Category Archives: Metropolitan Police

Attack on the guilt pile, and Execution Dock

Electioneering over, back to normal political abuse, what else to do?

It’s here between the desk and the settee, growing and threatening.

Time and leisure to set about the Great Unread.

Straight off the top comes the latest Christopher Fowler.

The Bryant and May series is not only a thrill, and a delight (Fowler is a stylist of distinction), but gloriously informative. Poked into the narrative are numerous anecdotes of old London.

Then there is the tub-thumper:

Fowler quote

Pastiche

London. The protracted summer lately over, and the bankers sitting in Threadneedle Street, returned from their villas in Provence and Tuscany. Relentless October weather. As much water in the streets as if the tide had newly swelled from the Thames, and it would not be wonderful to find a whale beached beneath Holborn Viaduct, the traffic parting around it like an ocean current. Umbrellas up in the soft grey drizzle, and insurrection in the air.

Riots everywhere. Riots outside the Bank of England and around St Paul’s Cathedral. Protestors swelling on Cheapside and Poultry and Lombard Street. Marchers roaring on Cornhill and Eastcheap and Fenchurch Street. Barricades on Cannon Street and across London Bridge. Police armoured and battened down in black and yellow like phalanxes of tensed wasps. Chants and megaphones and the drone of choppers overhead.

Hurled fire, catapulted bricks, shattering glass and the blast of water hoses. It was as if, after a drowsy, sluggish summer, the streets had undergone spontaneous combustion.

Recognise it? On his delicious blog page, Fowler takes his homage a stage further with the allusive metaphoric image borrowed from the Dickensian simile:

Fowler

London

It’s Fowler’s persistent, even obsessive, knowledge of the city that gets me every time.

I’ve never quite forgiven him for rubbishing (yes, Noddy Boffin: you are part of the story) the myth about Boudica’s burial under the platforms (Platform 9¾?) of King’s Cross Station. That was a good tale to spin the daughters (despite their engrained cynicism, even then), and then the grandchildren (who currently remain a bit more susceptible, or politely so to one so aged as myself). Now the Young Idea is far more taken by the Harry Potter staircase in the Midland Grand St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel.

For Boudica alone, Fowler needs a pay-back. So here’s one:

I could have brought Augustine to Wapping, Bryant thought, at the drop of the Thames and just a spit from Tower Bridge, where Captain Kidd was hanged twice before being chained and left for three tides.

Nothing remained of this piratical past except an ancient set of oxidized green steps leading to the muddy foreshore. The flooded ginnels and mildewed alleyways of Bryant’s childhood, once so dauntingly forbidden and mysterious, had been paved over, filled in and floodlit as London homogenized its riverside in the rush to build bankers’ apartments.

The streets were unrecognizable now, colonnaded with blank suburban properties of orange brick. Between them stood a few emasculated warehouses for those seduced by the notion of a loft lifestyle. The wealthy were never there and the rest stayed in. The dead new streets of the Thames shoreline horrified Bryant.

Fowler is bang-to-rights about the soul-less bourgeoisified Wapping: another strike against David Owen, who began the process. I’m less convinced that he has properly identified Execution Dock.

execution-dockExecution Dock

Those same grandchildren, taken on the hydrofoil to Greenwich, needed explanations of what they were seeing. For convenience, I pointed to the E of Sun Wharf as a marker for Execution Dock.

That needed explanation. Piracy and mutiny were tried by the Admiralty Court. Those found guilty (which means virtually all) were consigned to the Marshalsea, before being carted across London Bridge to Wapping. There the offenders would be hanged from a short rope (which meant slow strangulation), and the bodies left until three tides had washed over them. For extra effect, in cases which had attracted particular media attention, the corpse would be tarred and hung in irons at the entry to the Port of London.

Go to the Prospect of Whitby pub (if you must: it’s largely tourists, and there are better joints locally), and you will be assured that the replica gallows and noose is the site:

executiondock

That’s not my Dear Old Dad’s version.

He was a Thames Division copper only a year or two before the picture below. The River Thames police is (it claims) the oldest official police force in the world. Therefore Wapping Police Station is also the oldest in the world. It’s also another possible site for Execution Dock.

john-harriott-launch-2

A third site is under the Wapping Overground Station.

