The murder of Constable Green: a miscarriage of justice?

In 1873, Constable James Green, of the Cheshire Constabulary was mur­dered in circumstances indicating extreme brutality. This is the only instance known of the murder of a Cheshire police officer. Green, who was thirty years of age and a native of Handbridge, Chester, had been a member of the County Force for a period of six years. He was stationed at Bradwall near Sandbach serving under the command of Superintendent Rowbottom of Middlewich and Inspector Hulme of Sandbach.

Observation duties for Constable Green

On a Monday evening in late February, Green expressed his inten­tion to spend some time in plain clothes keeping observation on a James Buckley who resided at Moss Green near the hamlet of El­worth. Buckley, a farm worker, had several previous convic­tions for larceny and was believed to be still engaged in petty pilfering (it was later said that his cottage was “full of stolen property”).

Inspector Hulme offered to provide a companion for Green, but the latter declined the offer. Green was not seen again until the fol­lowing Friday, when, after continual inquiries, his body, grossly injured, was recovered from the Trent / Mersey canal at Moss Bridge, a quarter of a mile from Buckley’s cottage. Medical evidence as­cribed death to the rupture of internal organs combined with twenty-three cut wounds caused by a sharp instrument about the head.

The arrest of Buckley

Following inquiries by Superintendent Rowbottom, Buckley was arrested at a farm on which he was working at Elton. He was seen to be suffering from injuries to the face, two black eyes, a bruised fore­head and a lacerated nose. These he accounted for by saying he had been injured by branches of a tree he had recently pruned.

Search of the prisoner’s cottage revealed a number of bloodstained tools, a garden fork and other things, he accounted for the blood by saying he had slaughtered a pig in the yard of his cottage. These were submitted for expert examination to Professors Calvert and Williamson of Owen’s College, Manchester, and Dr.Taylor, Professor of the School of Medicine, Liverpool. In subsequent evidence none of the professors would say more than the stains on the implements were “animal blood stains”. A Dr. Brown of Liverpool said he could not swear positively that the blood was human. “It might or might not be pig’s blood.” Professor Williamson said “he could not distinguish be­tween human and pig’s blood especially after it had become dry”.

After a two-day trial at the Assizes, Buckley was acquitted by the jury after an absence of ten minutes.

The case also brought out another point of interest. It was revealed that the Police Committee of the Court of Quarter Sessions whilst doing all it could legally do in paying to Green’s widow (with three children) a gratuity of £66 18s. 4d. (equivalent to one year’s pay), appealed to the Magistrates of the County for subscriptions to a trust fund. Other collections brought in: Residents of Sandbach and dis­trict, £44; Cheshire Constabulary, £52; Lancashire Constabulary, £34; what the Magistrates Subscribed is not on record.