Attempted Murder Of Constable Whittemore

On 14th December, 1888, Police Constable Walter Whittimore (the early newspaper reports spell his name as Whittemore), of the Metropolitan Police’s X Division, was shot in the leg whilst trying to apprehend two burglars in the district of North Kensington in West London.

The West London Observer, broke the story of the constable’s ordeal, and of his great courage in the execution of his duty, on Saturday, 22nd December, 1888:-

ATTEMPTED MURDER OF A POLICEMAN AT NOTTING HILL

On Saturday, much excitement was caused throughout the district of North Kensington and the surrounding neighbourhood, when it became known that a determined attempt had been made about midnight the previous evening in Charles’s Square, North Kensington, not only to commit burglary, but also to murder Police-constable Whittemore, of the X division, by shooting him when he attempted to effect the arrest of the burglars.

It appears that Police-constable Walter Whittemore, 879 X, stationed at Notting Dale Station, who for some months past has been employed, owing to his being known as a very intelligent and active officer, on plain-clothes duty, was on Friday night, about a quarter-past eleven, passing along St. Mark’s Road, Notting Hill, when he noticed two men, one of whom he knew to be a well-known burglar, and who has not been long out of penal servitude on ticket-of-leave, and noticing that their movements were very suspicious, he tracked them through several thoroughfares, and saw the men examine several doors.

THEY ATTACKED HIM

He followed them till they went into the garden of No. 58, St. Charles’s Square, North Kensington, and, whilst they were busily engaged doing something to the doorway, he crept silently after them, seizing hold of one of them, whereupon the other man struck him several violent blows about the body, making him release the other man, who directly struck him. He took from his pocket a life-preserver, with which he struck one of his assailants on the back, after they closed with him, and, after which, striking him several times, he was thrown to the ground.

One of the men, whose name is Murphy, thereupon took from his pocket a loaded revolver, and, with an oath, fired at the officer, the bullet taking effect in his leg, after which the other man remarked to him, “Take that!”, at the same time kicking him in the body.

The officer, owing to the loss of blood, was unable to rise up, and the men seeing this quickly made good their escape.

A sketch showing the police constable struggling with two men.
From The Illustrated Police News, Saturday, 29th December, 1888. Copyright, The British Library Board.

MR. DEAN HEARD MOANING

A few minutes late, Mr. Dean, the occupier of the house, heard a moaning noise outside, on which he went to ascertain the cause, when he found the officer, Whittemore, lying in the garden, and he was at once told by Whittemore that he had been shot by burglars, and he asked him to blow his whistle for assistance.

The result was that some police officers soon arrived, and it was found that Whittemore had become insensible.

A DESCRIPTION AT THE INFIRMARY

Dr. Lunn, the medical superintendent of the Marylebone Infirmary, was called to see him, and, by his advice, an ambulance was obtained, and the officer Whittemore was removed to the Marylebone Infirmary.

After being placed bed, and restoratives having been administered, he recovered his senses, and gave his superior officers, who had been summoned to his bedside, a detailed account of what had transpired, and also a full description of his would-be murderers, and the latter was at once telegraphed around to all metropolitan police stations, and officers were sent out to search for them.

THOMAS MURPHY IDENTIFIED

On Saturday, Detective-inspector Morgan, of the X Division, who found Thomas Murphy at Harrow Road Police Station, took him to the Notting Dale Police Station, where he was detained for some hours, after which he was taken to the bedside of Constable Whittemore, at the Marylebone Infirmary, who, without any hesitation, identified him as being the man who shot and injured him.

Detective-inspector Morgan took him back to the police station, where he was charged with attempting to murder Police Constable Whittemore by shooting him with a revolver, in St. Charles Square, and further with attempted burglary.

THOMAS MURPHY IN COURT

Thomas Murphy, who was described as a labourer, was charged before Mr. Paget at the Hammersmith Police Court on Monday with being concerned with another man, not in custody, with being in the front garden of a house in St. Charles’s Square, Notting Hill, for an unlawful purpose, and with shooting Police-constable Walter Whittemore, 879 X, with intent to murder.

