The Brotherhood of Eternal Love
Stewart Tendler and Davaid May
Here Comes the Night
Kemp raced from the car into the garden of the Welsh cottage. He ran round and round and round, waving his arms in the air like a triumphant footballer who has just scored a magnificent goal. Waves of relief and exhilaration flooded over him. He hugged and shook a laughing Christine Bott.
The man who dreamed of making LSD by the hundredweight had, single-handed, in the spring of 1976, completed the biggest production run of his career: over 7 kilos of ergotamine tartrate converted in a series of shattering night-and-day stints into 1,800 grams of LSDenough to make nine million microdots. Happy and tired, Kemp slumped down in the cottage to recover.
There was only one other home in the valley, one and a half miles from the town of Tregaron, and the windows gave out on to a panoramic view of open countryside dominated by hills. The hassles of living and operating in overcrowded London were behind Kemp.
The chemist and his girlfriend fitted neatly into a rural world of hill-farmers and radical refugees from the big cities. In the surrounding valleys were many others who had given up the struggle on the streets, trying to find utopias on the land in a mix of drugs and self-sufficiency.
The two acres of land which went with the £9,000 cottage were divided into meadow, field and a vegetable garden on which Kemp lavished attention. Christine Bott shared his enthusiasm for their new life. She was a member of the Soil Association and the Goat Society, pouring attention on two goats called Stella and Petra whose milk was sold to passing hippies.
LSD was the panacea for so many of society's ills, but now it was married to a 'back-to-the-land' philosophy, not unlike that of the Brothers. 'I'd have everyone out in two-acre plots like ours, being self-sufficient,' Kemp said. His hair greying, his memory not quite as sharp as it had once been, Kemp clung to his faith in LSD, and Christine Bott was not prepared to change him. Over the years, the couple put their views on the line, not only in making LSD but funding organizations which were part of the fight. The only group Kemp ever admitted contributing to was Release, a London charity fighting for drug law reform and helping users in trouble. But funds also went behind the scenes to help the British underground's free festivals at Watchfield and Glastonbury. The most Kemp ever said about his investments was that money went to 'head politics'. Certainly Kemp and his girlfriend travelled a long way left from their roots.
Kemp's journey to Wales had begun in part because of his outlook and the way it differed from Todd's aspirations. To the chemist's way of thinking, Todd was nothing more than a dilettante whose values were largely mercenary. As far as Todd was concerned, Kemp was difficult, arrogant and naive behind his back, Todd and his friends called the chemist 'face ache' because of a disfiguring scar. The simmering differences came to a head with negotiations on future production. Although radical in his views, Kemp was not so far gone as to forget the main chance. It was almost an action replay of the split with Stark. Kemp thought he should have more because he was the kingpin. Todd thought Kemp was being too greedy. They parted in 1973.
That was the picture painted to friends and the one which filtered into the gossip on the London drugs market. Might there not also have been security considerations? Friedman, Sand and the Brothers had been busted. Stark, fleeing from the DEA and the IRS, hid in London while he got a fresh British passport. Then in July 1973, Gerry Thomas, Solomon's partner, was arrested in Canada. The trail was coming uncomfortably close to home. The split might have been motivated as much by mutual safety as mutual dislike.
The division led to one of the world's biggest, if not the biggest, LSD operations which took over where the Brothers had been forced to leave off. Unlike the Brothers, the organization was tighter, more compactbetter equipped to survive.
On Kemp's side, what now emerged was a reincarnation of the original trio of Kemp, Solomon and Arnabaldi. Solomon had already been reinstated, and he now added 6 kilos of ergotamine tartrate to the 3 ordered by Kemp and Todd in happier times, creating a Swiss stockpile of 9 kilos. But he remained on the periphery and, knowing of Solomon's past clashes with Arnabaldi, Kemp kept his approach to the other American to himself. Arnabaldi became junior partner in setting up the new laboratory.
Together Kemp, Christine Bott and the American had toured the country early in 1974 with a caravan hitched to the back of a red Range Rover which Kemp had bought, cash down, in a moment of weakness. The search ended at PlasLlysyn, a large, rundown manor house dating back to the early eighteenth century. Sited at Carno in the Cambrian mountains and surrounded by harsh, spectacular scenery, it was in need of repair. With Arnabaldi posing as an American writer, the house was bought in the summer of 1974 for £26,000. T he deal was financed by Arnabaldi selling his shares to Kemp for £ 17,500, and the chemist made up the rest.
Once the sale was completed, Kemp went to work with a will, for at last he could create his own laboratory in situ. He had rescued his equipment from store and began buying in supplies -he tried to keep a spare for every item of equipment, so that accidents did not hold up production. Kemp and Bott lived in the mansion, but neither thought it a good arrangement. Apart from the dangers of living over the cellar laboratory Christine wanted somewhere settled; she was still driving to London to pick up mail held at the Earls Court accommodation address. They moved into the cottage as the time for the production run drew near. It was only a matter of days before Kemp was to start in April 1975 when his. plans were seriously upset.
