Fatal Motorcycle Collision at Sible

Suffolk and Essex Free Press

Thursday, September 20, 1934



At Hedingham Petty Sessions on Tuesday, before Mr. C. F. D. Sperling (chairman) and other magistrates.

Alfred Ruggles, labourer, of Scotneys, Toppesfield Road, Great Yeldham, was charged with the manslaughter of Charles Draper, on February 24th. There were also charges of driving a motorcycle in a dangerous manner, and without due care and attention.

Defendant appeared in court on crutches.

Mr. Thompson Smith, of Colchester, appeared for the police, and Mr. F. J. Collinge for the defence.

Ernest Charles Draper, motor driver, of Great Maplestead, stated that Francis John Draper was his son. He was 18 years and 10 months old, and was a carpenter by trade. On Saturday, February 24th, he left home on his motorcycle about 6.40pm. He was then in good health. At 12.30am on Sunday, February 25th, witness received information that his son was in Colchester Hospital, and he died the same day.

Dr. Lawn, assistant house surgeon at Colchester Hospital in February last, stated that Draper was admitted to the Hospital at 1am on February 25th. Witness described the injuries, and said that death was due to shock and haemorrhage resulting from these.

Albert Henry Evans, shopkeeper, of the Stores, Little Yeldham, stated that on the evening in question he was driving his car along the Sible Hedingham main road towards Great Yeldham. When proceeding along Swan Street, he was stopped by two policemen. That was owing to his lights having fused. This was roughly between a quarter and twenty past eleven. The car was within six inches of the kerb. One of the policemen proceeded to take particulars of the license, while witness remained in the car. The constable stood at the offside driver's door. Whilst he was doing this witness heard a motor-cycle approaching from the rear, and the constable turned and shouted to the driver. The motor-cycle passed the car, and witness then heard a crash.


Samuel Atkinson, of the Council Houses, Little Yeldham, stated that he saw Ruggles in Halstead, and arranged to meet him and go back to Yeldham at 11 o'clock. Witness met him near the Church and accompanied him on the pillion. When passing the Assembly Room, Sible Hedingham, there were several people about and defendant went very slowly. Then came to a hill, and defendant had to change down to a lower gear. He went up the hill, and then changed to top speed. Witness then saw a motor-car, which was stopping or had stopped. It was standing on the near side, near the Labour Hall. He saw no other traffic in the road. When they went on to the crown of the road to pass the car, he saw a small light, which looked like an ordinary cycle lamp. It was coming towards them, past Gibson's Garage. He saw two policemen standing near the car, and two girls and a young man about  9ft. in front of the car, watching. They were on the road. He then felt the machine swerving in, and defendant appeared to see the girls, and then swerved out into the centre of the road again. Witness looked over defendant's shoulder and saw the motor-cycle right in front. That was on the crown of the road-he could not say exactly how far from the kerb—but he was slightly nearer to his own side. He could see there would be a crash.

P.c. Saunders (Castle Hedingham) stated that at 11.15 p.m. he was on duty the telephone exchange in company with P.c. Weller. Witness saw a motor car proceeding from the direction Braintree. It was travelling very slowly, on the near side, without lights. The driver pulled up close to kerb. There was no light at all in the car. P.c. Weller took particulars from the driver, standing on the offside of the car right against the driver's seat. Witness stood beside Weller for a time watching for approaching traffic. He saw the light of the motor-cyclist approaching from Great Yeldham. It was about four or five feet from the near side kerb and was travelling at a moderate speed. When witness first saw it, it was about fifty yards from the stationary car. It was carrying a good head light. At the same time, witnesss said his attention was drawn to the terrific noise of a motor-cycle coming from the direction of Braintree. It had a good head light. It was being driven fast. Witness was then standing in the centre of the road at the rear the car. Witness flashed his torch in the direction of the motor-cyclist, and put out his left arm. He held the light about three feet from the ground, moving it from left right. The motor-cycle was about four to five feet from its offside kerb. It did not swerve, but still came on. When it was about twenty yards off he shouted "Hi! stop!" This he repeated several times, still flashing his torch. The motor-cycle did not slacken speed, but passed about four feet front the offside kerb, travelling at between 45 and 50 miles per hour. Witness saw a man on the pillion. It reached a spot ten yards in front of the stationary car and four feet front the offside kerb when it came into contact with the cycle ridden by Draper. He had a very good view, and could see that the offside handlebar of each machine came into contact. There were no persons in front of the stationary car at that time, and no other traffic on the road.

P.c. Weller corroborated.

P.s. Hickmott (Castle Hedingham) stated that, on February 27th, he saw defendant in Colchester Hospital, and told him he had two notices to serve on him in of intention to prosecute under the Road Act. Witness read the notices over to him, and asked him if he understood. He replied "Yes." Witness then cautioned defendant, and he said: "I will make a statement."


Defendant then made a statement as follows: "I left Halstead on Saturday, February 24th, at about ten minutes past eleven. Sam Atkinson was on the pillion. We went along the Hedingham Road, and were all right until I got to a motor-car standing on the on the side of the road, my near side, just above the top of the hill after leaving the Swan public-house. I could not see anyone in the road until I got to the car. Then I saw two people standing in the road between the car and the pavement. I got by them all right, and could see a light coming down the road. I took it to be a bicycle at first. I seemed as if I could not get away from this light, and before I got to it, it looked as if I was a decent way from it, and suddenly found myself into it before I could do anything. It seemed as if the light just drew me to it. My speed was about 30 miles per hour. It is a fast bicycle, and will not go under 30 miles per hour in top gear, and I was in top gear. I had slackened down to pass the car. My light on my motor-bike was not a very good one, because I could not get it to burn. There was wind in the tube and it kept blinking."

This statement was signed by defendant.

Witness added that he arrested defendant that morning on a charge of manslaughter. Witness read the warrant and cautioned him. Defendant made no reply.

This closed the case for the prosecution.

Mr. Collinge said the statement made by the defendant really formed the nucleus of his defence to the charge. He did not propose to call upon defendant to give evidence as he would have to do that before the jury at his trial. Defendant would reserve his defence and plead not guilty.

 The chairman said defendant would be committed for trial on both charges, bail being allowed.





Illustrated Police News

Thursday, November 22, 1934



Appearing in the dock on crutches at Essex Assizes, Chelmsford, Alfred Ruggles, 20, a labourer, was found guilty of the manslaughter of Thomas Charles John Draper, of Sible Hedingham, Essex, on February 24. The charge arose out of a collision between the men's motor-cycles at 11 p.m. Draper died 13 hours later. Ruggles was in hospital for nearly 15 weeks afterwards.

Mr. H. Raphael, prosecuting that at the time Ruggles was going at 45 to 50 miles an hour, and travelled 119 feet after the accident. In a statement Ruggles said that he saw a light, and it seemed as if he could not get away from it. He found himself into it before he could do anything.


Ruggles, who leaned on his crutches while he gave evidence, denied that he was travelling at more than 30 miles an hour. He said that swerved to avoid some people In the road, and at the same time the light on Draper's machine. Before he could get back to his nearside he had collided with Draper. The light seemed to draw him on.

Ruggles was sentenced to six months in the second division, and disqualified from driving for three years.

Mr. Justice Hawke said everything possible must done to put down that passion for speed which was becoming really deplorable and resulting in the loss of valuable lives every day.