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 ...”
KGB Romeo Spy Part 6 - From Fit-up to Flight 2
This is the story of John Alexander Symonds life. The draft book was circulated to about 200 publishing houses and several showed an interest in offering it to the public.
Unfortunately the D-Notice Committee made objections to some of the contents on the grounds of National Security and so the book was never published.
The book is now published in its entirety on this website for the first time.
INDEX to my Biography
Then there was the matter of the tape-recordings, on which not only my case but also that of Robson and Harris would ultimately stand or fall. Not only had EMI’s chief engineer reported that in his considered opinion, these tapes had been interfered with, thereby turning himself from being a prosecution witness in any future trial to being a witness for the defence, but the police could not find any proper tape expert to say they were genuine, only some phonetics buff from a Home Office speech laboratory who came in late on and said he thought they sounded all right. This was scarcely admissible because this ‘expert witness’ could not seriously be accepted as impartial. After all, the Times Inquiry was a Home Office operation, it was all being run from there, Moody and Virgo were working to Home Office requirements, and lo-and-behold, along comes a Home Office employee who backs up the case they wish to embrace. Question his impartiality in court and the jury would surely discard his evidence.
The EMI man wasn’t our only defence tape expert, we had others, and so everyone was convinced that the tapes were going to be thrown out early on. Even I could spot where lumps were missing. For instance, I remembered that at one of my meetings with Perry I had spotted a person who (as I later learned) was the Times photographer with a camera sticking out of his coat. He was walking past the car when he turned so that his camera was pointing towards us. I said to Perry, ‘Is he one of ours or one of yours?’ Perry said, ‘One of yours I think’. Ha, ha, ha, we both went. But you won't find that on the tapes, just editing marks on either side of that snatch. I'm not saying the Times reporters cut it out, they would never have done such a thing, I’m sure, but someone did.
Better still from my point of view, there was no ‘continuity of handling’, a concept of law which we always had to take in account when preparing a case. All physical evidence had to be safeguarded, securely stored, locked up, so it could not be lost, stolen or tampered with. But in this case, these dynamite tapes had been lying around in the Times office. People had taken them home to play to their friends. The office secretaries were given them to make transcripts and had left them on top of their desks overnight. Outrageous. In my experience, a prosecution based on evidence with no continuity of handling almost never got to court - maybe just one time in ten, if the case involved some particularly nasty crime where they was bound to be a lot of public interest, to see justice done. well, maybe this was one of those cases but still there wasn't sufficient evidence to take me to court.
Meantime, of course, the reporters were still claiming I had taken the measly £50 from Perry; and that when they had searched him straight after I had left him in the car, he no longer had the money they had given him just before. Well, maybe, but he could have secreted it anywhere in his car which, they admitted, they did not search. However, they said that prior to the hand-over, they had taken down the numbers of the five and ten pound notes. Later these numbers were handed to the Times Inquiry but when they were checked with Freshfields it turned out that they belonged to notes which had not even been printed by the time the article appeared on 30 November 1969. So the case against me was very weak.
So with the pay-off notes discredited, the tapes ‘iffy’ to say the least, and with nothing said by me on the tapes that was directly incriminating - no talk about money, no rustling of money, no threats about money - I was convinced I was off the hook.
No such thing. On X Y 1970 Robson, Harris and I, were all charged, but not the other five detectives who had been suspended along with us. Even now I wasn’t too worried. Because my lawyers were adamant that as the case against me was far weaker than that against the other pair, I should either go on trial before them, or with them in the same trial. That way we could argue my tapes away, and get them thrown out, either at the committal, or at the trial itself in the absence of a jury - or even totally discredited in front of one. Whichever way, I would walk out of court a free man. Whereas, if they were tried first - and they were sure to be convicted - and I went on trial afterwards all by myself, I was bound to be convicted in their wake.
At first, a joint trial was also what the Prosecution wanted, with all 24 tapes played one after another as a series. So that was fine by me, because I had never wavered in my belief that there was no case against me. But meantime the strain of the entire affair was seriously debilitating me. It wasn’t just the prospect of the trial, though that was bad enough. Yes I believed there was no case against me. On the other hand, as a member of the Firm I had helped lock up many people for crimes they had not committed, so I had a very real fear that the same thing would happen to me.
And that’s just what did happen, only it was a very long drawn-out affair. Of course, the case against Robson and Harris was watertight from day one, so they could have gone to court the next day, pleaded guilty and it would all have been over. Instead we all had to wait two and a half years while the case against me was fine-tuned and finagled.
If the Times Inquiry’s overseers had studied all its findings and concluded, ‘As for John Symonds: there's no evidence against him, there was no continuity in the handling of the tapes, the money numbers weren't printed until weeks or months after the alleged money was handed over, blah, blah, blah. Decision: no case to answer’, certain influential members of the public wouldn't have been satisfied. There was still a call for what amounted to a ritual expurgation of Scotland Yard, with me as the symbolic offering, but on any other grounds it was a nonsense to keep going for two and a half years on an investigation into an alleged £50 bribe in the back[?] of a car. That doesn't take two and a half years to investigate. Instead, both Moody and Virgo for their reasons and the Home Office for its reasons, kept the investigation going by pretending to prove ever more heinous crimes by me, just to make it more difficult for my side to keep shouting that they had not proved anything so the trial should be dropped. That's why they delayed it for two and a half years, and that's why they felt they couldn't let me off. It was a political thing or so I was told by my dog-walking chum on the Inquiry team, and other well-wishers.
When I was completely sure that I was being fitted up by Moody, with statements being physically altered, original statements destroyed, witnesses re-interviewed and pressured to go other ways, I sent a message to Moody, warning him that I knew what he was doing and I wouldn't stand for it. I let him know that I knew enough about him to take him down with me, so he had to stop fitting me up.
So Moody counter-threatened me. His reaction - which I should have foreseen - was not to stop fitting me up but to make sure I went down. And when I uttered other threats to other people, I received escalating threats up to. ‘You’re going to go off a roof’. But between these threats there was velvet glove coercion. Emissaries would tell me, ‘There’s no need for it to be like this, so why go this way? You've only been summonsed for this £50 caper’ - I had never been arrested, I received a summons through the letterbox saying I had to attend court - ‘the maximum sentence for that is two years, you’ll only have to do part of that, you'll go to an open prison, it'll be a cushy life, you just chuck yourself on your bed and read books, and you wander around and have a nice time, and when you come out you'll be looked after’.
So what they wanted was for me to swallow the false charge, be wrongfully convicted, all to save them and their corrupt empires. And the promise was, when I came out I would be ‘looked after’. I would be recompensed and I could have a good life. And, as if to prove me really meant this, in 1970 Bill Moody sent one of his biggest paymasters, the pornographer John Mason, along to my house in a small village in Kent, to make me a staggering offer. He confirmed that, when I came out, he would look after me: I could manage one of his dirty book shops. Indeed, if I liked, I could start one up there and then, while I was suspended and long before my trial. So we went for a ride down the main road to Sevenoaks where, he said, he was going to start me off as a pornographer. Well, there was no way I was ever going to accept this offer, but I knew it was nonsense right from the start because Sevenoaks is not even in the Metropolitan Police area. It was way beyond the reach of any corrupt clout that Moody could exercise. I don’t suppose Mason had the wit to realise he had given the game away, but I knew this meant Moody was playing a silly game. He had no power to persuade either the Kent Police or the stuffy burghers of this austere town to allow a tits-and-bums emporium to open up in the high street. But that was just to con me into believing I would be ‘looked after’. Mind you, if Moody had really wanted to look after me, he could have got Mason to put me into running one of his best book shops in the West End where I could have earned a thousand pounds a week, which in those days was unimaginable money. But no doubt that was something that Bill Moody would have deemed ‘too close to home’.
What an ingenious man he was, like a brilliant but mad scientist who had created a seemingly faultless machine - in his case one that sprouted money by the bucket full - but which in the end would malfunction and choke him with a surfeit of riches because he could not switch it off. In the end he would drown in his own greed but at the time I underestimated him. I suppose he underestimated me too, because we got into this mutually lethal conflict with me thinking he would back down because he knew that I knew a lot about him, and he thinking he could frighten me off and shut me up.
And so I resolved to front him up, face to face. I asked to see him several times. I even arranged meets with him but he never turned up. Afterwards he would say it was too dodgy, he couldn’t come out to me because he was the investigating officer. So I had to wait for my chance. Once I happened to see him in his car and I waved. He saw me, put his foot down and shot off. He was quite nervous, understandably so. But the time came when we were sure to meet, because as head of the Inquiry, he had to get me to answer a questionnaire in person. So in June 1970 I went to Tintagel House, a block on the Thames where the Inquiry was based, accompanied by my solicitor, Victor Lissack. Quite rightly Victor advised me to refuse to answer any questions so the meeting was quite disjointed and we took several breaks.
During one of these breaks Moody followed me into the toilet and told me that I was ‘doing well’ and to ‘keep it going like that’. With these remarks he was encouraging me to continue to refuse to answer his own questions - yet another example of the world turned upside down - so I turned on him. I said, ‘You bastard. You know, you’ve done the dirty on me Bill. You’re fitting me up and I shall fix you, Mate. If I go, you’re going too’. With that, Moody looked very worried and nervous. Tough guy that he was, he was trembling and went to pieces a bit in front of me. Think about it. Here was I, a mere sergeant on the brink of ruin, and there was he, a chief superintendent apparently untouchable, and yet he couldn’t look me in the eye. So I left him in the toilet without exchanging another word.
It’s a wonder that he didn’t assault me, because, with his form and in any other situation, that’s exactly what he would have done. He always prided himself on being a tough guy, but he knew enough about me to know that I was probably harder than him. Not only was I younger than him but I had a much better record as a boxer. It’s pathetic to compare these things but at some point he had won a Metropolitan Police novices title, whereas I had been the heavyweight champion of my Regiment - Indeed, I had fought a good number of bouts while I was in the army, where boxing was regarded as ‘good for the morale in the men, you know’.
I always tried to play down this side of my life, but Moody seemed to revel in being ‘a man's man’, always ready to use his fists. For example, when he was at Croydon police station, he would be talking to another officer and the next thing, they would be swapping blows across the desk and they would jump up and have a massive punch-up all over the office. Then it would all subside and they would go and have a drink.
Even on the Times Inquiry, he fell into fisticuffs, and all because he could not get the Warwickshire officers from Nuneaton to say anything much against me over my handling of inquiries into that cigarette theft which the Likely Lads had done in their town. Back when they had come down to arrest Michael Perry and his chums, I had been probably the only Metropolitan officer who showed them any courtesy or helpfulness. I had taken them for a meal, bought them drinks, arranged cups of tea and made all their arrangements so we had a good relationship and kept in contact. If they wanted any information from the Met, they were phoning me at Camberwell, not Scotland Yard. They certainly weren't in touch with the police at Peckham, who regarded them as ‘spoilers’ and treated them with surliness and contempt. So when the Times disaster hit me, and the Inquiry team were bound to interview those Nuneaton officers about my performance, I didn't want anything more from them than to tell the truth about our relationship, because it was completely straight and to my credit.
So of course, it was Bill Moody who seized this end of the Inquiry and he went up to interview these officers at Nuneaton. He wasn’t looking for statements from them to my credit, he was looking for statements to my dis-credit. And of course he was trying to lead them away from making any mention of Frankie Holbert, and so shield Holbert from direct questioning. But because the Nuneaton officers did not go Moody's way, he set about them. He got one chap up against the wall and laid into him. That was Bill Moody all over. He was what we called a ‘punchie’. The Nuneaton men made an official complaint to the Met Commissioner about Moody’s assault but nothing happened to him. None of this did me any good. In fact it turned them so much against the Met that they made some statements which did me harm. So in his crude puggish way, Moody did me over yet again.
And now - at his behest or not - in came another offer to me, a more traditional one, which was to become very popular during the 1970s whenever corrupt officers wished to avoid jail, and that was the ill-health pension. I had paid all my dues for twenty years, from the age of 17 to 37, so I was pressured to declare myself mad, to ‘do a Challoner’, a dodge immortalised by a notorious bent detective who back in 196X [check] had framed some political demonstrators by planting bricks in their pockets. Very easy, I was told. All I had to do was go and see the police psychiatrist, who would be in on the deception, and to see my own doctor and complain of feeling dizzy and being ill and losing my memory and so and so. And I had a very good reason for being in such a dreadful mental state: I had been suspended for two and a half years, which was a long, long time to be left in a limbo - long enough to go nuts - and I was assured that I could quite easily retire at the age of 37 with a full pension.
But I would not do it, because I was not guilty and all that fakery would have easily seen through as the last refuge of a guilty man. It would have been better if I had been guilty. If I really had taken that £50, I would have done my time in jail, this act of petty graft would have been expunged after about three years [check] under the Rehabilitation Of Offenders Act, and I would have had thirty years to rebuild my life. The fact that I did not take the £50 is why I've spent thirty years fighting this.
Well maybe I should have taken the ill-health pension - a euphemism for insanity - but I didn't want to do it because I had three young children, there's never been any history of lunacy in my family, and I couldn't imagine myself becoming a registered lunatic. And also, if ever I had sought to raise all the issues about the police that I am raising now in this book, I would have been dismissed as a total madman. You can imagine all those top detectives who had been stuffing their pockets with dirty money for decades telling their politician friends, ‘Yes, well there was that man who talked about a firm within a firm on those Times tapes but of course, he was quite mad, you know, still is. In fact he's in Cane Hill now, bed number so-and-so, retired on an ill-health pension stone bonkers’. I was under great pressure to do that and now I wish I had, because, when I reached 55, it would have become a full pension. And it would not have made much difference if I had, because, without even taking it, I have been dismissed as a lunatic and a fantasist ever since. ‘The man's mad!’
And so, having spurned both the nutter’s pay-off and the porn shop sinecure, I took Bill Moody on yet again. I fought back, I sent him another message, which was probably a mistake, because it only heightened his resolve to nail me, and get me convicted, so anything I might say later could be rubbished as the sour grapes of a discredited man. That is why they went to such great lengths to hang a conviction round my neck. But through his chosen intermediary - a brother Freemason who later retired with the rank of superintendent - I knew what he was doing, I wouldn’t stand for it, and if he continued doing this I was going to expose everything: all the corruption, the corruption within the porn squad, within Freemasonry, all Moody's connections, the drug squad, the Flying Squad, the whole lot. People advised me not to do it but I went ahead and did it anyway.
What is more, I told him that unless he desisted in this course of action, I was prepared to take the line that everything I said on the tape recordings was true, and, on that basis I would be playing them mostly in my defence, and then backing them up by saying, ‘This tape recording is true, because there is a Firm which does work like this, because we're all corrupt and this is how we do it’, and that's what I told Moody I'd do, if that's the way he wanted to play. In other words, I was not going to offer a conventional defence, I was going to parry the charge with an explanation thus: ‘I'm not going to plead guilty to taking the money but I do admit that these conversations took place, and they are quite true. There is a “Firm within a Firm” and these are the people on the Firm - Moody, Virgo, Drury, Chitty, Du Rose and Uncle Tom Cobley and all - and this is what they've done and this is how it works’, and so on. And to back that up, and to run that defence if necessary, I created a dossier on corruption in the Metropolitan Police. And in this dossier I even started off with the half-crown-on-barrow-handles story. How I myself was inducted into it, and how, in order to get into the CID, I had to prove that I was either prepared to be corrupt or to condone corruption, and I also made the point that it was necessary to commit perjury to get into the CID and you were expected to commit perjury thereon afterwards.
In that dossier I did not release all I knew because I had loyalty to all the people who were still standing by me, coming to see me, helping me and having collections for me and giving me information, I left a lot of people out but I put a lot of people in.
Having laid all this out in my dossier, I gave it to my lawyer, Victor Lissack, with instructions that if anything happened to me, it would be released to the public. I said that because my biggest fear now was not about going to jail but about the specific fate that the Firm’s ‘board members’ were preparing for me. I had been told that I was going to be ‘done in’. Killed. And I believed these threats because I believed I was dealing with people who had arranged for people to be killed in the past. There was many a story of people who had been ‘disappeared’ or, like Frankie Holbert, suddenly taken it into their heads to jump off high-rise roofs or out of fourth floor windows. And as these people, so powerful and corrupt themselves, had already been so wicked as to fit up even ‘one of their own’ like myself, then I believed my life was in real danger. I could be killed. That’s why I told them that I had made this dossier because that was all part of the threat: If anything happens to me, if they were to kill me, everything's down in writing.
The next thing I found out: they had a copy of the dossier and now everyone was really gunning for me in a big way. It seems I had been betrayed by my lawyer. I had been with him for two years, entrusting all my work to him and making statements, but I should have known this all along, for he used to attend all the functions at Scotland Yard and all those boxing club nights hob-nobbing with my chiefs. And so, on the night before my committal, I chucked him and changed lawyers. But more than that. I took a look at our ‘black book’: a top-secret but far from official ‘for CID eyes only’ list of dodgy police-hating lawyers. Yes, we had a book that such-and-such lawyers are untrustworthy: if they phone up give them no information, don't talk to them, have nothing to do with them, because, they're very dodgy. So did this mean they were crooked? Not at all, for if they were crooked, bent, that was fine because that meant they were malleable, you could do deals with them. No, what we meant by dodgy was lawyers who were left wing or radical, the kind of solicitors who believed that corruption was a bad thing and would make a fuss if they thought you had told lies in court, and didn’t like you if you beat up blacks.
So now I had a brilliant wheeze. I went off to see the lawyer who was right at the top of that very list: Mr Benedict Birnberg at Tower Bridge. I needed someone who was anti-establishment, and I needed him to work like the magic shoemaker in the fairy tale: all night and with meticulous care. And that is exactly what he did on the eve of my committal. And it was a massive committal, with hundreds of statements and dozens of witnesses, so Ben had to work incessantly, day to day and night by night. My counsel, Brian Capstick had no idea what any witness was going to say, until the witness started speaking, but I never regretted making the switch.
Of course, it had the desired and predictable impact on my persecutors, Moody, Virgo and the crooked Yard hierarchy. When they added my switch to Ben Birnberg, and the threats I had made about my dossier, to the contents of the dossier which they were now able to scrutinise in pirated form, they regarded me, quite rightly, as a very serious threat.
And so they counter-threatened. No longer was I advised to shuffle off with a lunatic's pension but I was advised to get out of the country. And if I didn't go, I could expect the worst.
By now, as you might expect, with all the strain of all the legals, the endless rumours, and most of all this nerve-wracking war with Moody, I was really worthy of an ill-health pension. My body was falling apart. I was very ill, slumped in my bed, too weak to walk, yellow all over, yellow finger nails, yellow eye balls, my weight down from 16 stone when fighting fit to a mere 10 stone. In short a physical wreck. And that’s when I heard that at last the Director of Public Prosecutions, with the guidance of counsel and police, had decided to put Robson and Harris on trial first, with me following on immediately in a separate trial, both at the Old Bailey. This was my worst nightmare for with Robson and Harris sure to be convicted, I would almost certainly be dragged down in their wake.
At this stage, when I was completely shot through, a broken man, in came yet another revised offer: ‘You've got to leave the country, you'll be helped out, we'll tell you what to do, where to go and how to do it’. I said I wouldn't leave the country because I had no money and I had three small children who were being brought up by my mother. I was recently divorced, their mother had abandoned them and I wasn't going to abandon them too. I certainly wasn't going to run off and leave them with my mother at that stage of her life and, as I couldn't take the children with me, I didn't want to go.
So now I received enormous pressure to go. The pressure was, ‘You either go abroad or you..., you..., you’re gonna go. Go in a box, go. You're going to go anyway, one way or the other way’. So what I did, I said, ‘Look, I will go, but I'll only go to force a break between the Robson-Harris trial and mine. That way, with a few months in between, the hue-and-cry, lynch-mob atmosphere might give me the chance of a fair trial, fought with a conventional defence.
But still the threats came through from Moody, only now they were Masonic threats, borne by Masonic sources in Masonic wording. Masonic-based threats carry a lot of weight. If a roughie-toughie comes up to you in the street and says, ‘I going to punch you in the eye, Mate’, that's one threat and it may put you in fear. But when you receive a visit from a very senior and respectable man, very well-dressed, with a curt but outwardly courteous manner, and he is accompanied by two or three similar men, and he delivers a message to the effect that unless you do something you'll be seriously hurt, it is very chilling indeed.
Well now my physical state, and my state of mind, are getting even worse. I was so worried by these threats that the worry brought on hepatitis. My doctor told me, it was all down to my anxiety over the threats, and the grand betrayals by many of my colleagues, and expecting to be killed or worse still, horribly injured or crippled, a wheelchair case forever. I put on a brave front but I couldn't sleep and I contracted hepatitis.
With my weight still dropping, I was taken into the police nursing home on the orders of a police surgeon who knew I was very seriously ill. But when word leaked upwards that I was in a police nursing home, one of the Metropolitan Police’s Assistant Commissioner - just two heartbeats away from the highest rank in the entire force - turned up at the home, looked round the door, glared at me and then had me ejected. Unable to walk, I had to be helped into a van and driven off. I was then booked in to go to the police convalescent home in Hove, for which I had been a major fund-raiser, as well as having made voluntary contributions to its upkeep from my pay for many years, but then I was told they didn't want me there. So I was in a very low state. I was more or less broken.
At this point in came Moody’s final offer. There was now only one way to avoid being killed: leave the country. However, to sugar the pill of exile, Moody and his bent porn squad-cum-Masonic circle would help me out of the country and pay me £2000.
I was still objecting to going but at least now my immediate financial needs would be met. I was told I would be supplied with this £2,000 when I was about to leave, to keep me going for a while and there would be more to come later. And that was the final, final offer.
I decided to accept because I was ill, weak, vulnerable, I was worried by the threats, I realised the fit-up was complete and I was sure we were all going to be convicted because Moody was now directing the whole circus. I was told, right or wrong, that he had even taken the two Times reporters to courts to show them how to give evidence. I knew that the investigating officers were busy covering over all the faults in the case. And so I was convinced that I really would go to jail, even if the Grim Reaper Moody had not claimed me before.
So I agreed to go and let Moody know. A few days later the £2,000 was brought to me, in cash, by another officer who had been suspended with me but was now in the clear, thanks to Moody’s ‘moody’ investigation. As soon as he had benefited from this act of grace, he had become Moody’s middleman in his dealings with me. How ‘moody’ is that? A detective who owed Moody his very liberty was now dropping off dirty money to me, like a Mafia bag-man at his godfather’s behest. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.
What made these people’s threats all the more real was that I could see why they had to kill me. I was a threat to the whole organization, ‘the Firm within a Firm’. I had openly told them I was going to blow the lid off the entire racket. In fact I even began to reason that they were being quite good to me. After all, other people whom they wanted out of the way either didn't receive any warning or weren't in a position to flee abroad. A number of people died inexplicably unless you accepted suicide as the explanation. So being offered the option of going off a roof, rather than being driven to it like Frankie, seemed a rather benign way of doing business. Certain criminals became very scarce at that time because they were under threat from the same police gang. Indeed a few years later, when the pornographer John Mason was in a similar position, he too was made an offer he couldn’t refuse.
And so I resolved to take a long trip through Europe. My girlfriend Barbara agreed to come with me, so I bought a motor caravan for the journey and we made a farewell trip to see certain staunch detective friends of mine so they could wave us off. We gave them various contact points, addresses to write to so we could all stay in touch. I had been told that it would be all right to go from Dover, so we drove down there to board a ferry. Despite the assurances and the fact that there was no theoretical obstacle to me leaving the country, I was nervous about being stopped and questioned by Customs or Immigration. On paper I was not doing anything wrong: I was free on bail at the time (I had never been arrested over that piffling £50 charge), I did not have to report anywhere before showing up at my trial, and I still had my passport which no-one had ever taken away, but just like in so many movies (Casablanca, The Thirty Nine Steps, North By North West, The Great Escape) I had a real fear of being taken away at the very point of flight. Anyhow, who should pop up but the Special Branch detective inspector stationed at Dover, Peter Imbert. He came over and spoke to us as if he knew we were coming I knew Peter Imbert in the Met and he was friendly. He wished us good luck and saw us through Customs. We went straight through onto the ferry. No-one asked us any questions but maybe Customs had seen him talking to us. Later Peter Imbert became Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police, and then Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.
When news of my departure eventually reached the Firm almost certainly through Enid Blyton no doubt every member breathed a sigh of relief. Robson and Harris were clearly just going to bow their heads, take the punishment, emerge from jail a year or two later and disappear into discreet obscurity. And now I was out of the way, ‘off the picture’. To anyone on the Firm, that was a ‘result’. The nightmare was over. Moody, Virgo and Drury could get on with collecting their huge pay-offs and passing fat wads upstairs. And the citizens of London could sleep soundly in their beds, secure in the knowledge that the Metropolis was still being protected by the greatest police force in the world.
Although I had told Moody & Co that I was leaving the country, I had not told them of my intention to return after several months, when the dust had settled and any publicity over Robson and Harris’s corruption had died down. As it happened, I was given a ‘window of opportunity’ when I heard that my own trial was being postponed until July 1970. The sound engineers had told the judge that (even after two and a half years) they were not ready to give evidence on the fourteen or so tapes relating to my case, because they had been concentrating their expertise on the other tapes that were being challenged in the Robson and Harris trial which was up first. They still needed to spend weeks examining and analysing what we were saying were the faults and editing signs on ‘my’ tapes. So now that I knew that I would not have to show up at the Old Bailey till July, I had a full six months to sort my head out and regroup.
In the meantime my plan was to head off to a warm climate and recover my health. My doctor had told me the best thing I could do was, have a quiet life and eat lots of citrus fruits. So, what better place to go in the motor caravan than Morocco? There I would get all the things I needed to make me well: lots of sunshine and sackfuls of fresh oranges. I could eat oranges all day long.
Also, as Barbara was going with me, we were going to take a side trip to Tripoli, in Libya, where her father had been killed in the Second World War, before she was even born. He was buried in the War Graves Commission cemetery there, but she had never been to his grave.
