Eerie re­minder in sunken eyes

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Opinion -

ARRY ROBERTS is our friend, is our friend, is our friend … there are times when you un­der­stand why some peo­ple, even now, dis­like foot­ball and, in par­tic­u­lar, foot­ball ‘sup­port­ers’. The tribal pride I have shared since the 1960s, of be­ing ‘Shelf Side Tot­ten­ham’ (as op­posed to Park Lane Tot­ten­ham, the cheer­lead­ing end be­hind the goal, or the Pax­ton, the other end who of­ten need a gee-up from the rest of us to get in on the singing), does turn to em­bar­rass­ment at the ex­tremer forms of abuse, to which I usu­ally feel un­able to con­trib­ute. Hear­ing the Harry Roberts song, to the tune of Lon­don Bridge Is Fall­ing Down, was per­haps the first time I be­came aware that the High Road was fur­ther than I thought from High Wy­combe. It was prob­a­bly only a small group of yobs taunt­ing the mounted po­lice­men, and I may have only heard it once or twice, but I have never for­got­ten the shock­ing, bru­tal chill of it: “… ’Arry Roberts is our friend, he kills cop­pers.” And it all came back with the pic­tures in the pa­pers of the man who shot dead two of the three po­lice­men mur­dered near Shep­herds Bush in 1966 and who, at 72, is now seek­ing release from prison. The grainy, black and white im­age, with the swept back, wavy hair, and the hol­low, sunken eyes, is eerily rem­i­nis­cent of the mugshot of Moors mur­derer Ian Brady, jailed for the killing of three chil­dren in the same year. Roberts’ no­to­ri­ety must have lasted, be­cause I did not make my first pil­grim­age to Tot­ten­ham un­til three years later, and if any­thing in 1966 had cut away at my child­hood in­no­cence it would have been the Aber­fan school dis­as­ter, when more than a hun­dred chil­dren of about my age died be­neath an avalanche of coal-slag, from an un­sta­ble tip. Forty-two years is prob­a­bly plenty of pu­n­ish­ment for any­one, he’s nearly as old as my fa­ther, and is hardly likely to be a threat to so­ci­ety, so I don’t sup­pose I will be par­tic­u­larly both­ered if he is re­leased. But I can’t say I’ll be par­tic­u­larly both­ered if he stays locked up, ei­ther.

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