First Police Detective in Dorset

“Grandad was the first plain-clothes policeman in Dorset” my father informed me.  Grandad Beck obtained the rank of Sergeant in 1908, 6 months before being made Detective Sergeant.

A descended to the training sergeant at the time, gave me this account of Grandad Beck’s promotion.  “Because my Great Grandfather was the Training Sergeant he was aware of what was required and with the increase in crime, he and the top Senior ranks decided they needed a senior PC to help deal with the serious crime of the day. They looked at all the senior PC’S and quickly worked out that “Percy” would be ideal. He was promoted to Sergeant straight away to make his job easier for all, even though it would have had a small financial impact on the Force, as now there was an extra Sergeant.” Ian Swatridge.

As Dorsetshire’s first and the only Detective between 1908 and June 1915, Grandad Beck was based at Headquarters in Dorchester. He travelled around the county at the request of divisional superintendents to assist in more complex or longer investigations.

Picture of Bargate Southampton
Postcard to Lionel

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The Wilfully and Malice Murder of Winifred Mitchell

As a detective, the murder of a young women in 1913 was Grandad Beck’s highest profile case.  This case was noted on his Obituary, September 1947, in the same year Mr. Beck was appointed to the Merit Class.  Grandad Beck, Mr Plummer, Deputy Chief Constable, Superintendent Ricketts, and Sergeant Stockley were commended for their presentation of the case in a letter from the Public Prosecutor, Charles W. Matthews.

Policeman with shot gun
P.C. Stockley: The policeman who discovered the body (Western Gazette 23 May 1913)

There are numerous accounts of this murder in contemporary newspapers from all over the UK and more recently in books and on the Internet.  The Western Gazette included photographs, which was unusual. The illustrations used in this post are taken from the on-line British Newspaper Archive.

The murder reads like an Agatha Christie without Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot! Continue reading “The Wilfully and Malice Murder of Winifred Mitchell”

3rd Dorset Regiment: Mutiny and fatal shooting at Upwey

On night of Sunday 28th November 1914 there was a mutiny at Upwey, near Weymouth. Private Wallace Williams of the 3rd Dorset Regiment was killed and Private Lane injured.  The papers report that Grandad Beck attended the Coroner’s court but gives us no information about his involvement.  The civil courts part in this was to ascertain how the death happened and if it was a criminal offence.  The war had started 4 months before.  I am sure that the investigating the incident had to be handled with care, as it involved both the military and civilian police.  It is likely that Grandad Beck, as Dorset’s only detective was involved in the investigation and liaising with the Dorset Regiment.  This may have helped to secure his promotion the following year, to Superintendent of Blandford Forum, a town with a military base nearby.

I know it is not really relevant but I couldn’t resist another picture of Lionel in uniform take in 1917.

Young man in uniform
Lionel, Grandad Beck’s son in the uniform of the Royal North Devon Hussars C. April 1917

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