Operation Julie

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Operation Julie was a UK police investigation into the suspected manufacture and distribution of LSD organised by David Solomon and Richard Kemp.

The founder of the organisation was David Solomon, a Californian intellectual and associate of Leary's who came to Cambridge in 1967. In 1969 he was introduced to Richard Kemp, a Liverpool University chemist. As Kemp was meeting others in Solomon's circle, it wasn't long before LSD production began at Solomon's home, a former vicarage.

Kemp’s premier skills as a chemist came to the fore in perfecting a smaller, more easily transportable form of LSD, which was to become known as the microdot.

The pair soon realised that they weren't going to be able to distribute the large quantities of LSD they had synthesized, so Henry Todd was asked to manage sales, and he eventually enrolled Leaf Fielding as a tablet maker, who would receive ten grams of pure crystal LSD at a time and had the job of making 50,000 microdots with equal dosage.[1]

Disagreement and separation

In 1973, the producers had a disagreement with the distributors (concerning the price and profit margin of the product, which Kemp wanted to maintain as low as possible) and production ceased for a time. Kemp and Solomon set about organising another distribution network and recommenced LSD production in west Wales.

Meanwhile Todd recruited a chemist named Andy Munro to continue distribution throughout Greater London, setting up a laboratory in Hampton Wick. Leaf switched to handling distribution in 1975 after unintentionally ingesting a very large dose of LSD while handling the pure crystals, letting Todd take over the tabletting.

This meant the organisation had split into two separate fully functioning operations:

  • Kemp and Solomon had set up a distribution network and began producing LSD again, setting up various laboratories in mid and west Wales- Their microdots, which became a form of ‘brand’, would prove a global hit, with the lab producing hundreds of thousands of LSD microdots a year ending up as far afield as Canada and Australia
  • Munro manufactured LSD from the Hampton Wick laboratory, Todd pressed them into microdots which Fielding later supplied to Russell Spencely, who in turn supplied Alston Hughes, aka 'Smiles'. From Hughes the LSD was passed on to various wholesale dealers located throughout Wales and Birmingham.

Downfall and arrests

In April 1975, Kemp's red Range Rover was involved in a fatal accident with a car near Machynlleth, a passenger in the other car being killed. Kemp was known by the Thames Valley Drug Squad as a possible suspect in the drugs trade and when police searched his car they found six pieces of paper which, after being reconstructed, spelt hydrazine hydrate - a key ingredient in the manufacture of LSD. This crucial lead gave police their first vital clue into the Operation.

A team of 'surveyors' were camped outside the mansion while a nearby cottage was rented for teams of officers, staying under various guises which were ultimately useless in their attempt to fool the locals these included fishermen on holiday, two married couples, a manager sent to recover after a breakdown, A female officer, WPC Glenys Garlick was sent to join the "fishermen" as rumours had been circulating that they were homosexual.

Surveillance of Kemp noted his regular 50-mile commutes between his home in Tregaron and Plas Llysyn, an old mansion owned by an American friend Paul Joseph Arnaboldi, in Carno near Llanidloes. The mansion was watched by police from an old caravan and people arriving were monitored. Lee instructed police to break into the mansion. In the cellar, police took water samples which chemically matched LSD samples the police had.

Kemp's home was now put under 24-hour surveillance and listening devices were installed.

Two undercover officers were assigned to infiltrate the small community of Llanddewi Brefi to target Alston Hughes.

On 26 March 1977, detectives finally swooped. They uncovered evidence of a massive operation, which was estimated to have exported to up to 100 foreign countries, the founders of both organisations were arrested, along with their associates, making up a total of 120 arrests internationally.

Conclusion of arrests

The operation resulted in the break-up of one of the largest LSD manufacturing operations in the world. It was concluded in 1977 with enough LSD to make 6.5 million 'tabs' with a then street value of £100m (equivalent to £626 million today) being seized, 120 people arrested in the UK and France.

At Kemp's home a package containing £11,000 was found as well as LSD crystals and tabletting equipment. At Carno, laboratory equipment was dug out of a well. A further raid in the Dordogne region in France located documents that detailed and proved the LSD business had been immense. Details of French and Swiss accounts were found as well as share certificates.

On the day of the trial at Bristol Crown Court Kemp pleaded guilty and received 13 years in gaol, as did Todd. Fielding and Hughes were sentenced to 8 years. In total, the 15 defendants received a combined sentence of 120 years in prison.

Amount of LSD seized and distributed

  • On 1 December 1977, officers searched Kemp's cottage for a second time and dug up a large plastic box that contained 1.3 kg of LSD crystal - enough to create 6.5 million doses.
  • Police discovered 600,000 microdots buried in a field near Reading and 120 grams of LSD crystals – enough to produce 1.2 million microdots – beneath a compost heap near Christine Botts’ potato patch
  • A further 50,000 microdots were found under a stone in a field near Plas Llysyn and 100,000 microdots in a Winalot dog biscuit box buried in another local field.
  • A raid on the organisation’s London HQ netted enough LSD crystal to make a further 2.5 million microdots. In a safety deposit box in Christine Bott’s name in Zurich police discovered cash, a gold bar and 2kg of ergotamine tartrate.
  • Later, after a police tip-off in October, a further 1.3kg of LSD crystal was discovered, buried beneath Kemp and Botts kitchen.
  • Even after the court case, the gang’s hoard of LSD was being unearthed. A cache of one million microdots was discovered buried in a wood in Bedfordshire in September 1979. It took the total value of the six million LSD tabs seized during Operation Julie to £100 million. To this day, there are still recurring, Holy Grail-like tales of ‘Julie’ microdots being uncovered, such was the quality of Kemp’s chemistry.
  • The Home Office laboratories in Aldermaston reported that 95% of the LSD being seized in the UK, and 50% worldwide was in the form of microdots, furthermore, the wholesale price of LSD was substantially lower inside Wales.[2]

Trial defence and aftermath

Kemp had originally written an 8,000 word defence statement, but was advised by his lawyers against using it. It was released at the time to a journalist at the Cambrian News who précised it under the headline ‘Microdoctrine – the tenets behind Kemp’s LSD’. The gist of Kemp’s defence was that LSD was a catalyst for social change, the motive was the ideal not the money.

  • The gang jailed in the Operation Julie raids had their money seized, but the Law Lords ruled that this should not have been taken
  • So the authorities demanded that the ring each pay tax on their LSD earnings
  • The gang were offered a deal so that all funds taken by the police would be accepted as tax on their profits
  • Leaf Fielding's tax assessment (above) blandly itemised his earnings as a "drug salesman"

External links


  1. Jon Kelly (July 12, 2011). "Operation Julie: How an LSD raid began the war on drugs". BBC News Magazine. Retrieved October 9, 2020. 
  2. Peter Simonson (2011). "The acid house" (PDF). Druglink (January/February 2011). Vol. 26 (1). pp. 20–23. ISSN 1089-5590. OCLC 35032733.