Trust the Police to do a good job?... think again
This page has been blank for such a long time, but as the time draws closer to the TV show on the Forgotten Army airing I thought that I should get something up. Please excuses all the many errors of spelling and grammar that it is bound to have. This is all being written at high speed and its gone 02:15am. I am puzzling over what way to word this all, do I take a lighthearted "Its all okay now" tone, a serious and pro-police "they were only doing there job" tone... of course both of those are lies. I will keep at as factual as I can and try to keep my emotions out.
As you can probably tell from the work that we do in recovering, saving, preserving and returning items to families and museums that we are not a terrorist group or the threat to society. You would probably assume that the police could work that out also. YOU WOULD BE VERY WRONG! I was awoken before 6am a few years back to the police banging on my door. I knew they were coming as they are far from clever. I had already placed a box of inert ordnance like grenades and mortars in a wooden box on the kitchen table for them to look at. Anything which looks scary to the clueless non collector types was put there also.
Upon opening the door it was immediately apparent that this was the Armed Police unit, which comes equipped not only with assault rifles, but all the bravado of a Hollywood action movie. "keep your hands where we can see them" blah blah blah. I sat on the sofa shaking my head as they asked sensible questions like "whats that gun there?", my reply being something like "its a toy airsoft pistol that doesn't even work".
I was soon told that I was under arrest, I asked what for and was told theft? I was baffled to say the least. "Theft of what I asked?" They didn't know! "Well, where was this supposed to have been stolen from? and again the reply was"we don't know!". I had to ask "So what happens now", "you will be taken to Banbury police station while we search your house".... now it was here that I started laughing. "So let me get this straight, your going to search my house for something that is stolen, but you have no idea what it is, or where it came from?" From this moment I knew the whole thing would be a complete and utter farce. Let alone a huge waste of time, money and effort. Little did I know then how much it would cost me!
The time at the police station was easy, I simply went to sleep. Ate, went back to sleep. Rinse and repeat as they say in the online gaming world. Eventually I was to be interviewed, fine, lets clear this ridiculous situation up. With my solicitor by my side (oh a note to anyone who ever finds then self arrested. Never talk to the police without a solicitor, and feel free to answer any question with no comment. It doesn't make you look guilty, it just makes them actually do their jobs) ...anyway, back on track.
The interview started and the officer in charge of the whole case started by asking questions about what rooms my house contains? So I names all the rooms, then they asked what was in each room. I don't mean just militaria, I had to name every item I could think of in each room. Then after we did all that, I drew some plans of the house. What are the windows made from? Do they have locks? What locks do they doors have? This went on for probably 45 mins+ and my solicitor looked as baffled as me. Eventually they stopped prating about and actually got around to asking about the rifle they found. In a rifle case, with a deactivation certificate along side. Yes they matched :) they eventually managed to work out that it was legal to own. Even that conversation which included questions like "but how do you know its legal to own?" "how do you know its deactivated?". We eventually actually progress onto relic hunting... eventually! I was asked what sorts of things I find, my answer of practically everything wasn't good enough. So I named everything I have ever found, I started with dump items. If you can picture everything you throw in the bin and have ever taken to the skip, the list pretty much read like that, just items from WW1 and WW2. After naming all the ordnance we have ever found, they decided to start with 'bullets'. Tell us about these, so I did. I could see there little minds expanding as I talked. They had no knowledge of what was the difference between a Triang 9mm Drill and a 20mm HE. They had to pause me after every tiny detail I mentioned, despite it all being recorded. They asked if I could explain how a bullet worked, of course, so in a basic detail as I could I explained it. Then I had to explain how grenades work and in particular the differences between Mills grenades. At this point my solicitor said that he wanted to talk to me alone. The left and he said "Is this all a joke? They haven't got a clue what they are doing and the questions! Well, how grenades work, don't they have books?". We agreed to "no comment" everything from then on wards to get it over with. If they have something intelligent to say we can address it in a separate interview later on. As we were both sure we would be back within a month or two when they had looked at what they had taken from my house. The interview did reveal some really interesting questions, like my own definitions of words! Was I a member of Extreme Relic Hunters (technically no, I'm the founder and damn proud of what we have become) and other oddball questions. After the interview I think they had had enough of my laughing and treating the whole thing as a joke as I was almost shoved out the station. Now I don't live in Banbury, I live nowhere near Banbury. I had no wallet, no money, no keys and no phone. If I hadn't kicked up a stink they would have expected me to walk home. They gave me the number of my wife and was told I could use the phone at the front desk. I rang the number they gave me... a Sarah answered, however my first words were "ummm your not my wife" and hers were "that's because I'm not married". Great, so they can't even get that right! Another 15 minutes went by as they wondered around getting me the correct number. My wife and a friend drove all the way to collect me and go home.
