John Alexander Symonds
“I'd say: ‘join the KGB and see the world’ - first class. I went to all over the world on these jobs and I had a marvellous time. I stayed in the best hotels, I visited all the best beaches, I've had access to beautiful women, unlimited food, champagne, caviar whatever you like and I had a wonderful time. That was my KGB experience. I don't regret a minute of it ...”
KGB Romeo Spy Part 5 - From Fit-up to Flight 1
This is the story of John Alexander Symonds life. The draft book was circulated to about 200 publishing houses and several showed an interest in offering it to the public.
Unfortunately the D-Notice Committee made objections to some of the contents on the grounds of National Security and so the book was never published.
The book is now published in its entirety on this website for the first time.
INDEX to my Biography
I was telling the truth in Chapter One when I said, ‘In November 1969 I was a highly rated officer in the Metropolitan Police and I was going places’, but now you know this really means the opposite. Yes, I was a rising star in an organisation with one of the best public relations images in the world, but in this world everything was turned upside down. Yes, I had made hundreds of arrests, my evidence had helped convict many criminals and I had won commendations, but as all this had been achieved courtesy of the corrupt Firm running London’s CID, the more positive my achievements, the worse their implications.
Yet I was not ‘bent’, I had never taken the £50 from Michael Perry for which The Times had condemned me. Knowing I was innocent, I was determined to clear my name, overturn my suspension and screw The Times with a huge libel bill.
So when Detective Chief Superintendent Bill Moody took charge of the Times enquiry, I was deeply perturbed. You might think I should have been pleased - surely, if a corrupt officer takes charge of an inquiry into corruption, he will ‘protect his own’- but, on the contrary, I knew in my bones that such a person will deliberately sacrifice some of ‘his own’, in order to divert suspicion from himself. It’s an old story: Poacher-turned-Gamekeeper.
I wasn’t going just on gut instinct. All of a sudden, as soon as Moody took over, my friends on the inquiry - including my close neighbour with whom I shared my dog walks - told me they were very, very worried, as did other friends who had their own friends on the squad. Their combined reports convinced me that the whole attitude towards me was changing. I heard of a meeting at the Home Office, attended by prosecution counsel, along with officials representing the Director of Public Prosecutions and leading lights from Scotland Yard. The purpose was to decide who should be charged. At first it was decided that charges would have to be laid against Robson and Harris but not against the other six suspended officers, including me. Better than that, we would all be returned to duties. This decision amounted to a complete clearance. But as the meeting progressed, John Mathew, the leading barrister for the Crown, and Ken Dowling from the DPP’s office argued that I should go on trial, They were the only two who felt that way. DuCann and all the others said that there wasn't enough evidence to justify any charges against me.
I then found out that, on the basis of a hostile report from Moody, (who was talking about a new 'secret' statement) Dowling had convinced Mathew that there was 'now' enough 'new' evidence to justify charges against me after all. I was shocked because I knew such evidence did not exist. The next thing I heard, people who had originally made statements clearing me were being re-interviewed and encouraged or pressured to make statements casting suspicion on me. Some statements were being destroyed altogether. Now Moody was on the inquiry, all of a sudden it was going another way. Strange things were happening.
By now another squad had been added to the inquiry. This was made up of detectives from forces outside London, some of whom were sent into south London to check out every case I had ever done, trying to prove some form of corruption. Amongst villains the word went round, ‘If you can say something against Symonds, we can give you help’. This provoked a rash of information from people awaiting trial. These weren’t people who had been fitted by squads in which I had worked. These people then benefited from having dozens of crimes overlooked entirely. One man was facing a single charge with 26 taken into consideration, (t.i.c.) another faced one charge with 40 ‘t.i.c.’s. That was the help they had been given, as a reward for making statements against me.
By this time I had realised the degree of Moody’s treachery. Up till now I had been very loyal to the Firm, and loyalty is very important to a corrupt police force. In America they call it the ‘buddy system’. You have to be able to rely absolutely on your colleagues. They expect you to put your head on the block for them and you expect them to do the same for you. This had always been so, in my experience and that of my friends, but here something new was happening. We all were corrupt to a degree, but here was a man who was so corrupt that he was prepared to fit up a fellow officer. Moody was fitting me up. This was beyond the pale. So now I knew everything that was going on but I still didn’t know quite why. Was I just a ritual sacrifice, so that Moody and his bosses at the top of Scotland Yard could claim they had purged the force of all unclean elements, or was there something more personal, touching on Moody himself.
