Murder of Sergeant Adam Eves

 Illustrated Police News - Saturday 29th April 1893The Illustrated Police news - 29 April 1893

Saturday, April 29, 1893




The inhabitants of Maldon and district, as indeed of the whole County, were startled on Monday morning by the news that a murder of a brutal character had been committed in the parish of Hazeleigh, near Maldon, late on Saturday night or early on Sunday morning, and that the unfortunate victim was a much-respected member of the County Constabulary, namely, Acting-Sergeant Adam John Eves, stationed at Purleigh.


was not made until about three o'clock on Sunday afternoon when Herbert Patten, a carpenter, of Purleigh, which adjoins Hazeleigh, was coming from Hazeleigh Hall, and saw a quantity of blood near the brow of a ditch close to Bellrope Gate. On looking into the ditch, which is about five feet deep, and contained six inches of water, Patten was horrified at discovering the body of Sergeant Eves, apparently dead. Patten immediately ran to Hazeleigh Hall, where he gave information to Mr. E. A. Fitch (in whose occupation the farm is) and Mr. John C. Freeman, of Maldon. A messenger was at once despatched to Police-Inspector C. E. Pryke, of Maldon, who was close at hand making inquiries about some corn which had been stolen from Hazeleigh Hall Farm. Police-Superintendent Halsey, of Latchingdon, was also sent for. Inspector Pryke arrived at the ditch before four o'clock, and he at once had the body taken out. A shocking sight met the gaze of those who were present. Sergt. Eves was quite dead, and the corpse was stiff and cold. There were three deep wounds in the head, which had evidently been inflicted with sticks, and 


The coagulated blood and the dirty water of the ditch combined to make the corpse an awful sight to look upon. It was at once evident that a brutal murder had been committed. Three sticks were found in the ditch - one of them smashed to pieces - and there is no doubt that these weapons were used to shatter the unfortunate officer's skull with. Police-Superintendent Halsey quickly arrived from Latchingdon, and Police-constable Chaplin, of Stow Maries, was also soon on the spot. Three sacks of wheat were found close to the body, and Police-constable Chaplin found three other sacks of grain in a pond near at hand. The police had the body of their murdered comrade removed to his home at Purleigh. The terrible affair, which took place quite near the Queen's Head beer-house, Purleigh, although the actual spot is in Hazeleigh parish, has caused very great commotion in these normally quiet villages, and very sincere sympathy is felt for Sergeant Eves' family. The murdered man was considered, by both his confereres and the villagers, a most capable and efficient officer, and had won the respect and esteem of all with whom he was brought in contact. Doctors Gutteridge and Scott, of Maldon, were sent for, but of course medical aid was useless, as the poor man had been dead for some time.


The theory of the police in regard to the murder is that it is the work of a gang of local thieves, who were engaged on Saturday night in an extensive robbery of corn. It is presumed that while Eves was on duty on Saturday night, he met at least three men carrying the sacks of corn. He no doubt challenged them, and there is every reason to believe that the ruffians at once set upon him and brutally murdered him in order to escape arrest. They possibly rendered him insensible by inflicting the terrible wounds on his head, and then, to make thoroughly sure of completing their dastardly work, slashed his throat from ear to ear, and threw the body into the ditch. The men must then have abandoned their sacks of grain and made off. The finding of the six sacks of corn leads to the supposition that the murderers had provided themselves with a horse and cart, in which to convey their spoil, and in this they probably decamped. The grain had been stolen from Hazeleigh Hall, and it was about this particular robbery that Inspector Pryke was making inquiries when he received information of the murder. Sergt. Eves was last seen alive about ten o'clock on Saturday night, so that seventeen hours had elapsed between that time and the finding of his mutilated corpse. The looker at Hazeleigh Hall, whose name is Moss, passed the place where the body lay two or three times on Sunday and noticed the blood. He did not see the body, and he thought that one of his pigs had probably been killed at the spot. It seems strange that the murdered man should have been missing for so long without any inquiries as to his whereabouts. In the ordinary course he should have arrived home from duty at about six o'clock on Sunday morning, but it is stated that his wife was not alarmed by his non-arrival, imagining that he might have been detained at some fire in the neighbourhood or other duty. On the body of the murdered man were found a pocket knife, two keys, a pencil, a letter, and a watch. The latter was still going. It would seem that the unfortunate officer was taken unawares, and that he was brutally slaughtered in cold blood without having a chance to defend himself, for his truncheon was still in his pocket, and had not been drawn, while his battered helmet had fallen from his head. Of course as soon as the murder was discovered Supt. Halsey telegraphed to Capt. Showers, the Chief Constable, at Chelmsford, and Mr. Raglan Somerset, Deputy Chief Constable, and other officers were despatched to assist in the search for the murderers. It is almost unnecessary to add that the greatest excitement prevailed the district, and especially in the vicinity of the murder and at Maldon.


