An Amusing Anecdote By Littlechild

Posted: September 14, 2009 in Chief Inspector John George Littlechild
A POLICE INSPECTOR’S MISTAKE.
 
It may be thought incredible that a detective officer could make such a succession of mistakes, but nevertheless I admit that it was I who made them. It only proves how very careful a policeman should be in all matters of identification.
One day I was engaged in the neigbourhood of Islington, and jumped into a tram-car to return to the city, when I observed, as I supposed, seated on the top of an omnibus, journeying in the same direction, a man for whose arrest I held a warrant on a charge of fraud. I knew this man well, so I was careful to appear not to take the least notice of him, and as the omnibus and tramcar kept pretty close together, I was able to follow him unobserved until we came to the end of the tramline. I then took another omnibus and pursued my man until he got off at the bank.
I did not arrest him out of hand, because it was one of those cases in which it was necessary to find out where he lived or where he would meet his confederates, for I believed he was working in partnership with another man. Through the city, along Queen Victoria street, as far as Blackfriar’s Bridge the man went, and I followed; but suddenly I lost him. He seemed to have dropped through the ground, and I could not account for his disappearance; and although I remained in the neighbourhood some time and searched a publichouse close by, I could not find him.
Three weeks later I was walking along Queen Victoria street, when in precisely the same spot where I had lost my man he reappeared. A colleague was with me, and I said to him: "There is X, and I hold a warrant for his arrest." I turned to the man and said: "Well, X, you know who I am. I am going to arrest you upon a warrant." Frightfully scared, the man cried: "You know who I am? I don’t know you!" and then began to run.
Immediately I seized him, and he cried out, "Police!" which I considered an extraordinary proceeding on his part. The prisoner offered no explanation as to himself, but behaved as a guilty man. In fact, I believed that he was the man "wanted." He was taken to the nearest city police station, and there I ascertained in what way he had given me the slip three weeks before. The fact was, he had entered his father’s place of business, and this gentlemen came to the police station and satisfactorily identified his son, who, I need hardly say, was not the man I wanted.
There could be no mistake – I had fallen into an error, and for that I was very much bullied, and my apologies were not regarded as sufficient. A voluminous official correspondence ensued, and although the man obtained no redress, as there was no malice on my part and the case was purely a question of mistaken identity, one would have thought that all the bother would have riveted the man’s personal appearance upon my mind. He did, indeed, haunt me as a nightmare. Nevertheless, a little time afterwards I was again in Islington, looking for the man I wanted, when I saw him looking into a shop window. I was sure that he was the very man for whose arrest I held the warrant. Yet before making him a prisoner, to be quite sure, I said to him, by way of precaution:
"How do you do?" He turned and replied curtly:
"I don’t wish to have anything to say to you." It was my friend the wrong man once more!
To complete this experience I may state that eventually the right man was arrested, in consequence of his portrait having been inserted in the police "informations" which are circulated to all divisions of the Metropolitan Police District. This portrait was recognised by a detective, who was able to give me the clue to the man’s whereabouts.
Ex-chief Inspector J.G. Littlechild in Cassell’s Saturday Journal
 
Source: Otago Witness, Issue 2079, 28 December 1893, Page 42

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