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LIFE ON MARS

THE FLYING SQUAD. C.O.C.8. CIRCA 1973.

The First National City Bank of New York had offices in the Strand. W.C.2.

They employed a retired Met Officer Mr Geoff HEGART as U.K. Security Manager.

Geoff rang the Yard one day and reported the loss of 750 grands worth of Travellers

Cheques in transit from the F.N.C.B. head office in New York to London. He also

stated that he had been contacted by the villains responsible for the theft saying

that they wanted to do a deal - they would return the T/Cs for 20% of face value

This enquiry was given to No 5 Squad at C.O.C.8. under Detective Chief Superintendent

Jack SLIPPER and Detective Inspector John Meyrick (Sargy) .

I was a Detective Constable on this team of ten men and in my opinion we were the Met's finest.

To cut a long story short, within a week the villains were identified, set up and

arrested. All four of them were baggage handlers at Heathrow Airport, better known at

the time as 'Thiefrow'. They all put up their hands and admitted that they had identified

one of the high value bags on an incoming flight from New York; they had dipped into it

and came away with the F.N.C.B. parcel containing 750 grands worth of T/Cs.

The main problem the villains had was the fact that the T/Cs were all of 1000 dollar,

denomination this had made it very difficult for them to change them up as nobody

would accept them without checking them out. So they hit on the idea of selling them

back to the Bank. I recall after the arrest of this lot Jack Slipper and the Commissioner

came to our office to congratulate the team on its success. This was a little premature

as we had not recovered the T/Cs at this stage.

The villains had informed us that the T/Cs had been given to an Aussie associate who

had deposited the parcel in a left luggage locker in a Paris Metro Station. They gave

us the locker key, the name of the Aussie and the hotel that he had stayed in whilst

in Paris - so all we had to do was go collect.

I am glad to say I was the lucky one to travel with Detective Sergeant Alan JOHNS,

known to all as "Noddy" and Geoff HEGART, to Paris for the weekend to recover

the goods. All three of us arrived in Paris and were met by a couple of French Detectives

at the Airport who drove us direct to the subway station. We opened the locker, removed

the parcel and counted the contents. Three times we counted that dough and three times

it was 250 grand light.

Obviously the Aussie had dipped the parcel. We were then taken to a French Police

Station and once there Alan rang Jack Slipper to give him the news. It was a very short call.

Alan came off the phone, he looked a little perplexed. I asked him what the Guvners

reaction was. Alan said," The bugger told me to put it back", we all laughed. I said,"Well

what else", Alan said, "We have to stay here and not come back until we find that bloody

Aussie and the dough", (Magic Paris here we come)

Geoff Hegart had booked us all into a real nobby hotel on the Champs Elysses, it was the

business. The next day we started work with the assistance of the French old bill, we

went to the hotel where the Aussie had stayed, looked at the phone records and saw

that he had made a couple of calls to the villains back in London, one to an American

Airline and one to a hotel in New York. We established that the Aussie had flown to

New York stayed one night in the hotel and left.

We spent a couple of days in Paris obtaining statements and exhibits etc, then we

received instructions from base that we were to go direct to New York to progress the

enquiry. (Double magic - all the makings of a decent trip) As we had thought we were

only spending an overnight in Paris we were a bit short on monies and clothes etc.

No problem - T/Cs were made available to us via Thomas Cooks so we then spent the

day shopping in Paris. (I still have the suit)

The flight to New York was the billy bollocks. Geoff Hegart, bless him, had our tickets

up graded to First Class. We left our statements etc with the French Police for safe

keeping thus ensuring a couple more nights in Paris on our return journey.

So we arrived at J.F.K. U.S.A. (Commission Rogatoire, what's that? Sounds French to

me). Once again dear Geoff came up trumps. This time he booked us into a real nobby,

hotel right on Times Square, Alan and I had a huge suite, with a bar as big as the Tank back at the Yard and in the basement a night club.

