|Forum Home > Murder Case Reviews > P.C Enoch Hooper, Murdered,1865.|
The basics of this case are laid out in the Topic in Police Murders, but a few more facts and names won't go amiss. That relations between the Police and the Irish Community, were not what they should have been given, that the year before, a similar event had taken place. The initial argument started at the Royal George Hotel, after several rowdy Irishmen had arrived from an evening at a local Beer house near Love Alley, Willenhall. Police Constable William Butler, whose age in some reports was given as 20, but was in fact 35, was punched by a man from the group, at the entrance to Bow Street. He gave chase and caught the man, only to be attacked by the other three. A running fight developed down Bow Street, and no one should doubt the courage of PC Butler, for he gave better than he got, hanging on to one assailent, and breaking his staff in the process. Two of the four men ran away, and out of the house at the end, occupied by Patrick Kane, ( various spellings, Cain, Cane ) and his wife, Mary Kane. The man being held was shouting for help, claiming he was being murdered, and to his assistance, from out of her front door, appeared Mrs Kane. She punched and kicked the officer, so he hit her with his broken staff, which caused her to scream words very similar. On to the scene now came PC Hooper, summoned, it was said by a member of the public, but more likely by all the noise and shouting.
At this point, it's well to note, that two men had already left, PC Butler had hold of another, John M'cue. Mary Kane retreated back to front door, through which now emerged her enraged husband. Patrick Kane now attacked Butler, but was knocked to the floor by a punch from the Officer, and lay prone on the ground, before retreating as had his wife, back to his house. She slammed the door shut, just as Butler pointed out to PC Hooper, that Patrick Kane was the man who had just assaulted him. Butler, together with John Southall, who had helped the hard pressed bobby, began to head off for the Police Station, to deposit his prisoner. Hooper went through the wicket gate, and tried to apprehend Patrick Kane, there was a struggle, and Butler saw Hooper fall to the ground, but didn't realise anything serious had occured. Mrs Kane was now seen to slam the door shut, leaving just Hooper and her husband at the front. A local factory owner, Mr Wakelam, his wife, and two sons, had heard the noise and shouting while on the way home, and stopped to see if he could help. Two men had, some moments earlier, run past him down Walsall Street, heading towards the Railway Station. The scene that greeted them was not a pretty sight. Hooper was face down on the ground, a pool of dark liquid spreading rapidly from beneath his body. His cap was off, his truncheon in his hand, and his walking stick ( staff ) was beneath him. He had been stabbed through the heart. Mrs Wakelam said he was still alive when she reached him, but died in her arms as she tried to assist him. it now begins to get a bit confusing.
A witness, Henry Beaton, or Benton, who lived next door to the Kanes, woken by the noise and shouting, had looked out of his window and had seen the Officer lying on the ground. He went to his back door, and was in time to see Patrick Kane, " walking sharply " to his own back door. Asked what was wrong, Kane replied, " to hell wid ye ", and disappeared through the door. Exactly the same thing was recounted by another neighbour, Thomas Gratton. It seems to have taken some time, before more bobbies turned, up in the forms of PC Ebenezer Titterton, PC Edward Thompson, and PC Matthew Craddock. Unable to gain entry from the front ( the door now being bolted ), they were let through the house next door, and entered the Kane's dwelling via the back door. The only person downstairs was Mrs Kane, for her husband, and two lodgers, John Leonard, and James Kane, ( not a relative ) were it seems, already in bed. A strange situation to find, given that a Policeman's body was lying in front of the house, not twenty feet away. All four of them were arrested and taken to the Police Station, making five now in custody, and more strange events to follow.
