Norman ‘Nobby’ Pilcher obituary


Norman “Nobby” Pilcher, whose dying from most cancers two years in the past on the age of 85 has simply been reported, was the medication squad detective who arrested John Lennon, George Harrison, Brian Jones and Dusty Springfield, however who finally ended up behind bars himself.

Photographs of Pilcher arresting rock stars for drug offences featured on many entrance pages within the Nineteen Sixties, incomes him the nickname “Groupie Pilcher” within the underground press. He claimed later, in a memoir, Bent Coppers (2020), that “the House Workplace have been respiration down our necks to maneuver on extra of the massive names” and that his fellow officers would tip off the press, in trade for money, at any time when somebody well-known was about to be busted.

On 18 October 1968, sporting a postman’s hat as a disguise, Pilcher led his squad into the Marylebone flat of Lennon and Yoko Ono and found that “they have been stark bare”. Lennon can be fined £150 for possession of a small quantity of hashish. Pilcher was impressed by him: “His concepts of peace and kindness have been expressed in his manner and angle, which was fairly humbling.” Later he obtained a postcard from Lennon on tour in Japan with the greeting: “You may’t get me now!”

In his memoir, he recounted that “John Lennon taught me that his use of medication was a matter for him … It’s a truthful level.” He accepted that when Lennon wrote I Am the Walrus with a reference to “semolina pilchard”, he could properly have had Pilcher in thoughts, and was now completely satisfied to be often called “the Walrus”.

Whereas the Lennon arrest was probably the most extremely publicised, many different musicians have been focused by Pilcher’s workforce. Jones, of the Rolling Stones, was raided in 1967 and the next yr Tubby Hayes, the jazz saxophonist, was present in possession of heroin. Harrison and Pattie Boyd have been arrested for small portions of hashish discovered of their dwelling in Esher, Surrey, in 1969. Levi Stubbs of the 4 Tops was held on the Mayfair lodge.

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Norman Pilcher in 2019. He ended up in jail himself and wrote a memoir about his time within the police known as Bent Coppers, 2020. {Photograph}: Day by day Mail

After tip-offs from informers, the houses of the composer Lionel Bart and the singer Dusty Springfield have been additionally raided. Pilcher recounted that Springfield responded with “foul language and insults”.

Pilcher’s father, additionally Norman, was a carpenter who had served in North Africa within the second world battle and his mom, Violet, labored in a munitions manufacturing unit after which ran a boarding home in Margate, Kent, the place Norman junior grew up. After leaving college he joined the military, serving within the army police earlier than being recruited by the Metropolitan police in 1955, aged 20.

He was stationed initially at Bow Road, then in Sidcup, earlier than being promoted to detective sergeant. In 1966, he was approached by the then detective chief superintendent Wally Virgo, who would later be uncovered as one of many Met’s most corrupt senior officers, and requested to affix the already infamous medication squad.

As he put it in his memoir: “The squeaky clear officer was by no means in a position to stay dirt-free if he wished to research crime … London and the Met have been rotten and if you happen to wanted to stroll by muck you’d must be ready to get your garments soiled.”

His workforce have been recognized by different officers as “the Whispering Squad” as a result of they mentioned their work in “quiet corners, so we may whisper”.

The medication squad on the time was infamous for planting medication, though Pilcher denied ever doing so himself.

The scandals inside the Met led to the appointment of Robert Mark as commissioner in 1972 with a quick to wash up Scotland Yard. Pilcher resigned from the Met later that yr and set off together with his household for what he hoped can be a brand new life in Perth, Australia, however he was detained by the police on his arrival in Fremantle harbour.

A warrant for his arrest had been issued in London and he was extradited to face trial for perjury. In the midst of a significant drugs-smuggling investigation, he had fabricated entries in his police diary. He stated in his defence that this was commonplace observe and one thing his senior officers had inspired him to do.

In 1973, after a 38-day Outdated Bailey trial, he was convicted and jailed for 4 years. The choose, Mr Justice Stevenson, advised him: “You poisoned the wells of legal justice and set about it intentionally … not the least grave facet of what you have got completed is present materials for the crooks, cranks and do-gooders who unite to assault the police at any time when the chance arises.”

Pilcher served his sentence in Ford open jail in West Sussex, which he discovered comparatively amenable: “It was frequent observe for us to come out within the night to a neighborhood pub for a drink.” He emerged in 1975 and located work with the London Electrical energy Board, and later ran a driving college and a care dwelling in Kent.

He determined to inform his story in a ghostwritten memoir revealed in 2020. He advised me on the time that he wished to “set the document straight and let the general public know in regards to the corruption inside the police service”. He added that he now believed that “we must always legalise medication and produce them above floor … You’ve solely bought to have a look at prohibition and what that led to.” There are plans to show his story right into a docudrama.

He’s survived by Shirley, whom he met at a celebration in Margate after they have been each aged 14, and his youngsters, Gregg and Joanna.


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