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Undercover: Operation Julie - The Inside Story


Stephen Bentley

Copyright 2017 Stephen Bentley

Published by BentleySabrine Books at Smashwords




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Table of Contents


Acknowledgements

Prologue

Who Am I?

LSD Culture

Baby Detective

Fast Learner

Devizes and the Phony War

Eric and Undercover Preparation

Llanddewi Brefi

Smiles

Blue

Stoned

Movie Stars Rock Stars

Internal Politics

Are You Guys Cops?

The Gun

Idiot!

Steve and Eric – Dealers

Doug

Chillum

Christmas 1976

New Year

Leaving Llanddewi Brefi

No Way a Lab at Seymour Road

Renewing Old Acquaintances

Recall Papers

124 Years’ Jail

Fifteen Pints

Chief’s Commendation

House Arrest

In the Middle End of Investigation, I Break Down

Unfinished Business

Lessons Learned

Future of Undercover Policing?

The War on Drugs

War on Drugs: My Damascene Moment?

Nuanced Regulation

Duplicity

Smiles and I

The Story of LSD in Britain According to Kemp

Final Thoughts and Where Are They Now?

About Stephen Bentley

Other books by Stephen Bentley

Connect with Stephen Bentley

Bonus


Acknowledgements


To:

My parents who loved me and my siblings. They always did their best for us.

‘The Other People’ in my life who at various moments have helped me, made me laugh, provided me with a story bank, bought me drinks, encouraged me on life’s journey, and helped turn me into a better person. They are too numerous to mention save one, thank you Zabrina – “Ooh La La!”

You all did your ‘bit.’



Also in Memory of Peter, my beloved brother, best friend and confidant.


At one time or another the more fortunate among us make three startling discoveries. Discovery number one: Each one of us has, in varying degree, the power to make others feel better or worse. Discovery two: Making others feel better is much more fun than making them feel worse. Discovery three: Making others feel better generally makes us feel better.

- Laura Huxley


Prologue

This second edition has now been expanded to contain additional material and chapters. The reasons behind this are manifold. Partly it came about from the discovery of fresh documents such as Richard Kemp’s voluntary statement to the police dated December 30th 1977. That document provides material for me throwing light on several outstanding Operation Julie conundrums. One, I can reveal who informed on Richard Kemp leading to the police seizing LSD valued in 1977 at £7.5 Million. Secondly, I also reveal the likely last remaining stash of some of the “finest” LSD ever manufactured. I also deal with the rumour Princess Margaret availed herself of Kemp’s product.

A further reason was to expand my views about the so-called “war on drugs.” There was little time to do that before publication of the first edition.

Additionally, I also felt a response was required to readers who having read the first edition, were curious about certain issues. One of those issues was the “play within the play” – Smiles and I. Grammatically, that should read Smiles and me, but for now let’s leave it at a private joke. When the time is ripe, I will let you all in on the humour behind it. Smiles was the drug dealer I came to know well during my undercover days. I have added some further material about what was going on inside my head as Steve Jackson, undercover cop, including my thoughts on who Bill, the Canadian gangster, and Blue really were.

Now is as good a time as any to thank all my readers who bought and read the first edition. Thanks for the reviews too. All of you helped propel the first edition of this book to a UK Best Seller list.


What Was Operation Julie?


Operation Julie for many people brings to mind a unique UK police investigation into the production of LSD by two drug rings during the mid-1970s. The investigation involved 11 police forces throughout England and Wales over a 2 ½-year period. It resulted in the break-up of one of the largest LSD manufacturing operations in the world. It culminated in 1977 with initial seizures of sufficient LSD to make 6.5 million tabs with a street value of £6.5 million.

The Guinness World Book of Records at one time showed these seizures as the world’s largest by street value. As many as 120 people were arrested in the UK and France and over £800,000 discovered in Swiss bank accounts.

In 1978, 15 defendants appeared at Bristol Crown Court. Most of the defendants pleaded guilty owing to the mass of incriminating evidence. Richard Kemp pleaded guilty and received 13 years in jail, as did Henry Todd. Nigel (Leaf) Fielding and Alston Hughes (Smiles) were sentenced to 8 years. In total, the 15 defendants received a combined 124 years in jail.

As a result of the seizure it was estimated the price of LSD tabs rose from £1 to £5 each, and that Operation Julie had removed 90% of LSD from the British market. It is thought that LSD produced by the two labs had been exported to over 100 countries. In total, 1.1 million tabs and enough LSD crystal to make a further 6.5 million tabs were discovered and destroyed. The total street value of the LSD would have been £7.6 million.

The BBC has said that Operation Julie began the era of the ‘War on Drugs.’1 I am unconvinced that claim, made in 2011, is correct. I do not believe any kind of war existed back then. That became obvious to any onlooker at the time who could see the bond that developed between many of the drugs gang members and the detectives involved in Operation Julie – in many cases forged out of a mutual respect.

Although synonymous with LSD, Operation Julie also uncovered a huge plot to import vast quantities of cocaine into Britain. Two undercover cops unearthed that plot. This book tells of how undercover detectives infiltrated the drugs gangs dealing in LSD. And, at the same time discovered the cocaine plot. I was one of those two detectives, the other was Eric Wright.

In writing this book I have had the invaluable assistance of the ‘Llanddewi Brefi Log’ - the daily record of the undercover work performed by me and Eric Wright. I also relied on copies of witness statements I had contemporaneously recorded at the time of the Operation Julie investigation. The memories of those days are still vivid but those documents filled in some key details.

A note for my American readers, you may note references in my book to the entity of ‘England and Wales’ – it may assist you to know that England and Wales is a single legal jurisdiction. Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own legal systems. Thus, there are three discrete legal jurisdictions in the United Kingdom.

