Monday, 6 September 2010

An Unsolved Murder in Northumberland

Another unsolved murder took place in 1873 at Eglingham, though it is more than likely that we can now identify the killer. By this date a regular constabulary had been established in Northumberland, each man having a regular beat which he walked around to keep an eye on the people and places of his area. Thus it was that at 3am PC Grey was tramping along the lane just outside Eglingham.

It seems that Grey saw something suspicious in a nearby field for he climbed the fence and began walking, then running over the ploughed ground. He was then shot at close range with a shotgun, falling to the ground and dying soon after. The sound of the gunshot brought men running from the village, one of whom saw three men running off toward some nearby woods.

The police were called, and they searched the area. They found the bootmarks of three different men in the field, together with some discarded game. Clearly Grey had come across poachers, given chase and been killed for his devotion to duty. One of the bootmarks showed a clear split or cut along the heel.

The police went out to round up all the known poachers of the area in order to inspect their boots. One Charles Richardson was found to have a boot with a cut along the heel. He was promptly arrested along with George Edgell, a known accomplice of his. Despite the evidence of the boot mark, Edgell and Richardson walked free. There was no evidence that either of them owned a shotgun, and both had witnesses who stated that they were miles away from Eglingham on the night in question.

Then, six years later, Edgell was arrested again, this time for poaching. When he was searched Edgell was found to be carrying goods that linked him to a burglary at Edlingham in the course of which the houseowner had been shot and seriously wounded. Realising he had no defence against either charge, Edgell decided to turn queen’s evidence and testify against his fellow burglar who had fired the almost fatal shot: it was none other than Charles Richardson. There can be little doubt that Richardson had also shot and killed PC Grey, though this was never proven.

This is an extract from Mysterious Northumberland by Rupert Matthews

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