A Firm in a Firm: Freemasonry and Police Corruption
By, Martin Short
By, Martin Short
Is a Brother off the track?
Is he crooked, is he frail?
Since the Metropolitan Police was founded in 1829 there have been two complete reorganizations of its detective department. Both were provoked by massive corruption scandals leading to criminal trials exactly one hundred years apart, in 1877 and 1977. In each scandal Freemasonry played a dominant role.
Scotland Yard's first 'Detective Force' was set up in 1842. It consisted of only two inspectors and six sergeants. By 1869, 180 detectives were dealing with minor crime in outlying divisions but serious investigations in London were left to only twenty-seven officers out of 9,000. In the 1870's most of this squad was itself a criminal conspiracy in which not only were the prime culprits Freemasons; Freemasonry was what brought them together.(2)
In 1872 a confience trickster names William Kurr was running a bogus betting operation. Like any shrewd smalltime criminal with big ideas, he saw that the way to make real money was to bring policemen into the racket. Bribing detectives after you get caught is costly and uncertain. Far better to cut them in on the profits beforehand and avoid arrest altogether. The one safe place where Kurr could proposition policemen was his Masonic lodge.
At a lodge meeting in Islington Kurr made friends with just the man: Inspector John Meikeljohn. In return for 100 Pounds - nearly half his annual pay - Meiklejohn agreed to give Kurr advance warning of any police action against him or his betting racket. At first the corrupt officer kept the payoff to himself but as the racket expanded, he involved three chief inspectors in the Detective Force whom he also knew as brother Masons.
Kurr needed bigger and better protection because he was expanding his operation with the skills of a new friend called Harry Benson. Here was a virtoso con-man of international disrepute. In 1872, posing as a French count, he had deluded the Lord Mayor of London into giving him 1,000 Pounds for relief work in the wake of the Franco-Prussian War. He was found out and imprisoned in Newgate where he tried to burn himself to death. Instead he merely crippled himself but in 1873 he hobbled out of jail and came to know Kurr. Together they planned new scams to part mug punters from their funds.
One by one, Inspector Meiklejohn sucked his Masonic colleagues into Kurr and Benson's network. First he found out that Chief Inspector Nathaniel Druscovitch was inquiring into the swindles. He also discovered Druscovitch was 60 Pounds in debt and suggested Kurr might help him out. The deal was done, Kurr gave him the money and Druscovitch ws neutralized. His senior chief inspector, George Clarke, wsa also on the swindlers trail, but he agreed to lose the scent in return for a pay-off. A third chief inspector, William Palmer, was also bought up.
Now assured of total immunity from police zeal, Benson set up Sport, a news-sheet offering punters foolproof betting systems. In 1876, using the alias Hugh Montgomery, he deluded the Comtesse de Goncourt of Paris into 'investing' 10,000 Pounds. He rewarded here with several non-existant winners and then requested she invest a further 30,000 Pounds with a bookmaker of his choice. At this point she had a belated spasm of suspicion. She hired a London lawyer, who reported Benson and Kurr to Scotland Yard. They were soon jailed for fifteen and ten years' hard labour respectively. Only then did they reveal the role of the bent coppers. In the subsequent investigation the Yard's chief of detectives, Supt. Frederick Williamson, was dismayed to discover that three of his four chief inspectors were corrupt, along with their uninformed seducer, Meiklejohn. In 1877 all four were tried at the Old Bailey. Clarke was acquittted, but Meiklejohn, Palmer and Druscovitch were convicted and sentenced to two years' hard labour. It was a bad day for the police and hardly a distinguished one for Freemasonry with its principals of brotherly love, relief and truth.
This scandal discredited the entire Metropolitan Detective Force which was scrapped and re-formed as the Criminal Investigation Department. The CID was to have a seperate career structure and higher rates of pay than the main uniform force, a distinction which was to cause grinding irritation over the next hundred years. By 1884 the new structure of twenty-four detectives at Scotland Yard and 254 in the divisions, all under the central command of a new Assistant Commissioner (Crime), appeared to be an effective answer to corruption, Masonic or otherwise.
It took a hundred years for that illusion to be pricked, although close observers of the CID had known the truth for decades. A hint of what went wrong in the meantime comes in the story of Chief Inspector Reginald Morrish, a Metropolitan officer from 1911 to 1937. Morrish worked in the CID for sixteen years, winning forty-four commendations and eighteen awards. He also served in Scotland Yard's fraud and homicide squads. From 1943 to 197 he was a senior instructor at Hendon Police College and wrote several textbooks. One book he did not write was an autobiography. Not long before he died, aged ninety-two, he burnt his entire police papers. His son Ivor was horrified. He wrote:
During the whole of my early life at home, including a period in which we lived at a very busy police station in south London, my father's chief topics of conversation were the police, religion, bribery and corruption (which he saw as rife in all levels in the police force) and freemasonry. The one thing which seemed to worry him most of all was the connexion which he felt existed between freemasonry and corruption, and between freemasonry and self-advancement in the force. In his view there was no room for doubt about these connexions. He used to list all the officers who were masons. He noted the dates of their promotions, whether they had jumped anyone else of equal or greater ability, and all their connexions with other officers in the force.In 1933 or 1934 Det. Insp. Morrish had to run the Croydon Division while the divisional inspector was off sick. Looking through various registers and record books he became very suspicious of the way crimes were being recorded, so he carried out his own investigation. He concluded that the division's relatively high success rate for crime clearance was thoroughly bogus, because many crimes were being entered up as something else. A woman would have her handbag snatched, but this would be entered in the register as a case of 'Lost Property'.(3) Many other entries were far more ingenious.
After a thorough examination of every bit of routine and every crime over a period of several months, my father wrote a report on his findings and sent copies to his bosses: the divisional detective inspector and the area superintendent. As my father did not spare personalities, the facts he revealed militated strongly against both men's honesty. According to him, both were freemasons.Trenchard was soon paying personal visits to each station in the division, and insisted on seeing the records and documents referred to in Morrish's report. Eventually Trenchard called him up to his office but, moments before he was due to enter, Deputy Commissioner Norman Kendal tried to divert him. He suggested he need not see the Commissioner, as everything could be put right at this late stage - even his promotion - if he would only withdraw his report
Behind this soft approach my father detected a threat that, if he didn't withdraw, he could say goodbye to any future advancement. He politely refused and insisted on seeing the Commissioner. Later, as a result of the interview and the report, changes were introduced - in the Croydon Division at least - in the methods of recording and clearing up crime, and the way statistics on crime clearance were prepared.As evidence against Freemasonry, this account is difficult to assess. Sceptics would stress that the alleged incidents took place more than fifty years ago, might have been much exaggerated in the original telling and are recollected here by a son who might be spicing up his father's account. No documents have survived and we have no proof the 'villans' were Masons. A lawyer would dismiss it all as 'triple hearsay'. However, Ivor Morrish is a respected author of numerous teaching textbooks and a lifelong educationalist. He is unlikely to have invented so much detail. His father was a man of unquestioned integrity, and outstanding instructor, and deeply trusted by Lord Trenchard who was this century's greatest police reformer. As such, Reg Morrish's perceptions of Freemasonry should not be lightly discarded. What is more, they marry only too convincingly with the incontrovertible evidence revealed when scores of corrupt detectives were investigated in the 1970's. The full story of Metropolitan Police corruption at the time is told in The Fall of Scotland Yard, a book which I co-authored in 1977 with Barry Cox and John Shirley.(4) Here I isolate the Masonic aspects of the scandal.
In 1977 three Old Bailey trials revealed the tip of an iceberg of corruption in London's CID. Thirteen detectives were jailed, including two commanders, one chief superintendent and five inspectors. In the course of the investigation it emerged that most were Freemasons. The probablility is that they were all 'on the square'.
One trial focused on the Flying Squad, once legendary for its detective brilliance but now notorious for having a commander, Ken Drury, who was 'on the take' (cash, gifts, entertainments and holidays) from a professional criminal and pornographer, Jimmy Humphreys. The other trials revolved around the Obscene Publications Squad. It emerged that Craft membership was a prerequisite for any detective who wanted a share of the rich pickings to be extorted from London's profiteering pornographers.
The 'Porn Squad' was at that time a unit within the CID's central office, known as C1. Getting into this team was a prestigious step up for any detective, but selection was largely in the gift of the C1 commander or the superintendent heading the squad. From 1964 until 1972 it's eminence grise was Det. Chief Supt. Bill Moody who has a unique claim to infamy in the history of Scotland Yard. While heading one of the biggest-ever investigations into police corruption he was simultaneously collecting huge bribes from the dirty booksellers of Soho, London's notorious vice district.
Moody's extraordinary double life is revealed in The Fall of Scotland Yard. The essential details are that in 1977 he was convicted of conspiring to take money from pornographers over an eight-year period. Moody was convicted on sample charges, one of which involved a payment of 14,000 Pounds. The trial showed that for some years he had been pocketing annual kickbacks worth 40,000 Pounds. His pay-off at the Old Bailey was twelve years' imprisonment.
Bill Moody was an ardent Freemason, so ardent that he took some of his pornographer friends to his Masonic gatherings. One was Ron 'the Dustman' Davey whom he had met at another pornographer's birthday party in Trader Vic's Restaurant in the Hilton Hotel. In 1975 Davey was questioned by officers who had been appointed to investigate the porn squad's corruption. He told them he came to know Det. Sgt Cyril Jones (later sentenced to seven years in jail) through Moody's Masonic functions.
I have been to numerous of these and in fact Bill introducted me into his lodge. It has been put to me that I booked a coach on the following dates - 6.11.69 to Derry and Toms (10 people); 17.11.69 to Top Rank Suite, Croydon (12 people); 25.9.71 Regent Street. All were masonic functions at which I was a guest. Normally present were Bill Moody, Cyril Jones, 2 other police officers [whom Davey names] and our wives. I am quite sure there were many more outings.It was part of Bill Moody's discredited defence that he had no idea Ron Davey was a pornographer. If so, he had overlooked Ron's conviction and a six-month jail term in 1960 for publishing 744 improper photographs of men and 105 of women. This fact was available to Moody not simply as head of the Obscene Publications Squad; he would have read about it in News of the World, for the newspaper had revealed how Davey was arrested in his darkroom with 2,486 dirty photographs. At another of his premises, police discovered 15,000 pornographic negatives and 15,000 snaps. Ron's home was an Aladdin's cave of naked lads. As the magistrate packed him off to prison, he told Davey he did not suppose anyone had ever before seen 'such a vast volume of absolute filth'.
Davey had been a pornographer for three years, after eight years working as a dustman. In 1975 when giving evidence against Bill Moody, he described himself as a 'maintenance engineer'. I have been unable to discover which of these three occupations he disclosed when applying for membership of the Craft.
Masonic activities in the dirty book trade went far beyond coach parties of pornographers, policemen and their wives living it up on the town. When Scotland Yard's anti-corruption squad went digging into the porn squad's later years, all sorts of Masonic connections emerged. One prosecution witness was Frank R. Andrews, who spent three years in the porn squad as a detective constable. When Moody recruited him in 1965, he already knew that everybody posted there immediately bought new cars or expensive houses. In short, he said, they 'sprouted wealth'.
Andrews was introduced to the system of another witness, D.C. Ernie Culver, himself later convicted of a cheque fraud. Culver explained how bribe moneys were shared out. Andrews recalled one chat with him about a forthcoming Masonic Ladies' Night.
He said words to the effect, 'Have you got enough money for the new dress for your wife?' I indicated that I didn't want any help but he then handed me a brown envelope aned said, 'Put that towards the cost of a new dress for your wife.' I did not want the money and decided to ditch it in a nearby waste-paper bin. We attended the ladies' evening as planned. Bill Moody was there with his wife and another sergeant.Another convicted officer was Leslie Alton, a detective inspector and a Mason. He instructed Andrews to collect the weekly bribes in packets from pornographers, then share it out among the other officers. Andrews had known Alton was a friend for many years and tried to keep an eye on him when he got drunk.
On one occasion he got drunk and said, 'Come on, let's take a walk around the West End.' I was full of trepidation. He walked into a bookshop with me and said in a loud voice. 'I am detective inspector Alton of New Scotland Yard. How much have you taken today?' He then went to the cash register, opened it and started checking the proceeds. I was embarrassed and left him in the shop. When he came out he said words to the effect, 'Disipline. That's what these people need: discipline!'Andrews assumed that, on past form, Alton must have stuck his hand in the till and grabbed a fistful of notes. They both left the squad in 1968 but from 1970 to 1972 its overlord was Commander Wally Virgo who, I understand, was also a Freemason. Originally jailed for twelve years for corruption, Virgo was later freed because the appeal court felt the judge's summing-up had been unduly hostile.
Under Virgo the porn squad was almost entirely Masonic. When one brother, Detective Inspector Anthony Kilkerr, became a prosecution witness his colleagues came up with a disarming explanation for the 20 Pounds in pornographers' pay-off money they had stuck in his desk drawer each week. Those crisp fivers were not the fruits of corruption, one suspect told an investigator, but whiprounds to help Kilkerr pay his Masonic inititation fees. This was a lie, of course, but the choice of lie was revealing.
Because Kilkerr would not take the money (he threw it away or left it in his desk), he was suspected of being a 'spy in the camp'. His 'Mr Clean' image so upset another detective named Peter Fisher that he told Kilkerr not to open his mouth because he was now 'involved' himself and would go down with the rest of them. If they were all caught, Fisher added, they 'could form a football team on the Isle of Wight'. This was a reference to the island's two high-security jails, but in the late 1970s convicted detectives were sent to open prisons in such large numbers that they could have formed their own Masonic lodges.
The porn and Flying Squad investigations were part of a massive anti-corruption drive by Sir Robert Mark. Soon after he became Commissioner in 1972 he set up a squad known as A 10 to 'rubber-heel' the entire force. By the time he retired five years later, A 10 had forced the dismissal or resignation of nearly 500 officers: 100 a year. The old regime had ousted an average of just sixteen. Most of the concentration of Freemasons was far greater than among uniform men. There is no way of finding out exactly how many were Masons, partly because Scotland Yard has never divulged the names of all 500.
To combat corruption Mark imposed the most thorough reform of the CID for a hundred years. In August 1975 he shuffled 300 detectives around London, in an attempt to break the dangerous custom of leaving them in one area for so many years that tended to develop a corrupt intimacy with local criminals. In 1976 he inflicted an even less welcome reform: systematic interchange between detective and uniform branches. No detective could expect much promotion unless he served in uniform for several years. This was devised not gratuitously to humilate the plain-clothes men, but to destroy the closed mentality and corrupt traditons of the 'firm in a firm'.
To what extent was this 'firm in a firm' Masonic? That phrase was immortalized by Detective Sergeant John Symonds on a surreptitious tape-recording made by two Times reporters in 1969. The tape appeared to support claims of a small-time thief that Symonds was extorting small sums of money from himl. Symonds was suspended and charged, but he fled abroad in 1972 after a threat disguised as a tip-off from the Mason in charge of his imminent trial. This was Det. Chief Supt. Bill Moody who, while taking huge kickbacks from pornographers, had been appointed by Scotland Yard to investigate the Time's allegations of relatively modest graft against lower-ranking detectives. Seven years later Symonds returned to give himself up. He was tried, convicted and given a two-year jail sentence. However he continues to proclaim his innocence, alleging (with justification) that he was offered up as a ritual sacrifice by corrupt men running the CID at that time, notably Bill Moody.
On the tape Symonds was alleged to have said:
Don't forget always to let me know straight away if you need anything because I know people everywhere. Because I'm in a little firm in a firm. Don't matter where, anywhere in London, I can get on the phone to someone I know I can trust, that talks the same as me. And if he's not the right person that can do it, he'll know the person that can. All right? ...That's the thing, and it can work - well, it's worked for years, hasn't it?Symonds was a Freemason, and his 'firm in a firm' was essentially Masonic. Freemasonry was the security blanket - the ultimate in comforters - for a network of crooked cops throughout the metropolis. Their fraternal bonds reassured them that they could rely on each other's absolute discretion. On that basis the 'firm in a firm' provided whatever service was required. It could get criminal charges dropped against the guilty or ensure their aquital. It could secure the conviction of men who did not pay bribes or who got in the way of bigger fish who were paying. It could protect bribe-paying gangs by preventing their detection. It could even supply the direct participation of some policemen in serious crimes such as robbery. This standing conspiracy had several protective layers or shells. First, everyone in it was a policeman. Second, they were all detectives. Third they were all corrupt. Fourth, most were Freemasons.
Within this carapace crooked cops could get away, if not with murder, then with almost everything else. There was the classic case of Det. Sgt Harry Challenor, a West End Central officer who planted knives, hatchets and iron bars on dozens of innocent citizens. On one occasion he even 'found' detonators for explosives. His undoing came in 1963 when he framed a cluster of young men who had been demonstrating against a visit of Queen Frederika of Greece. He claimed that pieces of brick had been found in their pockets, presumably to throw at the Queen or at the policemen guarding her hotel. The accused were all cleared, eventually, because no brick dust couuld be traced in their pockets. Challenor himself was now put on trial for conspiring to pervert the course of justice. Three young constables who worked with him were convicted and jailed for three years, but Challenor was found unfit to plead and detaiined in a mental hospital at Her Majesty's pleasure.
