|The Constables and the “Garage Girl”: The Inter-war Press, the Metropolitan Police and the Case of Helene Adele|
|In the early hours of 6 July 1928, a young woman who gave her name as Helene Adele was arrested in north London on a disorder charge. This otherwise unremarkable event quickly developed into a press sensation, one of several involving accusations of police corruption and abuse of power in the late 1920s. The scandal of the case emerged when Adele was brought before a magistrate. There, she claimed that the officers had invented the disorder charge to cover up an attempted sexual assault by one of them after they had found her asleep in a taxi parked in an Islington garage. (Adele was at this point without a fixed address and periodically slept in the cabs with the permission of the garage’s supervisor.)
Given the background of concerns about police treatment of women in mid-1928 – at this time one parliamentary committee was in the midst of examining problematic ‘street offences’ cases (mainly involving prostitution), another was about to report on allegations that Scotland Yard detectives had used ‘third degree’ questioning methods against a woman during an investigation into police perjury and a third was due to begin in the autumn to examine more general claims of police misconduct – these accusations raised press interest. Somewhat more remarkably, they also led to the prosecution and conviction of the two constables involved, who were both sentenced to prison and discharged from the force. Adele, who at the time of her arrest was to some extent homeless and involved in relationships with various men, was briefly catapulted onto the front pages of Britain’s sensationalist press, and the serialized memoir of the ‘Garage Girl’ appeared in two newspapers. However, given the context of widespread concerns about police powers, the Adele case was more than just a tabloid spectacle.
In this paper, I will explain various aspects of the Adele case and consider what they tell us about police procedure, the political debate about policing and the press’s presentation of gender. How was the Adele case linked to other concerns about police powers in that year? To what extent did these connections contribute to a situation in which a magistrate took the word of a homeless woman of questionable respectability over that of two married police constables with good service records? How did Adele’s memoir series present her own life story, particularly in the context of the 1920s cultural obsession with young women’s lifestyles and sexuality?|