Great minds meet alike

There is a confluence of Dr Samuel Johnson, James Boswell and Christopher Fowler about Wapping.

On Saturday, April 12 [1783], I visited him, in company with Mr. Windham, of Norfolk, whom, though a Whig, he highly valued. One of the best things he ever said was to this gentleman; who, before he set out for Ireland as Secretary to Lord Northington, when Lord Lieutenant, expressed to the Sage some modest and virtuous doubts, whether he could bring himself to practise those arts which it is supposed a person in that situation has occasion to employ. ‘Don’t be afraid, Sir, (said Johnson, with a pleasant smile,) you will soon make a very pretty rascal.

He talked to-day a good deal of the wonderful extent and variety of London, and observed, that men of curious enquiry might see in it such modes of life as very few could even imagine. He in particular recommended to us to explore Wapping, which we resolved to do.

It took nine years before Boswell and William Windham fulfilled Johnson’s recommendation; and both were disappointed. Wyndham lamented he had missed a prize fight for the trip:

I let myself foolishly be drawn by Boswell to explore, as he called it, Wapping, instead of going when everything was prepared, to see the battle between Ward and Stanyard, which turned out to be a good one.

Boswell seems to have the same impression as Fowler (and even myself):

Whether from the uniformity which has in a great degree spread through every part of the metropolis, or our want of sufficient exertion, we were disappointed.

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Filed under Charles Dickens, Christopher Fowler, fiction, London, Metropolitan Police, pubs, reading

Thanks, Ms Ro(w)e

Now here’s an interesting coincidence:

Exhibit 1:

From the Daily Telegraph‘s Mandrake column, 29th September 2013:

Damian McBride’s autobiography was described as the “literary equivalent of a suicide belt” that the former right-hand man to Gordon Brown detonated at the Labour Party conference last week. It is, however, the memoirs of a lesser-know figure that hang over the Conservatives’ gathering in Manchester.

Mandrake hears that a book has been completed by Natalie Rowe, the dominatrix once, memorably, pictured in a photograph with George Osborne, the Chancellor.

The former brothel-owner, known professionally as “Miss Whiplash”, is understood to be in “advanced negotiations” with a leading publisher over its release, which is likely to be accompanied by a tabloid newspaper serialisation.

“They are dynamite,” one of Rowe’s friends tells me. “They are full of sensational claims about her time as a dominatrix and she is prepared to name names.”

article-2036563-0DD9E23F00000578-206_233x299Nothing out-of-the-ordinary there. Ms Rowe has been promising us “revelations” for several years; and the “particulars” have been in the “public domain” since the News of the Screws blew the gaff, back in October 2005 (as right).

So, onwards and downwards, for

Exhibit 2:

From the Sunday People, 13th October 2013:

George Osborne: Cops raid home of ex-vice madam about to tell all on wild parties involving top Tories

Natalie Rowe was warned not to “open a can of worms” before publishing new claims about her relationship with the Chancellor

Ex-vice madam Natalie Rowe has had her home raided by police days before she will make new claims about her relationship with Chancellor George Osborne, the Sunday People reports.

Up to 12 Drugs Squad officers armed with a battering ram burst into her London flat in a dawn swoop claiming they were acting on a tip-off from a member of the public.

But no drugs were found in the two-hour search during which Miss Rowe claims she was threatened with being handcuffed – and had questions asked about her forthcoming autobiography.

The book is expected to make ­embarrassing new claims about Mr Osborne, who was allegedly a regular guest at wild parties the dominatrix threw at her flat in the early 1990s.

Miss Rowe was raided just 48 hours after a national paper reported that her memoirs are due out later this month.

Move along now! Nothing to see here!

The official police version is quoted (by the Daily Mail, so it must be true):

Following information received, officers based in Kensington and Chelsea obtained a warrant to search an address under Section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 on October 2.

No drugs were found and no one was arrested.

A formal complaint was received on October 9. It has been referred to the Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS). We are not prepared to discuss further.