Throughout tSunday night and Monday, indeed ever since, the police have been most actively engaged in investigating the murder. Their inquiries lead to the conclusion that a wholesale robbery of wheat had been planned. Some time on Saturday night thieves entered Mr. Fitch's barn at Hall Farm, where there was a big pile of corn from the previous two or three days' threshing. They gained access by forcing the padlock with which the barn door was secured, and a quantity of corn was taken away. It was at five minutes to ten o'clock that the deceased police officer quitted the Oak Inn, a distance from the barn, and his way home to Purleigh lay across the Hall Farm and along a pathway leading through the field to Purleigh. There seems little doubt that he saw the thieves in front of him, carrying the sacks of corn along the path skirting the ditch, and on coming upon them endeavoured to take one or more of them into custody. What followed in only a matter of conjecture, except to its terrible result. The body of Sergeant Eves was found dead in the ditch on Sunday afternoon, with his throat horribly gashed showing that murder had not only been committed but intended. The head had also been much battered with sticks, and


indicating that he had fought desperately hard for his life. Near the pools of blood on the edge of the ditch the ground was much trampled and beaten about, and there were grains of wheat scattered around. After despatching their victim and hurling his lifeless body into the ditch, the thieves and murderers would appear to have taken up the sacks of corn and continued their journey along the path towards Purleigh. After traversing about 100 yards they quitted the path, and passed through a gateway into the Rectory meadow, and in the gateway they spilt a quantity of wheat. Just within the meadow is a small pond, and here on Sunday evening were found three pea bags filled with corn corresponding to the lost grain already mentioned. Just outside the barn where the robbery was committed three similar sacks of corn were deposited in readiness, apparently, for removal after the first lot had been conveyed to its destination. All six bags had presumably been brought to the barn by the thieves, and were not Mr. Fitch's property, so that their identification may prove an important factor in the case. After the pond had yielded its three sacks of corn, the water was drained away, and a most


with which it is believed the deceased's throat was cut., and the ditch itself, where the body was found, was also examined most carefully with a like object, but without success.

Mrs. Eves was informed of the shocking occurrence by Messrs. Fitch and Freeman, after the discovery of the body, and was quite overcome by the sad intelligence. She said she had not become alarmed at her husband's absence, because she thought he might have gone to a fire or something of that sort. The spot where his body was found was almost within a stone's throw of his own house. He had been threatened many times but a number of men in the neighbourhood whom he has prosecuted, and only a day or two before his death he was telling a gentleman that one man had stated, "If ever I get the chance at you I'll take you."


During Monday morning four labourers, residing at Purleigh, were arrested on suspicion of being the murderers. The first arrest was made at six o'clock in the morning, and the other three men were apprehended later. All four men (whose names appear below) were brought to Maldon and locked up at the Town Hall, their arrival causing intense excitement among the large crows that had assembled.



Richard Davis (40), John Davis (34), married, Charles Sale (47), married, and John Bateman (37), were arrested while on their way to work. It is alleged that blood and other suspicious marks were found upon three of them. They appeared to be very down-hearted. The prisoners were brought before the Rev. E. R. Horwood and T. Elsey Bland, Esq., at five o'clock on Monday evening.