As I listened to my friends on the inquiry, and dug around on my own initiative, I realised that the trouble stemmed from a corrupt nexus linking my Times accuser, the thief and burglar Michael Perry, and his burglar chums, to Detective Chief Superintendent Bill Moody himself.
Michael Perry was the leader of a gang of young criminals who were known locally as the Likely Lads, after the popular television series. These criminals were heading off in vans usually up to some Midland town, entering clothing shops, emptying them out, driving back to London and getting rid of the clothing to local receivers. With the aid of a crooked locksmith, who knew somebody with the company who had supplied all the locks, they were using duplicate keys to open up maybe several shops on each trip. They were professional, they used to wear white coats and arrive just before opening time or just after closing time, rather than at night when they would have looked suspicious. They would fill up their van and be back in London an hour or two later. Over two years they had done a hundred jobs like that and in all they had stolen one million pounds’ worth of property. And as they never had to force entry, they never left behind any incriminating evidence, such as finger prints, hair or clothing fibres, on which they could be identified.
In the meantime a special Regional Crime Squad team, Operation Coathanger, had been set up to investigate them. That’s where the other two officers named by 'The Times' came in, for both Robson and Harris were working on that investigation. They had been quite successful, for there were several gangs doing these jobs, not just our Likely Lads. Robson had done pretty well in catching a lot of the other thieves; he was credited with 22 arrests. He had even captured the duplicate key-maker but the duplicate keys had themselves been ‘duped’, so sometimes several gangs of thieves would raid the same premises. Once one gang going into a shop met another gang coming out, leaving nothing left worth stealing.
At Camberwell we knew what the Likely Lads were doing but the fact they were working off our patch was clever. They had done a few jobs around London but they were doing nothing locally, except drive about in big cars with pocketfuls of money and enjoying themselves. We were getting information back from our criminal sources on the ground so we set up an observation to track the Likely Lads as they came back in their vans into south London to unload the gear at the premises of their receivers. We also put out a report on what their were doing and where they were living, which Scotland Yard sent out to other forces, with the result that Midlands officers came down to us asking for assistance over the Likely Lads.
The trouble was that these Midlands officers thought it would be a simple matter to get search warrants and arrest people, question them and they would just admit their crimes, but these were hardened young criminals. There was no way they were going to confess to an officer from the sticks. Also my colleagues at Peckham police station were genuinely carrying out a complex observation job, sitting outside the Likely Lads’ homes waiting for them to come back from their escapades, or spotting them in a pub and following them home. All this might take six weeks and the DI at Peckham knew the job would be ruined if the Midlands officers demanded the suspects should be suddenly arrested. After all, there was no still no real evidence that they had been doing any of these thefts. So instead the Peckham officers sent the Midlands officers over to my colleague at Camberwell, who decided he would try to help them by obtaining a search warrant for some of the Likely Lads’ current premises. The warrant was obtained from a local Justice of the Peace.
Things came to a head on 22 September 1969 when a large consignment of cigarettes was stolen from a branch of the Nuneaton and Atherstone District Co-operative Society in Warwickshire, one hundred miles from London. Although Michael Perry had long been a suspect in these Coathanger jobs, he was still at large.
On this occasion there was not enough evidence to arrest him, only that his name had been put up by a informer. Two days after the cigarette theft Warwickshire detectives, assisted by some Met officers, arrested Perry in Peckham and took him to Nuneaton for questioning. Again they thought that once he was there, he would crack. But Perry already had some eighteen convictions, so he was a well-seasoned and practised villain, and there was no way he was going to fall for that one. Sure enough, he had to be released for lack of evidence. Meantime one of his confederates, called Brookes, was also a suspect but Brookes had the perfect alibi. He told the Warwickshire officers that at the time of the offence he was with a man called Frank Holbert who was a Justice of the Peace. Holbert duly provided a sworn statement to this effect, which meant Brookes could not be charged. He was off the hook.
All this would have lain undisturbed forever if it had not been for the revelations in The Times and the subsequent inquiry. And this is where the interests of DCS Bill Moody came in, for he had a very personal relationship with Mr Frank Holbert JP. Of course, when most people see ‘JP’, they think that the person whose name precedes those letters must be a pillar of the community, for surely only a person of integrity, reputation and impeccable character could ever be appointed a Justice of the Peace or Magistrate. But in Holbert’s case, the reverse was true. The only community of which he was a pillar was the criminal community for, though he may have had no convictions, he was a criminal himself.
