policeman sentenced to death at Birmingham Assizes by Mr Justice Swift
on 9th December, 1927, for the murder of Olive Turner, a young factory
One night in autumn 1927, twenty one year old Miss Turner and
her boyfriend Charles Bromhead were strolling beside a canal at Winson
Green, in the shadows of Birmingham prison, when they were stopped by
Pretending to be a plain clothes policeman, he asked them for
proof of identity. When they could not prove who they were, he told them
he was taking them into custody on suspicion of committing some crime.
As they headed towards the station.
Power suggested he was open to a
bribe by saying they could 'square up with him.' Bromhead offered him
fourpence. 'Fourpence is no good to me,' he replied. At that moment.
Bromhead, rightly suspecting that Power was an imposter, told Olive to
make a run for it.
Power gave chase. and struck Bromhead a blow to face.
rendering him senseless for a short time. When he came to. the others
had disappeared. Further down the path. a courting couple spoke to Power
who was dragging the distressed girl by the waist, and he told them he
was a policeman taking her into custody. It was 11.30pm.
later, another couple heard sounds of a struggle followed by a splash.
Olive's body was later discovered in the canal. She had been raped and
had died as a result of drowning.
Thirty six year old Power was
identified by several people as the man on the river bank claiming to be
a police officer. As the sentence of death; was passed, Power shouted at
the judge that he did not want any sympathy but announced that he
planned to appeal.
It failed, and he was hanged at Winson Green prison,
a stone's throw from where he had committed the murder, by Thomas
Pierrepoint and Robert Wilson on the 31st January 1928.
James Joseph Power
Charles Broomhead had enjoyed his night
out with Olive Turner, the girl he loved. Having been to the cinema they
now decided to have a quiet walk down the canal towpath, like so many
other lovers did.
Charles and Olive had not gone very far
when they were accosted by a stranger who announced that he was a
policeman and was arresting them for trespass. Charles Broomhead
respected authority and said that they would go with the man without
offering any resistance. However, they had not gone very far when
Charles began to grow suspicious.
As they walked, presumably towards the
nearest police station, Charles noticed that there were other couples on
the towpath. Not unreasonably, he demanded to know why they were not
also being arrested and the police officer replied that he had two and
that was enough for him. Whatever suspicions Charles held were certainly
intensified when the policeman hinted that it may be possible to 'square'
things with him. In other words, he was willing to let them go if they
gave him money.
Convinced now that the policeman was
nothing of the kind, Charles Broomhead reached into his pocket and
brought out all he had, fourpence. "Fourpence is no good to me." said
the officer and now Charles had had enough.
Charles told the man that he was quite
prepared to go with him, but Olive would not. He turned to his
girlfriend and told her to run home. Without waiting to be told a second
time, Olive began to run off, only to be followed by the stranger.
Charles Broomhead followed and soon caught the stranger who then turned
suddenly and struck Charles, knocking him down and dazing him.
As Charles got to his feet he was just
in time to see the man catch Olive and, throwing his arm around her
waist, carry her off into the distance. Olive would not be seen again
until her body was found in the canal the following morning. Her watch,
which was still on her body, had stopped, pin-pointing the time she was
thrown into the water as eleven forty one.
Police immediately appealed for
witnesses and a number of people came forward. Doris Emery had also been
to the cinema with her boyfriend, Edgar Willock, and they too were on
the towpath at the time of the attack. They had seen the three people
together and had been close to the woman when she was caught by the man
she was trying to run away from. Willock tried to interfere but the man
identified himself as a police officer and at that Willock allowed him
to go on his way. He swore he would know the man again.
Another important witness was John
Godfree. He had seen the man standing on a bridge, watching couples pass
by, and had seen him go up to Charles and Olive. The descriptions and
information these people gave allowed police to decide that the man they
wanted was James Power, who lived in Heath Green Road. He had been a
policeman but had now left the force and he had come to their attention
in the past for representing himself as still being a serving officer.
Taken in for questioning, Power was
identified by Charles Broomhead, Doris Emery, Edgar Willock and John
Godfree. Faced with this, Power's reply was that they were all mistaken
and that he had not been anywhere near the canal on the day in question.
That defence convinced no-one and Power was sentenced to death.
The appeal tried two different
approaches. In the first place, they tried to discredit the testimony of
the witnesses. Charles Broomhead, it was said, was interested in anyone
being arrested. He had been the first suspect and the police had
questioned him very closely indeed when he first reported the matter and
his evidence seemed to improve in quality as time went on.
John Godfrey admitted that he had only
had a quick sideways glance at the man and both Doris Emery and Edgar
Willock had described the man they had seen as wearing a white daisy in
his buttonhole whilst Power had been wearing a red rose.
It was also suggested that even if
Power had carried off Olive, there was no proof that he was responsible
for her death. He may well have robbed her but then she might have
wandered off in the dark and fallen into the canal accidentally. The
strength of this last point was reduced somewhat when evidence was given
that there was no water in Olive's stomach, meaning that she was
unconscious when she entered the water.
The appeal was dismissed and Power was
executed at Birmingham on the last day of January, 1928.
Olive Gordon Turner
The canal where the murder took place.