to travel abroad again, he applied for a new one under another name. He obtained Brown’s birth certificate from an acquaintance after it, and the certificates of Brown’s wife and children, had gone “missing” in the post.

A tough interrogation

After obtaining the false passport, Renouf travelled to France, but been arrested there, on suspicion of trading arms to the Middle East. According to a report in the Lancashire Evening Post, the day after Renouf had appeared in court in France “he was treated in a way no person would be interrogated in this country. The interrogations were of a physically tough nature”.

He was sentenced to two years imprisonment, later reduced to less than half of that time, but this had put him out of reach of British authorities, who now knew where he was, but would have to wait until he strayed into their jurisdiction before they could move in to arrest him. Renouf’s father’s death and subsequent funeral provided just the opportunity they needed.


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