A gong for the secret detective

31 December 1998
Manchester Evening News
Steve Panter

A TOP-SECRET detective who risked his life time after time in the line of duty has been honoured for his courage. The master of deep infiltration of major crime rings becomes an OBE today. Henri Exton headed Greater Manchester Police undercover unit before he retired five years ago. The former detective chief inspector has continued in his specialist field and is now with the Ministry of Defence. His work while he was in Manchester varied from penetrating notorious soccer gangs to uncovering evidence which proved a convicted killer innocent.

Mr Exton was later "loaned out" by GMP to other forces and on one such mission was held hostage by a gang he inflitrated in the south of England - but retained his cover. His early successes in Greater Manchester in the 1970s and 80s involved uncovering organised crime rings and recruiting supergrasses.

He was heavily involved in the huge armed robbery inquiry Operation Belgium, so-called because of his Belgian family background. He became a trusted "member" of notorious 1970s soccer gang the Young Guvnors who followed Manchester City and caused serious violence across the country. In fact he became a leader of the Guvnors and had to take part in some organised incidents to preserve his cover. He even had to endure a beating in a cell in Wales inflicted by police officers who were convinced he was a soccer thug.

In Italy, during the 1990 World Cup, he wore an Italian policeman's uniform then switched sides to pose as a football hooligan. One triumph was pretending to be a drugs buyer. His role was so sensitive that, when he was awarded the Queen's Police Medal for outstanding skills and bravery, it was kept secret.

Two other officers have been awarded the Queen's Police Medal for their services in Greater Manchester. Chief Supt Andrew Glaister, who retired last March after 35 years as an officer in Manchester, was head of GMP's C division. The other officer honoured today cannot be named.

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