Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Unmasking Jack - the series continues

When HORACE SKINNER wandered through the unfinished building to play that Monday at No. 1 Hansler Road, south-east London, he did not realise that he had entered a house of horror - until he moved upstairs. In the backroom, in the centre of the floor... he saw her. The year was 1886... June... 9am. But the time and date had ceased to have any meaning to the woman: she was dead.

"Fearful wound"... "Evidence of struggle"... the papers reported. "Horrible discovery near East Dulwich" the South London Observer headlined. Adding that her throat was cut in two places. And Scotland Yard also ticked 'foul play' on the to-investigate list. What unfolds comes from press cuttings of the time. Alongside birth, marriage and death records, and census returns covering the decades concerned, these make interesting reading...

MR HARDY, a surgeon, examined the deceased. She lay in the centre of the floor. Her forehead was resting on her arm. Her features were not recognisable: they had been 'eaten away'. The doctor also found a 'deep' incised wound across her throat. A white handled table-knife was at her left side... he concluded that she had slit it herself.

Thirty-three year old CATHERINE MELLOWS had been missing from her Peckham home since Tuesday 18th May. Husband THOMAS "JOYNES" MELLOWS claimed his wife had a 'presentment' that she would not outlive the day. Apparently she could not sleep at night. On several occasions she had stated that she would commit suicide. 'She had been in a very low state for some time, and seemed depressed by the cares of a large family,' Mellows told the coroner. However it was not until the Thursday morning - two days after her disappearance - that he finally contacted police: her body remained undiscovered for six weeks. A deposition given by domestic help Alice Johnson also alleged that Catherine was behaving 'very strange'that day. When Alice 'missed her' it was between two and three that afternoon; like Mellows the servant did not recognise the knife. But it seemed of little or no importance.

What might seem strange to some is back then coroners' courts sat above the local pub, in this case the St George and Dragon in Camberwell. But coroner GEORGE PERCEVAL WYATT must have had one eye firmly on the bar - suicide was the vedict. "On the 18th May last, witness left home between 8 and 9 in the morning and returned between 5 and 6 o'clock." [South London Press, Saturday July 3, 1886, p2c1.] The reporting into the case seems to cover the husband's alibi and does not speculate on why Catherine chose that particular house - which was still under construction. Or, for that matter, if husband Thomas, a master builder, was constructing it. Mellows had insured his young wife's life for the then not too insignificant sum of five hundred pounds. He did not inform police about his wife's disappearance on the Tuesday - or that she was suicidal - until two days later. Perhaps a standard forty-eight hours notice was needed to file a missing person's report in 1886.

But if Catherine (we don't know if she was left-handed) could slit her own throat right to left as claimed, couldn't the same be said of a right-handed assailant standing in front of her? [In fact a left-handed assailant standing behind or beside Catherine could have cut her in this manner. Two years later, another assailant's cuts were made from left to right. "WAS JACK THE RIPPER LEFT-HANDED?" Stawell Heard concludes Jack was right-handed.]

Forensic science has moved on since 1886, and it is entirely feasible that Catherine Mellows, like the Ripper victims who followed two years later, could have been been strangled, her throat cut afterwards. [Police must have speculated. If so, it does not find its way down to us. In fact, it's entirely plausible - when one ignores the depositions of Mr Mellows who arguably had an incentive in the form of £500 - that Catherine's throat was cut after strangulation. This could have been done wherever the body was positioned, in other words sitting or laying on the ground.] And if that happened Thomas Joynes Mellows would have been the prime suspect.

The above suggests that the handedness of the person is uncertain. (If it was anyone other than Catherine that is.) The doctor's discovery of 'a deep' incised wound across her throat adds even more uncertainty. Newspapers inform us that a white handled table-knife lay at Catherine's left side. QED: it must have been suicide. However was it the position of the knife that led to the assumption that the wound had been inflicted from right to left - therefore, by Catherine' own hand, or was was it the depositions of Mr Mellows and his servant? Perhaps it was both and more. News starved we are left in the dark... the mysterious death at Dulwich quickly moved to a close. And yet...

UNFINISHED BUILDING? BUILDER HUSBAND? FEARFUL WOUND? EVIDENCE OF STRUGGLE? FOUL PLAY? INSURANCE MONEY? MYSTERIOUS KNIFE? Why the rats never went to the open wound of her throat is a mystery (they went for her face instead), but did this obscure tell-tale evidence of anything other than suicide? Had the victim's face been mutilated? CSI Miami Victorian London was not...

Jack the Ripper started his murderous rampage two years after the suicide of Catherine Mellows. Since that time, the dexterity of the Whitechapel/City of London slayer has been commented upon; was he right, left, or both handed? [She, he, they - we don't really know the true sex of the Ripper, or whether it was more than one person actually.] If Catherine slit her own throat she should have been left-handed (or ambidextrous). If she wasn't then that is clearly problematic. And it begs the question: could it have been an insurance job?

Thomas Mellows had insured his wife's life to the value of £500. The South London Observer, July 2, 1890 carried some advice. "Many persons are entirely ignorant of the lamentable consequences which may follow the neglect to make a will. Suppose, for example, a husband die intestate and without children, the widow takes only one half of her husband's personality, and the remaining half become divisible between the husband's next-of-kin, generally his brothers and sisters or their descendants, sometimes very distant relatives - whilst with regard to the realty the widow is only entitled to a life estate in one third as her dower." This was met by a bill in Parliament four years after Catherine Mellows' death and that provided that when a man died leaving no issue and real and personal estate not exceeding £500, the widow should take all of that sum. Amounts above £500 the widow was only allowed up to that amount, the rest becoming divisible amongst the husband's next-of-kin. Thomas Mellows took his wife's 'personality'. He knew beforehand how much insurance money he was going to get.

Thomas Joynes Mellows was born in Nottingham in 1837. The 1861 Census records him unmarried, twenty-three years-old, a 'fruit salesman' residing at 3 Spread Eagle Yard. His mother was Elizabeth, aged 58, the only other occupant being unmarried sister, Anne, aged twenty nine, listed, liker her mother, as a 'green grocer'. [Father "John" is listed deceased on his son's 1862 marriage certificate. Could the middle name "Joynes" be a corruption following a misreading?] Even after his move south to London Mellows remained a greengrocer. His first wife SUSANNA HARKER, whom he married in 1862, died nine years earlier than Catherine in March 1877, aged 38; the cause of death given as pthisis; a vernacular for TB, or pulmonary tuberculosis. The symptoms leading up to death are quite gruelling, the patient is overwhelmed by a large quantity of unmixed blood as it gushes up, and the victim dies from loss of blood or suffocation. Picrotoxin, a powerful convulsive poison was used, principally to check night sweats in phthisis by accelerating respiration. It was also used to adulterate beers, increasing their reputation as intoxicants. Susanna left her (then)'commission agent' from Nottingham with four children. Barely ten months after Susanna's death, at the age of 41, he married CATHERINE PORTORS, aged 25. Six months later she gave birth to their first child. Eight years later she was dead... a mysterious suicide. The Mellows-Portors union produced three issue; in addition to the five from the previous marriage. [The family must have formed a large clan. Additionally, any issue born and dead between the census years would not be recorded.]

Could the care of the children be the reason why Catherine Mellows ended her own life?