The book is neither pro or anti-drugs. Some people will always search for highs. I do not advocate the use of illegal drugs as I believe they are not necessary to live a meaningful life. Sometimes, they result in the opposite. And, on occasions, some end up with no life at all through drug abuse. I have no intention, nor wish, to preach to anyone.

I ask that you accept this book for what it is – an honest account about an ordinary man performing an extraordinary job. A job not many experience. I aim to help you understand what it is like to be an undercover detective - an infiltrator.


1 Operation Julie: How an LSD raid began the war on drugs http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-14052153


Who Am I?

The Canadian could be an assassin. For sure, a big player dealing in vast quantities of heroin and cocaine. Bolivia is the source of the cocaine powder. It arrived into his control in an almost 100 percent form. By the time it reached the streets of London it became a changed beast. If lucky, you may have had a purity of 45 percent.

He did not control the chain of distribution all the way to street-level dealers. No need for that. Way too risky and more importantly, by the time he sold a one-pound ‘weight’ to me, Steve Jackson, he had made a handsome profit.

I am the British man talking to the Canadian in a Liverpool nightclub in 1976. Coke, charlie or snow, to use some of its names, remained the preserve of the wealthy in 1976. Expensive, but popular with rock stars. A massive market and a huge opportunity for profit existed in Britain.

The deal had been laid out on the table. The Canadian and I became parties to a conspiracy to import serious weights of cocaine into Britain.

The Canadian’s mood changed. Why? Not clear to me at all. Without him revealing too many details, the Canadian had impressed me with the plan.

Bolivia – check!

Go-fast boat in place – check!

Air hostess to bring the contraband into Britain – check!

Prices and discounts for quantity – check!

Snap! The mood did change, and how!

“Are you guys cops?”

Wham! This question hit me like a vivid lightning strike from a clear blue sky. The words rolled around inside my head like rolling thunder.

A simulated assassination followed. A double-tap from a silenced semi-automatic pistol favoured by professional hitmen the world over. A close-range execution.

He raised one hand next to my head. The Canadian pointed his joined forefinger and middle finger in imitating a gun. The fingers touched my skin.

He silently mouthed the silenced spitting sound as two imaginary shells splattered my brains out of the gaping exit wounds at the far side of my head.

Pop! Pop!

***

From 1976 to 1980 Steve Bentley the detective turned into Steve Jackson the drug dealer, who turned back into Steve Bentley, the police officer. I am both men and this is my story.

Depression is no fun. My superiors had beckoned me, no, ordered me to attend Hampshire Police Headquarters in Winchester in the March of 1980.

I drove myself to Winchester from Farnborough. It seemed a long 20 miles. The radio turned off in the car. No cassette in the slot. The only noise inside my own head. A spinning noise. But silent! More like a whirring noise. But silent! Noise can be silent. I had no idea what I was doing save for the fact I had an appointment with the police force doctor and the Deputy Chief Constable (DCC). The DCC is like an Assistant Commissioner of Police in the United States.

In a state of fugue, I managed to walk through the entrance doors of the multi-storey police headquarters. I introduced myself to Reception showing my warrant card. She, the receptionist, expected me and told me to take the lift to the higher reaches of the building. There a seat awaited me. I also waited for the summons by one of the gods. It felt like a flashback to schooldays and being sent to see the beak. Like a good boy, I complied and waited.

The route to the floor of the gods seemed littered with the faces of people familiar to me. Some of them were unfamiliar, but they appeared to know me. On occasions, someone said hello. A sort of nervous twitch hello, not a “how the hell are you” kind of hello. I was aware but unaware. It seemed like a void. Kind of like watching a silent movie but with me as one of the actors.

I had a two o’ clock appointment. A good time owing to the fact my recent habits included lying in bed until at least noon. I sat on a chair in a corridor and waited. I stared at the floor, stared at the walls and stared at the ceiling. No windows to stare out. I waited and stared. Silent whirring noises still spun in my head. My thoughts were a blank canvas with splashes of invisible colour. ‘Is this real? Am I dreaming it?’ My thoughts would not leave my head.

“Sergeant Bentley.” A woman in a nurse’s uniform startled me.

“Yes.”

“Please come in.”

She gestured towards a door with a sign saying “Force Surgeon.”

Glancing at my watch, I saw the hands had turned 3 pm. I recall thinking, ‘I have been waiting here since 1.45 pm!’

The doctor introduced himself. He made a point of telling me his speciality - a general practitioner. Not a psychiatrist or psychologist.

He started with, “So what’s the problem?”

“I don’t know. You tell me.”

“You have been off work sick for some three months now. Is that correct?”

“Yeah.”

“When do you plan on returning?”

“Straight after this meeting.”

“Oh! Good.”

“Yeah, I’m going straight home after this meeting.”

“I see. I thought you …”

“I know what you thought I meant.”

“So, what about a return to work?”

“I have no idea.”

“Hmm. Okay, tell me how you feel.”

“Like shit.”

“Please be more explicit.”

“Like fucking shit. How’s that for explicit?”

My nothing in my head would not allow me to be explicit. I could not explain what was troubling me. I knew what it felt like but it was in a deep part of me that I could not see or touch. I knew it was there. It had a rawness like an open wound. In place of frankness that I found impossible, I asked a question.

“Is this confidential? Between me and you. Doctor and patient stuff.”

“Well, I have a duty to make a report on your fitness to work.”

The word ‘well’ at the beginning of an answer usually bodes ill in my experience. It is similar to the use of the words ‘with respect’ when addressing a matter with which you do not agree.

“Look, with respect, how can you make a report when you’re not qualified?”

“Excuse me…”

“You heard, you aren’t qualified. Can you see anything physically wrong with me?”

“No.”

“Well there you are then. I’m off!”

The corridor and the chair welcomed me back. They didn’t wish to talk and I didn’t need to explain anything to them. I waited for the summons into the DCC’s office. His secretary spoke to me after I had been waiting for an hour. It is now 4.30 pm. She apologised to me, telling me the DCC had been unexpectedly involved in a long but important telephone call.

