December 2002


THE FORMER general manager of The Quay Arts Centre has been jailed for the murder of his wife and children 27 years ago.

This week John Allen began serving three life sentences after a crown court jury found him guilty of the murders of his wife, Patricia, and children, Jonathan, seven, and Vicky, five, whose bodies have never been found.

The murders took place while Allen lived in Devon. Though no charges were brought then, because of a lack of evidence, a new police investigation began in 1992 when Allen’s former lover published a book in which she said she believed Allen was the murderer.

At the time, Allen was working at a Newport restaurant having previously left employment with the Quay.

Mrs Allen disappeared from the family home in Salcombe, Devon, on May 26 1975, her children two days later.

He had joined the Quay on a day-release scheme run by Camp Hill jail where he was nearing the end of a sentence for fraud.

On full release, he then worked as a volunteer at the Quay before beginning full-time employment – he ran the cafeteria among other duties – in the early 1990s.

This week people connected with the Quay told how they had never trusted Allen and had tried to get him removed from the arts facility.

Ron Smith and Brian Hinton said their view was dismissed at the time by other members of the then Quay Arts management committee.

“Though at the time we were told we were victimising Allen, this verdict shows we were correct and it was the judgment of those who supported him that was shot,” said Dr Hinton, a member of the Quay management committee and chairman of the IW Council for the Arts at the time of Allen’s involvement.

“We tried to point out that he was rotten but it was as though he had taken in almost everyone.”

Mr Smith, now chairman of Dimbola, said he had been warned about Allen by someone connected with the day-release scheme under which Allen first joined the Quay.

“I was told to be careful because Allen was a psychopath who had probably killed his wife and children but had not been convicted because of a lack of evidence.

“When he began working at the Quay he was always very helpful but that was all part of his ploy to worm his way in.”

Anne Toms, former Quay Arts Centre director, said: “I can see how people were taken in. He was an extremely charming and kind person.

“But you had the feeling with him that there was something that was not quite what it should be.”

No one currently at the Quay was able to give accurate details of Allen’s employment record there but after he left voluntarily in 1992, he ran the Maison Reynard Restaurant in Holyrood Street, Newport, before leaving the Island.

At his Exeter Crown Court trial that ended on Monday, Allen, a grammar school-educated former army officer, was said by he judge to display character dishonesty.

Supt Paul Davies, who led the inquiry said Allen was a callous and cold individual.

Guy Eades, who chaired the Quay’s management committee at the time of Allen’s involvement, would not comment on his character.