Widow campaigns to honour police killed in line of duty

Pc Alan McMurray receiving an award.

Pc Alan McMurray receiving an award.

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IT was shortly after 11pm on December 31, 1811. A band of young thugs armed with bludgeons roamed the streets looking for trouble.

Gangs of up to 50 youths planned to attack the police and drive them from the streets in order to assault and rob revellers celebrating the New Year.

They had already begun their assault on the city when Watchman Dugald Campbell, of the City of Edinburgh Police, heard a commotion.

While on foot patrol on the High Street, he was told by witnesses that a mob were assaulting and robbing people near Stamp Office Close. They warned him not to go as he would be attacked – but he bravely ignored their concerns.

With a shout of “Damn the Fear”, he headed down the narrow alleyway to confront the yobs. Soon after he would be fatally wounded – the first police officer in Scotland to be murdered and the first of 27 officers who have died on duty in the Lothians.

Now, 200 years on, calls have been made for Watchman Campbell to be honoured with a posthumous bravery award for his actions.

Christine Fulton, the widow of the last Scots police officer to be murdered on duty, has begun the campaign through her Care of Police Survivors (COPS) charity.

She set up the organisation after her husband, Pc Lewis Fulton, was stabbed to death by a mentally unstable man in the Gorbals, Glasgow, in 1994.

COPS works to ensure that fallen officers are remembered, and Mrs Fulton believes that the actions of Watchman Campbell, who succumbed to his injuries on January 3, 1812, deserve to be honoured.

Such was the outcry from the citizens of Edinburgh over the deaths of Watchman Campbell and a civilian victim in the Hogmanay riots, that a new Police Act was brought in, reorganising the City Of Edinburgh Police into the beginnings of a modern force.

Mrs Fulton, who co-founded COPS in 2003, said: “Mr Campbell was an amazing man. I loved his quote when he was warned not to go near the trouble – ‘Damn the Fear’. He deserves a posthumous bravery award. He was murdered in such horrific circumstances. It seems he was very unpopular with the gangs as he was very hard on them. That is probably why they attacked him so ferociously.”

During the riots that night a clerk, George Edmonstone, was attacked at Fleshmarket Close by a gang of between 12 and 20 men who demanded money from him, attacking him with sticks and knocking him down.

William Robertson, a stoneware merchant, was attacked on South Bridge by members of the mob. He was pinned to the wall and robbed of a large amount of cash and a watch chain after being struck with sticks.

The leaders of the gang threw stones and orange boxes at the police and several came under attack along with a number of civilians.

After he was attacked, members of the public tried to come to the aid of Watchman Campbell, but were beaten back and were unable to reach him until he had been left for dead by the rioters.

A clerk from Leith, James Campbell, also died from the injuries inflicted by the gang.

A bounty of 300 guineas was offered for the killers’ capture, and the Lord Provost William Creech wrote: “...outrages of a most violent nature, and hitherto unexampled in Edinburgh, have been committed last night upon several gentlemen and police officers, when passing along the streets by knocking them down, maltreating and robbing them...

“There appears to have been a regular plan of robbery previously concerted by the perpetrators, who were almost all boys or young lads, armed with bludgeons for the purpose... a severe public example will be made of all those concerned in it.”

Police finally tracked down the three killers, who were brought to trial on March 20, 1812. Teenagers Hugh McIntosh, Neil Sutherland and Hugh McDonald were all charged with the policeman’s murder.

A fourth man, James Johnstone, who had also been charged, managed to escape but he was declared an outlaw and a price was put on his head.

The trial began and went on until 4am the following morning when sentence was passed – all three men were to be hanged in the High Street on the site were the policeman had been attacked.

The judge also ordered that McIntosh’s body should be delivered to the Professor of Anatomy to be dissected.

On March 31, another four men who had been involved in the Hogmanay riots were found guilty of robbery and sentenced to transportation.

On April 22, McIntosh, Sutherland and McDonald were taken to the scaffold. McDonald – who clutched a Bible – went to his death protesting his innocence. But minutes later they were hanged together before a baying mob.

ROLL CALL

MANY officers serving with police forces in the Lothians have lost their lives while on duty over the decades:

* Pc William Ford was assaulted by three men during a St Patrick’s Day riot. The Edinburgh City Police officer suffered head injuries and died on April 22, 1840.

* Pc Richard Pace died at the hands of a mob who attacked him in Gorebridge, Midlothian, on March 1, 1846, after he had taken two labourers into custody after a pub disturbance.

* Pc Charles Angus was fatally stabbed while arresting a deranged man armed with a knife. The 24-year-old Edinburgh City Police officer died on June 6, 1858.

* Pc Thomas Mutch received fatal injures after being bludgeoned with a poker while making an arrest in the Grassmarket. The 29-year-old Edinburgh City Police officer died on December 1, 1868.

* Pc George Low, 22, of the Edinburgh City Police, was beaten and stabbed to death by two suspects he was questioning in Elm Row in Leith on March 14, 1881.

* Pc James McLean of Leith Burgh Police drowned after falling into Edinburgh Dock on a night-time patrol on December 2, 1894.

* Pc James Harte was assaulted as he tried to arrest a labourer named Henry Miller, in Hawthornvale, for a breach of the peace. The Leith Burgh Police officer died on April 4, 1900 aged 38.

* Inspector John Scott was struck by a train and killed on August 27, 1906, while carrying out surveillance near Dunbar railway station in East Lothian following vandal attacks.

* Detective Thomas Rothnie, of the Edinburgh City Police, died aged 42 when he fell off a train at Gretna while travelling to London to collect a prisoner on December 14, 1912.

* Assistant Chief Constable Robert Thomson was shot by a drunk sergeant in the RAF who fired at his police car in Willowbrae during a blackout on July 16, 1940.

n* Pc Henry Ferrier, of Edinburgh City Police, was killed aged 40 when his police car overturned due to a burst tyre on October 1, 1950.

* Pc John Clark, from Edinburgh City Police, was found dead on his beat aged 45 on October 20, 1968, having suffered head injuries in an apparent fall on steps leading from Lower London Road to London Road.

* Pc John McKenzie, of Lothian and Peebles Constabulary, died aged 28 after a police mini-van crash on January 16, 1964.

* Pc Karen Balfour, 37, was killed when her car was in a collision with a Ford Transit van while reporting for duty on January 5, 2006.

* Pc Alan McMurray, 39, was killed on February 4, 2006 when a passing van struck him while he assisted at an accident in Broxburn, West Lothian.

* Pc Stephen Cully, 41, collapsed and died of heart failure while on a course at Tulliallan Police College in September last year.