In the five years prior to the First World War, eight policemen were murdered in London, two of these killings took place in 1909, ending a ten-year period (1898-1908) in which no policemen on duty had been killed. The worst year for the murder of policemen was 1876, when six policemen died.
By Allan Peters
More than half of the sixty-eight women hanged for murder in Britain between 1843 and 1956 were poisoners. The murders women commit were mostly domestic ones – of a child, husband or lover, and occur when the murderess can no longer endure the anguish of a relationship or a situation.
The scaffold at England’s infamous Newgate Prison was described by hangman, Harry Pierrepoint, as, “the finest scaffold in the whole country, being fitted to hang three persons side by side.” The scaffold was moved to Pentonville Prison in 1902 when Newgate was demolished. The first hanging at Pentonville took place on this scaffold on September 30, 1902, an event that was also marked by the discontinuance of the practice of flying a black flag when an execution occurred.
In 1903 the number of people executed for murder in Britain rose to its highest level for over seventy years – twenty-seven people being hanged. This, however, was below the average for the years between 1811 and 1832, when about eighty people were hanged every year.
The trial of the Stratton brothers in London’s Old Bailey in May, 1905, was unique in that it was the first time in a British court that fingerprint evidence was used to obtain a conviction for murder.
In 1903 building was commenced on the site of the demolished Newgate Prison in London and was completed three years later. The new edifice, topped by a large bronze figure of Justice, was the imposing Central Criminal Court, which became known by the name of the street in which it stood, the Old Bailey.
In 1908, the hanging of persons under the age of sixteen was abolished. Between 1908 and 1921 inclusive, a period of fourteen years, no woman was hanged in Britain, although fifty-one women were convicted of murder, sentenced to death and then reprieved.
In 1916, Britain’s chief executioner, Henry Albert Pierrepoint, retired after ten years in office. The highest number of executions he carried out in one year was in 1909, when he hanged nineteen people. In all, Harry Pierre point executed ninety-nine people, six of his execution being double hangings. The fees, which remained unchanged for many years were – ten guineas ($21) for the chief executioner and two guineas ($4.20) for his assistant.
In 1914, when the First World War began a Police Constable in Britain was earning thirty shillings ($3) per week; in 1918 the basic pay was put up to forty-three shillings ($4.30) and by 1931 it had risen to seventy shillings ($7.00).
By the First World War the first Detective Training School had been started in England, and the Criminal Record Office set up. By then the Metropolitan Police were equipped with a few bicycles and cars.
The first telephone was installed at Scotland Yard in 1901, and the first police telephone box was erected twenty years later (1921).
Although Elizabeth Woolcock was the only woman to be executed for crime in South Australia, the following six women have lived to tell of having received a reprieve from a death sentence in South Australia during the years, 1842 - 1882
1842 Elizabeth Davy, Mary A. Davy, and Sarah Green.
1870 Mary Partington.
1879 Johanna Sullivan.
1882 Elizabeth Magree.
James Yates, who was hanged at the Adelaide Gaol in September 1850 for the murder of an unnamed shepherd, sent the following poorly written, yet touching poem to his lawyer, Mr. G M Stephen in appreciation of his tireless yet unsuccessful efforts in defending him.
If I had always refrained from drink
and paid attenshion to the word of God
I never would have had to have rued the day
Or on the wretched scaffold to have trod
Since i have now come to this untimely end
And in this world i found one onely friend
Who tried his utmost for me to defend
I hope God will reward him in the end
His honner the guge to me he has proved kind
Nearley three weeks he has gave me to make up my mind
For this wicked world to leave behind
And in the next i hope soon my God to find
I was brought up by my tender parents
Who always was to me so kind and free
But little did they ever think
That i should di on the gallows tree
Michael Flanigan a native of Ireland and a member of that country’s constabulary migrated to Australia in 1859 where he joined the Victoria Police Force two years later.
Stationed in Victoria’s western districts he was persistently charged with drunkenness and breeches of conduct, losing his horse, telling lies, and being found at the racetrack without permission whilst on duty.
When transferred to Hamilton, Flanigan found himself in constant conflict with the Station Sergeant, Thomas Hull who appeared to take great delight in reporting Flanigan for his continual breaches of discipline.
Finally, after being found guilty of drunkenness Flanigan was dismissed and instructed to clean and return his accoutrements
It was part of Sergeant Hull’s duty to inspect the equipment and to issue a receipt for the return of it. On carrying out the inspection he harshly reprimanded Flanigan for the dirty condition of his sidearm and told him to clean it again.
As the sergeant turned to leave the room, Flanigan stood and fired a number of shots at the sergeant’s back mortally wounding him.
Thirty-six year-old Michael Flanigan, was subsequently found guilty of the murder of Thomas Hull and sentenced to be hanged.
