When I was a police officer on L division covering inner South London, divisional CID Officers on the whole acted in a gentlemanly fashion, although they could be ruthless with their own criminal fraternity, but it was the 100 men of the Flying Squad at Scotland Yard, known as the Sweeney whom all criminals feared, and I knew of one who would cross himself at hearing the name, looking over his shoulder fearfully. The name Sweeney was cockney rhyming slang for Sweeney Todd (the barber), a notorious criminal who sold the corpses of his customers to a pie shop next door in the 19th century.

I was posted to the Flying Squad in the early 1960s, and my squad was N0 5, there being ten squads of ten men in each.

We matched the criminals at every step in their use of weapons, fast cars and sheer strength and fisticuffs (boxing) was a normal thing. There were several gangs in London, and they normally fought each other, and we were slowly eliminating them in what was almost a war.

These gang leaders had a lot of notoriety through the press, but I always thought them the scum of the earth, but members of society would invite them to functions solely to get their pictures in the paper rubbing shoulders with these criminals.

This is a true story of when I was invited to an opening night party on the stage of a London Theatre.


By Len A.Hynds

The principal who owned the theatre was a titled Lord and there were two others present, apart from well known actors and actresses. Luckily I didn't recognise anybody known to me as a criminal, so the hosts had shown some common sense. I circulated and was introduced to everybody there, and one peer asked me if it was possible to visit the Black Museum at Scotland Yard, which was not open to the public. I said that I would make enquiries, and before I knew it, all were clamouring to be included. I took telephone numbers and promised to let them know.

The following day at work, I went to the museum, and spoke to the curator, a retired uniformed police inspector, but when he learnt my rank in the Flying Squad he appeared to lose interest. He said that it would be difficult, but he would grant me just 30 minutes to take my party round, as he would be too busy to explain things himself. I started naming my party, and slowly his expression changed, from straight indifference to a kind of bubbling excitement.

He changed the paper to one marked discreetly VIPs, and then started talking as if to himself, as if I wasn't there, planning the visit, his eyes lighting up at the prospect of actually rubbing shoulders with the aristocracy, and all those well known actors and actresses. He said, "I will personally meet them at the front door and conduct them round. I'll arrange welcome drinks, then the museum. Then I can take them round the various offices and departments, and finish up with tea with the commissioner. Oh, there is so much to arrange! Of course you wont want to be there will you," as if suddenly remembering my presence, rudely intruding on his grand thoughts. I replied," No it wouldn't be suitable for just any old Joe Soap, I will remain below stairs."

My sarcasm was completely lost on him.

The visit went ahead and was a huge success, but on having tea with the commissioner, one of the titled people, Lord Derby, mentioned that Detective Hynds of the Flying Squad had arranged this marvellous day at Scotland Yard, and that poor curator was instructed to take the whole party to the squad office (below stairs for him), in order to thank me.