George and Pattie Harrison’s home is raided by the Drugs Squad

4.00pm, Wednesday 12 March 1969 (45 years ago)

The notorious Sgt Norman Pilcher of the Drugs Squad chose the day of Paul McCartney‘s wedding to Linda Eastman to launch a raid on the home of George and Pattie Harrison.

The Harrisons’ home at the time was Kinfauns, their bungalow in Esher, Surrey.

They chose Paul’s wedding day to come and do a raid on me, and to this day I’m still having difficulty with my visa to America because of this fella.

He came out to my house with about eight other policemen, a policewoman and a police dog, who happened to be called Yogi – because, I suppose, of the Beatle connection with Maharishi. They thought they’d have a bit of fun.

They took us off, fingerprinted us and we were busted. It was written in the papers like a fashion show: ‘George was wearing a yellow suit and his wife Pattie had on…’

George Harrison
Anthology

Pilcher’s squad took a large piece of hashish with them, to make sure they were able to make a charge. They claimed to have found the piece in one of Harrison’s shoes during the raid.

I’m a tidy man. I keep my socks in the sock drawer and stash in the stash box. It’s not mine.
George Harrison, 1969

Pilcher had previously busted Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton and John Lennon, and had particularly focused on The Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones. He became infamous for vigorously targeting pop musicians, and it was widely believed that he framed a number of celebrities or zealously carried out raids in order to become famous in the tabloid press.

During Lennon’s drugs bust the previous year, the police arrived mob-handed. Prior to them arriving a reporter was tipped-off, and Lennon ensured his flat was free of drugs. The resulting controversy earned Pilcher a rebuke from the home secretary, James Callaghan.

Keen to avoid a repeat, Pilcher wanted a time when Harrison’s home was likely to be empty; it was no coincidence that he chose the date of McCartney’s wedding.

George was at Apple during the day. Pattie Harrison was at Kinfauns, however, and she called the offices when the police arrived.

I was with George in the office when that call came through. It was the end of a long day at Apple. Pattie rang and said, ‘They’re here – the law is here,’ and we knew what to do by then. We phoned Release’s lawyer, Martin Polden. We had a routine: he came round to Apple, and we all went down by limousine to Esher, where the police were well ensconced by then – and I stood bail for George and Pattie. They went off to the police station. We were all extremely indignant because it was the day of Paul’s wedding, a poor way to celebrate it. The police can be so nice.

George was calm about it. George is always calm – he sometimes gets a grump, but he’s always calm – and he was extremely calm that night, and very, very indignant. He went into the house and looked around at all these men and one woman, and said something like. ‘Birds have nests and animals have holes, but man hath nowhere to lay his head.’ – ‘Oh, really, sir? Sorry to tell you we have to…’ and then into the police routine.

That’s how calm and how cross he was, because, as he said, he kept his dope in the box where dope went, and his joss sticks went in the joss stick box. He was a man who ran an orderly late-Sixties household, with beautiful things and some nice stuff to smoke.

In my opinion he didn’t have to be busted because he was doing nobody any harm. I still believe what they did was an intrusion into personal life.

Derek Taylor
Anthology

Pattie later recounted the chain of events in her autobiography.

Suddenly I heard a lot of cars on the gravel in the drive – far too many for it to be just George. My first thought was that maybe Paul and Linda wanted to party after the wedding. Then the bell rang. I opened the door to find a policewoman and a dog standing outside. At that moment the back-doorbell rang and I thought, Oh, my God, this is so scary! I’m surrounded by police.

The man in charge introduced himself as Detective Sergeant Pilcher, from Scotland Yard, and handed me a piece of paper. I knew why he was there: he thought we had drugs, and he said he was going to search the house. In they came, about eight policemen through the front, another five or six through the back and there were more in the greenhouse. The policewoman said she would follow me while the others searched and didn’t let me out of her sight. I said, ‘Why are you doing this? We don’t have any drugs. I’m going to phone my husband.’

I rang George at Apple. ‘George, it’s your worst nightmare. Come home.’

Pattie Boyd
Wonderful Tonight

Harrison sent Pete Shotton, one of John Lennon’s former schoolfriends, around to keep Pattie company. The pair drank vodka and tonic to calm their nerves, but shortly afterwards Pilcher confronted them with a block of hashish his sniffer dog Yogi was said to have found.

As they waited for Harrison to return from Apple, one of the policemen requested a cup of tea. Pattie refused to make them, so the task fell to the policewoman accompanying the squad.

So the policewoman made tea for them and then they were standing around with it, not knowing what to do. One asked if they could watch television. So some did that, and one of the others said, ‘Have The Beatles been doing any new music?’

‘Yes,’ I said, ‘but you’re not going to hear it.’…

Eventually George arrived and found us in the middle of the policemen’s tea party. He was still calm but he wasn’t happy. The police were obviously excited to meet him. They stood to attention and were almost elbowing each other out of the way to get closer to him while Sergeant Pilcher went into his ‘I am arresting you…’ bit…

After Sergeant Pilcher had cautioned us we were taken to Esher police station to be processed and fingerprinted. The local police were flabbergasted: they knew us and were appalled to see us being marched in by all those London policemen. I don’t think they’d used the fingerprinting machine before – it took them about twenty minutes to find it and even longer to work it. We were formally charged but released on bail. We got home feeling gloomy, so George said, ‘Come on, let’s go to the party.’

Pattie Boyd
Wonderful Tonight

The following day the Harrisons’ passports were seized by representatives from the US Embassy, and were stamped with a code to say they had a criminal record for drugs.

Following a preliminary hearing on 18 March 1969, the trial took place on 31 March at at Esher and Walton Magistrates’ Court. The Harrisons were found guilty of possession of cannabis and were each fined £250, plus 10 guineas each in costs. Upon leaving court George Harrison remarked, “I hope the police will leave us alone now.”

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