In October 1808, James Inwood, who rented a fishery in Rickmansworth, concerned about poachers, was keeping watch with Thomas Tochfield, and three others, Davy, Walker & Ellingham. At 4 am in the morning they spotted William Goodman, who it seemed had come to steal fish from the water. He was however actually taking eels that had already been caught by Inwood and were contained in baskets and being stored within the fishery lake.
When Goodman realized he had been spotted, he jumped into the water and swum upstream. James Inwood who had armed himself with a cutlass, chased after him and on catching him a struggle ensued. Goodman was stronger and Inwood called for help. Just before help arrived, Goodman slipped out of his jacket and made good his escape. From the jacket and contents they were able to identify the offender as William Goodman.
During the struggle however Inwood had mortally wounded Goodman who died a few days later at his home. Inwood was arrested for murder and put before the Hertford Assizes.
At his trial, Inwood explained that Goodman had on seeing he was about to be caught, grabbed him and pulled him into the water, in fear of being drowned he had hit out with his cutlass before Goodman had run off.
The trial revolved around the laws of Theft and poaching. Had Goodman been after fish he would have been poaching – that was an offence of trespass. The fact that he was after the eels, was the key factor, as having already been caught and held in baskets meant they were the property of Inwood. To take property belonging to another was a Theft – a felony. The law was clear that where any person who suspected a felony was about to be committed on his property, might call for the help of a peace officer, and that the felon (thief) if he would not submit to arrest might forfeit his life.
Inwood was therefore acquitted.