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Alaska.
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Wolverhampton, Albert Willits, Murdered Policeman.


Now if there's one thing, that was guaranteed, to really upset the majority of the population, it was the murder of a Police Officer. The force's of Law and Order, come in for some harsh comments at times, but nothing excuses the killing, of an unarmed man, just doing his duty. Such was the case in 1925, and as well as shocking the inhabitants of Wolverhampton, the whole country felt the loss.


Albert Willits, was born in Walsall, in 1901. He grew up to be a fairly well educated young man, well liked, and well behaved. Like his cousin, he joined the Staffodshire Police, and found himself posted to the station in Bilston Road, Wolverhampton. P.C. Willits reported for duty, at 6am on Sunday 18th January 1925. It's unlikely that he bade his young wife and child goodbye, when he left his home on the Old Heath Estate, Willenhall Road so early in the morning, and it being Sunday, he was expecting a quiet shift. His patrol area included The General Hospital, All Saints Road, and Vicarage Road, and it was while walking his beat, in the latter, that he spotted three young men. Something about them roused his suspicions, and being a diligent Officer, he made the effort to find out why they were on his patch, so early in the morning. This action cost the brave young Policeman his life.


Far away, in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, the day before, three young men absconded from the local Reform Centre. On the way to a Church service, they quietly slipped away, and were not noticed to be missing for nearly two hours. They were by then some distance away, having thumbed lifts from the few Lorries and Cars that passed. William Crossley, at 19, the oldest of the trio, came from Carnforth. The next one, at 18, Edward Patrick Heggerty, was a native of Glasgow. The youngest was George James Dixon, 14 years old, and lived in Blackburn. When they got to Luton, Heggerty made hast to recover, from beneath some turf just off the road, a gun. Whats more, it was a fully loaded gun, and the explantion as to how Heggerty knew it was there, isn't very convincing. He had, after all some experience of criminality. They continued on the journey, presumably all heading for their homes, and in the early hours of Sunday, they were in West Bromwich. All three were spotted, several times on the road between there and Wolverhampton, but each time offered the explanation that their destination was Stafford. They were allowed to carry on.


The only reliable account of what transpired when they were questioned by P.C. Willits, comes from the young Dixons statement. The other two, being what we would described as " hardened offenders ", said very little. " The copper took hold of Crossleys shoulder. He immediatley swung his arm, and knocked off the copper's helmet, and walked across the road. The copper followed him, and when he was about to catch up with him again, Heggerty walked up from behind and three shots rang out. I saw the flashes from the other side of the street. The first one missed, but the other two hit him in the back of the head. "  All three then broke into a run, and fled down a nearby alleyway. They hurried off as fast they could, in the direction of Stafford, knowing that it would only be a matter of time, before the area was swarming with Police. An attempted was made to break into a food shop on the Stafford road a little later, but they were heard by the owner, and once again, fled the scene.


They were right about the police arriving quickly, the gunshots had been heard by a number of locals, Nurse Skinner, from her bedroom, Jessie Dando, who lived opposite the alley, and Thomas Lawley, and Frederick Chew, who were retuning from working a night shift. Mortally wounded as he was, P.C. Willits still managed to blow his whistle, which was heard by his colleagues, P.C. Bourne, and P.C. Wycherley. They found him, dying,on the pavement, almost opposite Sutherland Place. It took but a few minutes to carry the badly wound young Officer to the Hospital, but to no avail, he died on arrival. This, started a full scale murder hunt, involving every available Officer on the force, and all the cars and motorbikes that could be mustered. The massive hunt ended in Stafford, at 5.15pm, when the trio were arrested by P.C. Churchward. There was no fight left in them, they knew the game was up. The weapon, used to such devastating effect by Heggerty, was never found. Thanks to George Dixons statement, he was not charged with Wilful Murder, and escaped the sentence of Death by Hanging, passed on the other two by Justice Salter, at the Stafford Assizes. P.C Willits funeral, was attended by over 4,000 who lined the route, and 500 Police Officers from both the Wolverhampton and neighbouring forces. After a service in Saint Peters Church, P.C. Willits was laid to rest in Merridale Cemetery.  In 1943, his widow, Dorothy, joined him in his eternal sleep. She was 42. As to his two murder's, neither of them were hanged, the Home Secretary, concidering them both too young to be executed, ordered they be jailed for life. I'm not sure I would have agreed with him.