Detective-Inspector Morgan, who had charge of the case, said the constable was still in the Marylebone Infirmary.

He proposed to call the doctor to prove the wound, and the constable who arrested the prisoner, and then to ask for a remand.

DR LUNN’S TESTIMONY

Mr. John Reuben Lunn, medical superintendent at Marylebone Infirmary, said that Police-constable Whittemore was under his care, suffering from a bullet wound under the left knee joint. When he first saw him, he was suffering from a concussion of the brain, caused by a blow on the head, but he had recovered from the shock.

At the suggestion of the inspector, the doctor was questioned as to where he found the constable.

He stated that he found him at a quarter to twelve o’clock on the 14th in the front garden of 58, St. Charles’s Square, and that he had him removed to the infirmary in the ambulance.

He had probed the wound, but he could not find the bullet. He believed it was in the leg, as there was no outlet. There was a hole in the trousers, corresponding with the wound, which was burnt round at the entrance.

Mr. Paget:- “If it was burnt the weapon must have been fired close to it.”

Mr. Lunn:-  “It must have been.”

Mr. Paget:- “At the time you found him was he insensible? ”

Mr Lunn:- “Yes, sir.”

INSPECTOR MORGAN’S TESTIMONY

Inspector Morgan deposed that, at half-past eleven o’clock on Saturday night, he saw the prisoner at Harrow Road Police Station in the custody of Police Constable Ross.

He told him that he would be charged with shooting Police Constable Whittemore on Friday night, and that he supposed that he had already been made acquainted with it.

He said, “Yes. I slept last night at a place at Notting Dale, I think 46, St. Clement’s Road, I can point out the place. I went home at about eight o’clock last evening, and I did not go out afterwards. My wife was with me, and we went to bed at half-past nine, and we did not get up until nine o’clock this morning. We occupy the front parlour, and have been there since Sunday night”

THE WIFE’S STATEMENT

He took him to Notting Hill, where he pointed out the room where he lodged.

The witness saw the woman, who was supposed to be the prisoner’s wife, and he asked her to account for where he was between eight o’clock on Friday evening and one or two that morning.

She made a statement in the prisoner’s presence.

She said- “I have known Thomas Murphy for about seven months. We have lodged here for a week. He was at home with me from seven o’clock and we were in bed together until eight o’clock this morning. I am quite sure he was not out between ten and twelve last night. I am not married to Murphy.”

The witness searched the room and found nothing relating the charge.

THE IDENTIFICATION

On Sunday morning, at eleven o’clock, he took the prisoner to the constable who had previously given a description of him.

As he was known to the constable, the witness thought that it would be a farce to place him with other men for identification.

The constable saw the prisoner and said that he was the man who had shot him.

The prisoner said, “I did nothing of the kind, I was home in bed.”

Whitemore stated that he had known him for about twelve months, and had seen him several times, the last time three weeks ago at Hammersmith.

CONSTABLE WHITTEMORE’S STATEMENT

A statement made by the constable in the presence of the prisoner at the Infirmary was then put in evidence.

He stated that:-

“At eleven o’clock, p.m., on the 14th of December, I was at the corner of Harnett Road when I saw the prisoner with a shorter man. Knowing Murphy, I watched them.

They walked from one side of the road to the other near the new buildings.

They went into St. Mark’s Road and to St. Charles’s Square.

The other man entered the garden, and, a few seconds later, the prisoner followed after.

I then entered the garden and caught hold of the other man, and asked him what he was doing there. He struggled with me, and struck me with his fist. I struck him with my staff. The prisoner then struck me on the back of the head with something. I do not know what, but it was not with his fist, I did not fall.

Seeing he was coming at me a second time, I struck at him, but did not hit him. I heard a report and saw a flash, and I think it was the prisoner who said, “Take that, you –.’”

I still held hold of the other man, and I am quite sure that he had not fired at me.

I felt a sensation all down my left leg.