Inspector Pryke deposed:  I arrested Charles Sale at 5.55 this morning for the wilful murder of Sergeant Eves at Pruleigh, on Saturday night on on Sunday morning. I produce his waistcoat with blood on the back and front. Upon being arrested the prisoner said, "If there is any blood on he back of my waistcoat it was there when I purchased it at Mr. Nicholls's; the blood on the front is from a bone." Inspector Terry, Police-sergt. Dale, and I proceeded to Richard Davis's house, where he saw the two prisoners Davis. In a cart we found blood, the presence of which the prisoner John accounted for by saying, "On Saturday last I purchased a sheep's head at Mr. Handley's, at Maldon, and place it in the cart, and no doubt the blood came from it." We found blood stains on the back of Richard's coat, which had apparently been scraped. In answer to the charge, John said, "I am innocent." Richard made no reply. There was also blood on Richard's shoes, which had been recently cleaned and oiled. John Davis's clothing was stained. He said the stain on his waistcoat was due to his spilling some tea, but it looked as if there had been an attempt to wash out blood. There was blood in his coat pockets, and the prisoner said that was from a hare which he had had there.

Supt. Halsey said: I arrested the prisoner John Bateman at eleven o'clock this morning Purleigh. He said the stains on his coat were of spilt porter. He added that he had a pint of beer at the Queen's Head Inn, Purleigh, on Saturday night, and then went to Woodham Mortimer and "laid rough" all night, and the same on Sunday. Witness added that he had ascertained that Bateman was on Saturday night lying in the field where Eves was found murdered. The brothers Davis and Bateman had been at work at Hazeleigh Hall on Friday and Saturday.

The prisoners wer remanded until 11.30 on Monday next, and were driven over to Chelmsford Prison.


The deceased, who leaves a widow (his second wife), but no children, was 36 years of age, and a fine looking man. He was a native of Hutton, near Brentwood, and joined the force in March, 1877. During his career in the force he was stationed at Southend, Witham (three different times), Aldham, Great Totham, Tollesbury, Harwich (nearly four years), and Purleigh, to which latter place he went in January, 1891. In all the places where he had been stationed, he was much respected, and general regret will be felt throughout the county that such a promising officer has thus been foully murdered. In February last he was promoted to the rank of acting-sergeant, and there is no doubt that had he lived this would have been followed by other promotions. He had been complimented several times by the Chief Constable and by the Court of Quarter Session on the intelligent way in which he had detected crimes at Purleigh and other places. He was also a proficient member of the St. John Ambulance Association, and had been more then once complimented the surgical skill he displayed in cases of accident.

Our Harwich correspondent writes:- The murder has caused a feeling of great regret for the deceased in Harwich, the deceased officer having been stationed there some time previous to his removal for Purleigh. He was greatly respected, and was a most zealous and capable officer.


The inquest was opened before Mr. Coroner HARRISON, at the Bell Inn, Purleigh, on Tuesday afternoon, April 18, when fifteen were sworn upon the Jury, of whom Mr. W. G. Raven was chosen Foreman. Mr. Fitch, the occupier of the Hall Farm, produced an Ordnance Survey map, showing the locus in quo for the convenience of the Court.

The CORONER, in opening the enquiry, said it was into the circumstances attending the death of Adam John Eves, late acting Police-Sergeant in the Essex Constabulary, whose dead body was found in a ditch at Hazeleigh on Sunday afternoon last, and under conditions which led to the conclusion that he came by his death by violent means. The course he (the Coroner) proposed to follow that afternoon was to take evidence of identification, and also of the cause of death, and then adjourn the enquiry till next Monday at the Maldon Town Hall. The Magisterial enquiry was fixed for the same day, at half-past eleven o'clock in the morning, and the adjourned inquest resumed at three o'clock in the afternoon. He would make arrangements for the Jury to be conveyed from Purleigh to Maldon.


