Archives unearth horrific murder

Det Sgt Robert Kidd
Det Sgt Robert Kidd

Archivists have unearthed facts about the horrific murder of a transport police officer at Wigan railway station more than 100 years ago.

As part of British Transport Police (BTP) History Week enthusiast are researching crimes on railway property from long ago.

The latest is from a night in September 1895 when Detective Sergeant Robert Kidd of the London and North Western Railway Police, was sent to Wigan station following a recent spate of thefts from goods wagons.

DS Kidd, a former officer with the Manchester City Police Force, and a father of seven children all under 12, was an ambitious 37-year-old who, after climbing up through the ranks, had been posted to Manchester (Liverpool Road Goods).

That night he had been sent to Wigan to assist his colleague Detective Constable William Osbourne to catch those responsible for the thefts.

As the pair patrolled the railway sidings they saw a man, William Halliwell, crouched in the shadows behaving suspiciously. As they approached, he ran off and DC Osbourne gave chase, eventually catching him.

A struggle ensued and, as DC Osbourne restrained him, a second man, William Kearsley, appeared. Concerned for his safety, DC Osbourne drew his truncheon. But another man, Elijah Winstanley, approached with a knife. The three men escaped, leaving Osbourne injured.

He staggered to the sidings where he found DS Kidd lying on the ground with nine knife wounds to his face and neck.

He attempted to carry his fallen colleague but collapsed unconscious by his side after raising the alarm from a nearby signal box.

DS Kidd died at the station. When details of his horrific injuries became public, information flooded in, leading to the arrest of the three men.

Halliwell, who faced a charge of unlawful wounding, agreed to give evidence against the other two.

While the three awaited trial, a workman playing cards in a field between the LNWR and the London and Yorkshire railway found a penknife that, when examined by police, turned out to be the knife used to kill DS Kidd.

A notch in the blade was consistent with the horrific injuries he sustained.

The jury at the trial, held at Liverpool Assizes, returned a guilty verdict without even leaving the court. The charge against Halliwell, who had turned Queen’s evidence, was discharged due to lack of evidence. Kearsley and Winstanley were sentenced to death. Following appeal, Kearsley had his sentence reduced to 20 years in jail. Winstanley was later hanged.

DS Kidd’s grieving widow was left with seven children and no means of support.

The Mayor of Salford opened an appeal fund which received generous donations to help her provide for the bereaved children.