Whatever happened to Sgt. Pilcher?

Norman Pilcher, a detective with London’s Metropolitan Police Service, was notorious in the 1960s for his many high-profile drug busts of celebrities, including members of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. These arrests were, at the time, widely reported, thanks in part to Pilcher himself, who allegedly loved to see his name in the tabloids. But the arrests were also controversial, as many of those charged alleged that they had been framed. And indeed, in 1972 Pilcher himself was implicated in a criminal conspiracy in relation to a long-running drug case. He quit the police force and fled to Australia, but was arrested there and extradited back to the UK to face charges of perverting the course of justice. He and several of his colleagues were eventually convicted of the lesser charge of perjury. Pilcher was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment, of which he served two. And that’s pretty much the end of the story as I, and I suspect most others, have heard it.

I was browsing Wikipedia today and was surprised to see that Norman Pilcher’s article lists him as a living person. His date of birth is given as 1935. This means that he would have been only about 40 when he got out of prison, and has gone on to live another 44 years and counting. What’s he been doing all this time? An admittedly cursory Googling yields no details other than the fact that he may have moved to the environs of Tonbridge. Does anyone know how he’s been making a living, and whether he’s been in the news or given any interviews?

More detail here, but no hint about what he has been doing since his release from prison in 1975.

There is an American connection too according to The Fall of Scotland Yard by Barry Cox, John Shirley and Martin Short (Penguin 1977)

According to George Harrison’s first wife Patti, the phrase “semolina pilchard” in “I Am the Walrus” is a reference to Pilcher.

I’ve always wondered whether the minor character Noble Pilcher in “The Silence of the Lambs” was an allusion to Norman Pilcher.

ETA: I see that the Beatles reference is mentioned in the link in the previous post.

There has been some suggestion (various websites, one linking to the other) that he died in 2011 and this is his obituary:


But I suppose there could be more than one Norman Pilcher, and the obit is scarce on details like DOB and occupation. Which is just what the obituary of an infamous, turned disgraced former policeman would read like…

If you read through the history of the Wikipedia article, you’ll see that that date of death (and sometimes the corresponding reference) has already been added and removed a number of times, the editors removing the information claiming that the obituary is for an unrelated Norman Pilcher.

You’d think that if the famous Norman Pilcher died, there would at least be an editorial obituary in some national newspapers.

Unless, of course, he’d faded into obscurity and above all wanted anonymity, damn the tabloids. In which case, the briefest of obituaries, totally lacking in identifying information that might be linked to his days of infamy, makes perfect sense.

It doesn’t prove anything, of course, and I’m a huge fan of skepticism, so I’m not saying I’m convinced, only that it’d be nice if the “it’s a different Norman Pilcher” crowd could back that up by pointing to the real Normal Pilcher.

Will the real Norman Pilcher please stand up?

One more piece of (just discovered) information to add, and I’ve missed the edit window:

I will throw in this, as added weight to “Norman Pilcher is no more, he has ceased to be” hypothesis. This 2005 article from the guardian uses the nickname Nobby as well, just like the obituary and the Wikipedia article (which on its own doesn’t count for much, since that could have been added to Wikipedia based on the disputed obituary). But the article from the guardian predates the obituary.

So how common is the nickname “Nobby” for a man named Norman in the UK?

AFAIK ‘Nobby’ is more usually short for Norbert (Nobby Styles) and is also frequently applied to anyone with the family name ‘Clarke’ - no one really knows why. A ‘nob’ is slang for an aristocrat or someone who dresses like one - maybe Pilcher went for smart suits.

If so, all the major newspapers cocked up big-time. I’ve seen prominent editorial obituaries for public figures who were far less prominent than Pilcher and who had also been out of the limelight for decades.

Somewhere in a drawer in the newsroom of The Guardian (and The Times and The Independent and The Telegraph and countless other papers) lies a pre-written 2000-word obituary for Sgt. Pilcher that will sadly never see the light of day…

Pretty common, I’d wager. Searching Googling for “norman nobby” -“pilcher” yields at least a half dozen obituaries and other biographical material on the first two pages of search results alone. For example, there’s Norman “Nobby” Ashurst of Kendal, Norman “Nobby” Fear of Oxford, Norman “Nobby” Carr of Manchester, Norman “Nobby” Swatton of Pewsey, Normal “Nobby” Nicholls of the Royal Marines, etc.

See? Now this is good skepticism. Evaluating each aspect of a claim and withholding judgment in the absence of sufficient information. It could be THE Norman (Nobby) Pilcher in that obituary, or it could be just a coincidence. I’m convinced! (that I’m not convinced of anything yet, one way or the other).

One must be careful in calling someone a “nob” or a “knob”. Based on my experiences with British media, apparently the existence of the “k” for the other meaning is something that many either don’t know or care about.