Scotland Yard DCI who inspired Prime Suspect cries about corruption

‘I was vilified for doing the right thing’: Scotland Yard DCI who inspired Prime Suspect fights the tears as she recalls moment she entered the canteen and ‘everybody’ walked out because she had suspended a bent police officer

  • Jackie Malton, 70, was speaking in new BBC documentary series Bent Coppers
  • Series tells the story of institutionalised corruption in the Metropolitan Police
  • She revealed how she was ‘crushed’ after suspending a suspected bent officer
  • Ms Malton broke down as she said she just wanted colleagues to say ‘well done’

A former Scotland Yard detective who was the inspiration for hit show Prime Suspect fought back tears as she recalled how ‘everybody’ left her police canteen when she walked in after suspending a suspected bent officer.

Former Detective Chief Inspector Jackie Malton, 70, was speaking in new BBC documentary series Bent Coppers.

The three-episode series tells the story of institutionalised corruption in the Metropolitan and City of London police in the 1970s.

Ms Malton retired from the Met in 1997 after a 30-year career before going on to advise producers of police television shows.

Prime Suspect creator Lynda La Plante spoke to Ms Malton for hours to create no-nonsense officer DCI Jane Tennison.

The character was portrayed by Helen Mirren in the long-running show before La Plante released a book of the same name.

Speaking in the final Bent Coppers episode, which airs tonight, she told how ‘everybody just stood up and walked out’ after she entered the police canteen following the suspension of a fellow officer suspected of planting drugs on suspects.

Former Scotland Yard detective Jackie Malton (pictured as a young officer in the 1970s), who was the inspiration for hit show Prime Suspect, fought back tears as she recalled how ‘everybody’ left her police canteen when she walked in after suspending a suspected bent officer

Malton, who served at West End Central police station in London’s West End, was among several former officers who spoke in the show about serious corruption.

Tonight’s episode delves into how corrupt officers turned a blind eye to high-profile robberies in the 1970s in return for cuts of the ill-gotten gains.

Last week’s show shed light on members of the Met running a ‘protection racket’ covering sex shops in London’s Soho in the 1970s.

Speaking about her experience, Ms Malton said there was a ‘sense of belonging’ in the force which was ‘so powerful’, making it difficult for any officer to speak out about wrongdoing.

‘If you’re on the kind of the outside of all of that and you kind of challenge it, it’s crushing,’ she said.

‘You just get crushed. When I was posted to West End Central, there was one particular officer, it was alleged was going on drugs raids and planting drugs on people.

 Ms Malton, 70, was speaking in new BBC documentary series Bent Coppers. She is pictured above as a young officer in the 1970s

‘And that reported to me, this officer was suspended and investigated and went to court. That whole process was life defining.

‘I remember walking into Western Central canteen and everybody just stood up and walked out. You were seen as the baddy.

‘You were the seen as the one that had done the wrong thing. That feeling of isolation. There was just nowhere to go.’

Prime Suspect: The show which saw the no-nonsense DCI Jane Tennison fight back against sexist male colleagues 

Prime Suspect, which first aired in 1991, was written and devised by author Lynda La Plante.

Her lead character, Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison, rose through the ranks whilst battling her sexist male colleagues.

She is seen fighting to prove herself amid constant attempts to trip her up whilst solving cases. 

The officer is seen being promoted to Detective Superintendent in the fourth season of the show, before she retires at the end of the final season, which aired in 2006.

La Plante spoke to former Metropolitan DCI Jackie Malton to form the character of Tennison.

Like her fictional counterpart, Ms Malton encountered repeated sexism.  

The former officer then broke down as she said the experience was the ‘toughest thing’.

‘Its madness because I’ve dealt with it… it’s just something that you know you’re vilified for doing something that was right,’ she said.

‘I wanted them to say “you did the right thing Jackie, well done”, they said the opposite to that.

