Norman Pilcher

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The Pheasantry in 2009

Norman Clement Pilcher (1936 – 13 June 2011[1]) was a British police officer. After a transfer from the Flying Squad to the Drug Squad in 1967, Norman ("Nobby") Pilcher became notorious for the vigour with which he pinned possession of drugs charges on pop stars and hippies, and for the dubious methods employed in his undercover operations, which included paying off informers with drugs.

He became infamous for arresting a number of celebrities during the 1960s on drug charges, such as Mick Jagger, Brian Jones and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones, Donovan[2] and also two members of The Beatles, George Harrison and John Lennon.[3][4] Eric Clapton only escaped being arrested on drugs charges by Pilcher at The Pheasantry, who rang the doorbell to announce "postman, special delivery", by escaping from the rear of the building.[5]

Various celebrities complained that Detective Sergeant Pilcher had framed them, or was only carrying out raids and arrests to satisfy the tabloid newspapers.[6] As is evident from reports in the alternative press and various histories of that time, it was widely believed that Pilcher was frequently planting the drugs his victims were convicted of possessing.

Pilcher's reputation was damaged in the early 1970s, after it was claimed during the drug smuggling trial of Basil Sands, that the defendant (who had been caught red-handed) was innocent, and had been working with the police. After the judge directed the jury to discount any private belief they might have that Pilcher's superior, Victor Kelaher, was at the centre of a drug smuggling ring, since this was something that should be addressed at a subsequent trial, Sands was convicted and was sentenced to seven years imprisonment.

On 8 November 1972, Pilcher was charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice after it was alleged he had committed perjury. He resigned from the police force before the case came to court..[7] In September 1973 Pilcher was convicted and sentenced to four years imprisonment.[8][2]

Pilcher was the subject of the 2003 Primus song Pilcher's Squad. It has also been speculated that the lyric "Semolina Pilchard" in The Beatles' song I Am the Walrus refers to Pilcher.[6] Monty Python lampooned him as "Spiny Norman" in their Piranha Brothers sketch, and in Eric Idle’s 1978 Beatles pastiche The Rutles, he was satirised as "Brian Plant".[7]


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  2. ^ a b "Donovan". Retrieved 22 November 2011. 
  3. ^ "John Lennon fined £150 on drug charge". The Times. 29 November 1968. Retrieved 22 November 2011. 
  4. ^ "Loving Layla by Eric Clapton". The Times (London). 30 September 2007. Retrieved 2 May 2010. 
  5. ^ Ed Glinert (1 May 2012). The London Compendium: A Street-by-street Exploration of the Hidden Metropolis. Penguin. pp. 1001–. ISBN 978-0-7181-9204-4. 
  6. ^ a b Travis, Alan (1 August 2005). "The night Yogi and Boo-Boo helped Semolina Pilchard snare a Beatle". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  7. ^ a b Wells, Simon (2011). Butterfly on a Wheel: The Great Rolling Stones Drugs Bust. London: Omnibus. ISBN 9780857127112. 
  8. ^ "Gimme Some Truth: The FBI Files of John Lennon". Democracy Now!. 25 May 2000. Retrieved 22 November 2011.