“Okay, thanks.” But I wasn’t thinking ‘okay’ at all.

Important? What’s more important than keeping an appointment with me? This is my future up for discussion. My thoughts were still whirring. ‘DCC?’ He was known for his sourpuss face and hard-man reputation. The DCC role in all police forces is known as an arbiter of internal disciplinary matters. The thought train continued… ‘Maybe heads are going to roll?’

I swear I saw disembodied heads rolling along the corridor. I laughed out loud. ‘I’m for the high jump?’ popped my next thought. ‘Perhaps Fosbury1 flopping would be a good way to enter the DCC’s office?’ These thoughts ran through my mind at the same time as Procol Harum’s ‘Whiter Shade of Pale.’

At that point, a lucidity returned. It became so clear what I had to do. I rose from the silent chair, walked to the lift and retraced my journey to the floor of the gods in reverse. I knew I had made my decision. Fuck them all!

No one in the history of the Hampshire Police had dared to walk out of such an appointment before or since that day.

I was asked to be explicit. This is explicit. I had not worked for three months prior to my appointment with the DCC. I had reported sick. I had seen my own doctor who confirmed depression. My doctor referred my case to a local hospital for me to see a psychiatrist. I failed to attend the appointments.

Depression is no longer a stigma like it was in the 1980s. I could not countenance that I needed help. My pride and stubbornness meant I was too ashamed to admit I was no longer in control.

What caused my depression?

In 1980, I, Steve Bentley, believed I was a career police officer. I was proud of what I had achieved in my undercover role during Operation Julie. It was the high point of my police career and a memory I will carry with me to the grave. I fought and worked hard to get to a point to be hand-picked by Dick Lee for Operation Julie in 1976. I clawed my way there and never wanted Julie to end. The Julie squad evolved into a formidable group of investigators and ought to have been allowed to continue, particularly to combat the gangs importing cocaine and heroin into Britain.

My own undercover role as Steve Jackson had a price. I became alcohol-dependent and, to a lesser degree, dependent upon cannabis and cocaine. It proved disastrous for my second marriage, which dissolved shortly after the conclusion of Operation Julie.

A promotion came my way following Operation Julie. I became a Detective Sergeant based in Farnborough, Hampshire. I flew by the seat of my pants in that role. The job was all too easy and so mundane following my undercover exploits. I arrived late for work too many times, caused by hangovers from the previous night’s drinking. I also met my future third wife. She, or rather my relationship with her, was the catalyst for my slump into a deep depression.

When I met her I was drinking heavily, crazily. Stopping out all night, often falling into a drunken stupor in a pub. I was also still smoking dope.

It was love between Catherine and me. The longest, closest, most passionate and spiritual relationship I had encountered. I moved in with her while still married to my second wife and still a Detective Sergeant in Farnborough.

What followed is possibly scarcely believable now in the 21st Century. I became a victim of an attitude so typical of the police force in the late 1970s and early 1980s. My superiors objected to me living with a woman while unmarried. This objection took the form of transferring me to Southampton, 40 miles away from Farnborough. To rub salt into the wound, they expected me to perform uniformed duties as a Sergeant and allocated a single man’s hostel to live in.

This was unacceptable on many fronts.

I was a detective through and through; from the tender age of 21 I had been recognised as a good thief-taker. My high scoring in the final tests of the Home Office Detective Training Course had gotten me noticed. Following my move from Merseyside to Hampshire in 1971, I spent some time back in uniform. I detested that time. I worked hard and earned my right to shed the uniform. It did not come easy.

Now I saw myself faced with a blatant effort to separate me from Catherine and a forced move back to uniform duties. I could not countenance either prospect. I was seriously depressed by these developments. The mess was exacerbated by a visit from Norman Green, a police Superintendent who knew me well and held me in high regard.

Green came to Catherine’s home in Farnborough and asked to speak with me privately. That seemed fine by me, but Catherine sharply told Green that anything he had to say could be said in front of her. She remained.

My absence from work came to be treated as a disappearance. I failed to communicate with anyone about my sickness. I simply stopped going to work. My disappearance began to be treated with some urgency when an all-force bulletin circulated in an attempt to locate me.

No one could find me except Green. He made no headway in his attempts to persuade me to go back to work and accept my transfer to Southampton. He made no headway because telling me what to do without listening reinforced my stubbornness. Perhaps if he had asked me to explain and pour out my troubles, we may have made progress. But I doubt it. I did not want to talk about work or the R word - responsibility.

I found it galling that he reported back that I had been found living in squalor. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Catherine was a homemaker. Okay, when he visited, the house may have been a tad untidy. Her four kids lived there and Catherine worked nights at the local hospital so maybe she was busy the day Mr. Green visited and failed to tidy up. I am sure that Catherine would also appreciate me mentioning that this visit took place without warning.

Of course, an impression gained momentum about my craziness, no doubt given further impetus by me living with a woman with four kids. Friends were concerned about me. Some even thought of me as reckless.

These were superiors who had no idea about undercover work, drugs, alcohol abuse, or an assassination threat in Liverpool by the Canadian cocaine dealer. Green and the others expected me to shake off depression like a stray piece of cotton on my clothing. Just brush it off and get on with things – reporting back for duty in Southampton.

Ex-Detective Sergeant 708 Stephen Bentley reporting for duty! How could I report for duty in the middle of a nervous breakdown? It took me many years to realise that in 1980 I suffered from more than acute depression.

Let me say at the outset that I do not seek sympathy nor do I regret the events that took place between 1976 and 1980. I thought about calling this book And in the Middle of Investigation I Break Down. I had a Beatles song in mind.


