Friday, 3 May 2013

Harold Challenor - Bent Copper

Harold "Tanky" Challenor became infamous in the 1960`s as the face of Police corruption.  Challenor was a Regan - style cop who was genuinely feared by villains in London, but unlike Jack Regan, Challenor regularly lied and fitted people up.  What stood Challenor in good stead was that he was a true war hero, in the thick of the action in WW2.  He joined the Metropolitan Police at the beginning of the 1950`s, quickly gaining promotion to the Detective Division, and also serving in the famous Flying Squad.

    In the early 60`s, Challenor was transferred to West End Central, where he racked up many arrests, though there were claims of lies and planting of evidence.  When Challenor gave evidence in front of Magistrates and Judges, he made it sound like the West End was the scene of constantly rampaging gangs having Chicago-style shootouts.  Complete fiction and despite these people sampling the West End nightlife, they believed every word he said.  In 1962, he smashed an alleged protection racket involving individuals like Joe Oliva, Riccardo Pedrini, Alan Cheeseman, James Fraser & John Ford.  At their trial, Fraser was acquitted but the others were convicted.  The sentences were quashed on appeal in 1964. His come-uppance came in 1963, with a visit from Queen Frederika of Greece.  A small group of demonstrators were arrested and one of them, Donald Rooum had a half brick put in his pocket by Challenor.  Rooum handed his clothes to his solicitor for examination, and at his trial, a forensic scientist gave evidence supporting Rooum, and acquittal followed.

    In 1964, Challenor was thoroughly discredited and was facing corruption charges, but was found to be unfit to plead. In time, a medical discharge became known as "Doing a Challenor"  The novel "The Strange Affair" by Bernard Toms and the subsequent film in 1968, starring Michael York, was based on Challenor.  Jeremy Kemp played the Challenor -style detective who cracked up in court.  Challenor worked for the firm of solicitors who defended him.  He died in 2008.