Eddie Blundell is a familiar name to many crime watchers in the UK, a man with a fearsome reputation for violence. But he also has a wicked sense of humour and an aggressive, but honest, writing style which he demonstrated to great effect when he published his true crime book “Top Drawer Villain”. Recently, he spoke with Mr Pink and has graciously allowed him to publish the following extract from the book … the true story of what happened at the notorious Weely Rock Festival in August of 1971 …
You know how it is on a nice summer weekend.
You just want to sit back and relax, maybe have a few beers with your mates or take the family out. Something away from the week-day routine. Or maybe just sit outside in the sun and do nothing. Anything that’s a bit different.
Not that I ever had much chance of a free week-end. There was always something.
We were very busy at the time with the ice-cream business which didn’t look after itself. In addition to that, me and Billy were in the early stages of the minicab business and that took up a lot of time. We also had property, clubs … lots of income coming in, but it wasn’t easy to keep it all churning.
The hassle was constant, but that’s not to say it wasn’t worth it because it was but you had to keep on top of it if you wanted a decent profit.
So it was the Bank Holiday weekend of 27 – 29 August 1971. I’d promised myself that I was going to take it easy.
We had one bit of work on that week-end and it was going to be a doddle. We were official caterers at a rock festival at Weeley, near Clacton, and I’d met the organisers several months earlier.
As it was only intended to be a small affair I’d sent a small crew with Bill Parsons down the day before. They could handle that. We were on the outside, not in the arena proper, but we’d do okay.
It turned out to be a beautiful week-end. Just what I hoped for. Saturday morning and I was up West already when the phone went.
Well, it was always going but somehow that morning I thought to myself, even before I picked it up, there’s trouble on the end of this.
‘Eddie.’ A voice sounding a bit breathless. Bill Parsons? Not his voice. I’m right, I thought. There’s trouble. ‘
“We gotta situation here,’ the geezer on the other end is saying. ‘Bill’s having treatment. In the medical tent.’
I might have known it.
‘Okay, what is it?’ He tells me. ‘The who? The fuckin Hells Angels? Get rid of ’em.’
But there was too many of them. They were taking over and causing havoc. And there was huge crowds there already.
The Angels had nicked a couple of wagons that belonged to a friend of mine who was doing a bit of catering up there. I wasn’t having that.
There wasn’t enough of our guys there. We hadn’t expected trouble.
I’d sent Bill down with just a small team. He’d taken ‘Stretch’ (remember him so well: everything but his surname!) and ‘Mad Arthur’, and a big guy, well over six foot, a really nice feller called Colin Leggett who was an up-and-coming face, and half a dozen others, all of them capable of looking after themselves.
But they couldn’t hold out against a very big number.
‘Gimme a couple of hours,’ I tell him. ‘I’ll get down as fast as I can. In the meantime stay back from them. Wait till I come.’
Urgent. Had to get a crew together to take down to Weeley. Might have known something like this would happen. The Clacton Round Table who were promoting the event really had no idea what they were doing. In the past they’d always put on a Donkey Derby with raffles and a few stalls for the mums and dads and kids. It was never more than a fete, all cups of tea and Victoria sponge and paste sandwiches and stalls with home-made jams and stuff like that. Always for charity of course.
But then somebody had the idea of being a bit more adventurous this year. Somebody’d suggested a Rock Festival. And the rest of the Round Table had nodded their heads enthusiastically.
I should have anticipated something going wrong. They had invited so many bands it turned out that to get them all on stage they had to play non-stop pretty well all through the night. And there was really some big names at Weeley: T-Rex, Rod Stewart, Mungo Jerry, Status Quo, Julie Felix, Mott the Hoople and several other popular groups. No wonder it was a sell-out.
So what happened was that the Angels had arrived and had started to take over the festival. Maybe they felt they had the right to do so because they’d done the same at other raves. When they got to Weeley they terrorised some of the other caterers, set fire to at least one car, took control of the stage – big fuckers with clubs – and generally acted as they were expected to.
