John Alexander Symonds

“I'd say: ‘join the KGB and see the world’ - first class. I went to all over the world on these jobs and I had a marvellous time. I stayed in the best hotels, I visited all the best beaches, I've had access to beautiful women, unlimited food, champagne, caviar whatever you like and I had a wonderful time. That was my KGB experience. I don't regret a minute of it ...”


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The Fall of Scotland Yard Part 3

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After this hiatus, Naan and Wright interviewed Crouch on 14 January. He followed MacDonald’s example and admitted twenty-four other offences, totalling £28,000 of stolen goods. With MacDonald he received a three-year sentence. Crouch also followed MacDonald in making allegations against Metropolitan officers, including - yet again - Symonds. The third man, Hinch, for all his tight-lipped discretion, did hardly any better and was sent down for two years.

The full spread of Symonds’s activities was now becoming clear, at least to the provincial officers on the inquiry. Nothing had come up to disprove Perry’s allegations or the self-incriminating remarks Symonds had made on the Times recordings. Symonds himself was now claiming that the whole thing was a fix by the imprisoned Richardson gang because of his intrepid role in putting them away. Alas, Symonds had played a negligible part in that achievement, but he still maintained that his girlfriend was herself a former associate of the Richardsons and she could visit one of them in prison to get him to drop the frame-up. (It may be wondered how a detective could have built up so intimate a relationship with these notorious gangsters, but it is also disturbing that a serving detective inspector in the same neighbourhood could have survived for so long when it was well known that he too was a Richardson familiar.)

MacDonald’s allegations were more outrageous than Perry’s but no less circumstantially believable, and they helped to destroy Symonds’ attempted defence that there was a gangland vendetta against him. MacDonald was a confirmed criminal. He had five previous convictions stretching back to 1964, the latest on 5 July 1968 at the Old Bailey on two counts of shopbreaking and stealing and one of assaulting the police. For these MacDonald had received a total of three years’ imprisonment. How he came to be at liberty in Hemel Hempstead less than fifteen months later is therefore a matter of some interest.

MacDonald had been on home leave from Lewes Prison but failed to return there when it expired on 18 August 1969. He paid one detective to make sure nobody searched his home, but was then introduced to Symonds. He told him he wanted to stay out for a while to do a few jobs for his wife’s sake and then go back inside. Symonds considered MacDonald’s situation with compassion and appears to have sold MacDonald a licence. The licence had to be renewed from time to time, for MacDonald later recounted that whenever he met Symonds it cost him a ‘bluey’, a five-pound note. He thought that Symonds was ‘saving him up for a rainy day’. But a few blueys were a small price to pay for so profitable a liberty. Between 23 August and his arrest on 18 November - according to his subsequent admission - MacDonald participated in nineteen successful duplicate-key operations all over London and far beyond. Hemel Hempstead was to have been his twentieth inside thirteen weeks. Accompanied by Crouch on every occasion, he claimed to have taken part in unforced entries on seven clothing stores, including one particularly audacious seizure of leather gear from Milletts in Victoria Street, just around the corner from Scotland Yard. They stole cigarettes from four more shops and electrical goods from four others. One night they took £2,000 worth of handbags and on another they managed two carpet jobs twenty miles apart. The biggest haul was from the Edgware Road branch of Wilson and Waller, when £3,600 worth of off-the-peg suits came off-the-peg. MacDonald’s other admissions related to fourteen offences committed before his Old Bailey trial in 1968. But the crucial fact in 1969 was that MacDonald had been at liberty for three months and involved in intense criminal activity with the knowledge and the connivance of Detective Sergeant Symonds of Camberwell CID.

MacDonald had given this entire story to Naan and Wright because they clearly belonged to a different school of policing from that of DI Robson and his brethren. MacDonald also perhaps realized that, since he would have to go back to finish his sentence at Lewes, a further three years, less remission, was a bargain price to pay for his nefarious truancy.

