Strike’s SIB 1: Hatherill of the Yard

At the start of The Cuckoo’s Calling, as Cormoran and Robin are still recovering from their collision of a meeting, Strike gives Robin the password to the office computer: Hatherill23. Any password needs to be memorable, so who or what is Hatherill?

Strikefans.com were the first (I think) to identify Detective Chief Inspector George Hatherill of Scotland Yard, so join me after the jump to find out more of his remarkable career, and why he may be so important to Strike.

George Horace Hatherill (1898-1986) was a Detective Chief Inspector of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) at Scotland Yard who later rose to be Deputy Assistant Commissioner. He joined the Metropolitan Police as a cadet in 1919 and transferred to the CID in 1931. Hatherill first became notable as a Detective Sergeant, helping to expose the frauds masterminded by the insurance assessor, Leopold Harris, and which led to the conviction of sixteen defendants at the Old Bailey in 1934.

 

Described as a ‘thorough’ man with a deep and rough-sounding voice, whose insistence on meticulous detail was said to infuriate his colleagues. Tom Tullett, Murder Squad: Famous Cases of Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad (Bodley Head Ltd, 1996) pp.148-155.

Hatherill stood 6’6” tall and while he may have had a full set of limbs, and an absence of curly hair, Strike would find a kindred spirit in George Hatherill.

With the outbreak of the Second World War, the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) landed in France with millions of pounds worth of equipment, much of it attractive both to French criminals and dishonest British servicemen. Theft of equipment and stores and the embezzlement of Service Funds was widespread, so the War Office requested help from Scotland Yard. The by then Detective Chief Inspector George Hatherill was sent to France in order to determine the scale of criminality and make recommendations for the prevention and detection of crime.

The Corps of Military Police (it would not become Royal Military Police until 1948) like most military police forces was intended in peace time to maintain military discipline in garrison towns, and in war to maintain the cohesion and direction of convoys by directing traffic. With the vast increase of valuable material needed for modern war, the skills for the prevention and detection of theft was not in their arsenal.

Hatherill recommended that the British Army establish a unit, made up of experienced detectives from the Metropolitan Police CID, who would travel to France and bring some much needed detection skills. This new Special Investigation Branch (SIB) of the Corps of Military Police formed up on the 29th of February 1940, under the command of Detective Superintendent Clarence Campion in the rank of Major. A team of 19 experienced detectives were assembled at the Military Police Depot at Mytchett and after a short period of military training deployed to France. Within a very brief period of time they were able to arrest many offenders and recover huge amounts of stolen goods.

When Hatherill returned to England he resumed his work with Scotland Yard, investigating the murder of two little girls in Buckinghamshire in November 1941. Using tyre track and fingerprint evidence Hatherill secured the arrest, trial and later execution (in April 1942) of Gunner Harold Hill, for what appeared to be a motiveless crime.

In April 1944, by this time a Detective Superintendent, his challenge was to find an unidentified American sailor among 4,000 serving on four American destroyers anchored in the Thames. A man with an American sailor’s sleeve had been seen stabbing to death George Charles Gilbey who had been trying eject a crowd of American sailors from the Railway Tavern. By the time Hatherill had arrived at the pub, the sailors had gone, however within 24 hours the culprit had been found. Matthew Smith faced a US Navy court martial held in London. Found guilty, Smith was sentenced to death but reprieved on account of his youth (he was 19).

Following the war Hatherill was involved in investigating the multiple murders committed by John Haigh (the ‘Acid Bath’ killer) and by John Reginald Christie (of Ten Rillington Place) and was instrumental, as a commander at Scotland Yard, in advising the Birmingham police investigating the notorious murder and mutilation of Stephanie Baird just before Christmas 1959. The methods he suggested resulted in the capture of Patrick Byrne.

George Horace Hatherill finished his career as Commandant of the Detective Training School in Hendon, from which, he formed part of the investigation team into the Great Train Robbery in 1963 after delaying his retirement for a year in order to take part. In his retirement he wrote his memoires “A Detective’s Story – George Hatherill of Scotland Yard”. A best seller in 1971, but now sadly long out of print.

For my next post I will be looking at the history and organisation of the SIB from their formation in France to the Unit that Cormoran Strike joined.

Please let me know below if you have any comments or corrections, and if you have any topics that you would like me to research.

Comments

  1. Thank you, Nick, for this very helpful introduction to the man behind Strike’s computer password! I’m looking forward to learning more about the SIB, the most important and formative experience of Strike’s life as an adult.

    One quick question: the password is Hatherill23 — any idea why the ’23’? I think the password to Lula Landry’s building was connected to the year of Britain’s last World Cup victory, 1966? Is there something that happened in 1923 connected to Hatherill?

    Or is it just a random number to include necessary digits, etc.?

    Again, great post! A close look at Strike’s SIB background will be a great contribution to Serious Striker Studies.

  2. Nick Jeffery says

    Thank you John!
    My assumption is that this refers to Strike’s birthday: 23rd November. In 1923 George Hatherill would still have been a Bobby on the beat.

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