Category Archives: [ RequestLine ]

The begging bowl; or, to paraphrase the words of the Chuckle Brothers, “from me to you, and from you to me”

The ‘Great Communist Bank Robbery’ of 1959, the ‘Ioanid Gang’ and Jewishness in Soviet-era Romania…

Reconstruction of the 1959 'Great Communist Bank Robbery' in Bucharest

I recently caught a documentary film called Marele Jaf Comunist AKA Great Communist Bank Robbery. It was about a 1959 payroll heist in Soviet era Romania.

The gist is, a small group of armed robbers held up a van carrying wages to the Romanian National Bank – an unthinkable crime in a ‘Socialist’ state.

After a major police dragnet which saw scores of suspects arrested, interrogated and in many cases tortured, the cops drew a blank. Then eventually a lead turned them onto what became known as the ‘Ioanid Gang’ (named after two of its members) – five men and a woman. All were Jewish-Romanians, and either state functionaries or officers of the Securitate.

They were made to ‘confess’, and compelled to play themselves in a docu-drama film made to illustrate how they carried out their dastardly crime. This film, Reconstruction, was later shown to high ranking Party officials and trusted journalists. Subsequently all were found guilty at trial (their Party careers conveniently forgotten – now they were simply a ‘corrupt and rotten element’, a ‘swindler’, a ‘fake intellectual’, an ‘adventurer’, a ‘gangster’, and a ‘marginal element’…) and all but one sentenced to death.

A 2001 documentary film, also called Reconstruction (which I haven’t yet managed to watch), later covered the topic. Finally, in 2004 the aforementioned Marele Jaf Comunist was made, looking at the robbery, the police investigation, the making of the original documentary Reconstruction, and efforts by the son of one of the gang members to review the Securitate files.

One strand which could have been covered more in depth was the specific details of the suspects’ prior involvement in the Party and the apparatus of the state, and in particular the wartime resistance activities of some of them. One suggestion made during the film was that the execution of the five condemned men was a ruse so that they could be ‘disappeared’ and used as agents of espionage elsewhere. Again, this was not pursued with any real vigour.

So can anyone point me in the direction of any (English language) books which cover the story in depth? It seems entwined with the issue of Jewish emigration from Romania, anti-semitism, and purges within the Partidul Muncitoresc Român/Partidul Comunist Român as Gheorghiu-Dej steered towards an undestalinised ‘national communism’, so any suggestions on that front would also be welcome, as would pointers to good works on the Securitate.

Many thanks 🙂

G20 Climate Camp witnesses wanted for complaint against police

Does anyone have any footage or photos of the evening attacks by police at the north end of the Climate Camp – a number of us were beaten by police at the corner of Bishopsgate and Camomile Street in the evening maybe around 9 /10ish. Particulary looking for footage of a woman wearing a red jacket sitting on the road who was beaten and had her head crushed between 2 riot shields – needed for evidence to make a complaint.

No contact details given, so if you can help perhaps drop a comment to the end of this message on IndyMedia with a contact email.

Notes on the police witnesses to Ian Tomlinson’s deadly assault

Following on from the lengthy picture post below, I present some text notes on those pictured and labelled. If I have mislabelled an officer, or missed out a glaringly obvious thing, please do let me know so I can amend.

As I work through all the material I will post up the clearest pictures of those described here to help aid identification.

Many thanks.


Officer A is the cop who struck Ian Tomlinson with a baton, and who then gave him a violent two-handed shove to the ground. Officer A reportedly came forward on the night of Wednesday 8th April – one whole week since the death of Ian Tomlinson.

Officer A is a member of the Metropolitan Police Territorial Support Group (TSG).

In the footage of the Tomlinson assault, Officer A appears to be wearing a standard issue riot duty boilersuit beneath a hi-viz police jacket, as well as a black balaclava covering his face (including his nose), and a visored ‘Nato’ riot helmet. He does not appear to be wearing identification numbers on his epaulettes -he does not appear to be wearing epaulettes at all – or elsewhere.

Judging by his baton strike, and how he holds his baton subsequent to the assault on Ian Tomlinson, Officer A is left-handed.

Officer A was also involved in the ‘dog attack’ incident on Threadneedle Street which occurred shortly because the Tomlinson assault at the other end of Royal Exchange Buildings.