Superintendent Halsey, stationed at Latchingdon, gave evidence of identification. He said the deceased was about 37 years of age, and resided at Purleigh; he held the rank of Acting-Sergeant in the Essex Constabulary.

The CORONER: When did you last see him alive?
Witness: Last Wednesday week.
Was he then in good health?  -Perfectly good health.
You have seen him since he has been dead?  -Yes.
And you identify the body?  -Yes.
Was he a married man?  -He was a married man but had no family.
How long has he been stationed here?  -Since Jan 19. 1891.
He came here from where?  -From Harwich.
The CORONER, addressing Mr Bright, of Maldon, who was present, said: You appear for the Essex Police?
Mr. BRIGHT: Yes.
The CORONER: Does anyone represent the accused?
Supt Halsey. No, sir.


George Melmoth Scott, registered medical practitioner at Maldon, deposed: Last Sunday afternoon I was sent for to see deceased.

The CORONER: On arriving, where was he?
Witness. He was in a room in his own house - in a downstairs room - lying on the floor.
Did you examine him?  -Yes.
Was he dressed then?  -Yes, but his coat was open.
Was he in uniform?  -Yes, with the ordinary regulation great coat on.
Now, what injuries did you find about the body?  -Al the injuries were confined to the head.
What were the on the head?  -On the forehead there were three wounds.
Now describe those wounds, giving heir size and description.  -On was over the left eyebrow.
Describe that one first.  -It ran upwards and outwards, and was about an inch long. The edges were not very jagged.
What was the depth?  -It was now down to the bone.
Did it perforate the true skin?  -Yes, through the true skin into the muscle underneath.
What was the depth?  -I suppose it would be about half-an-inch. The edges were contused on each side, and there was a scratch parallel with it about a quarter of an inch from it.
One the lot side, was it?  -Yes.  There was a second cut a little to the left of the middle line, rather above the centre of the forehead, running upwards and outwards; it was three-quarters of an inch long, with irregular edges, and down to the bone.
You would put that at about half-an-inch deep?  -I suppose so. The third cut started on the left side of the forehead, three inches above the ear; and was 3½ inches long. The cut was not straight; it had a sort of elbow in it, going towards the top of the head and backwards. The edges were "sliced;" it was not perpendicular, and the right edge was raised from the scalp.
Did it penetrate to the bone?  -No. There were two small wounds by the side of the head.
They were small compared with the others?  -Yes. A sixth wound was five inches above the left ear, and one and a half inches behind. There were irregular edges, and it was not down to the bone. It was three inches long, and there was some dirt in it. A seventh cut was towards the right side of the head, 6¼ inches from the left ear.
What was the length of the cut?  -Two and a quarter inches. The edges were sliced. There was another wound just behind it of the same character.
What might this would have been caused by?  -I think it must have been caused by a knife or some sharp instrument.
And the others?  -The others might have been caused by a blunt knife or stick. The hair was distinctly cut along one edge of the last cut described. The left eye was closed and swollen.
You have described all the cuts?  -Yes, except that there was some skin off the bridge of the nose. There was a bruise on the right side of the forehead and on each cheek.
Now about the throat?  -There were three cuts on the throat - two under the left ear, and there was a big gash. The first wound was two inches long, and three inches straight below the left ear, running backwards and upwards, and reaching the vertebrae.
Dividing what structure?  -I don't think it divided any important structures just there.
Now about the second wound?  -The second would began 1½ inches below the left ear; it had sharp cut edges, and would probably be 1½  to 2 inches long running backwards and upwards.
Did this divide any important structures?  -No; it was a comparatively shallow wound. The third and main would began half an inch below, and based under the front of the left ear, running round the edge of the jaw to a point two inches below, and 1¼ inches in front of the right ear.
What structure did it divide?  -Well, it went through the root of the tongue into the back of the throat.
In what direction?  -I should say straight backwards. It divided all the main vessels on the left side, went through all the muscles, and cut into the vertebral column.
In your opinion, by what instrument was it inflicted?  -It must have been done by a sharp instrument.
Were all the wounds done by the same instrument?  -I can't say they were all done by the same instrument.
What was the actual cause of death?  -Loss of blood and the cut throat.
Were the wounds you first described sufficient to have caused death?  -No, I don't think so.
Were there any other marks of violence about the body?  -No; except the hands were covered inside and outside with blood and mud.
Did the hands clasp anything?  -There was some hair sticking on to the hands.
What sort of hair?  -Probably human hair, but I haven't examined it. I have is carefully sealed up.
The CORONER: You will produce it on a subsequent occasion?  -Yes. On the back of the first finger on the left hand there was an irregular cut about three-quarters of an inch long. On the middle finger of the right hand there was a slight circular cut, about half an inch long.
Any other marks of violence on the body?  -No.
Are you of the opinion that these wounds you describe were inflicted during life?  -Yes, I think they were. When I saw the body it was cold. Rigor mortis had commenced, but was not marked.
How long should you think he had been dead when you saw him?  -Certainly I should think 12 hours.
The Foreman. In your opinion was the large cut in the throat caused by one or several knives?
Witness. That's rather a question. The wound was not absolutely even; there was a jag in it.
The CORONER. It might have been caused by two or three cuts?
Witness. Yes.
The Foreman. There were no bones broken or fractured about the head?
Witness. I haven't taken the skull cap off yet.
The CORONER: He will have a complete examination by-and-bye. 
Mr. BRIGHT. Did you notice any wound on the left side of the body?
Witness. I noticed that the blood had gravitated towards that side.
Mr. BRIGHT. Do you think any of the wounds on the top of the head might have been caused by the toe of a boot?
Witness. I can't tell. One od two might have been caused by the toe of a boot.
Mr. BRIGHT. What was the colour of the hairs found in the deceased's hand?
Witness. Some of them were grey, but I haven't yet thoroughly examined the,.


