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When Diplomats Kill

Bradford Bishop and Gérard Amanrich were highly esteemed American and French diplomats, respectively. The two men were bright, motivated, and had a lot going for them:  Bishop was a skilled Foreign Service officer with a picture-perfect family, while Amanrich was a former Ambassador to the Vatican with a lovely wife and kids. While their lives may have seemed ideal on the surface, something inside drove them to murder. The Bishop case lay dormant for decades until the FBI put him on its Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list on April 10, 2014, for allegedly bludgeoning to death his wife Annette, mother Lobelia, and three sons, William Bradford III (14), Brenton (10), and Geoffrey (5) at their home in Bethesda, Maryland, on March 1, 1976.

Investigators believe Bishop then drove to rural North Carolina, buried the bodies in a shallow grave, and lit them on fire. The United States Attorney’s Office in Maryland has charged Bishop with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution in the murders. Bishop, Jr. is the 502nd person to be placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, which was established in March 1950. In October 2014 a body was found in Georgia which investigators believed could have been Bishop’s; however, that was later disproved.

Dell Pendergrast was interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy in June 1999; Dan Zachary was interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy in July 1989 and the interview was revised in 2007 and 2010; Peter K. Murphy was interviewed by William D. Morgan in April 1994. See also the grisly account of the Erdos murder in Equatorial Guinea.

“He seemed to have it all: a lovely wife and family and a career”

Dell Pendergrast

PENDERGRAST:  After the six to eight weeks of the A-100 course [for new Foreign Service officers], we moved into our own training program over at USIA [U.S. Information Agency]….One of our very good friends in the class, a State Department officer, turned out to be, tragically, one of the Service’s most infamous members, Brad Bishop, who later in the 1970s killed his whole family at his Maryland home and disappeared. And there were subsequent reports, I gather, of people who ran into him in Europe.

My wife and I were shocked by what happened because we had looked up to Brad and his wife. They were somewhat older and had some experience overseas….We got acquainted with them and found them an exceptionally engaging, friendly and wonderful couple. What happened later just staggers our imagination. It was certainly nothing that seemed even remotely possible back in 1965 and 1966. We lost touch with them after that time. Something must have happened. He snapped and the rest is a disaster.

Dan Zachary

ZACHARY: Not long after my tour [in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia] began the infamous Brad Bishop arrived at the post with his young family. He was a first-tour officer.

I remember what an extraordinarily attractive couple they were, real lookers, eye candy from California. Brad and his wife, Annette, were very sociable and popular as well. He seemed to have it all: a lovely wife and family and a career that continued to do well. Brad beat me out of a part in an amateur production of “The Fantastiks.”

I saw Brad again in 1975 as he was beginning a tour in the Department. I ran into him near the Department while jogging and I gave him a tour of the men’s locker room that he asked to see. It was only weeks later that he was wanted for the alleged murder of his wife, his three sons and his own mother.

There still are sightings of him, particularly in Europe, but he has never been found.

Peter K. Murphy

MURPHY:  We enjoyed our life in Milan, a place full of cultural amenities. That was the time of, well let’s see the interesting people at the post. Bradford Bishop comes to mind….He murdered his entire family while on assignment in Washington following his posting in Milan.

Here we have a Foreign Service Officer, a Yale graduate, very bright — with excellent career prospects. He was an Economic Officer in Milan. He had a wife and two children. He was the only son of a wealthy widowed mother — who came to see them often in Italy. Aside from being short tempered — and very critical of his wife, who came from a “less fortunate” background than he — Brad appeared to be a nice fellow. We were all shocked to hear of the tragic killing of all his family members – including his mother – a few years later in Washington.

I recall inviting Annette and Brad to dinner, sometime towards the end of our tour in Milan – together with another couple – the French Consul General in Milan and his wife – Mr. et Mme. P. [Gérard] Amanrich.

Strange as it may sound, six or seven years later this French Consul General also murdered his entire family!

Following his Milan assignment, he was named Ambassador to the Holy See by President Pompidou. I recall that he, too, was a very intelligent and most ambitious diplomatic officer.

His wife, as I remember, was from a “good French family from the 16eme Arr. [a wealthy district] in Paris” which had lost most of their money — and she was thus forced to take a secretarial job  in the Quai d’Orsay [the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs]There she met her future husband. He was overjoyed with his appointment to the Vatican. This appointment is perhaps the most prestigious in the French diplomatic service.

However, the joy did not last that long in Rome! In less than two years, immediately following the election of President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, Amanrich was recalled to Paris. It was reported that he was crushed after his relatively short tour at the Vatican.

Following his return to Paris, he “walked the halls” of the Quai d’Orsay for the next six months, during which time he turned down ambassadorships to several nations that he considered beneath him and his professional qualifications. After all, the ambassadorship to the Holy See for a French diplomat is a top assignment.

Amanrich’s predecessors were some of the most influential and noted men in France. After more than six months without an assignment in Paris,…one evening while watching the TV news, Amanrich shot and killed his wife and children, went to an apartment on an upper floor in the same Paris apartment building and shot his mother-in-law. He then drove around the city all night and, in the early hours of the morning, gave himself up to the police. A few weeks later, he hanged himself in his prison cell.

Although we cannot be absolutely certain that Brad Bishop killed his family, all evidence points to the fact that it was he. It is an unbelievable coincidence that we had these two couples to dinner together in Milan years before these tragic events.