According to the 1881 Census the family resided in London's Holborn. Only five children were listed; two from the previous marriage to Susanna, three from Catherine's January 1878 marriage. Two girls and a boy from the first marriage are not present. [Catherine's first child had died. It is not known what happened to the others from the first marriage, save for Thomas jnr... More on whom later. Still, breakfast must have been a bloody nightmare.] But then... Catherine's child Lemuel, a boy, born on the 22 February 1886, has a death recorded at the FRC four months later on the 7th June - thirty days after Catherine is said to have committed suicide by her own left-handedness. Lemuel's death could not possibly have been the cause of his mother's anguish. It was a passing that seems to have gone without remark at his mother's inquest; Lemuel died between the death of his mother and the coroner's court, the discovery of Catherine's body, and the inquest into it, followed just weeks later. Did Lemuel pass away due to abandonment on the 18th? Or is it possible that Catherine did not go missing until after the baby's death? [Hansler Road was still under construction... Why was the site closed from the 18th May until the discovery of Catherine's body 6 weeks later? Her body was described as being badly decomposed. Between the child's death and the discovery of her body three weeks had passed, but could her life have ended after the 7th June? These are the questions that Mr Mellows should have been asked. If the death of Catherine Mellows was due to foul play then a significant inducement could have been the £500 life insurance. However.. there is also another intriguing possibility. If Catherine Mellows was murdered was she known to her killer and had she become in his eyes a whore?

Coming soon in TheBigRetort... The Excellent House that Jack Built.

KERB CRAWLING - Humphrey Hatty investigates various means

I've given up calling Plod. He does not tell me what constitutes an emergency - which the 999 system was set up for I know - but it's only when I dial all the Nines that he then tells me what doesn't. Dropped kerb parking is one that 'apparently and what if sir' - according to local police at Lewisham - doesn't. Many's the time I've had a car or skip parked on the driveway - the latter for building work - when some Mork or Mindy has pulled up and left their car blocking the driveway: effectively trapping mine in. Weird innit I know, but that's life in "Kool Britannia" or Londineum. 'Anyroad' (as me old mam might say by way of meaning 'anyway') the Romans would not put up with it...

The 'route' of the problem

One couple thought I was being unreasonable. They had blocked my skip in overnight... even though it was due to be exchanged for a new one. She screamed that I didn't know who I was messing 'wit'. He screamed equally loudly that I was a 'clot' who had better not 'diss' him, and I had better 'watch it'. 'You don't know him,' the wife warned. I was actually 'datting'' him in terms of 'dat's' my drive don't block it... please. However... surprising how polite one becomes when someone you 'don't know'? threatens to drag you out of the old memsahib zone. Another user of the driveway was also a 'neighbour'- friendliness, consideration etc - who had parked halfway across the driveway, again trapping my car in. She could not see what all the fuss was about. 'I've been working thirteen hours today, and I don't need this,' she said. Adding with visible and contemptuous frustration - a real memsahib - 'You're the only one in the street with this kind of set up anyway!' This was opined in full realisation of what she thought the problem was - mainly, that I had a driveway and she didn't. I've since discovered that she does have a studio so following that same rule I shall move TheBigRetort to the bottom of her garden. I must admit that I was eventually none too polite to both; the first two called me 'wanker' (some truth there) and the other found me 'quite rude'. (Could be a bit of truth in that too as I did use language described in a PC-world as 'strong'.) Still, if an Englishman's home is his castle, then his driveway has to to be the drawbridge... Not according to the Sheriff's men. 'We'll deal with it in a couple of hours, sir. Bit busy now (fighting crime you wally).'

Parking Adjacent to a Dropped Kerb
Depending on who I get I have been told there is no crime in parking across a driveway. It's all about whether it's access or egress. But is that true?
Section 14 of the London Local Authorities and Transport for London Act 2003
introduced a new parking contravention of parking adjacent to a dropped kerb. This is defined as any part of the foot way or verge where it has been lowered to meet the level of the carriageway for a road for the purpose of (a) assisting pedestrians to cross or (b) assisting vehicle to enter or leave the road across the foot way or verge. Clearly, the purpose is to stop vehicles blocking these lowered kerbs and preventing them being used for their intended purpose.

Residential premises
In the case of residential premises with a driveway (not shared with other premises), where the purpose of the dropped foot way is to assist vehicles to enter or leave the road from or to the driveway, a Penalty Charge Notice can be served. [A PNC is not issued unless requested by the occupier of the premises. A caveat without which might see a Penalty Charge Notice being issued to the occupier’s own vehicle.] A number of exemptions apply to this prohibition; for example, for boarding and alighting and loading and unloading. But don't dial 999. 'That's a Transport for London matter, sir,' will be the police response. Oh hum.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


The Parking and Traffic Appeals Service (PATAS) admitted today that a test case may be needed to ensure that justice for a driver is received - even though it ruled against it on appeal.

Exclusive to TheBigRetort
In a BigRetort exclusive, "John Paul Morgan -v- Transport for London (the Authority) sat yesterday at PATAS. The Appellant's concerns surrounded his right to halt in a junction box where traffic in front dictated.

The Adjudicator
Andrew Harman, representing PATAS wrote, "The adjudicator, having considered this appeal on the basis of written and personal evidence from the Appellant and written evidence from the Authority, has refused the appeal." The prohibition is set out in the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002, Schedule 19, Part 2, Paragraph 7, in which it is claimed:
'...no person shall cause a vehicle to enter the box junction so that the vehicle has to stop within the box junction due to the presence of stationary vehicles.'

But where were the stationary vehicles?
There were no stationary vehicles at the point Morgan's vehicle entered the box, and so the reason for the adjudicator's refusal makes confusing reading. Mr Andrew Harman explained when he wrote: "The prohibition is silent as to whether such stationary vehicles have to be inside or outside the box junction." In this case there were no vehicles stopped in or outside the box, the problem occured later when free-flowing traffic, acknowledged by the adjudicator, was unexpectedly forced to stop inside the box.

A test case?
However, it is what Harman's adjudication went on to say that drives a coach and horses through the junction box 'theory': "The test to be applied is, in law, the state of the traffic when the driver enters the box junction." An admission that the law on this has not been fully tested, something that will find some interest amongst many drivers who have fallen foul of previous 'rulings'.
Morgan stated 'Transport for London (TfL)and PATAS take the interpretation of the regulation on what the law is silent on. In other words what it does NOT say rather than what it does. Which does not seem reasonable.' He believes the statement by PATAS points the way to judicial review.

Silent prohibition, a new term in the English language
So will Morgan be putting the yellow junction box theory to a legal test?
He believes this may be unnecessary. 'I feel certain that the law has made things much simpler than that. It's reasonable to assume that the prohibition is not silent, just misinterpreted... by those who profit most.'

Is PATAS impartial?
PATAS and the London Councils (aka TfL) share the same suite of offices, and the former is paid by the latter, which Morgan feels may affect its impartiality.
Of course, TfL may continue to fine drivers for a contravention that the regulation - the law - is silent on. And PATAS, viewed by Morgan as the monkey to its organ grinder, may continue to rubber stamp the PNCs on appeal because of this, but the road ahead looks pretty bumpy indeed.

Making a monkey out of justice
Coincidentally, Morgan discovered that PATAS is named after the monkey which avoids dense forests... surely this cannot be the reason why it cannot see the wood for the trees?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


The Morgan -v- Transport for London appeal took place today at PATAS (the Parking And Traffic Appeals Service). In a surprise move, adjudicator Andrew Harman dispensed with previous TfL 'evidence', and decided to consider video footage instead - made available by the Authority only after the fine was disputed. (See earlier post Lewisham Scam-Cam below.)
But why should the adjudicator choose to decide the merits of the case on the video footage alone? Is it because the photograph TfL presented of the vehicle 'stopped' on the junction box was in fact a snap of a car moving?
The adjudicator claims he does not need to consider the still photograph - in effect evidence of wrongdoing or cock up by TfL - because video footage alone is (now) 'enough' evidence. But the video footage was not what TfL supplied in support of its case against me.... Despite this, the PATAS adjudicator was unable to reach his deliberations at the Hearing, and instead claimed that he needed to view the video footage again - even though he had done so twice that day in my presence.
But let's not lose sight of the regulations in this matter. [7] [1] "no such person shall cause a vehicle to enter the box junction so that the vehicle has to stop within the box junction due to the presence of stationary vehicles". [Emphasis added.]
The video reveals that there were no stationary vehicles when my vehicle entered the box. It appears, however, that this may be open to further 'interpretation' by TfL. According to the PATAS adjudicator TfL may (and does) say... 'You should not enter the box if anything (whatsoever) causes you to stop within it.'
Asked how PATAS adjudicators maintain an impartial position - given that the organisation shares an office suite with the ALG Transport & Environment Committee - Harman claimed that this would not affect his decision making.
The Parking and Traffic Appeals Service (PATAS) claims that it "aims to provide a fast, efficient and quality service....[through] panels of independent adjudicators." Coincidentally, it considers appeals against Penalty Charge Notices issued by ALG (now known as "London Councils")whilst also coincidentally being on its payroll...

