For people of notoriety, the possibility of a kidnap attempt exists. That possibility became very real to Great Britain’s Princess Anne and her husband, Captain Mark Phillips on March 20, 1974, as they were returning to Buckingham Palace. It was the closest that anyone has come to abducting a member of the British Royal family in modern times.
Princess Anne was just 23 years old at the time. She was a fun-loving royal celebrity of the day. She was a skilled equestrian, who had been named BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1971, but it was her marriage to a commoner, Captain Mark Phillips that caused a sensation. It is estimated that 500 million watched the ceremony on television. It was a bit unusual for royalty to marry commoners, but as we know, it does happen.
Princess Anne has long been one of the hardest working royals, and still is to this day. On the night of the attempted kidnapping, the couple were returning to Buckingham Palace after a charity film screening. At about 8pm, their chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce was making its way along the Mall when a white Ford Escort suddenly pulled in front and blocked the road. The driver, who was later identified as 26 year old Ian Ball, who was an unemployed laborer suffering from mental illness, jumped out, waving two handguns.
Thankfully, Anne’s bodyguard, Inspector James Beaton, and chauffeur Alex Callendar went to disarm him. Both were shot, but miraculously not fatally. A passing tabloid journalist was also shot. Beaton, who got back to his feet and was shot three times during the attack, was later awarded the George Cross. Ball got into the limo and demanded Anne get out, to which she retorted, “Not bloody likely!” Those were bold words for a young woman facing a would be captor. Obviously, Princess Anne was no ordinary young woman.
Into the chaotic scene ran former boxer Ron Russell, who punched Ball in the head and led the Princess to safety as police arrived. Police officer Michael Hills was also shot before Ball was finally tackled to the ground. The assailant was sentenced to life imprisonment and placed in a psychiatric hospital. In Ball’s car, police found handcuffs, tranquillizers and a ransom note addressed to the Queen. In the letter, he demanded that £2 million be paid to the National Health Service. After Anne’s miraculous escape, the royal family’s security was increased to ensure something like that could never happen again.
When a vicious killer is caught, sometimes the townspeople lose control of their emotions and take matters into their own hands. While it is a little less common these days, people would sometimes storm the jail to execute the prisoners themselves. Often it was thought that justice would not be served in the court system. People fear the possibility that the killer might get off and be back out in society again. These days, it is pretty hard to storm a jail, but jails weren’t as secure then, as they are now.
On November 9, 1933, Brooke Hart was abducted by two men in his own Studebaker. His family received a $40,000 ransom demand and, soon after, Hart’s wallet was found on a tanker ship in a nearby bay. The investigative trail led to John Holmes and Thomas Thurmond, who implicated each other in separate confessions. Both acknowledged, that Hart had been pistol-whipped and then thrown off the San Mateo Bridge. After Hart’s body washed ashore on November 25, a vigilante mob began to form. Newspapers reported the possibility of a lynching and local radio stations broadcast the plan. Not only did Governor James Rolph reject the National Guard’s offer to send assistance, he reportedly said he would pardon those involved in the lynching. Now, when you have a governor who is on the side on the lynch mob, you have a volatile situation.
On November 26, 1933, thousands of people in San Jose, California, stormed the jail where Thomas Thurmond and John Holmes were being held. The angry mob converged at the jail and beat the guards, using a battering ram to break into the cells. Then, Thurmond and Holmes were dragged out and hanged from large trees in a nearby park. Contrary to the way most of us think, when our emotions aren’t raw, the public seemed to welcome the gruesome act of vigilante violence. After the incident, pieces of the lynching ropes were sold to the public. Though the San Jose News declined to publish pictures of the lynching, it condoned the act in an editorial. Seventeen-year-old Anthony Cataldi bragged that he had been the leader of the mob but he was not held accountable for his participation. At Stanford University, a professor asked his students to stand and applaud the lynching. Perhaps most disturbing, Governor Rolph publicly praised the mob. “The best lesson ever given the country,” said Governor Rolph. “I would like to parole all kidnappers in San Quentin to the fine, patriotic citizens of San Jose.” I understand the anger, but not the method. While the two killers might have deserved the death penalty for their crimes, this was not the way it should have happened. Nevertheless, I guess justice was served…even if it was vigilante justice.
Many things that used to be illegal, are legal today…things like inter-racial marriage, marijuana (now legal in some states), and booze…believe it or not. Booze went from being legal, to being illegal in 1920, and back to legal in 1933. During those years while it was illegal, as with any law, there were those who broke the law and did it anyway. With booze, the problem, like with marijuana…because it was illegal, was no legal source for it. Enter the Bootlegger. Bootleggers, made their own booze and sold it on the black market of the day. The booze, often called Moonshine, was probably stronger than what booze would have been if it had been regulated and made legally, but an illegal product, is made to different standards, and often contains a much higher concentration than if it were legal.
There have been a number of shows and movies that have almost romanticized bootlegging, but in reality, it was a highly dangerous occupation…if it could be called that. I’m sure there were a few non-violent bootleggers…until they had to become violent to protect their stash and their territory. Men like Roger “The Terrible” Touhy, Al Capone, and Roy Olmstead (nicknamed the “King of the Puget Sound Bootleggers”), did everything in their power to bring liquor to those who wanted it…for a price, of course. They had to make a profit and hazard pay was essential too. Early bootleggers smuggled European liquor in, but that quickly became very dangerous, so the bootleggers started to make their own. Every time the prohibition officers caught a bootlegger, the liquor was disposed of…often into the sewer drains. Prohibition officers went everywhere. They were in the cities and the country…anywhere that their intel indicated that a bootlegger had a still in the area. The Temperance Society insisted that they remove every drop of the “demon liquor” from this country. They were convinced that liquor was the root of all evil…so to speak.
The bootleggers quickly became Mob leaders with their own gangs, and crossing them quickly became very dangerous. They would even frame or kill their competition, in fact it happened often. Al Capone framed Roger Touhy for kidnapping by his bootlegging rivals with the help of corrupt Chicago officials, was serving a 99-year sentence for a kidnapping he did not commit. He was recaptured a couple of months later. The two men hated each other bitterly, and when it was finally proven that Touhy had been framed, he was released. Three weeks later as he walked into his sister’s house, Touhy was gunned down. Right before he died, he said, “I’ve been expecting it. The b*******s never forget.” No arrests were made. I wonder if anyone really tried. Those were dangerous times, and one gang often retaliated against another. Even after Prohibition was repealed in 1933, bootleggers did not become extinct, because there were still counties and cities who continued Prohibition. Where there is a law, there are lawbreakers.