Any ordinary observer,
recently passing through Merdrignac, a small town in Brittany, may well have been mistaken on seeing two 'out of town' gentlemen seated facing a clearly tired, unshaven and worried old man on sticks. Was this Maurice, clearly under intense interrogation? Yes. Was he in trouble again, ‘Code Napoleon’ style? No.
Their persistent questioning was to establish just why this clearly extreme and never ending oppression by three British police forces, one after the other, had gone on now for nearly 40 years.
'Authority', it seemed, was intent in blocking Maurice's 'ease of travel', especially when there appeared a history of crossing country borders by less conventional methods, other than public transport.
Maurice believed it came from an edict handed down, 'in a fit pique', following an unfortunate incident in Taunton Police Station, far back in 70's. A high official, from within that dubious cabal called freemasonry, having first mislaid his Chief Superintendant's pocket note book, his day job. He may well have been the one who made that simple telephone call to trigger so much trouble for Maurice and his family.
Maurice’s way of life was soon ransacked by a particularly vindictive man from Cardiff, a Mr M R Jones of HM Customs and Excise Drug Squad. He led a search team through his home, garden, hangars and aircraft. He took away papers from the safe, one a letter from the Civil Aviation Authority, addressed to the Taunton police, rebuking them for their part in interfering with an Englishman simply going about his lawful business even if it was in some WW2 tired Auster aircaft, tied up with binder twine, flying between his farmer clients.
Then HM Customs and Excise Drug Squad really spent the money, in force, sending agents all over Western Europe interrogating anyone with whom he had done business with, importing derelict or ‘just about flying’ old aeroplanes. Jones had Maurice on remand in a number of UK HM prisons before all allegations, of suspected drug smuggling, were dropped.
Following his Breton interrogation, Maurice reluctantly concluded that, maybe, it was his history and general way of life that had first attracted authority’s attention, as it left an unusual pattern on the Police National Computer, PNC, for others to read years later. What the police call, a ‘modus operandi’ of a known villain. This, coupled together with the fact his high percentage of 'wins' in police courts and the way dubious charges were so often ridiculed, meant any unscrupulous police officer, of any rank, might well have been tempted to act incorrectly for his or her own personal gain.
People in ‘positions of authority’ are too easily angered, these days, if they perceive a ‘loss of control’ over someone within their own remit of work. Was it as simple as that?
What was plainly obvious to Maurice’s interrogators and confirmed recently, upon the conclusions of a medical examination by a doctor specialising in such matters, Maurice’s past history, of using unconventional transport to go about his veterinary business, was most likely, the key.
Resorting to such methods as flying old aeroplanes, when banned from driving, riding very fast motor bikes on foreign number plates, battling with seas in a sophisticated rigid inflatable for commuting,between both Guernsey and Alderney, in the Channel Islands, all year, sometimes in extreme weather conditions, are some examples but it was already ‘pouring fat on a roaring fire’.
"His disrespect for authority", came back the reply from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeon’s Queen’s Counsel, in 2004, at the HM Privy Council Downing Street court hearing, following Lord Hoffman’s query as to, "why such apparent ‘trivial’ motoring offences" had been relied upon, in the lower court, to have Maurice’s name being removed from the veterinary register, for life?.
A chronology of events is to indicate, perhaps, just why the three police forces, Avon and Somerset, Guernsey and now South Wales, have all acted in such an extreme manner but it does not excuse any one of them from acting outside the rule of law.
1963. Maurice, after a brief visit to Czechoslovakia, very wet and worried, was seen by Austrian police clambering out of the water and running for his life up and over their river bank ,to hide behind a tree, as a Khrushchev controlled gun boat came charging down on him. He had just been washed into the full view of a machine gun post perched high up on top of a tower, on the other side. He had to swim back, in daylight but not at the pre-arranged ‘blind spot’ he had planned, along the hundreds of miles of the Iron Curtain. After his negotiating a heavily mined and recently dug up river bank, to detect foot prints, much barbed wire and live ammunition his hostile reception committee was but ‘small bear’.
