…reach for the SD1 keys!
The eighth of May 1987, a pretty ordinary day for most of us, in fact anyone living outside London may not have even know what had happened. Remember this was before things like Twitter and Facebook and if you had seen it you wouldn’t have text messaged your mate because even if you were lucky enough to have a mobile phone it was the size of a brick and had no text messaging facility on it!
But for one young lady and four exceptional police officers it was a day like no other. Aliza Hillel was in the Cromwell Hospital, her body had rejected a Liver transplant and she desperately needed a new one. One was found but it was in Hull and outside the body the organ wouldn’t last long, even packed in ice. But how to get it from Hull to London as quickly as possible?
A decision was taken to fly it to Stansted where it would be met and taken to the hospital but fog delayed the plane and it arrived at Stansted with less than 1 hour to get to the Cromwell. Essex Police were even allowed to drive straight onto the runway to meet the plane to try and save time. London Ambulance Service did not have a helicopter of its own and there was no time to organise one privately and no ambulance could cover the distance in the short space of time. So a call went to the Met and Officers McIntyre, Fordham, Crossland and McCabe, were despatched, during breakfast (!) to meet the Essex Police Car at J7 of the M11 motorway. Crossland and McIntyre were at the wheels of two Rover 3500s, although recently discontinued by Rover the Met had stockpiled them as they were very highly regarded as high speed pursuit vehicles. In some circles people even doubted the ability of the 2.7 unit to be as quick as the venerable 3.5 (a similar comment was made in 2001 with the ZT190s!).
The Rovers and their drivers had a daunting task ahead of them. They had to do 27 miles in 34 minutes, a tall feat at any time, let alone on a Friday afternoon. A Police Helicopter was also out of the question as just 2 days before one of them had suffered a major engine failure and the entire fleet was grounded for safety checks. The fate (and future) of Aliza Hillel fell to four blokes and two Rover 3500s.
But Scotland Yard had one ace up their sleeve or rather 50 aces. They had just set up the Command Control Centre and despatched around 50 officers with radios to many of the major junctions along the inner city route to help keep junctions clear. At the end of the Mall the cars were even given special permission to go anti clockwise around the ‘Wedding Cake’ maybe even Lizzie herself was keen to be of some help?!
The deployment of officers on the ground proved to be excellent as they were able to keep the Control Centre abreast of traffic conditions, as the cars approached Knightsbridge the congestion worsened and they diverted onto South Carriage Drive, the drivers needed all the help they could get, as this was way off their normal patch and well before the days of Sat Nav and GPS systems. All the ‘equipment’ they had was an A-Z!
Well as we all know they did make it with around 5 minutes to spare. Aliza Hillel made a full recovery and all concerned took part in a special Police Camera Action show made in 1996.
The lead car, A738 UJD also went on to achieve further fame when in 2010 it was being taken to a Community Event at RAF Northolt as an emergency radio call asking for assistance nearby, Sergeant Roberts as an advanced driver immediately took to the wheel of the Rover, by now 26 years old but still fully serviceable as well and using ‘blues and twos’ soon arrived on scene (probably quicker than an Astra diesel!) he and his colleagues managed to arrest one suspect at the scene and then two others nearby.
As we pass the 25th Anniversary of ‘The Liver Run’ lets all remember just how good these cars can be and how being quick can make the difference between life and death. I am not sure that we could rely on a modern day patrol car to deliver the same results in such hard driving conditions, the computer could throw a paddy and put the car into ‘limp’ mode which is neither use nor ornament in an emergency situation!
For more information on The Liver Run there is a brilliant write up with fantastic maps here.