THE CASE OF WILLIAM BROWNE AND FREDERICK KENNEDY

By Tim Lambert

William Browne and Frederick Kennedy murdered a policeman, PC George Gutteridge in 1927. Browne was born in London in 1881 and had convictions for stealing. In 1924 Browne was given a sentence of 4 years. While in prison he met Frederick Kennedy, who had been born in 1885. Like Browne he was petty criminal. After they were released from prison the two became car thieves. On 25 September 1927 Browne and Kennedy stole a car belonging to Dr Edward Lovell from a garage in Billericay in Essex. They started driving back to London when they were stopped by PC George Gutteridge. The policeman asked questions then took out his notebook. At that point Browne took out a gun and shot him twice in the face. He then shot PC Gutteridge in each of his eyes. (Why he did so is uncertain, perhaps he was influenced that the last person a dying person sees is caught on the lenses of their eyes. The two men then drove to London where they abandoned the car.

At about 6am on 27 September 1927 a man driving past saw the body of PC George Gutteridge. Dr Lovell reported the theft of his car and it was found abandoned in Brixton, London. There were splashes of blood on the floor of the car and along a running board. Under a seat was a cartridge case. The police quickly surmised that the unfortunate PC Gutteridge had stopped the stolen car and the thief had shot him. The cartridge case was identified as one made in the Woolwich Arsenal. A firearms expert, Robert Churchill said the gun that fired it was a webley. There was also a distinctive mark on the cartridge case caused by a fault in the breech block of the gun that had fired it. But finding the webley in question proved difficult. However on 28 January 1928 the police arrested William Browne for the theft of a different car. The police found a webley in his car. It proved to have a fault in its breech block identical to the one that made the mark on the cartridge case found in Dr Lovell's stolen car. That proved it was the murder weapon. (The police also found other guns in Browne's home). Frederick Kennedy was arrested on 25 January 1928. He tried to shoot another policeman but fortunately this time the fun failed to fire (Kennedy forgot to release the safety catch). Kennedy told the police that Browne shot the policeman.

Browne and Kennedy went on trial on 23 April 1928. Both were found guilty of the murder of PC Gutteridge and they were sentenced to death. (Although Kennedy had not actually fired the gun he was held to be equally guilty). On 31 May 1928 William Browne was hanged in Pentonville prison while Frederick Kennedy was hanged in Wandsworth prison.

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