According to a psychiatrist, he must have been 'very mad indeed' - clinically insane - for over a year.(5) Yet throughout this time his colleagues were apparently unaware of his lunacy. It had passed unnoticed while, with their connivance, he planted offenseive weapons on at least twenty-six men. These same officers could not see he was crazy even as they held down some of his victims so he could beat them up with unimpeded brutality.
Harry Challenor was a Freemason. So were several of his very close CID colleagues. So, too, was one recently retired high-ranking London detective who told me how in the 1960's he was appalled by the way other policemen used to exploit the Craft.
I became a Mason at the suggestion of an officer who is now deputy assistant commissioner. He wanted me to join his lodge but most of the members weren't policemen. Indeed he asked a non-policeman to propose me, so that other members did not think the police were trying to take over the lodge, as sometimes happens.I asked this former detective why he had done nothing about this gross perversion of justice and why, twenty years later, he was still not prepared to be named in this account.
I cannot go public even now because, although I was only the junior officer, I was implicated in the conspiracy as deeply as anyone. I had been involved in a trial when two men pleaded guilty to crimes which, I knew at the time, they had not committed. The rest of the team were as angry as I at our colleague's actions. They were equally innocent of any crimanlity, but we all became 'guilty' by being caught up in the web of protection woven around a crooked Masonic brother who had appealed for help.My informant has told me this crooked Mason's name but I cannot name him for legal reasons. To be fair to Freemasonry, however, these horror stories have to be weighed against the fact that in the Porn Squad trials of 1977, three Crown witneses (Kilkerr, Andrews and Culver) were themselves 'on the square'. When it came to the crunch they were ready to tell the truth, even though it would send their Masonic brothers to jail.
Simiilarly, the officer who spearheaded Scotland Yard's anti-corruption drive in the 1970s, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Gilbert Kelland, was a Freemason. At his right hand was another Mason, DAC Ron Steventon, later head of A 10. Neither spared their brethren from the anti-corruption knife. This can be explained partly by the existence of two distinct Masonic traditions in the Metropolitan Police at this time. Gilbert Kelland, for example had spent the first twenty-five years of his service in uniform. He was not a 'carerr detective' and he never allowed his Freemasonry to intrude into, or overlap with, his police work. In contrast Freemasonry in much of the CID had become a cover for crookery and corruption.
Towering above all such distinctions, however, is the fact that no major corruption trials would have taken place at all if it had not been for the heroic if much-hated figure of Robert Mark, who was neither a detective nor a Freemason. It was Mark who created the climate in which, for the first time in a century, corruption - Masonic or otherwise - was no longer fashionable among London detectives. It was he who gave Kelland and Steventon orders to clean up the CID
It would be difficult to argue that Freemasonry had much beneficial effect on the Metropolitan CID between 1877 and 1977. Yet in the years since Brother Moody and his clan were purged, the Craft's reputation in the force has sunk even lower. This is partly because Masonic abuse in the 1970s propelled many honest and honourable policemen out of the Craft. One such man now holds a very high rank in Scotland Yard.
In the 1970s the old CID porn squad was so corrupt it had to be disbanded. I was assigned to the uniform squad which replaced it. We used to raid one dirty bookshop after another but, whenever I tried to fix a formal interview date with the shop owners, they would pull out their diaries and say pointedly, 'Sorry, I can't make Tuesday. It's my lodge night, you understand.'Another Yard officer also quit the Craft about this time. He is now ranked just below chief constable in another force:
I joined my lodge just after I had become a sergeant. I went along for a year and met some spendid people. I confess it struck me as a wonderful thing for a policeman's career, but my career was going splendidly anyway. The lodge meetings were very boring - the most infernally boring thing I have ever been involved in. Also, my job as a detective was taking such long and irregular hours that I could not get along each week to my lodge of instruction. And when I was free I preferred to spend time with my wife and children.Unfortunately, not even Scotland Yard's 'rubber-heel mob' - A 10 - was immune from Masonic manipulation. For many years I have known a London solicitor who is a Mason. In the 1970s he had a client who was also a Mason. On his behalf the solicitor made a complaint to A 10 alleging serious criminal misconduct by a detective. In due course an A 10 officer was appointed to investigate. He assured the solicitor that he had never met the detective under investigation, and that he would pursue the inquiry with the utmost zeal. Taught to be cautious, however, the solicitor used his Masonic connections to discover more about the A 10 investigator.