[ETA:] In a report on the 22nd April, Channel 4 News’ Simon Israel stated that they believed that officer ‘A’ had been involved in 4 discrete violent incidents in the ten minutes or so before Ian Tomlinson died. They identified him by location and by five identifying features as cross-referenced over various pieces of video footage. Those five identifying features were: balaclava, left-handed, no gloves, no shield, and jacket tucked into trousers. They additionally identified him by the unit identifier on the helmet of the officer they believe to be ‘A’ in earlier incidents – U41, or serial 1 of TSG4 (which – if the Territorial Support Group organisational chart is up to date – is led by one Inspector Dyer).


Officer C1 (now identified as officer 204) is a (possibly riot-trained) City of London officer seen mostly to the right of the scene. We can only really see him in the Channel 4 News footage and the still of Ian Tomlinson staggering off. C1 wears a black boilersuit but no hi-viz jacket, and a City of London Police red-and-white checkerboard flat cap. He stands just to the rear and left of the fountain, ahead of F5 but behind the dog handlers D4 and D2. He has his baton raised over his right shoulder in strike ready pose. Judging by the positions of the other officers at various times, C1 appears to have a clear view of where Mr Tomlinson was struck and of where he was pushed, and is around 10-20 feet away from the assault at its various stages.

C1 was also involved in the ‘dog attack’ incident on Threadneedle Street shortly before the Ian Tomlinson assault, and was heavily involved in the ‘photographer attack’ incident on Royal Exchange Buildings.


The City of London Police dog handlers are identifiable by their flat caps (with white-and-red checker board pattern) and by the fact that they are handling dogs. By the end of the scene, it seems clear that there are at least five dog handlers and dogs. Most or all of them were also involved in the earlier ‘dog attack’ incident to the north of Royal Exchange Buildings on Threadneedle Street.

Officer D1 is the first officer we see in the sequence of pictures. He advances towards Cornhill between the bicycle racks and the Mont Blanc shop (to the left of the picture), gripping his dog lead in his left hand and baton in his right. Like the other dog handlers he wears a hi-viz jacket. He seems older than thirty, has close cropped or shaved hair, and is of heavy build. His dog is a sandy coloured German Shepherd with black muzzle and black tail.

D1 seems to meet Ian Tomlinson first. His dog snarls at Tomlinson from behind him and to his right. He has a clear view of Officer A’s baton strike and two-handed push. After Tomlinson hits the ground, he simply stands watching, set back between the first and second bollards on the Mont Blanc side.

Officer D2 is the second handler we see, who appears to have walked around the other side of the cycle racks to D1 to meet Tomlinson. He appears to have a radio or phone or some other dark coloured item attached to the left-hand lapel of his hi-viz jacket. He appears to be younger and leaner than D1, possibly in his twenties or early thirties, and appears to have some thin facial hair or thick stubble.

He too uses his dog (a black coated dog) aggressively towards Tomlinson, and can be clearly seen lunging at him, pulling the dog’s lead as he steps behind Tomlinson.

When Officer A strikes Tomlinson with his baton, D2 does not appear to be looking, but by the time of the shove his head seems tilted more in that direction.

By the time Tomlinson staggers off, D2 appears to be positioned to the front and left of the fountain.

D2 also appeared to be involved in the ‘dog attack’ incident on Threadneedle Street shortly before the Ian Tomlinson assault.

Officer D3 (now identified as officer CP788) by his manner seems to be the lead dog handler. He is older than most of the other dog handlers (except possibly D1), and thicker set. He is clearly identifiable by the black harness he wears over his hi-viz jacket, and by virtue of his habit of looping a long lead over his left shoulder and around the trunk of his body. He has a mobile phone or radio strapped on the left side of his chest.

As the incident unfolds, he appears to be positioned to the back and right, somewhere behind F5 and the fountain, and with F1 ahead of him and to his right. As he watches Tomlinson being helped by civilians, he looks over, then moves forward (to F5?), before coming over with his dog (dark coated with a big lolling tongue). By the end of the sequence, he and his dog are in the middle and front of the mouth of Royal Exchange Buildings.

D3 was also involved in the ‘dog attack’ incident on Threadneedle Street shortly before the Ian Tomlinson assault.

Officer D4 is another younger looking dog handler, who appears for the most part to be on the right behind the fountain. Later on he comes further forward. He looks to be in his twenties with close cropped or shaved hair, and of lean build.

D4 also appeared to be involved in the ‘dog attack’ incident on Threadneedle Street shortly before the Ian Tomlinson assault.

Officer D5 (now identified as officer A712) is a dog handler whom we only really see in the picture of Ian Tomlinson staggering off. D5 is just to the right of the fountain, in front of the motorbike parked between it and the building to the right.

