Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Cop Turns Cabbie - for Real This Time

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Cop Turns Cabbie - for Real This Time

Article excerpt


WORKING undercover as a black cab driver has helped Flying Squad sergeant Stephen Thomas net some of the most notorious gangs of armed robbers in London.

Now, after 32 years with the Metropolitan Police and becoming the last serving officer to be awarded the George Medal for bravery, Mr Thomas is leaving the force - to work as a real-life cabbie.

He retired last week following a career which reads like something out of a crime novel. In the Eighties he was shot during a gun battle with a Yardie gang, he was involved in trailing the multimillion pound Knightsbridge safe-deposit raiders and helped capture the bank-robbing couple nicknamed Britain's own Bonnie and Clyde.

Black cabs were an essential tool of his undercover work and Mr Thomas is looking forward to taking fares for a living. He has completed 20,000 miles driving around London at night - in between working at New Scotland Yard - in his efforts to master "the knowledge", the cabbie's essential familiarity with the city's routes.

Police found black cabs useful for undercover work because they are such a common sight, he said. "They are big so you can have four people in the back who can suddenly disappear by ducking down."

Mr Thomas was awarded the George Medal after tackling a gang of four armed criminals attempting to raid Acton Post Office in December 1988.

He had watched the men for four weeks from a hideout in an old people's home. When he saw them dressing in balaclavas and hoods in their flat, he radioed for help, jumped in his black cab and followed them.

The gang pulled out guns and went inside the post office. Armed backup had yet to arrive so Mr Thomas and his colleague, Detective Constable Alan Knapp, drew their guns and waited outside. "Within seconds somebody had pressed the panic button and the gang ran out," said Mr Thomas. …

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