The Times Obituaries
April 21, 2005
November 9, 1940 - March 31, 2005
Solicitor whose shrewd defence in many criminal cases helped to make new law in the appeal courts
RALPH HAEEMS was for many years the leading criminal defence solicitor in London. He had learnt his trade in the 1960s from Manny Fryde, who, as managing clerk at the City solicitors of Sampson and Co, had run that firm’s extensive criminal defence practice. Most of the leading criminal gangs in Britain went to Sampsons for representation and on any day the Old Bailey itself would be engaged with several Sampson trials. London barristers’ chambers vied for their high-profile work.
In 1977 Haeems set up in practice on his own at Peckham Rye, with offices in Victoria and Reigate, inheriting the Sampson criminal practice, though diversifying into civil work with the help of his daughters, both of whom had become solicitors.
Serving his apprenticeship at a time when Fryde was representing members of the Nash, Fraser and McVicar gangs, as well as Charlie Wilson the Great Train Robber and Charlie Mitchell the alleged racing dog doper, Haeems went on to play a major part in the preparation of the defences of Ronnie and Reggie Kray in their first big blackmail trial in 1964 (when they were acquitted). He also acted for the Krays in the George Cornell, Jack “the Hat” McVitie and Frank Mitchell “the Mad Axeman” murder trials of 1968 and 1969, and was involved in the trial of George Ince, who was acquitted of the Essex Barn murder.
His hard work, shrewd judgment and growing experience won him a reputation and, in due course, attracted to his own firm, the serial killer Denis Nilsen, Russell Bishop (charged and acquitted of the Brighton Babes in the Wood murders), several defendants accused of involvement with the Brinks Matt bullion robbery, a number of police officers and such famous underworld characters as Joey Pyle and Dave Courtney. Another of his clients was the transvestite David Martin, who escaped from court and in mistake for whom the police shot Stephen Waldorf in traffic in Earls Court Road.
In later years Haeems expanded his expertise, as all other criminal lawyers have had to do, into the world of white-collar fraud and moneylaundering. Several of his cases helped to make new law in the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords.
Ralph Haeems was born in Bombay in 1940 of Indian-Jewish parents who were teachers and who owned their schools. He went to Bombay University where he gained a BSc in engineering and, on the prompting of his strongly pro-British father, came to England in 1962 to study for a masters degree in chemistry.
Unfortunately, due to the existing exchange control regulations, he came with no money and had to find a job. He found lodgings at a hostel in Mansell Street in the East End of London, of which Manny Fryde happened to be a trustee. Fryde, spotting Haeems’s potential, offered him a job as office boy, filing clerk and general “gofer” who could be relied upon to place his master’s bets and collect his winnings from the Ludgate Hill betting offices.
It was not long before the ambitious Haeems was demanding a more important job with better pay, and threatening to leave to resume his scientific studies. When Fryde, a man with a low threshold of pain, had recovered from his fury at such impertinence, he gave Haeems a better job — supervising the defence of a man charged with murder — but refused a pay increase. On the client’s acquittal, Haeems was rewarded with the offer of an articled clerkship with Sampsons, which he was delighted to accept.
Because pay remained parsimonious, and expenses were non-existent, he was sometimes obliged to spend the night on railway platforms when interviews with clients or identity parades at police stations around the country went on so long that he missed the last train, but he received invaluable training under pressure which served him well for his future career. So heavy was the volume of work and the demand from clients for his services, that he had to delay qualifying as a solicitor until 1972.
When Fryde offered him £5,000 to change his name to Fryde so that his name would appear on the Sampson and Co notepaper, Haeems politely declined. Two years later, Fryde, who was suffering ill-health and was being investigated, decided to retire to Majorca, where he later died. Four years later, Haeems left Sampsons and set up his own legal practice.
Although Ralph Haeems’s slight stammer might have prevented him from being a good court advocate, he had no wish to be so. His considerable success, which he put down to hard work, common sense and a flair for tactics, provoked envy in other solicitors and he was never a member of the inner circle of defence lawyers: but then he never wanted to be.
