‘I lived in Charles Dickens’ house’

John O'Reilly. (1210PG30)
John O'Reilly. (1210PG30)

A Derry man who was once the UK’s most wanted man has revealed how he once lived in the same house as legendary author, Charles Dickens.

John Patrick O’Reilly who was born in the Brandywell but now lives in Alexander House in Bishop Street spent many years working as a joiner in England.

And for a spell he worked in a town called Chatham once the home of Charles Dickens.

In 1974 he became the UK’s most wanted man when police in the North of England launched a massive man hunt in order to find the man responsible for the murders of two sub-postmasters and the husband of a third.

O’Reilly who was working as a carpenter at the time, was mistakenly identified as the killer nicknamed ‘The Black Panter’ and was only cleared when he took part in an identity parade.

But his memories of England came back this Christmas.

“I was watching the television and it brought back memories of the time I lived in Chatham,” he said. “It was a bit of a railway village. I worked there some time during the 1980s. There was a blue plaque dedicated to Charles Dickens outside the house but I never took much heed of it. I had never heard of Charles Dickens then.

“But at Christmas there are always lots of films and television shows on that were made from books by Charles Dickens.

“The house was just there as you came out of Chatham railway station. It had a very narrow staircase and I remember feeling that there was a presence in the room I was staying in. In hindsight now, I wish I had taken more heed of it, but I didn’t know who Charles Dickens was then.

“But it was a really nice spot and at the weekends I would take the train to London and go dancing.”

After a falling out with his agent, John left Chatham and went on to run a hotel in Blackpool.

But he says he would love to go back some day and revisit the house.