Sunday, May 13, 2007
Down Memory Lane
Many years ago, before I joined the Bench, I ran a company and as was the culture of the time a lot of business was transacted in the local pub. I got to know quite a few of the regulars, and among them were the Detective Inspector who ran the local CID together with a dozen or so CID men. The Met was a very different outfit back in the 1970s, and the CID had a hard-drinking laddish culture. A lot of things happened that would cause today's senior policemen to faint clear away. For example, every Christmas the local publicans would get together and lay on an all-day open house to which the division's CID were invited, with an ample supply of free food and drink. A CID office was always well supplied with bottles of Scotch to be offered to visitors, and I heard of West End pubs (my pal was ex-Flying Squad) that would open up at 4 a.m. if required to provide a boozy breakfast to a squad of coppers who had just had a result. One businessman of my acquaintance carried out an illegal criminal record check on all of his staff courtesy of a couple of co-operative DCs. It was the norm to commission a tie for all of the officers who had worked on a particular job or squad. I still have a Drug Squad tie with a distinctive frond on a dark blue background, and I recall seeing a real one-off:- a man had murdered his wife, and went on to push her body in a wheelbarrow right past the front door of the police station before tipping her off a bridge into the canal. The tie featured a bridge over water, a wheelbarrow, and a blue lamp - very tasteful.
My home town used to be plagued by a nasty violent family known locally as the Crazy Gang. They moved on from petty crimes to serious violence, and one of their number ended up with a 17-year stretch for manslaughter, a conviction that would have been murder had the jury not fallen for the story that the killer's finger had accidentally tightened on the trigger when he stumbled. One of the family called Terry took it amiss when he was banned from the Royal Oak, returning to the pub at night with a can of petrol, which he threw over the fence and ignited. The Royal Oak was a regular police watering hole, so an immediate and thorough hunt was launched that resulted in Terry's rapid arrest. I heard this story in the pub a couple of days later, and one phrase sticks in my mind to this day. "He's gone hands-up, made a full statement. Do you know, he was wearing suede shoes, and they were soaked in petrol". He paused. "They were when we got him back to the station, anyway".
And what prompted me to recall all this lot? Terry's son, who is now 34, was on the court list last week for something or other. It must be in the DNA.