This morning I read in my paper that Keith Richards is to write a children’s book about his relationship with his grandfather Theodore August Dupree who introduced young Keith to music. “I’ve just become a grandfather for the fifth time so I know what I’m talking about,” the great man is quoted as saying.
So, today, we’ll go back in time to when becoming a grandfather was the last thing on Keith’s mind. Here’s the first of two extracts from Butterfly On The Wheel: The Great Rolling Stones Drugs Bust by Simon Wells, published by Omnibus in 2011, a blow-by-blow account of what really happened on the night police raided Keith’s home, Redlands, at West Wittering in Sussex and how the Establishment – police, tabloid press and local judiciary – conspired in a futile attempt to end the career of The Rolling Stones.
We join Keith and his house guests on Sunday February 12, 1967. Among those present are Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull, the gallery owner Robert Fraser, the interior designer Christopher Gibbs and the mysterious David Shneiderman who provided Keith’s guests with an assortment of drugs. They have spent a pleasant afternoon on the beach and are now relaxing in Keith’s living room, listening to Bob Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde loud on the stereo and ‘coming down’ from the effects of California Sunshine acid taken earlier in the day. Little do they know that the News Of The World has tipped off the police about their activities…
At 8:05 pm, what appeared to those inside to be the face of a middle-aged woman pressed itself against the sole window whose curtains weren’t drawn. Schneiderman was the first to spot her and he alerted Richards who, believing it to be an intrepid fan, wasn’t unduly bothered, only slightly irritated by the intrusion. An unfortunate by-product of his local celebrity was the occasional unsolicited drop-in by over eager admirers, not least because word on the fan network was that Keith was fairly receptive to such visits though they rarely, if ever, occurred after nightfall.
What bemused Keith more was that the face at the window appeared to be more of a “little old lady” than a teenage fan. Hoping that by ignoring her she would go away, everyone did just that but after a few minutes she began tapping on the glass. Again she was ignored.
Five minutes later a thunderous banging on the front door left no one in any doubt that this wasn’t a fan after an autograph. As a wave of unease cut through the atmosphere, a languidly stoned Fraser dismissed the loud knocking with a curt and haughty retort. “Don’t bother,” he billowed. “Gentlemen ring up first. Must be tradesmen.” Faithfull too, offered a wonderfully child-like response. “If we don’t make any noise,” she whispered, “if we’re all really quiet, they’ll go away.” It certainly seems that those inside remained fairly unmoved by what was occurring outside. As the observer at the window would later declare, “There was no panic or anything like that.”
Eventually Schneiderman turned to Richards and offered to see who it was. Without replying, Richards took on the mantle of householder and walked over, unlocked the door and found himself confronted by the stout figure of Chief Inspector Gordon Dineley of the West Sussex Constabulary. In his large white overcoat and braided cap, he cut an imposing presence in the darkness. At Dineley’s side was Detective Sergeant Stanley Cudmore, the detective who’d first taken the call from the News Of The World. Given the five-minute time lapse in responding, the Chief Inspector had considered forcing down the door to gain entry.
While it was pitch black outside, the squad of 18 police would have been an incredulous sight for Richards’ dazzled senses. Indeed, in his disoriented state he had some difficulty in figuring out what was happening. He’d later reflect that they appeared to him to be more like a troupe of goblins from The Hobbit than anything as mundane as police officers.
As realisation slowly replaced bewilderment, Dineley engaged Richards with the preliminaries to the raid. “Are you the occupier and owner of the premises?” he asked.
Slightly bemused by the officious request, Keith replied with a chuckle: “Well, I live here.”
Holding up a sheet of white A4 paper, Dineley explained the reason for his and his colleagues’ presence. “I am Police Chief Inspector Dineley of the West Sussex Constabulary, and I have a warrant to search these premises and the persons in them, under the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1965.”
Handing Richards the warrant, Dineley then invited him to read its contents. This Keith did, attempting to decode the legal text headed with a decal of the crown. Embedded in the warrant was the unequivocal line declaring that the police were “to enter, if needs be by force, the premises of the said Keith Richards”. In addition to the legal requirements were the names of the police personnel primed to cross Redlands’ threshold. Following his reading of the 30-line document, Richards acquiescently responded to Dineley, saying: “All right, I have read it.”
With that, Dineley and his team moved into the house. Rumoured to have been mentioned that night, but not confirmed in police documents, Richards allegedly said to his house guests: “Look, there’s lots of little ladies and gentlemen outside. They’re coming in. They have this funny piece of paper, all sorts of legal rubbish.” The police constables were dressed in traditional uniform, while detectives wore plain clothes. The “old lady” seen earlier at the window was, in fact, Detective Constable Evelyn Florence Fuller, drawn from Bognor Regis police station for the night. “As I entered the house,” she later recalled. “I noticed an unusual smell. It was not the smell of burning wood. It was similar to that of incense.” Detective Constable Thomas Davies too, would take note of “a very strong, sweet, smell” inside the house. Leading the team into the Redlands’ drawing room, Dineley repeated to the occupants what he’d said to Richards earlier, that the property was to be searched for drugs.
Close behind Dineley was Cudmore. He too caught a “rather strong, sweet smell” on entering the premises and, later, in all the other rooms of the property. He recalled in detail the scene, especially the deportment of Jagger and Faithfull. “Jagger and a woman were sitting on a couch some distance away from the fire,” Cudmore later noted. “This woman had wrapped round her a light coloured fur skin rug which from time to time she let fall, showing her nude body. Sitting on her left was Jagger, and I was of the opinion that he was wearing makeup.”
The police jostling for space with Redlands’ nine residents made for a fairly crowded scene. While drawers, cupboards and various receptacles were being searched, a state of confusion fell over those present. “No one was expected that night,” recalled Gibbs. “Then all of a sudden, these people in blue came flooding in. It was a rather dream-like experience.”
Adding to this strange drama fast unfolding, the record player was still blaring out from the two huge speakers. With conversation above the sound system virtually impossible, Dineley asked Richards to turn it off. “No,” replied the defiant musician. “We won’t turn it off, but we’ll turn it down.” The muted television set remained on.
Leaving sufficient personnel to cover the downstairs sweep of the house, D.C. Fuller and Sergeant John Challen began a search of the upstairs rooms. Fuller’s exploration led her first to the room that Jagger was sharing with Faithfull. Aware that the details of her search might be scrutinised in court, Fuller’s inventory was extraordinarily detailed. “There were pink ostrich feathers lying on the bed,” she’d later report. “On a chair in the bedroom were items of clothing; a pair of black velvet trousers, a white bra, a white lace Edwardian blouse, a black cloth half coat, a black sombrero-type hat and a pair of mauve-coloured ladies boots, one of which was lying on the bed, the other on the floor. I also noticed a large chest of drawers on the top of which were a number of books on witchcraft; one book was called Games To Play.” Fuller also noted that on the floor was a large holdall which contained “two or three dagger-type weapons”.
While Fuller was making an inventory of Mick and Marianne’s possessions, Challen searched Richards’ bedroom. Finding a “pudding basin containing three cigarette ends” by the bed, he extracted the contents and placed them in a plastic bag. Once finished inspecting Keith’s bedroom, he joined Fuller in Marianne and Mick’s room. With Fuller noting the fine detail, Challen examined the pockets of the clothes in the room. Inside Jagger’s green velvet jacket he found four white tablets in a clear plastic phial in the left-inside pocket, the amphetamine pills from the couple’s Italian holiday which had remained in Jagger’s jacket ever since.