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William Henry KENNEDY





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: To avoid arrest
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: September 27, 1927
Date of arrest: January 25, 1928
Date of birth: 1891
Victim profile: Police Constable George William Gutteridge, 36
Method of murder: Shooting (Webley revolver)
Location: Howe Green, Essex, England, United Kingdom
Status: Executed by hanging at Wandsworth prison on May 31, 1928

photo gallery


On 27 September 1927 at about 4 am William Henry Kennedy and Frederick Guy Browne were on the Romford to Ongar road in Essex when they were stopped by PC Gutteridge. They were driving a Morris Cowley car which they had stolen earlier from Billericay. PC Gutteridge had got off his bicycle and was standing to the side of the road. As the car approached he indicated with his lamp for them to stop but they ignored this and drove past. The policeman immediately blew on his police whistle and the car stopped.

He approached the drivers window and started to ask questions. He took out his notebook and began to write in it when Browne fired two shots at the policeman. Both shots hit him in the face and PC George William Gutteridge staggered back and fell down. Both men got out of the car and walked over to where the wounded policeman was lying injured. Browne stooped down and fired a bullet into each of the policemans eyes killing him.

His body was later found in the lane two hours later. It was thought that he had stopped a motorist to question him about the car and was shot. The car had been reported earlier as stolen. It was later found abandoned in London with bloodstains on the bodywork and an empty cartridge case on the floor.

Four months later whilst interviewing Kennedy's accomplice Browne about another stolen car police found a Webley revolver in his garage. This gun was proved to be the same one which had killed PC Gutteridge. Knowing that Browne and Kennedy were partners the police arrested Kennedy who quickly admitted that he had been in the car on the day PC Gutteridge was killed, he said that Browne had fired the shot.

They both appeared at the Old Bailey in April 1928 and were found guilty.

While waiting for sentence to be carried out Browne tried to commit suicide three times, once by hanging himself and then by cutting his throat. He even tried to go on a hunger strike and had to be force fed. He was not sucessful and both were hanged at the same time on 31 May 1928, Browne was hanged at Pentonville and Kennedy at Wandsworth.


Kennedy, William Henry & Browne, Frederick Guy

In the early hours of Tuesday 27th September 1927 the body of PC 489 George Gutteridge was found in a country lane near to Howe Green, between Romford and Ongar, in Essex. The body was propped up against a bank with the legs sticking out into the road. The policeman's helmet lay near-by as did his pocket book. His police whistle hung loose on its chain and his pencil was held in his right hand. He had been shot four times, twice through the left cheek and once through each eye. Time of death was placed between four and five hours prior to discovery.

It was deduced that PC Gutteridge had stopped a car and was about to record details when he had been shot. A check of local crimes quickly revealed that a blue Morris-Cowley belonging to Dr Edward Lovell had been stolen from his locked garage in London Road, Billericay, during the previous night. Neighbours remembered the sound of a car being started at about 2.30am and driving off down Mountnessing Road. The car had already been found in Brixton, South London. Its nearside mudguard had been bent, there was blood on the bodywork and there was an empty cartridge case under the passenger seat. It was determined that the cartridge had been made at the Woolwich Arsenal and that it had been distinctively marked by a fault in the breech-block of the gun that had fired it.

Ballistics expert Robert Churchill determined that the weapon had been a Webley. Two Webleys were found in the mud of the Thames but neither of them proved to be the fatal weapon.

Four months passed before there were any further developments. On 20th January 1928 police arrested 46-year-old Frederick Guy Browne at his garage near Clapham Junction on a charge of stealing a Vauxhall, a car he had sold to a butcher in Sheffield in the previous November. A search of Browne's person revealed twelve .45 cartridges in his back pocket and a fully loaded Webley revolver inside the driver's door of the car he had been driving. Police also found sixteen .45 cartridges wrapped in paper in the garage's office, twenty-three .22 cartridges, a small revolver and a fully loaded Smith & Wesson at Browne's lodgings

Browne had employed habitual drunkard 42-year-old Kennedy as an odd-job man from June until 17th December 1927. Browne then had to sack him because he could not stop him from drinking. Both men had a history of trouble with the police. Browne had convictions for carrying firearms, stealing motorcycles and cars and for fraudulently claiming insurance on them. Because he was too violent for Parkhurst he was moved to Dartmoor Prison. It was probably here that he met Kennedy. Kennedy, born in Ayrshire, came from Irish parents and had an Irish accent. He had deserted, or been dismissed from, several Army regiments and had convictions for indecent exposure, housebreaking, theft, drunk and disorderly behaviour and larceny.

