Voice Over: And now a choice of viewing on BBC Television.
Just started on BBC2, the semi final of Episode 3 of 'Kierkegaard's
Journals', staring Richard Chamberlain, Peggy Mount and Billy
Bremer, and on BBC1, 'Ethel the Frog'
Introduction sort of music with Caption 'ETHEL THE FROG' Cut
to Presenter sitting behind desk)
Presenter: Good evening. On 'Ethel the Frog' tonight we
look at violence The violence of British Gangland. Last Tuesday a
reign of terror was ended when the notorious Piranha brothers, Doug
and Dinsdale, after one of the most extraordinary trials in British
legal history, were sentenced to 400 years imprisonment for crimes
of violence. We examined the rise to power of the Piranhas, the
methods they used to subjugate rival gangs and their subsequent
tracking down and capture by the brilliant Superintendent Harry
'Snapper' Organs of Q Division. Doug and Dinsdale Piranha were born,
on probation, in a small house in Kipling Road, Southwark, the
eldest sons in a family of sixteen. Their father Arthur Piranha, a
scrap metal dealer and TV quizmaster, was well known to the police,
and a devout Catholic. In 1928 he had married Kitty Malone, an
up-and-coming East End boxer. Doug was born in February 1929 and
Dinsdale two weeks later; and again a week after that. Someone who
remembers them well was their next door neighbor, Mrs. April Simmel.
Mrs. Simmel: Oh yes Kipling Road was a typical East End
Street, people were in and out of each other's houses with each
other's property all day. They were a cheery lot.
Interviewer: Was it a terribly violent area
Mrs. Simmel: Oh no......yes. Cheerful and violent. I
remember Doug was keen on boxing, but when he learned to walk he
took up putting the boot in the groin. He was very interested in
that. His mother had a terrible job getting him to come in for tea.
Putting his little boot in he'd be, bless him. All the kids were
like that then, they didn't have their heads stuffed with all this
Presenter: At the age of fifteen Doug and Dinsdale started
attending the Ernest Pythagoras Primary School in Clerkenwell. When
the Piranhas left school they were called up but were found by an
Army Board to be too unstable even for National Service. Denied the
opportunity to use their talents in the service of their country,
they began to operate what they called 'The Operation'... They would
select a victim and then threaten to beat him up if he paid the
so-called protection money. Four months later they started another
operation which the called 'The Other Operation'. In this racket
they selected another victim and threatened not to beat him up if he
didn't pay them. One month later they hit upon 'The Other Other
Operation'. In this the victim was threatened that if he didn't pay
them, they would beat him up. This for the Piranha brothers was the
(Cut to Superintendent Organs - Subtitle: Harry "Snapper"
Organs: Doug and Dinsdale Piranha now formed a gang, which
the called 'The Gang' and used terror to take over night clubs,
billiard halls, gaming casinos and race tracks. When they tried to
take over the MCC they were for the only time in their lives, slit
up a treat. As their empire spread however, Q Division were keeping
tabs on their every move by reading the color supplements.
Presenter: One small-time operator who fell foul of
Dinsdale Piranha was Vince Snetterton-Lewis.
Vince: "Well one day I was at home threatening the kids
when I looks out through the hole in the wall and sees this tank
pull up and out gets one of Dinsdale's boys, so he comes in nice and
friendly and says Dinsdale wants to have a word with me, so he
chains me to the back of the tank and takes me for a scrape round to
Dinsdale's place and Dinsdale's there in the conversation pit with
Doug and Charles Paisley, the baby crusher, and two film producers
and a man they called 'Kierkegaard', who just sat there biting the
heads of whippets and Dinsdale says 'I hear you've been a naughty
boy Clement' and he splits me nostrils open and saws me leg off and
pulls me liver out and I tell him my name's not Clement and then...
he loses his temper and nails me head to the floor."
Interviewer: He nailed your head to the floor?
Vince: At first yeah
Presenter: Another man who had his head nailed to the
floor was Stig O' Tracy.