1 Dick Fosbury was a 1968 Olympics Gold Medal high jump winner who perfected a new style of jumping


LSD Culture

Operation Julie has often been referred to as a police undercover operation. Nothing could be further from the truth. A lot of the investigation required good old-fashioned routine detective work. Much of it involved surveillance of targets and suspects, including some details I am forbidden to write about owing to Britain’s Official Secrets Act. The 25 members of the Operation Julie team tracking or tailing the suspects’ vehicles carried out this surveillance work. Surveillance was not limited to tailing suspects, but also homes and business premises for lengthy periods. The Operation Julie detectives even posed as innocent holidaymakers and, on one occasion, as surveyors. All done to disguise the fact they were watchers.

None of this is true undercover work.

When you go undercover you assume a complete new identity. You mix with and hope to infiltrate the bad guys. “Infiltrator” is a better description of deep undercover work. It is not working as a narco (narcotics officer) or a police officer masquerading as a drug buyer. He or she invariably gets to go home at night, works a shift and returns to normality. They carry a badge and retain their true identity. Infiltration is a stressful and demanding role. It can last for days, hours, weeks, months or even years.

Only four true undercover officers worked on Operation Julie. Eric Wright and Steve Bentley, two of the four. The other two drifted in and out. They did not spend days, weeks and months undercover, constantly pretending to be someone else. Imagine living eight months of your life existing as another person.

So many myths have surrounded Operation Julie. Part of that myth building has been caused by lazy journalism over the years and still continues today. Last year, 2016, was the fortieth anniversary of the formation of the Operation Julie squad. Already news articles have appeared harking back to the UK’s biggest ever drugs bust. The lazy journalism is still repeated even now.

Story lines and headlines such as “Julie's ‘hippies’ put Kemp's Tregaron home under surveillance, and noted his regular 50 mile commutes to Plas Llysyn, an old mansion in Carno near Llanidloes1.” And from the same BBC source, “[A]nother group of ‘hippies’ monitored the mansion from an old caravan, and when they secretly broke in, water samples taken from the cellar chemically matched LSD samples the police had previously seized.” An earlier 2011 BBC article spoke of “... dozens of undercover officers were sent into west Wales posing as hippies to place them under surveillance during a 13-month operation.”

None of those BBC articles are accurate. I repeat - only four true undercover officers worked on Operation Julie. Eric Wright and I were two of them.

What follows is a true story. It does not pretend to be the whole story of Operation Julie as that is well documented elsewhere. Operation Julie, rightly so, is associated with breaking up one of the largest LSD manufacturing facilities and worldwide distribution networks the world has ever seen.

What is not known is the detail of how my undercover work, with my undercover partner Eric, connected into a huge plot to import cocaine into Britain and identified the main players in that conspiracy. It is a personal narrative where I hope to show you at least a glimpse into undercover police work. I will do what I never allowed during my undercover days – I will let you into my head.

Before I divulge the secrets inside my head, a few words about the other books written about Operation Julie as there is a reasonable chance you some of you may have read one or more of them.

As far as I am aware this is the seventh book that deals with Operation Julie, either as a whole or using it as part of a story. Only three books purported to have been written by police insiders to the investigation. This book is the only one to have been written by an insider from start to finish, by actually pounding the keyboard and using my own words and feelings, as opposed to written by a ghost writer.

First there was ‘Operation Julie’3 by Colin Pratt and Dick Lee. Dick Lee was the man in charge of the Operation Julie Squad. It was his brainchild and he saw it through until the end even though partway through the investigation Detective Superintendent Greenslade replaced him. That appointment was politically motivated. Lee had ruffled too many establishment feathers and figures. I viewed Greenslade as a puppet nearing retirement. He was a yes-man and a conventional policeman.

Colin Pratt was a journalist on the Daily Express at the time of Operation Julie. This first book was ghost written by Pratt. It is a decent book, well told and well written. Unfortunately, it contained unnecessary and inaccurate comments about terrorist groups and individuals wrongly claimed to have been associated with these groups. It is, however, other than the issue I have mentioned, largely an accurate tale of the investigation. I am compelled to say that because it describes me as “the tall, slim, good-looking detective from Hampshire.” Furthermore, when describing the team he had assembled, Lee asked for Steve Bentley “a quiet, friendly, talented detective whom [he] had long admired.” Clearly, it is a book full of truth.

‘Busted! The Sensational Life-Story of an Undercover Hippie Cop’4 by Ed Laxton and Martyn Pritchard published in 1978 was next in line. Martyn was a successful and experienced undercover officer with the Thames Valley Police Drug Squad before continuing in the same role on Operation Julie. Laxton was a journalist with the Daily Mirror and the book was ghost written by him. It is a lurid tale of undercover work spoiled by doubtful stories and riddled with ‘head’ and criminal underworld parlance. It has the word ‘sensational’ in the title and that is the clue to the style and content. Both these first two books smacked of rushed efforts to unashamedly cash in on the extensive news coverage following the Operation Julie busts and sentencing of the conspirators.

The next and third book directly connected to Operation Julie is ‘Operation Julie: The World’s Greatest LSD Bust’5 by Lyn Ebenezer. I have little to add about this book. It is written by a local Welsh journalist and per his version it appears the whole of Operation Julie centred on Wales.

The next two books are more to do with the historical background of LSD as a culture in its own right. They both make interesting reading for anyone interested in the history of LSD, its culture and iconic figures, and a ‘trip’ down memory lane back to the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, the Merry Pranksters, Ken Kesey and ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ and even further back. They are ‘The Brotherhood of Eternal Love’6 by Stewart Tendler and David May and ‘Albion Dreaming: A popular history of LSD in Britain’7 by Andy Roberts.

Finally, a book called ‘To Live Outside the Law: Caught by Operation Julie, Britain’s Biggest Drugs Bust’8 by Leaf Fielding is written by an ‘insider’ of another kind. Fielding ended up behind bars after pleading guilty to being part of the LSD distribution chain. It is a well-written book but, for me, it is padded with tales of his childhood and other matters not connected to Operation Julie.