Frankie Holbert was a seedy weedy man. If you saw him on the street you would never imagine him to be a JP, but he was a typical ‘middle man’, a sub-species of humanity very useful to crooked police and criminals. At that time there were a lot of middlemen, mostly publicans and bookmakers who were trusted by both sides to pass money on. Frankie himself was also trusted to hold money. For example, the police might demand so much money not to oppose bail, but understandably the villains didn't quite trust the police, so they would lodge a sum of money with Frankie who would then say to the police, ‘I'm holding it’, or ‘I've got it’, and if they kept their part of the bargain and didn't oppose bail, he would then hand the money to the police. But if something went wrong, if the police opposed bail or a senior officer over-ruled any such deal, or the bail was refused by the judge, Frankie would return the money to the disappointed party, with his commission deducted.
A middle-man like Holbert was also a ‘cut-out’, a device to ensure that any criminal with a wad of money to hand to a copper did not have a chance of trapping the copper into being arrested for the act of corruption it really was. Thus if Charlie Richardson needed to give a wad to Ken Drury, he might use Holbert as the cut-out, so Charlie could not set Drury up in an anti-corruption sting.
There were other middle-men, with colourful names such as Pegleg Birchmore and Red-Faced Tommy up in Southwark but in Peckham and Camberwell Frankie Holbert was Mister Fixit, the bridge between the underworld and the overworld, a broker of deals between cops and robbers.
Holbert was a parasite. I don’t know if he had ever been out on robberies or burglaries himself, hitting people on the head or breaking into houses, but he had worked himself into a position whereby he earned a living out of other villains’ efforts. He was born and bred amongst them, he lived amongst them, but somehow he had also made friends with certain policemen and got involved in this ‘middling’ game. From then on, his name was passed around the local CID offices as being ‘staunch’, reliable, a hundred per cent ‘geezer’, maybe even one thousand per cent. His rating must have been something like that because he took on this same middle-man role in the West End of London, where the pickings were far richer for both villains and bent cops, especially in Soho.
But up in Soho Holbert was performing a role which made him probably the most important middle-man in the whole of London. For most of the 1960s and early 1970s the entire pornography scene in Soho was run by an alliance of pornographers and corrupt detectives. The corrupt detectives all belonged to a unit based in Scotland Yard officially called the Obscene Publications Squad but generally known as the Porn or Dirty Squad. Throughout this period the two detectives who headed the OPS, directly or indirectly, were Wally Virgo and Bill Moody, the very men who, now holding the mighty ranks of commander and chief superintendent, had just muscled their way into running the Times Inquiry. Later it all came out that, between them, Virgo and Moody had been creaming off hundreds of thousands of pounds from Soho pornographers. They had sold these people licences to trade with impunity. As their businesses boomed, so did the size of their bribes, as if they were calculated as a share of the profits and paid over like a Christmas bonus. According to this yardstick, Moody and Virgo took huge lump sum payments, as well as regular weekly pay-offs collected by junior officers, in return for protecting these men’s businesses from prosecution, giving them advance warning of any cosmetic police raids on their shops or warehouses, and crushing the operations of any competitors who were not part of this charmed circle.
In theory Moody’s job was to stamp out pornography, or at least suppress its distribution and availability so it did not fall into the path of people who did not want it. In reality he controlled the trade in a way which enriched himself, his squad and his bosses back at the Yard. As a shareholder in the businesses of notorious pornographers such as Bernie Silver, John Mason and Jimmy Humphreys, he had a vested interest in stamping out the non-paying opposition. All major criminals always want rival gangs or new firms eliminated, and these porn bosses were just the same. And quite right too, because some of the newcomers to this market (in which the demand was insatiable) displayed a degree of recklessness which threatened the entire racket. For instance, they would often send out direct mail shots containing dirty photographs to innocent members of the public who would arrive at police stations throughout Britain holding disgusting pictures which had come unsolicited through the door, with the come-on, ‘Would you like to buy? Send your name and address and we can send you more pictures like this!’ Whenever that happened, we used to send that picture and a report to the porn squad. At that point the porn squad would know that someone had set up a little studio somewhere and was taking dirty photos and trying to build up a clientèle. He would then be ‘visited’ and either driven out of business or he would be taken aboard by the squad, as a partner. Provided he paid over a percentage of the profits, he would be allowed to continue, while benefiting also from the OPS’s professional guidance as to how to avoid getting nicked - by the OPS itself.
I knew all about this from a chum of mine, a detective who had worked with Moody when he was based at Croydon. When Moody was appointed to head the OPS, he took him along because he knew he could trust him. Indeed Moody set up the whole porn squad scam, with his aid. With a few other trusted cronies, they became full participating members in the dissemination of pornography: getting it into the country, opening shops, getting it sold, and getting lists of people who would pay large sums of money for this filth.