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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

May 21, 2011 at 5:02 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Wolverhampton, Policeman Murdered, Henry William Brown. Canal.


Back in 1887, there was a distinct seperation of Towns from the open Countyside. Wolverhampton, suffering from poor wages and unemployment, was really no different from anywhere else, and as such, contained a great many dubious characters. House breaking, and theft being just a few of the many criminal activities. Another one was Poaching. Just a few miles away, in the quiet village of Codsall, the two local bobbies, Sgt William Walton, and P.C. Henry William Brown, were struggling to contain a small epidemic of it. The Chillington Estate, having many well stocked pools and quite a few game birds, was a prime target, as were the almost deserted banks of the Canal. Many of these poachers, being men well used to tough working conditions, had very little fear of the gamekeepers. Monmore Green, Ettingshall, and Bilston, bred some really rough individuals. During August 1887, P.C. Brown had to take on extra duties, his Sgt was away on other business. Towards the end of a long day, he returned to his digs for a short break, and then said he was off to Lane Green, and Bilbrook. He was due back in Codsall, at 10pm, for the pubs turning out time, he never made it.


Constable Brown was last seen at The Greyhound, and then The Woodman, where he was served with a glass of ale. After such a long stint of duty, he had certainly deserved one. Sitting with some of the regulars, James Craik, William Meddlicote and their friend Henry Lees, Brown spotted two characters, in a dark corner, not known to any of them. Suspecting that they had come earlier from Wolverhampton, with the express purpose of poaching, he kept an eye on them. They left shortly before 10pm, and the policeman discreetly followed. He was never seen alive again.


John Star, a bird catcher,  from North Street Wolverhampton, was walking along the Canal tow path at 6am the next morning, when a boat, " The Benson ", owned by John Jenks, and pulling a loaded " Butty ", overtook him. As it went past, Star was horrified to see an arm rise out of the Canal, and then sink back out of sight. Jenks, hearing Star's call, stopped the boat, but could not see anything. Half believing it to be the young mans imaginations, he never the less, reported the sighting to the Chillington Estate gamekeeper, Edgar Tomkinson. Fearing the worst, for Tomkinson had earlier found a policemans cap and walking cane, he hurried to Pendeford Bridge. Meanwhile, Star had met some poachers on the Canal, one of whom raced off to Autherley Junction to secure some help. Joseph Price, a boatman labourer, was soon at the scene, 30 yards below Pendeford Bridge, and stripping off, plunged into the murky Canal. At the third attempt, he dragged out the body of P.C. Brown, and a message was sent to Inspector Edward Cook, at Tettenhall.  A search of the Officers clothing revealed his pocket watch, and 5 shillings in change, the watch had stopped at 1.30am. Robbery was obviously not the motive, and the body only had an abrasion on the side of the head. There were no other serious injuries. A full scale Murder manhunt began. The area was scoured for clues, and some denizens of Wolverhampton began to get a few knocks on their doors. Near to where the gamekeeper had found the cap and cane, at a spot overlooking a well stocked Eel pond, evidence was found of P.C Browns presence. The inescapable conclusion, is that Brown had observed the poachers, and then tried to apprehend them. In a struggle, he had ben hit on the head, and then dumped, still alive, in the canal. Footprints showed that at least three men were involved, and the hunt moved up a pace.