There are other countless sources of information about Operation Julie on the internet. Many of them are of dubious provenance and serve to attack the establishment in a defence of the LSD counter-culture. LSD at the time of Operation Julie was a Class A proscribed substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act. It still is. If there was any weight in their arguments about LSD, then why is there no lobbying movement to try and influence legislators to legalise it? There was certainly a debate, and still is, about cannabis and a movement widely known as the ‘Legalise Cannabis’ organisation.

The conspirators in the Operation Julie saga knew the risks they took in manufacturing and distributing a Class A drug. One of the main characters in my story, Smiles, summed that up so succinctly to me. I wanted to meet him following the arrests and I did so in a police cell at Swindon Police Station.

He kindly said to me, “No hard feelings. It’s all part of the game.”

The advocates of the use of LSD are articulate and intelligent people. However, may I remind them of what Huxley himself thought about the use of LSD and I quote the Tendler and May book6 -


From the very beginning there had been an edge in the drug experiences bordering, frighteningly, on insanity. Huxley's second wife, Laura, herself an LSD psychotherapist, later wrote: 'Always Aldous emphasizes how delicately and respectfully these chemicals should be used.' LSD should only be taken with a doctor's consent and then when the subject was peaceful, in good health, friendly surroundings and wise company.


Some of the main players in the conspiracy held the view that they were entitled to ‘spread the word’ about LSD in a similar vein to Timothy Leary and others involved in the earliest days of the LSD counter-culture. If they were as intelligent as many, including me, make out, then it is astounding they engaged in both self-deception and hypocrisy on a grand scale.

Smiles knew he was a dealer. He lived by his wits and selling drugs – nothing more and nothing less. He was honest to himself. Richard Kemp was the chemist manufacturing LSD, with Christine Bott as his willing assistant. The American, David Solomon, with connections back to the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, recruited Kemp to make acid. The pseudo-altruistic messages pouring forth from the likes of Kemp and Bott were just poppycock. Money motivated them also. They just found it inconvenient to admit it. Okay, they lived the simple life in the Welsh cottage with the goats and the vegetable patch. But how many ‘good lifers’ like them also had Swiss bank accounts? Furthermore, if the account by Tendler and May is correct, then why did Kemp become so concerned with money in his early days in France working as the chemist for Solomon?

The original LSD culture centred around the beat generation of the 1950s and early 1960s. The drug originally the preserve of artists, authors and academia. Eventually even the early ‘evangelists’ of LSD, treating it as a kind of sacred object, succumbed to the temptation to make easy money. The Brotherhood of Eternal Love (the organisation, not the book) is a story heavily featuring the criminal Hell’s Angels gangs of California. Operation Julie and the massive drugs ring it smashed is a legacy of those days.

All of the proselytising falling from the mouths of the advocates of LSD also conveniently forgets another factor. Poly-drug use is common place. Most street dealers and users of drugs sell or use more than just one single type of drug. This opens up opportunities for the drug user who is new to the scene of being attracted to the prospect of trying and experimenting with new drugs. Smiles had access to LSD, cocaine, marijuana and hash. In my experience, both as a former undercover officer, drugs squad detective and criminal defence barrister, that is common.

I appreciate that the following tales are apocryphal, but they are true. A neighbour of mine told me many years ago he still suffered unpleasant flashbacks years after he ceased to use LSD. Turning to the topic of cannabis, a close friend told me he had stopped using cannabis on a regular basis. Why? He had reached a stage when he forgot important things to do and important appointments in his work diary.

The responsible advice to anyone who wishes to trip on acid is to have a ‘sitter’ and ensure you are in a peaceful and comfortable state of mind. Unfortunately, it is not everyone who follows that advice. It isn’t like your acid tab comes with a health warning and usage instructions in a container like you get from a pharmacy with a prescribed or over-the-counter drug.

The effects of any hallucinogenic drug, including cannabis, can be unpredictable. You can Google your own sources, if you so wish, to find out more about ‘bad acid trips’ but I did find one after a cursory search9. Surely, the unpredictability is good enough reason for the likes of LSD and cannabis to be outlawed? If you hold the opinion cannabis is not a hallucinogenic, think again. And read all of my book.

I don’t believe I am a hypocrite. I used drugs during my undercover days and since then on a number of occasions. I haven’t used any for years now. I am open minded about certain drugs. I neither advocate their use or condemn anyone that uses them. I recognised the dangers of drug use in my own life and what I object to are the one-sided arguments used in the debate about drugs.

In case you wonder, and it isn’t a spoiler, I never did trip on acid. It was never a problem to refuse acid. Acidheads, and the ‘head world’ in general, know it’s not for everyone. Even, if it is for you, there is a universal acceptance in the drug world that you have to be in the moment to contemplate dropping even one single tab.


1 Operation Julie: Forty years since mid-Wales LSD bust http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-35963741

2 Operation Julie: How an LSD raid began the war on drugs http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-14052153

3 Lee, Dick & Colin Pratt (1978). Operation Julie: How the Undercover Police Team Smashed the World's Greatest Drugs Ring. W. H. Allen/Virgin Books.

4 Laxton, Colin & Pritchard, Martyn (1978). Busted! The Sensational Life-Story of an Undercover Hippie Cop. Mirror Books Ltd.