Around 1968 I had been offered a job on the porn squad. Moody had chosen me because, as far as he was concerned, I was trusted, tried and true. It was a kind of inverted honour to be asked. It showed I could be relied on to join in. No one joined merely because the postings clerk said, ‘Oh well, who's this? DC Bloggs? Put him on the porn squad’. You had to be hand-picked, known to be ‘sound’, because you were going into a totally corrupt environment in which massive sums were coming in and being counted out, sometimes openly on desks. The very fact that Moody had invited me on the squad showed our relationship but, to his surprise, I refused because I also had the chance to go to the Flying Squad. My friend Ken Drury was taking over as Commander of the Flying Squad which was more my style, more my idea of policing. Friends could not understand my decision because on the porn squad I could have made thousands and thousands. People who went on the porn squad used to immediately buy a new car. And shortly after that they would buy a new house. Then the house would be furnished regardless of cost. And people would arrive at work wearing the most expensive Italian shoes and the sharpest suits, stinking of aftershave, cheeks flushed with good living and smoking a big expensive cigar. That was the porn squad. And people couldn't understand why I didn't want to go there.
I didn't want to go there because people were corrupted there. I had seen the films they had to view because policemen who were friendly with porn squad officers had the chance to see the latest batch of seizures, which used to be shown in one of the cellars at Scotland Yard. This amounted to a private cinema, a perverts’ peep-show, frequented by regulars, some of whom had travelled from the outer reaches of London and beyond, as well as people like myself going out of curiosity. And these films were horrifying, the worst of the worst, including ‘snuff movies’, where children and young girls were either being done to death or were very good actors. These were the sort of films that collectors, notably the great and the good of our land, paid large sums of money for.
I had no interest in seeing any more of these films, or reading dirty books or having anything to do with that sort of filth, even though I knew there would be a lot of money in it for me if I joined Moody’s squad. A very close friend of mine, who was also a very close friend of Moody's, was completely destroyed by his time on the squad. He really was corrupted and became a sexual pervert. Maybe a strong-minded man with a secure background could watch disgusting filth all day long, and be unaffected and return home to his wife and children, and close that compartment of his mind. But a lot of policemen are not of that stamp, they are not strong enough to resist the evil influence because porn is like drugs or tobacco, it can hook you. It can provide you with thrills and excitement of which you want more and more, and you become jaded, so to get more thrills and excitement you must go for harder and harder porn.
This friend of mine took the work home with him. He wasn't strong enough to put that side of his life into that compartment. He was no longer satisfied with normal matrimonial relations with his long-time live-in girlfriend, and tried to get her to get up to all sorts of nonsenses and perversions, with himself and with tarts and other blokes. It ruined his relationship with that particular girl. I was lucky in that I had prior personal knowledge of what had happened to him and to other people. There was no way I wanted to end up in that condition.
As in any other area of corruption, there had to be middle-men in Soho, and this is where Frankie Holbert came in, for he was Moody's bag carrier on the West End porn scene. He collected money from the pornographers and gave it on to Moody. He wore the respect due to him as Moody’s man, so if he turned up at any porn-dealer’s premises and said ‘Bill’s sent me for the money’, or whatever, then the porn-dealer would hand it over, with Holbert acting as the ‘cut-out’ insulating Moody from any repercussions. He was therefore so useful to Moody, and knew so much about his corrupt activities, that he was in a position to have brought the whole house down, burying Moody in the rubble, if he was ‘leant on’ by an outside investigator with the power to lock him up if he did not ‘sing’.
It’s my suspicion that Moody had known Holbert from way back and had planted him in Soho for this very purpose. It’s possible that Holbert had some villainous interests of his own in the West End through his receiving, but otherwise I can’t think why he should go there. After all, there was plenty of villainy for him in the grimy streets of Peckham, where he was king of the roost, whereas in the West End he was just another scruff-bag man, in amongst hundreds of others in the dirty raincoat brigade. He had no style, so I think he must have been nominated by Moody because Moody felt Holbert ‘belonged’ to him.
But Holbert was also a weak man, in terms of his character. He had no resilience. Under the pressure of determined questioning, he was bound to buckle, crumble, confess and tell all. At least that was what Moody must have thought, and probably Moody knew him better than anyone except his own family.