It is difficult to estimate whether Symonds had called upon the London-wide network of like-minded officers of which he talked in the Times recordings, in order to ensure that the Peckham chapter of the Coathanger gang was left alone. The failure of the Met to catch MacDonald and his associates on any of the thirteen London jobs carried out during his three months’ liberty was not impressive, but the overall detection rate on such burglaries in the Metropolitan area was also low. The percentage ‘cleared up’, according to the statistics of the Met, was around the 20 per cent mark in these years.

Similarly, the provincial detection rate, on the other Coathanger jobs, was undistinguished. Yet it is a matter of record that it took only two young and inexperienced uniformed officers from the Hertfordshire force to pick up a man who had evaded the detective brilliance of the Met for three months. And where Coathanger detectives, notably Robson of the Yard, had failed to get any admissions from Crouch or MacDonald about their other achievements, Naan and Wright from the provinces had secured the disgorging of multiple confessions in a matter of hours with very little persuasion. The possibility of continuing collusion between detectives and criminals over the Coathanger offences could not thus be ruled out. Perhaps there was some truth in the story repeatedly told to the provincial inquiry team: that a Coathanger squad detective regularly wore one of the leather jackets stolen by the Coathanger gang from Milletts in Victoria Street, even when he came to work at Scotland Yard, just a few hundred yards away from the scene of the crime.

A more tangible example of the detective ability of the Coathanger squad was the way it handled the matter of Perry’s twelve bottles of whisky. Perry had been summarily charged and tried for dishonestly handling the Scotch. And yet there had been no serious attempt by Robson, Harris or any other officer to discover who had stolen it. Any detective of even modest ability should have perceived that the prime virtue of such a petty discovery was not the almost worthless conviction of the receiver, but the threat of prosecution used to elicit the identity of the thieves themselves. Perry could even have been charged with the theft himself until he was prepared to reveal some names.

In succeeding weeks several other petty South London criminals joined Perry, MacDonald and Crouch in making independent allegations about Symonds. Some of these men had made statements to The Times when Mounter and Lloyd had been seeking corroboration of Perry’s story before making their recordings. When Symonds was to face committal proceedings at the end of March 1971, there were eight charges. Three related to the alleged payments from Perry, each of £50 in October and November 1969, as a reward for helping him over his arrest in the Nuneaton Co-op robbery. Another charge was of conspiring with MacDonald ‘corruptly to accept from him payments of money in connection with his unlawful absence from Lewes Prison’. There was a charge relating to Crouch, that Symonds had obtained £15 from him regarding a road traffic form, and a similar charge over another traffic form, of obtaining £10 from a man called Roy Thomas. Symonds was further charged with taking £100 from Ronald Williams for showing favour over his arrest in April 1969, and of obtaining £25 from a Martin Ferris in connection with another investigation.

It may have been some slight relief to Symonds that on April Fool’s Day in 1971 the magistrate was to find no case for him to answer on the £10 allegation. He may also have been cheered by the reluctance MacDonald displayed about giving evidence against him. Yet MacDonald made his deposition and his allegations went forward for Symonds’ trial. But Symonds’ greatest let-off was that, despite the seven remaining criminal charges, the magistrate was to release him on bail of a mere £500, which scarcely exceeded his alleged take on these charges alone. This leniency was to prove to have been extremely ill-judged, especially the decision by the police officers responsible not to ask for his passport to be withdrawn.

Back in January 1970 the MacDonald confessional breakthrough achieved by Naan and Wright had effectively confirmed that Symonds was all that the Times tapes had indicated he was. There were, of course, serious problems about relying on the testimony of people like Perry, MacDonald and Crouch, especially in regard to the behaviour of police officers. The ultimate yardstick for measuring the value of such witnesses had to be how they would look and sound in a court of law. The investigators had always to be asking themselves two questions: ‘Are these people telling the truth?’ and ‘Will any judge or jury believe them?’

The answer to each of those questions might be different. Investigators might know that someone is lying, but still have the feeling that a jury will want to believe him - especially if he is a policeman. Similarly, a convicted criminal might be telling the truth, but there would not be the slightest chance that he would be believed in court. This had been the problem confronting the Times reporters when they took the momentous decision to go for the objective evidence of tape recordings, as well as the sworn word of Michael Perry. Now, with MacDonald, the provincial inquiry officers were faced with a very similar dilemma.

