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The Rushden Echo and Argus, 9th October 1931, transcribed by Jim Hollis
P.C. Reginald Mann
Rushden Police Constable Killed

Knocked Down on Bedford Road

Lorry Driver’s Story at Inquest

A terrible fatality occurred on the Bedford-road, Rushden, on Tuesday morning, when a Rushden police constable was knocked down and killed by a heavy motor lorry, whilst in the execution of his duty.

The victim of the accident was P.C. Reginald Mann, who was 31 years of age. He was very popular among his colleagues in the Force, to whom he was known as “Reggie,” and played both cricket and football for the Division. He was a married man.

At the time of the accident, P.C. Mann was out with Sergt. Roughton checking Road Fund Licences. The Sergeant had walked some distance away, when the deceased signalled to the driver of an Austin Seven car approaching Rushden, to slow up. As he did so, he stepped from the pavement, where he had been taking particulars from a motor-cyclist, and apparently failed to notice a motor lorry, the radiator of which struck him in the back, and dragged him along, causing terrible injuries which probably resulted in instant death.

Verdict of “Accidental Death”

The tragedy occurred near Wilmott’s farm, between the Compass Inn and Jubilee Park, and the constable was on the east side of the road, taking particulars from the motor-cyclist.

He stepped into the road, apparently to go to the driver of the Austin Seven car, and was knocked down by the lorry which came to rest half on the grass verge at the side of the road, the crushed body of the deceased being wedged underneath. Sergeant Roughton, hearing shouts, ran back, and with the assistance of others worked for half an hour before the body could be released.

Dr. Gillespie also crawled beneath the vehicle, but could only state that Mann must have died instantaneously.

The injuries were terrible, and consisted of a fracture at the base of the skull, a fractured left femur, dislocation of the right hip, and fractures of the third, forth, fifth and sixth ribs. The doctor stated that the fracture of the skull alone was sufficient to cause immediate death.

Superintendent Jones, of Wellingborough, Inspector Knight, of Rushden, and members of the Police Road Patrol were quickly at hand, and the body of their companion was as soon as possible laid in the Rushden ambulance car and taken to the mortuary.

Deceased’s Career

The deceased constable was a native of King Cross, where his parents reside. He joined the force eight or nine years ago, becoming a junior clerk at headquarters, Northampton. He also served at Wellingborough, Kettering, and Daventry, and was transferred to Rushden after his marriage some two years ago, at Kettering. He served for a short time at Rushden as a single man.

P.C. Mann was married at Kettering, in June 1929, to Miss Vera Popham, the youngest daughter of Mr. H. Popham, the licensee of “The Queen,” Queen-street, Kettering. He came from London to Kettering as a probationary police constable. Later he was transferred to the Chief Constable’s office at Northampton, and went from there to Rushden.

He played both cricket and football for the Division. A football match between Wellingborough and Kettering, which should have taken place at the Dog and Duck ground, Wellingborough, on Tuesday, was abandoned when the news of his death became known.

The funeral will take place at Kettering to-day (Friday).

At 9.15p.m. last night the coffin was taken to Kettering Parish Church to lay in state all night. The interment at the Kettering Cemetery at 3.30 to-morrow will be preceded by a service at the Parish Church at 3p.m.

The officiating clergyman will be the Rev. S. M. Morris.

The Inquest

The inquest was held at the Rushden Ambulance Headquarters, Station-road, on Wednesday, at 5p.m. by the Deputy Divisional Coroner, Mr. J. C. Parker.

Mr. H. E. Sellars (Messrs. Darnell and Price, Northampton) appeared on behalf of Keightley, Mr. H. Popham (the deceased’s father-in-law) was present on behalf of the family, and Supt. E. E. Jones and Inspector Knight represented the Police.

Mr. G. W. Coles, J.P., was chosen as foreman of the jury.

The first witness was Sidney Ernest Richards, 173, Gloucester Terrace, Hyde Park, London, W., a wireless engineer, who said that on Tuesday he was driving an Austin Seven car from Bedford to Rushden, about 11.15a.m. Witness did not know Rushden but could see he was near the town, from the brow of the hill. He saw a sergeant and constable stopping motor vehicles, and the constable signalled to him to stop. He was about fifteen to twenty yards away and was on the pavement on witness’ right hand side of the road. He had a card in his hand. Witness also saw the motor cycle, and saw the constable come across the road towards him, as he was slowing down.

“I heard a shout, and the next instant the lorry was on top of him,” said witness, who added that he had previously noticed the lorry, but heard no horn sounded. He saw the lorry pull out to pass another lorry.

Coroner: Did you have to move at all? – Yes, it came straight for me, and I pulled to the centre of the road and just avoided a collision.

Coroner: When the policeman went across the road he had his attention fixed upon you? – Yes he seemed to be making for me diagonally across the road; and he had his back to the lorry.

Coroner: Did the policeman walk or run across the road? – He came across quickly, hurriedly.

Coroner: Could you tell us at what pace the lorry was going? – Quite steadily.

