London’s Spaghetti House siege ends

Malta Independent - - INTERVIEW -

The six re­main­ing hostages held by armed men in the cel­lar of a res­tau­rant in Knights­bridge, London have been re­leased un­harmed af­ter five days.

The cri­sis be­gan on 28 Septem­ber when nine staff of the Spaghetti House chain gath­ered to col­lect the week’s tak­ings amount­ing to al­most £13,000.

Three men burst in and led the staff, all Ital­ians, down into a small base­ment store­room.

One man man­aged to es­cape and alert the po­lice who quickly cor­doned off the area.

The gun­men held the rest in a store­room, which was cramped and hot but well­stocked with tins of food.

Over the next cou­ple of days they re­leased two hostages who be­came ill.

‘Hostages are com­ing out’

When it be­came clear the po­lice would not give in to the gun­men’s de­mands, the siege fi­nally ended at 0340 GMT to­day and Franklin Davies, the gang’s leader, shouted out: “The hostages are com­ing out.”

Com­man­der Christo­pher Payne or­dered them out one by one and the Ital­ians emerged ten­ta­tively be­fore col­laps­ing into the arms of po­lice and being taken by am­bu­lance to hospi­tal for check-ups.

The Metropoli­tan Po­lice had taken a hard­line but tact­ful ap­proach to the sit­u­a­tion. It had dis­missed the group’s claim it was part of a Black Pan­ther splin­ter group, the Black Lib­er­a­tion Army, fight­ing against cap­i­tal­ism and the op­pres­sion of black peo­ple.

Af­ter re­fer­ring to Home Sec­re­tary Roy Jenk­ins, Sir Robert Mark, Com­mis­sioner of the Metropoli­tan Po­lice, had re­fused their de­mands for a plane and safe pas­sage to Ja­maica.

But the group had been given a ra­dio, cof­fee and cig­a­rettes in ex­change for the re­lease of two hostages who were un­well.

The freed hostages were Mario Roscelli, En­rico Main­ini, Gino Barni, his brother Bruno, Re­nato Nasta and Giovanni Scrano.

Two of the gun­men who are West In­dian - Wesley Dick, aged 24 and An­thony Gor­don Mun­roe, aged 22 - have been charged at Can­non Row Po­lice Sta­tion.

Davies, a 28-year-old Nige­rian stu­dent, is being questioned at St George’s Hospi­tal.

Po­lice had found him ly­ing in the cel­lar with a gun­shot wound and a .22 pis­tol be­side him.

Praise for po­lice

The Prime Min­is­ter, Harold Wil­son, has sent a tele­gram to Sir Robert prais­ing him for the suc­cess­ful han­dling of the siege, the first of its kind in Bri­tain.

At a news con­fer­ence at Scot­land Yard, Sir Robert paid trib­ute to the 400 of­fi­cers who worked on se­cur­ing the safe re­lease of the hostages.

He also praised Ital­ian Con­sul Gen­eral Mario Manca whom he de­scribed as “a sen­si­tive, gal­lant and truly un­selfish man” and pre­sented him with a mounted crest of the coat of arms of the Metropoli­tan Po­lice.

At the height of the siege, Mr Manca had of­fered him­self as a sub­sti­tute for one of the hostages who was taken ill and then re­leased.

Sir Robert also thanked the hostages and their rel­a­tives for their pa­tience and for­ti­tude, and also the press for their care­ful re­port­ing of the sit­u­a­tion.

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