Travelling between Carno and the cottagean hour's driveKemp skidded with the Range Rover on a wet road and ploughed into a car carrying a young rector and his wife. Christine Bott accompanied the injured man to hospital, but he was dead on arrival. Kemp was seriously shaken by the death. Unnerved and facing driving charges, the chemist could not begin the run; it had to be delayed for nearly nine months until the court case was over.
Only then, in the spring of 1976, did Kemp venture into the laboratory, code-named 'the yellow submarine'. Upstairs, Arnabaldi, who retired to Majorca during the setback, kept watch, linked to the cellar by intercom as Kemp made up for lost time. With years of experience behind him, he now considered himself a great, if not the greatest, LSD chemist. Like Owsley before him, he strived for increased yields and high quality. Kemp got the yields up to 25 or 30 per cent, while only a sense of scientific modesty forbade him from claiming the LSD was 100 per cent pure.
Where others might take weeks, Kemp broke down the ergotamine in ten days; he took another two weeks to convert it into crystals he claimed would stay intact for hundreds of years. It meant long, hard hours non-stop. The first stage of the process took twenty-four hours without a break, and after that the chemist slept for another twelve. As he worked, the air was full of fumes and particles so he was continually affected by the drug. Kemp worked out a system which allowed him to stagger production, so that while one operation was taking place he could switch attention to material which had already passed through that stage. In between operations Christine Bott would rescue him and take him back to the cottage for a rest.
As he rested after his jubilant return to the cottage at the completion of the production run, Arnabaldi packed his bags into the dashing little Mini-Moke which had become a familiar sight in the area, and headed home for Majorca. He took with him 450 grams of LSD. The rest was salted down near the mansion, now put up for sale. Kemp and Arnabaldi ended their partnership with an argument over money. Once again, Kemp was unable to keep his relations with his partners free from acrimony. For by now he was also squabbling with Solomon. Yet the chemist needed Solomon to forge the links in the distribution chain. The solution was a buffer, someone whom both could trust and use as a go-between. They turned to Dr Mark Tcharney. Like Christine Bott an occasional medical practitioner, Tcharney had known both Kemp and Solomon since his student days at Cambridge when he dated one of Solomon's step-daughters. He was now living at Esgairwen, not far from Kemp, and they still saw each other. At the same time, he was working with Solomon on a book on the rather bizarre subject of excreta.
A rate of $500 per 1,000 microdots was agreed between Solomon and Kemp, who was responsible for tableting. He began to work in the cottage using home-made equipment, estimating he could run off 50,000 in three hours. Kemp planned to let the LSD out into the market gently, calculating that if too many pills were offered for sale at one time, the buyer would demand larger discounts. Whatever his principles and his feelings about Todd's capitalism, Dick Kemp was going to play the market too.
By the spring of 1977, over 180,000 microdots had passed from Kemp via Tcharney to Solomon through a system based on the tried and tested dead-letter drops. As the route built up, Kemp was planning his next laboratory, and work was in progress at Esgairwen.
The ultimate destination for the microdots was Amsterdam, then the major entrepot for the European drug markets. The connection was an Israeli called Isaac Shani, better known to Solomon and Tcharney as Zahi. Aged thirty, Zahi had a reputation for dealing in heroin and LSD to Israel, but based part of his work in London; he had dealings with Todd's distribution chain as well.
Todd, no longer a mere marketing manager, was living the life of a successful businessman at the head of a thriving company. Not for Todd a lonely Welsh fastness with goats and hill-farmers for company. He could be found taking lunch in London at Harrods, the Savoy Grill and Wheeler's; there were holidays in the Bahamas, investments in rare stamps and a collection of stocks and shares. He drove a big solid Volvo and bought another for his common-law wife. In Kemp's world he would have been contemptuously described as a 'bread head'-a capitalist. Probably Todd would not have cared. LSD was the means to enjoy life as much as a means to change it. He had linked up with a new distributor and found himself another chemist.
The man who planned the details of the distribution chain was Brian Cuthbertson. Slightly younger than Todd, Cuthbertson was raised in Birmingham by step-parentsone of them a local magistrateand had studied mathematics at Reading University, forty miles west of London. In the late 1960s, the town was an important junction for drug sales in southern England and the university, like many others, a centre for marijuana use. Cuthbertson failed his exams and was forced to leave.
Yet he remained on the fringes of the university where he had many friends, and earned a reputation as a dealer: in London he was witness to a murder involving a deal. A tall, slim man, he was always investigating new business ventures from importing African curios to renovating old houses and selling leather coats. He was also involved in LSD. One source claims he imported liquid LSD from the United States and tableted it himself-, another suggests he tried to recruit couriers to smuggle LSD to the West Coast.
Introduced to Todd through a mutual friend, he hammered out the tableting and distribution system for him. In return, he was rewarded with a life-style as bounteous as Todd's.
The chemist was Andy Munro, the graduate chemist used by Solomon and Thomas in their attempts to synthesize cocaine. Munro knew both Todd and Kemp from his days at Cambridge. He had pestered Kemp for details of his system, but Kemp was too canny to give away his 'wrinkles' for making LSD. What about finding Todd, asked Munro. In the event, Todd found him first and recruited him.
