Royal Hairdresser Andre Mizelas Murdered in Hyde Park

André Mizelas and Bernard Greenford Hairdressers Journal 5 Aug 1966

André Mizelas (left) and Bernard Greenford – one salon led to another as they followed client demand – image courtesy of HJi – Hairdressers Journal: 5 Aug 1966. Via (special thanks) Dr. Kim Smith – Fashion Design History & Theory, University of East London.

André Mizelas of Andre Bernard fame has fascinated me for a very long time; so when Salon International tweeted, “If you could sit down with one hairdresser and grill them about their career, inspiration and work, who would it be?” I obviously answered, “Andre Mizelas.”

Hairstyle by Andre Bernard 1962
Hairstyle by Andre Bernard 1962 – image courtesy of HJi – Hairdressers Journal

Even though I trained at Ricci Burns (King’s Road, Chelsea 1973) and knew nothing of Andre Bernard, my first pair of scissors were engraved with the name Andre Bernard; they were presented to me by Robert Lobetta (who’d trained at Andre Bernard). The scissors were too small and too blunt, and I either gave them back to Robert or chucked them away – actually, he may have asked for them back!? Anyway, It was Robert who told me about the Andre Mizelas murder and I’ve been intrigued ever since.

The Andre Mizelas Murder

1967-1968 Signal Red Triumph TR51967-1968 Signal Red Triumph TR5 Publicity Image

Here is what little I know; and just to say, I will be adding more information as I discover it – so please call back!

Andre ‘Harry’ Mizelas (André formally changed his name from Harry to André in February 1965) was one of London’s leading celebrity hairdressers of the 1950s and 1960s. By the age of forty-eight, he was a Court Hairdresser and a partner in the Andre Bernard hairdressing chain, which had around 20 salons and employed more than 400 staff. Andre Bernard’s flagship salon was at 10A Old Bond Street, Mayfair, London W1S (the principal salon within was named The Grafton Room after their Grafton St. salon)!

On the dull and chilly morning of Monday 9th November 1970 at about 08.30 A.M., Mizelas left 29, St Mary Abbots Terrace, Kensington (his Regency style home that he shared with his wife Betty of twenty-five years), in his signal red Triumph TR5 sports car for the twenty-ish minute drive to Old Bond Street, just off Piccadilly.

To start off with, he turned left on to the A315 High Street Kensington, and basically headed East towards Knightsbridge, the A4 and Hyde Park corner, in the busy Monday morning traffic – it’s a very simple and direct drive, from door to door it’s about three miles.

At the traffic lights where Kensington Road crosses the top of Exhibition Road, which is just past the Royal Albert Hall, Mizelas decided to turn left into Hyde Park – I assume because of heavy traffic – (Did he always do this? I shouldn’t think so). And then, once through the gates, he turned almost immediately right into South Carriage Drive, heading in the direction of Park Lane.

Turning left into Hyde Park, I assume, must have caused Mizelas’s killer some consternation, for surely he was standing, waiting by the traffic lights / pedestrian crossing on the other side of Exhibition Road – an easy place to spot Mizelas as he approached, flag him down and kill him? But having seen Mizelas turn left into the park, the killer must have vaulted some railings and ran hell for leather through the trees and bushes to catch Mizelas on South Carriage Drive. A witness said that she saw a man leap from the bushes and wave down the car; “Mizelas stopped so suddenly that I had to break to avoid crashing into the rear of his car.”

Mizelas’s natural reaction on seeing the man running across the road from his right would be to break hard and turn left towards the curb to avoid him. The killer must have run in front of the car waving his hand in a way that said, ‘stop I need to talk to you urgently.’ And he’d make his way quickly around to the passenger door – (Was is unlocked? I shouldn’t think so). Mizelas could have easily leant over, pulled the door-handle backwards to unlock and open the door. The killer would quickly open the door, lean in or squat down, pulling the small semi-automatic pistol from his coat pocket, and say something like, “Andre Mizelas?”
“Yes!” And from very short range with a not very powerful .25 cal. Beretta like pistol – Bang! Bang!

Andre ‘Harry’ Mizelas had been shot twice in the head; firstly in the left forehead and secondly in the left temple at about 08.40 A.M.

A young woman, who was riding her bicycle in the park, discovered the body and alerted a park-keeper, “There’s a man in a red car over there who needs help.” she said and cycled away. The park-keeper found the car parked two feet from the curb with it’s engine still running, and Mizelas slumped over the steering wheel.

Obviously there were all kinds of theories at the time, Robert seemed to think the murder had London Mob written all over it! Unsurprisingly then, East End gangster Nicky “Snakehips” Gerard, son of the notorious London hit-man and gangland boss Alf Gerard, is unofficially attributed with the murder.

It is believed Andre Mizelas owed £100,000 (about £1,500,000 today in 2015) to a South London money lender who gave the contract to Nicky Gerard for £5000 (£73,000 today).

