Birmingham & Black Country

Birmingham memorial links family to 116-year-old police death

Karen Hancox with the helmet belonging to her great-great Uncle
Image caption PC Snipe's helmet was used as evidence during the trial of the man later found guilty of his manslaughter

A blood-stained police helmet and a recently unveiled memorial now have a special meaning to a Birmingham woman who was researching her family history.

Karen Hancox has discovered her family is connected to one of the first policemen to be killed while on duty in the city after a memorial to fallen officers was unveiled.

Her grandfather's uncle, PC George Snipe, was killed in 1897 after being hit on the head with a brick.

And his death helped change the style of helmet police officers wore.

"All I knew was that my dad said his uncle was murdered when he was a policeman, but we didn't know any of the details," Mrs Hancox, from Quinton, said.

Life sentence

PC Snipe is one of the first of 89 names on the memorial at West Midlands Police headquarters, at Lloyd House in Birmingham.

When Mrs Hancox contacted the police to check that her relative was included on the memorial, she was put in touch with the force's museum at Sparkhill police station, where she was able to see the original records of the incident.

But, she did not expect to also be able to hold the blood-stained helmet PC Snipe was wearing when he died. It was "very strange", she said.

The officer, who was 29, died after being called to disturbance at closing time, in a pub in Bridge Street West.

A crowd threw stones and punched and kicked PC Snipe and his colleague after they arrested two men.

Mrs Hancox said her father always believed he was shot, but now knows he died in hospital from a fractured skull.

Police later arrested George "Cloggy" Williams, who was convicted of manslaughter and given a life sentence.

Image caption Officers refused to wear the spiked helmets after PC Snipe's death

Unmarked grave

PC Snipe's helmet was used as evidence during the trial and is one of the last police helmets of its kind with a sharp spike on top, according to the force.

Following the death of PC Snipe, his colleagues wrongly believed the brick that hit his head drove the spike through into his skull, killing him.

They refused to wear those helmets again, prompting the sharp spikes to be replaced by rounded ones.

Mrs Hancox always believed her relative was single, but after seeing the records she found he was married with a family.

"It turned out he did have a daughter and it turned out from the papers that his wife was expecting at the time of his death," she explained.

"It would be nice to find out what happened to his wife and children."

She has also found out PC Snipe is buried in an unmarked grave in Warstone Lane cemetery, which the family is planning to visit.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites