Before the lawyers have a field day I’d better explain that this post has NOTHING to do with The Right Hon Theresa May MP, her pet cat (if she has one) or any other pussy she may be connected with.
This week’s Federation Conference and the article in Police Oracle about the Home Secretary’s reception at the 1977 Federation Conference reminded me of an amusing tale, although I don’t suppose that the Home Secretary’s family found it highly amusing.
Rewind to the late 1970′s, Labour have formed the government of the day, and a chap called Merlyn Rees was the Home Secretary. Much the same as today, the Home Secretary wasn’t giving the Police very much reward financially, wages were actually abysmal and some police officers were even in receipt of Benefits.
Merlyn Rees,Â Home SecretaryÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1976 – 1979
The much-heralded Mr Merlyn Rees lived in the Borough of Harrow at the time, and I was a fresh faced, un-bearded bobby on the adjoining Division, part of what is now Brent.
Prior to becoming Home Secretary Merlyn Rees had been Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and his life was sometimes in danger too – he once revealed that one of the men he released from detention was a Protestant gunman who had tried to kill him, so being his Prot. officer wasn’t always a bundle of fun.
Our Division (which included both Harrow and Brent in those days) was responsible for providing the Home Secretary with an armed guard 24/24 7/7. No Diplomatic Protection Group in those days. I am fortunate enough never to have been encumbered by a firearm at any time in my Police Service, probably regarded as too unstable, but I don’t care, it was a huge bonus in every way except overtime.Â Due to the shortage of ‘authorised shots’ the post was spread out across the whole Division and we all knew each other in those days so we pretty much knew who’d drawn the short straw and was sat in Mr Merlyn Rees’s garden.
Come Night Duty, and the officer on the ‘post’. was an old hand who had a reputation for being a bit of a wag.Â At about half past one in the morning he heard rustling in the rose bushes at the end of the garden.Â In the best traditions of the Met he challenged the rose bushes and informed the armed and dangerous suspect lurking within that he was armed and prepared to shoot if necessary. The response to this was no more than further rustlings in the rose bushes.Â Once again our friend challenged the rose bushes and threatened to shoot the suspect if he ignored his warnings.
One more set of rustlings greeted our hero.
Next thing anyone knew the Home Secretary (in his pyjamas) appeared in the garden and retrieved the now-dead body of his cat from the rose bushes.Â PC Jones called up the Duty Officer and told him what had transpired, i.e. “Let one off” and “Shot the cat”,Â but due to his fearsome reputation for wind-ups no-one believed him. Even when he handed in his weapon at the end of his tour with one less round than he was issued with did anyone REALLY believe him, although no-one could account for the missing bullet.Â I can’t help thinking that it would be somewhat different today.
About an hour later the Duty Officer turned up at Merlyn Rees’s address to pay the second of his customary twice-nightly visits, to be confronted by the PC who had taken over from PC Jones, talking animatedly with the Home Secretary who, upon seeing the Inspector, turned and said to him “So tell me Inspector, just how ARE you going to square this one up?”
Funnily enough PC Jones was never detailed to guard the Home Secretary ever again.
Fact or Fiction? You decide.