It was already apparent that Scotland Yard regarded characters like MacDonald according to two contradictory standards. When MacDonald had confessed to a mass of Coathanger offences his word had been quite acceptable at the Yard, especially to the Regional Crime Squad, perhaps because it conveniently ‘solved’ thirty-three crimes. But when MacDonald made allegations of corruption against plain-clothes officers, those same, Yard chiefs who so readily embraced the Coathanger confessions were adamant that he was, almost certainly, lying. Their double standard would probably be paralleled in the courts, especially in the minds of a typical jury. MacDonald’s allegations against Symonds would probably stand up only because the convict’s extraordinary and successful absence from Lewes Prison could hardly be explained otherwise. Against seven other officers, however, MacDonald’s allegations alone would not survive cross-examination. All the more reason, therefore, for checking out every possible source of corroboration. The trouble at this stage was that the provincial officers were not being allowed to pursue the entire spread of MacDonald’s allegations and, even if they had been allowed, there were not enough officers in the Williamson team to follow each tiny lead.

Williamson and his men were not interested in stitching up Met officers just because MacDonald had named them. The provincial inquirers were just as sceptical of MacDonald and his like as they would have been in the course of a normal criminal investigation. They were well aware that over ninety allegations of criminal conduct had been made against the Yard team which had put away the Richardson gang. Each had been investigated and none had been found to have the slightest foundation. But on such a massive and crucial job as the Richardson investigation, it would have been the officers against whom no such allegations were made upon whom suspicion should perhaps have fallen. The Richardsons themselves would have stimulated complaints only against detectives who were determinedly going for the Richardsons. ‘If you don’t get complaints, you aren’t doing well,’ the old Yard adage goes. What then of those officers who must have tolerated, indeed assisted, the rise of the Richardsons, and of the Krays, in earlier years? If the breaking of London’s biggest post-war gangsters could not have been achieved without titanic detective work, it must also be observed that these same gangs could not have risen to eminence without a little help on the way.

In the case of the Coathanger gang - or gangs - the police were up against equally professional criminals, though they were not men of any violence. They obviously did not want to be put out of business and would have been happy to disrupt and sabotage the work of the Regional Crime Squad’s Coathanger team. If Robson and Harris were good thief-catchers, as was later alleged at their trial, what better way of ruining their work than setting up a convincing allegation of corruption? As Frank Williamson himself later observed, criminal investigation is a ‘nasty, hard world of split-second decisions’. Any allegations against the CID had to be treated, therefore, with the fiercest scepticism.

However, the Times allegations did not readily fall into this ‘frame-up’ category. The newspaper had acted according to rigorous standards of scepticism and had demanded a level of proof which would have done credit to the CID. Thus the provincial inquirers could afford to treat subsequent corroboration of those allegations with less hostility and doubt than would otherwise have been justified.

With considerations such as these in their minds, the inquiry officers from both the provinces and the Yard ploughed their way through a seemingly endless list of tasks. All the interviews carried out by the provincial officers, including the MacDonald and Crouch statements, were fed through the typing pool into the inquiry’s joint files - the two teams were meant to be working as one. But, just as the distance between the two teams’ offices was a continuing security risk, so this way of channelling red-hot material was indiscreet in the extreme. Officers who had nothing to do with the conduct of the inquiry were able not only to wander in and out of its second-floor offices next to Cl, but also to drift among the typing pool and read whatever papers came to hand. There was no security to speak of. Anybody who felt his integrity might have been impugned in some ruffian’s testament appears to have been able to plunder the bran tub and see how far the inquiry had gone. On one occasion the ‘Action Book’, in which entries were made to instruct investigating officers on their next task, vanished from the main office. It was never recovered.

The only way to reduce this weakness, which was so serious that it was threatening to immobilize the entire investigation, was to get both inquiry teams out of Scotland Yard altogether. By January 1970 Williamson had reached the conclusion that it was wholly wrong for the inquiry to be conducted there at all. He successfully engineered a move to Tintagel House, an office block on the South Bank of the Thames, where security was bound to be improved since intruders from other sections of the Yard would have no excuse for being there and would be immediately noticed by the inquirers. When the move took place on 26 January the two teams found themselves housed together in less overcrowded offices. For Williamson and DCS Lambert, who was still heading the Yard inquiry team, the improvement was immeasurable. Their liaison was henceforth very close indeed.