One doesn’t need a rodent operator’s nose to small a rat. Who lobbed the gratuitous, and apparently untrue allegation of drugs? Do the Met Police always act so quickly, and so coincidentally quickly, on every bit of “information received”? And there’s either a misprint (should “October 2” be “October 12”?) or the warrant was independent of and precedes any “information received”.

All very odd.

What is touching, however, is another uptick in Malcolm’s nugatory statporn.

Suddenly there is an increased number of visits to an old post: Gids, white powder and a strong dusky arm.

So, thank you, Ms Rowe.

Onwards and all-to-the-fore

Malcolm admits he has to be very careful lest he confuses his Ms Rowes/Roes.

For he recalls the once-famed Erika of that alternative, shorter spelling, who made her mark with a topless half-time run across the sacred turf of Twickenham on 2nd January 1982.

England won 15-11, while Ms Erika Roe earned the gratitude of many rugby louts.

Erika helmeted

 

As has been often repeated, Ms Roe had a fellow-traveller on the pitch, one Sarah Bennett (seen — just — second right in that photograph, with her less prominent immodesty shielded by the Union Flag). For reasons into which we need not enquire, Ms Bennett failed to get the press coverage extended to Ms Roe.

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Three degrees of falsehood, and ten degrees of the Eighth Circle

Last summer, from the web-site of the University of York’s Department of Mathematics (of all unlikely places to find any lit.crit), there was an exhaustive history of who and how the cliché originated about “lies, damn lies and statistics”. The conclusion, if somewhat fuzzy, declared the begetter was Sir Charles Dilke, but deriving it from many earlier variants.

Somewhat conveniently, if only for regional pride, was:

A query in Notes and Queries (7th Ser. xii) (1891 Oct. 10), p. 288, reads as follows:

DEGREES OF FALSEHOOD. – Who was it who said, “There are three degrees of falsehood: the first is a fib, the second is a lie, and then come statistics”?      ST. SWITHIN

According to Folklore 41 (3) (1930), 301 and 63 (1) (1952), 4–5, “St. Swithin” was a pseudonym used by Mrs Eliza Gutch (1840–1931), of Holgate Lodge, York.

They’re still at it!

The most blackened liar is the politician who twists a statistic to support a point. Here, from the letters page of this week’s Ham&High in front of Malcolm, we have a prime specimen:

Stephen Greenhalgh, London’s deputy mayor for policing and crime, writes:

Crime has fallen, but we want to boost public confidence and make London safer. [etc., etc.]

A Google search suggests Greenhalgh issues, and re-issues press releases on this line, regurgitates similar statements on public occasions, quite indefatigably. There’ll probably be another one along in the morning. That’s why the grateful citizens of London pay him something around £100,000 a year, plus expenses and pension rights.

Let him who is without sin …

Meanwhile, Greenhalgh is himself not above suspicion, and Dave Hill has him in his sights:

As the police watchdog considers whether to investigate Boris Johnson’s policing deputy Stephen Greenhalgh over alleged illegal conduct by public officers of Hammersmith and Fulham council when he was its leader, it is instructive to consider the passion with which Greenhalgh supported the ambitious redevelopment scheme at the heart of the affair – the Earls Court project.

And then, lest we forget, there was the City Hall groping:

Boris Johnson‘s deputy mayor for policing has apologised “unreservedly” following an allegation that he molested a female member of staff in a city hall lift.

Stephen Greenhalgh, the former Tory leader of Hammersmith and Fulham council, who now holds day-to-day responsibility in the mayor’s office for policing and crime, allegedly patted a female member of staff on the bottom while in a lift last month.

Last seen above Lenin’s tomb

Put Greenhalgh into an ill-cut Soviet era suit, and one instantly lines him up alongside the Bulganins,  Malenkovs and Berias for a Red Square May Day parade:

Stephen Greenhalgh and Boris Johnson

So, for the occasion, let’s adapt a Stalinite apothegm:

It’s not the crimes that count, it’s how, and by whom they are counted.