He had, that week, paddled from Innsbruck, Austria, in his WW2 fragile, now, £6 folding canoe, to Passau, Germany, forgetting the finer points of crossing border etiquette. If it had not been for the night before, in some ancient Austrian police cell, down river, 'after casing the joint'', the brandishing gunned Austrian police would, no doubt, have taken a little longer view before finally releasing him.
1964. Maurice standing beside his home made wood and canvas canoe, pulled up on a Dover beach, was seen trying to persuade two, not so believing, bemused HM Customs Officers, that he had just paddled in from Calais, France, again forgetting French Customs rig marrolle, before his departure across the English Channel with only a crumpled brown 10 shilling note to his name.
That same summer he had already hitch hiked from New York to LA to Vancouver, Canada to Quebec and back for two nights, under a tree, in Central Park, on just £5. Ten Coca Cola bottles, picked up on the road side, bought food even if was a thoroughly tasteless loaf of soda bread.
1967. Maurice hitched over 5000 miles in Australia, living on Mount Kosciusko in his built igloo, around both North and South Islands of New Zealand before hiking the jungles of New Guinea from way North of Goroka down to Lae. A one-way half price student ticket, bought in Alice Springs for Ayers Rock, in another old Auster, to then walk on out, bound for Tasmania, was a ‘first’ he was told.
1969 to date. Maurice would never dream of landing at an airfield if he could possibly avoid it. As his father and oldest brother, Michael, always agreed, it was the most anti-social place for a private owner ever to find himself.
It usually meant:
- First one had to get permission, with interminable delay and carry a licence and even a map.
- No damned good, if your aircraft had no radio or there was more than one cloud in the sky.
- Wearing one’s expensive tyres out on tarmac and then made to taxi miles to park, far from ones waiting friends at the airport bar.
- Walking in the rain, so often, just to pay a fine at some way off control tower with an outside ladder!
- Then have to get permission to leave and wait and wait, engine running, for other aircraft to land and take off.
- But to cap it all, if she needed ‘go juice’, ‘motion lotion’, again one had to wait for it and have the ready currency, only to be charged ‘through the nose’ for it.
1969. Maurice, in a rented French Rallye Club ‘span can’, remembers taking a girlfriend and flat mate to Ireland, via South Wales, only to have argument over the multiple damaging ‘bird strike’ with an unyielding Swansea Air Traffic controller as to who was responsible for obstructions on the active runway!
1970. Maurice is hitch hiking, only in his wet suit and red bobble cap with a large whole leg of ham slung over his shoulder. His fastest single-sailer of its day, a Unicorn catamaran, left becalmed in Lyme Regis harbour, meant he had some sixteen miles to walk back to his job, in Bridport. He takes a lift but an austere black brief case on the back seat, bearing a gold portcullis insignia with ‘HM’ on top, dampened his enjoyment of his day. He is offered, by the smartly suited gentleman, his business card as he was investigating a ‘sighting’ of someone in the locality hawking, out of plastic black bags , around the pubs, export only King Size No 6 cigarettes and one litre bottles of Stand Fast Whisky, they do not roll around and break, for half UK prices. Maurice did not see him again.
1970. Maurice, with precious spare time on a week end off, would often fly, in the depths of winter, in his 50s wooden aeroplane, a French Sipa 901, fully aerobatic rumour had it, to Southern Ireland.
Flights to Donegal, Eire, for a week end’s duck shooting, meant it was inconvenient to fly in the wrong direction to Bristol or Exeter, just too clear Customs. Nor did landing at Dublin exactly guarantee a quick turn round to reach his brother, before dark, on a deserted beach near Burton Port.
Maurice seriously went wrong, on one occasion, during one of his hunting trips, 8 bore ,12 bore shot guns, rifle and faithful gun dog by his side, all stuffed in with a spare fuel can. Talbenny Airfield, West Wales, a WW2 derelict fighter base, had been chosen to ‘top up’. A pot hole on the runway, on his return from Eire, with passenger, meant Police and Customs and tracker dogs later found a deserted Sipa tied to a gate post. Sightings of a couple, with a large suitcase, hitching their way towards Somerset only caused more trouble. The fifteen pound fine that followed gave no indication of what was yet to come, where authorities were concerned.
