Monday, 2 March 2009

"Forgive" sounds good......

When I joined the Metropolitan Police, London, I and my fellow recruits were treated to a process of training that is experienced in varying degrees and quality, by police officers the world over. Not only was it necessary to teach us law, police procedures and the means to apply the use of force as well as trying to avoid it, but we were also on a journey of indoctrination into what, for me, became something akin to joining a large extended family. Most families have their own hierarchy, customs, norms and shared values as well as `skeletons in cupboards` and the police is no different. But it is difficult for anyone, let alone a releatively naive 19 year old from a lower middle class background, to absorb the culture of such an organisation with such responsibilities in just a 4 month spell at training school followed by 20 months of on-going training. Looking back, I think they did a pretty good job in steering and moulding me so that at the end of my training I could walk through the gate that leads to the world of police and policing. One of our `indoctrination` lessons included a visit to what used to be known as The Black Museum of New Scotland Yard. As you would expect, it's not called that anymore and is now The `Crime` Museum, but the change of the name has not watered down the fact that it is still not a place for the faint hearted and it is also one of very few British museums that is not open to the general public. My recollection of the visit is a little hazy, mainly because of the years that have passed, but there are a few things that are still burned into my memory and which I can see now, as clear as on that visit, over 35 years ago: A collection of the actual hangman's nooses that were used to dispatch numerous convicted murderers, sentenced to death - grisly relics of the days when the state retained the right to do such a thing. (When I last looked, Treason was still the only offence for which a British court can sentence to death but that may have gone as well. I just can't be bothered to check). The bath used by the infamous `Acid Bath Murderer` John Haigh, a serial killer of the 1940's. Match boxes containing the pubic hair, clipped from the poor female victims by John Christie, after he murdered them in his lodgings at 10 Rillington Place. But the one exhibit that has always remained the most vivid was that of the operational log book of an unmarked police car, known as a "Q" Car. "Q" Cars were usually crewed by a Detective Sergeant, a detective constable and a uniform branch Class 1 advanced driver from Traffic Division. It was a specialist crime car dedicated to high end criminal activity and usually tasked by New Scotland Yard CID. In those days all Area Cars (marked fast response unit) and "Q" Cars had an ops log which would be maintained by the designated radio operator. All calls to the unit, as well as those to neighbouring area cars, would be logged by the operator. Any actions taken, persons and vehicles stopped would be referenced briefly in the log. It was an official document and had to be preserved on completion. The log we were shown at The Black Museum was typically dog-eared with scribbled entries. However, this one had a dark brown stain across its page and into the other pages that had obviously been stuck together by a spillage. The writing ended abruptly. The writing was part of a vehicle/person stop check. The dark brown `spillage` was the blood of Detective Constable David Wombwell, aged 25. Along with his 2 colleagues, Det. Sgt David Head and PC Geoffrey Fox, he had been conducting the check on the vehicle and its 3 occupants, known to PC Fox as local villains. Suddenly, one of them produced a Luger pistol and shot DC Wombwell through the eye at point blank range, killing him instantly. The killer then got out of the car, ran after the Detective Sgt and shot him in the back of the head before turning his gun on the third officer, PC Fox, at the wheel of the "Q" Car, callsign `Foxtrot One-One`. All three officers died at the scene and the killings, in Acton, London, caused a public outcry that led to the forming of the Police Dependants Trust that exists to this day. The killer was a criminal named Harry Roberts who was eventually convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. 2 days ago I was sitting in bed, drinking tea and reading the Saturday paper. I opened it and on page 3 I suddenly found myself staring at Harry Roberts, a name that was burnt into my memory all those years ago as I sat with my colleagues, in stunned silence, in the Black Museum of New Scotland Yard. It seems that despite many attempts to secure his release over the years, both legally and by attempting to escape, he may yet be permitted his freedom. He claims he is now just an old aged pensioner. May I draw your attention to this example of another criminal who is also an `old aged pensioner`. For anyone who may feel a tinge of sympathy for his case, I just wanted to say that the sight of DC Wombwell's blood on that log book, the sort of log I used so many times in my time on Area Cars in London, stayed with me throughout my service and is with me now, as I type this, with tears rolling down my cheeks. If this man is released, like the three men who killed my dear friend in the execution of his duty in Oxford Street and who were sentenced to 9 years for manslaughter and released in 4, then what hope of justice is left for the police of this country to cling onto as they go about their duty as Det Sgt Head, TDC Wombwell and PC Fox did in Braybrook Street, London, August 12th, 1966? They were "family". PS: See what happened to another old colleague of mine and the p.o.s. that shot him PPS: One of my blog followers `Dickiebo` has a very personal insight into this post. Read it here.

