London’s Spaghetti House siege ends
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.