They demanded jobs as security men. A lot of people were terrified of them. Though the Angels had only been going in Britain for a couple of years or so at that time, they took their lead from the American Angel groups – ‘chapters’, they called them – and they were out to menace anybody they came across.
I had no sympathy for the Round Table promoters.
They should have taken note of what happened at other raves and got in sufficient muscle to make sure everything went properly. They weren’t ready for these scruffy fuckers with their expensive Harley-Davidsons and their lousy way of going on.
So, though they didn’t invite them, the Round Table can take some of the credit for the arrival of Hells Angels and for ruining my week-end.
I got a team together at short notice.
There was Bill Bailey, the O’Connor brothers, two or three soldiers I knew and some other handy lads. We were eleven, six of us in the Bentley and five in the Rover and we were tooled up in the usual way with pick axe handles, iron bars, monkey wrenches and God knows what else and when we got there we just quietly weighed up the situation.
It was a glorious day and all these kids were in their fancy clobber, Afghan coats and beads, not at all menacing. They were dancing round like a bunch of weirdos but that was the way then with the young.
We found out that the Angels were nicking food off our trolleys and if anybody said anything they’d give him an almighty kicking. And then they’d nicked a couple of jeeps belonging to us and were riding round in them as if they were their own.
Our involvement had all started off when a group of Angels went to Arthur’s barrow where he was setting up the food and they started helping themselves. Arthur told them to fuck off and when they ignored him he just left them.
Bet they had a bit of a laugh the way he scampered off.
But he knew what he was about: he went over to where their bikes were standing all in row and he just went bang and kicked them all over. They responded by turning the barrow over. They were on the war path.
Bill saw what was going to happen and he got the lads together. ‘We’re gonna get done unless we get tooled up,’ he told them so off they went and did as he suggested. ‘Let’s knock hell out of them.’
Bit optimistic with only eight or nine of them but at the time they didn’t think it would be beyond them.
‘Don’t anybody run away,’ Bill ordered them when they came back ‘Let’s stick together, he said, ‘and we’ll be okay.’
But they weren’t. There were too many Angels and they were kitted out with all sorts of weapons: knives, pick axe handles, hatchets, you name it. And there was a hell of a lot of them.
When Bill turned to encourage his troops he realised he was on his own so off he raced, breaking through the cordon of Angels.
He took a couple of wallops from fists and truncheons and baseball bats and then somebody landed him a nasty one on the head with a cider bottle.
What a mess he was in. He was a lucky boy to get away.
So once we got there and sorted ourselves out we set about them. Took them by surprise. Picked them off in twos and threes. They’d be motoring past a tent, Bang! Bash him with a baseball bat. Wallop! Smack him with an iron bar. Biff! Give him one with that spade.
And down they’d fall onto the ground where we’d give them another reminder that they weren’t supposed to behave in that naughty manner.
There’s some great press pictures taken that day and one of them shows three Angels lying face down as if they were dead. I can assure you that they were alive but beginning to regret that they were.
We belted a fair number of them, chased them out of beer tents and away from anywhere we found them. At one point we met three cozzas and they were talking to some Hells Angels.
They were shooting off their gobs. One of them, a fat bloke, was pointing at me, cheeky bastard, and he sort of strolled over towards us. We didn’t do anything. We didn’t react. And the cozzas, there was just an inspector and a couple of constables. I mean, what could they do? They weren’t there in numbers. The Angels would have eaten them alive if they’d started trying to keep them in order.
All they could do was try to defuse any situation that might arise.
‘Come on, now,’ the inspector was saying as if he was trying to persuade a group of four-year-olds not to be naughty. ‘Leave it out, lads.’
So being reasonable, cooperative fellers, we eased off a bit. We stood back and just waited and wondered who was going to break the peace.