5 Ebenezer, Lyn (2010). Operation Julie: The World's Greatest LSD Bust. Y Lolfa.

6 Tendler, Stewart & May, David (1984). Brotherhood of Eternal Love (Panther Books) First Edition

7 Roberts, Andy (2008). Albion Dreaming: A popular history of LSD in Britain. Marshall Cavendish Limited.

8 Fielding, Leaf (2011). To Live Outside the Law: Caught by Operation Julie. Serpent’s Tail.

9 Five Bad Acid Trip Stories First Hand Experiences of LSD https://www.verywell.com/five-bad-acid-trip-stories-22096.


Baby Detective

The Operation Julie squad was formed in 1976. Early in that year I was a detective assigned to the Hampshire Drugs Squad. It was an unfamiliar role for me. I had been a real detective in the Lancashire police force from 1968 to 1972, based on Merseyside. Working on major crime throughout the old county of Lancashire and the new county of Merseyside.

I was a product of the 1960s. The only drugs I knew of as a teenager in Liverpool were purple hearts (amphetamine pills). And, that you could buy reefers (joints) in Liverpool 8. Drugs back then were available through the West Indian community. To be precise, in the shebeens (illegal drinking clubs) of Toxteth. Weed was available there. As a young police officer at the back end of the ‘60s, I became aware of heroin addicts because of a spate of chemist shop burglaries committed by heroin addicts.

Most of my probationary police service happened in Eccles, Greater Manchester. I soon transferred to Kirkby, a large Liverpool overspill town. My probationary period ended in 1968. Eccles is where I first developed my hankering to become a detective. One episode in particular drew me toward the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

As I walked my beat, I started to chat to a guy working on a car in the street. I wore full uniform.

I wished him, “Good day!”

He was under the car bonnet and popped his head out, smiled and said, “How are you, officer?”

He was a little older than me, perhaps he was twenty-five.

“Your car?” I asked.

“Yes, just checking an oil leak. Do you fancy a brew?”

“Good idea. I’ve still got three hours to kill of this shift. I’d love a cup of tea, milk, no sugar please.”

His car was parked outside of his terraced house. A few minutes later he re-appeared from the house with two mugs of tea in his oily hands.

“There you go, constable. Enjoy.”

We stood in the street chatting and drinking our tea.

“Fancy a smoke?” He offered me a cigarette from an opened pack.

“Yeah, thanks.” I loosened off the chin strap and removed my helmet to light up. It’s strange how that seemed to make it okay to smoke in uniform in public.

The conversation was about cars. I spotted a new-looking car stereo fitted in the car dashboard. It appeared younger than the car. The chat turned to car radios and stereos.

“You got a car, officer?”

“No, not yet but I’m saving for one.”

“Shame,” he said, “I can get you whatever car radio you want.”

“How’s that?”

“I pinch them.”

“Yeah, pull the other one.”

“No, I’m serious officer. I nick ‘em from parked cars. I can get you what you want. Just tell me and I’ll get it.”

It remains a mystery to me why he started to confess to a series of thefts. For two years he had been stealing car radios from parked cars. I arrested him.

On arrival at the police station, the Sergeant told me to take my prisoner upstairs to the CID office. That inner sanctum entered by invitation only. You didn’t go there unless told. A detective known as Big John took on the case after I told him what had happened. He asked if I wanted to stick around and see how the “real police” work. I did. I was in awe.

Shortly after that incident a house burglar murdered an elderly lady in Eccles. A small army of strangers took over the police station. It became populated by a squad of detectives drawn from all over Lancashire. Again, I was in awe. These guys oozed confidence. I sat in silence during the refreshment break in the police canteen. I listened to the ‘war stories’ and jokes and soaked up the atmosphere.

Discretion is important in policing. I learned about it in Eccles. I saw a young boy stealing bottles of milk from doorsteps. I followed him to a nearby house. He entered clutching about six bottles under his arms. I decided to knock on the door. This took place in the early hours.

A big tough-looking guy opened the door. He appeared to be about thirty-five years old. His black hair was swept back with grease and he was wearing braces to hold up his trousers. In an unmistakeable Cockney accent, he asked me what I wanted. A direct question but polite in his tone. I told him what I had seen.

“Come in, come in officer. I’m sure we can sort this out.”

I walked into the death throes of a party. Bottles and cans of booze littered the room. A blonde Barbara Windsor look-alike smiled and said hello. About ten people filled the room.

“Now look, if it’s about the milk ...” the big guy had a fiver in his hand. He thrust it toward me.

“No thanks,” I said.

“Well, have a drink then.”

I had a can of beer with them and admonished the kid who had stolen the milk. Everyone smiled. I later found out that it was one of the Krays I had been speaking to.

I refused money from one of the Krays (the Krays were two 1960’s east London gangster brothers, Ronnie and Reggie). I never took a penny off anyone in the whole of my police career. I saw corruption. I saw a uniformed police constable steal a chocolate bar from a shop. I went to the shop after the alarm had been set off. The shop owner saw him too. Dismissal from the police service for that officer was a correct decision. In my early CID days, I also saw corruption. The instances were few and far between, but they did happen.

One such incident started off as humorous. I had started an investigation into a break-in at a men’s fashion shop in Crosby, Liverpool. Thieves cleared it out of suits, shirts and shoes. An informant led us to a block of 13-storey flats in nearby Litherland. I had a search warrant to search four of the flats on the ninth and tenth floors.

As we climbed out of our vehicles, we heard shouts, “Bizzies! Bizzies are here.” Bizzies is Liverpool slang for police. On looking up toward the flats it seemed like it was raining. Not cats and dogs, but coats, suits, trousers and shoes, all still wrapped in their plastic protection - a funny sight. There seemed no point in searching. The stolen goods and the evidence now scattered over the car park.

The evidence ended up in the back of a police van. Thousands of pounds’ worth of stolen clothes filled it. One uniform officer stood at the back of the van loading. We then drove to Seaforth Police Station to deposit the goods in the property store, the same officer now responsible for unloading the van.

As he passed each item over to waiting officers, he said, “One for the store and one for the boys.”

I walked away. Whistle-blowers were not in vogue in those days.