In the exact case of crime statistics, the Guardian‘s Datablog, Facts are sacred, ran the slide-rule over the official numbers a while ago. It noted all kinds of jiggery-pokery:

    • A concurrent but separate ONS publication shows that the rate of police recorded crime has fallen more quickly than the rate of reported crime found in the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW).
    • It’s important to bear in mind that today’s release focuses on police recorded crimes. These are provided to the Home Office by police authorities and forces, not all of whom collect data with the same precision according to a 2007 audit. This is problematic because it means that a higher number in a given area may indicate an improvement in reporting by police rather than a rise in criminality.
    • … crimes recorded by police are unlikely to represent the total number of crimes that take place. To understand this better, it’s useful to also consider the CSEW which asks people face-to-face about their experiences of, attitudes about and perceptions of a range of crimes.
    • The gap between police-recorded and survey-reported crime has always been significant, but the distance between the two has widened. In 2004/05, there was an effective recording rate of 52.8%, while in the latest statistical release, this figure has dropped to 42.4%

And even this:

    • Another of the more interesting figures is that of the perception of crime. The CSEW asks people whether they think crime is getting worse where they live and nationally. So, people think crime is getting worse – but not where they live. It’s the gap between what we know is going on and what we think is going on.

That last one, where Malcolm is sitting, means that the propaganda of stooges like Greenhalgh may be working.

Put the whole shebang together, and the only reasonable conclusion is:

Crime figures aren’t worth the ink used to print them.

Conjugation: I’m usually a law-abiding citizen, you’re a bit dodgy: that bloke ought to go down for a long stretch.

Meanwhile the really big crimes — Harry-the-Horse and  the multinationals who don’t pay taxes, the fraudsters who exploit concessions for charity to rip us all off — are officially not crimes at all.

Then there’s the little stuff:

It’s illegal to ride a motorcycle or drive using hand-held phones or similar devices.

The rules are the same if you’re stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic.

It’s also illegal to use a hand-held phone or similar device when supervising a learner driver or rider.

Malcolm would give fair odds that at least the second of those requirements is not known to the average driver. Yet — note — all are “illegal”, which means “against the law”. And Malcolm, waiting for a few minutes at bus-stops in north London, counts five, six or more drivers quite blatantly disregarding the law, frequently in full view of that CCTV camera that collect fines if you pause for thirty seconds to allow a passenger to get out (£50 free and for nothing to the local authority).

Here’s a writ that goes unenforced on a daily basis:

Bernard Hogan-Howe [the Met’s Commissioner] indicated that he believed the current punishment of three penalty points and a £60 fine was not a strong enough deterrent for drivers.

By increasing the punishment to six points, drivers would be banned from the road if they were caught twice for the offence within three years.

Writing on the Met’s website, the commissioner said this would make drivers take the law on driving while on the phone more seriously and improve road safety.

That interprets as we don’t bother to enforce the law. We expect you, the potential offenders to understand and obey the law. But if we’re forced to apply the law, we expect it to have teeth. If only because it makes us look as though we’re doing our job. And, if the offence was significantly up-graded, we’d have more motivation, and look even better. Oh, and by the way, if you’re phoning and driving, don’t mow down that child, because — if you do — we have to check your phone records, which is a real fag.

That makes all the more remarkable the coincidence, nay the the assiduity of the Met Police, in catching (and so banning) Chris Huhne for driving the Old Kent Road while phoning. And that, by coincidence, within weeks of him avoiding a ban for speeding by having his wife take the points.

Where does this place the Office of National Statistics, Deputy Mayor Greenhalge, and others? —

Destination: Malebolge

Dante's hell

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Filed under Boris Johnson, Britain, crime, Literature, London, Metropolitan Police, policing, sleaze., social class, Tories.

Shooting the messenger?

Here’s one that will have after-shocks:

A police constable with the diplomatic protection group has been arrested on suspicion of misconduct in a public office, Met Police say.

The officer was arrested late on Saturday and bailed on Sunday to return in January. He has been suspended.

The arrest was made by officers investigating how national newspapers came to publish police records of an incident at Downing Street.

