Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Joyce McKinney and the Manacled Mormon

Americans Abroad

By the summer of 1977, Joyce McKinney had figured out that her missing boyfriend's church had called him to England on a mission. Calling herself Beth Palmquist, she hired an English company, the Finley Bureau of Investigation, to track him down. They found that Kirk Anderson was doing the work of the Church of Latter Day Saints in Ewell.

A Mormon chapel in Utah
A Mormon chapel in Utah

Tenacious and optimistic as ever, McKinney decided to pull together a team of men and a supply of equipment and travel to England to reclaim her lover.

Keith Joseph May was as obsessed with her as she was with Anderson. Their relationship was sexless, but he seems to have been in love with her. He was her steadfast, loyal right-hand man on this caper. Personals ads helped McKinney and May round out their team. Gil Parker was a bodybuilder from Gold's Gym. Jackson Shaw was a pilot.

Shaw still recounts how stunned he was when he went to McKinney's apartment the first time and she met him at the door in a see-through shirt and no bra. He was surprised too that the money this unusual woman said she was making as a model was enough to pay for their test flights, the equipment, the travel — but he doesn't seem to have asked too many questions. He accepted the explanation that she was planning to surprise her future husband in the UK and wanted a pilot who could fly them to a romantic private dinner. He might have been too busy trying to figure out, by his own account, whether she was with K.J. May or whether he could ask her out to dinner.

Parker seems to have been a bit more circumspect. The surveillance equipment the group brought through customs reportedly made him nervous, and he was rattled by immigration officials' questions about how it was he was traveling alone without any money (Joyce had all the cash, and the team members were pretending not to know each other). He quickly decided he wanted to go home to California.

It turns out McKinney and May — or Kathie Vaughn Bare and Paul van Deusen, to use the names under which they arrived at Heathrow — were enough force to subdue her runaway groom.

Jackson Shaw's friend and fellow pilot Alan Austin and locals Dennis French and Kenny Muxlow briefly helped the Americans navigate England. They helped Joyce McKinney get a car and to select a cottage for her rendez-vous with Kirk Anderson.

The Brits seem to have eventually decided that there was something strange going on -- perhaps they were tipped off by McKinney's insistence on finding someone to make the cottage's windows shatterproof, or by her supply of ropes and chains and padlocks.

Shaw and Austin drifted away after McKinney's extreme panic over being excommunicated by the Mormon Church made them uncomfortable. And one day French and Muxlow just dropped off McKinney and K.J. May and drove away. McKinney reported them to the police, saying they had stolen from her. The men retaliated by telling police that McKinney was carrying forged passports. After her arrest, police would discover she'd held documents in more than a dozen names.

But, for now, her plan was moving ahead.

On September 14, 1977, Kirk Anderson disappeared near his tabernacle in East Ewell, Surrey, near Kingston-Upon Thames. Scotland Yard soon announced they were treating his disappearance as an abduction.

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