Under the cover of twenty-one aliases, Todd bought and stockpiled 15 kilos of ergotamine, together with the necessary equipment. Like Kemp, Todd and Cuthbertson experimented initially with mobile laboratories, but soon decided that they needed a permanent site. It was Number 23 Seymour Road, Hampton Wick, a quiet London suburb edging into commuter country. As Mr J. J. Ross, in July 1975 Todd paid £33,000 for a large detached house. To the neighbours, the new people seemed to be nice young men who never caused any trouble. Sometimes at night a passerby might catch snatches of Chopin as Cuthbertson relaxed at the piano.
Cuthbertson's tableting site was on the first floor. Above, on the top floor, Munro's laboratory spread through two rooms. Not the best of chemiststrained in the theoretical side of chemistry rather than the practicalMunro could not hope to reach Kemp's level of yield or purity; his carelessness ate into Todd's ergotamine stock. From Munro the finished product went down one flight of stairs to Cuthbertson. Part of the run went into microdots, but another portion was converted into 'domes' or 'pyramids'tiny dots, raised slightly towards the middle. The difference gave variety to the consumer and made tracing the source more difficult; the microdots were largely for home consumption and the domes for export.
Just as Cambridge had been a focal point for the original team round Solomon and Kemp, so Reading served the same function in the distribution chain. Cuthbertson drew on friends from university days and the town's drug trade to build up links, orchestrating markets carefully. The domestic chain went out from London through Reading to Wales and the West Country, and then doubled back on itself towards London. Anyone trying to trace it would have started in Wales. The man at the top of the chain received the microdots at £163 per thousand, the next man at £170, and so onuntil it reached the street at £1 a dot.
The export trade was equally brisk. LSD from Seymour Road was sold in Switzerland and France and, further afield, in India and Australia. Todd and Cuthbertson maintained their own direct supply-route to West Germany through an antiques shop in Berlin.
By the spring of 1977, the 15 kilos of ergotamine were exhausted. How much LSD was made is not clear. Todd later claimed that 2 kilos were wasted through spillage, accidents and deterioration. A middle-ranking dealer claims that he handled three million doses in two years, while a foreign distributor got through 1,600,000 in a similar period. Working at a scale of 10,000 microdots per gram and 200 grams of LSD per kilo of ergotamine, Todd, Cuthbertson and Munro could have made up to thirty million.
Whatever the f igure, Todd and Cuthbertson were rich menMunro seems to have earnt relatively littlewalking their money out of Britain tucked down the sides of long boots. In Switzerland, they now used the bank once used by Sand. The latest production run was over. There was talk of retirement. Time and again, Cuthbertson set himself a target figure of money at which point he would stop. Perhaps that moment had come. There would be time for reflection on holiday in the Bahamas with Todd.
Tintagel House, a mile away from Scotland Yard, overlooking the Thames, is often used as auxiliary office space for police departments overspilling from the main Metropolitan Police Headquarters. In 1974 its latest tenant was a department known as the Central Drugs and Illegal Immigrants Intelligence Unit. Less than a year old, the unit was non-operational, established to collate information on behalf of forces all over the country. CDIIIU began its work with a dozen seconded policemen and several thousand index cards.
The task in hand was to identify patterns and common' denominators. But where to start? There was heroin, cocaine, marijuana, amphetamine, LSD and the hundreds of drugs normally on prescription which none the less also appear on the black market.
Although by the early 1970s the police and the Home Office accepted that the drug problem was no longer a mild infection from Americaone of the reasons behind CDIIIU's creationfew believed there could still be a large market for LSD.
But LSD nevertheless caught the eye, despite the low number of seizures and prosecutions. There were persistent rumours of a British-based laboratory, a hypothesis which was supported by the scientific analysis of seized samples.
LSD became a targeted drug. The investigation might never have got further than a slim file if Solomon had not argued yet again with one of his partners. In the spring of 1974, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police asked Scotland Yard if anyone was interested in an American they were holding who had come out from London. The man wanted to talk to someone. The start of the investigation into 'The Micro-Dot Gang', which later became Operation Julie, was not dissimilar to the humble origins of Operation BEL.
Gerry Thomas, unable to make synthetic cocaine, reverted to his life as a smuggler. In the middle of 1973 his luck ran out: the police discovered 15 lb of hash in a locker at Montreal airport and traced it back to him.
Out on bail, Thomas was stranded in Canada as winter approached. Most of his clothes were still in London and he called Solomon to send on his belongings from a north London warehouse. Solomon panicked, destroying the trunks which held not only personal effects but the equipment for the cocaine project. In Canada, Thomas was furious, writing to a friend that he would take his revenge on Solomon and his 'grotty crew'. The relationship between the two had already been weakened by a row over Thomas making advances to Solomon's wife. Solomon dismissed the threat.
As the months wore on, Thomas in Montreal considered the prospect of a seven-year sentence in a Canadian jail and, through his lawyer, approached the police for a trade. The details he offered were deliberately sketchy but decidedly interesting.
