The Ingrid Pitt column: under arrest

Hammer Horror legend Ingrid Pitt salutes the British bobby...

It seems that the financial Genii who run the world are not the only ones in graphic meltdown at the moment. The police don’t appear to have the solidity of Dock Green that they had in bygone years. Which is a shame. My experience of the Police Force in Britain has always been positive. I know that it isn’t a universally held concept of the coppers but I can only speak as I find.

I was appearing in The Woman of Straw at the theatre on the end of Cleethorpes pier. The only way to get to the theatre was to walk along the pier. I left my car in a car park in the town. Just before I was to go on in the opening scene the stage door keeper got a telephone call from the Police. I had left the car lights on. I explained that I didn’t have time to come and turn them off at that moment so they came to the theatre, picked up the keys, turned off the light and returned the keys. Now that is what I call service.

Another time I was returning from a show in Norwich. I was about half way to London when a Police patrol car pulled in front of me and waved me down. Apparently, when I left the theatre I had forgotten to put my bags in the boot of the car and drove off leaving them on the payment. The Police had been told, they had checked the number of my car and had set off in pursuit with my bags.

My mother was in her 80s and every day insisted on walking into Richmond to do some shopping. She said that when she couldn’t do it any more she wanted to die. Sometimes, when she wasn’t feeling too good, she would have to sit down on a wall and rest. I can’t remember how many times the Police picked her up and brought her home in their car. They were always cheerful and understood what the independence of being able to get around by herself meant to my mother.

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I was invited to a party in Hampton, I think it was at Tim Piggott-Smith’s house. The invitation stipulated Indian attire. I guessed it meant Indian Indian but we, my husband Tonio, my daughter Steffie and myself decided that we would go to Bermans’ and get rigged out in Red Indian gear. We went to London in Steffie’s little Citroen Deux Cheveux. On the way back a taxi clipped the back wheel and knocked it out of alignment. The car was still running so we went in it to the party. I can’t remember why. The party was a great success and about midnight we set off on the couple of mile journey home. We were almost there when we were waved down by a patrol car. The Policeman came back to us and bent down to look in the car. Tonio was sitting in the back dressed as a Red Indian Chief and Steffie and I were dressed as squaws. He didn’t blink an eye. He did the ‘Good evening, Madam. Did you know that your back wheel is about to fall off?’ bit. Steffie acknowledge the malfunctioning wheel and explained that we only had a few hundred yards to go. The Policeman warned her that it was an offence to drive a car in a mechanically unsound condition, told her to drive carefully and make sure she got it fixed before she drove it again. Steffie thanked him and he wished us goodnight and drove off. We couldn’t believe it. But that WAS the British Bobby for you.

I was having dinner at a friend’s house and found myself sitting next to a Police Superintendent. I trotted out my Police related stories, as you do, and the upshot was that he invited me to go out in one of his patrol cars. I jumped at the chance. I was told to meet the car outside Park Royal Underground station at 8pm. I was there and waiting ten minutes early. A white police van pulled up in front of me and a Policewoman and Policeman jumped out and ran into the station. Another Policeman, the driver, came around the back and opened the door. I naturally thought they were looking for me. I wentup to the driver, gave him my friendliest smile.

“I’m Ingrid Pitt,” I quoth. “Are you looking for me?”The man gave me a surprised look.”Have you been a naughty girl?” He asked.I went along with the joke.”I’m always a naughty girl,” I claimed.

I don’t know where it would have gone from there but at that moment the other two coppers came back frogmarching a man in handcuffs and pushed him in the back of the van.

The driver grinned at me.

“D’you want to join him?”

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I backed off. The driver walked off laughing. The Policewoman asked me if she could help and I explained that I was waiting to go out on patrol in a Police car. She laughed.”You want the limousine end of the business. We’re strictly rough trade.”

As the van pulled away the Patrol car drew up. I climbed aboard and we were off.

The first ‘shout’, as I believe it is called, was to investigate a suspected car theft. When we arrived we found a man sitting on the bonnet of a car. He explained that he couldn’t open his car door and was waiting for the AA to come and sort it out. Even as the man was speaking the AA van hove into view so we waited until the AA man took over and then moved on. The next call was to an accident. A cyclist had managed to hit a culvert at the side of the road. The bike was undamaged but that was more that could be said for the cyclist. Somehow he had managed to go over the handlebars and land on his face. It was a bloody mess. He had also ripped open the front of his leg. There was already a couple of cars there as well as an ambulance so our driver checked in with Control and was told to go to another accident where a bus had knocked down a man crossing the road.

When we arrived there a crowd had already gathered. The man was still under the bus and groaning. One of the patrolmen went under the bus as far as he could to try and see what the damage was. The other copper pushed everybody back from the scene and started to run out some ‘Police’ ribbons around the site. I started to get out of the car but she shouted at me to stay where I was and I sunk back in my seat. A couple of other cars followed by a saloon car with a team of Medics followed by an Ambulance were soon on the scene. The Medics crawled under car and relieved the Policeman who had been comforting the injured man. He came back to the car and took a long pull at a bottle of water. I asked him how the man under the bus was faring. He shook his head. He thought he was quite badly injured but he was alive and coherent so maybe the injuries looked worse than they were. I asked him if there was anything I could do. He shook his head and got out and went to help his mate.

It was some time before the crane arrived with jacks to raise the bus off the injured man. I was getting bored. I had imagined a night of excitement and here I was stuck in the back of a Police car watching a crowd of people watching a bus. A woman Police Inspector came and sat in the car with me. She explained that she was sorry that there wasn’t much chance of my seeing much excitement that night. It was nearly 10pm and they had a policy of not having civilians in active police cars after ten. She suggested I called someone to come and collect me and perhaps we could work out some other time when I could join a car on patrol. I called a taxi and went home. It hadn’t been an exciting evening of high-speed chases, gunfights and arresting villains but I had been impressed with the calm practical way that the average copper went about his job.

The Police Inspector was as good as her word and called me the following day to arrange another trip in a Police car. I declined theoffer. One of the reasons was that when I got home after my night on patrol I had tripped over a box I had left in the hall and had rammed my face against the radiator. Result was a lovely black eye, a huge lump on the side of my head, a scraped cheek, a bruised and swollen chin and a nasty contusion on my knee. I though they might arrest me for causing actual bodily harm.

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I hope it clears up before my Fan Club Reunion on Saturday 22nd November.

Read Ingrid’s column every Tuesday at Den Of Geek. Last week’s is here.