In other words, the Met have thrown thousands at an internal investigation and pay for a suspended officer. Mitchell (a miserable non-apology for a ‘gentleman’) largely got away with it. OK, he lost office, but he was over-promoted, he owned his elevation to Cameron’s need to keep his right-wing ultras in line, and the nation is not greatly at a loss for dispensing with his services: in Sir George Young the Tory Party, parliament and the country have the better man.

Presumably the Met is still racing to catch up with its own serial failures (at far higher levels than any mere police constable) and complicities with the Murdoch press.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

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Filed under BBC, broken society, David Cameron, London, Metropolitan Police, Murdoch, sleaze., Tories.

When constabulary duty’s to be done, to be done …

… A policeman’s lot is not a happy one, happy one.

— William Schwenck Gilbert for The Pirates of Penzance.

  • The picture (right) is the baritone Walter Passmore of the original production.
  • The song was a favourite among London coppers, at least down to the mid-twentieth century. Malcolm heard it from his own (ex-PC) father’s lips.

Now that the dust settles on the dismal Plebgate business, now that Andrew Mitchell, a former UN peacemaker,  can polish his bike in peace, there’s still the odd bit of gristle to be chewed.

As we saw in yesterday’s Sindy, John Rentoul has come over all fair-minded:

I thought Cameron made a mistake in not insisting that Mitchell step down straight away. Which is not the same as saying that I thought Mitchell deserved to resign. Indeed, I thought he was more sinned against than sinning. Being told that it is “policy” to wheel your bicycle through the pedestrian gate is monstrous anti-cyclist discrimination (and jobsworthism of the highest order). Losing your temper and swearing at a police officer is a sin, obviously, but it may not be a crime. The Court of Appeal quashed a conviction last year, ruling that police officers are used to hearing the f-word, which is “rather commonplace”, and that it was unlikely to cause them “harassment, alarm or distress”. It was the police who, in breach of their rules, gave the story to The Sun.

OK … yawn … let’s move on …

Well, perhaps not. Put aside the “rather commonplace” adverbial reinforcer, and what are we still left with?

So, let’s play it again:

“You guys are supposed to [ … ] help us.”

Consider who are “you” and who are “us”

“You” are, most immediately, the security at the Downing Street gates. In Mitchell’s mind they are there mainly to open the main gates to let him pass through: that is the beginning and end of this little demonstration of why we’re “not all in this together”.

The police officers see their role a trifle differently, indeed from a more elevated level. They are there to keep the peace, to maintain security, and to protect the entire citizenry, who may include elected politicians.

Beyond the immediate police detachment, Mitchell may be claiming ownership and the dedicated aid and assistance of the entire Metropolitan Police, and by further extension of the police service nationally. At which, Malcolm mutters, “Up to a point, Lord Copper.

We have been here before

Just how far political (i.e. Thatcherite) intervention went in the aftermath of the Hillsborough tragedy may be just about arguable. We do know that Thatcher herself was closeted with South Yorkshire police chief a day or so before 164 police statements were re-written to fit the “official” script.

And now:

A Nottinghamshire MP is to call for an inquiry into alleged manipulation of evidence by South Yorkshire Police during the miners’ strike.

John Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw, said claims made in a BBC Inside Out programme relating to the so-called Battle of Orgreave must be examined.

The claims, that junior officers were told what to write in their statements, were “very convincing”, said Mr Mann.

South Yorkshire Police said it would consider whether a review was needed.

What we know is that the cases against arrested miners were built on false evidence, as after Hillsborough:

… a barrister specialising in criminal trials, Mark George QC, analysed 40 police officers’ Orgreave statements, and found that many contained identical descriptions of alleged disorder by the miners. To prove the offence of riot, the prosecution has to establish a scene of general disorder within which a defendant committed a particular act, for example throwing a stone, which would otherwise carry a much lesser charge.

George found that 34 officers’ statements, supposed to have been compiled separately, used the identical phrase: “Periodically there was missile throwing from the back of the pickets.”

One paragraph, of four full sentences, was identical word for word in 22 separate statements. It described an alleged charge by miners, including the phrase: “There was however a continual barrage of missiles.”

Michael Mansfield QC, who defended three of the acquitted miners, described South Yorkshire police’s evidence then as “the biggest frame-up ever”.

