The Murder of a Haslemere Policeman, 1855
On the night of 29th July 1855, after a heavy drinking bout, a group of Navvies armed themselves and attacked the Police station.
In a crazed assault on the 3 defending officers, Inspector William Donaldson was left fatally injured with a fractured skull.
Five men were prosecuted, with Samuel Woods, who had hit him over the head with an iron bar, being convicted of manslaughter and deported to Australia with a 20 years sentence.
Yet, this shocking attack and mob killing of a police officer only received a single paragraph in the Illustrated London News at the time.
This terrible incident, and the brave actions of the 3 officers, it seems, was to be forgotten in the mists of time.
A local historian, Jeff Harwood, uncovered the shocking story in 1984 whilst researching the building of the railways to Portsmouth from London during the 1850s.
He had a booklet printed, called - The Hero of Haslemere - which was presented to a local police sergeant.
Haslemere residents hold an annual remembrance service to the brave actions of the officers and the death of Mr Donaldson.
Photograph- Basher Eyre, 16 June 2012
In memory of Police Inspector William Donaldson, killed in the line of duty
Haslemere 29th July 1855 aged 44 years *
* This age has been shown to be incorrect - he was aged 47
Every year an informal group march around the town hall 3 times - the number of officers who faced the angry mob, with a wreath laid at the spot where Inspector Donaldson was killed.
Mr Harwood states - "A lot of navvies came to work in Haslemere, they were a pretty rough lot, they worked hard, they were well paid and they tended to do what they liked. However, their tempers were raised when police stopped their drinking and one of the navvies ended up being escorted to a lock-up within the town hall. They went home and got various clubs and bats to break him out of jail, but were met at the town hall by three police officers.
Standing with Mr Donaldson were Pc James Freestone and special officer, Doctor Bishop."
The pub in question was the Kings Arms
Inspector Donaldson was buried in the grounds of St Bartholomew's Church, in an unmarked grave.
Born in Alloa, Scotland in 1807, the officer had only been posted to Haslemere the previous year and left his wife, Janet, and 5 children. They moved to Dorking after his killing, and there are still some of his descendants living in Surrey today.
Inspector Donaldson was the first Surrey Police officer to be killed while on duty.
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