Both then appeared to rush at me. I fell down, and I remember no more until I found myself in bed in the infirmary.”

THE PRISONER SAID HE WAS LYING

The prisoner several times denied the truth of the statement, and said to the constable “You will get your reward for this.”

The Prisoner:- “The last words are lies. I said it is a wonder you are not struck dead for telling these lies.

Inspector Morgan:- “He did say that. It was before that he made the remark.”

Mr. Paget:- “There are two meanings to it. He may have meant that the constable would be rewarded for his courage.”

Inspector Morgan:- “I took it the other way.”

CONSTABLE ROSS’S TESTIMONY

Police Constable Ross was called to prove the arrest.

He stated that the prisoner had used an epithet, and said:- “What will they charge me with next?”

The prisoner denied using the epithet.

THE PRISONER WAS REMANDED

Inspector Morgan then applied for remand, and said that he was informed by Mr. Lunn that the constable would not be able to appear for a fortnight.

Mr. Paget remanded prisoner for a week.

NO BULLET FOUND

It appears that the garden was searched at the time for the bullet, but it could not be found.

The constable is going on favourably, and is expected to be out in a few days.”

THOMAS MURPHY ON TRIAL

Thoams Murphy appeared at the Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey), charged with feloniously shooting Police Constable Whittimore, with intent to murder him, on Tuesday, 4th February, 1889.

WILLIAM BEAMONT’S TESTIMONY

The witnesses who had appeared as his previous hearing were called to give evidence against him, and, in addition, William Beamont was also called.

He testified that:-

“I am a boot and shoemaker, and live at 21, St. Clement’s Road, Notting Dale, about half a mile from St. Charles’ Square.

I have known the prisoner for about fourteen years.

I have seen him about once or twice a week during the last six months in the vicinity of Notting Dale.

I know Whittimore by sight. I heard through the inspector that he was shot.

On Friday night, 14th December, 1888, I saw the prisoner in St. Clement’s Road; he was alone, standing opposite an eel-shop, from seven to a quarter-past.

A man came up and said something to him, I did not catch what it was. Murphy replied, “Yes,” and put his hand under his left breast coat, and said, “I have the barker; if he barks he will b—y well bite.”

He pulled out a small revolver.

He saw me, turned around and said to me, “Who the b—y hell are you looking at?”

With that, I walked away, and both of them went towards St. Katherine’s Road.”

CROSS-EXAMINED BY THE PRISONER

Under cross-examination from Thomas Murphy, Beamont stated that:-

“I am positive you are the man I saw on the 14th. I read the account of this in the newspaper on the Sunday following. I spoke to a neighbour, and wondered whether it referred to you.

I do not know the detectives connected with this case; I have not received any money for coming here.

I did not appear at the Police-court on the first remand, because I did not know that I was wanted till the police came for me.

I am not the deputy of a common lodging-house.

I have never been convicted of felony.

I have known you about fourteen years; I lost sight of you for a considerable time.”

HE PROTESTED HIS INNOCENCE

From the dock, Thomas Murphy, once more protested his innocence, maintaining that:

“…what Police-constable Whittimore has sworn is false, and likewise the other witness, Beaumont. I went home that Friday night about eight o’clock, and did not leave my room till nine o’clock on Saturday morning. I am innocent of this charge.”

He also stated that the police had a grudge against him.”

SENTENCED TO TEN YEARS

The jury, however, found him guilty of “wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm, and of attempting to resist his lawful apprehension”. and the Judge, Mr. Justice Charles, having observed that Murphy was, “a very old criminal, who had undergone two terms of seven and eight years’ penal servitude”, sentenced him to ten years penal servitude.

The Jury commended  Constable Whittemore for his courageous conduct, and they strongly recommended him to the Chief Commissioner.

The Judge stated that he fully concurred in this acknowledgement of bravery, and sais that he should order the constable a reward of £10.

However, as we shall see in part two of this intriguing story, a great miscarriage of justice had, in fact, taken place; and, within a year, Police Constable Whittimore’s reputation would lie in tatters.