One case, against Bryan Moreland, spectacularly collapsed when a Home Office graphologist went on oath to declare the police officer’s signature was a fabrication. Moreover:

[Chief Constable] Wright did not accept any fault at all in the Orgreave operation and prosecutions. But he acknowledged unapologetically that there was a deliberate effort to convict miners of riot and unlawful assembly, which carried potentially long, even life, prison sentences. In a report to the police committee dated 25 September 1985, Wright set out the details of the operation to deal, he said, with escalating violence in picketing at the Orgreave coking plant, which miners have always argued was exaggerated.

“The chief constable decided that the usual charge of disorderly conduct, contrary to the Public Order Act, was inadequate and that, where appropriate, charges of unlawful assembly and riot should be preferred,” Wright wrote in his report.

We’ll be back to continue that in a moment. So far, the bottom line seems to be: in Thatcher’s day, the police — at least those of the South Yorkshire force — were  supposed to [ … ] help us. We have that on the authority of the Baroness herself:

There are those who are using violence and intimidation to impose their will on others who do not want it. They are failing because of two things.

First, because of the magnificent police force well trained for carrying out their duties bravely and impartially (loud cheers).

And secondly, because the overwhelming majority of people in this country are honourable, decent and law abiding and want the law to be upheld and will not be intimidated, and I pay tribute to the courage of those who have gone into work through these picket lines, to the courage of those at Ravenscraig and Scunthorpe for not going to be intimidated out of their jobs and out of their future. Ladies and Gentlemen we need the support of everyone in this battle which goes to the very heart of our society. The rule of law must prevail over the rule of the mob.

Which should all be read with implicit and emphatic first-person pronouns: My impartiality. My police. My intimidation. My law. My rules. To get her cheering audience, Thatcher had to make that speech at Banbury Cattle Market, in one of the safest Tory seats in the country.

Any blame for all this politicising of the police goes right (far right) to the top. The poor bloody constabulary were told, even ordered to submit their notebooks for editing by Chekisty and commissars. That is no obscene exaggeration: it was the way things were done in South Yorkshire under Chief Constable Wright (and so we continue from that earlier quotation):

He set up a dedicated unit to target the miners: “A chief superintendent well experienced in CID work was appointed and directed by the chief constable to organise the collection and collation of evidence, and the preparation of prosecution files whenever the scale and nature of events at Orgreave so required.”

On 18 June 1984, the day of the most notorious confrontation, when police were filmed attacking miners then claimed they were attacked first, Wright recorded: “The evidence-gathering team comprised one detective inspector, one detective sergeant, and four detective constables.” It has never been revealed who these officers or the more senior commanding officers were, nor if any were then involved in what has been labelled the black propaganda unit which conducted the campaign to falsely blame the Liverpool supporters for the Hillsborough disaster.

For the record, at that time young Andrew Mitchell was girding his loins and polishing his bicycle clips to become a devoutly Thatcherite Tory MP for the Gedling constituency of Greater Nottingham, not a million miles from the core territory of the strike-breakers.

And now for “us”

If  ‘You guys are supposed to [ … ] help us’, let us consider the precise definition of us in this context.

At first sight it might be the us of the government. Yet that doesn’t quite comprehend Mitchell’s position. After all, the Chief Whip  is the one senior occupant of Downing Street who is there primarily as the Gauleiter of the majority parliamentary party. Cue wikipedia:

In British politics, the Chief Whip of the governing party in the House of Commons is usually appointed as Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury so that the incumbent, who represents the whips in general, has a seat and a voice in the Cabinet. By virtue of holding the office of Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury, the Government Chief Whip has an official residence at 12 Downing Street. However, the Chief Whip’s office is currently located at 9 Downing Street.

To be clear, we do not have a ‘governing party’ in this parliament. We are saddled with a coalition. There are two Deputy Chief Whips, of whom one is Alistair Carmichael of the LibDems, who does not have bicycling access to Downing Street. When the Chief Whip speaks in the Commons (and, by tradition, such occasions are few and far between), it is specifically in a party-political context.