D5 also appeared to be involved in the ‘dog attack’ incident on Threadneedle Street shortly before the Ian Tomlinson assault. The pictures taken by Colin McQuillen (which are clear enough to show his shoulder numbers) show him outside the RBS at 62 Threadneedle Street.


Coming up Royal Exchange Buildings towards Cornhill behind the TSG officers are a group of shieldless officers in riot helmets and hi-viz jackets marked with blue flashing. These types of jacket are generally worn by public order specialists of the Forward Intelligence Teams (FIT officers). Because the cameras tend to follow the actions happening around Ian Tomlinson, and because these (possible) FIT officers begin the scene further back, it is not entirely clear how many of them there are. However, I would say that there are at least five – one who is mostly in the middle of the mouth of Royal Exchange Buildings, often by Officer A; two who are mostly behind the TSG officers to the left; and at least two more to the far right.

Officer F1 (preliminarily identified as Camden-based part-time FIT officer EK127 Alan Palfrey) appears to be of at least average height. He wears a white shirt and black tie beneath his blue flashed hi-viz jacket. He wears a visored Nato helmet with chinstrap, but no balaclava. The numbers on his epaulettes are not clear enough to read in the footage. He clearly has a moustache, and possibly a goatee beard or similar.

Officer F1 appears for the most part located somewhere between the third bollard from the left, the fountain to the front, and the bicycle racks and red telephone boxes behind.

As the sequence of events unfolds, Officer F1 appears to be following Officer A down Royal Exchange Passage Buildings towards Cornhill. Officer A carries his baton in a striking pose, resting over his left shoulder, as he walks down. The baton would have been in plain sight to Officer F1. The pictures indicate that Officer F1 is looking directly at Officer A’s baton strike on Ian Tomlinson.

After Mr Tomlinson is felled, Officer F1 remains where he is, but watches Alan Edwards help him. He also seems to look round at Officer A, who has by now positioned himself behind him, baton again rested in strike pose over the left shoulder. He then looks to his left, in the direction of the other two (or more) blue flashed officers to the right of shot, behinds the fountain.

As Tomlinson staggers off, Officer F1 is looking in the direction of the Channel 4 News ITN camera.

Officer F2 is not someone we see much of. He appears to be slightly ahead of F1 as the police head towards Cornhill, and is for the most part positioned out of sight. F2 wears blue flashed hi-viz jacket, visored Nato helmet, white shirt, black tie, no balaclava, and might be shorter than F1. Epaulettes are worn but numbers are not clear.

Officers F3 and F4 sweep up Royal Exchange Buildings behinds the TSG trio on the left. Both wear blue flashed hi-viz jacket, visored riot helmet, white shirt and black tie, and no balaclava.

F4 advances towards Ian Tomlinson before the assault with his baton drawn and held in his right hand. The pictures suggest that even if he did not see the baton strike, he certainly witnesses the two-handed shove.

F3 is closer to the Mont Blanc shop, and clearly sees Ian Tomlinson landing badly directly in front of him. He advances on Tomlinson as he lies on the ground – baton also gripped in his right hand – and appears to look intently at him or talk to him, and perhaps even kicks him or pokes him with his right foot, before turning and walking back behind the TSG trio, and talking to his colleague F4 as civilian onlookers come to help Ian Tomlinson. After consulting with F4, F3 turns across and looks directly across the mouth of Royal Exchange Buildings in the direction of the other blue flashed officers to the far right, much as F1 does at around the same time or later – as if looking towards a senior officer for instructions.

Finally, Officer F5 is the blue flashed hi-viz jacket officer to the far right of the scene. He seems to be nestled behind the fountain, along with some unidentified people. After the assault on Ian Tomlinson, Officers A, F1 and F3 can all be seen looking in the direction of F5. After Ian Tomlinson staggers off, Officer A walks over to speak to F5.


To the left of the scene is a trio that we might reasonably assume are also TSG officers. They wear black boiler suits, hi-viz jackets and visored Nato helmets, and also carry circular acrylic glass riot shields. All three appear to be wearing epaulettes, and at least T1 and T2 definitely appear to have numbers on them, though in none of the pictures currently available is it possible to read those numbers.

All three are to the left of shot as Officer A assaults Ian Tomlinson. Ian Tomlinson is batoned and then pushed over directly in front of T2 and T3. The reactions of all three indicated that they saw what happened, as their heads follow the falling Mr Tomlinson to the ground. For most of the footage, all three are positioned to the far left of the picture, between the Mont Blanc shop and the cast iron bollard closest to it.