Maurice did try Cardiff, almost on route to Dublin, later, in the mid 70s but that was a right catastrophe with South Wales Police arresting him on some trumped up ‘public order’ offence, only for him to win it in a newly built magistrates building in town nearby, called Barry. The clear hatred in the prosecutor’s eye, as he left the court room, caused Maurice to try and avoid Cardiff airport in the future.
1973. As day light was short, in order to get to the Ennislkillen Harriers Hunt Ball, Northern Ireland, in his AOP 6 WW2 Auster and flight duck at five on the following morning, landing at believed deserted Haverford West aerodrome, to ‘top up’ from a jerry can, in the back, proved yet another welsh mistake. South Wales Police demanded Customs clearance to Northern Ireland. Maurice waits for no Customs, he bluntly reminded them, IRA villains will never beat us. They refused to remove their police vehicle from his proposed flight path. The rumours of his crushing the police car roof in with his port strut, on takeoff, only to be then buzzed, at very low level in semi darkness, twenty minutes later, by a hurriedly scrambled Hawker Hunter jet, out RAF Brawdy, nearby, may not have enhanced Maurice’s future prospects in the Principality.
1977. Maurice then flew to the Isle of Man for the motor bike races. On the way back he cleared Customs at Swansea, another big mistake. South Wales police set about, in the teaming rain, to make him unload seven big boxes of Manx kippers and the island’s other delicacy, ‘Queenies’, only to start putting screw drivers to his engine and fuselage covers. Threats and the language that followed with Maurice demanding production of their aircraft engineer certification was also, possibly, not helpful.
Taunton Chief Superintendant’s note book now goes ‘missing’, seventy-two charges soon accumulate with violent arrests and police losing fifty-six ignominiously, in a string of both sick and hilarious magistrate and Crown Court hearings, primarily to stop Maurice either driving his car or flying his aircraft.
At around this time Maurice was approached to do one flight from the Continent for a mere £100,000. Having the experience to first pilot and then leave a perfectly serviceable aircraft at two thousand feet, in the dead of night, to delivery whatever appeared not a problem. Maurice reported the incident where others would have found it more prudent to have not.
Whilst sewing mail bags in Dorchester prison, he was again approached to do a drug-run, for similar money. Maurice was now wising up to the real world and so told no-one.
Whilst in Guernsey, Maurice was again approached, wined and dined, to no avail, as Maurice had the measure of the Guernsey police by now.
1979. Maurice was about to sit both his Air Transport Pilot’s and Flying Instructors exams but the authorities had other ideas. He is jailed for six months for flying an aircraft whilst drunk, when he was neither drunk nor the pilot. The latter, in the left hand seat and logging the hours, was visited at 10 at night by two burly ex-Metropolitan Police, for the CAA Investigation Branch, who threatened his licence if he does not turn ‘Queen’s evidence’.
What travesty then followed in Bournemouth Crown Court Maurice refuses to leave alone. Being unable to brief his barrister, whilst ‘on the hoof’, on the relevant aspects of flight safety, as prosecution evidence went seriously adrift, due to ignorance, Maurice being the only commercial pilot in the room but locked in dock could not communicate. A far different account, therefore, emerged on what really went on during that wet and windy night across the Channel from Brittany, in the depths of winter. Maurice never used a barrister again.
1981. The Guernsey ‘experience’ of over ten years with their total disregard for basic human rights, as a tax haven, is far too long to recount just now, but Maurice’s twenty-one times in jail, for example, with some fifteen or sixteen cases then dropped, a few days later each time, knowing Maurice’s team of lawyers in Taunton had no ‘right of audience’ to claim compensation, might indicate to the reader the malice generated.
Enough of storytelling, just to explain the reasons as to why three British police forces have colluded to pervert the course of justice.
Maurice and his helpers may never see the day, but the rule of law will finally prevail and ‘truth will out’.