I developed a reputation among my fellow detectives. Don’t do anything underhand in front of Steve Bentley. He will not play ball. A good example of this was a search carried out by me and two of my former colleagues. A terrified young boy of about seventeen had finally gathered courage to report a serious crime. He had been a shop assistant in a stand-alone kiosk part of the larger main store, selling liquor, beer and cigarettes.

For six months, a small group of men terrorised him. They would enter his kiosk when he was alone and demand bottles of liquor and cigarettes. At first he declined, but later succumbed to threats. One of those threats involved squirting lighter fluid over his head from a toy gun - a water pistol. The gang then lit a match and threatened to set him on fire. He described the water pistol as yellow in colour.

We obtained a search warrant. I set off to search the ring-leader's home. I travelled there with my Detective Sergeant (DS) and another detective. Under instructions, I walked into the living room to search there alone. The DS and the other detective marched straight to the bedroom.

Within seconds of entering the bedroom I heard my DS exclaim, “Oh! Look at what I have found.” The tone of voice and the gestures straight out of ham-acting school.

He had a yellow plastic water pistol in his hands when I poked my head in through the bedroom door. It felt wrong. I knew it was wrong but had no proof.

The ring-leader in the strongest terms protested his innocence saying, “It’s a plant. You bastards have fitted me up.”

He maintained that stance all the way through to trial. I gave evidence from the witness box for three days, cross-examined by counsel for all five accused on the search. What could I say? I told the truth. What I thought was pure conjecture on my part. Thoughts and conjecture are invariably inadmissible in a court of law. The DS was cunning enough to send me into that room alone. I wasn’t privy to what actually did happen during the search of that bedroom.

After Eccles, my transfer to Kirkby took place. Plenty of opportunity there to make arrests for crime. Newtown in the popular BBC police drama series ‘Z Cars’ was Kirkby. I got to meet several of the actors when they visited Kirkby. They came to gain some first-hand experience of real policing. In no time at all I was performing temporary CID duties at the tender age of twenty-one. When selected to attend the Home Office Detective Training Course, I reacted with delight. My career as a detective now under way, a baby detective. I had a lot to learn but I learned fast.

Before that detective career started, I learned a lot about people from my time in uniform in Kirkby. Kirkby was a tough place. Boarding up the local shops the norm back then, even when they were open during the day. Crime, violence and drunkenness were rife. The town had a reputation of notoriety. A bit unfair, as many honest, law abiding families lived there. But to most people Kirkby had a ‘wild west’ reputation. It was somewhere you played tick (tag) with hatchets. Yet, I felt comfortable and at home in Kirkby.

Fast Learner

Kirkby was similar in many ways to Huyton where I lived as a kid. The two Merseyside suburbs are divided by the East Lancashire Road and separated by about 5 miles. Both are predominantly working class so that was another reason for my feeling at home in Kirkby. Like Huyton, Kirkby is full of characters all too ready to spin a yarn with typical Scouse1 wit and humour. Both towns also had a reputation for violence. Sometimes the humour was used to distract from the violence. For example, an area of Huyton – a vast housing estate known as Woolfall Heath, was better known as “Mau-Mau2 territory” by local people. It was an area viewed as a no-go area by outsiders and rent collectors.

Kirkby was home to many hard men. Andy was a great bear of a man. He had a shaven head and was proud of the many scars criss-crossing his skull - all marks left by the many police batons that had cracked down on it. It would take several officers to subdue and arrest him when he was full of ale and in a fighting mood.

The town was also home to the Conteh family. John Conteh was a successful professional boxer. But some of his brothers chose a life of crime, much to the despair of their mother, Rachel. Rachel was a lovely gentle woman married to Frank Snr., who hailed from Sierra Leone. One of her younger sons enjoyed taking high powered cars for a spin. The only problem was the cars didn’t belong to him nor did he have a licence to drive. I followed him in a high-speed chase at night trying to catch up with him. He drove too fast for me. He was a fast driver, but dangerous too. I decided enough was enough once he went through the red light on the busy East Lancashire Road junction. Anyway, I recognised him and would arrest him later. I did arrest him.

The youngster appeared at Liverpool Juvenile Court. Waiting all day for the case to be called on, I chatted to Frank and Rachel for hours. She pleaded with me to say a good word for her boy. I did but only because I believed in my testimonial. Rachel and Frank expressed gratitude. I think my words saved the boy serving a custodial sentence. I know their gratitude was genuine. They were good people.

The Kirkby police also had some hard men. One of them a most genial, boyish, inoffensive looking man from Belfast named Dennis Dunphy. Yet looks can be deceptive. He had been a good welterweight boxer in Northern Ireland before joining the Lancashire police. The word was he had won ABA titles. My night shift responded to a disturbance late one night. Neighbours had complained about the racket from one of the adjoining flats. On our arrival, we found a man stripped to the waist. He wanted to fight anyone and everyone. He hurled milk bottles from the balcony towards us, the uniformed police. He was also chucking them at the onlookers on the car park. Everybody was in danger.

After quite a struggle and his eventual arrest, we took him to Kirkby Police Station. He continued wanting to fight and refused to enter his cell. Dennis Dunphy stripped off to the waist and invited him to fulfil his desire to fight. The maniac, that is an apt description, wanted an assurance that it would be a fair fight with no interventions. He received that assurance.

A flurry of straight left jabs to the maniac’s face rocked him back. His face soon turned to a mask of blood and snot. The maniac gave up, raising his hands in surrender. Several buckets of water sluiced the blood from his face and he meekly entered his cell. The next day he appeared at court with a swollen, bruised face.

When asked by the magistrates’ clerk what had happened, the maniac said, “Nothing sir. Nothing at all. I’m guilty.”

Most of these hard men were like that. If beaten fairly and squarely, there would be no complaint about heavy handed police officers.

These Kirkby uniform days confirmed my ambition to be a detective. One incident stands out in my mind. I attended the scene of a road traffic accident early in the morning. A little girl had run out in front of a bus and was fatally injured.

