23 Oct 2014

Britain’s most hated cop killer – meet Harry Roberts

Harry Roberts killed two police officers in one of Britain’s most notorious ever crimes in 1966. Aged 78, he will be released from prison in a few days. Here’s how it was reported at the time.

On a warm, August day in 1966, news that three policemen had been gunned down in Shepherd’s Bush shocked the nation.

Harry Roberts had been sitting in his van with two other men near Wormwood Scrubs Prison in west London, about to carry an armed robbery, when they opened fire on the three plain-clothed officers in front of children playing in the street. Roberts killed two officers, who were unarmed, while his fellow gang-member killed the third.

After going on the run for three months, evading capture by police by camping out in the wilds of Herftordshire, Roberts was eventually caught and jailed for life.

Video: Clips from a 1966 ITN documentary about Harry Roberts, featuring his wife and friend who he was with in the days after shooting two police officers dead.

The three criminals could have been hanged for their crime if it had been committed the year before, but the death sentence had just been abolished in Britain in 1965. There were calls from the Police Federation to reintroduce capital punishment for the murder of police officers.

And now the man who committed “the most heinous crime for a generation or more”, according to the judge at the time, is to be freed – aged 78 – in the next few days. He will have served 45 years in prison.

Pc Geoffrey Fox, 41, Detective Constable David Wombwell, 25, and Detective Sergeant Christopher Head, 30 (below left to right) were all killed in the attack on 12 August, 1966.

At the time, the judge said he should serve at least 30 years in prison.

The current Police Federation chairman said he was “appalled” to learn of the imminent release.

Photo: the three police officers shot dead by Roberts and his fellow criminals

Video: How news of the triple murder was reported by ITN at the time