Joe Donelli was an American GI who murdered fellow army comrade Steve Tanner in September 1968 by pushing him down a flight of stairs following an altercation regarding Joe's gambling debts of £2,000 to Steve.
Joe was posted to Burtonwood in 1967 but the GIs spent time in Weatherfield when Steve resumed his affair with Elsie Tanner, who he later married. When they were posted to the country again the following year, Steve pursued a reconciliation with Elsie as they'd separated a few months after marrying. Joe's violent row with Steve occurred at Steve's flat at Claydon Court. Luckily for Joe, no evidence placed him at the scene of the murder and Elsie and Len Fairclough emerged as the prime suspects, although neither were charged and an open verdict was returned at the subsequent inquest. A month later, Joe and the other GIs Gary Strauss and Gregg Flint were moved to Hamburg.
While it seemed Joe had got away with murder, violence followed him as he once put a German woman in hospital and he beat Jean Moseley, who had to be paid off by Gregg to keep quiet. In November 1970, Joe deserted from the army and returned to Weatherfield, lodging with Minnie Caldwell at No.5 and telling everyone he was on leave. He was followed by Gregg and Gary, who were under orders from Major Ryan to make Joe return to Burtonwood, but Joe ignored them, focusing instead on working his charms on Irma Barlow. He soon showed his dark side to Irma, coming on strong while drunk and then dramatically confessing killing Steve - but he frightened her into keeping quiet.
As Gregg and Gary stayed in the area, they realised that Joe could have killed Steve as Gary had given him a false alibi. Panicking, Joe took Irma hostage in the Corner Shop while he concocted an escape plan. Irma managed to escape and Joe took refuge back at No.5, holding Minnie and Bobby, her cat, hostage until an unlikely hero in the shape of Stan Ogden took her place. Stan was unaware that Joe was armed, and was forced to sing Silent Night at gunpoint with the increasingly desperate man. Finally, Joe turned the gun on himself and the siege ended.
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