Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Nothing in the Papers

It was a summer evening in 1895 when a Cockney tramp, one Charles Rogers, stepped out of a Rhayader hostelry wondering where he would spend the night.  The town's police officers - James Niblett and Thomas Lloyd had recently joined the Radnorshire force from the Shropshire Constabulary, while Arthur Thomas had only been a policeman for a few weeks - were sure that Rogers should not be allowed to disturb the peace of the town.

Two uniformed figures were seen following Rogers as he wandered off in the direction of Builth and a few minutes later shouts and the sound of a beating could be heard.  The next morning Hugh Mason, a postman, discovered the tramp, lying in a pool of blood by the roadside.  Rogers was carried to the nearby workhouse where his condition was described as critical, his back covered in welts, much bruising and suspicions of severe internal injuries.

All very depressing but ........  a few days later the three officers were up before the magistrates.  Lloyd had witnesses who put him in Cwm Elan at the time of the attack but Niblett and Thomas were bailed to the next assizes in Presteigne.  Half a dozen townsfolk had no hesitation in standing up to give evidence against the pair, the jury returned guilty verdicts and Niblett and Thomas received nine months hard labour for the beating administered to the, by then, recovered tramp.

You won't find any mention of this event in Inspector Maddox's History of the Radnorshire Constabulary but then the popular inspector also failed to cover the forced resignation* of the Chief Constable Elystan Lloyd a couple of years later, surely the most momentous event in the history of the county force. Organisations like to keep their dirty washing firmly out of sight, even if, in the Inspector's case, it was some 60 years or more after the event!  How pleased such institutions and their servants must be with the Leveson proposals and how puzzled the commoners of the 1890s would have been with the pathetic clamour to muzzle the press.

* The Home Office refused to hand over the county's £800 policing grant  until the Chief Constable was replaced.

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