Interviewer: I've been told Dinsdale Piranha nailed your
head to the floor.
Stig: No. Never. He was a smashing bloke. He used to buy
his mother flowers and that. He was like a brother to me.
Interviewer: But the police have film of Dinsdale actually
nailing your head to the floor.
Stig: (pause) Oh yeah, he did that.
Stig: Well he had to, didn't he? I mean there was nothing
else he could do, be fair. I had transgressed the unwritten law.
Interviewer: What had you done?
Stig: Er... well he didn't tell me that, but he gave me
his word that it was the case, and that's good enough for me with
old Dinsy. I mean, he didn't *want* to nail my head to the floor. I
had to insist. He wanted to let me off. He'd do anything for you,
Interviewer: And you don't bear him a grudge?
Stig: A grudge! Old Dinsy. He was a real darling.
Interviewer: I understand he also nailed your wife's head
to a coffee table. Isn't that true Mrs. O' Tracy?
Mrs. O' Tracy: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.
Stig: Well he did do that, yeah. He was a hard man.
Vicious but fair
(Cut back to Vince)
Interviewer: Vince, after he nailed your head to the
floor, did you ever see him again
Vince: Yeah.....after that I used to go round his flat
every Sunday lunchtime to apologize and we'd shake hands and then
he'd nail my head to the floor
Interviewer: Every Sunday?
Vince: Yeah but he was very reasonable. Once, one Sunday I
told him my parents were coming round to tea and would he mind very
much not nailing my head that week and he agreed and just screwed my
pelvis to a cake stand.
Presenter: Clearly Dinsdale inspired tremendous fear among
his business associates. But what was he really like?
Gloria:I walked out with Dinsdale on many occasions and
found him a charming and erudite companion. He was wont to introduce
one to eminent celebrities, celebrated American singers, members of
the aristocracy and other gang leaders,
Interviewer (off screen): How had he met them?
Gloria: Through his work for charities. He took a warm
interest in Boys' Clubs, Sailors' Homes, Choristers' Associations
and the Grenadier Guards.
Interviewer: Was there anything unusual about him?
Gloria: Not him. I should say not. Except, that Dinsdale
was convinced that he was being watched by a giant hedgehog whom he
referred to as 'Spiny Norman'.
Interviewer: How big was Norman supposed to be?
Gloria: Normally Spiny Norman was wont to be about twelve
feet from snout to tail, but when Dinsdale was depressed Norman
could be anything up to eight hundred yards long. When Norman was
about Dinsdale would go very quiet and start wobbling and his nose
would swell up and his teeth would move about and he'd get very
violent and claim that he'd laid Stanley Baldwin."
Interviewer: "Did it worry you that he, for example,
stitched people's legs together?"
Gloria: "Well it's better than bottling it up isn't it. He
was a gentleman, Dinsdale, and what's more he knew how to treat a
Presenter: But what do the criminologists think? We asked
The Amazing Kargol and Janet:
Criminologist: It is easy for us to judge Dinsdale Piranha
too harshly. After all he only did what many of us simply dream of
doing... I'm sorry. After all we should remember that a murderer is
only an extroverted suicide. Dinsdale was a looney, but he was a
happy looney. Lucky bugger."
Presenter: Most of the strange tales concern Dinsdale, but
what about Doug? One man who met him was Luigi Vercotti.
Vercotti: I had been running a successful escort agency --
high class, no really, high class girls -- we didn't have any of
*that* -- that was right out. And I decided (phone rings)
Excuse me (he answers phone) Hello......no, not now......shtoom...shtoom....right......yes,
we'll have the watch ready for you at midnight.......the
watch.....the Chinese watch....yes, right-oh, bye-bye.....mother
(he hangs up phone) Anyway I decided to open a high class night
club for the gentry at Biggleswade with International cuisine and
cooking and top line acts, and not a cheap clip joint for picking up
tarts -- that was right out, I deny that completely --, and one
evening in walks Dinsdale with a couple of big lads, one of whom was
carrying a tactical nuclear missile. They said I had bought one of
their fruit machines and would I pay for it
2nd Interviewer: How much did they want?
