Part 4……

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.