CDIIIU sent Detective Inspector Derek Godfrey, a tall slim Londoner, and a second detective to see Thomas. Godfrey brought back a treasure trove of information in a fifteen-page report. Kemp, Solomon and Bott were clearly identified, while Todd was named simply as 'Henry'. The respective roles of the three men in the first period of LSD production were spelt out, including the methods of getting raw materials, with names, Kemp's modus operandi for laboratories, and the distribution system. Pen pictures gave personal details, as well as the philosophies of Kemp and Solomon. The police knew of Solomon's wide-ranging activities in the drug world, his intellectual connections in Cambridge and even the interior of the flat in London where he now lived. Thomas warned the police that there had already been a row about the cutting of dosages by Todd; he advised them on Solomon's system of security at his home.
Godfrey, armed with Thomas's material, became a prime mover in the battle against what the police called the Microdot Gang: a battle dogged by bad luck, lack of finance and low priorities, which broadened into a long game of cat and mouse.
CDIIIU pooled its resources with the drugs squad based at the Yard and a special intelligence branch known as C. 11. Kemp and Bott had disappeared, while Todd was still only a Christian name; Thomas knew he had a conviction and provided an old address, but the police were none the wiser.
As the trail grew cool they received fresh impetus when a London man was held by the Australian police with a cache of LSD doses. The man admitted that he had got them from someone called 'Eric' connected with a Chelsea restaurant, but that the factory was somewhere in Wales. With telephone taps in both Solomon's flat and the restaurant, the police settled down to wait.
In the West Country, drug squads were alerted for Kemp and his red Range Rover, identified on national drivers' records. There was a fleeting glimpse of him when he was stopped for bad driving in September 1974, but he had gone again, hiding behind out-of-date driving documents. At the same time, the London police picked up reports that a Reading dealer was now living in Wales and connected with LSD. Everything seemed to point to Wales... and then the Londoners found they were not the only ones on the scent.
Thames Valley Police Force is one of the largest forces in Britain, covering an area extending north to south across the Home Counties west of London, taking in the royal town of Windsor, the university city of Oxford and the commuter town of Reading. The area was the scene for several free pop festivals in the early 1970s. They were the subject of keen interest for Thames Valley's drug squad, the second largest in the country, since the festivals were open-air markets for dealers. The inspector in charge of the squad was a short, stocky Yorkshireman called Dick Lee. Sifting through the reports on the festivals, Lee was struck by the amount of LSD being found. He checked with CDIIIUbut to little effect, since the London police were keeping their cards very close to their chests. The matter might have been forgotten if an undercover operation in Reading had not again thrown up LSD in March 1975. While probing a dealing ring, a detective was offered LSD, at first in thousands of doses, then tens of thousands. The source seemed to be in Wales.
At almost the same time as Lee and his men began rooting among the Welsh villages, the London police got their first break: Kemp's accident in which he killed the young rector in mid-1974. With serious driving charges in view, the chemist could no longer keep his address a secret; but the Thames Valley men had to be stopped from beating their quarry from the bushes too early. Lee was given an idea of the situation but,was told 'The Micro-Dot Gang' belonged to his London colleagues. He should leave things to them. Lee ignored the advice. There had always been a strong element of rivalry between the Metropolitan Police and their 'country cousins'; added to which, the recent history of drug law-enforcement in London had not promoted confidence outside. The 1970s saw 'the beginning of revelations of corruption within London which are still tearing it apart ten years later, and the drugs squad was among the early victims. At a personal level, Lee was an ambitious officer unhappy about surrendering a promising case.
Lee returned to the Welsh police station where the Range Rover was being held. Christine Bott had been allowed to clear it out, but the police decided to search anyway. They found six scraps of paper which, when put together, revealed the words 'hydrazine hydrate' in Kemp's hand. This is a chemical used in LSD production. one of the 'wrinkles' picked up from Stark. Lee had a hint that LSD was being made in Britain, but he had yet to take full control of the investigation. He would not wait long.
Beset by bad luck, the London-based inquiry was slowly coming to a halt. It was unable to win support for a larger surveillance operation on Kemp, using specialized equipment held by C.11 and men from the London drugs squad, because the Yard would not pay. Local members of a regional crime squad were. drafted in.
Before they could start work, Kemp and his girlfriend learned that the police were interested in them. Christine Bott exhibited one of her goats at a local show, and a picture of her in a white smock standing with the goat appeared in a local newspaper. An enthusiastic policeman saw an easy way of getting up-to-date pictures; he called in, to the newspaper offices and asked for a picture. He was given copies but the photographer, a friend of Christine Bott, immediately told her what had happened. The regional crime squad men stood down and the local drugs squad started a casual observation. That too was almost aborted through another leak. It turned out that one of the squad's own informants knew that the police were searching for an LSD laboratory. The informant, a drug addict, worked in London at the Home Office.
