Perec (“Peter”) Rachman moved to Britain after his discharge from the Polish army.
He borrowed money and bought a number of slums in the Paddington area of London in the 1950s for a pittance, then intimidated sitting tenants – once even removing a roof – to force them out and let the rooms for huge rents (which was allowed under the 1957 Rent Act).
Rachman’s ‘Heavy Glove Mob’ – which included former professional wrestlers – smashed the furniture or ripped up floorboards of many flats. Their middle-of-the-night hammering on the doors of tenants was likened in the House of Commons to what happened in Hitler’s Germany.
Once the controlled-rent tenants were out, the rooms and buildings could be let at exorbitant rents to prostitutes, to people in acute need of housing, and to cellar clubs where drugs and other forms of debauchery were dispensed.
One four-room flat, let at a controlled rent of 30 shillings a week, was eventually shared by four prostitutes each paying £3 a day – £84 a week.
There are some who believe that Rachman even instigated the Notting Hill race riots of 1958 to persuade some of the white tenants to leave a district where he wanted to pack three times as many West Indians into the same space, each paying three times the rent charged to the white people.
The second phase of Rachman’s operation was then to throw up a screen between the actual owner of the houses and the Borough Council and the Inland Revenue. This was done by forming a series of interlocking companies, conducting all possible operations in cash and shuffling superficial ownership of the properties from company to company or to nominees behind whom Rachman and his friends could hide.
It was Rachman who had owned the apartment Dr Stephen Ward lived in. It was Rachman to whom Ward had introduced Keeler. It was Rachman to whom Dr Ward introduced blonde Mandy Rice-Davies, then only 16 – and they also set up housekeeping together.
“During our two years together,” said Rice-Davies, “he gave me a mink coat, three mink jackets, a Persian lamb jacket, two pairs of diamond and ruby earrings, a big gold diamond and ruby watch bracelet, two diamond rings worth about £500 each, a Jaguar car and an allowance of £80 a week”.
According to hospital records, Perec Rachman was stricken with a heart attack on the morning of 29 November 1962 and sent to Edgeware General Hospital in an ambulance by his personal physician Dr David Waxman. When he died that afternoon after another attack, his wife identified his body.
Hospital attendants filed a gold bracelet off his wrist. It bore the name “Perec Rachman”. A post-mortem showed coronary thrombosis and Rachman was known to have a heart condition.
A rumour that Rachman, in fact, might still be alive was circulating all over London – along with another report by a newspaper that Rachman was in fear of his life because he had reneged on a massive loss in a chemin-de-fer game. Basil Coulolias, a 36-year-old wrestler and friend of Rachman, claimed he had seen him alive in Hyde Park after his reported death.