Browne had driven Kennedy to Euston station on 17th December and Kennedy had gone to Liverpool. He stayed there for three weeks before returning to London and marrying on 18th January. Kennedy, who knew nothing of Browne's arrest, turned up at the garage at 2pm on Saturday 21st January. He found the garage locked with two men, whom he suspected were detectives, inside. He returned home, collected his wife and they caught the midnight train back to Liverpool.

Kennedy had three more days of freedom. At 11.40pm on Wednesday 25th January, he left his home in a hurry. He had no shirt on and his trousers and boots were undone. He was trying to hide his face but was approached by DS Bill Mattinson, who knew Kennedy of old. Kennedy recognised the detective and pulled a pistol from his pocket. Kennedy shouted, "Stand back, Bill - or I'll shoot you!" and fired at the policeman. There was only a click as the gun failed to fire. Mattinson grabbed Kennedy's gun arm with his left hand and hit him with the other. He shouted for assistance and held on to Kennedy until three of his colleagues came to his aid. It was then found that the safety catch was on.

By the following evening Kennedy had been returned to London and was in custody at New Scotland Yard. He was visited by DI Berrett who asked if he knew anything about the murder of PC Gutteridge. Kennedy asked if he could have time to think and did so for several minutes. He then asked if he could see his wife. After speaking to his wife, who had travelled down from Liverpool with him, he made a statement. In the statement, which took three hours to take down, Kennedy implicated Browne in the murder.

At their Old Bailey trial that opened on 23rd April 1928 Browne maintained his innocence of any involvement in the crime, claiming he was at home in bed that night. The trial was notable for the forensic evidence given by Robert Churchill on the marks made on the cartridge case, which proved that the gun found in Browne's car was the murder weapon, and the composition of the propellant in the cartridges. Both were found guilty and sentenced to death. The pair were executed on 31st May 1928. Browne at Pentonville by Robert Baxter and Henry Pollard, Kennedy at Wandsworth by Thomas Pierrepoint and Robert Wilson.

It was thought that the reason for the deliberate shooting out of the eyes of PC Gutteridge was because of a superstition that said that the last sight a man saw was photographically imprinted on the retinas of the eyes.


PC Gutteridge murder - 1927

One of the famous early cases involving what we now call ballistics was the murder of an Essex police officer PC George Gutteridge in 1927.

On Tuesday 27 th September 1927 just before 6am a post office worker, Bill Ward, was driving in Essex the village of Stapleford Abbott. Suddenly he saw a body by a bank at the side of the road and found PC George Gutteridge wearing his full uniform and cape, with his helmet and notebook beside him, and his pencil still in his hand. He had been cruelly murdered by being shot four times in the face. Detective Inspector Crockford from Romford took up the investigation.

About 10 miles away a Morris Cowley motor car belonging to Dr Edward Lovell had been stolen from his garage in London Road Billericay. Some of his medical instruments and some drugs were in the car. But by the time the theft was reported, the car itself had already been spotted 42 miles away in a narrow passage behind 21 Faxley Road, Brixton. There were blood splashes on one of the running boards.

The police recovered the car and found a cartridge case marked RLIV. This marking indicated that it was an old Mark IV type made at the Royal Laboratory in Woolwich Arsenal for troops in the First World War. The case seemed to have been scarred by a fault in the breech block of the gun which had fired it. The foremost gun expert of the day was Mr Robert Churchill who found that the bullet would have been fired by a Webley revolver.

