Catch­ing out crim­i­nals a pas­sion for for­mer in­spec­tor

Talk of the Town - - News -

lthough con­stantly in our me­dia, crimes of fraud are not ex­clu­sive to SA, as am­ply il­lus­trated by Peter Viner, a re­tired Bri­tish po­lice­man who spoke at the U3A meet­ing at Don Powis Hall in Set­tlers Park last Thursday.

Viner, who re­tired from his post as as­sis­tant chief in­spec­tor in the Bri­tish Spe­cial Branch, be­gan his long and il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer as a bobby on the beat in the south of Eng­land in 1968 at a small po­lice sta­tion in Hen­ley on Thames.

“I seemed to have a good eye for crime,” he told the au­di­ence. “I was a good thief-taker.

“When you’re work­ing night shift the hour be­tween 2am and 3am is the worst,” he said. “You

Acan walk around the town and not see a sin­gle car, and all you can think about is a nice warm bed. But on this night my friend, also a young con­sta­ble named Billy Greenall, was head­ing to­ward the bak­ery for a cof­fee when he saw a car and hailed it down. On speak­ing with the driver, Gre­nall de­cided to get a look in the boot of the car.

“Re­luc­tantly the driver did what he was asked and opened the boot of his car and there was a body. That doesn’t hap­pen very of­ten,” he said.

When the Thames Val­ley Po­lice was amal­ga­mated from sev­eral po­lice sta­tions in the Thames area of Lon­don, they formed spe­cialised squads, one of which was the Fraud Squad.

As Viner had be­gun tak­ing the first year of an ac­count­ing de­gree (“which I found bor­ing”) be­fore join­ing the po­lice, at 22 years old, it was just Viner and a sergeant as­signed to the unit.

His first case was in Read­ing, where he got in­volved in a “Cray Broth­ers” type fraud. The com­pany he was in­ves­ti­gat­ing pur­chased goods from sup­pli­ers and paid im­me­di­ately and even in ad­vance, thereby earn­ing the rep­u­ta­tion of be­ing a good credit risk.

“They built trust and then go for the big one; where they or­der a size­able amount of goods and then dis­ap­pear. On in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the com­pany was bo­gus, and the ad­dresses and tele­phone num­bers fic­ti­tious. I had to travel to Lon­don to take state­ments.”

Af­ter in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the man was fi­nally found and given four years’ im­pris­on­ment.

His next case was in Ox­ford where com­plaints had been re­ceived re­gard­ing an em­ploy­ment agency based in Morocco that was tak­ing £30 from each client to set them up with a job over­seas but not ac­tu­ally find­ing peo­ple em­ploy­ment.

“When I re­turned to the of­fice I told my boss I needed to go to Morocco,” Viner said. At the time the old guard did not al­low young po­lice con­sta­bles to go over­seas and Viner knew that his chances were lim­ited but, to his sur­prise, he was al­lowed to fol­low the leads he had es­tab­lished.

“This was my first time over­seas,” said Viner. But it was a dif­fi­cult time to leave his heav­ily preg­nant wife, Jackie. It might have been a small re­lief when the Moroc­can po­lice told him he had no per­mis­sion to in­ves­ti­gate in Morocco and that he should re­turn on the next flight. How­ever, it turned out that fur­ther talks were nec­es­sary and, as they were un­der way the lo­cal po­lice in­vited him to a club where they wheeled in sev­eral young girls and asked him to choose one for the night.

Viner de­clined and the po­lice seemed to un­der­stand. The next night they in­vited him out again, apol­o­gis­ing for their mis­take. This time a row of young boys were pa­raded be­fore him. Viner did not par­take of that of­fer ei­ther.

Viner’s in­for­ma­tive talk was lit­tered with amus­ing anec­dotes and his clear, friendly voice car­ried with it the au­thor­ity of some­one who has ex­pe­ri­enced work­ing on some of the UK’s big­gest fraud cases.

He will be back to talk about his ca­reer af­ter he was ap­pointed as a de­tec­tive sergeant, so don’t miss his next U3A visit.

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