Terrible Injuries

Dr. J. M. Gillespie, Higham Ferrers, said that just after noon on Tuesday he was called by telephone, by the police, to the Bedford-road, where he saw a motor lorry, partly on the grass, and was informed that the body of a policeman was under it.

Witness got under the lorry and examined the body, before the lorry was moved. He was quite dead.

Witness again saw the body after it had been taken to the mortuary, and found a fracture to the base of the skull, fracture of the right femur, dislocation of the right hip joint, and a fracture of four ribs on the right side of the chest. These injuries were sufficient to cause instant unconsciousness and probably instant death.

Algernon Dimmock, 2, St. Catherine Terrace, Northampton, dealer, said that he was riding a motor-cycle from Rushden to Bedford. Just outside the town, on the Bedford-road, he was stopped by a police constable (whom he now knew to be P.C. Mann), who took particulars of witness’ licence, etc. Witness pulled up on his proper side of the road, and when he did so there was no other vehicle about. Whilst he was talking to the constable he noticed a petrol lorry approaching from Rushden, and it pulled up about 30 feet behind him. Another lorry coming from Bedford also pulled up; it was “a decent way” down the road, about 30 yards.

After the constable had finished taking particulars, witness saw an Austin Seven car coming from the direction of Bedford.

Coroner: Did you see what the policeman did? – He put his hand up and walked round the back of the bike.

Witness added that the car would be about 50 yards away when the constable first gave the signal. The car slowed up, and the constable walked around the back of witness’ machine, after which witness could not see him.

“Heard A Noise”

“I did not see the lorry until it hit him,” said Dimmock. “I heard a noise and looked across. The lorry driver pulled to the right to try and avoid deceased.”

Coroner: Do you think the policeman saw the lorry at all? – No, I don’t think so.

Coroner: He was looking in the same direction as you, and you didn’t see it? – No.

Coroner: When you first saw the lorry, when it was about to strike the constable, was it going very fast? – No, slow.

Coroner: Do you think the driver had any chance of avoiding the constable? – No, none whatever.

Witness said the deceased was struck by the radiator of the lorry. He heard no horn sounded, and he was just starting his motor-cycle up at the time. The constable was just going off the path and would have the noise of the machine fairly close to him.

Coroner: He came behind you, so he would have the full benefit of that? – Yes.

Witness said his machine was an A.J.S., and was “not too noisy.” He did not think it ought to drown the noise of a lorry, but it was possible.

Supt. Jones: Do you know if the constable saw the lorry pull up behind you? – I do not think so; I did not see him look up.

Horace Edmond Keightley, 204, High-street, Burton Latimer, a haulage contractor, said that just after 11 o’clock on Tuesday morning, he was driving a Manchester Chevrolet lorry, of 22.5 h.p. 1 ton 16 cwt. in weight, loaded with concrete pipe sections, weighing about 25 cwt. It was a modern vehicle and the brakes were in good order.

Witness saw a petrol lorry on the right-hand side of the road, just as he was leaving the populous part of the town. It was facing towards Rushden. Witness could not say if the engine was running. Another lorry was about 20 yards further on and was on the left hand side of the road. In addition there was an Austin Seven, about 70 to 80 yards away.

Unsuccessful Swerve

Witness sounded his electric horn before overtaking the lorry, and at that time had plenty of room to get by before the Austin Seven came along. There would probably have been room for the three vehicles abreast, but there would not be much to spare.

Witness was just going past the lorry, and was nearly level, when he saw a policeman run out into the middle of the road with his hand up.

“I swerved to the right – he had his back to me – to try to miss him,” said witness, “but could not do so, and my lorry struck him in the back, with the radiator. I pulled up as quickly as I could, in about 17 feet, and the two off-side wheels of the lorry came to rest on the grass verge.”

Coroner: How far away from you was the police constable when you first caught sight of him? – Not more than 1½ to 2 yards.

Coroner: So that it gave no chance to pull up? – No chance whatever.

Coroner: Your view of the road was obstructed by a petrol lorry, which was rather high? – Yes.

Coroner: You saw nothing of the constable before you got to the lorry? – No.

Coroner: Do you think the constable saw anything of you at all? – I don’t think he did.

Coroner: What would your pace be along there? – About 14-15 m.p.h.; it was slightly uphill.

Plenty of Room

A Juryman asked Keightley why he went forward instead of pulling up behind the lorry.

Witness replied that he had plenty of room and time to get by before the Austin Seven came up.

The Coroner: The petrol lorry was stationary.

Witness added that he had no idea that there was a hold-up for licences at that point.

Harry Roughton, Police Sergeant, Rushden, gave evidence of identification. He said the body was that of P.C. Mann, late of 106, Glassbrook-road, Rushden. Deceased was a police constable of Northants County constabulary, and was 31 years of age. He had had nearly nine years police experience.

On Tuesday he was detailed to check Road Fund licences, on the Bedford-road, Rushden. Witness visited him about 11 a.m. and he was then taking particulars from the motor-cyclist. His eye-sight and hearing were good.

