Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Welsh Hippie Cop

I do like a bit of '70s true crime trash. Take Busted! (1978) by Martyn Pritchard and Ed Laxton, for instance. Welsh cop, Pritchard, spent five years undercover, hunting down drug dealers and hassling degenerate junkies. Donning hippie garb, he infiltrated squats, communes, festivals and demos. He was like a Welsh Serpico. Along the M4 corridor, no sandal-wearing dope peddler or acid-head was safe from his attentions.

During his investigations he encountered the IRA, the Mafia, and - inevitably - Howard Marks. A large section of this book is devoted to the part Pritchard played in the Operation Julie drugs bust. I love the whole mythology surrounding that case. It's incredible to think that LSD produced in Tregaron was being ingested by the likes of Timothy Leary on the west coast of the United States. You can read more about the case here.

Busted! is just one of many cultural artefacts inspired by Operation Julie. Other books have included Dick Lee and Colin Pratt's Operation Julie: How an Undercover Police Team Smashed the World's Greatest Drugs Ring (1978), and more recently Lyn Ebenezer's Welsh-language Operation Julie (2008). There have also been TV documentaries; some great articles in counter-culture magazines, such as, the International Times; and, of course, the song: Julie's Been Working For the Drug Squad, penned by The Clash.

As for Welsh hippie cop Martyn Pritchard, soon after Operation Julie, he retired from the police force to run a public house in the Midlands.