SIMON NOTT: John Batten had the hump!

A fascinating document relating to one of the more colourful stories to emerge from Epsom on Derby day came to light this week. Professional punter and previous #BettingPeople interviewee Adam Norman posted a fax on social media. It purported to be from the criminal who posed as a bookmaker under the name of ‘John Batten’ and did a runner with punters’ money on Derby Day 1997 after Benny The Dip (pictured above) triumphed.

For younger readers, ‘John Batten’ took bets up on the hill at Epsom then legged it with all the readies before the race had finished. Figures of up to £70,000 and higher stolen were quoted in the racing press with a long list of aggrieved punters and other bookmakers claiming to be owed.

There was huge press coverage at the time, even genuine bookmakers, including leading westcountry layer, the late Ian Metcalfe, put in the frame for the heist. (see cutting below)

‘Batten’ who in the fax describes himself as ‘Not altogether a dishonest person’ appeared to have got the right hump that people had exaggerated what he’d managed to get away with. That slur on his ‘good name’ accentuated by punters saying they’d had bets but didn’t and bookmakers claiming to have lost when they’d not paid on.

As you will read below, he showed no remorse for stealing whatever money he got away with, but did express some regret for not being able to go on the date with the ‘bird he’d chatted up’, because she’d backed the winner! Signed off ‘The People’s Bookmaker’ it appears that after this one correspondence ‘John Batten,’ who was never traced, disappeared into the ether of racing folklore.

I’ve read it several times. I have come to the conclusion the author was either the precursor to some of the sad Walter Mitty specimens with a proliferation of fake accounts on twitter, or the actual ‘John Batten’. Please let it be the latter, it has to be doesn’t it, that indignation couldn’t be faked surely?

What do you think?

‘John’ if you are still out there, it was a long time ago now, please get in touch, I’d love to get you in the chair for a #BettingPeople interview, incognito of course!

Simon Nott

Views of authors do not necessarily represent views of Star Sports Bookmakers.

Simon Nott is author of:
Skint Mob! Tales from the Betting Ring