Friday, 12 February 2016

Killing of a War Reserve Constable

A war reserve police constable who was punched by a man he confronted over causing a bus to brake sharply died from his injuries.

On the morning of 31st January 1942 Joseph Pickering boarded a bus on Linacre Road to take him to Seaforth railway station where he was to report for duty. Just after he boarded the bus pulled up sharply and passengers were stunned to see a man stood in the middle of the road with his hands in his pockets, staring straight ahead.

Linacre Road in the 1940s (
Pickering got off to see what the man was doing and when he said it was a foolish thing to do was punched in the face. Another passing constable named Johnson saw what was happening and apprehended the man, who turned out to be a twenty seven year old soldier named Edwin Coleby, who was on leave.

The two constables were escorting Coleby to Seaforth police station when Pickering suddenly collapsed. Coleby was initially shocked by this and took off his coat to lay under the injured man's head. However when Johnson began to carry out artificial resuscitation, Coleby realised the seriousness of the situation and took his coat back and ran off.

Pickering was dead on arrival at hospital but it was forty eight hours before Coleby was located at his home in Siddon Street. Initially he denied all knowledge and then admitted throwing a punch, but claimed the fall was a result of Pickering being hit by a bottle.

After being remanded by the magistrates, medical inquiries established that fifty four year old Pickering had a heart condition that accelerated his death. It led to Coleby being committed for trial only on the charge of manslaughter and he appeared at Manchester Assizes on 27th February. It was not the first time he had been in trouble with the law, having a previous conviction for assaulting the police and been court martialed for hitting an army sergeant.  

After being found guilty Coleby mitigated that he had thought Pickering was a ticket inspector not a constable. He was sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment, Mr Justice Stable saying that his violence had denied somebody leading a 'useful life.'

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