50 years on: Real-life murder that inspired Doncaster-based crime thriller book which led to cult movie Get Carter

Exactly half a century ago, a murder was committed which went on to inspire a Doncaster-based thriller novel which later became classic cult movie Get Carter.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 5th January 2017, 2:39 pm
Updated Monday, 9th January 2017, 12:00 pm
Michael Caine in Get Carter.
Michael Caine in Get Carter.

To quote Sir Michael Caine, star of the gritty 1971 movie, not a lot of people know that the North East based flick was actually originally set in Doncaster, our home town the base for Jack's Return Home, a crime thriller penned by Ted Lewis a year earlier.

And this year sees the 50th anniversary of the real life killing which inspired the book and film - and the latest attempts by the two men convicted of the killing to clear their names.

Here's the story of the killing of fruit machine cash collector Angus Sibbett, Jack's Return Home and Get Carter...

Sign up to our daily newsletter

It was in 1967 that 33-year-old Geordie Angus was shot dead in a gangland execution that became known as the "one armed bandit murder."

The fruit machine cash collector was found dead in the back seat of his car - and two men - his best man and business partner Michael Luvaglio, and Cockney gangster Dennis Stafford - were later convicted of his murder and served 12 years in jail before being released on licence.

But 50 years on, the pair are still protesting their innocence, despite a latest failed bid to clear their names, with the Criminal Cases Review Commission ruling that an application by Luvaglio would not be referred to the Court of Appeal for a third time.

Luvaglio, now 80 told The Sun that he is determined to fight on to clear his name and told the newspaper: “This is the last chance but I can’t give up. Not for me and not for my friend Angus. He was a warm, funny, extremely generous man.

“I pray that 2017 sees Angus finally get justice as well as me. His murderer is still out there.”

The killing was the model for Jack’s Return Home - set in Doncaster - which in turn was adapted into Get Carter, with Caine as Newcastle-born gangster Jack Carter who returns home from London to avenge his brother’s murder.

The true-life story begins in London in 1956 when Angus and his brother Jim met Luvaglio and his brother Vince.

At the time, Vince was running a successful business fitting TV aerials and he and Luvaglio quickly befriended Angus, who joined their expanding business.

In 1958, Vince and Angus were arrested and quizzed over receiving stolen TV sets, for which Angus served 12 months in jail.

Their criminal tendencies also made them easy prey for gangsters, and while Angus was in jail, Vince fell out with Reggie Kray, ending up on the receiving end of one of his infamous “right-handers”.

At the same time, Luvaglio had a visit from two bruisers who threatened him with cut-throat razors unless he began paying “insurance”.

The Luvaglio brothers fled overnight to Newcastle, which Vince had previously visited and where he noticed that the area’s social clubs did not have jukeboxes, pin tables or gaming machines.

Vince changed his surname to Landa and set up a company, Social Club Services, with his brother and Angus, to supply machines.

They quickly hit the jackpot. Soon Landa was driving a white Rolls-Royce, owned a villa in Majorca and lived with his wife and six children in a manor house.

By late 1966 the Luvaglios and Angus were planning to float their company, which was valued at £8million — the equivalent of around £135million today.

However it was not to be. The trio spent that Christmas with their families at Landa’s villa in Majorca, returning to London on January 2, 1967. The next day Luvaglio and Angus went to Newcastle while Landa returned to Majorca, claiming his son had suddenly fallen ill.

Because Stafford’s car was being repaired, Landa lent him his E-Type Jaguar. At 11.15pm on January 4, Angus left Newcastle’s La Dolce Vita nightclub to meet Luvaglio and Stafford at the city’s Birdcage club, but never arrived.

Five hours later, 16 miles away, miner Tom Leak was on his way home from a night shift at South Hetton colliery when he saw Angus’s body slumped on the back seat of his new red Jaguar Mark X, which Luvaglio had recently given him as a present.

Angus had been shot three times at point-blank range in the chest, left shoulder and right forearm.

At 10pm that night police brought in Luvaglio and Stafford for questioning after an anonymous tip-off that the E-Type had been taken to a garage for repairs to a damaged rear bumper with red paint marks on it. Police believed Angus had been executed because he was siphoning off £1,000 a week in fruit machine takings.

The following night they charged Luvaglio and Stafford with his murder.

No forensic evidence linked the men to the murder. Their fingerprints were not in Angus’s car and the murder weapon was never found.

The events formed the basis of Jack's Return Home, an uncompromising novel of a brutal half-world of pool halls, massage parlours and teenage pornography.

The novel starkly portrays a subsection of society living on the dangerous borderline between crime and respectability - but rather than the North East, it was set in Doncaster.

The book tells the story of an amoral, pitiless London mob enforcer named Jack Carter who returns to his home town after changing trains at Doncaster to investigate the mysterious death of his brother, with whom he had not spoken in many years.

Jack's presence in the town causes unease among the local crime families, who fear that his snooping will interfere with their underworld operations. Everything from simple suggestion to brute force is employed to try to get Jack to leave, but he doggedly refuses, bullying his way through numerous attempts on his life to arrive at the truth, leading to a violent and ambiguous conclusion.

The movie, directed by Mike Hodges and also starring Britt Ekland, John Osborne and Bryan Mosley, was filmed in and around Newcastle upon Tyne, Gateshead and County Durham and has passed into folklore for its gritty scenes and memorable dialogue including the much-quoted Caine line: "You're a big man, but you're in bad shape."

On its initial release, while a relative success at the box office, it was not a hit with the critics and it was only its status as a cult movie and then a reappraisal following its endorsement by directors Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie that led to it being named as one of the best British movies of all time.

In 1999, Get Carter was ranked 16th on the BFI Top 100 British films of the 20th century and five years later, a survey of British film critics in Total Film magazine chose it as the greatest British film of all time.

The movie was remade in 2000 by Warner Bros. under the same title, with Sylvester Stallone starring as Jack Carter, while Caine appears in a supporting role.