How Stoke Newington’s Pc Clifford Fox rescued Abney Park Cemetery’s six fallen police officers from obscurity
PUBLISHED: 09:00 09 December 2017
Stoke Newington Bobby Pc Clifford Fox embarked on a journey to discover the tales behind the deaths of six policemen buried in Abney Park Cemetery – but the story of one eluded him for months. Now, thanks to his efforts, Pc Richard Lillicrap will be given a proper headstone, reports Emma Bartholomew.
When Pc Clifford Fox discovered that six police officers killed in the line of duty are buried in Abney Park Cemetery, he set out on a mission to find all their graves – after all, it’s on his beat.
But the headstone of one Pc Richard Lillicrap eluded him.
He spent weeks filled with “frustration, excitement and curiosity” searching for it, and even enlisted a bunch of school kids to help by initiating a “treasure hunt” – all to no avail.
With the help of the cemetery’s archivist he finally worked out that Pc Lillicrap’s grave should have been in plot D6, grave number 29635 – but the headstone was no longer there. So Pc Fox put on a collection at Stoke Newington police station to raise the money to replace it.
Over the course of seven months he has also uncovered all the officers’ stories after trawling through the national archives, press clippings, ancestry sites, police roles of honour and books – tales he has compiled in a book of his own.
“It just intrigued me,” Clifford told the Gazette. “Nobody speaks about these six fallen officers at the police station.
“I thought it would be nice to restore their graves and find out the stories behind their deaths so their memory can live on.”
The events before and after the death in 1909 of Pc William Tyler could almost have come from a Hollywood movie.
The 31-year-old was shot dead at point blank range while pursuing two Latvian anarchists following a botched armed robbery at Schnurmann’s Tottenham rubber factory.
A little boy, 10-year-old Ralph Joscelyne, was caught in the crossfire and also died.
The anarchists hijacked a tram and then a horse and cart, and 400 rounds of ammunition were fired as the public joined in the chase.
After the horse and cart went down, one of the robbers realised he wasn’t going to get away and shot himself. The chase for the other continued across Hackney Marshes and into Oak Cottage, where the police tried to kick the door in – but he, too, took his own life rather than be captured.
Pc Fox said: “It made national and international news, and 500,000 people lined the streets of Hackney for the funeral [of the police officer and the boy]. They were buried on the same day and their graves are beside each other.
“My word, they were a sophisticated group, the Latvians. They went on to do the Sidney Street siege. They were robbing factories and businesses left, right and centre, and sending money back to Latvia to fund political activities there.”
He continued: “After I read that, I was intrigued to find out what happened to the other officers, but none of them were quite as exciting as that.”
Const Alfred Smith died when a German bomb landed as he was urging factory employees to take cover, Const George Cole was shot in the head in Dalston, Pc Joseph Joyce was shot in Charring Cross by a thief, and Const William Frederick Lambert was struck by a runaway horse and cart in Stamford Hill.
And after months of searching, Pc Fox found out that Pc Lillicrap’s life came to an abrupt end on August 31, 1862. He was 45.
He had collapsed and died of overexertion when in pursuit of a thief in Petticoat Lane, the Halesworth Times and East Suffolk Advertiser revealed.
His headstone has now been scripted with the details of his death and how he died, and with the six officers and Ralph Joscelyne – the little boy who died in the Tottenham outrage.
Borough Commander Simon Laurence will be in attendance at a ceremony to unveil the headstone at 10am on December 18. It will be led by Nial Weir from St Paul’s Church.
“I think it will be very emotional,” said Pc Fox.