After settling into the hotel we went down to the local precinct and introduced ourselves

to the local Captain of Detectives and acquainted him with the nature of our enquiry.The

Yanks treated us really well, they just could not do enough for us. They really loved our

accents - strange I thought as Alan was Welsh. Anyway they assigned one of their own

Tecs to us for liaison and we were told to carry on as if we were still in London. (We Did)

We carried out our enquiries at the hotel re the Aussie and established once again from phone records that he had taken a flight from New York to Budapest. No way do we want

to go there, Alan agreed. We then spent the next few days taking statements etc from

staff at the Hotel where the Aussie stayed, the Airport and F.N.C.B. On the Friday we

gave a presentation to the F.N.C.B. board with regards to the investigation at the end of

which Geoff Hegart(now my favourite Security Manager of all time) came to us and said

that as it was the end of the week he had booked flights and hotel for us all to go to

Niagra Falls for the week end and we were leaving that night.(Fan bloody tastic)

We arrived at Niagra Falls. What a place! The hotel had lifts that went up and down the

outside walls it was great. We did the usual Maid of the Mist trip, got soaked - the only

downside was at the time they had diverted part of the river, the Canadian side of the falls

were covered in scaffolding poles and they were pouring in tons of concrete to support

the crumbling rock face.

The next day Alan and I decided to go visit an old friend who was an Ex Met Officer now

living about 50 miles over the border in Canada. His name was George GADSBY, so we

hired a car and bought Gadsby six 40oz bottles of Scotch Whisky as a present - he was

a Jock after all.

We drove up to the border, through the American Customs, no problems. We were then

stopped by a Canadian Customs officer. As I was driving he came to my door and asked the

usual questions and took our passports, asked me to open the boot. I did and he looked in

and then said "Anything to declare" I said "No", he then picked up the box of Scotch and

said " Have you got a licence to import alcohol out of the U.S.A. into Canada," I told him

"No its a present for the guy I told you we are visiting". He took the Whisky saying follow

me this is a serious offence. We then followed him into a hut of an office. Then followed

a somewhat serious discussion. We produced our warrant cards and he photocopied them,

gave them back, he then said I had to sign a piece of paper, which very reluctantly I did.

He then gave us our passports back and said "Have a good trip" Result Canada 6

England 0.

We went on found the Gadsby residence and had a wonderful time with him and his family

George never got a present. We returned to Niagra Falls the next day, the only alcohol

on board when we returned through the Customs was that which we had consumed the

night before.

On our return to our hotel in Times Square we packed ready for our return flight the next

day to Paris. As it was our last night we decided to have a party in our suite inviting about ten guys with whom we had worked whilst in the States, Cops and F.N.C.B. staff. Sounded

a good idea. Ten guys turned up that evening together with about six very pretty & friendly

ladies. I got hold of Alan early doors and told him that he must hide our T/Cs, he said that

he would. No doubt in my mind these nice girls were what the Yanks call "Hookers".

It was a great party.

Later that morning I was still in bed (alone) Alan came rushing in, "Reg the T/Cs are gone,

I hid them in my shoe in the wardrobe", "Jesus Christ Alan I do not believe it" Anyway we

reported the loss to our liaison officer. They were never found. Just before we left the hotel

for the Airport we had a phone call from F.N.C.B. telling us that the missing 250 grand had been deposited in a Bank in Budapest.

So off to Paris for a bit of peace and quiet, I hoped. On arrival we booked back into the

same hotel on the Champs Elysses, and went to the French Police Station to

collect our statements and exhibits. We got the exhibits but the folder containing our

statements was missing. The French tried to say that we must have taken them with us

to the States. No way, the French had lost them so we spent the next two days obtaining

fresh statements. Jack Slipper was not a happy bunny!

We returned to the U.K, amazing really we had been gone over two weeks,(time really

does fly when you are enjoying yourself) On our first day back at the Yard we attended

a de brief with Ch Supt Slipper. Both Alan and I were expecting a bollocking big time.

Mr Slipper started off by saying he only wanted answers to three things. 1. The loss of

the Commissioners cheques in New York, 2. The loss of statements in Paris. 3. The illicit

importation of alcohol into Canada. He then went on to say that the Commissioner had

received a report from the Canadian Customs. We thought our little trip to Canada was a

secret. Mr Slipper however did go on to say that overall the enquiry had been

a great success and that the events we had encountered on our travels had been a source

of great amusement at N.S.Y.

Things got back to normal until about two weeks after our return I got into the lift at

the Yard on the way to my office one morning, I was followed in by the Commissioner

"Good Morning Sir", I said. He did not say a thing, the lift doors closed and the lift

moved off. He was standing as if in deep thought and looking at his shoes. Then he said,

"Its Mr Leonard is it not?" I said "Yes Sir". He said" Yes I have just been thinking that you

and I have something in common" I said "Sir?" He said" Yes and that is that we may have

both reached the pinnacle of our careers" The lift door opened he walked out. "Good Days"

Reg Leonard. Ex Det Con. Met Police. Jan 2009.

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