However, there were other theories, one being that Andre was having an affair with one of his clients, maybe she was a gangster’s girlfriend, and the shooting was ‘payback’.

Sort of a Postface

On a very personal note, I’ve got to say that I’m on a learning curve; this blog post is going from an article speculating on André Mizelas’ murder in Hyde Park, to a more rounded account of the fall of the Andre Bernard hairdressing chain – there is nothing, or very little, on the internet to help.

It really comes a no surprise to me that Andre Bernard and Vidal Sassoon were involved in some kind of merger talks. At the time, Sassoon’s were by far the up-and-coming dominant force in the hairdressing world, and they were expanding. I would think Andre Bernard’s were feeling the competition and under pressure, especially at the Old Bond Street salon – old school versus state-of-the-art.

I don’t think it matters whether we call them merger talks or takeover talks, Vidal Sassoon halted procedures on about Friday 6th November 1970, three days before André Mizelas’s murder on the following Monday morning. The merger failed because of a difference of opinion between the powers that be! And it is well reported that Vidal Sassoon said, “I am shocked,” when he heard the tragic news.

The changing face of the hairdressing and fashion industry from the mid-sixties to the mid-eighties, meant greater competition for salons like Andre Bernard and ultimately, this led to their end!

This notorious murder case remains unsolved.

Bernard Greenford

I think Bernard Greenford was André Mizelas’s original business partner. In 1948 they opened their first Mayfair salon on Grafton Street. Bernard was married to Linda, who was Sybil Burton’s half-sister (Sybil Burton: formerly Williams. finally Christopher (1929-2013), was the actor Richard Burton’s first wife). The connection between Bernard and Richard Burton was important and extremely fortunate.

In The Richard Burton Diaries, Burton talks of Bernard being in a financial predicament; in May 1969, he says: “Bernard is being squeezed out by his snake-in-the-grass partner Andre.” Infuriated, Burton who likes Bernard (but obviously dislikes Andre because he describes him as a, “sneaky jumped-up-jack of a fellow.”) and helps him by giving him £50,000.

Burton had helped ‘Andre Bernard’ from the outset, lending them substantial amounts of money. Burton says, “Without the luck of association, Andre and Bernard would have been Charlie and Harry back in Whitechapel where they started from.” Burton lent ‘thousands’ of pounds to Andre Bernard – I assume to keep them afloat and to help with expansion?

Richard Burton says Bernard was being ‘squeezed out’ in May 1969, but it was around this time that Bernard left, some say that he left Andre Bernard’s in about 1967 – three years or so before André’s death.

Bernard ‘Bernie’ Mizelas

Bernard ‘Bernie’ Mizelas was André’s younger brother, he ran the northern salons and by all accounts he was a well respected hairdresser. Bernie took over when André died. He was married to Jean.

It seems to me that Andre Bernard’s were going through a strange time when André died, especially because of the merger with Sassoons falling through. But Bernie came down to London and managed to sort of keep it going until the company was eventually bought out.

Hearty Thanks and References

Share

22 thoughts on “Royal Hairdresser Andre Mizelas Murdered in Hyde Park

  1. I was really interested to read your article re. Andre (Harry) Mizelas.
    My parents were great friends of him- firstly my Mother as a customer at Bond Street and therafter my father and he used to play golf, ski and follow Tottenham and England together. I actually persuaded him to buy the TR5 and even went up to the factory to collect it from new and save the delivery charge ! We all went to the ’66 World Cup final together and leaving 5 minutes before the end missed extra time and watched it at his parents house on Hendon Way.
    I’d never heard about any financial problems at all and I know he had built up a property portfolio in Islington.
    Our entire family was interviewed by the police for background info and it always amazed me nothing ever transpired

  2. My dear Brian, very many thanks for taking the time to post such an interesting reply.

    It sounds like you and your family knew him well.

    I pieced my ‘story’ together from what was originally told to me by Robert in 1973-ish, from a myriad of articles and snippets of news posted on the internet, and from my imagination of what I thought the chain of events must have been!

    As someone who knew him and must have been dreadfully shocked by what had happened:
    How do you think I did – did I get near to the truth do you think? Have you got anything to add?

    Have you got a photograph of Andre that I could use in this blog post? I haven’t got one and I can’t find one!!!

    You said, “it always amazed me nothing ever transpired.” And I totally agree with that – what we need is New Tricks (UCOS) on the job!

    Thank you once again Brian, totally brilliant of you to comment :-) x
    ian recently posted…Beginners Guide To Tweaking Your Twitter ProfileMy Profile

    • I worked for Andre Bernard from 1968 till1971 then again from 1974 till 1980. At the time of Andre’s death there were a couple of theories afoot.
      1. That we were to be taken over by Vidal Sassoon and Andre was against this.
      2. He was having an affair with a gangsters wife and the shooting was payback.

  3. Thank you for the comment Marian :-)
    Yes, Sassoon was going to ‘take over’ Andre Bernard, but he pulled out at the last minute. Some say that this left Andre unable to pay a debt!

