Little Bits of History

Hostage Taking

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 28, 2013
Sir Robert Mark

Sir Robert Mark

September 28, 1975: Franklin Davies enters the Spaghetti House. The restaurant was located in Knightsbridge, London. Ten of the chain’s staff members were collecting the week’s income, about £13,000 (≈ £82,000 2009 BPS) when Davies and two others burst in. The armed robbery did not go as planned. One man escaped and alerted police. The other nine were led into a basement and held as hostages. Davies, a Nigerian, claimed to represent the Black Liberation Front, a subgroup of the Black Panthers. The Italian restaurateurs were held in a storeroom.

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) immediately surrounded the business and cordoned off the area. The criminals demanded safe passage and an aircraft to Jamaica. Sir Robert Mark of MPS contacted the Home Office, the British government office in charge of immigration, security, and control. The demands of the hostage takers were not met and the siege was on. The nine hostages and three gunmen lived off tins of food stored in the basement. Two of the men became ill and were released over the next few days. The Italian Consul, General Mario Manca, had generously offered himself in order to affect a release of the ill men.

Because foreign nationals were involved, the case took on a more urgent tone. A new technology, fiber optic surveillance, was used and gave authorities real time information on the hostages. Dr. Peter Scott, a psychiatrist, assisted with police interactions. The men inside were given a radio, coffee, and cigarettes. Police and the media cooperated with the radio broadcasting messages crafted to demoralize the hostage takers. They planted misinformation convincing Davies his plan would fail. He was led to believe a confederate was selling information to the media, after the Daily Mail held back a scoop about the confederate’s arrest.

Six days later, the remaining Italian hostages were freed. They emerged one at a time and were whisked away to the local hospital to make sure they were in good health. Wesley Dick (24) and Anthony Gordon Munroe (22) were arrested as they emerged. The men from the West Indies were taken to Cannon Row Police Station. Davies (28) did not come out. Police found him lying in the cellar with a gunshot wound and a .22 pistol by his side. He was taken to St. George’s Hospital for treatment. Over 400 police, the Home Office, the Italian Consul, and the media worked together to achieve a successful outcome.

“Our principal drive is not to negotiate with hostage-takers and not to negotiate with terrorists, and this is where we find our strength is.” – Ayad Allawi

“It’s about as an abominable a crime as one can imagine – hostage-taking, cold-blooded murder of hostages.” – James Foley

“The biggest misconception about hostage negotiators is that we’re great talkers, when really we’re good listeners.” – Christopher Curtis

“It’s the same as in hostage negotiation, we never use the word ‘gun.’ Instead of saying, ‘I need you to lower that gun,’ you say, ‘I need you to lower that thing.’ Calling it a ‘thing’ diminishes the weapon’s power.” – Christopher Curtis

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Sir Robert Mark was the Chief Constable of Leicester City Police before serving as the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police from 1972-1977. He was the first to achieve this lofty post by rising through the ranks from the lowest to the highest position. He was born in 1917 in a suburb of Manchester and was the youngest of five children. After finishing his schooling he got a job selling carpet; two years later he joined the police force as a Constable. He entered the Army and served first in a tank division and later at the War Office. He took part in the Normandy Landings and was promoted to the rank of Major before leaving the service. After the war he returned to Manchester and the police and rose rapidly with a series of promotions. He resigned his post after a public disagreement with the Home Secretary. He died in 2010 at the age of 93.

Also on this day: Victory – In 1781, George Washington began his assault on Yorktown, the last battle of the Revolutionary War.
Black Sox – In 1920, eight Chicago White Sox players were indicted.
Races – In 1919, the Omaha Race Riots began.

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