Officer T1 seems to be of average or taller than average height. He wears a black balaclava over his face beneath his helmet, with the opening pulled to just below his nose. He is armed with a thick, all-black baton, and an acrylic glass riot shield identifiable by the black plates bolted to its rear, which form an octagon overlaid with a vertical rectangle. Finally, he wears a small round badge of some description on his right-hand jacket lapel.

Officer T2 seems to be somewhat shorter than the other officers, and might be a female officer. T2’s shield is noticeable for it’s black ‘t-bar’ grip. T2 uses a thinner-tipped ASP baton, the shaft of which is mostly metallic in colour, with a ‘drumstick’ tip. T2 wears a black balaclava pulled down to just below the nose.

Officer T3 appears to be of the same rough height as T1, but possibly a little bulkier. He has a ruddy complexion, and seems to be in his mid-late thirties at the youngest, possibly older. His riot shield has the same ‘octagon + rectangle’ black plates as T1. He does not wear a balaclava, but clearly has his Nato helmet chin strap on.


Miscellaneous officers are milling around further back towards Threadneedle Street (where we can clearly see numerous vans), but there are also a handful of officers much closer, though perhaps not easily recognisable.

Officer U1 wears a hi-viz jacket, but does not seem to wear any headgear. He stands alone, on the left hand side, around twenty foot behind the TSG/F3/F4 group by Mont Blanc.

He was also involved in the ‘photographer attack’ incident on Royal Exchange Buildings.

He was present in the background during the incident which was closely followed by Ian Tomlinson’s death, lurking for the most part on the west side of Royal Exchange Buildings, behind the trio of Level 2 Met officers (’T1′-‘T3′) and two suspected Forward Intelligence Team members (’F3′ and ’F4′).

Throughout he could be seen talking into or listening to the radio unit on the left side of his jacket collar. He could also be seen doing the same during the ‘photographer attack’ incident, when City of London officer 204 (aka ‘C1′) assaulted a snapper. It is from this incident that the clearer pictures of ‘U1’ (as captured by Colin McQuillen/TwoThumbsFresh*) are taken.

Officer U1 is clearly identifiable by his lack of headgear, his City of London hi-vis jacket (with red-and-white checkerboard), his silvery grey hair (parted to the left) and matching moustache, and the distinctive black patch or strap over his jacket’s right breast.

One thing which is a lot clearer in Colin’s photos than in the video is the detail on the epaulettes. Without being able to conclusively identify what is on them, the item towards the middle of the epaulette on his right shoulder looks too substantial to be letters, suggesting that it might be a pip or a crown. Two pips indicate an Inspector, a pip and a crown a Chief Superintendent.

U2 wears no headgear and seems to be in a black or dark coloured jacket, boilersuit or similar. He appears to be balding or to have close-cropped hair. He stands near to F5 behind the fountain.

It is by no means clear that he is a police officer, but he definitely seems to be standing within the cluster of police officers behind the fountain without suffering any harassment, unlike Ian Tomlinson.

U3 wears a hi-viz jacket, but seemingly no headgear. He can be briefly seen near U2 by the fountain as Ian Tomlinson staggers off.

As with U2, it is not clear whether U3 is a police officer, but he definitely seems to be standing within the cluster of police officers behind the fountain without suffering any harassment, unlike Ian Tomlinson.

[Edited for typos and greater clarity, Monday 13/4/9]

[Edited to correct ‘Royal Exchange Passage’ to ‘Royal Exchange Buildings, Thursday 16/4/9]

[Edited to add links and more information, Thursday 23/4/9]

Much of the work here was the result of information, pictures or help provided by others, including Colin McQuillen, Jason Sands, itsafitup, FITwatch and others.

Fighting FIT: Police Forward Intelligence Teams and the death of Ian Tomlinson

FIT cops at Ian Tomlinson's assault?

So, are these FIT officers? There are several more milling about in the Ian Tomlinson assault video, but it’s a bit too choppy to see much on the YouTube version.

Commenter Ed on Ian Bone’s blog has suggested that Stephen Discombe CO2558 might be present.

Any thoughts?

Revisiting San Serriffe

The most excellent Strange Maps blog has just published an article about The Guardian‘s fondly remembered 1977 April Fool supplement on the island of San Serriffe.

(Well, I say fondly remembered, though I do not personally remember the, fondly or otherwise, seeing as I was only rising one at the time. Over the years I became aware of it, though, by way of the 1999 reboot of the spoof, and also in much the same osmotic way as I know about the Tomorrow’s World piece on spaghetti trees.)

Talking of fake-stories-as-Grauniad-news, I am reminded of the (and correct me if I am wrong) 1976 piece the paper published in which a reporter related the story of his chance encounter with a member of the SAS on a train.

