Remember A Day

Thief uses gum to steal from donation boxes, and the cult of Mao Zedong begins to crack: headlines from four decades ago

  • A journey back through time to look at significant news and events reported by the South China Morning Post from this week in history

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 November, 2018, 4:15pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 November, 2018, 9:59pm

A man caught stealing from donation boxes using chewing gum, and French celebrities coming to the rescue of Vietnamese refugees made the headlines four decades ago this week.

November 19, 1978

A major manhunt was being conducted by Hertfordshire police in Britain for a “madman” who brutally murdered the wife and young daughter of a Hong Kong restaurateur the week before. The unknown killer had absconded with the savings of the Lau family, totalling several hundred pounds. Police believed the killer had followed the victim into her flat.

Macau’s twisting 6.1km Guia Circuit was given a licence for another three years of international motor racing. But the green light did not allow for Formula One or Two cars to race on the track.

November 20, 1978

Posters put up on walls in Beijing attacked the late chairman Mao Zedong and linked him with the purged Gang of Four political faction, which was later found guilty of a series of treasonous crimes. It was the first time Mao’s character had been publicly attacked in the capital.

Church donation box raider Claude Gros finally came unstuck after a four-month spree using his favourite stealing device – a piece of chewing gum. Gros had managed to fish out about 1,000 French francs once a week from churches outside Paris by dangling a blob of gum on a piece of string through box slots.

Rat tails demanded for bank loans in Indonesia, a British lord on unemployment and plans to take Concorde to China: headlines from four decades ago

November 21, 1978

More than 400 bodies – men, women and children who had queued for doses of poison brewed in a tub – were found at the jungle camp of a US religious sect in Guyana, South America. The founder of the Peoples Temple, Reverend Jim Jones, had reportedly long planned the mass suicide in the event of the sect being disbanded by police. The victims had consumed a lethal brew of Kool-Aid and cyanide in fanatic loyalty to the cult founder.

November 22, 1978

British security forces plotted a way to approach and defuse what they believed to be a booby-trapped train hijacked by Irish terrorists. The train had been abandoned on the main Belfast to Dublin rail line.

Hong Kong customs officers were looking for the infamous “Mr Big” of a Kowloon drug syndicate after smashing a heroin manufacturing plant in Mong Kok and seizing drugs worth HK$1.5 million.

Greek woman held captive, Elizabeth Taylor’s new role and Hong Kong orchestra rumpus: headlines from four decades ago

November 23, 1978

Organisers of a French plan to save Vietnamese boatpeople obtained a 9,000-tonne vessel which they hoped to station off Vietnam’s coast a month later to pick up refugees. Sponsors of the rescue plan included actress Brigitte Bardot, philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, and other French celebrities.

A small refinery in the San Francisco Bay Area was set to be the first in the United States to process Chinese crude oil. This was to be done under a US$50 million deal announced by the Coastal States Gas Corporation.

British Ford Motor Company workers voted overwhelmingly to go back to work, ending a nine-week strike which cost the company the equivalent of HK$4 billion. The employees opted to accept a new work contract that granted a pay rise of 16.5 per cent. The firm had 57,000 workers.

November 24, 1978

A Chinese youngster chanting slogans in favour of the late chairman Mao Zedong in Beijing was beaten up by an angry mob as open disagreement about Mao’s policies began to surface. The youth was attacked after shouting that anybody opposing Mao “would come to no good end”.

November 25, 1978

British merchant navy officers called for Australian officers to be banned from British vessels. The move was in retaliation against an Australian Merchant Service Guild attempt to “wrest jobs” from what were claimed to be “traditionally British-manned vessels” on East Asia-Australian routes.

Remember A Day looks at significant news and events reported by the Post during this week in history