How my old-fashioned Flying Squad broke through Britain’s biggest heist
It was a vital lead. And while other parts of the Met are now relying on high-tech approaches to solving such high-profile crimes, the 100-strong Flying Squad continues to work with informants who have assisted them in this case to them. direct to the criminal gang.
With the extent of the goods they had stolen, these men couldn’t help but spend – £ 760 spent on a sushi celebration of their own daring afterwards at Knightsbridge Zuma restaurant – and so attract attention to them.
Informants today are a far cry from the shady characters we used in my day, however. They were pretty much the same sneaky ones you might have seen dating John Thaw and Dennis Waterman on the 1970s hit series The Sweeney. Of course, in Cockney rhyming slang, Flying Squad appears as Sweeney Todd.
I have had to work with around 30 informants over the years, some of them just once, like when a whistleblower helped me recover a £ 2.5million painting of Rembrandt that had been stolen by a gang in a museum in London. Nowadays, however, they are called a Secret Source of Human Intelligence (or CHIS), must go through detailed verification to test their reliability, and must be shared by everyone who works in both squad offices, one in West London and the other in East. London.
It may be that when The Sweeney was taken off the air, people thought the Flying Squad was also gone. I still think it closed years ago. And to be fair, there was a big question mark hanging over him in the 1990s, when a few bad apples in his ranks tarnished his reputation.
But he survived, and from this week’s evidence it’s clear that the evidence is flourishing. Maybe his low profile these days is because home burglaries aren’t a priority for the police anymore – unless you’re as rich as the Ecclestones.
But if 2020 saw a 30% drop in burglaries during confinement, this year household insurers are reporting a clear increase. The problem hasn’t gone away, but it doesn’t seem to have such an impact on the public imagination anymore.
This leaves the Flying Squad a world away from its more famous cases, like catching the Big Train Thieves of 1963 which made headlines when £ 2,631,684 was stolen.
When the gang heard on the radio that the Squad’s leader, the legendary Tommy Butler, was leading their hunt, one of them reportedly said: “We are slashed.” And they were notched, resulting in sentences of 30 years.