South Wales Cases of Interest

1. POLICEMAN KILLED ON THE SOUTH WALES RAILWAY, CARDIFF

2. THE BUNCH OF GRAPES PUBLIC HOUSE, MERTHYR-

        2a. POLICING ON HORSEBACK

        2b. THE KILLING OF RAILWAY CONSTABLE EDWARD PEARCE

3. THE CAB DRIVER & THE MAGISTRATE, CARDIFF

4. A RUM DO & A NEAR MISS, CARDIFF

 

1. SOUTH WALES RAILWAY POLICEMAN KILLED

Aaron Loxton, a policeman with the South Wales Railway Police at Riverside Station (later Cardiff General, now Cardiff Central) was killed when walking home from work one night early in 1859. 

An inquest into the death was held two days later, and Josiah Jolly, a police colleague, said that he last saw Loxton alive about ten minutes to ten on the evening when he left work to walk home to Canton along the railway line.  He described the deceased as a switchman- part of the duties of early railway policemen was to operate signals to control trains and they were often referred to as Switchmen as a result.  When that task was eventually passed on, some policemen transferred to become full-time switchmen or signalmen.  It is a peculiarity that they took with them the other nickname by which policemen were known, and right up until the demise of independent signal boxes at the end of the twentieth century, signalmen were still known as Bobbies.    

   Loxton lived near the level crossing in Canton and usually walked home along the line. He was a perfectly sober and steady man and had been in the service of the company nine years.  It was a dark night and Pc Jolly warned him to beware of the down express (heading towards Swansea) which was due at seven minutes passed ten.  The train came in on to time and there was no up train (heading towards Newport) afterwards until after midnight.  A goods down train did however leave Cardiff Station at 11.25pm.

   About half past five on Wednesday morning, a packer, Charles Wilkins, saw the body of a policeman lying dead on the line. He reported what he had seen to Pc Jolly and they returned to the scene and found the body of Loxton lying between the two lines, his head against the up rail.  There was a pool of blood under the man’s head and his hat was lying a few yards from him.

   Train wheels had evidently not passed over any part of his body and it was Pc Jolly’s opinion that he was struck by the buffer plank that threw him so violently forward that his head had come in contact with the rail and thus caused his death.  The accident occurred six or seven hundred yards from the station and it was probably the express that struck the deceased.

   Mr. Compton, the stationmaster called Dr. Evans and it was his opinion that Loxton would have died within a minute after being struck.  John Hurst was the engine driver on the down express train and he said he left Cardiff station about ten minutes past ten- three minutes later than the proper time.  He blew the whistle as he passed the goods shed and continued until the train had crossed the bridge over the River Taff, until he could see the proper signal at the level crossing at Canton in the distance.  The train was going at a rate of 20 to 25 miles an hour at this point.

   Josiah Jolly was recalled and said that there was a goods train and a coal train moving about when Loxton left Cardiff Station and both were using the whistle.  He thought that the deceased may not have paid much attention to these whistles believing they were on another part of the line.  There was some straw found lying near to the deceased which may account for the delay  between the time he left work and the time he must have been struck by the express.  He had probably gone to the shed to get some straw for use at home as was his habit occasionally.

   The Coroner said it was the kind of accident for which there was no foreseeing and there was nothing arising out of it which called for any recommendation from him to the company to prevent a reoccurrence. It was clear that the deceased was committing no breach of duty and the best verdict the jury could give, in accordance with the evidence, would be that he was found dead but by which train he was struck, there was no evidence to prove.  The jury returned a verdict accordingly.

 

2a. THE BUNCH OF GRAPES PH- POLICING ON HORSEBACK

It seems that Frederick Forey had a varied police career.  In 1845 he was reported to be a constable in the South Wales Railway Police at Briton Ferry at a time when the railway was under construction. It was however, several years before a uniform was supplied.  Later in the 1840s, he was a constable in the Glamorgan Constabulary and patrolled Merthyr on horseback using Superintendent Davies’ horse.  Following the report of an organised fight at Troedyrhiw, he rode there on the horse and went straight into the ‘ring’ where 7 rounds had already taken place.  He secured the two naked contestants and dispersed a crowd of some 300 onlookers.  The combatants were David Lewis, a collier from Cyfarthfa and Thomas Williams a puddler from Plymouth.

   On the 30th of September 1843 an earlier horse belonging to Superintendent Davies had been shot whilst in stables near the Bunch of Grapes public house at Merthyr.  The horse, which was valued at between £20 and £25, died the next morning. A £5 reward was offered by the superintendent but a further £15 reward was offered by the sergeants and men at Merthyr.

  By the 1850s Pc Frederick Forey had moved on once again and was by then a constable in the Taff Vale Railway Police.  Later still, in the 1860s, he probably kept the New Inn public house at Merthyr.

 

2b. THE BUNCH OF GRAPES PH- THE KILLING OF RAILWAY CONSTABLE JOSEPH PEARCE

In the mid 1850s the Bunch of Grapes public house in Merthyr was a favourite tavern for off-duty railwaymen and a number were gathered there one evening a few days before Christmas.  Amongst them was Joseph Pearce, a switchman and policeman of the Vale of Neath Railway Company.  Pearce had previously been a constable with the Glamorgan Police at Merthyr as well as the Neath Borough Police.

