Death in Police Cells

The Cricketer's, St Albans

From the Herts Advertiser, 31st March 1860


Report of an inquest was held on Saturday, 24th March, before R G Lowe, Esq., coroner.

William Thompson, an 82 year old chair-bottomer, Ann Spears, a gipsey who had been living with him for twenty years, and a little girl, slept in Mr Orchard’s barn, between Bedmond and Leverstock Green, on the night of Thursday, March 22nd.  On the Friday they came to St Albans , visiting the Black Horse in Spicer Street , the Vine, and the Sun. William did not eat a meal all day. Thomas Walker said: I keep the beer-house called “the Cricketers.” I knew the deceased, and have known him five or six years. He came to my house yesterday, between four and five o’clock , accompanied by his wife and little girl. He left about half-past eight. His son and another person joined him at my house and all left together.  … He was not sober when he came to my house. …

Police-constable Blakemore said: I saw deceased about twenty minutes past nine o’clock last evening. He was on the path opposite Mr. Woodwards’, lying across the foot-path. There was not any one with him. I went to “the Cricketers” and saw a person named Page, who came and  fetched deceased, and laid him on a form outside the house. [Ann Spears, William Thompson, and the little girl then went into the stable at the Cricketers.] I went up there again about half-past eleven, and deceased, a woman, and a child were in Mr Walker’s stable, and Mrs Walker desired me to turn them out, as the little girl had a lighted candle, and there was some straw there. I roused the man, and Mrs Walker’s son [Joseph] carried him out into the front of the house. The man could not stand he was so drunk. We brought him down to the police station. Two men [one was Joseph Walker] carried him with my assistance.

William Thompson was placed in a cell and was found dead in the morning. W H Evans, Esq., surgeon, commented: I do not think these cells fit places to put any one in, this season of the year. The jury found that death arose from congestion of the brain, caused by excessive drinking, acting on an empty stomach; at the same time they think the underground cells provided for the reception of persons, are most unfit from their dampness; that better accommodation ought to have been provided immediately after Colonel Cartwright, the Government Inspector, reported on the unfitness of these cells.

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