Chapter 3: Arrest
It was some time in the summer of 1990 that I first became aware of a problem arising from two people called Neil Hope and Paul Waber. I had seen Hope's face around Amble, he was a diver, and I had seen Waber once or twice. Russell and I had met them in the spring in a cafe and we had a brief chat. Waber struck us both as an odd character because of some of his comments. Hope was in his twenties with boyish looks and was more likeable, at least on first impressions. Later on I was to find out he was a sly character and was submitting reports to Bloom the dolphin trainer about my swims with Freddy, yet at the same time always being quite friendly to my face. One occasion he even told me a woman swimming with the dolphin was lying on the dolphin's penis.
One day I was swimming with Freddy. Some animal rights friends who had come up to swim were watching from the end of the pier. Waber swam over to me and accused me of being a pervert. In no uncertain terms I told him what I thought. I was angry and amazed at this accusation.
The summer was ending and it was becoming apparent that there was the possibility of the Morecambe campaign freeing Rocky from his concrete prison. Beverley Cowley had a meeting with the owner of the company that 'owned' Rocky. He was expressing a commitment to that affect. I felt cynical, would an asset worth tens of thousands of pounds be signed into the Morecambe Marineland campaign group, and if that was to happen, what were a group of basically grass-roots animal activists going to do with him?
To the rescue came a coalition of national organisations, Zoo Check, Care for the Wild and the Bellerive Foundation. They formed the 'Into the Blue' project and had located a suitable rehabilitation site for ex-captive dolphins in the Turks and Caicos Isles in the British West Indies. They had expert vets and ex-trainers who could supervise the transition from captivity to freedom and they had the necessary expertise to generate the funding to do this. The Mail on Sunday launched the 'Into the Blue' campaign with a series of articles asking the public to fund it and did they just! They responded with well over £100,000. The only problem lay in extricating Rocky from Morecambe and from his trainer John Braithwaite. In November 1990, in a pretext that the heating at the pool in Morecambe had failed, Braithwaite moved Rocky to Flamingo Land. This appears to have been very convenient for Flamingo Land dolphin trainer Peter Bloom, who happened to have three captive females there. Perhaps Rocky would provide a convenient stud and provide a male offspring to enable his show to operate in 1993 when new UK legislation meant only mixed genders of dolphins would be permitted in UK dolphin shows in deeper pools
In September Russell and I visited the dolphinarium at Flamingo Land and we inadvertently got into a debate with Peter Bloom, owner and trainer of Betty, Lotty and Sharky, the three wild-caught dolphins incarcerated there, and his assistant William Prickett. Bloom recognised me, "You're Alan from Amble", I was taken aback, how did he know who I was? It was only later I found out that Hope was friendly with Bloom. We had quite a friendly debate about the ethics of keeping dolphins captive. Russell and I agreed that Bloom was a personable guy and did seem to care about dolphins. That proved to be very naive indeed but it was early days in my 'career' to close all dolphin shows and I had a lot to learn about the people engaged in this ruthless industry. As we left I mentioned to Bloom that it was my intention to be in Amble the following weekend.
The next weekend, as Easton's boat came near, I immediately recognised Bloom amongst the people on-board. There was no hint of a suggestion in my mind of ending my swim to give him a chance to meet Freddy. The boat stayed quite close to me and I studiously tried to ignore the presence and pretend it wasn't there. The boat was around for approximately thirty minutes. Freddy was his usual self, sometimes hooking me with his penis to the leg or arm, it was all perfectly normal, to me at least. It was only later when I was provided with the police statements that I realised otherwise. Bloom, the 'expert', had been speaking to people on Easton's boat. Part of Bloom's police statement read, "you won't get near, he is wanking off the dolphin".
Before I returned to Manchester a few days after this encounter, I had a chat with Easton at the lifeboat station. He told me had been approached by Northumberland police in regard to an incident with a dolphin and had given them a statement. Part of his statement read, "the dolphin behaved perfectly normal, there was no difference in the way it behaved with Alan Cooper, or other swimmers"
I was obviously worried by the implication that the police were investigating the matter but I didn't believe in my wildest nightmares that they would pursue it. I didn't hear anything more until a month or two after, when the press reported the police were investigating an alleged sexual incident with a dolphin.
It was early December 1990 around 5pm and I answered a knock on the front door of my house. It was two detectives, they asked if they 'could have a word' and I let them in. I thought I could clear this matter up. Before I could really speak they told me they were arresting me for an alleged incident with a dolphin and informed me of my rights. I was just about to eat and I asked if I could before we left, they said "no, but we know you're not a criminal".
I was taken to Longsight police station and questioned in the presence of Guy Otten, the duty solicitor. I answered all of their questions and told them I was being set up by Bloom as I was against his employment as a slave-owner of dolphins.
Before the interview the arresting officers had returned to my house, (conveniently with the door key that officer told me not to forget) and searched the house. Amongst other items taken or 'stolen' by them was a poem that I had written about the dolphin and a couple of small diaries. Shortly after the police interview the media reported that a man had been arrested and questioned over an incident with a dolphin.