Darker Than Any ‘Succession’ Plot: The Murdoch Kidnap Tragedy (2023)

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Media billionaire Rupert Murdoch is having a media moment. He’s the inspiration for Logan Roy, the bullying corporate chieftain on HBO’s Succession. He’s a softer, more checked-out boss on Showtime’s The Loudest Voice, about Roger Ailes and the creation of Fox News. But only the Broadway play Ink brought up a disturbing crime from Murdoch’s past in which an attempted kidnapping for ransom of his wife Anna led to the gruesome murder of the spouse of one of his deputies.

Reached at her home in Palm Beach this week, Anna, now 75, was not happy to hear that Forbes was revisiting the incident. She recalls the crime and its aftermath as “a really, really terrible time.” The victims were good friends of the Murdochs, and she was appalled that people in London accused her husband’s tabloid of fabricating the story to get publicity. “It was awful,” she says. “I hope your story will get lost among the other stories.”

As reported at the time, the crime story is riveting: On the evening of December 29, 1969, one of Murdoch’s top executives, Alick McKay, 60, stepped out of a chauffeured Rolls Royce in front of his home in London’s posh Wimbledon neighborhood. He rang the bell four times, three short rings and a long one, a code he’d worked out with his wife, Muriel, 55. An earlier burglary had so alarmed her that she had an interior chain lock installed. When she didn’t appear, he turned the knob and found the door unlocked, the chain dangling.

Inside he discovered her handbag on the floor, a roll of adhesive tape on a hall table and heavy twine on a chair. A telephone had been ripped from the wall and a billhook—a garden tool with a machete-like blade—lay on the writing table. The TV was on, logs blazed in the fireplace and Muriel’s dachshund was whimpering.

Grabbing the billhook for protection, McKay searched the house. The couple’s two cars were in the garage. He had been traveling back and forth to his job as acting chairman of the London Sunday tabloid News of the World in the Rolls-Royce owned by his boss, 38-year-old newspaper tycoon Rupert Murdoch, who was on vacation in Australia with Anna.

The police determined that the billhook was used to intimidate Muriel as she was bound, gagged and kidnapped, likely for a ransom. At 1:15 a.m. a caller who identified himself as “Mafia, Group 3, from America,” reached McKay and demanded £1 million (worth $16 million today) for her return. McKay protested that he didn’t have “anything like” that amount. The caller’s response: “You had better get it.”

An eerie silence

For eight days McKay and the police waited as the kidnappers went silent. Feeling desperate, a member of the McKay family consulted a medium, who said that Muriel was being held in a shabby North London neighborhood and that malice and spite, as well as money, had motivated the criminals.

The kidnappers certainly wanted money. They next communicated via a letter to News of the World, requesting that the ransom be paid in two installments. In the ensuing weeks, they repeatedly called McKay, who insisted he had nowhere near the amount they were demanding. He became increasingly alarmed at the idea that his wife was already dead. On January 27, an envelope arrived with another payment demand. The kidnappers also sent a note scrawled by Muriel that included the line “Keep police out of this if you want to see me.”

Instead, the police hatched a plan. One detective dyed and styled his hair to resemble the McKays’ son, Ian, while another dressed in a chauffeur’s uniform and drove Murdoch’s Rolls, equipped with a two-way radio, to an agreed-on meeting spot on the night of February 1. But the kidnappers didn’t show. Some 140 officers had been trolling the area in private cars. “M3” phoned the McKay home and complained that the Rolls had been “trailed.” He said the kidnappers would meet soon to determine the time of Muriel’s execution.

But in another call, M3 agreed to try a second rendezvous. This time, officers were able to trace a dark Volvo they had sighted at the first meeting to Hertfordshire, 35 miles north of London. There they raided a farm and arrested Arthur and Nizamodeen Hosein, Trinidadian brothers of Indian descent who were sons of a Muslim priest. But they never found Muriel’s body. Had the kidnappers chopped her up and buried her in pieces? Some speculated that her remains had been eaten by pigs on the Hertfordshire farm.

The kidnappers had reportedly plotted the crime after seeing TV host David Frost interview Murdoch about the millions of pounds Murdoch spent buying his London papers. Investigators believed that the brothers trailed the Rolls to what they assumed was Murdoch’s home, where they planned to take Anna hostage. But once they broke in, they realized their mistake and settled instead for Muriel.

The following autumn, the Hoseins were tried for murder at London’s Old Bailey, where the gallery was packed with onlookers. The jury deliberated for just over four hours and pronounced the defendants guilty. As McKay left the courtroom, he was heard saying quietly, “I wish to God I knew what happened to my wife. All I want to know is where my wife has been buried so that I can go and place some flowers.”

