The end of the TV series coincides with the launch of the book True Crime on the notoriously corrupt DS Derek Ridgewell
As Line of Duty concludes its sixth and possibly final series, how close to reality was it?
It turns out that the end of the race coincides with the publication of Rot at the Core, an in-depth investigation into the life and times of one of Britain’s most spectacularly corrupt police officers, whose career ended in disgrace before his death in cell prison.
The perpetrators are a former superintendent detective, Graham Satchwell, who investigated corruption in his own strength, and Winston Trew, a victim of the stooped policeman, whose unjust conviction nearly 50 years ago was only recently overturned.
“The first series reminded me of the movie LA Confidential, which also told a powerful story, but like many US police programs it piled up corpses far beyond reality,” said Satchwell.
“Before Line of Duty, we hadn’t seen that in British drama. It shocked me at first because it just isn’t realistic, but now I’m so lost in the sheer fun of the show that it doesn’t matter anymore. “
“I have to say that I found it hard to believe,” said Trew. “It’s a good idea to have a woman from a gangster family who becomes a police officer [the DCI character Jo Davidson, played by Kelly Macdonald], but the idea that a group of heavily armed policemen hunts two of their fellow armed policemen, and it looks like there’s going to be a shootout between them, it was – well, all a little Hollywood for me. “The reality, he said, was that real police corruption was more subtle and more mundane.
“The only omission in Line of Duty is the role that has often been played in police corruption in this country by Freemasonry,” said Satchwell.
“Putting this aside, he tells several fundamental truths: first, that organized crime groups often have detectives ‘on the side’. This is not a new phenomenon and dates back to the days of Billy Hill in the 50s and the Krays in the 60s ”.
As for the role of the anti-corruption arm AC-12, “police corruption is not uncommon and investigating it is a lonely business. This creates distrust and antipathy on the part of other officers, ”he said. “As we saw in Line of Duty, cowardly, politically concerned and ambitious senior officers are common and often fail to act against suspected corruption in their ranks because they fear they will be perceived as having failed.”
The subject of Rot at the Core, which is now being promoted by its editors as “the true line of duty”, is the late DS Derek Ridgewell, who was possibly responsible for more individual cases of judicial error that have been overturned than any. another policeman in Britain. More cases involving his corruption are due to be heard in the appeals court later this year, after referrals from the Criminal Case Review Commission.
Ridgewell, a sociable and plausible man, not unlike the character “Dot” Cottan played by Craig Parkinson in an earlier series of Line of Duty, prepared countless people in the 1970s for crimes they had not committed, while he himself was involved in stealing more than £ 1 million – the equivalent of £ 4 million today – in assets that the police had access to, which he sold through a well-known family of criminals in South London.
Notably for the 1970s, the proceeds of his crimes were deposited in five bank accounts, including one in Zurich, and a safe. He, too, as a humble detective sergeant, owned properties and businesses.
When he was finally arrested, along with other corrupt police officers, he hired Bernie Perkoff, the leading lawyer used by many gangs, but was convicted of conspiracy to steal and imprisoned for seven years in 1980.
Asked by the governor of Ford prison why he had embarked on such a corrupt path, he said to him, “I was just bowed.” He died in his cell in 1982, at the age of 37. Satchwell, a contemporary of Ridgewell in the British Transport Police, suggests in the book that it is possible that he was murdered.
Trew, the son of a Jamaican police sergeant who brought his family to Britain in the 1950s, was arrested at the Oval tube station in 1972, along with three friends on their way back from a Black Power meeting in north London. The young men, who became known as “the Four Ovals”, were beaten and framed by Ridgewell for attempting to rob and assault the police on the London Underground and were arrested. It was one of a series of cases that became known as Stockwell Six, Waterloo Four and Tottenham Court Road Two.
Trew became a professor of social studies at South Bank University before suffering a stroke in 2003. While recovering, he decided to investigate his case using the National Archives and the Freedom of Information Act, and discovered the levels of corruption that Ridgewell was at. involved.
While trying to have his own conviction overturned, he met Satchwell, who was able to use his own contacts to discover other previously hidden information about Ridgewell, and they decided to collaborate on a book.
In 2019, Mr. President of the court, Lord Burnett, overturned the Oval Quartet’s convictions and told them: “We are sorry that it took so long for this injustice to be remedied.”
For Trew, a big difference between Line of Duty and his own experience in 1972 was, of course, the presence of black officers like Chloe Bishop (played by Shalom Brune-Franklin) and Farida Jatri (played by Anneika Rose) in the current Series. “When we were all equipped, there were only white officers around.”
There is a frighteningly contemporary aspect to the book in Trew’s description of his prison. “The man who was holding me got angry and started putting pressure on my neck. I could hardly breathe. He was trying to strangle me, I thought. He then whispered in my ear: ‘Let’s see how smart you are now’. “
A courageous witness, Mrs. O’Connor, tried to intervene and eventually testified for Trew at his trial of Old Bailey in 1972. She told the court: “The boy’s eyes seemed to be coming out of his head and his mouth was open when he he was suffocating dying … That’s why I intervened to prevent it. “
Despite her evidence, Trew and his friends were all arrested. “That feeling of injustice remained with me the whole time – even when I wasn’t consciously thinking about it,” he writes in the book. “In a short time, it became a feature in my nightmare dreams and had a recurring theme: I was stuck in a place that I couldn’t escape from.”
“I must say that Ridgewell’s story and how he got away with it for so long is as similar to a Line of Duty story as anything else I encountered in real life,” said Satchwell this week. “Good men stood and did nothing.”