“What is happening is that we are making thieves.”
- Chief Constable Lieut. Col. Hall-Dalwood, 1925
Chief Constable Hall-Dalwood was the man responsible for stopping the Sheffield gangs. He saw the problem as both a lack of police presence and a lack of prosecution in the judicial system. He complained that the punishments weren’t a deterrent to the crimes. He argued that small fines and light sentences meant that it paid to be a thief. Sheffield was becoming as good at making thieves as it had done steel.
The police were often unable to secure willing witnesses as they couldn’t ensure their protection. After the derisory fines, it’s said that some gang members took taxis back to their gambling patches and immediately resumed business. It was rumoured that the prosecutors were being pressured by the gangs. And further that the police were corrupt. A few years later, three constables and nine bookmakers were indeed charged with bribery.
His force was overwhelmed.
THE SPECIAL DUTY SQUAD
Four days after Plommer’s murder, on 1 May 1925, Chief Constable Hall-Dalwood formed the Special Duty Squad. This soon became known as the Flying Squad. Like a similar unit set up in London to deal with the Birmingham racecourse gangs, it had a simple remit:
Strike fast and hit harder.
It was formed with four of the toughest police in the force. All of them were First World War veterans. Their leader was Sgt Robinson, an ex Coldstream Guard. Then there was PC Walter Loxley. At 6ft 2in, and nearly 20 stone, this former Artillery man was an immoveable force. P.C Herbert Lunn had been awarded the military Medal in France for saving wounded comrades under heavy enemy fire. Lastly, there was Jack Farrily. Before joining the army and the police, this Irishman had earned his money as a street-fighter.
Chief Constable Hall-Dalwood used them to target the gangsters at street level. But such was his effectiveness and such were the political and criminal connections, that he was forced to resign. His Scotland Yard replacement, however, would turn out to be the country’s first ever gang buster.
One of the first recruits the new Chief Constable Percy Sillitoe added was PC Pat Geraghty. At 6ft 5in, Geraghty was said to be able to pick up five tennis balls in one hand. Sillitoe also introduced the European Ju-Jitsu Champion Harry Hunter to train the force in self defence. After seven weeks, each man could deal with 60 methods of attack.
And attack they did. The Flying Squad lived up to their name by throwing people through doors and windows. They rarely opened them first. To set an example, they started beating criminals in plain public view. They then took to taking them round back alleys. On one occasion they battered a criminal in a pub and the landlady fainted. The gangs had relied on brawn, not brains to make their money. On every level, they were now outmatched.
“...these were not the brightest of men.”
With the murder of William Plommer, the stupidity of gang members would be their undoing. Wilfred and Lawrence Fowler hung around sitting on the steps of a chip shop near to where they’d beaten Plommer to death. When the police arrived, Lawrence Fowler admitted to hitting Plommer on the head.
When the police took the brothers to their station they told them it looked like the assault could be very serious. So Lawrence changed his story and said he didn’t hit him.
Sam Garvin was smarter. He’d immediately jumped on a tram, travelled a distance, got off and assaulted the first man he could find. His assault was to be his alibi.
But his ploy failed. He and nine others, amongst them the Fowler brothers, were taken to West Bar Station.