This was not though, going to be an easy case, and despite a man being arrested, William Ellis, of George Street, Ettingshall, there was simply just not enough evidence. There were however, others who were suspected. Emanuel Gouder, Isiah Fletcher, Thomas Hancox, Benjamin Whitmore, and his brother, William Whitmore, all from Monmore Green, were proved to have been in the area at the time. Once again, there was not enough evidence to proceed with a charge of murder. The inquest verdict was predictable, " Murder by person or persons unkown ".  And so it stands to this day, a 124 year old mystery, Who did kill P.C. Brown ?  Is the name amongst those listed? has it been a well kept family secret? we shall never know now, the answer has long gone into a grave.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

June 6, 2011 at 11:58 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Willenhall, Policeman Murdered, Enoch Hooper. 1865.


Even farther back in time, and there is, as far as the records show, another unsolved Police Murder. The year was 1865, and on a cold December evening in Willenhall, Staffordshire, P.C. Enoch Agustus Hooper spotted one of his collegues struggling with a group of people. He waded in to help, and the group scattered, pursued by the two Officers, but not all in the same direction. A short while later, PC Hooper was found in the roadway, viciously stabbed several times, he was quite dead. Some of the group had been recognised, and amongst them was a petty crook, a Miner called Patrick Cain. He lived in Clarks Lane, Willenhall, and it wasn't long before both he, and his wife Mary Cain, found themslves under arrest. Cain, was well known to the Police, he had served time for Larceny, and was suspected of many of the thefts from various mines in the area. They would both shortly be charged with Wilful Murder, and confined in Stafford Gaol, to await trial at the next assizes in March,1866. What happened on the 9th of March must be recorded somewhere, but all I have is that they were both aquitted of the crime. No one else was charged, and the murderer of P.C. Hooper went unpunished, free to resume his/her life as they chose. If anyone has a record of the trial, or a further newspaper report, I would be very pleased to see it.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

January 11, 2012 at 2:49 PM Flag Quote & Reply

kerry
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Posts: 1

Alaska. at January 11, 2012 at 2:49 PM

Even farther back in time, and there is, as far as the records show, another unsolved Police Murder. The year was 1865, and on a cold December evening in Willenhall, Staffordshire, P.C Hooper spotted one of his collegues struggling with a group of people. He waded in to help, and the group scattered, pursued by the two Officers, but not all in the smae direction. A short while later, PC Hooper was found in the roadway, viciously stabbed several times, he was quite dead. Some of the group had been recognised, and amongst them was a petty crook, a Miner called Patrick Cain. He lived in Clarks Lane, Willenhall, and it wasn't long before both he, and his wife Mary Cain, found themslves under arrest. Cain, was well known to the Police, he had served time for Larceny, and was suspected of many of the thefts from various mines in the area. They would both shortly be charged with Wilful Murder, and confined in Stafford Gaol, to await trial at the next assizes in March,1866. What happened on the 9th of March must be recorded somewhere, but all I have is that they were both aquitted of the crime. No one else was charged, and the murderer of P.C. Hooper went unpunished, free to resume his/her life as they chose. If anyone has a record of the trial, or a further newspaper report, I would be very pleased to see it.

Policeman Murdered, Willenhall, Enoch Hooper.


the story of the Willenhall policeman who was murdered many years ago within its precincts. Around midnight on Friday December 8th 1865 a group of drunken Irishmen had been causing a disturbance at the Royal George Inn Walsall Street. With the assistance of P.C. William Butler who happened to be nearby they were persuaded to leave and went on their way towards nearby Bow Street. P.C. Butler proceeded on his way towards Bilston Street but as he was passing Bow Street he was attacked by the Irishmen and a fierce fight ensued. Meanwhile the Landlord of the Royal George, fearful for the safety of P.C. Butler, alerted P.C. Enoch Augustus Hooper who was passing nearby and he hurried to the assistance of his friend P.C. Butler. Further Irishmen came from nearby cottages in Bow Street and joined in and although the two policemen gave a good account of themselves P.C. Hooper received a stab wound in the chest from a knife and died almost immediately, despite the desperate attempts of Surgeon Pitt who lived nearby to save him. After several adjournments, Patrick and Mary Cane, husband and wife, were charged with Wilful Murder and sent to Stafford for trial at the March Assizes, but they were found not guilty and discharged. Of all the people who were arrested only one, John McCue suffered any punishment at all. He appeared in court in a weak, badly beaten state and was fined œ10 for his assault on P.C. Butler. Two men, Patsy Rowan and Edward Cane got completely away and despite an intensive manhunt by the police were never found. The story goes that many years later, when the cottages in Bow Street were being demolished, a bloodstained knife was found hidden in a chimney where it had lain undiscovered all those years.