Once Williamson and Lambert had overcome an initial wariness of each other, inevitable in the climate of Yard hostility which had greeted the outsider, the two men grew to work fairly well together. None of Williamson’s severe strictures against the way the Yard end of the inquiry was being handled were directed against Lambert in person, who was hardly his own boss. Certainly Lambert had been nominally in charge during those first few days immediately following the Times revelations, but the turgid and time-wasting pre-occupations of the Yard team, especially its determination to investigate the investigators, were not the fault of Fred Lambert.

Williamson never had any doubts about Lambert’s integrity or his commitment to finding out the truth of the allegations. But if Williamson had his reasons of principle for opposing the presence of any Met detective on the inquiry, be he Lambert or anyone else, Lambert himself was deeply distressed about being there. His selection as the investigating officer, merely because he happened to be ‘top of the frame’ at the moment of publication, exemplified just how dangerously incestuous the situations brought about by CID standing procedures could become. Lambert had been a detective sergeant at Brixton when Harris was there as a detective constable. They had also served together in the Flying Squad. On a personal level Lambert knew Harris’s wife and family. Lambert had also been the DC S for B Division when Robson was serving under him as a detective inspector at Chelsea. Another detective inspector being investigated by the inquiry team had also served under Lambert. Williamson learned of all these connections from Lambert himself when the two men first met on 9 December, and both knew that Lambert had been placed in an impossible position. Impossible, that is, anywhere except inside Scotland Yard. Roy Yorke, who had worked alongside Lambert in going through the Times material on the eve of its publication, would have been no better choice, for he also was well acquainted with Robson and Harris, who had both served under him when he was the DI at Brixton. But Yorke had left the inquiry within a few hours. Lambert had to stay with it for six months.

Williamson, however, would not have been satisfied whichever Yard DCS had been appointed to head the inquiry, even had that man never heard of the suspects before taking on the task. Williamson was convinced that the inquiry should have been put in charge of an officer with a far higher rank than chief superintendent. Williamson, of course, believed that he should not even have been a member of the Met but, whoever he was, he should have been directly responsible to the Deputy Commissioner and had immediate access to him. At this time the Deputy Commissioner happened to be Robert Mark, whom Williamson had known before the war, as a friend and colleague on the beat, in the same Manchester police force. Yet Williamson’s views were not governed by this chance circumstance. It was a matter of principle that there should be no other senior officers in the way of an inquiry chief, to obstruct or divert the course of the investigations. If, for instance, he had the rank of commander, that should have been possible. But, on the Times case, Williamson clearly felt that he should have had complete authority himself, if only the law had allowed it.

The trouble with the Yard team was not just the choice of its head. The haphazard choice of Lambert’s aides was equally unfortunate. Again the principle of selection appears to have been ‘who is doing nothing at the moment?’. The most bizarre result of this game of chance was that one of the officers selected was himself the subject at that time of a serious, indeed celebrated allegation of corruption. In May 1969 Detective Sergeant Robin Constable had taken part in a drugs raid on the Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, home of Rolling Stone Mick Jagger. In January 1970 Jagger was fined £200 for possessing cannabis found during that raid, yet from the time of his arrest he had maintained that Constable had asked him for £1,000 to escape conviction. His words, according to Jagger, were, ‘we can do something about it. A man can be guilty and plead not guilty and in that way he will get off. Well, how much is it worth to you?’ Scotland Yard then investigated the allegations and submitted a full report to the Director of Public Prosecutions. On receipt of his advice, the Commissioner decided that no proceedings were justified. Whatever Constable actually said to Jagger can never be verified, but the notoriety of the case should have made it impossible for Constable to be put on any corruption inquiry, at least until his own name had been cleared.