‘But that feeling of wanting to belong to this huge organisation and wanting them to like me for it, was the pain that it caused because they didn’t.

‘They didn’t respect me for it, they didn’t like me for it. And that’s what hurt.’

Her new comments came after she featured in last week’s show, which revealed how the commander of the Met’s prestigious Flying Squad was corrupt.

The officer, Kenneth Drury, took payments from and went on holiday with pornographer Jimmy Humphreys.

Ms Malton said: ‘If you are a commander in the Met and you are corrupt there’s a massive linear structure going down and down and down and then out.

‘And therefore if you’ve got corruption at the top of the organisation at that rank, it’s a very very powerful position to be in.’

During her career, Ms Malton served in departments including the Flying Squad, the Murder Squad and Fraud Squad after joining the force in 1967.

She said in a previous interview that female officers were then expected to only work on crimes which affected women and children.

However, she said female officers were allowed to work alongside men after the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975, which ‘changed everything’, she added.

She joined the Flying Squad, a section of the Met’s serious crime branch, in December 1981.

While there, she worked on horrific murder cases and also attended the 1981 fire in Deptford, where 13 teenagers burnt to death.

She also encountered sexism and said ‘one bloke in particular’ made her life ‘hell, while others acted as if she was ‘in the way’.

Prime Suspect was first released in 1991 and ran until 2006.

Prime Suspect creator Lynda La Plante spoke to Ms Malton for hours to create no-actress no-nonsense DCI Jane Tennison for her novel Prime Suspect. The character was portrayed by Helen Mirren (above) in the long-running show of the same name, which La Plante also wrote

It’s writer Lynda La Plante, based the series off of her novel of the same name. 

Mirren’s Jane Tennison rises to the rank of Detective Superintendent despite facing institutionalised sexism.

Ms Malton, who is openly gay, spoke to La Plante when she was researching the show and said the conversations ‘changed my life’.

She said she spent ‘hours’ chatting to the writer at her home. 

Then, at the next meeting, La Plante would have ‘developed this great plot’ from what the former officer had told her.

She added: ”It was strange watching the first episodes. I was afraid people would say, ‘It’s not really like that.’

‘It was also painful, because that was my experience – I suffered that prejudice, and if other women in the police say they didn’t, I say they’re liars.’

And speaking to the BBC in 2019, Ms Malton said it was ‘tough’ being openly gay in the police force in the 1970s.

She said that whilst colleagues kept their sexuality a secret, she felt it was ‘just easier to come clean’.

She added that, because she was a lesbian, she was given sex toys as presents at office parties.

The final episode of Bent Coppers: Crossing the Line of Duty, airs tonight at 9pm on BBC 2.    

The ORIGINAL AC-12: How 1970s Scotland Yard chief took on its ‘bent detectives’ running ‘the biggest gang in Soho’ that enforced protection rackets on city’s sex shops

By Harry Howard 

Interested in ‘one thing, and one thing only’, Line of Duty’s Ted Hastings leads the AC-12 anti-corruption squad to weed out ‘bent coppers’ in the hit BBC series.

But while his team’s mission to find the elusive ‘H’ continues to grip millions, a new documentary tells the true, revelatory story of corruption in the British police.   

The upcoming second episode of Bent Coppers: Crossing the Line of Duty sheds light on how corrupt members of the Metropolitan Police ran a ‘protection racket’ covering sex shops in London’s Soho in the 1970s.

Officers from the Obscene Publications Squad, led by corrupt officer Bill Moody, carried out periodic raids to make it appear as though they were clamping down on the illegal sale of hardcore pornography, whilst continuing to take bribes from shop owners.

The corruption ran so deep that Kenneth Drury, the commander of the Met’s prestigious Flying Squad of officers, even went on holiday with Soho’s leading pornographer, Jimmy Humphreys.

The police complicity meant that the number of sex shops climbed from 28 in 1969 to more than double that number by 1970.

