Post Memories: How reporters helped the police with their inquiries
- Credit: Archant
Dennis McNamara was a Barking police constable and a gentle giant. But, as a champion wrestler, no arrested person stood any chance of getting away from his grasp.
I never met him but the story ran, as told by old timers in the Spotted Dog pub in Station Parade, that on at least one occasion he returned to Barking nick with one arrested suspect under each arm.
Some information about him came in a chat in the Spotted Dog in the 1980s with Barking Pc Trevor Lock.
Trevor was on diplomatic protection duty at the Iranian embassy in 1980 when Iranian anti-government terrorists burst in and held him and other hostages.
Trevor was made to repeat to fellow police officers through the embassy windows the terrorists’ threats to kill the hostages if their demands were not met.
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When the SAS burst into the building he held one of the terrorists down on the floor until one of the SAS men said: “Move over, Trevor.”
Trevor did so. The terrorist was shot dead and the surviving hostages were freed.
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Really first-class police officers like these, and countless hundreds of others, have served the district from Barking police station during its century of life.
Later this year Barking police station is set to close. We are told that it cannot be modified to suit modern police operations and that some accommodation in the learning centre, coupled with the new station at Barking’s Fresh Wharf, will do the job better.
The same reasons were given for the closure of the old Ilford police station, which now stands forlorn and empty in Ilford Hill.
The word “police” still appears above its overgrown door but the new building half a mile away is considered more suitable.
Those words, too, appear above the main door leading into what used to be Chadwell Heath police station, now the Eva Hart pub in Chadwell Heath High Road. At least that building has not fallen derelict.
Local reporters in the 1950s would have been familiar with the old Dagenham police station (open between 1850 and the early 1960s) on the corner of Whalebone Lane South and Shafter Road. Today, the building still stands in all its glory, surrounded by its wrought iron railings and divided into flats.
Those police stations were sources of valuable information which not only made newspaper copy but also helped in criminal investigations. Time and again, reports in the paper of local crimes, road crashes and other incidents drew valuable witnesses.
At Barking, reporters would turn left into the CID to hear about the local crime scene, then right to see the station sergeant and get the information about road accidents, lost property and even missing persons.
A particularly helpful sergeant in Barking CID was Joe Bianchi. When he felt able to trust the good sense of a reporter he would brief him, confidentially, on the lowdown of an offence so that the reporter would avoid inadvertently letting out of the bag any cats which could impede police inquiries.
Press briefings were at 10am sharp each Tuesday and Thursday – convenient for the Post because it got up-to-the-minute stories for its Wednesday paper.
As strict were the briefing times at other police stations, including Chadwell Heath.
On one occasion when I called there I was rebuked with: “This is not a press day.” I replied that I had called to point out a lorry had just shed its load outside the police station and the High Road was blocked.