THE EVIL THAT MEN DO...
“THE EVIL THAT MEN DO LIVES ON AFTER THEM.”
We were horrified by the murder of PC Keith Palmer outside Parliament on March 22,
2017 allegedly by one Khalid Masood.
With the brave Constable’s funeral over, Masood’s apprehension, eventual trial and probable imprisonment It will be all too easy for us to forget the long term consequences for all concerned once the event is no longer news.
Shakespeare knew this, hence the line he gave Mark Antony in Julius Caesar, Act III Scene 2). I choose to explore this theme via the murder of another police officer that took place 108 years ago by
-THOMAS ALLEN (2)...
ST. ANDREWS ROAD.(1)
WEDNESDAY 19 AUGUST.
Mrs Agnes Cox’s wet summer afternoon was shattered by screams for help from her neighbour from four doors along, mother of 11, Mrs. Allen.
Agnes Cox ran out to see rat catcher Thomas Allen striking his wife with a rusty firearm during a violent row. (3)
Showing commendable courage, Agnes tackled the man and enabled Mrs. Allen to escape and run to a Mrs. Gray’s house, number 1, just across the road. The door was quickly locked barring Allen’s entry.
Trying to pacify the man, Agnes seized him, dragged him up the road and tried to persuade him to give up the weapon. However, he broke away from her and ran into his house.
Frightened for other residents, Agnes ran through Middle Cross-road to the High Street Police Station where she gasped out her story to Inspector Moore. (4) He immediately detailed off PC37, Charles Alger (5) to accompany Agnes back to her road.
Once there she entered her house, number 8, locking the door behind her. Mrs. Allen met the constable, told him what was the matter and warned him that her husband had got a gun.
“Oh has he?” said PC Alger and walked round her house into the back garden, there to confront Thomas Allen.
There in front of him stood a totally unprepossessing undersized, weak looking, pale faced man with a shaggy, unkempt beard.
Without warning, Allen bent down, picked up a hidden sawn-off double-barrelled shot gun and shot the constable at point blank range.
The wounds to his face were horrendous leading to his bleeding to death in a potato patch.
The brave Mrs. Cox, startled by the gun shot left her house and saw the policeman on all fours with Allen three yards away facing him, holding a gun.
Allen looked towards the woman and reloading, muttered,
“I have finished one and I have another one over there.”
The mortally wounded constable somehow got to his feet and staggered to the garden fence before falling and rolling over.
A LUCKY ESCAPE
Allen had meanwhile ran to the bordering Recreation Ground wall. William Smith, assistant grounds man had heard the shot but could see nothing due to the now heavily falling rain.
The next thing he heard was Tom Allen whom he knew well, ranting and raving,
“Come on Smith, come out an show yourself. You’re the man I want.”
Inside a shelter, Smith armed himself with a stout piece of wood and wisely laid low. Not seeing him, Allen thus thought he had scared him away.
Events had attracted the attention of many people playing tennis and other games, along with Mr. George Warner, Head gardener and grounds man (6) who also lived in St. Andrews Road.
THREE MORE WOUNDINGS
Taking his life into his hands and followed by two women, he walked into Allen’s garden aiming to assist the badly wounded constable. At this point, Allen returned and fired another cartridge at Alger, missing him but badly wounding George Warner instead, the spread of shot also slightly wounding Mrs Popay and Miss. Lancaster who were following him.
A visitor called out the nearby Constable Orford, while Inspector Moore and Constable Tink soon arrived in support. Sending the latter round to cover the back of Allen’s garden in a third act of courage that afternoon, Moore approached Allen face on and approaching a low fence demanded that the latter “give him that thing he had in his hand,as he had done enough mischief already.”
Allen was in a highly excited state and Inspector Moore found himself staring into the twin barrels of a reloaded sawn off.
A COURAGEOUS ARREST
Allen approached the resolute policeman, at first, seemingly reluctant to give up his weapon but on being promised that no harm would come to him, Moore sprang forward and tore the gun from Allen’s grasp. He handed it to Orford and Allen was promptly secured.
Then and only then could the casualties be treated. Sadly Constable Alger was beyond help but with the severely wounded George Warner and the two lightly wounded ladies was still carried off to the Cottage Hospital on Trafalgar Road, where he was pronounced dead.
Such were the bare bones of the story and I would like to state my belated respect for the courage of those ordinary people who suddenly found themselves in extraordinary circumstances.
THE EVIL MEN DO…
So how did the evil of Thomas Allen in those few minutes of madness on a wet August afternoon live on after him in the lives of those most closely involved? Firstly, Thomas Allen himself. In many ways he was out of it. Later found guilty of murder and sentenced to death, he was reprieved, but committed for life in Broadmoor Psychiatric Hospital where he died in 1920.
The person to feel the worst consequences was of course Mrs. Rose Alger. Apart from losing her man, she was left with four children under the age of ten. With no other means of support a local collection was begun by the “Yarmouth Mercury” newspaper. It would be several years before her children would be old enough to contribute to her welfare. Then of course there were the children, deprived of their father in such tragic circumstances.
Would not all the survivors have experienced something akin to what we now call “Post Traumatic Stress?* Certainly George Warner had to spend the rest of his life having to come to terms with his severe wounds. The ladies, had to come to terms with their violent encounters. How did Inspector Moore feel about having had to send one of his men to his death?
Then there was Thomas Allen’s wife. On the one hand she must have been pleased to have got rid of him but on the other, she had eleven children to bring up with no form of support outside the workhouse. She apologised profusely for her husband’s actions before each court she faced and then had to spend the rest of her life being pointed out as “the woman who was married to…”
A measure of the lasting effect of evil was a quote from Charles Alger’s 66 year old grandson, David Alger, 100 years later in 2009...
“My father Fred was only eight when it happened and never spoke much about it up to his death in 1987. I think it affected him greatly.
He just said it was very tragic. I remember him telling me he was out playing and someone came up to him and said, 'Your dad has been shot'. He rushed home and the police were already there.” (7)
HOWEVER, The occasion was a commemorative service in which Mr Alger was accompanied by fellow grandchildren down to triplet great-grandchildren along with a strong Norfolk Constabulary presence.
Returning to the Julius Caesar line,
“The evil that men do lives on after them”, Shakespeare followed it with,
“The good is oft interred with their bones”…not so with Constable Alger.
THE GOOD CAN LIVE ON TOO
After the service, nine year old triplets Abbey, Carolyn and Ellie placed a tribute of giant daffodils in his memory.
Mother Rachel said, ““I think it is really nice the police are commemorating him. He was obviously a very brave man. It was a tragic event for him to die so young. My children know all about him and are proud of him.”
The head of Yarmouth police, Supt Jim Somerton, laid a wreath on behalf of his force. It read: “A brave and courageous officer remembered and never forgotten by officers.”
Police spokesman Jon Smith said all officers serving today would be able to relate to the story of PC Alger…
“It has been the same since policing started. Officers go to situations every day where they don't know what the exact outcome will be. Sadly on this occasion it cost PC Alger his life,” he said.
Which brings us back to Keith Palmer. Once the story is no longer news, let us not forget either him, the consequences for all those involved in not just this but all similar tragedies, that for some will last a lifetime.