[Ed's note.. The organisation shares more than an acronym with the Patas Monkey photographed above. Erythrocebus patas is ground-dwelling, should normally avoid dense forests... and, like its namesake PATAS, junction boxes.]

Sunday, June 17, 2007


My daughter is currently training to be a laptop dancer. There...I feel much better for the admission, however, I should elaborate. Besides being a mummy-daddy (it's a modern world) I like to sneak off between feeds and tantrums, prise open the laptop, run my fingers across old Qwerty and write about, well, pretty much anything really. I love to dilly, I love to dally...etc. Until a tiny pair of feet pin my fingers to the laptop keyboard."She's a handful," as my wife might say. Actually our daughter is a lap-top-full, but the the blame for this lies squarely with the BBC - and, chiefly, CBeebies.
Bash! Thud! Thump! Not the sound of an episode of Batman and Robin but tiny feet kicking at the keyboard. Normally followed by that question that echoes in my mind way into deep sleep, "Can I do CBeebies"?
"Why not...?"
"I'm writing."
"I want 'puter'.
"Can't...it's mine, I'm writing. Puter mine."
Bash! Don't know how she does it, she must have very dexterous toes, because half-way through a big-retort "Qwerty" just appeared on the screen. So besides offering new words to the global lexicon - such as "blog" "wwwdot" - why not just say all the "double use?- and "ping", it's "Mylo", "Tweenies" and now "Qwerty".
Blame the BBC.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


Between August and November 1888 five gruesome murders were committed within one square mile of London's East End. Thought to be the work of one man press called him "Jack the Ripper". The hunt to find the East End slayer caused panic in London's Whitechapel district and became an international sensation: Who was he? Where did he come from? Who would he be 'down on' next?

The victims
Newspapers carried theories on the killer's identity but he was never found and the phantom vanished leaving his bloody deeds as a reminder of his evil presence. Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, Mary Jane Kelly; the 'Canonical Five' (in this case generally accepted) victims of Jack the Ripper.

Additional murders
Some believe the Whitechapel phantom was responsible for thirteen additional (unsolved) murders but these are not listed under what is termed the canonical group. These victims, which stretch up to 1891, included only one which preceded the Whitechapel slayings and allegedly took place on the 26th December 1887. "Fairy Fay" was later discounted as a myth and, possibly, later creation. No such person has ever been unearthed in any contemporaneous news article or official documents. Five crimes then; apparently committed by one person - alone.

The discovery
Now come closer... I want to share a secret with you...a secret that may begin a process that could lead to the unmasking of Jack the Ripper. Could there be a Ripper victim who has - until now - remained unknown? And from a much earlier date? I think so and I've found her...

Pre-Ripper newspaper account
On Monday morning, in June 1886, shortly before nine o'clock, a boy named Horace Skinner was going over an unfinished building in East Dulwich, when he was horrified to find, crouched up in a corner, the body of a woman. "HORRIBLE DISCOVERY AT DULWICH" The South London Observer, Wednesday June 1886 carried the headline banner detailing reports of the discovery..."Information was at once given at the police-station, when Inspector Harris proceeded to the spot, and found in a back bed-room upstairs, a respectably dressed woman lying upon the ground with her throat cut in two places, and a common table-knife lying by her side in a stream of congealed blood."