While the Home Office scientists were reporting that over 90 per cent of the LSD seized could be British, the investigation was barely ticking over. Still without any identity for 'Henry', the London police were watching the wrong production team. Kemp was lying low because of the driving offence, while no one at the time considered the possibility of a second production team. All roads led to Wales because Todd and Cuthbertson's distribution routes led out of London into Wales and then doubled back. Gaps had been punched in the secrecy of the 'The Micro-Dot Gang' but the breaches had to be widened. Lee argued for an investigation mounted by several forces, coordinated by the CDIIIU, because if the LSD operation was big then the police effort against it had to be equal to the task.
With evidence from a fresh undercover operation to show the amount of LSD in circulation, he persuaded his own force with the aid of Godfrey of the Yard to call a conference of forces who might have an interest. At meetings in Swindon and Brecon in North Wales, the case was put before senior policemen and Home Office representatives. Lee says there was a feeling at the time that differences highlighted between police forces during the hunt for the Black Panther (a Midland kidnapper and murderer) were raising ideas about amalgamating forces to achieve better co-ordination. If his idea worked, it would show that individual forces could work together and stay separate. In February 1976, he got his investigation.
Twenty-seven officers from eleven police forces were brought together to form Operation Julie, based at a West Country police driving school. The London drugs squad, heavily committed to breaking heroin gangs among the Chinese community in Soho, stayed out. As Kemp got his production going, Lee sent some of his men to Cambridge in search of 'Henry'. He reckoned it this way. Thomas was sure his man had a conviction, probably a small one; where was not clear, but Cambridge and the surrounding courts figured in 'Henry's' past.
The search drew a blank. Back came the order to comb the records of all fourteen magistrates' courts in the county. Mercifully the men looking at Solomon and his circle came up with something. Local detectives remembered very vaguely an incident involving Cheltenham. There was a feeling that Solomon and a 'Henry' were somewhere in the background. In the files of the Cheltenham drugs squad they found a Henry Barclay Todd, arrested with seven others for a minor drug offence. All eight came from Cambridge. The convictions were appealed and overturned. They knew they definitely had the right man when one of the Cheltenham officers mentioned a connection with Solomon.
It was good work, with a dash of luck. But pleasure at their sudden progress was tempered by advice from the scientists that they were finding a new LSD dosethe domewhich indicated there could be two laboratories. To be certain, they would need specialized equipment.
At the same time the watch in Wales presented difficulties. It had not taken long to discover Kemp's destination when he left his cottage; Lee split up his forces to watch the chemist's home and his laboratory site. From the reports that came back to Devizes, the Julie base, it was quickly clear that Carno was the laboratory. Kemp was driven over to the house and stayed for up to two days. Christine Bott brought him home again, tired and pale. The evidence was not absolute, but enough to justify a raid.
Should Lee strike? Thomas had said that Kemp tended to work in the spring to produce LSD for the summer festivals. He would then allow the months to pass before starting again the next year. If Lee sat back he would miss a golden opportunity, but he might get an even better one. Drug investigations usually work from the bottom upward by identifying the street dealer and then working back along the fine as far as one can. In staying his hand, Lee could do the reverse and pull in the whole system from top to bottom. He held his men off and they watched as Kemp, at the end of his production run, began to clear up. Arnabaldi was gone.
With Kemp back in the cottage, the mansion was a tempting target. At night, two detectives slipped across the grass into the house; in the cellars behind padlocked doors they found remains of the laboratory, which the scientists confirmed as showing traces of LSD. Things should now be moving among the distributors led by Todd.
After the initial triumph of identifying the man came the task of actually finding him. All roads led to an accommodation address in east London, which was the only address in public records, except one. Todd had applied for an alteration to his passport a year earlier so that his small daughterhe lived with his girlfriendcould travel abroad. He gave the Passport Office the usual address but added a day-time telephone number. Detectives were hidden in a van as Todd drove up to his home in the street of mansion flats near the Olympia exhibition halls. The police waited for the links between Todd and Kemp.
The team was already trying to put together the components of the chain further down, marrying information that Thames Valley had collected during its own investigations against the leads the London police had thrown up and the stories that Lee had collected from an informant. He slipped his undercover men into the communes and the homes of the men he suspected.
Phone tapping was never a problem, with the co-operation of the Home Office and the GPO. Lee's search for other equipment was harder, since the operation was always financially stretched. Most of the time, Lee and his men fell back on tried and tested methods. Through the long, hot summer of 1976, police observation teams in London and Wales monitored the suspects. At last, as the summer turned to autumn, their work began to show results.
At first the signs of progress were small. Dealers in Wales began to talk in code on the telephone. The calls placed by Todd showed a telephone number in Francethe first inkling of the existence of Cuthbertson. Then Todd made a bad slip: he was heard to ask a shop about repairs to his stereo equipment, but he was not sure of the name he had used. It could be under Todd or it could be under Ross of Seymour Road ... A surveillance van moved into Hampton Wick in November 1976.
Just as things really began to move againthe distribution route seemed to be coming alive now with other leads Operation Julie almost came to a halt. The chief officers were worried about money, time and manpower. Lee was saturated with information. The dealers were busy talking away to one another, it looked as though Kemp was planning a new laboratory at Esgairwen, and Todd had started putting out orders to chemical companies. Lee took a trip to the United States where he interviewed Thomas, free after a short sentence. He was fascinated by the ramifications of the links with the Brotherhood, but he still could not envisage anything more than one laboratory under Kemp's control.