So Chief Whip Mitchell (as was) was a Conservative Party official demanding obedience from his subservient lesser-beings. Whether the term he used was “plebs” or “plods”, he was claiming l’état, c’est moi.

That is far, far more damaging than any fucking adverb.

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Just Kidding

Today the Lady in Malcolm’s Life and the Pert Young Piece headed off to risk their credit cards against London’s mercantile finest. This is what gets called “retail therapy”.

Malcolm was left, bereft, solitary, and told to have a meal ready by seven p.m.

What’s to do?

Well, down to Highbury and Islington, catch the “Overground” to Wapping, and investigate a couple of boozers in Ratcliff(e) Highway. Wapping station, incidentally, is one of the most likely locations of Execution Dock, where we shall look in shortly

Malcolm’s emotional tie here is his Dear Old Dad, who was a Thames Division copper only a year or two before the picture below. That’s the River Thames police, the oldest official police force in the world. Therefore Wapping Police Station is also the oldest in the world. It’s also another possible site for Execution Dock.

In these degenerate days, it’s merely the Marine Support Unit.

Shiver me timbers, matey!

A couple of doors short of Wapping police station is the Captain Kidd.

Now, don’t get carried away here. Curb your romantic propensities. It’s a bit of contrivance. Despite its venerable appearance — and it was carved out of another of those warehouses and counting houses, the pub dates back all of a couple of decades.

It’s hardly prepossessing from the street: you even have to look for the hanging sign to locate it. You enter by an alley-way, and all is revealed. Which is worth waiting for.

For once the pub interior decorators worked with what they’ve got. The result is more than passable. Banquettes around the wall under non-memorabililia of the eponymous Kidd fore-and-aft. Other tables in the space of the room. A peninsular bar. Those fine windows and the magnificent view of the Upper Pool of London. Slip out the side doors, to the terrace, and it’s even better. It’s a Sam Smith’s house, so Old Brewery Bitter at well-below-London prices. There’s the standard pub menu, too (and, it is rumoured, a restaurant upstairs). All plus points.

The really instructive point is the mixed clientèle. Wapping hasn’t forsaken its working-class roots. The river side of the Highway has the seven-figure apartments with full river views. A bit back are the Peabody Buildings and and the local-authority flats. Both sides of the community seem comfortable here.

A very political pirate

The story of William Kidd is well known: the son of the Greenock manse who went abroad to make his fortune, served King (Billy, since you ask) and country

  • and Governor Codrington against the French in the Caribbean
  • and Richard Coote — the earl of Bellomont and newly designated governor of New York and the Massachusetts Bay — against the Dutch in the New York colony.

He had already made some powerful political friends (and, the obverse of that coin, similarly enemies) when he  fell in with another conniving Scot, Robert Livingstone, who owned lands and businesses in New York. Livingstone and Kidd and Coote cooked up a scheme, to get London merchant interests to finance a scheme to clean up the piracy of the Indian Ocean, and turn a pretty profit. So Livingstone, Kidd and Coote had their their names on the prospectus, but behind them covertly were the Whig grandees: the earls of Shrewsbury, Orford, and Romney and John Lord Somers.

In April 1696 Kidd left London, kitted out with the potent Adventure Galley. He sailed first to New York, where he recruited some ninety hardened pirates, and then set sail for Madagascar, which was HQ for Indian Ocean pirates. Rather than take on the pirates, Kidd then went north and raided the pilgrims in the Red Sea. he found the pilgrim convoy protected by an Indiaman, and so his scheme was flushed out into the open. Kidd then took his Adventure Galley to prey along the Indian coast. Those pirates in Kidd’s crew were less than satisfied with the results, so far, of their efforts; and Kidd seems to have been threatened with mutiny. Somehow he laid out and killed a gunner, William Moore, with a metal-banded barrel. This would have consequences.

Back in Madagascar Kidd was in full league with the local pirates. He had a bit of luck taking half a dozen ships — though only two were French, and so covered by his privateering licence. By now the East India Company, under pressure from the Mughals, wanted Kidd’s head. Influence was peddled back in London, and Kidd was an outlaw. Coote, in New York, was told to lay hands on Kidd when he showed up.