Charles Everett, landlord of the Oak public-house, Hazeleigh, deposed that he knew the deceased officer.
When did you last see him alive?  -About give to three minutes to 10 o'clock on Saturday night.
Where was he?  -He came into my tap-room at about seven minutes to 10 o'clock.
What did he come for?  -He brought a notice, which he laid on the table, offering a 10s. reward.
What about?  -About poisoning rooks, sir.
How long did he stop?  -Not more than three or four minutes.
In what direction did he go?  -I don't know, sir.
Who was in the house at the time?  -A man named David Joslin.
He did not go out with him?  -No, sir. He went out about a minute afterwards.
By the Foreman. Deceased did not intimate in any way as to which way he was going to take.
The enquiry at this stage was adjourned till Monday.


About noon on Wednesday Superintendent Halsey arrested James Ramsey, driver of the threshing machine engine that was working at Hazeligh Hall Farm, on the day of the murder, and his son, James Ramsey, jun., on suspicion of being concerned in the crime. The prisoners were lodged in the cells at the Moot Hall, Maldon. Six men are now in custody, and there additional arrests have increased, if it were possible, the intense excitement prevailing in the district.

The two prisoners were brought up at the Town Hall, Maldon, on Wednesday evening, before the Rev. E. R. Horwood and T. Elsey Bland, Esq., County Justices, and remanded in custody till Monday morning. Subsequently, they were removed to Springfield Gaol. Large crowds assembled outside the Town Hall during the hearing, and the Court was also crowded. It is rumoured that a man employed in feeding the threshing machine with which the men arrested worked, got intoxicated in a public-house at Purleigh on Tuesday night, and became somewhat talkative, and the result was the arrest of the two Ramseys. A pocket-knife was found on the younger Ramsey, which had been newly ground and cleaned; it has a long blade, and is a somewhat formidable-looking weapon. Ramsey admitted that he ground it, but was rather contradictory as to the day.


The funeral of the murdered officer, Acting-Sergt. Eves, has been fixed for two p.m. today (Saturday), at Purleigh Church. It will, no doubt, be largely attended, both by members of the force and the inhabitants of the district.