Playland – a shattering memoir

Playland by Anthony DalyI do some work as a book editor. This month has seen the publication of a memoir I helped to prepare that was one of the most shocking and disturbing I have ever read.

Playland: Secrets of a Forgotten Scandal is by Anthony Daly. It recounts how as a young man in Ulster of the 1970s he fled the Troubles and came to London.

A book lover, he got a job in Foyles. Then his story took a dark turn.

He was swindled out of his money and found himself in Playland, a notorious games arcade on Piccadilly Circus. Here he was befriended by two men, one posh, one not.

Playland exposes the seedy side of the 1970s

They were charming and concerned about him. Accepting their offer of a meal and a loan, he joins them. However, he is drugged and raped, and then blackmailed into becoming a male prostitute.

He is beaten, abused and forced to gratify high-ranking politicians at sordid parties. It is a brutal and terrifying existence. Daly drowns out the trauma of it by taking all the drugs and drink he can get.

Despite the squalor and cruelty he depicts, the author writes tenderly and evocatively about the period and the lads he befriended on the Dilly. In particular, his friendship with the reckless Damie is painfully moving.

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The Ruth Ellis Files BBC4

Programme Name: The Ruth Ellis Files: A Very British Crime Story - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 3) - Picture Shows: Andre (SCOOTER CRICK), Ruth (EMMA MOORE) - (C) Wall to Wall Media Ltd - Photographer: Matt Broad

Actors portray Ruth’s son Andre (Scooter Crick) and Ruth Ellis (Emma Moore). Pics: BBC

I was pleasantly intrigued to see two experts I know in a forthcoming BBC4 documentary about Ruth Ellis, starting on Tuesday 13 March, 9pm.

Brian Hook and Andy Rose are highly experienced former detectives. They generously devoted their time to give me a modern perspective on the Nude Killer investigation. I used their input extensively in The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper.

In The Ruth Ellis Files: A Very British Crime Story, Brian and Andy help documentary maker Gillian Pachter to re-examine this notorious case.

Last woman to be hanged

Eillis shot her lover David Blakely outside a pub in Hampstead and in July 1955 became the last woman to be hanged in Britain.

It was, and still is, a shocking case is. Pachter, with insights from experts such as Michael Mansfield QC, along with Brian and Andy, reveals how Ellis was treated brutally by the legal system and prejudices of the time.

Programme Name: The Ruth Ellis Files: A Very British Crime Story - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 1) - Picture Shows: (L-R) Brian Hook, Louise Cherrington, & Andy Rose (Ex Police Officers) discussing Ruth’s trial. - (C) Wall to Wall Media Ltd - Photographer: Screengrab

Former police officers Brian Hook, Louise Cherrington and Andy Rose discussing the Ruth Ellis case

She was beaten often by Blakely. On one occasion she punched by Blakely and lost a baby she was pregnant with. Pachter also shows how Ellis may have been encouraged to kill Blakely by an admirer who was jealous of her boyfriend.

Desmond Cussen supplied Ellis with the gun she used, showed her how to shoot and drove her to the Hampstead pub. None of this came out at the trial.

Forensics and investigation of the Ellis case

Episode one delves into the police investigation, which is Andy and Brian’s area of expertise. Both have experience of murder scenes and evidence-gathering. Today they teach these subjects at West London University.

My one quibble with the series is the irritating style in which it is made. B-movie footage of cowboys and gangsters are ludicrously inserted into Pachter’s narration. This is distracting and irrelevant.

And insights from the likes of Mansfield are interrupted by endless shots of Pachter entering buildings or looking through files.

These points aside, this is still a fascinating close-up look at a tragic case.