There can be no doubt that Victorian police officers were a plucky bunch of men, who would think nothing of putting themselves at risk rather than let a criminal escape their clutches.
We are all used to reading the stories of the police activity in the hunt for Jack the Ripper as they tried to hunt down the elusive Whitechapel murderer in the dark, crime-ridden, back streets of the East End of London. But, of course, the ripper atrocities were just a few of the crimes that the officers of the Metropolitan Police encountered, and, in the newspaper reports of some of those other cases, we really do get to witness the characters, bravery, and also the senses of humour of the police officers.
The following account appeared in The Aldershot Military Gazette on Saturday, 5th July, 1873:-
A REMARKABLE CHASE
A Bow Street Police Court Police Court on the 28th ult., John William Howden, age about 22, was charged on a warrant before Mr. Flowers with an assault upon the police under the following circumstances:-
Police Constable 357 E deposed that on the 25th ult. he was in Clement’s-inn, and he saw the prisoner drunk and disorderly. Witness told him to go away quietly, but he rushed at him and struck him several severe blows.
The prisoner then rushed into one of the houses in Chapel Court, and threw stones at the witness through the skylight.
Another constable came up, and one of the stones struck him and broke his helmet.
STONES WERE THROWN
Police Constable 301 E deposed that he assisted the last witness, who suddenly cried, “Mind your head!”
A large piece of coping stone, two feet square, was then thrown from the roof, struck witness on the head, and knocked him down.
A warrant was then applied for to apprehend the prisoner.
CONSTABLE PELLAT IN PURSUIT
Thomas Pellatt, 385 E, said:-
I received the warrant, and then proceeded to Chapel Court to arrest the prisoner. I knocked at the door, but got no reply. I broke open the door, but I found that the prisoner had got on to the tiles on the roof.
He threw down a tile at me, and it nearly struck the constable who accompanied me.
THE ROOFTOP PURSUIT
We got into the house, and through the tiles up on to the roof. I followed the prisoner across several houses, and he jumped over a space of three feet, which intervened between one house and another.
If he had missed his footing he would have been killed.
I called to the prisoner to give in, but he made a nasty noise with his mouth, as if he had gained the victory.
I called out to the policeman below to make for Clement’s Inn Passage. I then returned through the trap, and passed through the house into the street.
I saw the prisoner drop about twelve feet onto another house. He has knocked in a good many ceilings through running across the roofs.
FOUND UNDER THE BED
I entered the house to which the prisoner had dropped, and which he had entered by means of a trap.
I proceeded upstairs, and upon entering a room, by the merest accident, I found the prisoner under the bed.
I pulled him out, and called for the assistance of the other constable.
HE DIDN’T VALUE LIFE
The prisoner then said, “Well, we have had a sharp run together, constable.”
I said, “Yes, but I can do the housetops as well as you.”
The prisoner then said, “I don’t value life very much.”
I said, “Well, I do. You can’t throw pantiles at a policeman for nothing” (laughter).
Mr. Flowers said it was a remarkable case, and he remanded the prisoner.”