I got there to witness the still figure of the girl laying on the road. A pretty little girl and still wearing her floral-patterned school uniform. Her hair neatly tied back, no doubt by her mother, only a short time ago. Her legs had been broken in the impact. But the sight of the blood flowing from underneath her head turned my stomach.

I decided I was ill-equipped to be a first responder at the scene of traffic accidents. Dead bodies on morgue tables never bothered me. Dead little girls who, moments earlier, were happily running around, were another matter.

My permanent CID posting arrived. It came within weeks of passing the nine-week Home Office Detective Training course. Kirkby was my first CID posting. After Kirkby, I worked in the CID office at Crosby on the banks of the River Mersey. Crosby was a complete contrast to Kirkby. From Crosby Police Station, we investigated crime in wealthy suburbs like Blundellsands and Hightown. I soon learned how to deal with a different class of people. They weren’t the working class that I belonged to and I had to adapt. Some of the adaptations were easier than others. I was young and naïve and had a lot to learn about human behaviour and sexual peccadilloes. My Detective Sergeant (DS) at Crosby was a fine detective. Like many of that era, he had a penchant for drinking. Every night was a booze excursion to a different pub. He was well-known in all of them.

This DS was particularly fond of one pub in Hightown and I soon found out the reason. There was a banker and his attractive wife who were regulars in that pub. They had a routine of inviting my DS and his detectives back to their substantial home after the pub had closed. That is what happened on my first trip to this pub with my DS. I had my eyes opened after we arrived at the banker’s home. The invitation was not restricted to having a few drinks. No, for my DS it was more than that. The banker ushered his wife and the DS into the front living room. I made to follow.

“No, stay in the hall. We’ll have a drink here and I’ll get my gun,” the banker said.

I was curious. He returned from the kitchen with glasses, a bottle of single malt and an air rifle!

He set up a dart board at the far end of the 40-yard hall.

“Okay, you go first,” as he handed me the air rifle.

We had target practice, drank the fine malt whiskey, and listened to my DS humping the wife in the room next door.

“Fuck me! Fuck me harder!”

The banker on hearing his wife, masturbated. I was on a steep learning curve about people and human nature.

Within twelve months of my first CID posting I joined the elite Lancashire Task Force. This was a mobile squad of detectives, a bit like London’s Flying Squad without the corruption. I soon investigated some six murders throughout the county. All within a twelve-month time scale. This was real police, as they would say in ‘The Wire.’ It was a fantastic experience and a great grounding for a young detective like me.

The Task Force was Joe Mounsey's idea. Sometimes the local CID did not have sufficient manpower. Our purpose was to help out the local CID whenever a serious crime took place. It required a concentrated effort to solve the crime quickly. He was present to give the morning and evening briefing and de-brief every single day. Mr. Mounsey was a great detective and it was a pleasure to serve under him. He treated us like men. He expected us to perform and we did, partly because of the high regard for him as a man and a detective. We had a further bonus: new cars to drive, two- litre Ford Cortinas. They had no outward police markings but were fitted with VHF radio sets, a pop up Police/Stop sign in the rear window, sirens and a magnetic blue lamp capable of roof mounting.

I almost failed the selection process for this elite squad. The interview took place at Knowsley Hall near Liverpool, the home of Lord Derby. The main hall is accessible via a long gravel drive. It must be about two miles long. On my way in for the interview I thought back to the days when I used to deliver newspapers there as a boy living in Huyton. It was a long haul down that drive in a car on the day of my interview. Yet, it didn’t seem so long pushing the pedals of my bicycle to deliver the Sunday papers. The South West Lancashire CID Task Force had taken over part of the main hall as temporary HQ. It helped the Derby family pay for the enormous bills involved in the upkeep of their ancestral home. At least it did until they set up the Knowsley Zoo and Wildlife Park in the grounds.

The library served as the interview venue. It was a huge room with bookshelves that started at floor level and stopped at the ceiling. I caught sight of one of those sliding librarian’s ladders in the corner of my eye. The room had a massive oak table in the middle. Joe Mounsey and other senior detectives interviewed me. I thought the process had gone well until I stood up to leave the room. Retracing my steps towards the exit, all I could see were bookshelves and books. Panic set in. Fumbling about, I found there was a sliding panel door. From the inside it resembled another bookshelf. With a sigh of relief, I slid the door open.

I heard Joe Mounsey call out, “Well done lad. You passed the final test.”

My chest puffed out. I was in and out. In the squad and out of the library.

On moving to Hampshire, I missed this real police work. I say “real” because my early days on the drugs squad did not impress me. The brief involved dealing with street-level dealers and kids for simple possession of a small amount of cannabis. They had their own culture and even their own language. Their conversations full of “man,” “right man” and “far out.” Just like listening to a script from ‘Easy Rider.’

It was a clash of cultures. I was a beer-drinking sports lover. An enthusiastic footballer and cricketer. My literary tastes included Ed MacBain and classics by Charles Dickens or John Steinbeck. Sports were an anathema to most of the drug users I encountered. They were more Lord of the Rings than Lords. I was Beefy (Ian Botham, an England cricketer and beer drinker), they were Captain Beefheart. I was Beatles and the Stones. They were more Jefferson Airplane and Vanilla Fudge. I was conventional. They were unconventional. Therein lies the key to an animosity that exists to this day.

It’s an animosity displayed by some in the drug sub-culture toward authority and police in particular. Many belonging to a drug sub-culture ferociously defend their right to do as they please. They perceive the police as “pigs.” They see police officers charged with a duty to prosecute drug offenders as the enemy. They forget they are lawbreakers. Instead of working from within the system, they bleat about the ‘war on drugs’ from outside. These people also forget that many of these drug dealers sell to anyone. Their customers often include school kids.


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