Hertfordshire Police Historical Society
This Week In History
Pictured above a Hertfordshire Police Mobile Column.
In the 1950s the police across the country were faced by a requirement on them to operate a large proportion of the UKs Civil Defence provision. Part of this was periodic operation of the Home Office Civil Defence Police Mobile Column, a mixed self-contained group of trucks, jeeps and motor cycles together with about 150 officers, who were to respond to the civil devastation of a nuclear attack. The Police Mobile Column was a somewhat flawed concept No one had adequately explained how the police officers on these convoys of vehicles were to survive in the face of highly radioactive fall-out, protected only by the thickness of the vehicle bodywork. It was not surprising then that late in 1965 the Labour Government sought to abolish the Mobile Column system as an economy measure.
The incendiaries appear to be making rapid progress towards the metropolis in this direction. The formers of this county, in addition to the general alarm which they have hitherto felt, are now beginning to be alarmed also on their own account. The neighbourhood of Bishops Stortford, in particular, is in the greatest agitation, several individuals having received threatening letters. Two men were taken into custody on Friday evening in this town, both intoxicated, one of them, it seems, has before suffered imprisonment for thieving; the other, from his language and address apparently of a superior education, denies all knowledge of any guilty transactions whatever. Upon their examination a letter, undirected, was produced, said to a forum from the act of the latter, which he had asserted he knew nothing about, observing when it was read to him, that had he been the writer he should have written it much more correctly, alluding to an expression in the letter, “you shall be shooted”. He says also that he can account for every moment of his time for some time past. 50 special constables was sworn in last night (Saturday), under the direction of Mr Sayer and Mr Richards for the purpose of patrolling the parish, and more will be appointed today (Sunday). A large ﬁle was last night seen a little beyond Standon, 7 miles to the west of Bishops Stortford. The following extraordinary circular has been issued by the Lord Lt. of Hertfordshire. “To the inhabitants of the County of Hertford” “by the favour of Almighty God, the County of Hertford has not to lament the occurrence, within its vicinity, of these disgraceful scenes which have so deplorably agitated some of the neighbouring counties. To prevent a similar visitation to us must be the object of our most active endeavours; and for this purpose, I earnestly direct your more particular attention to that part of a recent circular from the Secretary of State, which recommends the prompt apprehension of suspicious strangers who are traversing the country, prying into the circumstances, the property, and the habits of the people without any ostensible reason or justiﬁable object. These men are supposed to be the perpetrators of these horrid acts which we all deplore and execrate. The crime of incendiary, is not of English growth it comes from a foreign country, and through the instrumentality of malignant and designing characters in our own, has visited those unhappy districts I have alluded to. These unholy miscreants have hidden, of teary, objects of their own in view, for it is not the grossest absurdity to suppose that they take such trouble, that they run such risk, that they spend money for the beneﬁt of the people, whose very means of existence they destroy. Can burning wheat to make bread the cheaper? Can ruining the farmer give employment to the Labourer? For what, then do these wretches risk the severest penalty of the law? I know not: but this I do know-that we ought to all exert our energies to apprehend them.
Gathering dust in police files is a dossier containing the fingerprints of the most unlikely criminal gang – half a dozen chimpanzees and a pair of orangutans. Their dabs were taken during police raids at the Ape House at London Zoo and at Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire. The operation, by fingerprint experts from Hertfordshire police, took place in 1975 at a time when there was growing concern over unsolved crimes. It concluded that chimp dabs looked exactly the same as ours, but did not link them to any specific offence. The chimp file is likely to be re-examined in the light of new evidence yesterday that criminal investigations in Australia may have been hampered by the presence of koala fingerprints at the scenes of crimes. Maciej Henneberg, a biological anthropologist and forensic scientist at the University of Adelaide, said that the marsupials had fingerprints which were so close to those of people that they could easily be mistaken by police. While handling koalas in Urimbirra wildlife park, near Adelaide, Mr Henneberg noticed their fingers carried ridged patterns of loops, whorls and arches like those on a human hand. “It appears that no one has bothered to study them in detail,” he said. “Although it is extremely unlikely that koala prints would be found at the scene of a crime, police should at least be aware of the possibility.” The animal connection did not surprise Frank Wheeler, head keeper of small mammals at London Zoo, who clearly remembers the arrival of the police squad 21 years ago. The chimps, all juveniles aged around six or seven, did not struggle as their digits were dusted and pressed on to sticky fingerprint tape. “They sat there quite happily,” he said. As brachiators (animals which move sideways by swinging hand over hand), the orangutans have tiny thumbs, which put them out of the frame. Mr Wheeler disputed the Australian evidence that koala prints looked human. “Their hands have been adapted for climbing,” he said. “Three digits face forwards and two face sideward.” The police operation in 1975 was led by Steve Haylock, now with the City of London police fingerprint bureau. He said the exercise was carried out because police officers habitually referred to spoiled fingerprints as “monkey prints”. The zoo expedition proved this was nonsense. Mr Haylock said: “If you passed a chimpanzee print to a fingerprint office and said it came from the scene of a crime they would not know it was not human.” Among those finger-printed was a face familiar to millions of television viewers; not as a wanted villain but as a star of PG Tips tea commercials. The police team briefly considered taking prints from gorillas but thought better of it. There are no koalas in Britain. The last one was taken out of London Zoo several years ago and deported to Portugal. It had become lonely and was not under suspicion of a criminal offence.
FREE BUS TRAVEL FOR UNIFORMED OFFICERS AND TRAFFIC WARDENS Following discussions between Hertfordshire County Council and The Herts Bus and Coach Council it has been agreed to offer free transport to uniformed police ofﬁcers and trafﬁc wardens whilst on duty. The policy was agreed in order to provide a police presence on public transport, which the operators are keen to encourage and to assist ofﬁcers and wardens in the execution of their duties. (General Order 49 of 1999)
At the Hertford County Petty Sessions held on Saturday, 9 December 1933, the Chairman Major Barber, OBE, commended Constable’s 100 Martin and 163 Heath of C Division, Watford, for the action whilst on motor patrol, in apprehending Kenneth Ivor St. Clair Shorter and Robert Melvin on charges of stealing a motorcar from Scotland, and 21 fowls from Chapmore End, Ware during the night of the third to 4 December 1933. The reports in this case showed constables were alert and attentive to their duty and acted with intelligence. The chief constable has pleasure in endorsing the commendation and directs this an appropriate entry be made on the ofﬁcer’s records of service. (General order number 143, 1933)