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Rushden Echo, 8th August 1924, transcribed by Kay Collins
Armed Burglars at Rushden
Desperate Attack on an Elderly Man
Startling Affair on the Bedford Road

“You Devil; I’ll Kill You”
Plucky Resistance and Prompt Action


Holiday excitement in the form of housebreaking desperadoes, with a firearm and a dagger to use if necessary, does not often form part of the entertainment of Rushden residents, happily for the welfare of their nerves and general health, but Mr Matthew Bates of “The Chestnuts,” Bedford-road, had an unenviable experience with such a gentleman on Saturday.

Mr Bates was in Rushden doing some shopping on Saturday afternoon, and Mrs. Bates also wanted to get into the town to make some purchases. As Mrs Bates came out of the house to be in readiness for the motor-’bus from Bedford, she noticed some rough looking young men being near the gateway. The ’bus was not in sight, and, being suspicious of the men, Mrs Bates went back into the house and took with her the little money there happened to be in the house, also lengthening the chains attached to the two dogs. The men saw Mrs Bates hail the ’bus, get on, and ride away. The house was left from then until Mr Bates got back, travelling on the ’bus returning to Bedford, and arriving at “The Chestnuts” about half-an-hour after his wife had left.

Previously warned by his wife, Mr Bates got off the ’bus and entered the drive to his house. He went round to the back and entered the scullery door. The lock had been recently oiled, and worked almost noiselessly. Opening the next door, he saw two young men lying down, one in the kitchen and the other on the floor of the hall. They darted out of reach, one leaping on to an upholstered chair and then headlong out of the top of a window—as quick as a bird flying out of an open window,” Mr Bates said. The third, the eldest and tallest and (it turned out to be) the most dangerous, did not get clear. Mr Bates, although 67 years of age, pluckily flung his arms round the man, pinning the intruders arms each side in a powerful grip. The man, cursing, struggled hard, and with one hand got a revolver out of one of his pockets. Thinking to scare Mr Bates, the man threatened him with the revolver, shouting: “You devil; I’ll kill you!”

“No you won’t, you devil,” Mr Bates said, still grasping the man tightly: “you won’t get the chance!”

However the stranger

Fired the Revolver

once—in the direction of the floor, for the want of being able to aim to more effect. The man shouted to his mates to come and help, but they ran for all they were worth. Meantime, Mr Bates could not overcome his antagonist, and fearing another shot might reach him, he had no option but to let the rogue escape, as there was no one to help to capture him.

Two dogs were chained up in the yard at the back of the house, but even had Mr Bates thought to loose them, the rogues were well clear. So, following his first inclination, he ran along the road in chase; but the men were able to out-distance their pursuer. Ordinarily, many people pass to and fro along the Bedford road, but at that particular time not a single person was in sight. Soon a cyclist, Mr Fred Hilton, of 142 Queen-street, Rushden, came along on his way to Sharnbrook, and, on Mr Bates telling him what had happened, he immediately turned back, heading for Rushden Police Station and also keeping a sharp look-out for suspicious-looking strangers. Some men who he suspected turned towards Wymington, and, with that additional information, Mr Hilton hastened to the police. Within a few minutes P.C. Luck and P.C. Parker were hot on the chase, on cycles and wearing civilian dress. In Wymington they saw four men, who, it appeared, were total strangers to the village. The men had been throwing numerous cigarettes away after a few puffs. The constables arrested the men and took them to Rushden Police Station, where they were lodged within an hour of the burglary at Mr Bates’s house.

Superintendent Macleod, D.C.C., of Wellingborough, who had been informed by telephone, motored to the place, warning police at villages around. He was pleased to find the capture had been effected so smartly. He and a constable took the four men in a taxi to Wellingborough Police Station, and the four were lodged in cells until Monday morning, when they were charged. The revolver was produced, and it was found to contain blank cartridges. Also the man who carried the revolver, had on him a belt from which hung a dagger (produced).

There was nothing of great value missing from the house. A box containing a number of packets of cigarettes and a pair of scissors were taken, and two pairs of boots had been thrown down. Two drawers had been searched. The scissors were afterwards recovered when the men were captured.

One point, not without a touch of piquant humour, arose in the chase. Mr W H Bates, of Washbrook-road, was in Wymington with his fruiterer’s cart when the four men went by. He had no idea that his own father had been in deadly grips with one. It was somewhat of a shock to him when, on being asked about the men, he said they had been arrested, and learnt that it was on a charge of burglary at his father’s house and that one of the men had threatened to kill his father.

Much praise is due to Mr Hilton for his smartness in watching the direction the men were heading for and in getting to Rushden Police station so quickly.

Mr and Mrs Bates have lived at “The Chestnuts” for 21 years, and they had never been troubled by burglars or thieves. An unwelcome surprise will greet future gentlemen who attend “The Chestnuts” without an invitation and in the absence of the owner. Mr Bates says he intends in future to put his most ferocious dog inside the house when he goes out.

The prisoners were remanded until Friday, when they were committed to the next Quarter Session (October).


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