It looked as if the murder of PC George Gutteridge was linked with the theft of the car. And the car's mileometer showed that it had been driven the same distance - 42 miles - as the distance from Dr Lovell's garage direct to Brixton - and the scene of the murder was on the direct route if the car had been driven along by-ways to avoid detection. Detective Chief Inspector James Berrett of Scotland Yard took up enquiries.

The murder hunt went on for four months. At one point DCI Berrett and his assistant Sergeant Harris worked 130 out of 160 consecutive hours. The police suspected two car thieves Frederick Browne and Pat Kennedy but did not have any evidence. Two Webley revolvers were found in the River Thames, but Mr Churchill proved that they could not have been the murder weapon because they did not make the same mark on the cartridge cases.

Eventually the police had evidence against Browne for the theft of another car, a Vauxhall, and raided his premises. They found cartridges and a loaded Smith & Wesson in his room off Lavender Hill. He had been using a car he had part exchanged for the stolen Vauxhall the police were interested in. And when the police searched that car they found yet another loaded revolver in a secret recess in the car. And it was a Webley.

And it was that Webley which Mr Churchill examined and found to be the very same one which had caused the peculiar mark on the cartridge case. Later Browne's accomplice Patrick (or William) Kennedy was arrested, but only after he had pressed a loaded firearm into the ribs of Sergeant Mattinson of Liverpool Police and pulled the trigger. But the gun clicked as a bullet jammed in the barrel, Sergeant Mattinson survived and both Kennedy and Browne were now in custody. They were later convicted of murder.

The Sunday Dispatch newspaper carried the headline "Hanged by a microscope" reflecting the fact that microscopic examination of the cartridge cases had provided the crucial evidence to convict them of an awful murder.


Roll of Honour

George William Gutteridge - Essex County Constabulary.

Served from 5th April 1910 and 23rd February 1919.
Murdered 27th September 1927.

Police Constable George Gutteridge was born in Downham Market, Norfolk in 1891. He joined Essex County Constabulary in April 1910 and served as constable 489. After a month's training at Headquarters he was posted to Southend.

He subsequently served at Romford and Grays, before resigning in April 1918 to join the army where he served for 10 months in the Machine Gun Corps. (By coincidence one of George Gutteridge's murderers was later represented by the solicitor Oscar Tompkins, who was George Gutteridge's company commander).

On 23rd February 1919 he rejoined Essex County Constabulary, returning initially to Grays, and then to Epping Division from 14th March 1922. He was posted to a section station that included four beats at Stapleford, Lambourne End, Stanford Rivers, and Kelvedon Hatch. He was based at Stapleford Abbots, a village half way.

George Gutteridge was married to Rose Annette Emmerline and the couple lived at 2 Towneley Cottages, Stapleford Abbots with their two children, Muriel and Alfred (known as Jack).

The village postman Harry Alexander lived next door at number 3. One of his sons, John, married PC Gutteridge's daughter, Muriel, in 1938. On 26th September 1927 George Gutteridge returned home from duty at 6pm. After an evening in with his family he resumed his duty at 11pm and left his home to meet his opposite number, Police Constable Sydney Taylor, who was stationed at Lambourne End. The officers met as planned at a conference point at Howe Green on the B175 Romford to Chipping Ongar road, before George Gutteridge left for the mile walk home at 3.05am. He never made it.

About 6am on 27th September 1927 William Alec Ward (known as Alec Ward), dropped mail at Stapleford Abbots post office. He then continued along the Ongar road, over Pinchback Bridge towards Stapleford Tawney. As he negotiated a bend in the road just before Howe Green he saw an object by the roadside. As he drew closer he realised it was the body of a man, in a semi-sitting position against the grassy roadside bank, with the legs extended out into the road. To his horror Ward recognised the body as that of George Gutteridge. Mr. Ward then went to a nearby cottage (Rose Cottage at Howe Green) where Alfred Perrit lived to summon help. We know that a Mr. Warren (a bus driver) was involved in obtaining help, but do not know his exact actions - some accounts report that he drove to Havering police house to alert Police Constable Webb, but that cannot be confirmed as neither Mr. Warren nor Police Constable Webb were called at the subsequent trial at the Old Bailey. Meanwhile Mr. Ward drove to Stapleford Tawney post office to telephone the police at Romford.

