Desperate Chase After A Burglar

One thing is quickly becomes apparent when reading the accounts of the many types of criminal activity that found their way into the pages of the Victorian newspapers, when a police officer went on duty – and this could apply to any officer in any part of the country – they never knew exactly what the day would hold in store for them.

On Thursday 17th July, 1890, the police set off in pursuit of a burglar in Cambridgeshire, and the story would be featured in newspapers across the land in the days that followed.

Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper told the story of the chase and its outcome in its edition of Sunday, 20th July, 1890:-


“A desperate chase of an armed burglar took place on Thursday between Cambridge and Royston.

Half-a-dozen houses had been broken into in Cambridge on the previous night, and both the borough and county police took up the chase.


When the first up train from Cambridge to Royston stopped at Shepreth a suspicious-looking person, who had booked for Hitchin, entered the train, carrying a bag.

Detective Clark and Serjeant Quincey, of Cambridge, had travelled in the guard’s brake, which they left, and were about to enter the compartment where the suspicious individual was seated, when the man jumped out on the other side of the train, leaving his bag in the carriage.


Having scaled a fence, a man named Chamberlain followed in close pursuit, but the supposed burglar, drawing a revolver, threatened to shoot him unless he stopped.

The police took up the chase with Chamberlain, wading rivers and traversing cornfields, where the runaway was lost for a time.

He was next seen doubling back across the railway, and, at Melbourne, the police and public were in full cry.


The pursuers drew upon the fugitive at Royston, where he fired upon Inspector Goodyear at close quarters, swearing as he fired that he would never give himself up.

Turning the revolver upon himself, he fired two more shots, one in the ear, and one in the mouth, and fell dead just as Superintendent Carlow, Superintendent Whitchurch, and Detective Clark came up.

The body was removed to the Royston hospital.

Silver plate and other missing property were found in the bag which was left in the train.

Sketches showing scenes from the chase.
From The Illustrated Police News, Saturday, 26th July, 1890. Copyright, The British Library Board.


The deceased man was photographed, and the London police communicated with for the purpose of identification. He was wearing a soft brown felt hat, and light “mutton-chop” whiskers, and is about 40 years of age.

He was in his shirt-sleeves, and wet from going through the river in his attempt to escape.

It appears on further inquiry that the deceased had entered, and attempted to enter, several houses at Cambridge.


On Wednesday night, information was given to the police of a burglary in Cintra Terrace, and Detectives Carter and Clarke were called up.

Later on, there came reports of further burglaries or attempts, at Brookside. Amongst the places broken into was a stable, the burglar evidently designing to make his escape a la Dick Turpin. He must, however, have been disturbed before he could secure a horse.

Another burglary was committed on the Trumpington Road, which is in the county jurisdiction.


Detective Clark drove to Melbourne, warning the police en route.

He then returned to Cambridge in time to take the first train towards London, when; with another officer, they got on the track of the burglar at Shepreth station.

The chase of the burglar after he fled from the train at Shepreth until he killed himself at Roston lasted for several hours, and the police state that something like 23 miles were covered; although, more probably, it was nearer 15.”


At first, it proved nigh on impossible to identify the deceased burglar. But, as The Illustrated Police News reported, on Saturday, 26th July, 1890, the circulation of the description of him soon bore fruit:-

“After the inquest on the burglar who shot himself when brought to bay at Royston had been adjourned on Saturday for want of evidence of identity, a woman named Batten, who came from Luton, arrived at Royston, to see if the deceased was her husband, she having seen particulars of the tragedy in the daily papers.

Immediately on seeing the body at the hospital, she exclaimed, “O0h! that is my poor Dick.”


She stated that his name was Richard Batten, and that he was forty-four years of age, and kept the Volunteer public-house at Brache-street, Luton.

He left home, she added, on Wednesday morning, stating that he was going to Oxfordshire to see his friends, his father, Richard Batten, living at Rose Hill, near  Oxford.

Seeing the account of the tragedy, she telegraphed to Oxford, and, finding that he had not been there, she journeyed to Royston.


She married Batten three years ago while she was an attendant and he was a gardener at Arlesey Asylum, and she knew but little of his past history.

She is left with four young children. Much sympathy is felt for Mrs. Batten.

Her first husband was killed by a patient at the asylum, and, on seeing the body of Battent on Saturday afternoon, she said, “This is worse than the other.””


The Sheffield Evening Telegraph, in its edition of Tuesday, 29th July, 1890, reported on the inquest verdict, but also mentioned that Richard Patten was, most certainly, something of a dark horse:-

“The adjourned Inquest on the body of Richard Batten, the burglar who shot himself when brought to bay near Royston, was held at the police station yesterday evening.

Two women, one living at Luton and the other at Kennington Lane, claim to be his wife.

The Jury returned a verdict that the man came to his death by shooting himself in the head with a revolver, and commended the courageous conduct the police who chased Batten.”