The murder of Richard SUNDERLAND, police-officer, No 732

Liverpool Mercury, Nov 4th, 1853

Murder of a Liverpool Police Officer in Liverpool

On Wednesday a very long inquiry took place before the borough coroner into the circumstances connected with the death of Richard SUNDERLAND, police-officer 732, who had been stabbed by a young man named Thomas COPELAND, in Cavendish St. The unfortunate deceased died shortly after the occurrence at St Anne’s Dispensary, his injuries being so serious that no medical skill proved of the least avail. The case, from its aggravated and desperate nature, excited considerable interest, and the court was crowded during the investigation. A crowd was also congregated opposite the court, anxiously awaiting the decision of the jury.

Thomas COPELAND, charged with the death of the deceased was brought up in custody. He is a young man of 19, and well known to the police, from his violent and disorderly conduct exhibited on various occasions towards those with whom he came into contact. Some time ago during a quarrel he stabbed his brother with a shoemaker's knife for which offence he was committed for trial, and sentenced to 3mths imprisonment. It is also said that he was the ringleader in a lawless which attacked a house in Everton a few weeks since, in order to gain possession of the premises. Amongst his associates he is familiarly known as "Tom COPELAND" The head-constable Captain GREIG, Sup RIDE, with several of the inspectors of police and other officers of the force [some of whom attended as witnesses], were present.

A number of witnesses were called to prove the facts of the case, which may be gathered from the following narrative :-

It appears that on Tuesday afternoon about 3pm, Jonathan EVANS, a publican in Chisenhale St, was engaged in canvassing at the municipal election.. He had the occasion to call at Mr SHAW'S, publican, Scotland Rd, to wait for a voter, and while there the prisoner COPELAND came in and asked him for something to drink. Mr EVANS refused to give him anything, and this exasperated him, as he was heard to utter threats of violence. Mr EVANS endeavoured to get the prisoner out of the house by persuasion, but failed to do so, a police-officer was sent for, under the apprehension that a disturbance might take place, a mob having by this time collected about the door. Mr EVANS then went out and shortly afterwards returned with two police-officers, whom he found in Marybone, officers Nos 63 and 94. On reaching SHAW'S house the officers found a large number of people about the door, and the prisoner amongst them, who appeared to be the sole cause of the excitement. The officers ordered the mob to disperse, they did so all except the prisoner who hung behind. The prisoner had said he would knock Mr EVANS'S skull in, and also threatened the landlady of the house. The prisoner and part of the mob then moved on to Cavendish St, where he [the prisoner] lodged in a court. As he had been pointed out to be the worst of the gang, one of the two officers WALSH, No 63, who had been sent for ordered him away. This no sooner done than the prisoner turned round and struck the officer with his fist on the side of his head, and then ran away up the street. Police-officer No 63 followed him, when he escaped in a court in Cavendish St, and took refuge in his lodgings. The officer pursued and caught him as he was going upstairs, and endeavoured to pull him down.

Inspector THORNTON then came up, and at this time the deceased SUNDERLAND, was observed standing at the door outside. Having secured the prisoner he was conveyed down the court into the street, WALSH having hold of him on one side by the neckerchief, and the deceased holding him on the other side. The inspector walked behind. Shortly after they reached the street the deceased exclaimed, "I am destroyed" and immediately it was perceived that he had a cut on the left leg of his trousers, from which blood was issuing in a copious steam. The deceased suddenly loosed his hold of the prisoner, and, after walking a few yards, lay down in the street. He was removed to the dispensary in Rose Hill, where he died within a few minutes.

The prisoner was taken to the bridewell. Evidence was adduced to show that, while in custody of the two officers he drew something from his pocket and made a thrust at the deceased, who ejaculated, "The Lord receive my soul" Shortly after this occurrence Inspector WILLIAMS proceeded to the house were COPELAND lived, his sister was engaged in washing a knife, which she threw away when perceiving the officer, uttering some exclamation of surprise.

Several witnesses spoke to the prisoners conduct throughout the occurrence, and he was also identified as having made a thrust at the deceased with his knife, and inflicting the fatal wound. It appeared he had taken up the knife from a table in his own house when being pursued by the officers and put it in his pocket. A female who kept the house where the prisoner lodged identified the knife as the one that lay on the table when the prisoner entered the house.

Mr R. C. SOMERS, the house surgeon at St Anne's dispensary, Rose Hill, deposed that he was there shortly after the deceased was brought in. He was dead when witness saw him. He discovered and incised wound in the upper part of his left thigh, upwards of 3 inches in depth and nearly 3 inches long. On making a post mortem examination he found that death had been caused by haemorrhage from the femoral artery, which was nearly divided. In all other respects the deceased was a healthy man.