To my horror I discovered he was in the same lodge as the suspect detective. I promptly made another complaint to A 10 saying these men knew each other and that, in the circumstances, they should appoint another investigator. Nothing of the kind! I received a curt reply saying the two men did not know each other and I was mistaken. But I had documentation to prove they had both been masters of the same lodge, and must have known each other very well indeed.At this time A 10 may have been going through teething problems. No such excuse could be made for the Complaints Investigation Bureau, CIB2, which replaced A 10 in the late 1970s. There are many potential conflicts of interest when one policeman investigates another. One of these is Freemasonry and CIB2 must always be aware that hidden Masonic connections might contaminate the fair investigation of complaints. In its short existence CIB2 has had enough Masons among its chiefs to be aware of the very short odds that a Mason could be given the job of investigating on of his Masonnic brothers. In 1979 CIB2's allied disciplinary team known as CIB3 was headed by Chief Supt. William Gibson. Two years later he was succeeded by Malcolm A. Ferguson. Later still, Kenneth Churchill-Coleman took over. When the Manor of St Jame's Lodge list leaked out in 1986 who should be on it but Cass, Lampard, Gibson, Ferguson and Churchill-Coleman.
Perhaps all these men would pursue any complaint laid against a Masonic colleague with even greater dedication than one against a non-Mason, if only to prove that Masonic loyalties would not get in their way. But where would a member of the Manor of St Jame's Lodge stand if he were told to investigate another member? With some fifty serving officers in the lodge, this may very likely happen (if it had not happened already). Ideally, the investigator would refuse the job and suggest a non-Mason do it instead. Heaven help Freemasonry if the public ever find out that a policeman under investigation belongs to the same lodge as his investigator!
A policeman who recently retired from Hampshire Constabulary wrote to me expressing his concern:
A detective I knew was a practising mason and had been master of his lodge. He made no secret of the fact and always wore a masonic ring, tie and cufflinks. This man was, to say the least, unscrupulous in his methods and it was well known in the legal profession that he 'doctored' his evidence in court. This was confirmed to me by a barrister. This officer was the subject of several internal discipline inquiries but always appeared to escape prosecution. Senior officers seemed to be afraid of him and I always felt this was because of influential people he moved with socially.These days internal discipline and anti-corruption units need to be seen to be above reproach and suspicion, otherwise all sorts of lobbies and pressure groups (not just disorganized anti-Masons) will cry 'Whitewash!' In 1987 Scotland Yard's self-cleansing squad was put to the test again as another 'Masonic' corruption scandal broke.
Early one morning in July 1987 Detective Constable Alan Holmes shot himself dead in his back garden. Eight months later a corner's jury confirmed that he had committed suicide, but it did not have to say why. The answer lies in a tangle of personal and work problems complcated by Holme's Masonic bonds - not that Freemasonry was mentioned at any point during the inquest.
'Taffy' Holmes was a stocky 15-stone, broken-nosed, rugby-playing Welshman who drank to excess. He had a wife and children. He also had a mistress. He was totally devoted to the Metropolitan Police in which he had served for twenty-six years. At work he was gregarious, convivial and he would do anything for a friend. At the inquest one colleague said Taffy believed 'a problem shared is a problem solved'. Another officer felt he had 'misguided loyalties'. His perceptive father-in-law explained how it 'seemed essential to Alan that he should be liked by everybody'.
In the days before he died Holmes was under great pressure from the anti-corruption squad, CIB 2, which was investigating alleged links between a detective commander and a man convicted of receiving some of the 26 million Pounds 'Brinks-MAT' gold bullion stolen in 1983. The receiver, Kenneth Noye, is also a Freemason; the commander may be one too - but it seems unlikely that the two men have ever met. Even so, CIB 2 felt that Holmes (who worked on the Brinks-MAT robbery investigation) knew about such a relationship. CIB 2 may have arranged for another officer to secretly tape-record Holmes as he gossiped about corrupt acts by fellow-detectives. When Holmes learned about the alleged tape he was plunged into depression, partly because it seems these crooked officers were also Masons. He felt 'set-up' and betrayed. At the inquest one colleague (himself under no cloud) explained how, five days before he died, Holmes had returned very upset from an all-day grilling by CIB 2. He talked about another officer whom he had considered a friend but who had 'let him down and told lies about him'. He said he was going to kill that man and then kill himself. The colleague told the Coroner: 'He was very upset, but I didn't think he'd do it'.