Vercotti: They wanted three quarters of a million pounds.
2nd Interviewer: Why didn't you call the police?
Vercotti: Well I had noticed that the lad with the
thermonuclear device was the chief constable for the area. So a week
later they called again and told me the check had bounced and
said... I had to see... Doug.
2nd Interviewer: Doug?
Vercotti: Doug (takes a drink) Well, I was
terrified. Everyone was terrified of Doug. I've seen grown men pull
their own heads off rather than see Doug. Even Dinsdale was
frightened of Doug.
2nd Interviewer: What did he do?
Vercotti: He used... sarcasm. He knew all the tricks,
dramatic irony, metaphor, bathos, puns, parody, litotes and...
satire. He was vicious.
Presenter: By a combination of violence and sarcasm, the
Piranha brothers by February 1966 controlled London and the
Southeast of England. It was in February, though, that Dinsdale made
a big mistake.
Gloria: Lately Dinsdale had become increasingly worried
about Spiny Norman. He had come to the conclusion that Norman slept
in an aeroplane hangar at Luton Airport.
Presenter: And so on Feb 22nd 1966, Dinsdale blew up
Luton. (shot of a H-Bomb exploding) Even the police began to
sit up and take notice.
(Cut back to 'Harry Snapper' Organs)
Organs: The Piranhas realized they had gone too far and
that the hunt was on. They went into hiding. I decided on a subtle
approach, viz. some form of disguise, as the old helmet and boots
are a bit of a giveaway. Luckily my years with Bristol Rep. stood me
in good stead, as I assumed a bewildering variety of disguises. I
tracked them to Cardiff, posing as the Reverend Smiler Egret.
Hearing they'd gone back to London, I assumed the identity of a pork
butcher, Brian Stoats. On my arrival in London, I discovered they
had returned to Cardiff, I followed as Gloucester from _King Lear_.
Acting on a hunch I spent several months in Buenos Aires as Blind
Pew, returning through the Panama Canal as Ratty, in _Toad of Toad
Hall_. Back in Cardiff, I relived my triumph as Sancho Panza in _Man
of la Mancha_ which the "Bristol Evening Post" described as 'a
glittering performance of rare perception', although the "Bath
Chronicle" was less than enthusiastic. In fact it gave me a right
panning. I quote
Voice Over: As for the performance of Superintendent Harry
"Snapper" Organs as Sancho Panza, the audience were bemused by his
high-pitched Welsh accent and intimidated by his abusive ad-libs.
Organs: (off screen) The "Western Daily News"
Presenter: 'Sancho Panza (Mr. Organs) spoilt an otherwise
impeccably choreographed rape scene by his unscheduled appearance
and persistent cries of "What's all this then?"'
***************** TV Series version continues as follows
(Cut to back stage dressing room where Harry 'Snapper' Organs
and a Policeman are doing their makeup in front of mirrors)
Policeman: Never mind Snapper love you can't win 'em all
Organs: True constable. Could I have my eye-liner please?
2nd Policeman: Telegram for you love
Organs: Good-oh Bet it's from Binkie
2nd Policeman: Those flowers are for Sergeant Lauderdale -
from the gentleman waiting outside
Organs: Oh good
(There is a knock at the door. A man pokes his head in)
Man: Thirty second superintendent
Organs: Oh blimey, I'm on. Is me hat on straight constable
Policeman: Oh it's fine
Organs: Right here we gone then Hawkins
Policeman : Oh, merde superintendent
Organs: Good luck then
(Cut to exterior of Police Station. They walk down stairs and
then along pavement. Mr. Teabag - Minister of Silly Walks - walks
by. Cut to a Newspaper seller)
Newspaper Seller: Read all about it Pirahna brothers
(Cut to suburban street, with people clearing the streets very
fast. Cut to a picture of an empty street. A very large hedgehog
peers over the houses looking for Dinsdale)
Hedgehog: Dinsdale? Dinsdale? Dinsdale?