Sunday, July 19, 1998 Published at 21:03 GMT 22:03 UK
Let him have justice, say campaigners
Bentley: the last man to hang in Britain
The case has always turned on the famous phrase he allegedly uttered shortly before his accomplice shot dead a policeman: "Let him have it".
This week, 45 years after the hanging, the Court of Appeal is looking at new evidence.
The Crown alleged at Bentley's trial in 1952 that the crucial words were those of an angry young man urging his accomplice to shoot a policeman.
Bentley's defence lawyer pointed out he was already under arrest when he supposedly made the remark and said he was simply exhorting Christopher Craig to hand over the weapon.
Did he say it?
Campaigners seeking a pardon for 19-year-old Bentley have always insisted he never uttered the crucial phrase.
Bentley himself always denied having said it.
On 2 November 1952, Bentley and Craig were robbing a confectionery warehouse in Croydon, south London when they were discovered by a police patrol.
Bentley was apprehended on the roof. He had a knife and a knuckleduster but used neither.
As he was being held by Detective Constable Fred Fairfax he supposedly called out to Craig: "Let him have it Chris".
Craig shot DC Fairfax in the shoulder. Several minutes later PC Miles was shot dead as he climbed up onto the roof.
Bentley was hanged at Wandsworth prison on 28 January 1953 after the then Home Secretary, David Maxwell Fyfe, rejected a last minute plea for clemency.
'Made an example of him'
It later transpired the Conservative government, worried by growing violence in the post-war period, had decided to "make an example" of Bentley.
Craig, who was described by the judge at his trial as "one of the most dangerous men in Britain", only served 10 years in jail. He was 16 at the time of the offence and was too young for a death sentence.
The appeal is based on new evidence which casts doubt on the key words being used as well as questions about the judge's directions to the jury and the issue of Bentley's mental age.
He was an illiterate epileptic with a mental age of 10.
His former teacher Hugh Maw, 77, who later became a child psychologist, says: "If there was a fight he was a coward, which always brings me to the crucial words at his trial: 'Let him have it, Chris.' This was typical - Give in and not kill him."
Long wait for justice
When the case was referred back to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission in November 1997 it was the longest gap between a conviction and an appeal in British legal history.
Bentley's sister kept a bottle of champagne in her home for 44 years, hoping to break it open when her brother's name was finally cleared.
In the event it will be left to her daughter, Maria Bentley-Dingwall, 35, to pop the cork.
If the conviction is overturned it will also mean Bentley's relatives will be able to rebury him in consecrated ground.