In 1979 I was sharing a large house in Oxford Gardens W10 with my good friends Lizzie, Pete and Charlie. We three chaps were working in various branches of the music business and Lizzie was a blur of activity. Life was never dull. It was a happy house, we all got on well and our social life revolved around mutual friends and of course lots of partying. Our house cat Flora had just produced a litter of kittens. Ahh!
Lizzie’s current special friend was a promising stand-up comedian who in the intervening years has become a household name as an actor. Let’s call him K. At this time though he was playing seedy pubs around west London with a band called The Atoms. Lizzie sometimes performed with them.
The day when all hell broke loose had begun just like any other. A lazy morning at home, then the afternoon spent in my manager’s office, hanging around with other musicians – like you do. In the evening Pete and I would have gone to the Prince of Wales and maybe had a game of darts. Later we would have been joined by a few friends back at Oxford Gardens, listened to some music or watched a bit of telly and eventually retired to bed. Which is where I was heading when the phone rang.
Lizzie answered and after the briefest of conversations she looked over at me and said, “Wait a minute, I’ll ask him”.
“Andy, is it alright if K borrows your car to move some stuff?”
“Yeah sure,” I replied sleepily.
What could possibly go wrong?
My car at that time was Citroen 2cv. We all go through a 2cv phase and 1979 was mine. I was mad keen on them. In fact I had two 2cv’s and was trying to sell one of them. It was parked in the street outside with a large sign in the back window saying
FOR SALE £350 ONO
CALL ANDY ON 960 – – – –
It was this car which K drove away in 10 minutes later.
Next morning it was my turn to go to the local shop to pick up a loaf of bread and a newspaper. I stepped out of the front door into a bright sunny summers day. I’d gone less than five yards when I noticed a car with a raised bonnet and a man leaning over the engine bay.
As I passed by he spoke.
“D’you know anything about cars?” He said.
“Not much I’m afraid.” I replied.
“You’ve got a car for sale haven’t you?”
“Yes that’s right.”
“It’s a 2cv isn’t it?”
“Yes”, I said somewhat puzzled.
What happen next seemed totally surreal.
12 uniformed policemen jumped out from behind a hedge. Surprise doesn’t begin to describe my feelings. I actually smiled at
them all. I instantly got the feeling that that wasn’t the appropriate thing to do.
They arranged themselves in a circle around me. Searching for something solid and familiar I glanced down at the
pavement for a second, and then back up at them.
They were still there. I had not imagined it. I had just walked out of the front door to buy a newspaper and now…..
There were 12 policemen encircling me. I smiled again.
“Andrew Cresswell Davis?”, one of them said.
“Of one hundred and sixty-seven Oxford Gardens?”
He waved a piece of paper at me and bellowed,
“We have a warrant to search your house!”
A large powerful hand grabbed my shoulder and we all walked back to the house in a sort of huddle.
I put my key in the door.
“How many people in the house?” their leader asked.
“Three – I think.” I said.
They pushed past me and some of them ran up the stairs shouting,
Well, if I had been taken by surprise, imagine how my three housemates felt. I suppose it’s fair to say that none of us were
“morning people.” One by one they appeared on the landing.
“What the hell’s going on?” said Pete. I think Charlie was literally speechless.
Lizzie came out of her room clutching two kittens.
“We have a warrant to search the premises.” A policeman said.
“Oh!” said Lizzie. “Would you like a kitten?”
They searched every room in the house without actually telling us what they we looking for though they did seem rather interested in the hi-fi systems we each had in our bedrooms. After maybe half an hour of total confusion someone handcuffed me
and told me I was under arrest. As they marched me out of the house Lizzie shouted,
“What are you arresting him for?”
“Burglary.” Came the reply.
“What?” she shrieked incredulously, “Andrew – A BURGLAR!”
The police car pulled up at Notting Hill police station. After verifying my name and address they took my fingerprints. Then they took away my belt and shoelaces and locked me in a cell. I still had absolutely no idea what I’d been arrested for.
By this time it was about 11.30 am. For the next six hours I had no contact with anyone. I had plenty of time to mull over the day’s extraordinary events and it didn’t take me long to work out that all this had something to do with K and the car though I still had know idea what he’d done. During the afternoon my housemates called my manager and told him what happened and at about 7pm he arrived at the police station with a lawyer in tow. I told them what little I knew and my suspicions about K. The lawyer advised me to protest my innocence, give what information I had and above all not to try to protect anyone. There was no fear of that. K had dropped me right in it, why shouldn’t I return the favour?