A 1971 book by two British journalists, Murder in the Fourth Estate: An Investigation Into the Roles of Press and Police in the McKay Case, confirms Anna’s memory of a lurking suspicion as the police investigation unfolded that the kidnapping was a publicity stunt or even the work of people who had a grudge against her husband’s tabloid. The authors also ask an important question: Did the publicity lead to Muriel’s murder?

In the play Ink, Murdoch expresses how distraught he is over the decision by his tabloid’s editor, Larry Lamb, to run sensationalist coverage of the crime. “I feel something terrible, too awful to say,” he says. “It’s the biggest story we’ve ever had,” Lamb responds. “[T]his changes the very definition of ‘exclusive.’”

Tragedy before vast success

In the nearly 50 years since the McKay murder, Murdoch has built an unprecedented global media empire. After taking over newspapers in London and Australia, in the 1970s he made a move to the U.S., where his first major purchase was the New York Post in 1976. Since then, he expanded his holdings to include Fox News, the London Times and the Wall Street Journal. Earlier this year, he sold a substantial share of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment and media properties to Disney for $71.3 billion.

Murdoch had married Anna two years before the incident, in 1967. The second of his four wives, she had three children, Elisabeth, Lachlan and James, before she and Murdoch divorced in 1999. Their offspring have all worked in their father’s businesses and jockeyed for the top job. While Lachlan, 48, took the helm of Fox’s broadcast business this year, at 88, Rupert, now married to 63-year-old former model and Mick Jagger ex Jerry Hall, is still the boss. Forbes pegs the Murdoch family’s net worth at $19.1 billion. (Through a spokesperson, Murdoch declined to comment for this story)

Anna went on to remarry twice, first to financier William Mann, who died two years ago. In April she married Ashton dePeyster, 74, who works in real estate. “He’s my boy toy,” she says. “We’re very happy.”

FAQs

Was Mrs McKay ever found? ›

They had mistaken her for the wife of Rupert Murdoch and demanded a £1m ransom for her return. Following the bungled ransom plot, both brothers were arrested and convicted of Ms McKay's murder. Her body was never found.

Who kidnapped Murdoch? ›

She was married to Alick McKay (died 1983, aged 73), an executive at News Limited and deputy to Rupert Murdoch, and was mistaken for Murdoch's then wife, Anna Murdoch. Two Indo-Trinidadian brothers, Arthur Hosein (34) and Nizamodeen (22), were convicted of the crimes of murder and kidnapping in September 1970.

What happened in the Wimbledon kidnapping? ›

Both brothers were convicted of murder, kidnap and blackmail and received life sentences, with Justice Shaw describing their conduct as "cold-blooded and abominable", according to a Times article at the time. While the Hoseins were sent to prison for Muriel McKay's murder, her body was never found.

Who kidnapped Mrs McKay? ›

Arthur and his brother Nizamodeen Hosein kidnapped Mrs McKay, the wife of a newspaper executive, in 1969 and held her for ransom before they were arrested and charged with her murder. Mrs McKay was married to Alec McKay, the deputy to Rupert Murdoch, who had just bought the Sun newspaper.

Where is Arthur and Nizamodeen Hosein now? ›

Arthur Hosein died in Ashworth secure hospital in 2009, but his brother was deported back to Trinidad after 20 years behind bars.

Was Mrs McKay fed to pigs? ›

Her body was never found and it was suspected she was fed to pigs on the 11-acre farm in Stocking Pelham, Herts, owned by Trinidad-born Arthur. Hosein, then 21, has told her family she collapsed and died while watching the news. He said her body was buried at the farm where she was held.

Is Murdoch innocent? ›

He was acquitted but it was the case that led to the Falconio case going to trial. As Murdoch was found not guilty and told to leave the court police descended to arrest him for the murder of Peter Falconio.

Was a Murdoch kidnapped? ›

Mrs McKay was kidnapped from her Wimbledon home in December 1969 by two brothers who mistook her for the then wife of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch. Muriel was the wife of Murdoch's deputy, Alick McKay.

Who Framed Murdoch? ›

Constance Gardiner (née Ava Moon) is a young woman who is responsible for framing William Murdoch for the murder of Randolph Littlefair, in Season 4 of Murdoch Mysteries, portrayed by Tamara Gorski.

Was the drunk woman removed from Wimbledon? ›

“Not only did this cause considerable harm on the day, resulting in my temporary removal from the arena, but Mr. Kyrgios's false allegation was broadcast to, and read by, millions around the world, causing me and my family very substantial damage and distress,” she said.

