murder of a policeman

murder of a policeman

Constable Penny murdered by navvies


The following report is from the 25 January 1862 issue of 'The York Herald' -

"A most brutal outrage has occurred near the town of Yeovil, and, we regret to say, has resulted in the death of a police constable. On the night of Saturday week, police constable Hubbard, the Somerset constabulary, was on duty near the Red House, on the East-Coke Road, when he was assaulted by a number of navvies who had been employed on the railway just completed. Hubbard was directed by his sergeant to take into custody the man who had assaulted him. This he succeeded in doing. He had placed one handcuff on the fellow's wrist when another of the gang knocked him down with a heavy bludgeon.

At this juncture a constable, named Penny, came to Hubbard's assistance, but on his endeavouring to secure the man, the others immediately fell upon him, knocked him down, and treated him in the most brutal manner. Police-sergeant Keats came up shortly afterwards, and found the ruffians kicking poor Penny as he lay on the ground. Keats took out his staff, and struck one of the fellows down, upon which another took to his heels.

Penny was then taken into the public-house, where he was attended by medical men. He lingered in agony till Saturday evening, when death relieved him from his sufferings.

Two of the gang were taken before the Yeovil magistrates on Monday, and were remanded. The third - the man who inflicted the fatal injuries, and who ran away - has not yet been discovered. The police are diligently searching for him, and it is expected he will be found at work on some of the railway lines now being constructed in the Eastern Counties. A reward has been offered for his apprehension."




The following report is from the issue of 27 March 1862 of The Times.

Western Circuit, Taunton, March 25 (before Mr Justice Byles)

George Handsford, George Child, and Charles Rogers were indicted for the wilful murder of William Penney, at Yeovil, in January. Mr HT Cole and Mr Hooper prosecuted; Mr Ffooks defended the prisoners.

It appeared that the prisoners were at work on the railway at Yeovil. On 11 January, about 12 o'clock at night, Hubbard, a policeman, was walking along the road when Handsford, who was accompanied by many others, threw stones at him. He walked on, but Handsford continued throwing stones; he then went further until he met two other policeman, Keats and Penny, and they returned. Penny put his hand on Handsford shoulder and asked his name, and said he was going to take him to Yeovil. The body of men then gathered round. It would seem that the police left Handsford. The men went on. The police followed, and again took hold of Handsford, and succeeded in putting one handcuff on him, Rogers then held up a large stick or bludgeon which he held in his hand, when someone said "Go into them." Rogers then took the stick in both hands and struck Penny a violent blow on the head. Rogers then struck Keats on the head and ran away.

While the handcuff was being put on Handsford he said "Are you going to let me be taking like this?" Keats called for Hubbard. Two men were on Penny beating him. The deceased was lying in the road senseless. He was taken to a public house. Chance was taken in bed the next morning. He said he was there, but he had not taken any part in it. Penny never rallied and died in a few hours. The surgeon stated that the death was caused by blows on the head, and he was of opinion they were inflicted by the handcuff.

Rogers was apprehended at the Greyhound Inn at Dorchester. When told the nature of the charge he said, "If I had not hit him he would have killed I."

The question arose whether the police were acting in the execution of the duty at the time of the assault. The learned Judge ruled that the case was sufficient to go to the jury.

Mr Ffooks addressed the jury for the prisoners.

Mr Justice Byles summed up with extreme care and clearness. It was to be regretted that Hubbard did not wait till the next morning, and then go before a magistrate, instead of taking the matter into his own hands, and then this dreadful event would not have happened. In order to find the prisoners guilty of murder there must have been an assault and an arrest on fresh pursuit.

The jury retired to consider their verdict, and on their return acquitted chance and Rogers, but found Handsford guilty of manslaughter, but recommended him to mercy, as the jury thought the police had exceeded their duty.

His Lordship took time to consider the sentence he should pass on Handsford, but he told the jury that, with every wish to attend to their recommendation, the lives of her Majesty's subjects must be protected. At the close of the day Handsford was sentenced to penal servitude for four years.




This illustration features in my book 'Secret Yeovil'

This illustration from the 'Illustrated Police News' shows the navvies attacking the police.