On March 31, 1869, having been granted special permission to do so, Flanigan strode boldly onto the gallows at the Melbourne Gaol and was duly executed, wearing his police uniform.
During Elections in South Australia in the early 1900s Police Inspector John Kelly of Blinman received an urgent message advising that the keys of the polling booth at Sliding Rock had been sent to Blinman by mistake.
Inspector Kelly set off into a blinding dust storm across forty miles (65 Km.) of country he barely knew to deliver the keys. He arrived at the polling booth at 6 a.m. the following day much the worse for wear and opened the booth in time for the voting to commence, but not a single person turned up to vote.
Among items confiscated by Customs Officers at Sydney Airport in 1978 were twenty-six pigeons, four hedgehogs, two tortoises, one snake, sixty clams, 7.35 Kg. of snails, and one bumble-bee.
A police sergeant, on duty at the Dannevirke Court in New Zealand in the 1930s noticed smoke billowing from the pocket of a witness after the man had hurriedly put his pipe there when called to give evidence. The witness was quickly extinguished, and the case was resumed after just a short delay.
In 1978 a motor vehicle driven by Wayne Purkiss of Nambucca Heads in N S W ran off the road, mounted an embankment and brought down power lines after colliding with a pole. He explained to police that he had been distracted by a mouse running up his trouser leg.
While waiting for a tram in Redfern, Sydney, sixty year old Claude McNamara was knocked over by a bullet which struck him in the leg. The bullet, which had been fired into the head of a dying dog by a policeman a hundred and fifty metres away, had passed through the animal and bounced off a pipe before striking its unintended victim.
Ten years prior to the discovery of four female bodies in shallow graves near Truro South Australia, four women had been found in shallow graves in similar circumstances at Truro, Massachusetts U.S.A.
Irishman H. J. O’Farrell attempted to assassinate Prince Alfred by shooting him in the back in Sydney in 1868. It was later learned that O’Farrell’s brother had made two unsuccessful attempts on the life of Catholic Archbishop Gould.
The owner of a Wild West Show touring Queensland in the early 1900s placed a rubber ring over the tail of a black snake, tied one end of a piece if string to the ring and attached the other end to his cash box. He was never robbed.
Because the buildings were in such a state of disrepair, Judges in Sydney’s old law courts in the 1940s often found it necessary to sit with blankets wrapped around their legs during the cold weather. Orderlies were required to stand by Barristers’ tables with mops to mop up puddles formed by the dripping water caused by the rain.
Just forty-five minutes before the ship Neo Hebridais was due to leave Sydney for Noumea in the late 1940s, custom officers found two ounces (56 grams) of liquid opium behind some panelling. They conducted an investigation, arrested a man, and took him to court where he was fined a total of £25 ($50) they then returned him to the ship. All before the scheduled departure time.
In 1803, Henry Hacking was found guilty of shooting and wounding a woman and was sentenced to death. He received a reprieve, but within a year was once again sentenced to death for theft. But fate stepped in and he was again reprieved and banished to Van Diemen’s Land. Here he later took to heavy drinking and died of alcohol related liver damage at the age of eighty-three.
Scotsman, Frank McCullum was transported to Australia in 1850, to serve a seven-year sentence for snatching a potato from a pushcart.
Smithfield, a small town near Cairns in Queensland, gained the reputation of being Australia’s most evil town after its founder, John Smith, killed a business associate in 1878 then committed suicide. This was believed to be the first of fifty murders and suicides to be recorded in the town in just one year. When the town was ultimately destroyed by flood-waters, it was unanimously agreed that it should not be rebuilt.
A policeman asked to investigate a theft in the community of Iron Range on the remote Cape York Peninsula found that it was the temporarily closed police station that had been taken. The building had been sawn from its stumps and carted away. When the investigating officer made it known around the town that he was not in the least amused by the theft, one of the thieves brought back a police badge and left it on one of the stumps.
In 1933 many hundreds of bicycles were stolen in Australia, many by well organised gangs like that of Bruce and Cedric Beatie and Eric Westbrook. They appeared in Burwood Court, in New South Wales, in 1933 charged with stealing no less than 132 bicycles. They were, of course, summarily dealt with.
By 1928, thieves in New South Wales had already realised the profitability of stealing motor vehicles. In that year almost 1700 vehicles, including 224 motorbikes, were stolen, an average of five thefts per day. The police recovery rate however was extremely good, with all but two or three of the stolen units being returned to their owners.
Prisoner Peter Degraves earned time off his sentence in Hobart in the mid 1800s by designing a new gaol for the government.