The first officer on the scene was Police Constable Albert Blockson who took charge until Detective Inspector John Crockford arrived from Romford about 7.45 am. The inspector examined George Gutteridge's body and noted that on the left side of the face just in front of the ear there were two holes which appeared consistent with the entry of two large bullets. On the right side of the neck he found two exit wounds. In addition, each eye had been shot away by two further bullets. George Gutteridge lay grasping a pencil stub while nearby his notebook lay in the road. His truncheon was still in the pocket where it was usually kept, as was his torch. A huge manhunt was started for the killer or killers and from the outset his murder was connected with the theft of a Morris Cowley car, registration number TW6120, belonging to Dr Edward Lovell from Billericay on the same night. The vehicle was subsequently found abandoned in Stockwell, London.

The brutal killing of George Gutteridge shocked the nation, and within a few hours Scotland Yard were called in. Chief Inspector James Berrett, an experienced detective was put in charge of the case. At the scene two .45 bullets were prized out of the road surface and at the subsequent post mortem on George Gutteridge two more bullets were recovered.

Meanwhile the stolen vehicle was found abandoned in Stockwell and a search revealed an empty cartridge case, marked RVIV on the floor. There was also blood on the running board of the car. The search for the persons responsible for the crime extended over the whole country and even abroad, but it was not until January 1928 that evidence came to light that implicated Frederick Guy Browne, a well known London criminal with a garage business in Clapham.

The bullets and the cartridge case were handed to the ballistics expert Robert Churchill for examination. Although they were deformed the bullets retained sufficient rifling characteristics for Churchill to establish they had been fired from a Webley revolver. The Metropolitan Police kept watch and Browne was arrested as he returned to his premises in Clapham. He was found in possession of a number of loaded firearms, including a .45 Webley revolver. A further suspect was William Kennedy, an associate of Browne, who had fled London and returned to Liverpool, where he was well known to the Liverpool City Police. Observations were kept on an address and he was eventually arrested, but not before he tried to shoot a police officer attempting to arrest him. It was only the fact that the gun jammed that saved the officer's life. Kennedy was brought to London where he was interviewed by Berrett and admitted being present at the murder, but implicated Browne as the man who had killed George Gutteridge.

Browne was to deny any involvement in the murder right from the start, but a damming piece of evidence had been found. Robert Churchill examined the weapons recovered from Browne and was able to prove, by the use of the comparison microscope, that the empty cartridge case found in the vehicle had been fired from the Webley revolver found in Browne's possession when he was arrested. His only defence to the evidence was that he had obtained the gun from Kennedy after the murder had occurred.

Both men appeared at the Central Criminal Court, before Mr. Justice Avery, and evidence was heard from some forty prosecution witnesses, including four ballistics experts. It was through the use of photographs that Churchill proved to the court that the markings on the cartridge case matched those on the revolver. Both men were convicted and suffered the ultimate penalty.

Kennedy had admitted his part in the killing, but Browne went to the gallows protesting his innocence. Subsequent researches have suggested that Kennedy may have in fact acted alone.

George Gutteridge's grave at Warley Cemetery. The inscription reads

' In proud memory of George William Gutteridge, Police Constable, Essex Constabulary, who met his death in the performance of his duty on September 27th 1927'.

The stone was unveiled by the Essex Chief Constable, Captain A J Unett, in 1928. The bullets and Webley revolver used to kill George Gutteridge are in the Essex Police Museum, whilst other exhibits relating to Browne and Kennedy are in the Black Museum at Scotland Yard.

The memorial stone close to where George Gutteridge was murdered on the Romford to Chipping Ongar Road. The alignment of the road has been changed since 1927 and a short stretch of it has been renamed Gutteridge Lane. A memorial stone has been set at Gutteridge Lane, on the Romford to Chipping Ongar road, midway between the Royal Oak and The Rabbits public houses. His grave is in Warley Cemetery.

Police Constable 218. Serial Number 2664.



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