He had considerable charm and many friends. Although strong and outspoken in his opinions, he did not particularly enjoy the legal limelight or the fact that his name and cases kept appearing in true-crime books, and he was a modest and rather private man. His clients loved him, yet although he made himself available to them in his office at all hours, he would insist that he and his staff kept their distance, and he would never entertain them in his home.
He was a demanding taskmaster and could infuriate barristers’ clerks, giving them a hard time over barristers’ fees. He required the highest professional standards of his staff, yet received their loyalty and affection.
Sid Ray, an ex-Flying Squad officer, who followed Haeems when he set up on his own, remained with him until his death in his nineties. Another managing clerk stayed on into his eighties. Although quite shy in many ways, Haeems was bold enough to go up to Ronnie Kray, as he sat in the dock during his trial, to tell him that everyone was laughing at him for his refusal to give evidence — and Kray meekly went into the witness box.
In January this year Haeems suffered a heart attack, underwent a triple bypass in March, and complications set in during the following weeks. He is survived by his wife Angela, whom he married in 1967, a barrister son, and two solicitor daughters.
Ralph Haeems, solicitor, was born on November 9, 1940. He died on March 31, 2005, aged 64.
Leading criminal solicitor with a colourful cast of clients
Tuesday April 19, 2005
There is hardly a south London criminal worthy of the name who has not beaten a path to the Peckham Rye offices of solicitor Ralph Haeems, who has died aged 64, following heart surgery. Since the 1960s, the Indian-born Haeems was the leading solicitor undertaking criminal work in London.
His client list included the Kray twins; George Ince, who was acquitted of the Essex barn murder; the serial killer Dennis Nilsen; the transvestite bank robber David Martin, who escaped from the cells at Marlborough Street court; Russell Bishop, who was acquitted in 1987 of the murder of two nine-year-old girls; and, more recently, the celebrity criminal Dave Courtney, as well as a number of police officers.
Despite this prominence, however, Haeems always remained outside the inner circle of London defence lawyers. He was loved by his clients but, perhaps envious of his undoubted success, in his early years at least, he was rarely welcomed by his fellow lawyers. Nor did he really wish to be. With a slight stammer, he never regarded himself as a great advocate, attributing his success to making himself available, hard work and being a good tactician. Much of his work came from recommendations by clients.
Haeems was born in Bombay (now Mumbai), where his family was involved in running schools. In the 1950s, many of his relations went to Israel and the United States, but he decided on England because of his father's pro-British sentiments. Equipped with a BSc in engineering from Bombay University, he came to London to take an MA in chemistry. Because of the exchange control laws, he arrived with only £4, with which he bought whisky and cigarettes; he intended to sell the scotch at a profit, but was embarrassed and gave it away. He smoked the cigarettes, thus beginning a 20-year habit.
Haeems lodged initially at a hostel in Mansell Street, Whitechapel, east London, where one of the trustees was Emmanuel "Manny" Fryde, a qualified solicitor then working as a clerk in the criminal practice of Sampson and Co, near the Old Bailey. Haeems was offered a job filing and collecting Fryde's winnings from local betting shops. Dissatisfied with this role, he threatened to go back to engineering until Fryde gave him the defence of a man charged with murder. The client was acquitted, and Haeems signed articles in 1963.
In those days, a managing clerk could effectively run a legal practice, and Fryde provided Haeems with a rough apprenticeship, paying him poorly. On one occasion, after attending an identification parade in Seaford, east Sussex, which finished after the last train had left, Haeems telephoned Fryde for approval to stay overnight in a boarding house. Fryde was interested only in knowing whether the client had been picked out, and Haeems spent the night on the platform.
It was, however, a good training. Fryde had long acted for some of London's major criminals, and his clients included the Nash family and the Kray twins. In 1964, Haeems was involved in the Krays' defence against allegations of blackmail in the Hideaway Club case, of which they were acquitted. In 1969, although Fryde was still nominally in charge, it was Haeems who prepared the twins' defence against the murder charges of Jack McVitie and George Cornell.
With such a heavy volume of work, Haeems did not qualify as a solicitor until 1972. He remained with the firm for four years after Fryde's retirement in 1973, before setting up his own practice and purchasing premises at 9 Blenheim Grove, Peckham Rye. A superstitious man, who favoured the number 9, he believed that paying rent was "dead money".