However, upon getting the car I was told that they had removed items all day from the house, the whole street was sealed off and we were now homeless as we were not allowed in the house. My wife and children were kicked out seconds after I was arrested and taken away. We spent the next week sleeping a few doors down on the sofa of a friends. I spent all my time standing on the pavement at the corner of my drive watching them 'do their' jobs. I couldn't get any closer due to the police tape and I had every right to be there. Some of them were nice and friendly and clearly bored out the minds. Others could not have been ruder if they had even tried. One of these animals was carrying out a British made practice Teller Mine to place in the van. I asked nicely if she would like to know what it was so she could give it the correct name on the paperwork "why the fuck should I care" was the whispered reply I got back. What a dick!
At some point I was told that they had taken items away and blown them up! The highlight was when they told me that they had blown somethings up in the back garden because they were too dangerous to take away! I lived in a housing estate, surrounded by people, pets and yup, you guessed it.. houses! To dangerous... who they kidding, everything I had was legal to own, inert, empty, practice or drill.
It took over three days for someone to allow me to have my wallet back so I could actually buy food. THREE DAYS!!! Luckily we have some good friends who looked after us, but what if we hadn't ?
After a week we were given my keys back to the house... I entered and was shocked by two things. The mess they left behind, rubbish, bags, papers, food, drinks were everywhere and in the garden it would seem they had just been playing conkers... using my string, my scissors! Cheeky fuckers. No wonder it took over a week! The other shocking part was were the hell all my items had gone. Not just the items that I had found, but items that I had purchases, not relics, but mint examples of militaria! Why the hell did they take those. Everything postcards, medals, uniforms, helmets, webbing, paperwork... you name it, it went. Also missing were things like our passports, cheque books, bank statements, my daughters toy mobile phone, books, letters, my post, wellington boots, it was weird... very weird. The sort of weird you just expect to wake up from.
So after a month I had to report back on bail. I travelled all the way to Banbury, not the police station 5 mins walk from my house. It took over an 1hour to get there and double that to get home. I get there and they tell me that I didn't even need to come. Fucking great, would have helped if they had actually told me. Next month the same thing... then again and again. Eventually I get told that I will actually be interviewed upon my next visit, this must have been at least 9 months in. I say down with my solicitor and he asked what approach I was planning on taking. I suggest we see what the questions are and if they are actually sensible and thought out by someone with a brain then I would answer them. However if they were like last time, then it was just going to be another waste of time for us all 'no comment' interview. The police came in and the interview started. The officer in charge explained that she had lots of photographs of my items and she suggested that she would show me one and I could explain what it was, where I got it from, what it was for and what its monitory value is. I didn't see the point in the monitory value, but fine. That at least made some sense to me, so we agreed. The first photo she shows me was a milk bottle. I didn't know if I should cry, laugh or bang my head on the table. I think I just let out a big sigh and said "really?". She repeated the questions to me as if I had forgotten the plan. "ITS A MILK BOTTLE!.....a rubbish dump.... its for containing milk.... value??? it has no value". All this was written down, next photo. A whole pile of broken crockery RAF NAAFI ACC NACB. All smashed to hell and back. This time there was no stopping the laughing. I looked at my solicitor and even he was hiding a smirk and hes the professional one! "Its broken plates, saucers, cups, mugs.... a rubbish dump.... for eating and drinking... no value". I just went on and on and on and on and on. We had at least over 3 hours of this garbage and I think at the end of it. I think we learnt that the police in this country don't know there arse from there elbow. In 9 months these are the best questions the lead case office, her detectives and the army of 'experts' they called in could come up with. At the end of this I said that on my next bail date I was away on holiday and asked if they date could be moved by a couple of says. I was told no, I had to be at the police station. Ok fine. I went home.