The main causes for concern over the inquiry thus apply almost to its entirety: the random selection of its investigating officers, irrespective of their personal relationships with the suspects or of investigations currently being carried out into corruption allegations made against them personally; a structure of operations which was far from leak-proof and which, even after the move to Tintagel House, was not truly secure; doubt about the degree to which the inquiry’s investigations were conducted without negative interference from above; and further doubts about the investigatory calibre, and will, of the Yard inquiry team as a whole.

The provincial officers were undoubtedly digging up a lot of new information and evidence, but the Met team came up with very little that was not already apparent from the Times report and the twenty-five files of transcripts, affidavits and other evidence which the newspaper had left in the care of the inquiry team. A total of some thirty investigating officers (Yard and provincial combined) were unable to add much corroborated evidence to that which the tiny team of Times journalists had already acquired by the time they went into print. There is good reason to believe that, had the inquiry’s provincial officers been allowed to follow through MacDonald’s complete allegations and not just those against Symonds, another fifteen detectives might have been brought to trial. Instead those inquiries were handled largely by the Metropolitan team.

How well some of the Met investigators performed may be gauged from the way one of the charges eventually brought against Symonds had been handled by the team. Daniel Crouch had alleged to Naan and Wright, of the Williamson team, that a police motor cyclist had once served him with a form charging that he had committed a traffic offence. Crouch specified the place, time and date of the alleged incident. Subsequently, said Crouch, he had paid Symonds £15 at a whelk stall in the Old Kent Road, to make sure that the form was mislaid. Inquiries showed that there was indeed no record that the form had ever been filed, but to prove whether Crouch was lying or telling the truth the motor cyclist, who would either have issued the form or not, had to be found. This should not have been a difficult task, since Crouch had committed himself to very specific details. It was given to a Metropolitan chief inspector, but after three weeks he had still not located the motor cyclist. This so exasperated the provincial inquiry team that Williamson put his own sergeant on to the job. Within two hours he had found the motor cyclist, who was able to show that he had indeed served a traffic offence form on Crouch, just as Crouch had alleged. Because the police station copy of the form had subsequently disappeared, it was very likely that Crouch was correct in alleging that Symonds had removed it in return for a bribe. Unless, of course, it had been removed by some other policeman.

But the most alarming aspect of the conduct of the Times inquiry still lay ahead. It did not revolve around the poor calibre of the investigatory work of the Metropolitan team; its casual incompetence, or its lack of enthusiasm for pursuing corruption in close colleagues. Instead it concerns the strange way in which Lambert was ousted as head of the inquiry and the even stranger choice of his successor. When Bill Moody formally succeeded Lambert on 26 May 1970 the course of the Times inquiry was to be controlled by a man whose own capacity, or rather rapacity, for corruption makes the conduct of Robson, Harris and Symonds look almost honest. If few people at the time realized the significance of his appointment, then those few - both inside and outside the Met - certainly appreciated the richness of its irony.

Before this was to happen, Fred Lambert and Frank Williamson had settled in so well together at Tintagel House that even Williamson was beginning to feel that a fair effort from all concerned might yet yield a satisfactory and full inquiry, despite the continuing difficulties. On 30 April four more detectives were suspended, bringing the total to eight. But Lambert’s cooperation with Williamson and his determination to see the whole thing through properly was alienating him from the Yard hierarchy. It had, after all, done its best to ensure that the provincial team was hedged and ditched with barriers and restraints, so that the Met would continue to look after its own, according to a strict interpretation of the Yard’s legal position.

Yet the provincial officers had broken out of their straitjackets on several highly productive ventures, notably with MacDonald and Crouch. Lambert was either unwilling, or unable, to stop them. The very fact that Williamson had not complained about Lambert to his bosses may have been taken as proof of Lambert’s collaboration. Williamson was continuing to press for far greater Liberty of operation but he had already overstretched the old guard’s limited patience. The one way to curb him would have been to dispose of Lambert and put someone safe in his place.

Lambert, unfortunately, was very vulnerable. He was under severe emotional strain in his personal life. His marriage was in tatters and perhaps less strenuous duties would have been more appropriate for him, for the time being at least. But any play made of this to excuse or account for his removal would have been misguided or diversionary, as would the allegation that it was because of Lambert that the inquiry had been proceeding more slowly than the Home Office was demanding. (It was, in fact, proceeding at some speed, but the faster it worked the more it laid bare, and the more it had therefore to follow up. It could not be completed as fast as had been expected because there was almost no limit to the ramifications of what it had already discovered.)

