RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: As the Flying Squad celebrates 100 years, I’ve often wondered how Regan and Carter would adapt to life at the Yard today
After my rather depressing column on the state of modern policing earlier this week, it was encouraging to learn that The Sweeney is still with us.
Yesterday, the Flying Squad celebrated its centenary with a grand lunch in London. I’d like to think that the festivities ended up with a lock-in at some grotty, smoke-fugged East End boozer, full of small-time villains, pimps, blaggers, brasses and grasses.
Jack Regan went home with the barmaid George Carter had been chatting up all night. Frank Haskins spent the evening nursing a small scotch in a large glass of milk, on account of his ulcer.
And Bill the driver was last seen dancing on a table with his trousers round his ankles, exposing a magnificent pair of paisley Y-fronts.
The Sweeney: Dennis Waterman plays Detective Sergeant George Hamilton Carter who comes from south London
Detective Chief Inspector Frederick Wensley, in a constable’s uniform, who was the first Metropolitan Police Flying Squad Detective Chief Inspector. The Flying Squad of the London Metropolitan Police are celebrating their 100th anniversary this September
The unconventional methods portrayed in the ITV series starring John Thaw and Dennis Waterman may have gone out of fashion as Scotland Yard has embraced diversity and political correctness.
But this week the current head of the real-life Sweeney, DCS Mick Gallagher, acknowledged that old-fashioned police work is still vital. ‘Part of our role is to make sure we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater,’ he said.
With an explosion of cyber crime, stabbings and Russian assassins running riot on the streets, cultivating informants and using undercover officers to infiltrate terror cells and organised criminal gangs has never been more important.
I’ve often wondered how Regan and Carter would adapt to life at the Yard today . . .
Where have you been, George?
Well, guv, we was doing 90 on our way to nick a gang of villains in a shed down at Heathrow, when we got pulled over by the traffic division.
Didn’t you explain you were Sweeney? That you were on a shout?
Yes, guv, but they weren’t having any of it. Said Bill was driving dangerously.
He’d certainly had a skinful last night. They didn’t make him take a breath test, did they? Last thing I need is a new stoppo driver.
Breath-test? No, they made him take an eye test.
New policy, apparently. They’re nicking everyone who does 1mph over the limit, never mind 90. They made Bill try to read a number-plate 65 feet away, and when he couldn’t they took the keys off him. We had to get a cab back.
Makes you wonder whose side they’re on. Eye tests? What happened to thief-taking? Got any snout, George?
Leave it out, Jack. You know the Yard’s smoke-free these days. Anyway, how’d you get on with Miss Bethnal Green 1957 last night, especially after I’d put in all the hard work?
Don’t ask, George. I did you a favour. You we’re well off out of it. Right old boiler. I had to fight it off with a stick.
Don’t let Dick of Dock Green hear you saying that, otherwise she’ll be charging you with misogyny.
What, like that Maureen Lipman advert?
No, guv. That was Ology. This is misogyny. Means hatred of women and they’ve just made it a hate crime.
But I don’t hate birds, I love ’em. Most of them, most of the time.
Not the point, guv. Ever since some MP got her knickers in a twist, seeking out misogyny is our new number one priority.
Hate crime? I hate it. Can’t we ever do something about real crime any more?
Actually, guv, now you come to mention it, Nicely-Nicely was on the trumpet earlier.
What do the Funny People want, George? Someone nicked another Stubbs from the Queen’s Gallery?
Frederick Wensley, who led the first Flying Squad unit 100 years ago, in 1918. The head of Scotland Yardís Flying Squad has said that detectives may need to fall back on “older ways” of catching criminals as encryption of technology becomes more of a problem
No, bit more serious than art theft, guv’nor. Remember that poisoning in Salisbury, some Russkie and his daughter?
Novotel, Novocaine, something like that? Rings a vague bell.
Close but no cigar! Novichok, Soviet nerve agent. They’ve identified the two geezers responsible.
What’s that got to do with us?
Turns out they’re a pair of Russian hitmen, work for the KGB, or the GBH, or whatever they call themselves this week. They’ve had it away on their toes, back to Moscow, but they did pass through our ground. Stayed in some dump on the Bow Road.
Not that boozer we were in last night?
Fortunately not, although that old brass at the bar says she recognised them from the CCTV pictures. Said they tried to pay her in roubles.
Fascinating. But I repeat, George, What’s that got to do with the Sweeney? Diplomatic, innit?
Nicely-Nicely says he can’t extradite them officially, so he wants us to get them back.
And how, exactly, Sherlock, are we supposed to do that?
Well, remember that episode with Alfred Marks as the arch villain, Bishop, who flees the country so we can’t arrest him?
With Brian Glover as Moose?
The very same. So we kidnap Bishop’s beloved dog.
Archimedes, wasn’t it?
Well done, a Great Dane. We kidnap Archimedes . . .
And Marks, or Bishop rather, loves the dog so much he flies back to England to fetch him.
Where we feel his collar.
But what’s this got to do with two Russian hitmen?
OK, so I had a word on the old trans-Siberian trombone with that thirsty cop from Moscow we met in the Feathers, when he came over here to bone up on our travelling hooligans before the World Cup . . .
Spilt vodka down my suit.
That’s the geezer. He says there’s a planeload of wives of top Russian officials flying in to London next week for a shopping spree at Harrods.
Nicely’s not suggesting we kidnap them all?
No, nothing like that, just fit up a few of them for shoplifting. The Russians will be so anxious to get them back that Putin will have to agree to swap them for the two Salisbury hitmen.
And what if it all goes pear-shaped?
Police officers checking the raided boxes in the vault of the Knightsbridge Safe Deposit Centre in London, after the Flying Squad foiled a robbery there in 1987
Nicely-Nicely’s never heard of us.
And we get the old poison umbrella on Waterloo Bridge . . .
Something like that. Come on, guv, it’s got to be worth a try. Let’s talk about it over a drink. I could murder a large Glenhoddle.
OK, but there’s something I’ve been dying to ask you, Sergeant Carter, since you walked in.
Woss that, guv?
Why have you painted your fingernails in rainbow colours and why are you wearing a frock and high heels?
Simple, guv. I’m up for inspector next week and I thought I’d stand more of a chance at the interview if I embraced diversity and identified as transgender.
George . . .
Put your bleedin’ trousers on . .