Nemesis

Kidd retraced his outward voyage, first via the Caribbean, where he discovered he was on the Most Wanted list, then along the east coast of the Americas, down-sizing his crew and depositing his considerable winnings (just where is one of the great treasure-hunting myths and legends). He retained just enough to tempt Coote into a deal. Coote knew which side his bread was buttered: he arrested Kidd, and sent him (and some remaining loot) to London. The rest of Kidd’s wealth (about £6,000) was requisitioned by Coote as “expenses”, and went to buy land in Greenwich Village.

In London Kidd was approached by the Tories, now firmly in power, to peach on his former Whig backers. He refused (presumably because he wasn’t prepared to annoy anyone at this stage). The Whig lords, who stood too close for comfort to charges of treason, quietly let Kidd go to trial. Kidd was found guilty of piracy, and the murder of William Moore. About all that was remarkable about this stitch-up of a trial is that Kidd’s privateering documents had gone missing, and were turned up only in the last century. Those documents wouldn’t have saved Kidd, but their absence goes to show that someone in authority had his card marked.

At Execution Dock on 23 May 1701 Kidd was swung from the gallows. The rope broke. Its replacement worked a treat.

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Trigger hacked-off: help from on high at hand?

“Trigger” Mulcaire may have scored Wimbledon’s first, ever, but more recently it’s been all own goals.

Let us then celebrate that the Supreme Court (it had to go that far!) has told him to cough on who was his News International puppet master.

Mulcaire received as much as £850,000 from the News of the Screws for his dutiful services, hacking upwards of 5,795 people (as of the November 2011 count). We may safely assume it wasn’t out of petty cash. The obvious name in the frame is Greg Miskiw, the News of the Screws Assistant Editor, That’s assistant to Andy Coulson. Now — conveniently  — Miskiw is a resident of Palm Beach, Florida.

A further reasonably assumption is this went all the way to the top, even beyond Miskiw, particularly because Max Clifford waived his claim for compensation after he met with Rebekah Brooks (but before Mulcaire’s conviction) and agreed a fee of a cool million for Clifford’s slimy future services.

The Orange card

Miskiw may have a 28-pounder shell, primed and ready, in his ammunition locker, because nobody, but nobody will be too keen on developing the Northern Irish dimension. Once again we are back to Stakeknife.

Miskiw was buddies with Alex Marunchuk, once the Screws crime reporter, then Irish editor. Marunchuk was a partner with Jonathan Rees in Pure Energy. Miskiw and Rees were partners in Abbeycover, which itself was an adjust of Southern Investigations, which takes us to ex-copper and child-pornographer Sid Fillery. The Rees-Marunchuk link takes us into trojan emails and computer hacking (and so to the police Operation Tuleta). Then there’s Operation Kalmyk, which is focused on Rees hacking Ian Hurst (a.k.a. Martin Ingram) — which is the Stakeknife connection.

As Malcolm was noting a year back, by that stage we are into the viscera of the beast, the notorious Force Research Unit, at Thiepval Barracks, in Lisburn.

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No, no, a thousand times no. This is not paranoia.

The Smithwick Tribunal in Dublin is looking at the IRA murders of Chief Sup Harry Breen and Super Bob Buchanan of the RUC at Jonesborough in the South Armagh/County Louth border country, apparently returning from a covert meeting with the Irish security service in Dundalk. Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP MP, has alleged that the IRA were tipped off by Garda DS Owen Corrigan. Corrigan’s IRA “handler” is alleged to be the (equally alleged) double-agent Freddie “Stakeknife” Scappaticci. Scappaticci, along with the late John Joe Magee of Dundalk are (even more alleged) to have been the key members of the IRA “nutting squad”. One further “alleged” is that Scappaticci was second only to the OC IRA Northern Command, a certain Máirtín Mag Aonghusa, MP, MLA.

Ian Hurst, after extensive going-and-froing was induced to give evidence to Smithwick: that was redacted for public consumption. The RTÉ reports, especially that of 26th April, should be required reading.

And you thought it was all about Milly Dowler’s phone?

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