There were a total of 52,776 motor vehicles stolen in New South Wales in 1982-83 – an average of 144 every day. Of these 44,794 were recovered, a success rate of 85 per cent. Unfortunately arrests were made in just 10 per cent of the cases.
A Chinaman named Sam Poo became one of the most elusive bushrangers in New South Wales. For several weeks in 1865 he preyed on travellers along the Gulgong-Mudgee road and on one occasion he bailed up no less than ten of his fellow country-men relieving them of the gold dust hidden under their pigtails.
Unfortunately, Poo did not stick to gold thefts, but raped a settler’s wife and murdered a police trooper and soon found himself pursued by a very determined posse. After days of running, in which he proved himself to be a very able bushman, Poo was finally tracked down and wounded in the leg. Nine months later, when Poo had recovered, he was tried and executed at Bathurst.
His stolen gold has supposedly, never been recovered, and still inspires the occasional treasure hunt.
A Queensland police blacktracker was once foiled by torrential rain while following the tracks of a murderer. But two weeks later he discovered the murderer’s tracks in a street in Cooktown and followed them to the local pub where the wanted man stood at the bar. The police were called and the man was arrested and brought before the court.
On October 22, 1843 Lucretia Dunkley, the first woman hanged at Berrima prison, N.S.W. died for murdering her husband, Henry. Her lover, Martin Beach, was hanged for the same crime.
Sydney demonstrators stormed St. James Police Watchhouse in 1848 and released its prisoners.
Prior to being executed in 1846, William John Westwood, better known as ‘Jackey-Jackey – the gentleman bushranger’, wrote a letter to a prison chaplain who had shown him kindness during his time at the penal settlement at Norfolk Island, it concluded with these words: -
“My grave will be a haven. Flogged, goaded and tantalized, I have been reduced to a lunatic and savage. Out of my bitter cup of sorrow the sweetest draught is that which takes away the misery of a living death.”
In 1837 wheelbarrows were issued to various watchhouses around Sydney where they were to be used by the police. Their purpose was to convey drunken persons to the lockups. The Sydney Gazette of 1838, writes.
“On Tuesday afternoon a constable in a state of intoxication was observed wheeling a man in a barrow to the watchhouse who was also drunk. Instead of taking the man to the nearest watchhouse, the intoxicated policeman wheeled him over half of Sydney, every now and then capsizing him into the road, to the mirth of the citizens and the gratification of his own drunken propensities.”
After a series of bushranging activities in 1871, John Baker returned to South Australia where he asked a local barber to dye his distinctive red hair. The barber refused and Baker was subsequently recognised and arrested. Before being extradited to New South Wales where he was later hanged, Baker swore he would kill the barber.
It has been said that the early London “Bobbies” wore top hats lined with steel – not to protect their heads in case of attack, but so that they could stand on them when looking over a wall or through a window above eye level.
One of America’s most famous unsolved crimes is that involving Lizzie Borden, who, in 1892 at the age of 32 was charged with the axe murder of her father and her stepmother. Though she was later acquitted of the crime many people thereafter insisted that the jury had erred, and that she was in fact guilty of the brutal crime. The following rhyme was often recited within her hearing:-
Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.
A similar case arose in South Australia in 1902 when 21-year-old Mary Schippan was charged with the stabbing death of her 13-year-old sister at the family home at Towitta. Mary had excellent Court representation and was acquitted of the crime but faced a lifetime of being taunted and accused of having committed the crime.
As with the Borden case the crime was never officially solved.
As Abraham Lincoln sat in Ford’s Theatre in Washington on the night of April 14, 1865, a 26-year-old actor named John Wilkes Booth walked into Lincoln’s box and shot him behind the left ear with a single barrel Derringer pistol. Then, shouting “Sic semper tyrannis” (“Ever thus to tyrants”) he leapt to the stage. In doing so his spur caught in the curtain and he fell, fracturing his left shinbone. The injury slowed his escape, and twelve days later, he and fellow conspirator, David Herold, were surrounded by Union soldiers in a barn in Virginia. When Booth refused to surrender, the barn was set on fire. Shortly afterwards a shot rang out, and Booth fell dead – whether he shot himself, or was shot by one of the soldiers, was never discovered with any degree of certainty.
Hungarian murderer, Sylvester Matushka, gained erotic excitement by blowing up trains. In 1932 he was gaoled for life for causing two train wrecks in which twenty-two people were killed and over one hundred injured, he was released during Word War Two. During the Korean War he worked for the Americans as an explosives expert.
In 1885, John Lee, of Babbacombe, Devon, England, was sentenced to hang for murder. On February 22, of that year he was taken to the scaffold, but when the hangman pulled the lever, the trapdoor, which had been repeatedly tested, refused to open. Three times the exercise was repeated with the same result, though testing between each attempt proved the lever to be operating perfectly. After the third attempt, Lee, who became known as “the man they couldn’t hang”, had his sentence commuted to one of twenty-two years imprisonment. He was released from prison in 1907. He insisted to the day he died that he had dreamt the night before his execution was to take place that the trapdoor would not work.
