Tales Of A Rat Catcher (chasing fraudsters) — Reg Parkes — 31st March 2014.

What a humor­ous, fas­cin­at­ing talk! Reg was born and brought up in Dronfield where he got up to the usual tricks that boys do. At the age of 14 he joined the A.T.C. (the Air Training Corps) where imme­di­ately became smit­ten with flying and at the age of 16 he joined the RAF. When he was 18 he signed on as an air quarter­mas­ter, which took him to many parts of the world.

He was shot at in Cyprus and whilst in Ceylon he and many more mem­bers of the RAF were co opted as extras to play the part of pris­on­ers in the film­ing of ‘The Bridge Over The River Kwai, in which William Holden played a star­ring roll. Apparently when the film crew arrived with the cast, William Holden’s wife was very upset because she had lost her lug­gage, and had to wear unflat­ter­ing clothes: which being an act­ress it didn’t go down very well.  Her per­sonal ‘Go-for’ approached Reg and asked him if he could help in his capa­city as quarter­mas­ter. Reg went into the hanger  and found a very large case addressed to Mrs A. Beedle. He imme­di­ately real­ized that it was her case, because William Holden’s real name was Beedle, and gave it to the ‘Go-for’, who wanted to reward him. However Reg explained that it was his job and he couldn’t accept any­thing.

Towards the end of the 6 weeks film­ing period, a dance was arranged and during the even­ing there was a ‘ladies excuse’ dance. At this point the act­ress, Brenda Marshal, alias Mrs Beedle, William Holden’s wife asked Reg for a dance, much to the sur­prise of the officers.

Reg met his wife, whilst home on leave, at the Nether Edge Dance Hall and decided to leave the RAF and find a job in Sheffield. He star­ted work at the West Street Employment Office, where he even­tu­ally got the job of detect­ing social secur­ity fraud­sters, a job which he kept for thirty years. He related many stor­ies of fraud, includ­ing one lady who col­lec­ted her money on a Wednesday at 9:00 am instead of 3:00 pm, when she should have done, and then walked straight out of the build­ing and drove off in a large American car. She did this for a period of six months until he caught her run­ning her own mas­sage parlor behind the Washington pub at Nether Edge. Two days before going to court she paid a cheque in for £6,600, which was the money she had illeg­ally claimed.

On another occa­sion he caught sev­eral men col­lect­ing dole money on vari­ous days of the week who then, for the rest of the week, sold ice cream for a local com­pany. It turned out that they were being sub­con­trac­ted to the com­pany by a small time crook, who was also pro­sec­uted. On a sim­ilar occa­sion he caught a group of men work­ing for Barrett Homes on a sub­con­tract basis.

Reg became very suc­cess­ful and formed an arrange­ment with the police where they provided him with vehicle regis­tra­tion inform­a­tion within minutes, and in return he told the police the addresses where the depart­ment was send­ing Gyro cheques to, of people they were want­ing to detain. They gave him a code name to use so that the switch­board put him straight through to the right depart­ment. The code name was, “The Rat Catcher.”

Reg didn’t bring any props but kept us all fas­cin­ated by his stor­ies, which he told with a lib­eral serving of Yorkshire humor.

I for one am look­ing for­ward to his return.