“Harry Roberts, he’s our man, he shoots policemen bang bang bang.”
On 12 August 1966 at :3.15pm three plainclothes policemen were on a routine patrol in Foxtrot 11, a police patrol Q car. They spotted a battered, blue Standard Vanguard Estate car (registration PGT 726) with no tax disc in Braybrook Street, near Wormwood Scrubs in London. The policemen were Detective Sergeant Christopher Head, aged 30, Temporary Detective Constable David Wombwell, 25, and their driver Police Constable Geoffrey Fox, 41.
The vehicle contained three criminals, John Witney, John Duddy and Harry Roberts. DS Head and TDC Wombwell walked towards the vehicle and asked Witney about the tax disc and discovered that he also had no MOT or insurance. As DS Head walked towards the passenger side of the vehicle Harry Roberts, in the passenger seat, pulled a 9mm Luger and shot TDC Wombwell in the left eye, killing him immediately.
DS Head ran back towards his vehicle, but Roberts pursued him and, after missing once, shot him in the head. John Duddy, the back-seat passenger, got out and grabbed a .38 Colt from a bag next to him, which also contained a third gun. He ran over to the Q car and shot out all the windows as PC Fox desperately tried to get away. PC Fox threw the car into gear but then ran over the prone body of DS Head, dying of his wounds, who became caught in the back wheels. Duddy then shot PC Fox in the head.
There several witnesses to the incident and Witney and Duddy were quickly arrested. Witney was identified by one boy because he bore an uncanny resemblance to the Manchester United footballer Bobby Charlton. Harry Roberts went on the run, aided by his knowledge of survival techniques learned in the army.
Braybrook Street, Hammersmith, London, England
3.15pm Friday 12 August 1966
For three months, Roberts eluded capture before he was discovered and arrested on 15 November in a barn at Blount’s Farm near Bishop’s Stortford in Hertfordshire. At their trial, which began on 5 December 1966, all three men were found guilty of murder and the judge sentenced them to life with a recommendation they serve 30 years.
Duddy died in Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight on 8 February 1981; Witney was released in 1991 and was found beaten to death on 18 August 1999 at his home in Horfield, Bristol; Roberts is still behind bars, having made more than 20 attempts to escape. In the late 60s and early 70s Roberts’s name would be chanted by football fans to taunt police: “Harry Roberts, he’s our man, he shoots policemen bang bang bang.”