Notable Events In Week Thirtysix

Ian Curley

Officers in Yard, 19th Century

Hertfordshire Police Historical Society

This Week In History


In an action tried before Judge Rodgers and a special jury at the Leominster County Court on Thursday, against Superintendent Strangward, of the Hertfordshire Constabulary, for arresting without a warrant in July last a young man suspected of giving poisoned meat to a dog, a verdict was given for plaintiff for £33 and costs.
West Sussex County Times

Friday 03 September 1880

The Murder Near St Albans

Herts & Cambs. Reporter & Royston Crow.

Statement by Thomas Wheeler, Yesterday at the Town Hall, St. Albans, the prisoners, Henry Wheeler, Thomas Wheeler, George Wheeler, and Ann Wheeler, were brought up in custody before the city magistrates, charged with burglariously entering the dwelling-house of Mr. Jacob Reynolds, at Bernard’s Heath Farm, on the morning of June 8. The prisoners were also charged with breaking into Mr. Wollott’s farm, at Sandwell, and the blacksmith’s shop of Mr. Page, at St. Albans the prisoner Thomas is further charged with the murder of Mr. Anstee, at Marshall’s Wick Farm, on the morning of the 22nd ult. Each of the charges were, however, taken separately. The case of Mr. Reynolds was heard first, Mr. Page second, and Mr. Wollott’s last. The murder forms an entirely different charge, being heard before the County justices, while the cases of burglary come before the City magistrates.

The proceedings were again conducted with closed doors, but the depositions were handed to the representatives of the Press. The deposition of Mr. Jacob Reynolds was first read, and stated that a burglary was committed at his premises on June 8, when a Snider rifle and other articles were stolen. He identified as his property many of the things produced, which were found at the prisoner Henry Wheeler’s house. Henry Wheeler said that the things were brought to his house at three o’clock one morning by his brother Thomas. He (Henry) objected to the property remaining in his house, but Thomas insisted on leaving it there. Mrs. Wheeler threatened, if the articles were not removed, that she would give information to the police; and when Thomas came the next morning with another lot of articles, he (Henry) told him that none of the things could remain in his house, for his wife had been uneasy all night about them. Tom said, “Look at them.” He (Henry) then said, ” Bless you! I never saw such things before, where did you get them from?” Tom replied, “They came two or three miles from St. Albans.” He was wet-footed that morning, and he said that he had come across the wheat fields. The prisoner George Wheeler said, “I saw him there that morning, but I did not see the things,” and the prisoner Ann Wheeler said, “It is quite right what my husband says; my husband gave Tom 2 shilling and George gave him 6 pence.” Thomas Wheeler said,  “I declare I was nowhere near his place. I have not been near Reynolds’  place since nine years ago.”

Superintendent Pike said, “I am superintendent of police at St. Albans. In consequence of receiving information that a murder had been committed at Marshall’s Wick Farm, and having also received a description of the person supposed to have committed the murder, I went to the prisoner Henry Wheeler’s house at Gustard Wood. I found him lying on the bed, partly dressed. I said, Have you seen anything a your brothers, Tom or John?” He said, “I have not seen John for some time, but I hear Tom is about here.” I also saw his son George and said, “What have you done with the gun?” He said he did not know anything of it. I said, “If you can’t find it I soon shall.” I had previously asked Henry about it, and be said he knew nothing of it, perhaps his son George might. George then went to his box and took the Snider rifle now produced from under some clothes. I then asked him how he accounted for it, and he replied, “I don’t know. Mother knows more about it than I do.” I then said, “Now, Mrs. Wheeler, how do you account for it, for if you cannot give a satisfactory account of it I shall have to take you and your son to St. Albans.” She then said, “Well, I may as well tell you the truth. The things were brought here by Tom.”