Could she have been Jack the Ripper's first victim? Was the cause of her death later misidentified? Did the victim know Jack? Answers soon.... in TheBigRetort "Ripper Uncovered" series.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


In a protest against congestion charges, naked commuters road into the nation's capital on Saturday - on bicycles.
When asked by TheBigRetort what caused one male cyclist to rise that morning (he was on a lady's bike), he responded: 'TfL... It's taken the shirt off my back.' [Photo, Marie Accomiato]

Monday, June 11, 2007

STRANGE - BUT TRUE? Flying saucer over England in 1795


It was nearly half past nine on the clock of a Tuesday evening when what was described as 'a body of fire of an uncommon size' passed over the town of Halifax...
The craft headed 'nearly the line' south west, until it hit the zenith of Halifax, inexplicably changing direction, it then headed a few points from the north east to east.
But what's so unusual about that?
The years was 1795... The object's diameter appeared to be 'more than half that' of a full moon and its velocity was so rapid that it was doing 50 miles a second - or 18000mph!
Certainly its speed was greater than any velocity achieved in that century, and those that followed. (At the time of the report apparently a coach and horses into London took several days.)
The height of the extremely bright object must have been considerable as it passed through clouds, and illuminated those which it passed 'over'. (Great heights were also unachievable in that century.)
Reports at that time relate that its colour was 'pale and livid' and it was visible for about five or six seconds. Finally, it was 'lost in the eye of a big large cloud'.
Could this have been a mother ship? It seems unlikely... the encounter was followed by a 'tremendous peal of thunder' believed to be the 'bursting of the globe' in the negatively electrified cloud. So, following an interstellar journey of some tens of thousands of light years, these poor space travellers, presumably on a mission from a dying planet - to make our world there's no doubt - perished. It's almost as if a guiding hand was at play saying that far and no further. Amazing...
[The Times, Sept 8, 1795, p4,c3. Disclaimer. Please note, the photograph of the downed saucer above did not appear in the original report, as photography did not exist then.]

Alexander Litvinenko - British Citizen

It seems remarkable that Moscow troublemaker ALEXANDER LITVINENKO was murdered only shortly after becoming a British citizen. He was naturalised in October and poisoned at the beginning of November.
But perhaps the biggest question is why this has not been picked up by the general media.
Was someone in the Kremlin sending out a strong and ominous message? (Apparently Putin had always been jealous of Litvinenko's hair.) Or were other forces working to embarrass Moscow by waiting until Litvinenko became a 'Brit'?
Answers may be found at the PRO - in about 100 years (or the Kremlin now).
Perhaps though, as things happen these days, "Rendition Airways" may head East, and another spy may be due in from the cold.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

London Congestion Charges - boycott

Opening my mail today, I was surprised to receive a Penalty Charge Notice from my old chums TfL. This time the picture claimed to show my car at an entry point to London's Congestion Zone. (The picture shows the vehicle on an arrow that displays no "C" or other road markings. But is this 'evidence'?)

Little did I realise that as I took the wrong exit on a roundabout, and headed along Newington Causeway instead of the New Kent Road, I was about to be 'mugged' by TfL - again. (See Lewisham Scam-Cam below...)

The wrong exit error took a few seconds to correct... but too little too late, in Livingstone's London: "You are liable to purchase a Congestion Charge for any use of the Congestion Charging Zone, regardless of the duration." And being "unaware" is a defence that falls on deaf red ears. After all, as many of you realise by now, it's all about revenue.
So have you been caught out by an overzealous TfL? Think the law has been applied too strictly in your case? If you're now hopping (mad) onto public transport then you can fight back with a big retort... FINE THE FINER.
If someone profits from your loss unfairly - and let's face it these are huge and sometimes unfair profits - why not simply boycott the goods and/or services of those involved? Remember, by taking your business elsewhere, you ensure that your voice in London is heard - and in this instance by Capita Group Plc.
[See link for more on spy cameras.
CAPITA is responsible for operating the Central London Congestion Charging Scheme on behalf of TfL. Remember... if you can deny them profit - in any way - then you will have gained.
Post details, along with loss of revenue to Capita and its fatcat directors and shareholders here @TheBigRetort.
REMEMBER, BE FAIR. Only deny them what has been taken from you - including increased penalty charges. TheBigRetort will tally up the final shortfall to Capita in a later blog.
But don't forget TfL... you can make a difference there too... by boycotting its transport and other services up to the value of your fine(s) you can ensure that your protest is heard - remember, post at TheBigRetort when you do.