Lambert’s biggest mistake may have been that unwittingly he had hit upon a line of investigation which might have brought the Soho corruption scene to the authorities’ notice two years earlier than actually happened. And almost at the pinnacle of that corruption was DCS Bill Moody.

When Michael Perry had been taken from Peckham police station to Nuneaton on 24 September 1969 he was due to have been accompanied by a man called Roy Brooks. But Brooks had mysteriously escaped from the station by throwing some hot soup over the constable who had brought it to his cell. He was picked up days later but released on an alibi provided by a Justice of the Peace. This news was forwarded to Nuneaton, with the implication that there were no grounds for considering this man a suspect. But it came to the inquiry’s notice that this story was a complete fiction, for the person alleged to be a respected JP was almost certainly a Soho familiar, known as Frankie the Barber, or Little Frankie. He was Frankie Holbert, who lived in Deptford, close by Peckham in South-East London. He was a friend of Brooks and knew several other members of the Coathanger gang. In Soho Holbert had the job of a go-between for the pornographers - the dirty bookshop owners - and the police officers who were in their pay. It later emerged that Holbert was used by none other than Bernie Silver to pay large and regular bribes to DCS Bill Moody. Holbert would also feed information and instructions back from the detectives to the pornographers. Moody himself was later to acknowledge Holbert, not in this capacity, but as an informant of his since 1958. In November 1973 Holbert was to jump from the balcony of some council flats, hours after being convicted for possessing obscene material. But his significance in 1970 was that Fred Lambert was due to interrogate him about the fiction of his being a Justice of the Peace. Had Lambert proceeded to do this, he would probably have discovered more than mere confirmation of irregular conduct at Peckham police station. Frankie Holbert was not a very resilient character and might well have cracked under persistent questioning. He was certainly upset about the way Perry had cooperated with press men to lay bare CID corruption, for he told some of his associates that it was simply not the way to behave. From his point of view it upset the cosy relationship on which his own living depended. But no one could be certain that Holbert himself would not have started to talk about Moody to Lambert, or indeed to Naan and Wright. Moody, and anyone associated with him, had to make sure that this could not happen.

At that time Moody was the DCS heading the Obscene Publications Squad. As early as 6 December 1969 he had appeared on the inquiry and accompanied Lambert to Nuneaton to check out the Warwickshire and Coventry force’s anxiety over what Perry had said about Symonds as far back as September. With hindsight it now seems that Moody’s involvement in the Times inquiry was rather less random than Fred Lambert’s. Of all the detective chief superintendents based at Scotland Yard - and at that time there were some thirty - how was it that Moody should have been seconded to investigate this sensational case of corruption? Was it that he had engineered himself on to the inquiry because Frankie Holbert, or one of his Soho cronies, had tipped him off? Did he realize that, unless this inquiry was firmly bottled up and sealed, the truth about the Obscene Publications Squad might also have come out? Or could Moody have been placed there by others who knew that he might be rather less interested in pursuing allegations of corruption against brother detectives than someone like Lambert, because of his own completely compromised position? Viewed from this angle, Moody’s involvement may have been the firmest guarantee that the job would be done badly, but conscientiously so.

Lambert himself was not fully aware at the time of the significance of the Nuneaton/Peckham lead into Little Frankie. Instead he noticed that Moody breezily appropriated almost the entire Nuneaton end of the inquiry, including the strange affair of the JP, of which no more was heard. If Moody ever did interview Holbert about police corruption, it must have been a bizarre and fruitless ritual.