Even the appearance and identification of Munro did nothing to change the picture. Lee calculated that neither he nor Todd and the recently arrived Cuthbertson had the nerve to make LSD. The most that could happen at Seymour Road was a tableting operation. Work was continuing at Esgairwen which confirmed the belief that Kemp was preparing for another production run. Arnabaldi was watched, arriving to meet the chemist and then heading home to Majorca again. Was it a pre-production conference?
The taps on the dealers threw up something fresh to back the idea of one laboratory: one of them was recorded complaining that he had been given domes instead of microdots. And yet there was a nagging doubt about Seymour Road. The materials Todd was ordering clearly indicated a laboratory.
One night early in March, two policemen surreptitiously checked the cellar at Seymour Road in the mistaken belief that a laboratory, if one existed, would be found there. Lee's team found nothing, of course. The scientists finally announced that they had decided there were two laboratories, one producing a pure product and the other one with impurities. Chief officers were pressing for a rapid move, but news of two laboratories allowed a fresh delay.
The stay of execution rapidly brought results. A watch had been kept on Tcharney; he was heard making arrangements on the telephone with an American. At the time, the police thought it must be Arnabaldi. It was Solomon. For much of the time of the operation he had been in the United States and was discounted. At Seymour Road, they appeared to be clearing up. Cuthbertson was followed to a rubbish tip near Reading where he dumped material and asked a bulldozer driver to bury it. As he drove away, his followers stopped the bulldozing, collected the debris and sent it off for scientific analysis. Back at Seymour Road, someone put out a note for the milkman to cancel deliveries. It was holiday time...
At 8 P.M. on 25 March 1977, the french windows at Number 23 Seymour Road crashed open as a phalanx of detectives poured into the house to seize Todd, Cuthbertson and Munro. Early next morning, Kemp and Christine Bott were woken up at their Welsh cottage to be told they were being held.
The arrests were the centrepiece of the biggest drug raids ever carried out in Britain. Over 800 officers across the country, using 320 vehicles, executed seventy warrants and arrested nearly 120 people. In London, Solomon, as yet still free, told a mystified friend: 'The roof's fallen in.' The next day, almost three years after he flew to Montreal to talk to Thomas, Godfrey climbed the stairs to Solomon's home in West London and arrested him.
Others escaped. Alerted to Zahi by Tcharney, the Julie team failed to find this contact with Amsterdam. He went to ground for two months, then slipped out of Britain by car ferry. Arnabaldi was held in Spain, where the police found nothing. There were legal complications about extradition, but the Spanish came up with a neat compromise. The American would be put on a plane for London if the British would pay. They would not. Arnabaldi calmly flew back to the United States and was stopped by the DEA in New York, but he had to be released. Within days of the arrests Thomas's role as an informant was known, thanks apparently to the gaffe of a senior officer. There were rumours of a price on his head, but nothing happened.
Meanwhile at Swindon the interviews got under way, and they gave Solomon little solace. Kemp could not contain his contempt for the man while Todd, who could seldom be drawn very far, also said enough to help impale the American. Tcharney's nerve did not hold for long either. Many were shaken by the evidence against them. Yet Solomon, the man who helped to start it all, for once kept his mouth shut.
As the statements flowedmany of the people in custody struck up good relationships with their interrogators (carefully selected for each suspect)so did more evidence. Vast quantities of LSD were seized.
The Swiss gave access to bank accounts and safety deposit boxes. Todd was credited with assets of £307,000 which the police could actually trace and Cuthbertson with 9153,000. Kemp, Solomon and Bott were not apparently in the same class. Christine Bott had £55,000 and Kemp a mere 9200. Another £11,000 turned up later. Solomon had £7,000.
On 9 March 1978, they lined up in front of Mr. Justice Park in a Bristol court for sentencing. Disregarding the appeals of defence lawyers to balance his decisions against sentences of seven or eight years handed out to London heroin traffickers, Park was swingeing. Kemp and Todd each received thirteen years, one year below the maximum; Cuthbertson drew eleven years, Solomon ten years, Munro ten years, Christine Bott nine years; eleven lesser figures received shorter sentences. Only Todd spoke. As he left the court totally composed, he said: 'Thank you.'
The operation had shown the value of technology and the pooling of intelligence. It was proposed that technical support units should be set up round the country, along with a system of regional crime intelligence bureaux. Both suggestions have now been put into practice.
Among the questions left unanswered was what had happened to the LSD from Seymour Road. The Home Office chemists believed that not everything had been surrendered. Unknown to the police, some was recovered in Britain by the West German distributors; two distribution lines are said never to have been uncovered and, as for the rest, Todd bided his time for the right moment to trade. It came almost eighteen months after the trials. Todd's solicitor was also representing a number of informers working with Operation Countryman, an exercise against London police corruption, and through him Todd made an approach to the police. A deal was struck which included the movement of Cuthbertson to join him in the same prison. In return, the police got a fresh cache of one million doses.