John M'cue, who was quickly cleared of any involvement in the murder, rapidly appeared the next day in front of the Magistrates, who fined him £10 for assaulting PC Butler, or two months in prison. Having no money, only arriving from Lichfield the day before, he ended up doing the time. Leonard and Kane, who also hadn't taken part in any of the actual trouble, were also released. The hunt began for the other two, one whose name was reported as Patrick O'Donnell, but they had vanished from the area. Two days later, and in the Market place at Bilston, another man was arrested by PC Fairbanks, and gave his name as James Brown, claiming to be a Welshman,(his Irish brogue gave him away somewhat) intially suspected of being involved in the running fight with PC Butler in Bow Street, he was also released without charge. Everyone now awaited the Magistrates Court hearing, for the inquest threw very little light on just who had stabbed PC Hooper to death. Things became slightly clearer at the Magistrates Court.
The evidence presented included the inquest finding, where the wound received by PC Hooper was explained in detail. The knife used, was stated to be long, slim, and double edged, ending in a sharp point. Not your usual kitchen or bread knife then, more like an older type bayonet. It had penetrated several layers of thick clothing, and had only been stopped from going all the way through the Policemans body by his spine. He would have died within the space of about 30 seconds, so he was indeed, stabbed where he had fallen. The Magistrates then heard, that when the Officers entered the house, they found bloodstains on the back door, the latch, the frame, and the wall. Several blood spots led to the front door, where more were found on the door, the latch, and bolts. Three men were inbed upstairs, two in one room, and Patrick Kane alone in the other. He had no blood on his hands, (given the time it had taken from the stabbing, he had already had plenty of time to wash ) but was reluctant to get dressed. A waistcoat, which he denied was his, was bloodstained, so were a pair of boots, also his, although he swore they weren't, were removed as evidence. He later admitted they were his. Now comes a curious little snippet. James Kane, who had been arrested at the time, had not been searched in the rush to lock them up, and when he was, a knife, matching the description, had fallen from his garments. It was stained, but was said to be rust, no trace of blood being apparent to the officers. ( once again, there had been plenty of time to wash it. ) Patrick Kane, and his wife Mary, were then committed for trial at the Lent Assizes in March at Stafford, on a charge of Wilful Murder. A strong case you might think, but as often happens, there was a sting in the tail.
On the 31st January,1866, three men were wandering around the town of Blackburn, Lancashire, when they were arrested for vagrancy. In the Police Station, they were seen to match men being sought for the incident in Willenhall. All of them were dressed like " Navvies ", whatever that was supposed to mean, and two of them gave exactly the same name, Patrick Kelly. The third gave his name as James Brown, and he was the same man who had already been questioned and released by the Staffordshire Police. Men were soon on the way from Willenhall, to question the three, and it soon emerged that the elusive Patrick O'Donnell had at last been found. No charges were preferred, and all three, after being fined for the vagrancy, went on their way. Unlike today, all major cases like this one, had to go before Grand Jury, prior to the trial, and things now began to go wrong. PC Butler now changed his testimony. He had said, under oath at the Magistrates Court, that he had seen Patrick Kane, hold on to PC Hooper with his left hand, and strike him with his right. He now said, that he only saw Kane hit PC Hooper with his fist, and that Hooper had walked towards him in his usual way, right arm across his chest. The medical evidence suggests that this was very unlikely, but the change by Butler undermined the whole case, for non of the other witness'es had seen the actual blow. The Grand Jury, faced with putting the Kanes on trial for their lives, on a Capital Charge, with such flimsy evidence, threw out the Bill of indictment. They were then found Not Guilty, and at the end of the Assizes, walked away scott free.
One can't help feeling, that justice may have been denied poor PC Hooper, simply for the sake of the Irish community relationships. There is no doubt, that feelings were still running high from the death of PC Lyons the year before. It's likely that the knife, which was never found, had already been in the Police's possesion, but the state of Forensic Science wasn't up to the high standards we expect today. The same could be said of the numerous bloodstains found on walls doors and clothing. So who did stab to death PC Hooper?? There is only man who fits the bill, Patrick Kane, a building labourer with a steady job, but an absolutely explosive temper. It would make a good case for the new Detective series, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, but sadly, the end result would be the same.
A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day. ( See my Blog entry )
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