Witness left him and continued on the way towards Bedford, and when about 150 yards away he heard a shout, and turned round and saw Mann in the front of the motor-lorry, coming from Rushden. “I saw him in front of the vehicle, and ran to the lorry, of which the off wheels were on the grass verge, the near wheels being in the gutter. Under the back axle I saw P.C. Mann huddled up and wedged to the ground. With assistance of others the lorry was lifted. I could see the constable was beyond all help.”

The lorry did not pull up behind the motor-cycle while witness was with deceased.

Petrol Lorry Driver

Sergeant Roughton gave exhaustive details as to the measurements of the road, etc., at the scene of the fatality and said that the petrol lorry behind the motor-cycle was seven and a half feet in height. The road was 21ft wide, with a 6ft path, and 7ft grass verge.

The Coroner observed at this stage, that the drivers of the two petrol lorries could be called if the jury desired, but personally he did not see that they were going to help them very much. The police had, however, very properly summoned them, because they knew something, if not very much.

A juryman suggested it would be as well to hear the evidence of the driver whose vehicle was near the motor-cycle, and Reginald Thomas Gilbey, petrol salesman, 18, Poplar-street, Wellingborough, was called. He said that on Tuesday, about 11 o’clock, he was in charge of a 50 cwt. lorry, and was proceeding along the Bedford-road, from Rushden.

He met one of his fellow workmen, and pulled up behind the motor-cyclist, who was being examined by a police constable. His friend pulled up further down the road, and came and spoke to him. Witness remained in the cab of his car.

The constable was about 40ft. away; he had not pulled witness up. A small car was coming from the opposite direction, and witness saw the constable put up his hand to stop it. The driver drew up, and as he was doing so witness saw the deceased leave the path to cross the road. He had his hand up, and almost immediately a lorry passed, going towards Bedford, and struck the constable in the back.

Sounding His Horn

Coroner: Had the driver, in your opinion, any chance of avoiding the constable? – I do not think so.

Witness added that the constable seemed to be hurrying. He heard no horn sounded. Immediately witness saw the lorry he shouted to the policeman but it was on top of him.

The motor-cyclist started his machine up as the constable stepped quickly into the road.

Mr. Popham: If you had been driving the lorry would you have sounded your horn? – I certainly would, if I had been passing it, but I don’t say that he didn’t, although I did not hear it.

Mr. Popham: Other witnesses have said they did not hear it.

William James Pawley, the other driver, Gravesley, Cambs., and also of Bedford, was called. He said he was driving his lorry in the direction of Rushden, when going along the road he met Mr. Gilbey, and pulled up and went to talk to him. He saw the constable speaking to the motor-cyclist, and saw him signal to an Austin Seven. That was the last witness saw of him until he was “crumpled up” under the motor-lorry. He did not hear the lorry driver sound his horn, but he might have done so.

Witness said he judged from the sound of the lorry that it was going at a reasonable pace.

Answering a juryman, witness said he was on the road side of the lorry, but with his back to the road.

Sergeant Roughton, recalled, said he tested the brakes of Keightley’s lorry and found they were in good order.

Coroner’s Summing Up

Summing up, the Coroner said the doctor had described the serious injuries from which death was no doubt due, and the only other point was whether there was any negligence on anybody’s part. The jury had so recently heard the evidence that there was no need for him to repeat it, except to remind them of the position of the stationary lorry, on its proper side of the road, 40ft behind the motor-cycle, and over seven feet in height, and so obstructing the view of anyone coming from Rushden.

The scene of the accident

Where P.C. Mann Met His Death — The scene of Tuesday’s sad accident at Rushden in which P.C. Mann was killed while on duty. The lorry seen above swerved in a desperate attempt to avoid hitting the constable a petrol lorry stood stationary where the cycle is seen.

The lorry driver stated that he sounded his horn, and said he came round to overtake the petrol lorry, and almost immediately saw the constable near him. He applied his brakes and swerved to the right, and did his best to get out of the way, but unfortunately failed to do so.

“Other witnesses,” continued the Coroner, “say they did not hear the driver of the lorry sound his horn, but he might have done so and I would not contradict him. You know that one does not always sound a horn if you can see the road is clear. On some roads one does nothing but sound a horn, but I think this man took all the precautions he could and there appears to have been no negligence on his part.

“This is an unfortunate accident, and one we all very much regret. The deceased was known to me, as he was, no doubt, to you, and I am sure he was a very courteous and efficient officer, and we all regret what has happened.

“I am bound to advise you,” concluded the Coroner, “that in my opinion there is no negligence, and that the driver did everything possible to avoid an accident.

The jury unanimously returned a verdict of “Accidental Death,” and stated that there was no negligence, death was due to injuries from being knocked down by a motor lorry, and those injuries were accidentally received. Mr. Coles added that the jury wished to express their sympathy with the relatives.

Mr. Sellars said he would like to associate himself with that, and Supt. Jones said those expressions would be conveyed to the family. Supt. Jones said the deceased was an officer well-known to all of them.

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