    I’d heard about the affair theory, but I’ve a strong feeling that it’s untrue – on the other hand if you’ve got any inside info…

    Marian, have you got, or can you point me in the direction of a good picture of Andre Mizelas? I’d love one on here.

    Thanks again xXx

  4. I worked for Andre Bernard for a short time in 1962. I was in the office in Berkeley Street and saw him regularly. Although I have nothing of value to add I’m afraid, I was, and still am, very intrigued, the by sad event.

  5. Dear Brenda, very many thanks for your comment, really appreciate that :-) x
    When I search Google images for Andre Bernard or Andre Mizelas, I can’t find a picture of him. Brenda, darling, can you? I’d love to include an image of Andre (Harry) Mizelas here on this blog post.

    Thanks again xXx
    ian recently posted…Social Media RelationshipsMy Profile

    • Hi Ian,
      I am sorry I am unable to supply a picture of Harry Mizelas. Have you sourced any old hairdressing magazines or style books. I know there was a magazine published around that time which printed bits of news about the Mayfair hairdressers. I vaguely remember one of their top stylists being featured.
      I have found (among my bits of memorabilia) a reference from them when I left. It is on their headed paper and the address for the admin office was 16 Berkeley Street.
      One thing I do remember (a bit of gossip here!) is that I was there when the Richard Burton/Elizabeth Taylor ‘affair’ began. Bernard Greenford (the other Director in the company) was married to Sybil Burton’s sister. I am sure you probably already knew that but I do remember there was a bit of an awkward atmosphere!
      Good luck in your search.
      Brenda.

      • Thanks SO much Brenda for that reply. Yes that’s a good idea about looking in old mags and books. I asked Hairdressers Journal, but they couldn’t help! I’m really surprised there’s not one out there.

        16 Berkeley Street, thanks, what a brilliant place to go to work.

        Well we all (us hairdressers) love a bit of gossip. No I didn’t know that about Bernard Greenford, because I don’t know very much about Andre Bernard’s. I Googled “Bernard Greenford” and found a VERY interesting reference in the The Richard Burton Diaries May 1969 page 289. Saying that Greenford had been squeezed out by Mizelas. More interesting food for thought, I may end up editing this blog post :)

        Thank you again Brenda xXx

        • There is something very odd about Andres murder and it still being a current investigation and yet the files are dlosed to sdrutiny. My guess is the masons or the mafia are in deep on this one. No way could the killing still be such a secret. The reason you can’t find photos is possibly because Andre had a very prominent birthmark on his face. I have a friend who worked for him in one of the London salons in the late 1950’s. I shall find out more.

  6. Ian, what a very interesting read in that article! Mr B didn’t have a very good opinion of Harry Mizelas to say the least! Obviously I didn’t know him very well but I thought he had a very imposing presence, quietly spoken and pleasant to me inasmuch as I was the very junior person out of the three members of staff in the office.
    I will follow your postings with interest. x

  7. I worked in Mayfair mount st 94 and all the hotels we had salons was a good time when we opened Croydon wot a time we had fashions shows we put on

  8. It has been suggested to me by Mandy J., that André’s business partner was his brother Bernard Mizelas? However, I am unable to corroborate this information further. When André Mizelas and Bernard Greenford opened their first Grafton Street salon in 1948, André would have been about 26 and Bernard Mizelas would have been about 18? Who is Bernard Mizelas? Was he Andre’s younger brother?

    • Ian, I’m pretty sure that this Bernard Mizelas doesn’t exist. As I said in my email to you, I think it was a misunderstanding and the only Bernard was Bernard Greenford.
      However, if my theory is proved wrong, I would like to hear about it and I would apologise for misleading you!

      Brenda

      • Well I must admit Brenda, I have to agree with you darling, however, let’s see if Mandy comes up with the info., I’ve sent her an email, waiting on the reply now! xXx

  9. Well!, I stand corrected. Quite a coincidence that he should also have a business partner named Bernard. (As in Bernard Greenford). I suppose there is no reason why I would have known anything about his siblings. Who supplied this info.?

  10. My grandmother’s maiden name was Mizelas. She was the aunt of Harry (Andre) and Bernard Mizelas. Some information about the origins of the Mizelas family can be found on the following page of my website: http://kesselmanfamilyhistory.weebly.com/mizelas.html
    According to the National Archives, Richard Burton was interviewed by the police after Andre’s death. The records are closed and are not due to be opened for many years. I applied for them to be opened under the Freedom of Information Act but was turned down as the case is apparently not closed!

  11. Hi Bryan, very many thanks for your comment. I had visited your website a couple of years ago when I originally researched this blog post – very interesting.

    One of your ‘relations’ Mandy J., contacted me about three weeks ago regarding Bernie Mizelas, which made me do a little more investigation – there’s more to do to flesh out this blog post.

    Thanks again Bryan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *