Each Metropolitan Police division would have a number of ‘Area Cars’ on duty for each shift. Each car would be crewed by an ‘Advanced’ driver who had been trained to drive at high speed on blue lights and sirens and an RT Operator to use the radios.
‘C’ Division, being one of the smallest divisions only had two Area Cars, their call signs were Charlie One and Charlie Two…Affectionately known as Charles the First and Charles the Second…. Charlie One covered the area of Mayfair and Soho.
Advanced drivers were a precious resource and would have frequent tours posted to the Area Cars but for the rest of us mere mortals, a posting to be operator on Charlie One was one that was greeted with eager anticipation….A month of guaranteed excitement.
Two ‘jobs’ that that occurred when I was posted as RT Operato on Charlie One stick particularly in my memory. The first in the late Autumn of 1980.
As the festive season approached a number of high end, boutique style shops in the New Bond Street and South Molton Street area were targeted by a male robber….His method was always the same. He would select a shop staffed mostly by women. He would enter the shops late on a Thursday or Friday afternoon (When the tills were full). He would then threaten the staff with violence if they got in his way and empty the till of cash, and whatever he could get his hands on, put it all in a bag and then leave the shop on foot and disappear into the crowd…..It was very simple and highly effective.
At that time West End Central operated a ‘Crime Squad’ and any officer who had leanings towards a career in the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) would see this as a good way of proving themselves in this area….There were several very good officers on the squad who later went on to have excellent careers in the CID. However, there were also some officers on the squad who made Inspector Cluseau look competent and efficient.
The investigators had a suspect in mind but little hard evidence to prove their suspicion. They wanted to catch and arrest him in the act….A plan was formed to have the entire crime squad in the area on the next Thursday and Friday…..Nothing happened on the Thursday but they were confident that he would strike again the next day….The sergeant in charge of the operation first instructed all uniform officers to stay away from the area….But on the Friday he decided that having no uniform presence at all in the area might also alert the suspect that something was not quite right….He therefore called up ‘Charlie One’ on the radio and a requested us to drive through the two streets that were being observed. Having done that, we were told to “make ourselves scarce”…..My driver (Dave) duly obliged and drove our marked police car along New Bond Street and then South Molton Street……It’s fair to say that neither of us was impressed with level of disguise used by most of the squad…..”If this bloke can’t spot this lot as coppers, he deserves to get nicked” said Dave.
Almost immediately one of the Crime Squad officers announced that the suspect had been spotted in the vicinity….The sergeant instructed us to leave the area and “leave this to the Crime Squad”….I said “Are we leaving, Dave?”
“Are we Hell! This has got ‘Cock Up’ written all over it, and I want to see what happens!”
Dave parked the Area Car in Davies Street, just a little outside the observation area and we listened to the fun on the radio….Dave and I had already discussed that the most likely escape route for our suspect on foot was via Bond Street Underground Station and we were now parked very close to the main entrance. We could hear the excited voices of the Crime Squad officers getting more and more animated over the radio and the sergeant getting increasingly agitated and telling his team to maintain their positions…..At last someone saw him enter a shop and the squad was ordered to close in and be ready to make the arrest…..But not quickly enough to scare the suspect off before he had committed the act of robbery…..Suddenly someone yelled over the radio that the suspect had left the shop carrying a bag and was now running South along South Molton Street….All Hell broke loose as everyone was shouting into their radios at once and nobody could hear a thing….The Sergeant tried to establish some sort of order and ordered everyone to shut up (not the exact words that he used) except the officers who were actually chasing the suspect….He turned one way, then another….Ducked down small alleyways until finally the call came up….”We’ve lost him!”
A description was given out “Tall male, dark skin European or Middle Eastern appearance, Dark wavy hair, wearing a dark overcoat and blue trousers, carrying a plastic shopping bag.”Shall we drive around and have a look for this bloke, Dave?”
“Actually, I think we should stay here….We’re not supposed to be here anyway….And I reckon, if we’re right and he is heading for the underground he may well double back this way.”
No sooner had Dave uttered those very words when suddenly, from a small alleyway not 20 yards away from where we were parked emerged a dark skinned male of Middle Eastern appearance with dark wavy hair, wearing a dark overcoat and blue trousers and carrying a plastic shopping bag….. As he walked calmly past us Dave yelled “That’s him, Bob, Grab him.” As I opened the passenger door and leapt out, our man, took off again at speed and ran towards Oxford Street with me about 15 metres behind him…..In those days I was a keen rugby player and I realised that I was rapidly gaining on him…..After a chase of around 75 meters along a packed Oxford Street with hoards of watching members of the public dashing out of our way….. He realised that I was catching him and in an attempt to deter me, he half turned around and threw something at me….It missed me and a few steps later I executed a perfect rugby tackle and dragged him to the ground….A short scuffle ensued and I managed to put him in an arm lock…..Once he stopped struggling I was able to use my personal radio to call for assistance….Within a minute or so the Keystone Cops were on scene amid much excitement and it was announced that “We now have the suspect in custody!”….Shortly afterwards the Crime Squad sergeant arrived and congratulated his team for a job well done and then thanked me (rather begrudgingly, I thought) for assisting them….He then took the prisoner back to the Area Car and instructed Dave to drive him to West End Central…..Leaving me to walk back on my own…..I was already aware that ‘My arrest’ was about to to become a Crime Squad arrest.
As I walked along Oxford Street uttering various dark oaths against the injustice of it all, a lady came up and tapped me on the shoulder “Erm excuse me officer….Is this of any importance to you? It’s what he threw at you just before you arrested him.”
I glanced inside and saw that the bag contained a considerable amount of loose banknotes….And a leather pouch.
I took out my pocket book and pen and took the ladies contact details….”If it’s not claimed, do I get to keep it?” she asked hopefully.
“I doubt it I’m afraid….I think we know exactly who this belongs to….Now, I’m supposed to count this in front of you.”
“Look officer. I’m in a bit of a hurry…..I’d rather you just take it….If you need a statement or anything just let me know.”
When I arrived back at the police station I found Dave spitting feathers….’I’m afraid you’ve been written out of this Rob….The Crime Squad skipper is putting it all down to them.”
“I’ll just go and have a quick word with him Dave….Is that OK?”
“Please yourself Mate….But he won’t have it.”
As I approached the charge room I was intercepted by the sergeant…”What can I do for you, Bob?”
“Hello Sarge….I just wanted to get the name of your thief for our log sheet.”
“I’ve already explained this to Dave….This is a Crime Squad arrest….Thanks for all your assistance at the scene but we have worked long and hard on this.”
“I see Sarge….So you have everything you need as regards the evidence then?”
“Yes, Bob, we have everything….We don’t need anything from you…But thanks anyway….Don’t look so disappointed….Some you win and some you lose!”
“I’m not upset Sarge….Just a bit confused…What do you want me to do with this lot then?” It was only then that I showed him the bag containing the cash and the pouch.
“I’ll take charge that” said the sergeant.
“Of course Sarge….But I’ll just ask you to sign my pocket book, please…..This is the name of the witness who saw him throw this bag at me just before I arrested him and she will be happy to make a statement.”
The look on the sergeant’s face was classic….”You crafty so and so!….OK, fair enough, come with me.” In the charge room he announced “OK gents….Slight change of plan. Bob will go on the sheet as the arresting officer….You will be the charging officer’s…It also seems that we now also have the stolen property and Bob can give evidence that it was in the possession of the defendant until he threw it at him….The case is now complete.”
The crime squad officer who had just lost the arrest protested “But Sarge….I thought this was purely a Crime Squad job?”
Before the sergeant could answer I offered “Yes it was, but some you win and some you lose. Right Sarge?”Recommended1 recommendationPublished in