Arthur. E. Bensley
In the early seventies, My wife Carol & I were in business in a small market town in Suffolk. England. Carol ran a ladies dress shop, whilst I ran a discount store. One afternoon at around 4 p.m. towards the end of the summer, I was alone in my store when a man in his mid forties entered the premises. Normally I would not have given a customer a second glance, only this person was slightly different. Dressed in a smartly cut Italian style suit, powerfully built and around six feet two inches, he slowly made his way to the rear entrance to the store, showing a casual interest in the goods on display. I was on the till at the entrance, and I had this uneasy feeling that I was about to be done over. On reaching the rear of the store, he took up a position covering the back exit, folded his arms and stood looking at me. Suddenly I became aware of another man entering the store, equally as big as the guy at the rear of the store, smartly dressed Italian style dark suit etc. Except for the fact that this one had a cauliflower ear, broken nose, nasty livid recent scars on his face and he wasnít smiling when he approached me. This is it I thought, these guys are definitely here to rob the store.
Are you Mr.Bensley he enquired? Somewhat apprehensively I replied.
I am Mr. Bensley is there a problem? I am afraid there is he stated. I must ask you to close your store immediately. Why should I do that I replied? Whereupon, he produced a card which stated he was a superintendent of police. I knew the local police, including the plain clothed officers very well. And these men were unknown to me. Feeling increasingly alarmed, I told him I would have to telephone my wife at the other shop. There is no need to do that he replied, my other officers are already with your wife and have closed her shop, adding she will be here shortly. I told him that I had a flat above my store, so could we go there so that he could explain what the problem was. When my other officers arrive here with your wife, we can do just that he said. He then started asking me how long we had been in the two shops, where we obtained our stock etc. I explained that most of it came from The East End of London. At this moment Carol arrived accompanied by four more police officers, two being female. The superintendent then asked to see the invoices for leather goods we had purchased over the last three months. We explained they were kept on our flat above the store. After the officers had examined all invoices and found them to be correct. The superintendent then explained the reason for their visit. It appeared their had been a series of robberies in the London area over a period of several months by a highly organized gang. The BBC had a 5-minute crime spot each week. One of the leather jackets stolen was shown on screen. A holidaymaker had purchased an identical jacket from our Boutique and informed the police .As this was the first positive lead, and aware the gang involved was armed and dangerous, two carloads of officers from the Flying Squad immediately drove straight down from London. (I should explain most of our clothing came from bankrupt stock, with the labels cut off. Therefore we sold at very low prices.) This in turn made the law suspicious. Anyway we were in the clear. On inquiring, we found out they had not had a meal since leaving London. We then asked then if they would like to have tea with us before driving back to the Smoke.They gratefully excepted and we all had beans on toast! Our little son Paul aged five was fascinated as they explained how three months prior, they had been involved in a heist at Heathrow Airport involving an armed gang of fifteen thugs carrying pick handles and nail bars, hence the recent livid scars on their faces. After tea they thanked us for our hospitality and drove straight back to London.
As a footnote. Our local boys called to see us the following day. They told us that the Sweeney had dropped into the local station before paying Carol & I a visit. They stated they were somewhat in awe, as they had never seen the Sweeney before.
I only know the Sweeney on TV with John Thaw as Detective Inspector Jack Regan with his side kick Dennis Waterman as Detective Sergeant George Carter, plus all those other good looking young actors, certainly didnít look anything like the Sweeney who paid us a visit on that quiet summer afternoon.
Arthur. E. Bensley