Saturday, 9 May 2015

The Murder of PC George Gutteridge

It has been taken as read that the two men convicted and hanged for the murder of PC George Gutteridge, were the actual culprits.  However, one researcher and author, Robin O`Dell, has the opinion that one of the executed men WAS guilty but the Police framed an innocent man, all the way to the gallows.  After all, a Police Officer had been murdered, and so the culprit or somebody else, has to pay.  The murder of the officer also brought a massive breakthrough in forensics, with the introduction of the comparison microscope for bullet analysis, courtesy of firearms expert, Robert Churchill.

    Events began on September 27th 1927, when a postal worker found the body of PC Gutteridge, lying in a country lane near to Stapleford Abbots, in Essex.  He had been shot a number of times.  He had received a shot through both of his eyes.  Immediately, Scotland Yard were called in and put in charge of the murder hunt were Chief Inspector Berrett, assisted by Sergeant Robson.  Tyre marks were found in the lane, along with blood from the stricken officer.  Reports came in of the theft of a vehicle belonging to a doctor.  Looking up potential suspects, a name did surface as a possibility.  That of Frederick Browne, a car thief with prison time behind him.  So now the search was on for Browne.  It took Police four months to track him to a garage in Clapham.  He was arrested in the garage office, after bringing a stolen vehicle there.  Now he was said to have made very incriminating remarks about they being lucky that he as not in his car or he would have shot them.  Amazing that when Police confront somebody, they have a compulsion to say the most damaging remarks guaranteed to help a jury convict them.  They did it with Hanratty, and with Christopher Craig.  In this country, it is known as verballing.

    A search of the car produced two firearms plus a search of his home yielded two more.  The doctor`s car had been found with blood on it plus a spent cartridge case.  The guns were handed to Churchill who proved one was the murder weapon.  Browne was charged with murder.  Berrett and Robson now looked at his associates and came up with William Kennedy, who did time with Browne in Dartmoor Prison.  The search was now on for Kennedy. He was traced to Liverpool, where he had just married.  When Police moved in, the suspect then attempted to SHOOT the Police, but failed after he left the safety catch on.  Taken to London, Kennedy then proceeded to make the most astonishingly detailed confession, which Berrett said Kennedy made voluntarily and without any questions or prompting from them.  He put the blame firmly on Browne.  On trial at the Old Bailey, they were convicted and sentenced to death.  Browne was hanged at Pentonville and Kennedy at Wandsworth on 31st May 1928.

    Robin O`Dell wrote a book on the case "The Long Drop" in which he states that a witness told Police of two men by the doctor`s house the night the car was stolen.  Despite the distance they were away from him, one description loosely fitted Kennedy but the other did not match Browne.  Browne had an alibi that he was in his flat with his wife, a fact confirmed by his landlady.  But this was never raised at the trial by Browne.  Was it due to some perverted "Code of Honour" of keeping your mouth shut at all costs? Even if it means your death?  Frankie Fraser once said "If you are facing the drop and you know who the killer is, you keep quiet and get topped!"  Mighty big of him!  This is the only possible instance of this "code" I have ever come across.  O`Dell questions the remarkable statement made "voluntarily" by Kennedy.  A statement that conveniently answered all the questions.  He believes Kennedy committed the murder alone.  But it asks the question "Who was the second man seen by the witness  if it was not Browne, and the other was Kennedy?  Also Berrett and Robson were huge and physically imposing men.  Was some threats made to get a statement?  after all, a Policeman had been murdered.  So was Browne innocent? Or was he guilty along with Kennedy?  They worked together before their arrest so the discovery of the guns in the car could be explained away.  Or were they working in union?