Well, I happened to have a German shepherd dog with me and this fat Angel – did I say he was ugly as well? – looks at me a bit sarky.
‘I’ll fuckin eat that dog for me dinner,’ he says, sort of giving the idea that he’d follow that with me as the main course.
I might have had an answer but Bill Bailey got in before me.
‘Well, eat this,’ Bill says and he does him with an iron bar right across the chest. Then it all went off.
The cozzas grabbed hold of Bill and I’ve grabbed hold of one of the cozzas. Naturally, the Old German Shepherd doesn’t want to be left out so he’s taken mouthful out of the cozza’s leg.
‘Bomber, Bomber,’ he’s shouting, ‘get the fuckin dog off!’
Bomber! Well, I never.
That was my nickname when I was doing serious stuff in the ring when I was younger. Most people didn’t know that. I was quite flattered that this cozza had recognised me.
Oh yes, we gave out a number of real good spankings to the Angels but they didn’t give up. They started collecting in a compound behind the stage.
I called our troops together. There was probably eighteen of us, maybe one or two more, and we marched into the compound in a line.
I know at one point we were joined by a geezer carrying a shotgun but he was picked up by the police.
Probably just as well because things were getting very edgy and you could sense that something very nasty was likely to occur. But our blood was up and so was theirs.
I told my lads, ‘All stay together. If any fucker runs,’ I told them, ‘we’re gonna fuckin take care of you later! Got it? You won’t get away with it! You run and you’ve had it. You’ll answer to me!’
Seemed to do the trick.
So forward we went and a few tried to stop us but we leathered them. There was a guy there fancied himself. He was one of the Wessex Chapter leaders and he was sounding off.
‘I’ll kill the fuckin lot of you,’ he was shouting.
Lot of guts that feller but none of us was listening to him. In the end somebody gave him one with a shovel round the head and it nearly took his fuckin ear off.
We bashed up every Hells Angel we could find. Most of them scarpered over an eight-foot mesh fence but that collapsed because of the number trying to climb over. They ran across a field towards some woodland and we went after them.
There was bodies all over those woods, loads of them lying where we’d given them a well-deserved smacking.
Then we went off looking for the rest of them. I went in one of the beer tents and had a look round. There was an Angel there and when he saw me he pulled out a great big knife.
What had I got myself into here? Knife like that and he’d take your head off with it or slit you up from the navel northwards. I didn’t fancy that.
Anyway, I went forward towards him. Maybe I could get him by the knife hand. Maybe I could kick him in the nuts.
He gave me a nasty look, a real menacing eyeball, and then he turned, raised the knife above his head and brought it down with one savage sweep.
He’d slit the tent canvas and then he was through the hole like a jack rabbit.
I never saw anybody move so fast.
Never saw him again.
Then comes a walkie-talkie call from the security guy on the main gate. There’s one of his mates, one of the security blokes, with us. So he takes the message: the Angels have been gathering at the main gate. About sixty of them and they were just setting off up the hill in our direction.
Well, we thought, okay, there’s nothing we can do but face them.
‘You’ve got to stick together,’ I reminded my lads. ‘If they catch you on your own, you’re fuckin dead. But once they see us holding firm, they’ll run just like most of their mates.’
So off we went to meet them. We hadn’t got far when there was another walkie-talkie message. ‘It’s all right. The police are between you and them.’
Oh yes? We got down near the entrance of the compound and we could see the police being barged aside. The Angels were coming on towards us again.
And then they stopped. They began pointing at us, making all sorts of threats, saying what they were going to do to us. It was a bit like Zulu except that we were on the higher ground.
And then they let the police come in front of them. The inspector I’d seen before with his two mates was still hoping to keep the peace. He came across to where I was standing. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘this is really getting out of hand.’
‘We’re only protecting our own gear,’ I said. ‘They’ve been going around spanking everybody. We’ve just been protecting ourselves.’
He nodded in the understanding way that people do when they know they’re outgunned but at the same time he was pleading with his eyes.