At about 9pm I was ushered into an room containing a desk, 2 chairs and an angle-poise lamp. It was pure Raymond Chandler. A
uniformed policeman stood with his back to the wall. A few minutes later a man in a suit walked in. He removed his jacket and hung it on the back of the chair. He sat down at the desk and gestured for me to take the other chair. He studied the papers on the desk in front of him and slowly loosened his tie. There was a bright light shining directly in my face. (“They really do that,” I thought.) He produced a pack of cigarettes and offered me one. Next he took out his lighter and leaned across the table. As he lit my cigarette he looked me straight in the eye.
“Well Andrew – you’re in a spot of trouble.”
“I’ve got absolutely no idea what this is about,” I said.
He took a drag of his cigarette and exhaled slowly. He shuffled some papers on the desk, then looked up and stared at me again
for several seconds. It was 2 or 3 minutes before he spoke again.
“Can you account for your movements between 10.30pm last night and 3am this morning?”
“I had a drink at the Prince of Wales with some friends and at about 10 o’clock we went home.”
“I watched TV until about 11.45 pm and then went to bed.”
“Did you go out again that night?”
“Did anything else happen that evening?”
“Well – my housemate Lizzie received a phone call at about 11.50pm. It was a friend of ours who wanted to borrow my car.”
“Ah yes – the car,” he said with heavy emphasis.
“You are the owner of a white Citroen 2cv registration number BHV 938?”
“Who was this friend?”
“His name’s K…..”
“What did he want the car for?”
“He just said he wanted to move some stuff.”
“I have no idea – he’s in a band – I assumed he was moving some equipment after a gig.”
My interrogator took a long slow drag of his cigarette.
“He’s a musician?”
I could feel the light shining on my face with even greater intensity.
“Umm – no – he’s a comedian.”
“He’s not the only fucking comedian round here is he?”
“Look – I’m telling you the gospel truth – would I make this up?”
“So – you’re telling me that a comedian used a 2cv as a getaway car?”
“A getaway car?”
“At 1.30 this morning there was a break-in in Ladbroke Grove – your car was found at the scene of the crime.”
There was a horrible pregnant pause during which I realized that as far as the police were concerned I was taking the piss and really having a laugh at their expense.
“I’m telling you the truth. I’m totally innocent. What kind of idiot do you think I am? Would I do a burglary with a sign in the back window of the getaway car displaying my name and phone number in large letters?”
The interogation came to an end and I was taken back to my cell where I spent a very restless and uncomfortable night. The police went back to the house next morning where my housemates verified everything I had told them. Roundabout midday the lawyer turned up at the police station and a couple of hours later I was told I was free to go.
The days that followed were in a way quite hilarious. I was followed everywhere by men in ludicrous disquises and every time I got in my car I was stopped on some pretext. Eventually, after 2 or 3 days I received a message that K wanted to meet me in the Golden Lion pub – presumably to say how sorry he was. I went to the pub at the allotted hour and bought myself a drink. An hour went by but there was no sign of him. A man I didn’t recognize came in, bought a drink and sat at the next table. I could feel him checking me out. He leant across and whispered out of the corner of his mouth.
“Are you Andy?”
“K ain’t ‘ere, ‘e’s dahn the Ladbroke Arms – it’s a precaution.”
“I drank up and made my way to the Ladbroke which was crowded so I had to stand at the bar. Another half hour went by and still no sign of him. Then another bloke I’d not seen before pushed his way through the throng.
“‘You ‘ere to see K?”
“Yes,” I hissed getting angrier by the minute.
“Go out the pub, turn right and e’s down the end of the road by the launderette.”
I’d nearly reached the launderette when, as I passed an alleyway I heard, “ppssst.” I looked round and there he was.
“Sorry about that mate,” he said, as if he’d just trod on my toe.
“You complete, utter bastard”, I said.
“What the fu…..?”
“No I’m really sorry mate – listen I can’t hang around here any longer – I gotta go – I’ll see you later – ‘buy you a pint.”
And that was it.
Later I found out that K, being a bit of an anarchist, had befriended a gang of teenage kids. They were too young to drive so K used to do the driving. On this occasion they were interrupted while raiding an electrical goods shop. They had abandoned my car sideways across Ladbroke Grove with 2 grand’s worth of stereo equipment inside.
They never caught him.