THE BUSINESSES TO AVOID (but only if you feel that you have been treated unfairly):
Local Shops or Post Offices, both receive kickbacks for their part in the traffic fines scandal.

TfL - Transport for London

Capita Business Services
Providing an integrated range of business process outsourcing and professional services to clients in the UK and Ireland.

Capita Commercial Services
Market leader in providing outsourced administration and support services to the general insurance sector and affinity partnerships.
Capita Symonds
Providing a comprehensive range of project management, telecommunications engineering and construction related consultancy services.

Capita IRG
Share registration and employee share scheme administration services.

Capita Trust Company

Corporate trustees and providers of trust and administration services.

Capita Life & Pensions

Administration and customer services for life and pensions operations.
Capita Life & Pensions Regulated Services

Administration and customer services for life and pensions regulated operations.


The UK's register of pre-qualified local and national construction and construction-related suppliers.

Quay Software Solutions Ltd

Specialist provider of senior-level recruitment consultancy, public and private sectors.

[If you have any suggestions to add to the list, or think a company may be placed in error, contact TheBigRetort. A list of appointments by Capita Board members to follow in a later blog.]

Monday, June 04, 2007


These new anti-terror powers are worthy of Commons sense.
Some years back I was puzzled to see scores of uniformed police officers in body-protection armour and Dayglo jackets, accompanied by sniffer dogs, stopping, questioning and searching commuters as they exited a London tube station. The dogs were quite nice. It was their masters who were the Rottweilers.
When I enquired abut the operation, a police officer quipped, "It's part of a strategy by Ken Livingstone and Transport for London.'

When I pointed out that it seemed a bit over the top, he responded loudly, 'What are you - a bloody anarchist!"
An attempt to photograph this quite visible - the police later claimed sensitive - operation led to my being questioned and detained at length (ten minutes) under... the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

All this despite the fact that I was pushing a pram with my baby daughter inside, and despite the fact that I had asked an officer's permission to film the scene for the local rag. (Not that one needs to in a democracy.)
A police officer later told the newspaper: "The aim of the operation was to show a visible presence to members of the public and lessen the opportunity for criminality and fare defaulters to travel undetected through the area."

Of course, I hear you say, not long afterwards several nutters blew themselves up on London Underground taking many souls alongside their own misbegotten lives, so all's 'fare' then. Be that as it may, would such a highly visible police operation have prevented the nutter atrocities?
Like I said, commuters were being body searched (ostensibly for drugs) and questioned exiting the station - so it seems unlikely.

Operation Extended Powers, as the paper later reported, then as now, had a 'whiff' about it... Guv.[]

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Zeno - Solving a 30-year-old literary mystery

A remarkable story from the pages of history (which I am still tidying up, sorry) . The identity of a war hero revealed - ZENO [Reproduced with kind permission of Punch Ltd. http://www.punch.co.uk/. For this and other subjects of interest see Steve Lewis's Mystery File at http://mysteryfile.com/blog/?p=260.]
[A sad postscript... Shortly after the article first appeared I was contacted by the Met Police. Death threats had been received by Gerald Lamarque's widow. (A name I did not include in the article, or contact phone number.) However, as a result of files held by me, a person related to Lamarque became the focus of the Met's attention. I do not know if the threats ceased following this, as the police invariably fail to acknowledge assistance rendered to them. See "Brockley Con Artist" for an example.]