There remained the question of money. Kemp is alleged to have let his girlfriend know that they would be provided for when they were released. Todd's stamp collection has not been recovered. He liked the West Indies very much, so much so that he once flew there just for the weekend... Lee found a bank in the Bahamas but was not allowed to investigate the account.
At the trial, Park ordered that all the money recovered should be sequestered. In 1980, an appeal to the House of Lords overturned that judgement. Hundreds of thousands of pounds were held by the police and the Director of Public Prosecutions, with a refusal to abide by the judgement. The Inland Revenue, like the IRS in the United States, stepped in.
The police were left with many unanswered questions particularly about the relationship between Kemp's operation and Todd's. The role of Zahi, the Israeli distributor, remains partially obscure, as do some links with the Brotherhood.
There was of course the question of another American: Stark. None of his colleagues had seen him for years...
British passport number 348489A was issued in the spring of 1973. The holder was Mr Terrence W. Abbott, a salesman born in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, in 1942. The passport photograph shows the face of a man who could be anything from Mexican to Middle Eastern: thick nostrils and a Zapata moustache below smooth, dark hair. He was much travelled, as the stamps in the visa section show. Part of the time he was in the Middle East, flitting in and out of Lebanon. There were also trips to Holland and Sweden. But the stamps stop early in 1975.
Acting on a tip, Italian police arrested Mr Abbott at the Grand Hotel Baglioni in Bologna with his family, in connection with drug trafficking. Their preliminary search after the arrest uncovered a strange coincidence: an American passport in the name of Mr Abbott issued from the American Embassy in London in the late 1960s. To give the puzzle a further international twist, there was also an international driving licence issued in Paris. Telexes and telegrams flowed between Bologna, London and Washington. The man was identified as the long-lost Ronald Stark.
On the face of it, the Italians were dealing with a straightforward smuggling team. Stark was involved with a group of Sicilians in a variation of the now dated methods used by the Brothers. Good-quality cars were stolen abroad and imported into Italy through Palermo with hidden Moroccan and Lebanese hash. Other loads came into Europe through Amsterdam. Stark also negotiated for the use of a yacht to sail cargoes from the Middle East into Italian ports.
But the picture of Stark's activities began to broaden with the discovery of a vial of liquid and a cache of papers kept in a Rome bank deposit box. The vial was sent for forensic examination. The scientists reported back that they could not precisely identify the drug it contained. At best, they put it close to LSD. Perhaps it was the synthetic THC Stark had dreamt of creating; the papers included formulae for the synthesis. There were also plans for the bulk purchase of hemp seeds and calculations for shipments, investments and plant installation. Some of the papers went back to the Brotherhood days but they gave no details of his LSD operations after the Belgian episode. They did show that his range of interests in the drug world had expanded to include narcotics. There were details of the synthesis of cocaine.
Outside Italy, much of Stark's activities lay in the Middle East, as the passport showed. That area was the source for the cargoes moved into Europe, and Stark cultivated contacts in the Lebanon in the late 1960s and the early 1970s. It was widely believed in California that he kept a supply of ergotamine hidden in Lebanon which in those days was the great Bourse of the Arab world. He also had plans for an experimental laboratory to make a substitute for LSD. He became a fixer for at least one of the royal Arab families. Other connections were less aristocratic. Stark travelled widely in the Baalbek region of the country, where the Brothers had bought hash. Among Stark's contacts was Imam Musa Sadr, who apparently possessed semi-feudal control over a section of the Shi-ite branch of the Moslem faith and boasted a personal army of 1,000 men. The area controlled by the Imam was said to include training camps used by the Palestine Liberation Organization. Bordering on Syria, the region offered some safety from the harassment of punitive Israeli raids. The PLO and the Imam were said to live together amicably.
In Italy, Stark often lived in the luxury hotels of Milan, Bologna and other cities. His permanent companion was now an American girl, who had borne him a daughter. Stark's evening haunts, however, belong to another world: dressed in faded jeans and a dirty sweater, he would disappear to the clubs and bars used by young leftwing groups. How this might link with his interests in drugs and his contacts in the Middle East only began to emerge months after his arrest.
Few people outside Italy have heard of Renato Curcio, but very few can fail to have heard of his creationthe Red Brigade. A radical terrorist group on the lines of West Germany's Baader-Meinhof organization, the Red Brigade first appeared in 1972. Within a few years, it had established itself in the industrial cities of northern Italy with a string of attacks including kidnapping, wounding, murder and arson. In 1974, Curcio was caught, then freed by his organization a few months later, and caught again. In the spring of 1976, he was being held in Don Bosco prison in Pisa, awaiting trial. There he made the acquaintance of Ronald Stark, who was also awaiting trial.
In prison Stark was working for the prison barber, to earn pin money. Often a member of prisoners' groups demanding extra rights or comforts, his knowledge of languages had also given him status as an unofficial translator. Despite the strong security measures surrounding Curcio, Stark managed to introduce himself and persuade the terrorist leader to confide in him. Stark must have been able to use the knowledge and names he had gleaned in the backstreet clubs, but there is no clear reason why Curcio should have trusted him, although one man arrested with him claimed that Stark was involved in the escape of two PLO men after an attack on an El Al aircraft in Rome. Yet trust him he did, and so apparently did other Red Brigade members who gave Stark messages to pass on.