September 26, 2012 at 5:13 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

A big thank you Kerry for the response. It just goes to show, in the light of current events, that serving the community, can at times be a dangerous calling. I will amend the original article, so as to include his full name. Even this far from the event, he was a brave man who deserves some respect. Thanks again.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

September 27, 2012 at 10:03 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Burton on Trent, Policeman Murdered. Brinley Booth. 1946.


Its a big County is Staffordshire, blessed with not one, but two large industrial areas, three, if you count the brewing capital of the midlands, Burton on Trent. A great many people, over the years, have come to the county in search of jobs, many of them from Wales. Following the end of the second World War, and looking for someting to do after his Army discharge, Brinley J Booth joined the Police in Lichfield, and was posted to Burton, early in 1946. He had been born, in September 1914, in Bedwellty, Monmouthshire, and still had a pronounced welsh accent. On the 29th May,1946, he was patrolling his beat, part of which included Moor Street, and was probably looking forward to finishing his night shift. Turning into Moor Street, he saw a sight, that to say the least, was a bit surprising. In front of him, was a man rapidly wheeling a childs pushchair. Not much surprise there you may think, but it was what was in the pushchair that caused the Offier to give chase. What he had seen, was a medium sized steel safe. The man had a head start, and he was pretty fast on his feet as well, despite the rather weighty pushchair. The man turned sharply around a corner, and as P.C. Booth followed, he was struck a terrific blow to the head, with what was believed to have been a short steel " Jemmy ". He had of course, already blown his whistle, and when his collegues arrived at the spot, he was slumped over the safe, and incoherant. He was rushed at once to the Hospital for emergency treatment. During the next few days, he did manage to make a short statement, and give a brief discription of his attacker. " About 35 years old, tallish, and bushy fair hair ", he had said, but due to the very serious head injury, he was rambling most of the time, and they couldn't be sure that what he was telling them had any bearing at all. On the 6th June, Pc, Booth died from the injury, murdered, for the £42 that was in the safe, stolen from the Picturedome Cinema, and which the thief never got his hands on. A murder hunt began, and soon after, a suspect was indentified. The problem was, he was Freeman Reese, a Black American Soldier, and did not of course fit what the dead Officer had said, but they suspected that two men had been involved. Unable to prove anything, Reese was released, and the case went stone cold.


Ten years later, in a routine check on the Isle of Man, the Police pulled in for questioning a Black man, it was Freeman Reese. Under questioning about a criminal offence, he surprised the Officers by admitting that he had carried out the burglary at the Picturedome in Burton on Trent. He admitted that he was the one who had been pushing the stolen safe in the pushchair, but claimed that a man he knew only as " Slim ", had struck the fatal blow. He further claimed, that he had then ran away to his lodgings in Heath Road, and hid for several days. The Police did not believe the tale of another man, and charged Reese with murder. It was a bit premature, because the Magistrates, clearly not having enough evidence for committal, ordered his release. Freeman Reese however did not then get very far, for waiting on the steps of the Courthouse were a detachment of United States Military Police, who arrested him for desertion from the Army, in 1944. Shipped back home, he was Court Marshalled and given 20 years hard labour, which, on appeal, was reduced to 12 years. Burton Police were certain he was the right man, but faced with the dying statement and description by P.C. Booth, they had done all they could. The case was closed, but at least the family of the dead Officer had a little bit of comfort, knowing that life in an American Prison was not such a soft sentence as it would have been here.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

November 30, 2012 at 3:21 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Rugeley, Birmingham, Policeman Murdered, Canal. 1901.