One insider interviewed in the documentary said the police were the ‘biggest gang in Soho’ in the 1970s.

The officers finally met their match when new Met Commissioner Robert Mark, who was later knighted for his efforts, created a new anti-corruption unit: A-10. 

Their work, along with efforts by newspaper journalists, led to the jailing of Drury, Moody and his boss, Commander Wally Virgo, in 1977. 

The true, revelatory story of wrongdoing in the Metropolitan Police is being told in new BBC documentary Bent Coppers: Crossing the Line of Duty. The upcoming episode tells the story of how corrupt officers ran a ‘protection racket’ covering sex shops in London’s Soho. Pictured: Sir Robert Mark, who as Commissioner of the Met from 1972 until 1977, rooted out corruption

The corruption ran so deep that Kenneth Drury, the commander of the Met’s prestigious Flying Squad of officers, even went on holiday with Soho’s leading pornographer, Jimmy Humphreys

Overall, during Sir Robert’s five years as commissioner, more than 18 officers were collectively sentenced to more than 100 years in prison.

The BBC’s documentary hears from retired investigative journalists and former officers to detail the extent of the sex shops’ activities and the complicity of corrupt policemen.

Also featured are archive interviews with and footage of Commissioner Mark, sex shop owner Jimmy Humphreys and corrupt officer Drury.

The sex shop trade in Soho blossomed due to demand for pornography in the late 1960s being at an all-time high.

Material was smuggled in cheaply from Europe before being sold in shops in the UK.

The job of policing the shops fell to the Met’s Obscene Publications Squad.

Journalist Martin Tomkinson described how the squad operated under the ‘ambiguity’ of the Obscene Publications Act 1959, which governed the sex shop trade.

Publications were deemed obscene if they were ‘liable to corrupt and deprave’, but as Mr Tomkinson said, ‘one person’s corruption is another person’s libertarianism’.

Fellow investigative reporter Paul Lashmar said: ‘The obscene publication squad controlled it, they dealt with it, so they decided what happened in Soho.

In 1969, an investigation by the Times newspaper exposed a corrupt network of officers operating across London.

Humphreys ran several sex shops in Soho which were allowed to carry on selling hardcore material thanks to the complicity of corrupt officers. Pictured: A file photo of a sex shop in Soho in the late 1970s

Humphreys, who is described in the programme as a ‘classic failed criminal’, took over a hardware store in Soho in 1969 and turned it in to a sex shop. Pictured: Humphreys after he was extradited from Holland following his attempt to escape justice

That led to the Met appointing officer Bill Moody to head an inquiry into the wrongdoing.

However, Mr Lashmar said that he was in fact ‘put there to bury it’.

Martin Short, also an investigative journalist interviewed in the BBC programme, said: ‘Every potential pornographer in the country wanted to come into London.

‘One thing you needed to secure the entire operation was a corrupt cop or two.’

The Obscene Publication Squad issued, at their discretion, unofficial licenses which allowed shops to operate.

‘These licenses were unofficial licenses. It was an informal arrangement,’ Mr Short said.

‘Verbal only. Nothing written down. It was a protection racket.

‘A protection racket is one which guarantees you the opportunity to trade but at the same time preventing other people from trading.’

Humphreys, who is described in the programme as a ‘classic failed criminal’, took over a hardware store in Soho in 1969 and turned it in to a sex shop.

Speaking in an archive interview, Humphreys said he gave Moody £4,000 for the license to operate. ‘From that moment, we were in business,’ he added.

Mr Lashmar said of the deal: ‘Moody organised the collection of bribery in a way that had never been done before. This was a rock solid alliance between bent cops and the vice industry.’

However, part of the arrangement was that Moody’s boss, Commander Wally Virgo, was also due a large share.

Mr Short said the pair ‘did not see themselves answerable to any of the regulations which would have applied to other officers. ‘They really did act as a firm in a firm,’ he added.