Moody’s problem, which he shared with his porn squad overlord, Commander Wally Virgo (and by implication dozens of other detectives on that corrupt outfit), was that the Times Inquiry was now split into two units, which in effect were competing with each other. On one side was the Scotland Yard inquiry team, led initially by Freddie Lambert, and on the other side was the team of provincial officers which had been tacked on to the inquiry to give it an air of objectivity and independence from the Met. This was led by Frank Williamson, a former Chief Constable of Cumbria with a whiter-than-white reputation who was now a Home Office Inspector of Constabulary. His appointment was the result of political pressure and had been bitterly opposed by everyone in Scotland Yard, including the Commissioner, who had objected in the strongest terms. Quite right too because it wasn’t many days before Moody, Virgo and those above them in the Yard realised that Lambert was getting on far too well with Williamson. In turn Williamson rightly regarded Lambert as honest and well-meaning but impossibly compromised by conflicting loyalties: to the truth and to the Yard.
Early on in the Inquiry, it was decided there should be a clear division of tasks. Lambert’s team should investigate those matters which related solely to the Metropolitan Police, while Williamson’s team should probe every non-Met matter. This seemed clear-cut until Scotland Yard realised that the ‘Nuneaton end’ was assuming bigger and bigger dimensions. Not only had Perry been taken to Nuneaton on suspicion of involvement in the cigarette job but his confederate Brookes, had been given a false alibi by his 'JP' chum, Frankie Holbert and everyone was convinced that if a really tough investigator got hold of him, Holbert would end up giving out everything he knew. Not only about Camberwell but about his West End connections, his pornographic friends, his police friends, and the deals he was still broking for all of them. Everyone was worried because they felt that if Frank Williamson himself got hold of Holbert, he would crack.
So, panic stations. Suddenly - and much to Williamson’s anger - Virgo removed Lambert from the inquiry and Moody took his place. I’m sure this could have happened only with the informed connivance of their bosses who had benefited from the fortunes which Moody and Virgo had been collecting from pornographers for almost a decade.
That's why Bill Moody forced himself onto the Times Inquiry, simply and solely to cut out the danger of weak, crooked Frankie Holbert JP being investigated or cross-examined or spoken to by anyone other than Moody himself. It's as simple as this: Holbert was the link between the Camberwell corruption allegations as printed in The Times and the pornography racket in Soho.
Ah but... you may say... surely interviewing Holbert would still have been a task for the provincial officers on the Inquiry, because of the false alibi he had provided over the Nuneaton job. That is correct but Moody did not see it that way, and his Yard masters 'pressured' Williamson into surrendering that ‘Nuneaton Aspect’ to Moody.
In some strange way this ruffian of a detective, whose job wasn’t really important to society at large - porn squad, dirty books, naughty photos - had become vastly rich and very powerful. This mere chief superintendent seemed to have everybody’s ear. But it wasn’t so strange: Moody had everyone’s ear because he was enriching them as well, all the way up the tree. He was paying off everybody, except the Assistant Commissioner, Crime, Peter Brodie, an honest man.
So now everyone in the Yard chain of command bar Brodie had a vested interested in helping Moody to protect his own back regarding the pornography racket. They would all sink or swim together, so to stop Moody sinking they allowed him to commandeer the ‘Nuneaton Aspect’ and close it down. Which is what happened eventually. There was a long struggle between Moody and Williamson over who would interview which witnesses, but the only witness who really mattered was Holbert - all the rest were thieves with strings of convictions whom no average jury would ever believe.
So how 'did' Moody shut it down? Well, as luck would have it, a few months later Frankie Holbert fell off the roof of the block of flats in which he lived in Deptford. So did he jump or was he pushed? Although he was a weak man, and he would have had no stomach for being interrogated by anyone from Williamson’s team, the only interrogator he now faced was his friend and partner-in-crime, Bill Moody. There would have been nothing to fear, surely, unless Bill Moody could not afford to have Holbert around to be questioned by anyone else years down the road. For myself, when I heard the news I knew it could not possibly have been suicide - Holbert just did not have the ‘bottle’ or strength of character to kill himself - so it had to be murder. I had been expecting something like this to happen to him because he knew far too much to be allowed to live. One way or another, he had been coaxed or coerced onto that roof and pushed off. After that, not only was Holbert dead. So was the Nuneaton Aspect. And so, for the time being, was the chance that Williamson’s team might make the crucial leap from investigating the miniscule degree of corruption alleged in The Times to the far bigger issue of rampant corruption at the top of Scotland Yard. Moody had succeeded in blocking off the Holbert route to revealing the monstrous scale of the graft racket which Moody, Virgo and co had been operating in Soho and the rest of the West End for so many years.
Having safeguarded his own position, Moody had all the greater need to show zeal by despatching a few lowly detectives to the gallows. It was clear that Robson and Harris ‘had to go’, but what about me? As soon as I heard about Holbert’s fate, I knew we were no longer playing ‘footsie’ under the table. Would I be the next one to go off a roof, fall into a lift shaft, or be found bobbing up and down in the Thames?