Police Constable Butterfield, of the Hertfordshire Constabulary, deposed that he had been in the police force a fortnight at the time of the murder, and had known Thomas Wheeler some time previously. On August 22, at 7.5 p.m., witness went to the Pine Apple Tavern, in Catherine Street, St. Albans, and on entering the tap room saw a number of persons, including Thomas Wheeler. Witness spoke to a Mr. Eason who had heard the prisoner say to William Whitehead, next to him on his right side, “Do you know whether the things are found that were stolen from Anstee’s farm this morning? ” Whitehead replied, ” I believe they were found in one of the nine fields in a stack of wheat.” Wheeler then raised a quart pot with both hands and changed all colours and trembled like a leaf. Witness then crossed the room and asked him if his name was Thomas Wheeler, and he replied in the affirmative. Witness said, “You are the man I have been looking for, for some time,” and charged him with committing a burglary at Mr. Reynolds’ farm some little time before. He said he knew nothing about it. He then raised himself from his seat and looked hard at a window as if to make an escape. Witness took hold of him and said, “It’s all right old man, you can make yourself contented you are going with me.” He seized hold of the table and said, “I’m done for.” Witness put the handcuffs on him, and taking him outside further charged him with the burglary at Mr. Wollott’s, and later on with having murdered Mr. Anstee and robbed his house that morning. He then said, “I have just come out of St. Thomas’s Hospital,” and while on the way to the Police Station, added, “I cannot walk.” Witness told him he would carry him if necessary and he then said he had done no work and had got no money, at the same time shaking his wrists as if he was trying to break his handcuffs.

Having arrived at the Police Station, the prisoner volunteered the following statement, “When I was at the Adelaide, Mr. North told me that someone wanted me. I said, I will go and see.” I then went to the Pineapple, but did not talk to anyone. I was speaking to a man named Collins, whom I told that I had been in St. Thomas’s Hospital, and had been out about a fortnight. When I left the hospital. I went home and walked about the house for the first week. I came to St. Albans on Monday by the Great Northern Railway, and on Tuesday I went to Coleman’s Green. Miss Matthews had a pig die before she got up. It was quite warm. She asked me to dress the pig, and I said I would. She tied a white apron over me. The apron came off, and some blood went on my shirt and trousers. Miss Matthews tied it on again. I went to Marford and sawed some wood for Johnson. I then went to New Mill End and passed Bates’s to see if he could give me a job. On the Saturday I went as far as the St. Albans Flower Show. I then went a mile along the Harpenden road, and was overtaken by a policeman, who asked me where I was going. I said, ‘To Harpenden, if I can get as far.’ This was about a quarter to nine. He said, “What is the matter with you?” and I replied, “I have got a bad ankle, and can hardly get on.” He said, “What are you, a harvest man?” I then went to the Bowling Green to see some friends. I reached there at a quarter-past twelve. I could not find my friends, and laid down three yards from the roadside. I laid on the furze and slept till half-past eleven on the following morning. I had breakfast at twelve, and I walked as far as Hatching’s Green. There is a pond there, and I bathed my ankle. I then went to Bernard’s Heath, where I arrived at 3.30. I cut my finger on Thursday. I then went to North’s and had some tea, and heard the children talking about the affair at Mr. Anstee’s. North went to the Queen Adelaide and had some beer, and on his return said, “They want Tom Wheeler at the Pineapple.” I then went there and saw a policeman, who said he wanted me, and I told him that I had heard so, and had come on purpose. I have nothing more to say, only that I have been a fortnight and four days in St. Thomas’s Hospital.”

The further depositions, read to the reporters, showed that another burglary had been committed at Mr. Woollott’s farm, on the Thursday previous to the murder of Mr. Anstee, and that a double-barrelled gun and other articles were stolen. The robbery was managed very adroitly. On the night in question the ricks and sheds on the premises of Mr. Woollotts Sen., of Beech Hyde Farm, were found to be on fire, and a strange man went to Mr. E. Woollott’s, jun., who resides at Bamwell’s Farm, and told him that his father’s farm was on fire. The son hurried off to his father’s assistance, and then the man entered the house and committed the robbery. At two o’clock Thomas Wheeler was placed at the bar charged with the wilful murder of Mr. Edward Anstee, at Marshall’s Wick Farm, Sandridge, on the morning of Sunday August 22nd. The evidence given on the previous occasions having been read over, the examination of the witnesses was proceeded with.

