John Stonehouse was born in Southampton in 1925 and educated at Springhill School and Taunton’s School. After three years service in the RAF between 1944 and 1947, he studied at the London School of Economics. He grew up in a socialist household: his father was a post office engineer and keen trade unionist, his mother, Rosina, a local Labour councillor and mayor of Southampton. He followed his parents into the Labour Party, and in 1957 was elected MP for Wednesbury in the West Midlands. In the 1964-70 Labour government he held a number of ministerial posts, including that of Postmaster General in 1968.

His business ventures were considerably less successful than his political career, and he soon found himself in financial difficulties. In 1974 he was suspected of monetary irregularities and his financial affairs were investigated by the Department of Trade and Industry. His solution to impending financial and political ruin was to fake his own death by drowning. In November 1974, while on holiday in Miami, he left a pile of clothes on a beach and disappeared. Despite the fact that no body was found, it was assumed that he had killed himself. Obituaries were duly published.

In reality, he was en route to Australia, hoping to set up a new life with a false identity with his mistress and secretary, Sheila Buckley. He was discovered in Australia when transferring a large amount of money into a bank there. Australian police initially thought he might be Lord Lucan who had disappeared a few weeks previously. They contacted Scotland Yard, requesting pictures of both Lucan and Stonehouse. He was arrested on Christmas Eve 1974 and was eventually sentenced to seven years in prison. Released from prison in 1979 he worked for charities, made TV appearances and wrote three novels. He died in April 1988, aged 62.

Stonehouse, John

Image Unavailable

Photograph, c.1969

Further reading:
Southampton People, by John Edgar Mann, p82-83. (HS/t)
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, Volume 52.


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