Served with Essex County Constabulary from April 5, 1910 and died on September 27, 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 between Romford and Ongar.
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.
This article was based on the text of Essex Police's History Notebook Number 19 'The Silent Detective', written by Martyn Lockwood
On Wednesday August 6, 2003 a small group of Memorial Trustees (Geoff Markham, Fred Feather and Bob Ward) conducted their annual check of outlying memorial sites for which the Trust has taken responsibility.