How many Russians are missing from Wimbledon? ›

WIMBLEDON, England — As the singles rankings shook out ahead of Wimbledon, 16 players from the top 100s will miss out because of the All England Club's ban of athletes from Russia and Belarus.

How did Richard Evonitz get caught? ›

Robinson was able to free herself while Evonitz was sound asleep, escape, and identify her abductor to the police using information she was able to find on Evonitz's fridge. Evonitz fled after finding her gone and was tracked by the police to Sarasota, Florida. As they surrounded him, he killed himself with his gun.

What was the disappearance of Muriel McKay? ›

Muriel McKay was kidnapped for ransom from her London home in 1969 and her abductors, brothers Arthur and Nizamodeen Hosein, were later convicted and jailed for her murder though her body was never found.

How old was Muriel McKay? ›

Mrs McKay, who was 55 at the time, was the victim of a bungled abduction by Nizamodeen Hosein and his older brother Arthur Hosein after they mistook her for the wife of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch.

Where is Muriel McKay burial? ›

In December, Hosein, now 75, revealed that Mrs McKay was buried on the 11-acre Hertfordshire farm where she was held.

Where was Nancy Shoemaker kidnapped from? ›

On July 30, 1990, Nancy Shoemaker was kidnapped from a south Wichita neighborhood. She was then sexually assaulted and murdered. Authorities found her remains on February 19, 1991.

Where are the Schoenfeld brothers now? ›

According to The Associated Press, Richard Schoenfeld was granted parole in 2012; James Schoenfeld was paroled in 2015. Woods is currently being held at the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo, state prison records show.

Who is guilty in the Three Little Pigs? ›

The Pig would be found guilty in today's courts, this is because even though the Wolf entered the Pigs property without permission, the fact is that the Pig didn't gave to eat the Wolf in the end, this is considered excessive assault in today's courts.

What crimes were committed in the Three Little Pigs? ›

both murders, (murder of pig #1 and murder of pig #2)

Who are Rupert Murdoch's wives? ›

Keith Rupert Murdoch

Does Rupert Murdoch have children? ›

Keith Rupert Murdoch

How old was Nizamodeen Hosein? ›

Even though the police had no body they were still able to get a conviction and at the Old Bailey in 1970 both Arthur and Nizamodeen were found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. Arthur and Nizamodeen, aged 34 and 22 respectively, were Indian Moslems who had been born in Dow Village, Trinidad.

Where is Gardner McKay buried? ›

That is why I am writing this article and why I read McKay's autobiography, Journey Without a Map. He is (his ashes) buried in Hebron Cemetery, in North Bullitt County, Kentucky, next to his father and near his grandmother and other family members.

Who was murdered at Wimbledon in the 1970s? ›

The confession of a man behind one of Britain's biggest mysteries may have finally solved a murder that happened 51 years ago. Muriel McKay was kidnapped from her Wimbledon home on December 29, 1969 after she was mistaken for Anna Murdoch, the 25-year-old wife of media tycoon Rupert, and later died.

How many children did Ann Heron have? ›

Ann was the mother to three children, Ann-Marie, Michael and Ralph Jnr who she shared with her first husband, Ralph Cockburn. She was also a step-mother to Peter's children. In 2020, her son Ralph made an emotional public appeal in hopes of gathering information about the death of his mother.

Why are murdochs divorcing? ›

Six years on the Murdochs have sprung another grand surprise on the world. This time with a high-speed divorce on the grounds of "irreconcilable differences". Just as there were few advance signs of the pair falling in love, so there were almost no indications of it all going wrong.

Is succession based on the Murdochs? ›

A patriarchal family-run business

Actor Brian Cox in "Succession" Season 3. The premise of the series, which airs on HBO, which like CNN is owned by Warner Bros. Discovery, is practically ripped from the Murdoch playbook. Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp and co-chairman of 21st Century Fox, in 2018.

Is murdock married now? ›

What was Rupert Murdoch accused of? ›

Rupert Murdoch, chairman of the conservative media empire that owns Fox News, acknowledged in a deposition that several hosts for his networks promoted the false narrative that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald J. Trump, and that he could have stopped them but didn't, court documents released on ...

How old is Grace Murdoch? ›

Why is the Murdoch family rich? ›

Real Time Net Worth

Murdoch controls a media empire that includes cable channel Fox News, The Times of London and The Wall Street Journal. Murdoch sold most of Fox's movie studio, FX, and National Geographic Networks and its stake in Star India to Disney for $71.3 billion in March 2019.

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