This was no paranoid fantasy, for at this time there was such a panic going on amongst the very corrupt cops at the top, with such huge sums involved that twelve-year jail sentences would surely come their way if the truth ever came out. It all seemed horribly logical to me: I was being offered up as a sacrificial lamb for allegedly receiving £50 from a little criminal in a car - a nonsense - when I was being investigated by men who were receiving hundreds of thousands of pounds, sackfuls of money.
And that’s when things started to go even ‘wronger’, people became desperate and threats were issued. I now knew for sure that Moody was a dangerous man, he had powerful friends and I was not frightened of him personally, I realised that he was a very dangerous man, especially when he was threatening to have me killed or 'seen to' as he had Holbert.
If I didn’t like that prospect, then I was going to have to stomach being put on trial along with Robson and Harris. By closing down the Nuneaton Aspect, he would not only save his own skin, the other five suspended detectives would most likely be saved too. That left only me as a fall guy, which neatly coincided with the minimum visible response required to the Times story. Any thinking member of the public must have thought how remarkable it was that the only crooked cops in the whole of London just happened to be three detectives picked on almost by chance during a bumbling newspaper investigation. What little reassurance that could have given readers! If sleuths of this amateur quality could pluck the only bad apples in Scotland Yard’s barrel, when the entire armoury of the greatest police force in the world could find none at all.
My friends and colleagues were keeping me informed on a daily basis of the mechanisms whereby this fit-up and cover-up combined was being achieved As they witnessed Moody’s serpentine twists and turns, they were horrified to see, for the first time in their experience, a corrupt policeman being so corrupt, according to the dog-eat-dog principle, as to fit up a colleague. Had he been in the same mess as I was, I would have been prepared to help him out, as a brother detective. If he had come to ask me to give false evidence or fit someone up to get him out of trouble, I would have done it, because that was the way things were done then. But now in 1970 he broke the code. He was fitting me up, and I was told exactly how. In order to reverse the drift of opinion at the DPP’s office, where it had been decided that the case against me was null and void because there was no proof of intention or threat or the all important 'favour', Moody had written the word ‘If’ on a statement made by Perry, which wasn't there before. That ‘If’ made a tremendous difference, for now it was possible to interpret that I had shown an intent to do him a 'favour' i.e. Perry’s Statement had already been typed out for the committal proceedings, so we now had typed copies of Perry's statement with no ‘If’, and we had the original statement with a big, crude ‘If’ subsequently super-imposed on it. Most extraordinary of all, Moody had had the balls to tamper with Perry’s statement in this way in front of witnesses in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Justice was being perverted by a bent detective before the very eyes of some of this country’s most senior legal officers.
When I heard all about this, that's when I changed, because I couldn't believe it. That's when I decided I must fight back. That’s when I warned Moody not to do it. What I had not foreseen was that Moody’s hold on those above him went far beyond the hierarchy in the Yard. In his capacity of Head of the Obscene Publications Squad, he had access to all seized mailing lists of the people subscribing to the filthiest porn imaginable - children, animals, coprophagy, even snuff movies - which put him in a position to blackmail the highest and mightiest in the land: ministers, MPs, lords, judges, bishops and prominent businessmen. None of these Great and Good had the wit to see that, although the brochures said these films, pictures and books were being sent direct from Sweden, Holland or Denmark, in fact it was all being copied here in Britain and mailed out from a pokey warehouse which might eventually fall prey to some British bobby, bent or straight. True, they couldn’t have foreseen that they might fall into the clutches of someone quite so evil as Bill Moody.
So not only was he handing out sackfuls of porn bribe money upstairs (some of it to far senior people with the power to decide whether I went on trial or not) he also had the ear of important friends outside the Yard, whom he had acquired after seeing their names on these mailing lists. No doubt, on meeting them, he could rapidly divine whether their love of paedophile porn or sado-masochistic material was matched by a predilection for buggering small boys or getting whipped themselves. It seemed that a lot of these people had been corrupted at public school, hence their delight in caning and the infliction of punishment. And we, who knew about this, were always expecting a monster scandal. We were all waiting for an announcement, ‘Lord So-and-So arrested’, or ‘The Rt Hon Blah Blah MP, Minister of Balloons, charged’, but nothing ever happened. Instead that list became a source of power to Moody, and to other people who succeeded him in that post, because no doubt he went to see Lord So-and-So or the Rt Hon Blah Blah MP, and then he had these people's careers in his hands. I don't know whether anybody paid any money over, but even just by not prosecuting these people, he acquired all sorts of influential friends and put himself in a very strong position.