‘All they wanna do is get their motorbikes out of the compound.’
‘Oh, well,’ I said, ‘if that’s all they want, we’ll retreat. We’ll go back but if they start coming too close in our direction, we’re gonna do ’em. We’re gonna defend ourselves.’
He looked very relieved did the inspector. So did his two constables. Even the Hells Angels looked relieved after the inspector talked to them and told them what we proposed. At least they were going to get their property back.
We moved back to let them into the compound. About a dozen or so went in to get their bikes and within seconds out they came again, crying like babies. These great-big-hairy-leather-clad monsters that everybody was supposed to be afraid of had tears running down their cheeks like a bunch of teenage girls except that these were blokes, some of them in their thirties and forties.
All their lovely bikes. All their handsome machines. Expensive bits of top-class engineering.
We’d been to the compound a bit earlier and we’d taught them an expensive lesson. A couple of the lads had happened to be carrying sledge hammers and the rest of us had something that could do damage. The spades were very useful in this situation. We smashed every part of every bike. The tank, the wheels, the forks, the mainframe, everything that could be smashed beyond repair was smashed.
Some of them had been set on fire. It may seem brutal but we took no pity on those bikes. They were tainted by belonging to such wankers.
The inspector was furious.
‘You’ve smashed all their bikes up,’ he said. It was quite beyond his understanding.
Yeah, we had. Smashed them up good and proper. And it looked, by the way the Angels drifted away, that the problem was partially solved.
By now, brother Billy had arrived on the scene and he’d been putting himself about with typical enthusiasm.
But the potential for violence was still there. There was still some ugly looking bastards hanging round.
When it started getting dark we had a new ruse. We disguised ourselves as hippies and we didn’t stand out because the majority of those attending were hippies though they’re now probably bank managers and IT consultants and teachers.
There was still odd groups of Angels dotted about and we’d get close to them. Then all of a sudden the blankets would come off and out would come the tools, the hatchets and the bricks and the pick axe handles.
They weren’t prepared for us.
And Crash! goes Stretch. Bang! goes Billy. Wallop! goes Colin and I even have a little tickle myself. Down they went, the Angels. They were having a dreadful day.
Then loads more police started to arrive and we weren’t needed any more.
The publicity had been tremendous, on the radio and the telly.
The Hells Angels from other parts had heard about the ruckus and they thought it would be too good to miss.
But the police weren’t having any of that. About sixty Angels had their collars felt, in the main for carrying offensive weapons.
Getting on for about nine o’clock, I left just in case it all erupted again.
We got back in the cars and headed home.
When I got home I had my dinner and I was watching the ten o’clock news. And there on the screen was the Weeley rock concert. And there was pictures of some of the Angels walking along the A12, bloodied and muddied, bruised and confused, heads down and shame in their eyes.
No bikes anymore. Such humiliation.
On the TV they were suggesting that the security people had rescued the event from the rampaging Hells Angels.
Security? The official security was a few soldiers from the local military base, moonlighting, nice enough guys, but they were so few that they couldn’t have handled what went off that day on their own. We’d palled up with them and they’d stayed with us and they were useful because they had the walkie-talkies.’
The next day the Sunday newspapers were full of it. And there was ‘Stretch” and ‘Mad Arthur’ doing their bit and bodies scattered all over.
Headlines about ‘Fallen Angels’ and ‘Terror, Thuggery and Blood.’
Oh, the press loved it.
The boss Angel, a 23-year old, name of Johnny Nomads, admitted they’d been really clobbered. He told the press people they hadn’t had weapons, not even a milk bottle.
He said what people didn’t realise was that for all their faults, Hells Angels were human beings.
Well, I was one of those who hadn’t realised that.
The papers were suggesting that the Angels had needed police protection and that they were escorted away for their own safety.