Police Constable Thomas Hibbs, was born in Rugeley, Staffordshire, in 1878. At the age of 22, he was the father of 2 children, although there appears to be no record of him marrying the woman he called his " wife " Alice Hibbs. It doesn't seem to have been a happy union either, as she appears to have left him and gone back home to Newbold on Stour, where the second child was born in 1900. So bad did the situation become between them that early on 1901, Thomas Hibbs sought shelter at a relatives house in Garston, Lancashire, presumably on leave, as he was still listed as a Policeman. He transferred to the Birmingham Police Force the same year, and secured lodgings at 26, The Pleck, Park Road, Hockley, Birmingham, a short distance from his station. Part of Hibbs beat, included the L.N.E.R.s goods yard at Curzon Street Station, and it had been suffering a spate of robberies, a large quantity had coal had gone missing. On the night of 10th August,1901, he was keeping an eye on the place when he caught 3 men in the act of stealng the coal. Furiously blowing his whistle, he gave chase as the thieves took off in the opposite direction, The chase took them into Fazeley Street, and the three men realised that the Policeman was on his own. Turning they swiftly attacked the young man, hitting him severely about the head with his own truncheon. They then dragged the unconscience man out of the road, across a nearby coal wharfe, and callously threw him into the Canal. By the time help arrived, they were long gone, and it didn't take his collegues long to find the drag marks, or his by now drowned body. Three suspects were soon rounded up, for every Polce Force knew who was doing what and where on their patch. The three all admitted attacking the young Constable, but claimed that it must have been another gang that dumped him in the canal. Unlike today, there was no Forensic evidence to support the case, and no eye witness's to prove otherwise either. So three vicious thieves, who should surely have have been strung up, escaped the sentence they richly deserved. He made a will shortly before he died, and although he had two children, the small amount he left behind, £23, went to his sister in Lancashire.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

December 7, 2012 at 3:55 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

The area now called the West Midlands, which of course includes the Black Country, also has within it's borders, The City of Birmingham. A large proportion of Blackcountry folk have always sort work in the City, many, to save on the cost of travel, went there to live. Like their city cousins, most had a dislike of the forces of Law and Order, and there was frequently trouble. Birmingham had many gangs, mostly petty crooks and rough necks, mainly young, and with plenty of places to buy booze, a bit of a problem at times. They had many names these gangs, and if you have been watching Television at the time of this post, you will be familiar with the one name; Peaky Blinders. One thing you need to remember though, the programme isn't about this gang, they had mostly disappeared by this time, and it's mainly fiction. What isn't fiction, is the sheer level of mistrust and hatred towards the Police Officers of the time, aptly illustrated by the next section.


William Lines, born in Napton, Warwickshire in 1845, started his working life on a Farm near Southam. His brother Thomas was the Farms Carter, and young William was the Milkman. He later became a Policeman, and in 1868, was a member of the Birmingham City Police. In the 1871 census, he is shown to be living at Number 1 Building, 28, Marshall Street, Birmingham. This property also housed three other Police Constables and their families. He wasn't married at this stage, although one Elizabeth Lines, and two children, were recorded at the address. In fact Elizabeth Avern was a Widow, and they didn't tie the knot untill 7th December, 1873. They were destined to be parted in less than two years. On the night of 24th March,1875, PC Lines was involved in a severe disturbance following an arrest. The officers were attacked by a mob determind to free the man, and during the resulting fracas, PC Lines was fatally stabbed. The mob scattered, and were it not for a quite word from a reluctant witness, apalled at the level of violence, the man who had struck the fatal blow would have escaped. Jeremiah Corkery, aged just 20, was soon in custody, and at Warwick Assizes, was found guilty of the murder and sentenced to death. He met his end on 27th July,1875, but it was small recompence for the loss of a fine Officer. Just four years later, in 1879, and under almost the same circumstances, PC George Snipe, aged 29, was very badly beaten by a mob intent on freeing an arrested man. He died a little later in Hospital, and this time, there was no indication of who had struck the fatal blow, for the poor man had suffered many wounds. Now it thats not the result of the work of a gang, I may eat my hat. Forward to 1901, and Birmingham City Police were about to lose another good officer. Charles Philip Gunter, aged 24, was attending the scene, together with many other officers, of what appears to have a clash between rival Birmingham gangs. As so often happens, even today, the anger turned on the Police, who were pelted with bottles stones, iron bars, and bricks. It was the latter of these, thrown from fairly short range, that struck PC Gunter a violent blow on his head. He never came round from the coma, and died on 26th October,1901. Again, it was almost impossible to identify, just which individual had thrown the missile. As I said, the programme is mainly fiction, the truth about gang life in Birmingham, is somewhat different.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