Through December and early January Moody appeared to busy himself on the Nuneaton end of the inquiry and on related tasks in Coventry and Leicester, but in fact he spent much of the time in London. On 26 January he moved to Tintagel House with the rest of the inquiry team. Meanwhile it was Lambert’s job to make progress reports on the whole investigation. On 13 May he was putting the finishing touches to a draft of some seventy pages on one aspect of the inquiry. Moody offered to read it and tie up a few loose ends. Lambert agreed. Within an hour Dick Chitty, by now DAC, turned up without warning at Lambert’s office. (His visit was in itself conspicuous since senior Yard officers did not just ‘drop in’ at Tintagel House. That was, of course, one of the reasons for the move.) The two men had a serious disagreement about the way the inquiry was being handled. Lambert, wild with anger, threatened to throw Chitty out. The DAC departed, but soon afterwards Commander Wally Virgo, Lambert’s immediate superior as head of Cl, summoned Lambert to his office at Scotland Yard. Virgo told him that he was to be taken off the inquiry. It would be completed by Bill Moody. Lambert asked why. Virgo said, ‘You have backed the wrong horse. You have backed Frank Williamson against your own senior officers.’

The order was shortly carried out. On 21 May Lambert was told he was being taken off the Times inquiry and put in the non-job of deputy to Wally Virgo. Here, in what was known as ‘the little chair’, Lambert had to deal with the Commander’s correspondence. He was now not much more than a clerk, but in this job he was able to see how inadequately the Obscene Publications Squad was handling its inquiries. Part of his duties was to approve and sign reports sent in by the various Cl squads, but Lambert sent more than a dozen OPS reports back for correction. Lambert observed that these reports never came back to him, although they should have done, for his ultimate approval. Soon Virgo hauled him in again and said Lambert was trying to upset the whole of Cl with this obstructive behaviour. He said he was moving him once again, this time to the job of detective chief superintendent in charge of liaison with Interpol, a notorious dead-end. Lambert could stand this treatment no longer. In September 1970 he went on permanent sick leave and left the Metropolitan Police altogether at the end of March 1971.

In 1977 at the trial of Moody and Virgo the reasons for Lambert’s dismissal were to be exhumed at last. Lambert’s version of events was then bitterly challenged, particularly on behalf of Virgo, who portrayed Lambert as a drunk, a truant and a total nervous wreck. Virgo also claimed that Lambert had been thrown off the Times inquiry because he was incompetent and it had been discovered that he knew one of the officers involved. Alas, Virgo could produce no documents he might have written at the time which recorded any of this disturbing behaviour.

Peter Brodie, the former Assistant Chief Commissioner, who was called on behalf of Moody, stated that it was not correct that Lambert had been removed because he knew one of the officers, for Brodie would not have regarded this as a bar. Instead Brodie asserted that Lambert was removed because Frank Williamson had expressed dissatisfaction with him. ‘He told me that he was not satisfied with the inquiry. It was not going on fast enough.’ Brodie was adamant that Williamson had specifically singled out Lambert as the cause of the trouble. But Williamson himself also testified at the trial - for the prosecution. He completely rejected the Brodie version. He stated that the quality of Lambert’s work had given him no cause for concern. However, he had felt a general concern over the way the inquiry had been instituted and handled from its inception. He refuted the allegation that Lambert was incompetent or that he had failed to disclose his knowledge of the officers involved. In any case this knowledge had not affected Lambert’s impartiality. Lastly, Williamson rejected an astonishing suggestion that he had ever asked Virgo specifically for Moody to assist him full-time.

Brodie made it clear that it had been his final decision to remove Lambert from the inquiry, although this had been taken only after discussions with Chitty and Virgo. ‘I came to the conclusion that it was Lambert’s domestic problems which were the reasons he wasn’t getting on with the inquiry. That is why I removed him from it.’ But Brodie also testified that he had never even discussed these domestic problems with Lambert himself. He had accepted what he had been told by one of his DACs.

Fred Lambert stuck to his version, fiercely resisting the onslaughts made on his character on behalf of Virgo. Their accounts agreed only in the matter of Lambert’s going sick, although this took place some four months after his removal from the Times inquiry. Yet even this ‘illness’ had been a device, agreed to by his superiors, to enable Lambert to retire from the police service with a full pension, rather earlier than would otherwise have been possible. (His twenty-four and a half years’ service was not by itself enough.) Lambert’s final police medical report diagnosed him as ‘suffering from an acute depression which is likely to be permanent’. Certainly he had been undergoing psychiatric treatment for some six to eight months beforehand. But Lambert asserted that the only reason the report was so pessimistic was that his doctor simply did not believe all the stories he had been telling him about the vendetta against him at Scotland Yard and about police corruption in general. Lambert added in court that after all that had come out in the meantime his doctor would have to believe him today. On retiring Lambert had gone straight into full-time employment as the security chief of a multi-million-pound business and was still holding that job down six years later.