The case occupied the whole day and the following are the witnesses who were examined :-

Jonathan EVANS, Chisenhale St, Mr CORNER, Chisenhale St, Patrick WALSH, police-officer 63, James BYRNES, police-officer 94, William THORNTON, inspector of scavengers, Elizabeth ATKINSON, Mary Ann YORKE, a little girl who lodged in the same house as the prisoner, Ann TURNER, Sarah WALTERS, Ann EVANS, James WILLIAMS, police-inspector, and Superintendent RIDE. After the evidence against the prisoner had been taken, he called his sister Mary COPELAND, to contradict Inspector WILLIAMS as to the finding of the knife. She swore that the knife produced was not "the knife" and upon being question by the coroner relative to the use of such a significant term she did not afford any satisfactory explanation. The prisoner when asked what she had to say in his defence, replied sullenly, "No, I have nothing further to say about the knife."

The coroner in summing up the evidence, denounced the use of the knife, and expressed his regret to find a civilised country becoming subject to a practise only peculiar to barbarous nations. Though he had no wish to see persons fight a pitched battle, he agreed with a learned judge who had said that he would prefer disputes being settled by a stand-up fight to the practise of butchering with the knife.

The jury after deliberating a few minutes returned a verdict of "Wilful murder" against COPELAND, and he was committed, under a coroner's warrant, to take his trial at the next assizes.

The result did not produce any visible effect on the prisoner. It was stated by Superintendent RIDE that the prisoner's relations had been threatening to take away the life of the mother of one of the witnesses, Ann TURNER, of Bent St, if she permitted her daughter to give evidence. The coroner after requesting the police to take all the necessary precautions in such a case, observed that if any persons attempted to carry out this threat, they would place themselves in the same position as the prisoner, inasmuch as they would become accessories after the fact. The prisoner was then removed into custody by the police.

The officer who lost his life in so horrible a manner, has left a wife and two children unprovided for.

Winter Assizes

Northern Circuit, Liverpool Dec 8th 1853

At the Crown Court, before Mr Baron ALDERSON, Thomas COPELAND, aged 19, was charged with having at Liverpool on the 1st November last, killed and murdered Richard SUNDERLAND

Mr ASPINALL and Mr BOLTON appeared fro the prosecution and Mr Tindal ATKINSON defended the prisoner.

Witnesses called to give evidence [as above], John EVANS, publican and canvasser, James KEARNS, provision dealer, who was at SHAW'S public house with last witness, William HARMER, police-officer, who went to SHAW'S public house to keep the peace, Patrick WALSH, police-officer, who assisted at SHAW'S public house, William THORNTON, inspector of scavengers, who witness the stabbing, Ann HAUGHTON, who lived in the same court as the prisoner, saw the prisoner stab the officer and throw the knife, which was picked up by Thomas FLUSHAM, who gave it to Thomas KILCOYNE, who have both left the neighbourhood. Marianne YORK, a little girl who lived in the same house as the prisoner and saw him pick up the knife from the table and run up the stairs with it. Ann TURNER, saw the prisoner pull a knife out of his pocket and stab the deceased in the thigh. Also the surgeon of the hospital.

Mr Tindal ATKINSON addressed the jury for the prisoner contending that the deceased was not justified in taken the prisoner into custody, and that under the circumstances he had only been guilty of manslaughter.

His Lordship in summing up said there was no doubt the prisoner took away the life of the deceased, which would be murder or not according to the circumstances, a police-officer might apprehend for a misdemeanour committed in his presence, but after its committal he could not apprehend without a warrant. By a local act of the borough of Liverpool, an officer of the borough may apprehend without a warrant any person after the commission of the misdemeanour. The question, therefore was, whether officer WALSH was legally authorised to arrest the prisoner. The crowd dispersed the prisoner lagged behind, and WALSH pushed him and hit him with a stick as far as the corner of Cavendish St, here he endeavoured to grab the prisoner who stooped, and then struck the officer on the head, if that blow was revenge for the pushes and blows he had received from the officer's stick, it was a misdemeanour, if to prevent further violence being offered to him, it was not. If the detention of the prisoner was illegal, the question then arose, did the prisoner use efforts for his rescue which were so disproportionate and excessive as to indicate that malice accompanied the stab? I f they were of the opinion that such was the case, then the prisoner would be guilty of murder, and if they were of the opinion of the contrary opinion, he would be guilty of manslaughter only.

The jury retired and after being absent for an hour, found a verdict of "Guilty of manslaughter"

His Lordship in passing sentence, observed that, unfortunately, the use of the knife could no longer be termed an un-English crime. It was necessary, when such cases were proved, to pass a severe sentence.

The sentence was that he be transported for life.


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