So that’s what we did. We went via Europe to North Africa, so that Barbara could fulfil her long-held wish to visit her father's grave and I could have sunshine and oranges. And in July we were going to come back to London where, despite all the threats, I was going to offer myself for trial, having used Moody’s £2000 as holiday-cum-convalescent money.
Well, of course, Moody & Co had never wanted that, but they wanted it even less after a time-bomb which I had left lying around in London went off. I had constructed it rather like my vast corruption dossier, only this device was primed for detonation even if I was not killed. Before I fled the country, I did this one last piece of mischief. My new lawyer, Ben Birnberg, was being featured in a television documentary film, with some such title as ‘Radical Lawyer’. It was to show a cross-section of his clients, most of whom were complaining about police, and he asked if I would be prepared to take part. I said yes and I allowed myself to be filmed saying a lot about corruption and how the whole thing worked. I also said things which tied in with the problems of Birnberg’s other clients, including black people who claimed they had been beaten up, tortured and framed. I admitted on camera that the police were more or less fascists, bullies, full of hatred towards black people, which was true.
The filming was done about a week before I was due to leave the country, so now with some glee and a twinkle in my eye, I told certain officers that I had done this. I said, ‘Look, I'm going and because I'm going, I've made this film as my “goodbye and thank-you” to the Met. “Have this on me!” Ta Ta!’
Well, I thought it would be left lying in the can for months, but instead it was shown only a few weeks after we left. I heard this news when we were tootling around in the motor caravan, so I phoned up one of my friends, my old partner-in-crime Enid Blyton and I asked him, how did the film go down. He said, ‘It went down like a bomb’. Panic stations at Scotland Yard, a huge scandal, lights burning all night and chiefs running around like headless chickens. So Enid added, ‘You can't come back now. Scotland Yard have seized the film! In fact don’t come back at all. You've burnt your bridges behind you’. That was the great storyteller’s expression.
And he was right, of course, but although the premature explosion did seriously affect my scheme to return in July, this news did give me a few long-overdue chuckles, and there hadn’t been many laughs in the previous thirty months.
Enid went on tell me that I had done a lot of damage the police, particularly with my claims of racism, which had included remarks about beating up black prisoners and fitting them up, which tied in exactly with what Birnberg’s black clients were saying. So this is not the first time I’ve said this sort of thing. It's important to know that in 1972 when I was a detective sergeant and still a member of the Metropolitan Police, I said the same things on television about the force as I am saying now. This was before I had even gone on trial, so these are not just the sour grapes of a convicted man, uttered many years later.
Three months into our trip, as I guzzled oranges in the Moroccan sun, we read that back in miserable London Robson and Harris had been convicted. The verdicts were front-page news: ‘Corrupt detectives jailed for six and seven years’, ‘Wicked evil men’ and so on. They had played a brave defence. Their tape experts had even made up tapes to show how easy it was to fake devastating evidence against public figures. On one of these even the prime minister of the day could be heard taking a bribe and saying, ‘Thanks very much’, along with the rustle of a few crisp fivers.
But Robson and Harris had to go down. It was a matter of state for them to be convicted, to appease the baying press and all those members of the Commons, Lords and intelligentsia who had been demanding the same thing: a public enquiry into police corruption in general and Metropolitan Police corruption in particular, so that the public would know whether the Firm which I had inadvertently revealed really did exist. Thirty years later that inquiry has never taken place, and the consequences - in terms of continuing corruption, racism and incompetence - are now staring every citizen of London in the face. Back in 1972 jailing two or three bent detectives was a kind of buy-off, a diversion, until the great and good forgot about police corruption and shifted their attention to another lost cause.
The £2000 was lasting quite well, when suddenly I had another piece of news. My trial had been rushed forward so much that it was going to run almost back-to-back with the Robson-Harris trial and start almost immediately. It seems that once the prosecution team found out I was no longer living at home, its leading counsel John Matthew had stood up in open court and told the judge that I had disappeared and inquiries were being made at all the lunatic asylums and psychiatric hospitals in Britain in case I had checked myself in. I was sent a newspaper cutting to that effect.
At first I thought, how odd. Surely, in that tight huddle of lawyers, civil servants and Scotland Yard investigators orchestrating this whole affair, the person of Detective Chief Superintendent Moody must have told Mathew that I was off abroad, and not in a loony bin at all.