11 comments:

Sage said...

That is terribly sad, both for the loss of life that he took and for his own view of himself. Yes he might be old but that doesn't make him automatically releasable.

Having said that forgiveness is deeply on my mind this week.

Ky Long Rider said...

There are things that occur in this life that I find unforgivable. I believe some things are not meant to be forgiven. I also believe that "policing ourselves" is one way our higher power teaches us to be human beings. We've been given the tools to determine acceptable levels of behavior, it's up to us to use them. In this case I thing forgiveness equates laziness. The acts committed destroyed lives and families.

Hogday said...

Thanks Sage and glad to see you up and running. I'm very big on forgiveness myself. I've seen too many people become bitter and twisted rather than letting it go. I just don't think Roberts, or his like, should be!

Hogday said...

Thanks to you too, KLR - (our comments co-incided). I'm off on the Hog for some therapy.

dickiebo said...

I knew all three very well indeed and have written blogs on their murder. I also wrote a letter to The Daily Mail when they published an article last week but, as usual, they didn't print it! I shall do another article now as a 'follow-up'.

Blue Eyes said...

It is outrageous that anyone convicted of three cold-blooded murders and sentenced to life in prison should be allowed out. This isn't about whether he might kill again, it's about society saying "this is not acceptable".

Is the Met ashamed of people called "Black" or did this particular "Black" disgrace himself in some way. It's about time society stopped mucking about and got down to the real business of sorting out our crime problem, if you ask me.

powdergirl said...

Sorry, for me some things are unforgivable.
If you kill a cop, you need to be put down like a rabid animal.

Hogday said...

Dickiebo: You know, probably better than me, that the Brabrook Street shootings was the stuff of legends and was very much in the hearts and minds of coppers of that era. It certainly was in the forefront for my instructors at Hendon and beyond. When I read puerile shite about releasing these sub-humans it brings out bad things in me that I don't like feeling. A cadet mate of mine, Phil Olds, was gunned down and crippled by a hells angel (Stuart Blackstock) who was released on licence a few years ago. This p.o.s. was awarded over £7k by the European Court of Human Rights because the Home Office erred and delayed his parole by 18 months!! Phil took his own life 6 yrs later when his long quest to walk again failed. Copy and paste the link:

http://www.polfed.org/0905news2.pdf

What did for Phil was not so much his injuries, as much as he just couldn't understand how a court could come to the conclusion that as a uniform police officer, being deliberately shot at point blank range, with a Colt .45 auto, was somehow not deemed to be attempted murder. I shared his bemusement.

Blue Eyes: Concur. I got a touch emotional at the end of my post - more anger than sadness. I don't like losing objectivity ;) As for the museum and its title, oh dear oh deary me. Its a bad day at black rock, so it is.

PowderGirl: Sometimes I'm amazed that I'm not bitter and twisted!

kateykakes said...

He should rot in jail for the rest of his miserable life and have NO chance of freedom. And after he rots in jail, I hope he rots in hell.

stevenbradley said...

THE BRAYBROOK STREET MASSACRE WAS
THE FIRST CRIME REMEMBER,I WAS SEVEN AT THE TIME AND WATCHED THE NEWS AND READ THE PAPERS EVERYDAY DURING THE THREE MONTH HUNT FOR ROBERTS.HE SHOULD NEVER BE RELEASED,IT DOSEN'T MATTER WHAT HE IS LIKE NOW' IT'S THE TERRIBLE CRIME HE COMMITED WHY HE IS AND SHOULD BE KEPT IN PRISON.

stevenbradley said...

THE BRAYBROOK STREET MASSACRE WAS
THE FIRST CRIME REMEMBER,I WAS SEVEN AT THE TIME AND WATCHED THE NEWS AND READ THE PAPERS EVERYDAY DURING THE THREE MONTH HUNT FOR ROBERTS.HE SHOULD NEVER BE RELEASED,IT DOSEN'T MATTER WHAT HE IS LIKE NOW' IT'S THE TERRIBLE CRIME HE COMMITED WHY HE IS AND SHOULD BE KEPT IN PRISON.