A few months before Stark was due to face trial, he asked the prison guards to put him in touch with a lawyer. He was taken to see Pisa's chief attorney. Curcio had told him, Stark claimed, that the chief attorney of Genoa was to be killed by the Red Brigade. There was also a long-term plan to kidnap an important politician who was known to live in Rome.
Whatever their thoughts about Stark's information, the authorities took no chances and moved him to another prison. In June 1976, the chief attorney was indeed killed as a means to halt the trial of Curcio and fifty-two others. A month later, Stark was given fourteen years' imprisonment and a $60,000 fine. No one seems to have taken much notice of his second piece of information. Eighteen months later, Signor Aldo Moro, five times Italian premier, was kidnapped from his Rome home and eventually killed.
Stark's role as informer does not seem to have got back to the Red Brigade. In prison he received postcards from several leading radicals who were living in Paris.
If his connections with the Red Brigade were curious, his performance at his appeal against sentence was equally difficult to fathom. At his trial, Stark had refused to recognize the court. Now he claimed not only that he was not Terence Abbott but that he was not Ronald Stark either. He told his lawyer and the court he was 'Khouri Ali', a Palestinian. The appeal was turned down.
It was just as well because the secret police and the security forces were finally taking a closer look at Stark. What prompted them was the capture of a terrorist who had a hand-drawn map of a guerilla terrorist camp near Baalbek. The map, the man told the police, had come from Stark, and he produced a note in Arabic which was supposed to be a coded introduction. It translated as: 'I would like to see the father of Layla'. Layla was the name of Stark's daughter.
A fresh police investigation was opened and, in October 1978, Stark was charged with 'armed banditry'. Despite a charge bordering on terrorism, seven months later he was a free man, released on parole and living in Florence. The magistrate who gave him parole said: 'Many circumstances suggest that from 1960 onwards Stark belonged to the American secret services.' Stark's own lawyer was less certain but had no real idea who his client was. The prosecutor for the drugs charge felt the whole espionage link was nothing more than the work of a smart confidence trickster who played both sides to his own advantage.
A few weeks after his release, the man who could provide the answers vanished again. Stark simply failed to report to the local police in Florence where he had chosen to stay. Nothing more was heard from him until a letter arrived at the American consul in the city with a note from Stark, returning money he had borrowed. Then silence again.
Which of the Italian lawyers was right? Was Stark, during his years in the drug world, in reality an American agent? Was he feeding back intelligence on the counter culture which the federal agencies were desperate to infiltrate in the late 1960s and early 1970s? Or could he have been a banker investing and transporting money destined for 'black' operations beyond the drug world?
On more than one occasion Stark let slip hints of connections with the espionage world. There was the story about working for the Defense Department, and another that he closed down the French operation through a CIA tip. He began work with the Brothers at just the time when they were involved with the Weathermen in the United States. Equally timely, he was in Paris during the May 1968 riots and haunted the radical fringes of London in the early 1970s, when there was yet another curious example of his interest in radicalism/terrorism.
Two American journalists were working on a feature for Frendz magazine, an anarchistic offshoot of Rolling Stone, on Belfast violence. A rising Provisional IRA man, James McCann, obliged them with copy by trying to firebomb part of Queens University in the town. McCann and the journalists were arrested. The latter were eventually released -but not before a surprising intervention by Stark, who took their London lawyer to lunch at the Oxford and Cambridge Club to discuss their Plight, offering to pay their fees and bail.
In fact the meeting did not lead to anything, but Stark had taken a great interest in Frendz, which was deeply involved in revolutionary politics and was something of a clearing house at the junction between drugs and the other sides of the underground. Stark's interest in McCann certainly contributed to an interest in the American himself by MI5. When Lee began searching for Stark, he found the secret service had been there before him. For McCann, having escaped from jail, set up as a cannabis dealer in Holland to supply the IRA with money for guns. One of the men sent by the British to find out more about him was a former Oxford student called Howard Marks. Perhaps it is only coincidence, but Marks, who set up in his own right as a cannabis dealer, was eventually arrested after dealing with the remnants of the Brotherhood in California.
Stark is one of the figures in the story of the Brotherhood whose origins do not link directly or tenuously back to Millbrook. When the DEA were putting together a case against Stark in 1972, they had great difficulty in pinning down his personal details and were never able to get his FBI file from New York. Their reports in California and the details passed on to Europe only showed what Stark was not, not what he actually was.
The silence was finally ended late in 1982. Stark was arrested in Holland on a charge involving 16 kilos of hashish. In the summer of 1983, he was released from custody and thrown out of Holland where he had claimed to be a Lebanese bound for New York. He was arrested on arrival in the United States on a passport violation and DEA agents began to reconstruct the original San Francisco LSD case against him. They found it impossible to do so after such a long time and Stark was released.