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The Murder of PC Clark at the Four Wants

On patrol in wildest Essex, the PC saw something he wouldn't live to regret - but was it from Outer Space or a disgruntled Lover?
PC Clarke Murder Peelers

Some of the ' Peelers' involved in the PC Clark affair.

U.F.O’s in darkest Essex in the middle of the 19th Century? Maybe not but how else do you explain what happened to George Clark, close to the Four Wants at Dagenham, on the night of 29th June 1846? George was a young PC who had been drafted in by the Metropolitan Police to help quell the rising crime and lawlessness in the marshy and forlorn region. It was a safe haven for all sorts of criminals and the people in the small rural villages were in constant fear of their lives. They were not reassured when Georges’ terribly mutilated body was found in the corner of a field with all the signs that it had been dumped there from a great height. The weather for the week in which he had been missing had been hot and dry. This had made the ground extremely hard. Yet the putrefying body was found in an indentation in the soil which had obviously been made when it hit the ground. That was the point at which the theories about the Met’s oldest and oddest unsolved crime begins.

George Clark was 20. Good looking, his mother’s pride and joy and deeply religious. He had a fiancee and was saving to get married. He was posted to Dagenham from his home beat in Bilsten when one of the officers there, a PC Butfoy, was moved out. The reason given for Butfoy’s sudden departure is that he was a tough copper and had made a lot of enemies among the shady folk of the marshlands. Clark settled in easily and was well liked by the locals. On the night of the 29th June, at 9 pm, he was posted at a crossroads called the Four Wants by his superior officer, Sergeant Parsons. And that was the last that was seen of him alive.

When he didn’t report to Parsons at the usual time of 1 am the Sergeant assumed that Clark had been delayed but went onto the next post without worrying. When George didn’t turn up next morning Parsons informed Scotland Yard that he was missing and sent out a couple of officers, PC Kempton and PC Butfoy, who had been returned to the area, to look for him. On the morning of 3rd July they turned up at the farm of Ralph Page and asked permission to drag a pond close by the farmhouse. Mrs Clark gave her consent and sent one of her sons, Billy, to show them the way. They spent all day futilely searching the pond. When they went back to the Farmhouse Mrs Page brewed them a cup of tea before they made their way back to the Station to report another fruitless day. As they left she mentioned another pond on their land. Kempton promised to return the following day to search it.

PC Clark Murder Newspaper Clippings

Selection of notorious cases and the acknowledgement of PC Clark.

Once again they set out next morning with the Billy Page leading the way, They were walking beside the hedge in a potato field when PC Kempton drew attention to an overpowering stench. It seemed to come from the other side of the hedge. Then Butfoy found a truncheon, covered in blood and hair, with the wood scarred as if it had been hack at with a sharp object. The Page boy suddenly drew their attention to something glittering in the hedge. When it was uncovered it was found to be a cutlass - Clark’s cutlass! This was also blooded and chipped. Clark’s body was soon discovered in a little nook in the hedgerow. The dead policeman was spread eagled on the ground, his once handsome face cut and battered beyond recognition. The back of his head was smash in, he had been scalped and his spine almost completely severed. In his left hand was gripped a few ears of corn. They turned the body of their fellow officer over. It was then that they discovered the indentation in the hard packed ground.

These are the facts. A large scale operation was undertaken. Doubt was cast on the role of Clark’s fellow officers. There was some evidence that Sergeant Parsons had not been on duty that night and the Relief had been headed by Kempton. Some thought that Parsons had been annoyed by the flattering attention Clark had displayed when he was introduced to Parsons’ sister. Kempton and Butfoy also came under suspicion and it soon became obvious that K Division of the Metropolitan Police Force was not the buttress of society that it should have been. All the officer were arrayed before a magistrate at one time or another and ultimately dismissed from the force. In spite of a bounty of £475 being offered for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrator of the horrendous murder nobody came forward. At least for a dozen or so years. Then Mrs Mary Smith, who turned out to be the young Billy Page’s widow, walked into the police station at Dagenham and declared that she knew who killed PC Clark and pointed her finger firmly at William and Ralph Page. They had been out on a thieving expedition and were apprehended by Clark. Scotland Yard sent its finest in the shape of Inspector Wicher but Mrs Smith had learned in the meanwhile that the reward had been withdrawn so decided to say nowt. Anyway, her husband, Billy, had been killed in an accident on the farm. The fate of the other members of the gang is interesting. Ralph Page and Ned Wood had committed suicide, the former by taking poison and the latter by hanging himself and George Chalk had taken a hulk to Australia. Which left only George Blewitt still on the patch. He was arrayed before the Magistrates at Ilford but the coerced Mrs Smith proved to be an unreliable witness. Blewitt was remanded for the Assizes but the charge was eventually dropped.

What is fascinating about the PC Clark case is the striking oddities which could stoke up a handful of conspiracy theories that the Kennedy lot would be hard pressed to shake a truncheon at. Obviously there is the appearance of the body having been dropped from a great height. (Early manifestation of an Alien abduction gone wrong?) Then there are the very significant ears of corn clenched in the dead officer’s fingers. (Remember Roberto Calvi and the banknotes and stones in his pockets when he was found hanging under Westminster Bridge? Something Masonic happening here?) There is something fishy about the background players in the tragedy as well. Ralph Page, a bit of a villain by all accounts, poisons himself? Remorse? Doesn’t seem to fit what is known of his character. The same applies to Ned Wood. Then there is the mysterious goings-on of Sgt Parsons on the night of the disappearance. Would the motive of filial jealousy be enough to provoke such an horrendous attack? And what about the mysterious movements of PC Butfoy? Taken out of service for his health and, with the situation in the district still unresolved, back on the beat. Accidents always attract speculation. Did William die as a result of something he couldn't avoid - or was he pushed.

The theory of Alien abduction and possession becomes more attractive all the time. Oh yes - there was also the suspicion, aired in court, that it was all the fault of some old bloke called Johnny Bareblock whose ghost might have dun the deed.

12/6/06

The Writings of Ingrid Pitt