By a strange quirk of coincidence Joseph Samuels who had been sentenced to death in Sydney in 1803 for the murder of a constable, was also saved from death when the rope failed to support him on the three attempts that were made to hang him. Later testing of the rope, proved that each of the three strands of the rope, when tested individually, was more than capable of supporting a weight three times greater than that of Samuels’ body.
Those who have studied the two very bizarre cases in depth have said that the one major difference between the two was that while Samuels may well have been innocent of the crime for which he was convicted, Lee was almost certainly guilty.
A robbery at an Amsterdam business failed when the masked gunman could not make his request for cash understood. The only staff member present at the time could not speak Dutch.
Surprised while burgling a house in Antwerp, Belgium, a thief fled out the back door, clambered over a nine-foot wall, dropped down and found himself in the city prison.
As a result of a daring robbery in Hong Kong in December 1996, six men got away with 6 containers of frozen chicken wings valued at $323,400.
Would-be thieves broke into a Coca-Cola plant in Ontario, Canada, and went to work on the company safe with an arc welder. They fled empty handed when they realised that instead of cutting open the safe they had actually welded it shut.
A twenty-six year-old, man walked into a Bank in Montreal, Canada armed with a gun, and stole $2,600 (CAN). He was arrested a short time later when he returned to the very same branch and attempted to deposit $2,000 cash into his personal account.
French customs officials seized more than 5,000 counterfeit baseball caps at a Paris airport, because of their knowledge of U.S.A. sports. The officers noticed that the caps featuring the names of American basketball and hockey teams, bore the initials N.F.L. (National Football League) across the top.
Police in the U. S. A. became suspicious when they saw a man arrive at the Virginia Beach court-house to attend his preliminary grand theft auto hearing in a brand new Volvo. A quick check revealed that the car had been stolen from a dealership the night before, and that the number plates on the car belonged to a Mercedes Benz.
'Twas Christmas, December 1996 ...
· Police in Baltimore, USA, came across a very seasonal thief, 33 year old Dwayne Terry was found stuck inside a convenience store chimney. He told police he was hungry and decided to enter the store through the chimney.
· Meanwhile in Miami, thieves hiding in the air conditioning system of a Toys 'R' Us store waiting for closing time were talking so loudly that they attracted the attention of several employees.
· A purse snatcher in Wisconsin must have had an attack of the Christmas guilts. After having her purse containing $1,800 stolen, the snatchers elderly victim was no doubt surprised when Federal Express returned $1,000 of the money and other contents of her purse. The budget-conscious thief has not been located.
· Annoyed after several hours of her husband's constant singing of the carol "Silent Night", a 55-year-old Netherlands woman stabbed the man in the chest.
Detective Tom Pellechio of the Miami Police, arrested Wesley Steny, 16, and Jeanis Caty, 18, after they (allegedly) attempted to hold up a local grocery store. During the robbery, each youth had produced a gun, ordered the clerks to the floor, and demanded that the register be opened.
Witnesses say that as Caty leaned over the counter to reach the till, he accidentally discharged his gun, striking Steny in the thigh. The second youth - surprised, and no doubt in some pain - panicked and fired his own gun, hitting Caty in the hands and leg.
The pair - and a third, uninjured youth - grabbed $200 from the register and limped out of the store, leaving a clear trail of blood behind them. They were eventually picked up at the local hospital, though the third youth, the cash and the guns, have not yet been located.
A Swedish man was arrested when he threatened to kill his neighbour with his pet poisonous snake, a King Cobra.
Police said he was the first person in Sweden to be arrested for using a snake as a weapon. The cobra was taken to a nearby zoo.
Here are some of the things spotted by California Highway Patrol Officers on Los Angeles freeways:
- A driver of a small Volkswagen bug had packed more than 900 phone books in his car. The man, who gets paid according to the number of phone books delivered, had removed all the seats from his car and was sitting on phone books. When asked how he intended to drive the vehicle once he delivered all the phone books, he answered: "I hadn't thought of that."
- A man explained to a CHP officer that his seat belt was unfastened because he wanted to smell his feet.
- Another man was trying to pass a note to a young woman driving in the next lane. They were both cited for unsafe driving.
- ...eating a can of chili with both hands.
- ...eating a baked potato at 55 mph.
- ...cutting children's hair.
- ...brushing teeth and rinsing with a cup of water.
- ...grooming a pet.
- ...typing on a laptop computer.
- ...removing pantyhose.
- ...reading a book.
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