The journalist – a sceptic of the British military strategy in Northern Ireland – had recently been writing about the deployment of SAS troops to the province, and in none too complimentary terms. IIRC he suggested they were swaggering cowboys who offered little to the peaceful resolution of the Troubles.

And lo, by complete serendipity he happened to meet one such soldier (in civvies) on an InterCity, who, during the course of a spontaneously-struck up conversation, turned out to be articulate, erudite, and anything but macho. His opinions on British policy in Ulster shifted slightly, and he wrote up the story for the paper.

Then many years later it transpired that the whole ‘chance encounter’ had been a psyops fabrication; the journalist had been picked out as a possible target and a well-briefed and affable serviceman been placed on a train he was known to be travelling on in order to casually strike up a conversation with a view to modifying his opinions.

I’ve no idea whether that is a true story, as I can’t remember where I read it. Perhaps I imagined it? But it sounds like it might be a Colin Wallace one. I know the original story exists, as I read it in one of those Guardian Yearbook thingummies which they used to publish.

Can anyone fill in the details? The source of this tale swimming round my rapidly-shrinking brain? The journalist it seems to be about? The year, even?

A sas birtokol leszállt (még nem…): The Hungarian Eagle-reading refugees story, part 2

Time for a brief update on the Hungarian-refugees-read-Eagle story I mentioned the other day. I’ve been in and out and rather busy the past week (including going to the rather spiffing Endorse It In Dorset festival with the wonderful ladyfriend at the weekend), so I have been a little remiss in following all this up.

First off, thanks again to Steve Holland at Bear Alley for blogging it, and to John Freeman at DownTheTubes for sounding out Eagle enthusiasts.

On the downside, after wading through the much vaunted BBC Archive system, I drew no clues – the BFI’s Screenonline website surrendered far more information and proved much more user-friendly – so I used a standard ‘contact the BBC’ form to try and glean some information about the film footage used in the programme. Unfortunately all this yielded was a breezily polite yet thoroughly empty declination:

Dear Chris

Thanks for your e-mail regarding ‘The Rock N’ Roll Years’.

I understand that you’re interested in a particular piece of film from the 1957 series.

As the BBC is committed to ensuring that we derive the best possible value for all Licence Fee payers, we can no longer justify researching some of the unique, individual enquiries we were previously able to handle. We regret that your request falls into this category and are sorry that we are unable to supply the information you requested on this occasion. We hope that you will understand the reasons why.

Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.


BBC Information

Whilst I have no personal grievance with Sarah from BBC Information, this did somewhat tickle my complaining bone, so I am currently considering various approaches in order to prolong this avenue of investigation, drawing heavily from the school of persistent irritation. This will likely entail requests for details on the criteria employed to discern whether an enquiry should be assisted; a contextual hint that this might relate to a copyright issue; the suggestion that this refusal will lead to a range of official complaint procedures which themselves would take up more resources than simply looking at a file card or microfiche to find out where film for this episode came from; and an insistence that the factual error in the response means that I wish to resubmit the query. Frankly I’m embarrassed at myself, but the ends justify the means.

On a far more positive note, I’ve noticed that a Hungarian comics blog, Panel, has now covered the story. My Magyar is a little rusty, but through the power of InterTran I believe it’s a straightforward pick-up of the original.

I suspect help in resolving this little mystery will ultimately come from either comics fans or from those tapped into Hungarian folk memory – emigrés from that time, their relatives or even historians – so I am especially grateful for this mention.


In search of a Hart

I’ve finally been getting round to putting together a proper triptych picture of Ken Tappenden, David Hart and Paul Staines for my blog entry about them.

However, I’ve had great difficulty finding (okay, I *couldn’t* find) a picture of scab miner-bankrolling, Thatcher-advising, coup-backing property developer and playwright David Hart.

I’ve trawled the interweb, all the usual places; couldn’t find a chipolata. I waded through all my miners’ strike and spook books; nothing. But I know I’ve seen at least one published picture of the dude…

So if any of you out there can point me in the right direction, I’d be most grateful.

In the meantime the Richard John Bingham snap shall act as a placeholder…

“Don’t Tase me, bro!” – killer virus epidemic goes musical

Some Andrew Meyer/University of Florida Tasering tunes…

See also here, here, here, here and, erm, here

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Tased & Confused: Now in full audio glory!


Lots of people have been arriving here looking for audio of the Andrew Meyer University of Florida Taser incident: Well, ye who googles shall receive…

Direct linkies:*

* For them wot can’t figure out how to strip the audio off the page

** Audio links now fixed! **

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