Interested in ‘one thing, and one thing only’, Line of Duty’s Ted Hastings leads the AC-12 anti-corruption squad to weed out ‘bent coppers’ in the hit BBC series. But the new documentary tells the real story of police corruption

Humphreys (right) admitted to entertaining Drury (left) ‘three, four times a week.’ Drury became so overweight from the meals he enjoyed that Humphreys became worried about his weight and gave him a rowing machine and a course of slimming pills 

Jackie Malton, a former Detective Chief Inspector in the Met, said: ‘If you are a commander in the Met and you are corrupt there’s a massive linear structure going down and down and down and then out.

‘And therefore if you’ve got corruption at the top of the organisation at that rank, it’s a very very powerful position to be in.’

Interviewee Aiden McManus said he was employed along with his father to install a secret porn cinema in the basement of a sex shop.

Commander Wally Virgo was the head of the Met’s Serious Crime Squad

He described how, while they were at work, police raided the shop. He said the man behind the shop’s counter ‘didn’t even blink’.

Once the police had left, he said the man told him: ‘don’t be an idiot man we pay them every week. That was all for show. They raid us once a month for appearances sake.’

‘He told me the whole story about how, if you wanted to operate a sex shop in Soho, you had to pay off the bent police.

The biggest gang in Soho in the 70s was the police. You know what I mean? They were making a fortune, an absolute fortune.

The documentary tells how officers would often warn shop owners that a raid was coming, so that the ‘worst material’ could be removed.

Some goods would be confiscated by police but would then be picked up again by the pornographers from Holborn police station.

The relationship between Humprheys and Moody became to close that it made Virgo ‘upset’ because he felt he was missing out on financial gains.

It was also in Humphreys’ interest to keep Flying Squad chief Drury happy.

Mr Tomkinson said: ‘Ken Drury had a lot of police muscle in the area. So it was in James Humphreys’ interest to keep Ken Drury on side.’

Drury brazenly boasted of his links with the criminal fraternity. In an archive interview, he said: ‘If you have no association with the criminal fraternity, you don’t know what is going on.

‘It’s no good going to the vicar’s tea party and trying to gain information about the activities of organised teams of robbers.’

Humphreys admitted to entertaining Drury ‘three, four times a week.’ Drury became so overweight from the meals he enjoyed that Humphreys became worried about his weight and gave him a rowing machine and a course of slimming pills.

Mr Short said: ‘The relationship between Drury and Humphreys. It’s all quite benign. It’s friendly and extremely cosy.’

But Drury sealed his ultimate downfall by going on holiday to Cyprus with Humphreys and the pornographer’s wife, Rusty.

Laurie Manifold, who was then the assistant editor of the Sunday People newspaper, described how his publication carried out an investigation into Drury’s holiday.

Martin Short, also an investigative journalist interviewed in the BBC programme, said: ‘Every potential pornographer in the country wanted to come into London. ‘One thing you needed to secure the entire operation was a corrupt cop or two’

Former Detective Superintendent John Simmonds was put in charge of the Met’s new anti-corruption unit, A10

Investigative journalist Paul Lashmar said the Obscene Publications Squad ‘decided what happened in Soho’ 

Incredibly, one of his reporters found after going to Cyprus that the holiday had been booked with travel agents Cooks. The bill had been paid directly by Humphreys.

Mr Manifold said: ‘Quite amazingly Cooks produced a copy of the bill for the holiday, the bill was paid by James Humphreys.

‘There was clear proof that the holiday was nothing to do with some secret Scotland Yard operation.

‘It wasn’t booked by Scotland Yard or paid for by Scotland Yard. The whole thing was corrupt without any doubt.’

In April 1972, Commissioner Mark took over the Met. His mantra was ‘a good police force is one which catches more criminals than it employs’.

