Detective honoured as 'bravest of brave'
By Western Morning News | Friday, December 02, 2011, 08:00
A retired detective who worked on some of Britain's most notorious criminal cases has spoken of 25 courageous years with the police force.
Harry Clement takes evidence into the Old Bailey in November 1965 – including heavy ashtray he had thrown at his attackers
Retired detective Harry Clement
From the conviction of the Kray twins to helping catch the gang behind the Great Train Robbery, Harry Clement, of Orchard Hill, Northam, near Bideford, has never stepped away from danger.
The 82-year-old was involved in investigating the Mafia, the death of three police officers killed in Shepherds Bush in 1966 and he was also at the Spaghetti House Siege in 1975. The great-grandfather now appears in a book marking the achievements of some of the country's bravest police officers.
Harry joined the police in 1955 and went on to work in the elite Flying Squad, the Regional Crime Squad and rose to the rank of Detective Chief Superintendent.
A chapter of The Brave Blue Line by author and former detective Dick Kirby, published last month, focuses on Harry's courage when he won the British Empire Medal for Gallantry in August 1966.
In that incident he was temporary blinded when ammonia squirted in his face by two thugs in September 1965. While trying to apprehend them his colleague was struck with an axe, hit with a stool and kicked until he was unconscious.
Former soldier Harry chased the men who then squirted bleach again and threw weapons at him and other officers. Harry knocked one of the men to the ground with a heavy ashtray, before ducking a blow with an axe by the other and finally overpowering him. Both men were sentenced to seven years' jail.
Harry's bravery was also recognised after he saved two children, aged three and four, from a burning home in north west London.
Harry was evacuated to Clovelly in North Devon from London in June 1940 and lived with Annie and Will Beer. After seven years in the picturesque village, which he fell in love with, Harry went on to join the Grenadier Guards. Throughout his career and time in London he always called North Devon home and dreamed of retiring to the area.
During his career he arrested eight of the 12 members of the East End gang led by twins Reggie and Ronnie Kray, who ended up in the dock following the murder of Jack "The Hat" McVitie and George Cornell in 1969.
But for Harry one of the hardest and most emotional cases was the Shepherd's Bush murders – known as the Massacre of Braybrook Street. Of the three police officers shot dead in 1966, Harry had taught one and knew another.
In 1983 he was discharged due to ill health following serious injuries. He paid tribute to his wife of 56 years, Pat. "I would come back stressed out and she would be there."
The great train robbery
Among the high-profile cases worked on by Harry Clement was the Great Train Robbery.
And nearly 50 years after the notorious robbery, Harry has revealed how he struck up a friendship with the gang’s leader.
Harry was with the Metropolitan Police in 1963 and investigated the gang of 17 who stole £2.6 million in one of Britain’s biggest heists.
Nearly 50 years later, Harry, now aged 82, and gang leader Bruce Reynolds are still in contact.
The pair originally met doing a pilot for a TV show and have both been at talks about the Great Train Robbery. He said they were always honest with each other, hit it off and now exchange Christmas cards.
He said: “He was honest and answered the few questions I had very openly. He talked about his part and I talked about it from my view.
“Whenever we met up we would go into a restaurant have a toasted tea cake and a chat. I remember him saying ‘what would your mates, or some of my crims (criminals), say if they saw us here?’
“He was a non-violent man and very intelligent. I’ve always thought there was a fine line between a good detective and a good and intelligent criminal.”
Harry said the pair also exchange books and films and Bruce keeps him up to date about other gang members.