Then suddenly it dawned on me. Moody and the Firm were already laying the foundations for a scheme to wholly discredit me, whether I ever came back to face trial or not. They had to ensure that, even if they never managed to kill me, and even if I was acquitted, nothing that I ever said about their own ravenous corruption and the whole rotten structure of Scotland Yard would ever be believed.
This is why I say I should have taken that ill-health pension I was offered, for I would now be a fairly well-off old gent, a happy classified lunatic, pocketing a very nice £1,000 government cheque every month, just as I would have been doing pro rata for the last 30 years. My refusal to declare myself mad, in order to get the pension, has not saved me, because as far back as 1972 that fine lawyer John Matthew was standing up in the Old Bailey saying they were searching the asylums and implying I was a lunatic. This appeared in the national papers before my trial could even begin, which, as any press lawyer should have spotted, constituted contempt of court.
The next thing I heard, they had rushed forward not only the trial but police disciplinary hearings too. This was completely illegal. For disciplinary hearings you are supposed to be forewarned, you have to be given the chance for you or your representatives to attend. So there I am, very ill, thrown out of the police nursing home, banned from entering the other place in Hove, but departing the country legally to recover my strength for the trial, and Scotland Yard is closing the doors on me. And at this kangaroo court of a disciplinary hearing, I was sacked for wilfully absenting myself from the place where I should have been on duty - at the Old Bailey, Number One Court, to stand trial! That's the reason I was sacked.
Inevitably, I saw the dead hand of Bill Moody behind this crooked scenario. The next thing I heard, Moody went along to my mother, gave her £200, and said, ‘That’s John's pension money’. Well, of course, she accepted it, because she didn't know the score. She was financially strapped at that time, I had cleared off, she had my three small children to look after, so when a polite man turns up at the door and says, ‘John's pension money, sign here’, she was obviously going to sign and take it.
Even this was a dirty, dirty trick. For even if this was meant to be a refund of all my pension contributions during thirteen years in the police, it was well in excess in two thousand pounds. So what Moody had done was appropriate my contributions and deduct the £2,000 which he had previously sent me so I would flee the country, spare him the burden of having me killed, and never disclose the truth about the Firm.
But the bastard had given me that money on the understanding that it was an outright gift, a donation, silence money, whatever. It wasn’t even his money, nor did it come from the pockets of any other members of the Firm. It was just a slice of his weekly and lump sum bribes from pornographers, which were then adding up to £100,000 a year - equal to over one million pounds at today’s values. So now he was stealing my pension money to make up for diverting £2,000 worth of graft. So that's where the £2000 came from. My own pension money.
It was Moody who had manoeuvred the trial forward, it was Moody who had fixed the disciplinary hearings and it was Moody who stole that money. Years later I found out that under normal circumstances, if my pension contributions had not been drawn out, they would have lain there as a part-pension, which I could have started to draw when I was 55. But when I enquired , I was told there was no pension for me, because Moody had drawn everything out around March 1972.
At that same time Moody or his chums in the Firm had finally tipped off the newspapers what they had known but concealed for three months: I had fled abroad. And in some souk cafe in Morocco, Barbara and I had a few uneasy giggles reading tabloid tales headed, ‘Policeman flees with barmaid’.
The game was up. Moody had won. For as long as I could foresee, I would not be returning to England. I was now in permanent enforced exile, a medieval punishment which in some respects is far worse than jail or death. From now on I would be living on my wits, a mendicant wandering the world offering his talents to anyone who would pay for them.
But in the meantime I was not going to give up on Moody. Years later when he was arrested, I knew I had started it all. I'm talking about my dossier. Remember, I had put Moody's antics on paper, as far back as 1970 and somehow it had got it into the right hands. And as it had taken him and his crew two and a half years to investigate me for fifty quid, I wasn't surprised that when the Yard decided to throw him to the wolves, they took five years to investigate him for five hundred thousand quid, which is what he had.
I should imagine it was a tremendous problem to pin Moody down because he was cunning, evil and totally ruthless, with no conscience whatsoever. He was the first man in the modern history of Scotland Yard to fit up a fellow officer. Everyone was horrified when he did that. It was beyond the pale and unimaginable. That's why I got so much help and support. By fitting me up, Moody created a precedent which eventually did for him. A system which had previously been so strong, he had smashed. He had broken the mould, and thereafter people were prepared to go to some lengths to do him down. So good luck to him. He brought it on himself. He did for himself. He did it to himself. That was my attitude. He was the first one to fit me up and now he's got his. That's all.
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