Serious Assaults on the Police

The Essex Newsman


Saturday 17th March 1888


About eight o'clock on Saturday night Inspector Jordan received notice of a row going on at the Royal Oak Inn, Saffron Walden, and he at once proceeded there, accompanied by P.c. Cooke. 

No sooner had the policemen entered the house than they were set upon by several Walden men and a large number of gipsies. Nearly a hundred roughs took part against them and, although they used their batons, they were knocked about right and left. Inspector Jordan was felled to the ground, receiving several nasty cuts. The police only succeeded in making one arrest, but summonses will be issued against other persons. 

Several other disturbances took place the town the same night. On Tuesday morning Harry Byatt (the man who was arrested) and Reuben Bassett, both of Castle-street, were brought before Stebbing Leverett (Mayor), J. G. Benson, J. Clark, and E. B. Gibson, Esqrs., charged with using obscene and threatening language, and assaulting Inspector Jordan and P.c. Cooke. The prisoners were brought from the Police-station to the Courthouse under an escort of seven policemen. Bassett, who escaped on Saturday, was rearrested at the Wheat Sheaf Inn, Castle-street, on Monday, and after a slight encounter was taken to the Police-station. The court was crowded to excess during the hearing of the cases, which caused intense excitement among the lower classes. 

P.c. Cooke appeared with a very severe cut on the face; and Inspector Jordan was suffering intensely from bruises on his back. Inspector Jordan and P.c.'s Cooke, Pearce, and Aylett gave evidence. In defence Hassett said that Cooke first assaulted him. Byatt, who behaved with great effrontery and bravado throughout the hearing, said : I don't deny the assault upon Jordan, but he came to me and shook me by the shoulder and very nearly threw me to the ground. Do you think it was right ? He went on to allege that contradictory evidence had been given with respect to his kicking and throwing Cooke. Afterwards he asked to be fined, saying he would leave the town where such a man was (pointing to Inspector Jordan), finishing with the remark "It's not me who is speaking, but the majority of the ratepayers." 

The magistrates sentenced Byatt to six months' imprisonment for the assault on Inspector Jordan, and three months for the attack on P.c. Cooke, making nine months in all; Bassett was sentenced to three months' imprisonment for assaulting P.c. Cooke, and to 14 days for refusing to quit the Royal Oak Inn. 

Byatt, defiantly : I will go for 18 months when I come back. Both Byatt and Bassett had been several times previously convicted. The prisoners were handcuffed together, quite a scene being created by the action and remarks of Byatt, who shouted out as he left the room, "Thank you, gentlemen, good day, I hope to see you when I come out." [Laughter.]