Speaking in archive footage, he said: ‘A bent detective not only is himself a wrongdoer, not only does he do irreparable harm to a body of men who little deserve to be discredited in that way but he harms the whole fabric of public confidence and the confidence of the courts in the police.

‘As far as I’m concerned he will always be a prime target.’

Mark decided to set up a dedicated anti-corruption unit, which was named A10. Until then, corruption allegations would have been carried out by members of CID (Criminal Investigation Department) themselves.

Largely staffed by uniformed officers, the unit was hated by CID members, who viewed themselves as the elite, Mr Tomkinson said.

Ms Malton said: ‘It was a corruption unit looking at corruption within the police and therefore the CID or anybody would think of those who had gone to A10, whether they had been volunteered or been put there, were not to be trusted.

‘You were seen to be a betrayer of the organisation.’

Journalist Martin Tomkinson described how the squad operated under the ‘ambiguity’ of the Obscene Publications Act 1959, which governed the sex shop trade

Laurie Manifold, who was then the assistant editor of the Sunday People newspaper, described how his publication carried out an investigation into a holiday which Drury’s took with Humphreys

Former Detective Superintendent John Simmonds was put in charge of A10. He said: ‘I got the call up to A10. In one breath I was obviously pleased.

‘But I wasn’t happy that I was going to spend my time day in day out dealing with the bad side of the police service.

‘There’s no let up, there’s no sort of fun side to it at all. It was sad but it was necessary.’

The officers would carry out what Ms Malton called ‘bin spins’ on CID offices. A10 members would ‘sweep everything up’ during their investigations.

Mr Tomkinson said: ‘A10 put fear into the heart of the many corrupt CID detectives, who now realised that the game had radically changed.’

Under pressure as a result of the newspaper investigations and A10’s work, Drury resigned from the force in May 1972. He then sold his story to the now-defunct News of the World.

He claimed that Humphreys and his wife were informers and that he had gone to Cyprus to gather information on the Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs.

Mr Tomkinson said Humphreys was ‘furious’ because he was now viewed as an informant. He called a press conference where he claimed Drury was lying.

Humphreys himself went on the run after he attacked a man who was having an affair with his wife. His flat was raided by officers. There they found diaries which detailed his payments to Drury, Virgo and Moody.

Mr Tomkinson said: ‘His diaries show that Wally Virgo and Bill Moody have, in just a 16-month period, received £53,000. That’s a phenomenal amount of money.’

Interviewee Aiden McManus said he was employed along with his father to install a secret porn cinema in the basement of a sex shop. He described how, while they were at work, police raided the shop. He said the man behind the shop’s counter ‘didn’t even blink’

Jackie Malton, a former Detective Chief Inspector in the Met, said: ‘If you are a commander in the Met and you are corrupt there’s a massive linear structure going down and down and down and then out. ‘And therefore if you’ve got corruption at the top of the organisation at that rank, it’s a very very powerful position to be in’

Asked in an interview if officers were aware that he had been writing the payments down, his wife Rusty said: ‘Oh no, no. I think it came as a great shock to a lot of people. But then none of us thought that this would come out.’

In June 1973, Humphreys was tracked down to the Netherlands. He was sentenced to eight years in prison for the knife attack on his wife’s lover.

He agreed to give evidence against corrupt officers.

Mr Simmonds said: ‘The fear of A10 was like the fear of the policeman walking the street. It should stop the average hooligan seeing a bobby on the beat, if you like A10 became the bobbies on the beat for the police service.’

From 1977, Moody, Virgo and Drury stood trial for accepting bribes. The trio were convicted and sent to prison.

Moody and Virgo were jailed for 12 years, though the latter man’s sentence was quashed after an appeal court found the judge had misdirected the jury.

In July 1977, Drury was convicted on five counts of corruption and received eight years in prison. For his cooperation, he was released early and served only three years.

Mr Short said: ‘Never before, in the history of the Metropolitan Police, had so many senior officers been jailed in one roundup.’ 

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