John Stalker dead; a sad day for Manchester as another chapter in the city’s history closes.
John Stalker was deputy chief constable of Greater Manchester in the 1980s, but that doesn’t do him justice. Stalker was good cop to Anderton’s bad cop. Where James Anderton, his boss, chief constable of the county, was the cult of the personality embodied, manic, maverick, out of control, obsessed with waging war on the population’s morals, a Northern version of the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher, Stalker was an old-fashioned down-to-earth, honest-to-goodness traditional copper, not in the farcical Gene Hunt mould but more Jack Meadows than Tom Chandler or Guy Mannion.
Stalker came to national prominence in the 1980s when he was duped by the establishment into presiding over an inquiry into the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). The RUC was a politically-motivated, Protestant, anti-Republican outfit (that no longer exists), some of whose officers were allegedly shooting on sight those suspected of being members of the IRA. That’s not how we do things in Britain. We’re supposed to arrest people suspected of criminal behaviour and try them in a fair and just way. It’s not for the police to decide that someone’s guilty and has to be punished in a unilateral and violent fashion.
In 1983 John Stalker was put in charge of the inquiry into the RUC’s alleged shoot-to-kill policy. Did he know he was going to be a patsy? When it appeared that Stalker was going to unearth some unfortunate stories about the Ulster force, in particular allegations of RUC anti-terrorist officers being involved in a shooting in county Armagh in October 1982, he was framed for supposedly consorting with criminals, to take him off the inquiry. The British establishment didn’t want the RUC to be ridiculed.
The Stalker Affair became a cause celebre. The deputy chief constable was eventually exonerated but his career in the force was compromised. He left and in a surprise change of circumstances became a journalist, writer and media figure. When Tatton Tory MP Neil Hamilton was embroiled in sleaze allegations before the 1997 General Election and Martin Bell was bussed in as the clean candidate, to win as an independent one of the safest Tory seats in the country, John Stalker was waiting in the wings to step in, in case Martin Bell wouldn’t do it.
Decades before the Stalker Affair John Stalker, as a detective sergeant, was involved in investigating the Moors murders, of which he later: “Nothing in criminal behaviour before or since has penetrated my heart with quite the same paralysing intensity.”