They say, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Well, Moody had become so powerful, he thought he could get away with being the first police officer in anyone's knowledge, to fit up a ‘brother’ detective and get away with it. Now he might claim, even today, that he was the victim of political circumstances. He might say that his Yard bosses had told him that they wanted to turn round and proclaim to the Home Secretary and the world, ‘It's all been fixed! Two and a half years ago, three silly men took some money, now they're all in prison, ruined. End of story!’ Moody might say that the Yard just couldn't bury the case against me because of pressure from the press, not just articles but also letter to The Times from all sorts of influential people demanding, ‘There must be an inquiry’, ‘This must be scrutinized, openly and publicly. We cannot allow the police to investigate themselves again’. But of course none of that justified Moody and co. faking evidence, fundamentally changing the meaning of people’s statements, or of course merely ‘diverting the discourse’, as Freemasons say, away from the far grosser corruption practised by Moody himself.
But there was a personal edge too, for Moody and I went back some way. He was not exactly a friend but an acquaintance, as we had served around the same areas, including Croydon. We also had a common interest in boxing - we were both pugs ourselves - which meant we used to meet on social terms which blurred the disparity in our ranks. This meant that I knew enough about his corrupt activities before even he had wormed his way onto the Times Inquiry to be able to sink him in the water if ever I needed to.
Right from the moment when my friend Ernie Culver had gone up to Soho with Moody when he first took over the porn squad, and over many succeeding months and years, Ernie had been giving me a more or less weekly update on Moody’s rapacious activities. I knew exactly what he was doing, how he was doing it, and eventually Moody realised that I knew. He knew that I knew, and that's why he took my threats seriously. He knew that I was a great danger to him.
I knew how he had set up from scratch a completely corrupt relationship with certain chosen pornographers, even making himself a full partner in companies importing and distributing this material. I knew all about his relationships with Bernie Silver and Jimmy Humphreys because, they were all so confident, the relationship was more or less open. They used to turn up as guests at all sorts of functions, from Flying Squad dinners to boxing socials. And everyone would be sitting at the same table. I went to some of these do’s and I was astonished by his brazen-faced nerve. I attended many Masonic ladies' nights where Moody was in company with other pornographers as his guests or, even worse, as his fellow Freemasons and lodge members, and their wives would all be prattling away together too, like blood sisters! And not just pornographers’ wives, but the wives of the top echelon thieves, fraudsters, crooked bookmakers and publicans who were also enjoying the festive board. Whereas other detectives might have hidden these connections away, and certainly not demeaned their wives by such intimate association, with Moody the relationship was open. That's the odd thing, it was completely open. He was very confident and his confidence was based on assured power.
Armed with all this first-hand knowledge, I had already got my retaliation in first. Right from the moment Victor Lissack had come to my house on the morning after The Times put me on the front page, I had vowed to prepare a vast dossier on all the corrupt officers I had ever served with or known about, excepting only the few whom I felt were going to be staunch and stand by me. As soon as I discerned the slightest wavering in Scotland Yard’s support for me - a matter of hours rather than days - I carried out that vow. As it happens, Bill Moody was already high on my list. Even before he took over the Inquiry, I had named him in my dossier, along with over one hundred other officers, mostly ranked inspector and above [check]. More damaging still (or so I thought at the time), I had given this x-page account to Victor Lissack for his safe keeping.
What I had not realised at the time, but what I believe to have happened soon after, was that Lissack, for whatever motive, had quickly sent a copy of my dossier to Scotland Yard itself. This betrayal of my confidence, as I saw it, meant that, for sure, someone in the Yard hierarchy had funnelled the relevant pages to Moody himself, so that even before he had ousted Freddie Lambert, he knew I had put my money where my mouth was. I had written it all down, ready for distribution to the government, the press, whomever. Of course, I would have been very happy if Moody had dismissed the Times story and ensured that I did not get charged, but it didn't happen like that.
So instead I spent much of the next ten years firing off versions of my dossier to influential figures in public life, from Lord Longford to X, Y and Z, to the point where I really do believe that I was the one who brought down Scotland Yard. It’s something I don’t boast or shout about, but it is the truth for in my 1969  dossier I had named all the officers who would appear at the Old Bailey in 1976 and 1977 in the drug, porn and flying squad corruption trials, including the most notable scalps, Moody, Virgo and old Ken Drury.