But back in the summer of 1970 Williamson found himself saddled with Bill Moody. They had to share an office where Williamson took many phone calls for Moody from his team at the Obscene Publications Squad. Eventually Moody’s dual role was ended with a memorandum from DAC Chitty on 18 August 1970. Henceforth Moody was no longer in charge of Obscene Publications. He was now full-time on the Times inquiry.

It is difficult to imagine a more incongruous or uneasy pairing than Williamson with Moody. Although Williamson could have had no precise idea in the summer of 1970 of what Moody was up to in Soho as head of Obscene Publications, his gut feeling was one of revulsion. Williamson had a puritanical and unspectacular style of living, not sackcloth and ashes but far from showy. Moody lived in some style, running two impressive cars: a 2.5-litre petrol-inject Triumph and a 1.5 Lancia which, it was later revealed, had been bought by Moody from a Soho pornographer friend, George Vinn - one of Moody’s many personal bonds with the men he was meant to be harrassing.

Williamson’s own motor, an Austin 1800 two years old, was ridiculed by Moody. One day in the car park at Tintagel House he walked over to Williamson and said, ‘Is that the best you can do?’

Williamson was also disturbed when Moody once told him that he was taking a few days off to drive a friend’s car from Spain to Switzerland. He produced a pair of free air tickets sent to him by the friend. The provincial man was shocked at what appeared to be a doubtful piece of moonlighting and brought it to the attention of a Yard officer senior to Moody, but to little effect.

Williamson’s views on relationships with criminals - you should never have any dealings with them which could conceivably diminish your effectiveness as a detective - was in total contrast to Moody’s avowed belief that to catch villains you had to drink with them, socialize with them and gain their complete confidence, so that they regarded you as a mate and not an adversary.

Williamson noticed that Moody was making conspicuous efforts to get him to enjoy the Yard man’s hospitality. At the time he merely turned the invitations down, but later Williamson was to wonder if this had been part of an attempt to immobilize the inquiry by compromising him in some way or other. But this seems unlikely, for Moody must have realized that Williamson was not his sort of policeman and that such a ploy was unlikely to succeed.

Moody, however, gave every appearance of an energetic assault on the mass of inquiries which were now his responsibility. He drove his end of the Times investigation forward with such zeal and enthusiasm that some of his Yard colleagues became temporarily alarmed. Even many straight detectives had hoped that his appointment would bring the inquiry to a rapid end and keep the provincials in check, but Moody was to investigate without any apparent remorse some thirty detectives under The Times’ umbrella. At the time it seemed as if Moody was determined to prove Williamson wrong, by showing that it was possible for a Metropolitan officer to carry out an investigation on his CID colleagues without favour. But it was heat that was generated rather than light. There was no reason for some of Moody’s victims to be investigated at all and those that should have been were never forced to reveal anything which was to bring them before a court. Instead, Moody was creating a frenetic diversion of frenzied activity to give the appearance of a job thoroughly done. He had, as his trusty aide. Detective Sergeant Cyril Jones, known throughout Soho as ‘Moody’s Sergeant’, who like Moody was later to face corruption charges and was to be sent to prison in 1976 for seven years. This unworthy duo and their aides were to achieve almost nothing in any tangible form on the Times inquiry, for not only were the convictions of Robson and Harris secured on evidence put together by the newspaper itself, but no other detective - except Symonds - was ever charged. This cannot have been for lack of evidence, though maybe nobody bothered to collect it. Mounter and Lloyd could not have realized at the time just how wise they were to suspect that the ‘firm in a firm’ really existed, and that any proof of corruption would be gathered only by people who were nothing to do with Scotland Yard itself.



Go to Part 4



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