Unlike many solicitors who undertake criminal cases, Haeems distanced himself and his staff from his clients. He would never see them at his home, preferring to reopen his office out of hours. He was something of a disciplinarian, enforcing a dress code and banning long hair, but he did not expect his staff to undertake anything he would not do himself. He commanded affection and loyalty: two of his managing clerks remained with him until well into their 80s.
Despite acting for some of London's most notorious criminals, Haeems only once fell foul of a client. After refusing to act for a man whose instructions he discovered were lies, he was sent a revolver. It emerged that the gun had come from the disgruntled client, who had told the police that Haeems was going to smuggle it into prison.
Haeems was a private, family man who, for a time, bred parrots. He is survived by his wife Angela, whom he married in 1967, two daughters, both qualified solicitors, and his son, a barrister.
Ralph Sam Haeems, lawyer, born November 9 1940; died March 31 2005
Tributes to lawyer who defended the infamous
Apr 14 2005
By Alf De Araujo
A REIGATE solicitor who defended some of the 20th century's most notorious criminals has died at the age of 64.
Ralph Haeems became one of the nation's most high-profile criminal lawyers through his defence of infamous clients - including serial killer Dennis Nilsen and the Kray twins.
Mr Haeems' story was a classic rags-to-riches tale, with the Bombay-born youngster coming to this country from India as an immigrant with the equivalent in rupees of just a few pounds in his pocket.
Very much a self-made man, he studied law. While specialising in criminal law, wills and probate, he was admitted to the Law Society in December 1972.
Mr Haeems was soon to acquire a formidable reputation as a criminal lawyer.
Clients included Great Train robber Ronnie Biggs, who once lived in Alpine Road, Redhill; the Kray twins, who between them epitomised East End violence and the bloody gang rule of the 1950s and 1960s; and homosexual serial killer Dennis Nilsen, who murdered a series of young men whom he lured back to his flat in Cricklewood, North London, in the early 1980s, chopping their bodies into pieces which he then buried in the drains nearby.
Mr Haeems was also involved in the case of David Martin, who was mistakenly shot by police during a chase in Park Lane, central London, in 1983. Martin filed a massive compensation suit against the Metropolitan Police.
He was also involved in the successful defence of Brighton roofer Russell Bishop, who was charged with the abduction and murder of school friends Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway, both nine, in October 1986.
The "Babes in the Woods" murders shocked the nation. Bishop was found not guilty by the jury and acquitted but in February 1990 was jailed for life for attempting to murder a seven-year-old girl.
A barrister at the Tudor Street Chambers of Richard Ferguson, one of the country's top law firms, described Mr Haeems as "one of the best known legal men around."
He added: "Our profession will be all the poorer without him."
Mr Haeems, whose firm has several offices in London, went on to acquire several properties in the Reigate area. He is understood to have suffered ill-health since the end of last year.
He died on March 31, leaving wife Angela and children Daniella, Michelle and David.
But his death is still said to have come as a great shock to his family and friends.
Personal friend Wendy Eldershaw, who is chairman of the Reigate Business Guild, described him as "a formidable, impressive character".
She added: "But beneath that tough exterior, and I guess he had to be tough to do the job he did, lurked a heart brimming with kindness and generosity."
She said: "His door was always open. If you had a problem, he would always be there for you. He was always supportive, had a wonderful sense of humour and will be warmly missed."
The family are understood to be "totally devastated" by his death, and were not taking calls at the family home in Cliftons Lane, Reigate, this week.
All calls to Mr Haeems' offices in the High Street were referred to the family. A spokesman for the family, however, said they were too grief-stricken to talk about Mr Haeems' death at the moment, and were in deep mourning.
The funeral of Mr Haeems, who also had two grandchildren, Benjamin and Toby Lawson, took place at Guildford Crematorium on Friday.
A family friend said the Guildford venue was deliberately chosen to allow for the very large number of mourners expected.
She said: "It was very well attended, with standing room only. Fortunately the weather held up. Mourners were later invited back to the Haeems' home in