   A Vale of Neath engine driver, James Oldfield was in the pub as was a man named Russell and the two were enjoying a bar room game, but then Elias Jenkins came in and interrupted them; Russell gave up the game allowing Jenkins to play instead.  Off-duty constable, Joseph Pearce was not playing though he was taking an interest in the game.  Pearce and Jenkins soon got into an argument and Oldfield, the engine driver, decided it was time to go.  He had only gone a few yards from the front door when he heard the rattle of chairs and decided to back and get Pearce.  They left together a few moments later, heading towards home.  They had just turned into High Street when they saw they were being followed by Jenkins and two other men.  Another row broke out and Pearce pulled himself away from Oldfield and went towards Jenkins.  Oldfield saw that Jenkins had a knife in his left hand and he immediately saw him strike Pearce with the weapon causing him to fall to the ground.  The whole affair did not last more than two or three seconds. 

   Oldfield ran up to Jenkins who made to stab at him with the knife in his hand.  Oldfield  caught his arm and tripped him up.  Pearce meanwhile tried to get to his feet but then he fell backwards on top of Jenkins who began stabbing him again several times.  Oldfield caught hold of Jenkins’ hand and felt for the blade of the knife while fearing he too would be wounded. 

   At that point, Constable Dunlop arrived on the scene and took hold of Jenkins and detained him. With the help of two other men, Oldfield picked up Pearce and laid him carefully on the pavement before carrying him to a nearby house where they undid his trousers and saw that his bowels had been exposed by the wound.  A surgeon, Mr. J.W. James, was sent for and he spent some time attending Pearce until the poor man died.  The surgeon was in no doubt that the cause of death was the wound to his abdomen.

 

At the inquest, the deceased’s clothes were produced, showing that they were cut through in a number of places, some incisions corresponding with a mortal wound received by the deceased.  Pc Dunlop produced a large clasp knife stained with blood which he had found in the pocket of the prisoner.  When he was arrested, the prisoner said-

    ‘I admit stabbing him but what was I to do? There were two of them on me.’

After the Coroner summed up, he explained the law to the jury as to the distinction between murder and manslaughter and the jury returned a verdict of wilful murder.  However, at the Glamorgan Assizes 3 months later, Jenkins was found not guilty of murder of Joseph Peace after he put forward the defence that it was both Pearce and Oldfield who had attacked him. Jenkins was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment. 

3. THE CAB DRIVER & THE MAGISTRATE

The Stipendiary at Cardiff Magistrates Court was Sir Thomas Lewis, a man of very few words. Each morning he traveled from his home in Penarth to Riverside Station, later renamed Cardiff Central Station, where there was a standing order for a certain cab driver to meet the train, and convey Sir Thomas in his horse drawn cab to the City Courts. One morning whilst being paid on arrival at the court, the cab driver said to Sir Thomas

   “I have to appear….” he got no further before Sir Thomas replied-

   “If you’ve got anything to say to me, say it in court.”

It appeared that the cab driver had been driving some businessmen about the night before after they had made a good business deal. They were out on the town celebrating and managed to also get the cab driver very drunk, leading to him being arrested for being drunk in charge of a horse. When he appeared before the Stipendiary, he pleaded guilty to the charge and when asked if he wished to say anything, he produced a letter from one of the businessmen responsible for his plight.  The letter stated how sorry the men were for what had happened and that they would pay any fine imposed upon him.

   Sir Thomas addressed the man who had been driving for him to and from court for many years-

   “Do you really believe that this man will pay any fine?”

The driver immediately replied- “Oh yes Sir.”

   “Then in that case” announced Sir Thomas, “A fine would be no punishment

   whatsoever on you. You will go to prison for one month with hard labour.”

A good example British Justice at its best!

 

 4. A RUM DO AND A NEAR MISS

During the latter part of 1946 large quantities of rum were being returned to the UK, mainly through Cardiff Docks, from Naval and Military bases overseas. It was placed under bond and received special attention from both Customs and Police.  The rum would arrive in reasonably small quantities of about two or three tons and then be stored in locked and sealed railway wagons in Tidal Sidings, a storage sidings about a mile from the docks. The wagons were under 24-hour police protection and the officer on night duty was armed with .38 Webley revolver. One officer who did regular night duty was a 50 year old Special Constable taken on during the war.  One night he reported in to the Docks Police Station that he had seen suspicious movements around the rum wagons.  Pc Nobby Clark was sent to the sidings to help out.  Apparently, the officer had seen what he thought were men moving around the far end of the wagons.  Pc Clark cautiously made his way to the end of the wagons for a look round. The rum wagon train was only one of maybe a dozen or so lines of wagons in the sidings.  Just as he arrived at the end of the line of rum wagons, a bullet ricocheted off the steel corner plate of the nearest wagon, about six inches above his head.  There was only one place the bullet could have come from so he quickly went back to where he had left the night duty officer who he found crouching down with his revolver drawn and pointing towards the end of the line of wagons.  He said “I’ve just seen someone and I think I’ve hit him”  Nobby shouted to him that it was him he had been firing at and took the revolver from him- he saw that one round had been fired.  What passed between the two men doesn’t bear repeating here but Nobby returned to the Police Station and handed the revolver to Sergeant Price and reported the incident.  The officer was reprimanded but not punished any further because to do so would have exposed the fact that he had not received any training in the use of firearms. Needless to say though, he wasn’t issued with a firearm ever again.