Murderous Assault on a Police Constable

Saffron Walden Weekly News




Murderous Assault

On Monday, at the Great Bardfield Petty Sessions, William Andrews and Lionel Coote, labourers, of Little Bardfield, were charged with maliciously inflicting serious bodily harm upon Police-Constable Swain, at Little Bardfield.

Mr. F. J. Snell, of Dunmow, prosecuted, and Mr Thorneycroft, of Bishop Stortford, defended.

Prisoners pleaded not guilty.

P.C. Swain deposed that he heard a noise at 11 p.m. and went towards Little Bardfield, when he came across eight men sitting in a field near the almshouses. They had a lighted candle and a stone bottle of beer, and were singing, shouting, and playing an accordion. He heard the noise a mile away. He asked the men to be quiet, and they said "We're having a jubilee." The men then went into the road, all being the worse for drink. They began again to make a disturbance, and struck witness several blows at the back of the neck, saying, "Down with him." They surrounded witness, who used his night stick, but was knocked to the ground. The men kicked him all over the body. He regained his feet, but lost his helmet, cape, and lamp in the struggle. Coote and Andrews then came for him again, saying they would "finish" him. He drew his truncheon, and struck Coote to the ground. Andrews then threw something which struck witness on the left temple and rendered him unconscious. He came round and found himself lying in a ditch. He crawled to a cottage, bleeding profusely, became senseless again, and was taken home, where had been under the doctor since.

Dr. Goodbody, sent to see him, found him in a fainting condition through loss of blood, with a wound on his temple one and a half inches long and with bruises all over his body.

Inspector Daniels deposed to receiving information of the occurrence about 12.30 in the night, sending for a conveyance and for Dr Goodbody, and proceeding to the spot. He saw the injured constable in the cottage, and, going to a place about one hundred yards away indicated by Swain, he found a constable's cape, his helmet cut to pieces, and a lantern lying in the middle of the road. After the policeman was taken home he went to Little Bardfield-green, in company with P.C. Lancum, of Finchingfield, and saw the prisoner Andrews. He was in bed fully dressed, and appeared to have ben drinking. Witness took him into custody. At first prisoner said, "I don't know anything about it," but afterwards he said, "The policeman hit me across the shoulders with a stick and I hit him with it."

Prisoners now said the constable assaulted them first with a stick, and cut Coote's head in two places, and the wounds had to be stitched.

Prisoners were committed for trial at the Quarter Sessions on May 17.


Essex Standard 20 May 1899





William Andrews and Lionel Coote, both young men, on bail, were indicted for inflicting grievous bodily harm upon P.c. Vernon George Swain at Little Bardfield.

Mr. Grubbs prosecuted, and Mr. J. Ogle defended.

Mr. Grubbs stated that on the evening of April 3, about 10.30, P.c. Swain heard a lot of singing and shouting, and on investigation found about a dozen men in a field, making a "most tremendous noise," and drinking out of a large stone bottle. He asked them not to make such a noise, and to ho home quietly. A brother of the prisoner Coote replied, "We're having a Jubilee." All the men were more or less in liquor, but they got up, and went into the road, and began singing and shouting again. Prosecutor told them he should have to summon them all if they did not stop the noise, and then he heard the ominous remark, "You are only one." and this was followed by blows. He recognised the voice of Anfews, who said, "Down him : set about him." or something to that effect. Swain was knocked down and kicked; he blew his whistle, and, pretending that another constable was close at hand, called out, "Come at once." This ruse had the effect of causing all the men, except the two prisoners, to run away. These two continued to assault him, and Andrews called out, "I'll do for the -------." Suddenly Swain was struck on the left temple, he believed by a stone, and rendered insensible, and when he recovered consciousness he found himself lying alone in the ditch by the side of the road. He managed to get to a cottage close by, where he was attended to. Subsequently Andrews was taken into custody, and at first he denied all knowledge of the assault, but afterwards he alleged that the policeman struck him first.

Evidence bearing out these statements was given by P.c Swain, who deposed that he was still on the sick list. He had to use a stick to defend himself, but this, and his helmet, cape and lamp were found strewn about the road. When he recovered consciousness after the assault, he was only able to crawl on his hands and knees to the cottage. He had a scar on his temple, and bruises all over his head, neck, and body. Witness produced his helmet, which was in a very battered condition, and his tunic, which was marked with bloodstains. -In cross-examination, prosecutor said he had been in the force nearly five years, and had bene stationed at High Ongar, Clacton, and other places. -Mr OGLE. When you got to this field the men were singing "God save the Queen"? -That I don't know. -Don't you know the sir? -Oh, yes; but I don't recollect what they were singing. -In further cross-examination, Swain denied that he threatened to summon all the men as soon as he entered the field, and that if they did not shift he would soon shift them. he did not strike anyone until after he had been assaulted; neither could he recollect making any remarks in the cottage he went into after the assault. His mind was a blank for some time as to what took place after the occurrence.

Ecidence was given by Inspector Daniels, who said that Swain appeared to be much dazed after the assault, was very incoherent in his remarks, and when on the way home win a cart fainted two or three times.

Dr. E. Goodbody, of Great Bardfield, deposed there were bruises on the prosecutor's body, one or two rather large, while there were several cuts on the face. -Cross-examined, witness said the wound on the temple was not dangerous. Coote had two cuts on the head, one being rather deep, and he had lost a good deal of blood. -Evidence was also given by P.c. Langford [Lancum].

Mr. OGLE, for the defence, said he should be able to show that instead of the prosecutor being the aggrieved person, or at any rate the person he believed himself to be, he was the aggressor throughout, and that the prisoners only struck Swain after he had hit them. What took place was a fracas instituted by arbitrary language and conduct on the part of the prosecutor. 

Andrews, who have evidence on oath, stated that he was 22 years of age, and was a labourer, of Little Bardfield. There were eight of them in the field, and they were having a concert. -Mr GRUBBS. I really don't know whether the unfortunate people in the neighbourhood who tried to get to sleep called it a concert. (Laughter.) -Mr. OGLE. You have not received a testimonial from the neighbourhood have you? -Andrews. No. -In further evidence, Andrews alleged that Swain swore at them as soon as he got into the field, and struck him two or three times without any provocation. He (Andrews) only struck Swain once. Coote did not hit the constable until the latter struck Coote, causing blood to flow. -Similar evidence was given by the other prisoner, and by Frank Cowell, William Barry, and William Pannell. The last-named said the when the constable came to his cottage, after the assault, he appeared to be greatly frightened, and as soon as he got into the house he locked the door. -Mrs. Andrews said she went into Pannell's cottage, and assisted Swain. The latter conversed with her a good deal; he appeared to be quite sensible, and in the course of his remarks said, "I am greatly to blame for doing what I did, but I am very irritable, and weak-nerved." Shew was not related to either of the prisoners.

Mr. GRUBBS, in addressing the Jury, asked whether it was likely a policeman would have attacked these eight men, or used abusive language to them, when they were already excited by beer? It would have been perfect madness for him to have done as the prisoners alleged.

After consulting in private, the Jury returned a verdict of not guilty, and the prisoners were discharged.