Wednesday, 17 May 2017

The Murder of Chorlton’s ‘Little Bobby’ ………… Who killed Constable Cock? by Angela Buckley*

Like many who live in Chorlton I knew something of the murder of PC Cock in 1876.

Cover of Who Killed Constable Cock? 2017
It was a crime that shook the township and was covered in some detail by the national newspapers.

But I always wanted to know more and in particular to dispel some of the myths about the event.

And so I was pleased when Angela  got in touch today to tell me that her new book on the crime was about to be published, and of course I couldn’t resist asking her to introduce the story for the blog.*

She kindly also allowed me to use two of the illustrations, and so that just leaves me to hand over to Angela.

“At midnight on Tuesday 1 August 1876, PC Nicholas Cock was on duty in Chorlton. It was a dry and cloudy evening, with little moonlight, and the police officer was approaching the junction of Manchester Road, Upper Chorlton Road and Seymour Grove, known as West Point.

As he walked along the wide footpath overhung with trees towards the ‘Jutting Stone’, which marked the limit of his beat, he was joined by two more men: PC James Beanland, and law student John Massey Simpson, who was on his way home after a night out.

The three men exchanged pleasantries before Simpson left. When he was 150 yards away, he heard two loud shots ring out in the night. The student turned around to see flashes of light behind him in the pitch dark. Hearing screams of, ‘Oh, murder, murder; I’m shot, I’m shot’, Simpson rushed back to the junction, to find PC Cock slumped on the pavement near the garden wall of the large house, also known as West Point (it later became The Seymour Hotel).

PC Cock, 1876
Even in the dim light, he could see the unmistakable stain of blood spreading across the police officer's chest: Nicholas Cock had been shot.

PC Beanland blew his whistle and soon more officers arrived on the scene. They quickly hailed two passing night soil men, who took Cock in their cart to a doctor’s surgery. By 1 am, Cock was settled on Dr Dill’s sofa, where the doctor tried to revive him with brandy and water.

Ten minutes later the semi-conscious police officer died - the bullet had passed through his ribs into his spinal column, causing a massive haemorrhage.

Shortly before PC Cock's death, Superintendent James Bent, of the Manchester Division of Lancashire Constabulary, had arrived, after receiving the news of the shooting just after midnight. The experienced officer knew instantly who had committed this terrible crime: ‘I suspected these men from the first.’

Bent's prime suspects were the Habron brothers, three Irish labourers who lived close to the spot where PC Cock had been shot.  John, 24, Frank, 22 and William aged 18, were all employed in the nursery gardens of Francis Deakin, at Firs Farm, where they lived in an outhouse in the grounds. The brothers had crossed the path of PC Cock many times and threatened him, especially when he interfered with their drinking in the Royal Oak and the Lloyds Hotel.

The murder scene, 1876
As soon as he heard about the incident, Superintendent Bent instructed his men to surround the small brick building, where the brothers were alleged to be. After the officer's death, Bent joined his colleagues at Deakin’s nursery and arrested all three Habron brothers.

A painstaking investigation led by Superintendent Bent followed. There were plenty of clues: sets of footprints that matched the suspects' muddy boots, percussion caps found in their clothing and a bullet discovered at the scene. Superintendent Bent would stop at nothing to bring PC Cock's killer to justice, despite the contradictory evidence of key eye witnesses, shifting alibis and a mystery man spotted at the crime scene. This led to an extraordinary case featuring a controversial detective, a startling revelation and a grave miscarriage of justice.

PC Nicholas Cock was just 21 years old when he was killed.

He was born in Cornwall, in 1856 and, like his father, he worked in a copper mine. When he lost his job, due to the widespread closure of the mines, he moved first to Durham, and then to Manchester.

He joined the Lancashire Constabulary at the end of 1875, and was stationed in Chorlton. After his murder, the local press described him as ‘a very active officer, punctual in the discharge of his duties.’ Locally he was known affectionately as the ‘Little Bobby’ and was buried in the churchyard on Chorlton Green.”

And the rest is as they all to be read in Who Killed Constable Cock? by Angela Buckley is now available for pre-order on Amazon

Location; Chorlton

Pictures; courtesy of Angela Buckley

*Angela Buckley,

** Who Killed Constable Cock? by Angela Buckley is now available for pre-order on Amazon

1 comment:

  1. I can understand the doctor trying to revive the poor fellow with brandy and water. But interfering with drinkers in The Royal Oak ?