During our family holiday in Devon, I had to get my wife to drop me at a train station. I then spent 8 hours getting home so that the next morning I could get up and report back to the police station. I walked in and was told that I didn't need to come. "WHY DO YOU NEVER TELL ME", i was then told that they tried to phone me. I asked what number they had on file, it was correct. I took out my phone showed him my call history... Funny nothing on here! Thanks for wasting not only my time, my money and ruining most of our family holiday. This rubbish just continued until one day out of the blue my solicitor rang me and said that all the charges were dropped. They had also at some point invented new charges too. No longer just theft, but making firearms, owning firearms and other nonsense to which they had no reason to suspect or say. I was relieved, but I wondered why. I knew I had done nothing wrong. I had proven to them where 99% of the things they took from my house had come from when I gave them receipts and proof of purchase for things. They never even looked it them, they kept everything for over a year in a damp underground open air storage area. Plenty of items had degraded, some now had started to rust, others the rest had already set in and others just fell apart when they were touched. So much for saving history! I was so angry. Right, my turn!
I gathered up all the paperwork they had ever given me, I looked at the inventory. It was a total joke. Nothing was listed properly, it just contained "misc military items" "military badges" "misc items" "military bits" these could have been anything. I have German WW2 Close Combat Clasps, names WW2 Purple Hearts, buttons and belt buckles. You couldn't even pick them out of there lists by nation or even by vague descriptions. They might as well have written in marker "we have your stuff". It's a total joke, all in their favour of course, now I can't prove them didn't take something. I worked out everything that was missing and the value was over £12,000! I started the complaints procedure, the officer that they assigned to look into it is none other that the high ranking officer that was assigned to issue the search and arrest warrants and authorised the whole case... impartial then! Needless to say he did fuck all. The IPCC are also a total joke, when dealing with them, it goes like this.
ME "The police took and lost XZY"
IPCC "We asked the police and they said they didn't"
and that's that.
I contacted several solicitors and they all said that it wasn't a case that could be pursued. The police didn't record what they took. They told me that they were not responsible for what the EOD guys blew up (or didn't) in any way. Let alone the items that they did or didn't blow up. There are items like SS Dog-tags, WW1 Iron Cross 1st class... these items have just vanished into thin air? The police just kept saying, we don't have it, we have no record of it and you have had everything back. They simply do not care.
What the hell were they doing for over a year?
Why did they never look at the proof I gave them of the legally purchased items and return them?
Why was the inventory done to such a low standard?
Why were all these legal to own items destroyed?
Where have all these high priced items vanished to?
Why didn't they take a logically approach to this investigation?
Why the lack of interviews?
Why the ludicrous questions?
I gave THAMES VALLEY POLICE chances to fix the situation. I want my items back or recompense for what the lost/destroyed. They repeated the same thing over and over. "We are not responsible" and I thought to myself. You're not wrong there, although if I were them, I would have said "We are irresponsible". I did tell them in one email that I would be giving them a nice review in my next book. Which came out over a year ago "Men Behind the Militaria" in which I give them a two page battering as a warning to fellow collectors, just because you have items that are legal, doesn't mean the police won't come and do what they please.
Be warned people. I'm just a regular bod with an unsual hobby, albeit one that gives back. However they didn't ever want to hear about the good things that Extreme Relic Hunters have done...
I close this part of the website with the same words as the book... in the words of NWA
"F*ck the Police"