What was riling me wasn’t just Moody’s forging statements from Perry and co. directly relating to the Times allegations but the plain daft material which both Moody’s and Williamson’s teams were collecting in order to pin totally new offences on me. I was getting reports back about petty crooks being offered any deal they wanted if only they could say something against me. So one of these guys came up with a story about finding me staggering along Camberwell High Road staggering around drunk and he came up to me and said, ‘Alright John? Y’alright Mate?’, and I said, ‘Uh, no, I’m not alright, I ain’t got money for a drink’, so this little bloke says, ‘Don’t worry Mate have a fiver’! So by now, he says, I was nearly crying with gratitude, ‘Uh, now I can go and get a couple of pints of beer, can’t I?’, and I staggered off, dishevelled and weeping, with a filthy fiver in my pocket.
All bollocks, but, blow me down, this became the subject of a charge: ‘You are hereby charged that on such and such a day in November 1969, blah, blah, you did corruptly solicit a gift of £5’. Convicted on that alone and I would have been given two years of imprisonment. So what happened to the little man that told this tale? He was in prison facing thirty-six charges of shop-breaking, for which he had no hope of bail but, after he had come up with this rubbish, he was allowed bail and charged with just one offence, with the other thirty-five ‘taken into consideration’. Better still, at his trial some Midlands police officer stood up and put in a good word for him, so he got probation. So by twisting the investigators round his little finger, he had got off ‘scot-free’, but when it came to my committal, he would not give evidence. It was a manifest fabrication and he was not going to testify in court and risk perjury charges when he had already got all he wanted.
At about this time I was told that a lot of other funny things were happening. My closest friend on the Times Inquiry told me that all the original statements - including all the ones that would have helped me - had suddenly gone missing from the office. They had ‘got lost’. Most scandalous of all, the exhibits book had disappeared too. On any inquiry an exhibits officer is appointed and everything must be entered in his book: every statement, every exhibit, all marked, labelled and stamped.. In an important inquiry the exhibits book is treated like the crown jewels. Lose that and you have lost everything.
But as soon as Moody came on the inquiry, the exhibits book disappeared so the whole investigation had to be done again. Later certain senior editorial figures on The Times claimed they had never made any statements. Fortunately, my closest friend found copies of their statements which had been among those irretrievably ‘lost’. He sent them to me as if from an anonymous well-wisher, so in one stroke I was able to show the Times folk up as liars. If my chum had not found them, these statements would never have been disclosed but they were vital to my claim that the tapes had not been treated properly when they were in the newspaper’s possession ....
There were two stages in any assessment of the legal value of the Times tapes. First, were they authentic, had they been edited or tampered with, and most important of all, had there been ‘continuity of handling’? Second, was what I was alleged to have said on them incriminating?
But was anything I said on the tapes incriminating? When my police colleagues heard them, they just laughed. They weren't saying, ‘Oh, how dreadful!’, because they had all heard other people saying the same thing. I was only repeating what I had learned during my training at Ken Drury's knee. He used to talk along those lines. It's all part of how to make friends with a crook and reassure him that you're all right, and if he works in with you he'll be all right, to our mutual benefit, because he can have a little licence to do bits and pieces round here and I can protect him, but in return, I will expect him to give me bodies and information. Whether you ever give him a licence or whether you do protect him is another matter. It's all a con and a battle of wits. He's going to try and get protection from you but not really help you, and you're going to try and get information from him and not give him any protection. It's a dirty game but everyone realises that. It was just talk along those lines, but when I told Scotland Yard, ‘I want the tapes to be played because I'm going to back them up’, that was the turning point. It was panic stations because the Yard could not contemplate the revelation that conning criminals was all part of its standard code of behaviour.
Please comment: If you have any comment to make about the above page, or want to ask John Symonds a question, then please go to our Contact Us page
|Home||About Me||About Me 2||About Me 3||About Me 4||1981 Trial||Trial Records|
|Angus Stroyan||Geoffrey Rivlin QC||Christopher Andrew||Comments||Related Links||Contact Us||Stroyan Speech 1|
|Stroyan Speech 2||Stroyan Speech 3||Stroyan Speech 4||Stroyan Speech 5||Stroyan Speech 6||Rivlin Speech 1||Rivlin Speech 2|
|Sunny Jim||Scotland Yard Intro||Scotland Yard 1||Scotland Yard 2||Scotland Yard 3||Scotland Yard 4||Romeo Spy 1|
|Romeo Spy 2||Romeo Spy 3||Romeo Spy 4||Romeo Spy 5||Romeo Spy 6||Romeo Spy 7||Romeo Spy 8|
|Romeo Spy 9|
|Raleigh Spy Conference||Jon Ronson Spying|
© 2011 John Alexander Symonds