October 14, 2013 at 3:49 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Wolverhampton Borough Police came into being in 1849, set up under an order of Parliament, by the Towns Watch Committee. Like many of the other Police Forces which suddenly appeared, they were not appreciated by the local populations. Deep mistrust at the actions of many of the early Constables, some of whom were crooks themselves, didn't help the situation. Almost all of the early Chief Officers, were drawn from the higher Military Ranks, and had no experience in policing, or handling civilians. From the start then, it was very much a situation of " them versus us ", and any attempt to impose the rule of law, was bitterly resented. As the following story shows.


While researching the case of  PC Enoch Hooper, (1865 Murder, see above ) I came across another case from Willenhall, the year before, in 1864. PC William Lyons, on Sunday the 8th May,1864 was on his late night beat around Willenhall. In the Saracans Head, in Monmer Lane, some time earlier, a group of men, all of Irish extraction, Thomas Lockley, his brother George Lockley, John Edwards, Joshua Stanley, William Glover, and Joseph Willetts, the worse for drink, made their way back towards the town. Around midnight, still in Monmer Lane, they were making a great deal of noise outside the Hope and Anchor, and PC Lyons approached them with the intention of asking them to go home. They ran off back up the Lane. PC Lyons continued his beat, heading towards the Market Place, when he was confronted by George Lockley and John Edwards, who began to swear at him. He again told them to go home, but no doubt bolstered by the drink, and joined now by the others, the situation got so bad that Lyons arrested George Lockley. He, not fancying a night in the cells, called on the others to assist him, and his brother Thomas, Edwards, and Stanley, all attacked him. William Lowe, a Key filer, managed to pull some off the Officer, but could not prevent the remaining thugs from kicking Lyons as he lay in the road. Another man, John Litteton, also came to help, and PC Lyons managed to arrest Thomas Lockley. Before he could get the handcuffs on him, the others piled in again, and for the second time, the policeman was knocked down and repeatedly kicked. William Lowe heard one of them say " lets finish him off ", and Thomas Lockley was seen to apparently throw an object at Lyons head. It was a Brick, and it caused the officer a very serious head injury. PC Dutton now arrived at the scene, and with help from the people who had gathered, managed to detain and take the yobs to the Police Station. I don't suppose for a minute, that his collegues expected PC Lyons to die, the statement he made though, was to a magistrate. Good job really, for later that week, PC William Lyons died from a servere fracture of the skull, and the men in custody, were all charged with Wilful Murder.


William Glover was released after the witness statements had been taken but the other five were sent to Stafford, to await trial. The Jury found Joseph Willetts, not guilty, and reduced the charge to Manslaughter on the other four. Thomas Lockley was sentenced to 8 years, George Lockley to 6 years, John Edwards to 6 years, and Joshua Stanley to 5 years. Neither the Chief Constable, Colonel Hogg, or his deputy, Major M'Knight, were happy with the verdict, as it did very little, to offer any protection to Officers out on their beats. It may also have been the start of some bad feelings between sections of the population, most of those jailed had Irish connections. A fact which would be borne out the next year, when a second Officer suffered a similar fate, this time with a knife.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

September 2, 2014 at 3:51 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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