The next morning I got a phone call, telling me that eighteen Hells Angels had ended up in hospital with three on the danger list. That was bad enough. Then a little later there was another call: one of the Angels had died.
Your name’s up front, I was told. CID’s on way.
You can imagine how I was feeling. We’d overstepped the mark.
Certainly that’s what Bill Parsons felt about it. Where was it all going to end? After so many years, at the end of the season, he was out of the ice-cream trade.
In view of that phone call, I knew what was going to happen next. No point waiting for the Law. So I just did the disappearing trick straight away.
But it never came to anything.
Nobody died. It was a rumour picked up in the press tent.
Some rock concert it had been.
It’s said that those who attended thought it was great but we made a loss on it.
And the promoters, the Clacton Round Table, who’d fancied a take of something in the order of £30,000, managed only £2,000.
They should have stuck to the donkeys.
Over the next couple of weeks I was getting messages that the Old Bill was going to interview those Angels who were in custody.
They were going to try to get them to make statements against us.
There wasn’t a lot I could do at that stage so I just bided my time.
Days went by, three weeks in fact, and then I had a phone call from a detective inspector in the Essex force.
I’d had dealings with him before.
I can’t bring his name to mind at present so let’s call him Dave Summerfield.
I remembered him from years back when he’d been a sergeant in the Drugs Squad and he’d come to the yard with another colleague in tow to talk to young Kenny Riley, a former drug addict I’d taken on.
When they told me they wanted to see him I wondered if there was anything we could do to resolve the problem.
They let me go and speak to Kenny and when I’d done so, I came back and had a word with Sergeant Summerfield.
I asked him if we could do a spot of juggling, reach an accommodation, because it seemed such a petty offence whatever it was.
Summerfield was a reasonable sort of feller and he put the figure at £40 or £50.
He was very helpful and gave us a piece of paper with four questions that Kenny had to ask the police in the magistrates’ court.
It had all gone well, and we’d kept in contact.
So three weeks after Weeley, there was this phone call from Summerfield, now an inspector in Criminal Intelligence. Would I meet him?
I agreed to meet him in a pub in Brentwood and I took Alec Goodman along with me because as much I liked the feller, I never liked to meet coppers on my own.
They are still coppers and I could never tell if or when I was going to get bitten.
Anyway me and Alec meet Summerfield in a pub. We settle down at a table and he brings out a whopping big file.
He opens it and there’s photographs of me and others at Weeley and the weapons we were carrying.
The Piemen, the papers were calling us.
There were pictures of Hells Angels lying flat out on the ground.
They’d clearly met with some misfortune.
Well, Summerfield starts saying how bad it looks, how everybody knows the Angels are not ideal citizens but everybody has the right not to be assaulted in an especially violent manner.
He’d interviewed some of these poor blokes, some of them not yet recovered, and he said there could be some sympathy for the victims within the court.
He said when the jury saw the pictures of the weapons used against the Angels, they’d have little sympathy for those using them.
He was half-way through his spiel when I put my hand on his arm and he stopped his chatter.
‘How much?’ I asked him, more or less the first words I’d uttered.
He smiled. Holiday in Barbados? New extension to his five-bedroom house?
‘Two grand five?’ he answered.
‘Two,’ I said.
‘Done.’ He rubbed his hands together and smiled some more. Christmas in the south of Spain?
It was a lot of money in those days but supposing I was convicted. What then? I think they might have sent me down for a fair spell because we did some real damage at Weeley.
I asked him what he was going to do next.
‘Well,’ he said, ‘what I’ll do is submit the paperwork to the Director of Public Prosecutions. Of course, I’ll leave out certain evidence. You know, the really heavy stuff. And I’ll suggest no further action.’ He winked. ‘How’s that?’
Obviously I didn’t have that much ready money on me and I arranged to see him a couple of days later when I slipped him a grand.
‘If I don’t get any comeback on this in the next six months,’ I told him, ‘you’ll get another grand.’
We shook hands, had a drink and that was that.
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