Holmes was doubly appalled by this alleged treachery because he had only just introduced the 'traitor' into his own Masonic lodge. The treachery was even greater because that year Taffy was Lodge Master. What about the Five Points of Fellowship?: 'Breast to breast, your lawful secrets when entrusted to me as such I will keep my own.' Lawful or not, many brothers' secrets - Holmes included - had been betrayed.
At his funeral Taffy received full police honours. Deputy Commissioner John Dellow led dozens of Scotland Yard mourners. Holmes was eulogized as having 'a face as hard as granite but a heart as soft and vulnerable as a butterfly'. Most of the eighty wreaths came from police officers, stations and squads, but several were sent openly by Freemasons, including one large floral square-and-compasses. Another bore the inscription: 'To our brave, wonderful and worhsipful master who chose death rather than dishonour his friends and workmates.'
Death may be better than revealing one's own dishonour, but killing oneself to cover up for others is taking loyalty too far - even for a Mason. In any case, what did Holmes know which could have dishonoured his friends and workmates? In a suicde note he told his wife, 'I loved the police and never did them an ounce of harm', but might not his suicide bring more dishonour on the police than telling the truth about crooked colleagues?
Taffy Holmes was Master of Lodge no. 7114. When I was first told this fact, I thought it might be part of a pattern. Lodge 7114 is another 'Manor' lodge: the Manor of Bensham. I wondered if there was a 'Manor' lodge for each of the twenty-three old divisions of the Metropolitan Police. Might they all be like the St Jame's: jam-packed full of fuzz? With a hundred cops in each, the full slate would be 2,300. Further researches uncovered ten more lodges in Greater London with 'Manor' in the title, but only three correspond with a Metropolitan Police district and none of them is an all-police lodge. Even the Manor of Bensham recruits from all walks of life, but it does have a strong police connection. In 1986 at least five members were past or present policemen, including retired Commander Arthur Howard, QPM: once had of C 1, Scotland Yard's chief detective branch. It seems all these officers joined the Lodge while living in Croydon or serving in the local 'Z' District.
The full story behind the death of Bensham's Master may never emerge, but in March 1988 a report appeared in the News of the World saying he died for nothing.(6) It claimed another officer had told Holmes that a tape of his crooked colleagues' conversation existed when in fact no such recording had been made. Taffy's shame at having inadvertently betrayed his Masonic brethren was baseless. Whether or not that shame is what drove him to suicide, may the Great Architect have mercy on his soul.
1. Masonic poem by David Barker, quoted in A Treasury of Masonic Thought, Robert Hale, London 1981.
2. This story was told briefly by Stephen Knight in The Brotherhood. I expand on it here to make a different point. For a full account see George Dilnot, The Trial of the Detectives, Geoffrey Bles 1928.
3. If an article was listed as 'lost', rather than stolen, no crime would appear to have been committed. Morrish's experience resembles that of Det. Con. Ron Walker of the Kent Constabulary who alleged in 1986 that some colleagues had been rigging the force's crime 'clear-up' rate by persuading convicted prisoners to confess to crimes which they had not committed.
4. Penguin 1977.
5. See the James Report (Home Office appointed Inquiry into the Challenor Affair), HMSO 1965. Mary Grigg, Challenor Case, Penguin 1965. For a more sympathetic view of Challenor, see Gilbert Kelland, op. cit.
6. News of the World, 20 March 1988.
After reading history at Cambridge University, he worked - from 1969 to 1984 - on major current affairs programmes for the ITV companies Thames, Granada and London Weekend (on the Lebanon) and for Channel 4's Dispatches series (on the international arms trade). In 1988 he presented Charlie Richardson and the British Mafia for Longshot Productions and Channel 4. His series based on Inside the Brothehood appeared on ITV in 1989, and in 1994 he produced and presented the ITV series Gangbusters.