The Deputy Chief Constable, W. E. Ryder, watched the case on behalf of the police, and was the first witness called. He said from information he received, he came to St. Albans on August 22nd between six and seven o’clock. He found the prisoner, Thos. Wheeler, there, in charge of Supt. Pike, in company with Inspector Penn. He took the clothes off the prisoner, consisting of a pair of boots, a pair of corded trousers, a vest, a cord picket, a billycock hat, a shirt and a scarf. He searched the clothing, and in the waistcoat pocket found ten shots, which he produced. On the cord trousers he found fresh marks of blood, particularly on the knee; also fresh blood upon the waistcoat jacket, and on the scarf there were three large marks of blood. There was also some sort of matter on the waistcoat. There was fresh blood on the shirt, which was turned black.

Prisoner, on being asked if he had any question to ask, said, “I dressed a pig for a woman, Mrs. Matthews, last Tuesday. I cut a finger of my left hand on Thursday. The shots I bought some six months ago. I bought the gun in George Street, and gave 5 shillings for it at the Sugar Loaf. It was taken away from me the third day after I bought it. That was six months ago.” He found on the prisoner sixpence in silver, threepence in silver, and one penny in copper; also two pawn tickets, a small canvass a pocket knife, and a scarf.

Mrs. Susan Lindsay, widow, who kept Mr. Anstee’s house at the time of the murder, said the prisoner’s voice very much resembled the voice of the man who spoke to her in the house on the night of the tragedy. Police Constable Warboys deposed that he went to Mr. Anstee’s farm on Sunday, August 22nd. Police constable Quint got there at the same time. He went upstairs and searched about the premises to ascertain what had been taken. He went into the hall, and Bailey gave him the hammer now produced. Outside in the yard underneath the window of Mr. Anstee he found five more shots. He went into the diningroom and saw the sideboard and cupboard had been broken open as if with a hammer. The cupboard near the fireplace had been broken open, he should say with a steel. He picked up the steel now produced near the fireplace. The piece broken off was in the keyhole near the cupboard. The cabinet from the drawing-room had been broken open with a knife. He went into Mr. Anstee’s room, and found a tin box had been opened, and the paper strewed all over the floor. The plate box was opened but empty.

William Page, blacksmith, then gave evidence respecting the robbery of hammers from his shop, and identified the hammer as his property. Inspector Penn, Hatfield, said on the morning of August 2nd, he went into Mr. Anstee’s room, where he found the dead body of Mr. Anstee. He found a quantity of blood and brains on the window. He found some shot embedded in the frame of the window, and saw a quantity of shot marks in the ceiling of the room. He went downstairs and received from the witness Warboys the steel and hammer now produced, and he took the piece of steel from the keyhole of the cupboard. He examined the sideboard, and found that it had been broken open, and he saw some paint on the end of the hammer; afterwards compared the hammer with the mark on Mrs. Lindsay’s bedroom door, and it corresponded. He then brought the hammer to Mr. Page, and he identified it as his property. He was present when the prisoner was searched at the Police Station. He conveyed the prisoner to Hatfield that night and examined his clothes and found blood on them.

Thomas Carter was next examined. He said that on August 2nd, he was in a wheat field belonging to Mr. Smith, of Sandridge. The wheat was cut and in stacks. Under one of the stacks witness found the articles produced, all of which had been identified as the property of Mr. Anstee. Police Constable Sparkes was called to produce a gun which he found near Marshall’s Wick Farm on the morning of the murder, and Mr. Wollott identified the gun as one that was stolen from his farm. William North, a farm labourer, who had known Wheeler for the past nine years, stated that he called at his house at 2.30 on the afternoon of August 22nd, and after saying, “What a bad job that is about poor old Anstee,” asked witness to lend him a razor. Witness did so, and Wheeler shaved his upper lip and chin. Mr. Hitchcock came in just then and said that the two sons had been arrested for the murder, and they were looking after the old father. The prisoner was in an adjoining room, and must have heard what was said. He came out and said he should like some beer, and gave witness a two shilling piece to get some with. Witness went out into the yard and said to the prisoner, “For God’s sake, Tom, you don’t know anything about this job, do you?” He replied, “Bless you, Will, I am as innocent as a newly-born child,” adding, “I will go down the street and give myself up, for l am innocent.” Witness’s wife said, “Well, Tom, if you are innocent, you should give yourself up,” and he replied, “I don’t know whether I shall or not.” With that he left the house. At this stage of the proceedings the prisoner was again remanded.


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