A historical Cheshire murder trial may have got quite a different outcome with today’s high-tech forensic investigation.

Police Constable 54 James Green – the only Cheshire police officer ever to be murdered in the line of duty – died on 24th February 1873. And prime suspect James Buckley was found Not Guilty as it could not be proven whether blood found on his clothes and in his garden was from a human or two pigs he had slaughtered.

Buckley was known to have a grudge against PC Green. He told an acquaintance that he had never spoken to the officer, and then mumbled that one day he would seek revenge. For Green had been a witness in the trial when Buckley was accused of stealing two bales of hay.

PC Green, born on 6th December 1837 in Newport Salop, joined the Police in 1867 aged 30. He was happily married to May and had three sons. Sadly, she died from consumption aged 28 in 1876. He was initially posted to the Reserve Division on a pay of 20 shillings.  In 1871 he received a good conduct report for apprehending a deserter.

In 1873 he was working from Bradwell near to Sandbach covering marshland known as Moston Flash – bounded by the Trent and Mersey Canal. Often, he was away on observations for a couple of days.

PC Green had his suspicions

On 24th February 1873 he told Inspector Hulme he was suspicious of Buckley and would watch him that night. The officer was not seen again until his body was recovered from the canal on Friday 28th February 1873.

His body was taken to Poyntons Stable in Sandbach for a post mortem. There were 23 cuts to his head and face and masses of bruises. Green also had a fractured nose, two blackeyes, cuts to both hands and leg bruising.

He was in full uniform covered with a corduroy jacket. He was deemed to be dead before being put into the canal.

His watch was stopped at 9 minutes past 3 believed to be caused by the water. In the pocket of his jacket was a loaded pistol half-cocked.

The police team went looking for Buckley, 45, a gardener. He was found at Suttons Farm Moston Green using a thrashing machine to stack straw.

Buckley’s face and hands were covered in cuts and bruises. He said he had fallen from an apple tree in a garden, but there was little evidence to substantiate this.

Officers searched Buckley’s house. They found a waistcoat hanging on line, which he said he had been wearing when he slaughtered two pigs.

Buckley was taken to Poyntons Stable where Green’s body lay. He was charged with killing Green and taken to the Bridewell. A pocket knife, an axe, sacking, and samples of stones and a paving flag were taken from the site. Blood and hair from the items were analysed.

On Saturday February 29th 1873 Buckley was charged at Sandbach Magistrates Court with Wilful Murder of James Green. The trial was at Cheshire Spring Assizes at Chester on April 4 and 5 1873.

Human or pig blood?

Forensic evidence from William Crawford Williamson Professor of Comparative Anatomy and Physiology of Owens College Manchester showed a considerable amount of blood on sacking and a bag. After examination he was unable to confirm whether it was from a human or pigs. A piece of human hair with the bulb attached and a small blood clot was attached to the sack. Evidence showed it must have been moist to stick to the sack. Buckley’s knife was covered in blood. Evidence showed blood on his waistcoat, shirt and spade – but it could not be confirmed as human.

After the Judge’s summing up, the Jury retired at 6.20pm…returning just 10 minutes later at 6.30pm to give a Not Guilty verdict.