As surprising as it sounds, Harry Fallows was the only witness who was able to place Percy Toplis at Bulford Camp on the night that Andover taxi driver Sidney Spicer was murdered. He was also the only person to come forward to say Toplis was in possession of Spicer’s stolen car. Based on this one man’s witness account, J.T.P Clarke, Deputy-Coroner for North-West Hampshire (and also a Captain in the Royal Army Service Corps at Bulford) found Toplis guilty of Spicer’s murder. No other witnesses were brought forward to corroborate his claims and Toplis was found guilty in absentia (he wan‘t present at the inquest or able to offer a defence).
The story related by Fallows was fairly straightforward. Toplis, who had already deserted the RASC, arrives at the Cook House at Bulford Camp at 11.00 pm on Saturday 24th April 1920. He encounters Fallows, demands a drink and asks if he wants to join him on a joyride to Cardiff. Fallows, who says he has no prior knowledge that the car had been stolen, or that its driver had been killed, says yes.
A couple of things stand out. Fallows worked in the vehicle office of Bulford Camp. On Boxing Day 1919, Toplis is alleged to have stolen a Sunbeam car belonging to the Secretary of War (at this time Winston Churchill). If there was a black-market dealing in stolen vehicles (as has been suggested) then Fallow’s position in the Vehicle Office would certainly have been an asset.
Curiously, despite Fallows describing a series of meet-ups and events around the camp prior to the murder featuring dozens of service personnel, it becomes clear from his formal statement that Toplis only ever arrives to see Fallows when there is no one else around. Everyone has always just left, or have not yet arrived. He also shows a curious skill in being able to draw attention to episodes of conspicuous behaviour that in some way amplify or prove his innocence:
“I kept my head out of the side all the time so that everybody in Cardiff could see me so that I could grab the wheel if he hesitated and as If I had known what Topliss had done it is hardly likely I would have let everyone see me as I did”.
“I was talking to the chap from this house and I let him look at my photo in uniform in the back of a Comrades of the Great War Membership Card. I also told him I came from Manchester. If I had known Topliss had murdered a driver it stands to reason I should have tried to hide my identity, and not disclose it.”
The account of his 26-hour ‘joyride’ around Cardiff and Swansea was just the same; Toplis always just happens to be absent when Fallows encounters anyone who can corroborate the pair being seen together. Toplis is even mysteriously absent when Fallows shows the house owner in Swansea his Comrades of the Great War membership card. It becomes clear from the statement he provides to Police that Fallows embarked on the ‘joyride’ journey to Swansea with the expressed purpose of making an indelible impression on all those he encountered. He flashes his ID at people, tells them his name and that he’s from Manchester, sticks his head out of car windows as he drives through the streets and even goes to the trouble of approaching a Policeman. My hunch is that this was a deliberate attempt to have a group of random witnesses corroborate his story about his 26-hour adventure in Wales. And this is interesting, because by the time that Fallows was pushing his face at random strangers in Swansea and Cardiff, press accounts of a short, round-faced young man with spectacles (which was Fallows to a tee) and a man ‘dressed as a Sergeant Major’ were already in circulation — as was the vehicle’s registration plate: a 12 HP five-seater Darracq AM2290. The intention would have been straightforward enough: to put flesh on the basic narrative of Toplis taking flight to Wales, perhaps playing to existing Police intelligence on his usual haunts and networks.
Incidentally, the description of the Sergeant Major accompanying the man in spectacles said he was 35 years of age and between 5 ft 8 to 5 ft 9 in height (Description of the Wanted, Sheffield Evening Telegraph 27 April 1920, p.6.) According to press reports of his service records, Toplis was 23 years of age and between 5 ft 5 and 5 ft 7 inches tall.
The only who came forward to back Fallow’s claim was Private Jack Holdrick, a former buddy of Fallows at Bulford Camp. Holdrick alleged that he encountered Toplis in the High Street in Southampton on the afternoon of the murder. He claimed that Toplis was pledging to steal another car and showed him his Webley Mark VI Revolver. “If I can’t get it by fair means I shall do it with this”, he is alleged to have told him (How Toplis Got Away, Cheltenham Chronicle 29 May 1920, p.7)
Were the Police not concerned that the only man able to corroborate Fallow’s story about Toplis was based some 45 miles away in Southampton and not at Bulford Camp itself?
In all liklihood, Fallows never met Toplis that night. And in all liklihood, Toplis never even made the trip to Wales. Fallows’ story was always suspect. According to his army service records, Harry Fallows only arrived at Bulford Camp in some time in mid December 1919, shortly after enlisting at Woolwich. By December 26th 1919 Toplis had deserted. Had the opportunity ever presented itself for the pair to have established the kind of rapport and trust that would resulted in a midnight joyride to Swansea at such a make or break time for Toplis? It also wasn’t clear from the statement why Toplis would need Fallows along on the ride? Fallows is not asked to drive, run errands or make contact with anyone. We are asked to believe that Toplis shoots a man in the head at point blank range using hollow-point (maximum internal damage) bullets in the driver’s seat of a car he intends to steal and sell-on. In the hour or so he had, how did Toplis manage to clean the upholstery, move the body of this “particularly well developed and powerful man” across a ditch, up a bank and along a hedge for 40 yards and cover the blood-trail with the grass and grit described in the first reports? (Taxi Murder Mystery, Pall Mall Gazette 26 April 1920, page.1) How would he be able to explain away the bullet-holes in the bonnet and the rear of the car that the press would subsequently report? Didn’t Fallows ever question these? (Motor Driver’s Murder, The Times, Tuesday, Apr 27, 1920; pg. 16)
Evidence of the immense trauma caused to the victim’s head would have been difficult to remove in the window of time provided. Spicer is alleged to have been shot at point blank range using ‘expanding’ (dumdum) bullets. Expanding bullets, banned by armies worldwide in 1899, were designed to cause maximum internal damage.
Spicer was last seen alive between 9.30 and 9.45 pm on Saturday April 24th by taxi-driver Edward Charles Heather at the Rose and Crown. He was embarking on a journey to Amesbury to pick up a another fare (about a 10 minute drive). Spicer was likely to have picked up this fare (a ‘man dressed as a Sergeant Major’) around 9.55 pm. If Toplis was picked at Amesbury as alleged, it would be a further 15-20 minutes before they arrived at Thruxton Down, where Spicer was found in the ditch. The time of the murder was probably between 10.05 and 10.15 pm.
Fallows claims Toplis arrived at the camp at 11.00pm. Even after the shooting Toplis still had a 8-mile drive from Thruxton to Bulford to make (depending on road conditions, approximately 15-20 minutes in the Darracq he was driving).
What would possess him to shoot the man, steal the car, head to Bulford Camp and enlist a witness to observe his flight to Wales? Why just not slope off in the car and then ditch it somewhere in the dead of night? Where was the wisdom in disposing of his bloodied clothes at Savernake Forest (by burning them) in front of Fallows?
I also have a hard time understanding why Hampshire Police allowed Fallows to prepare a handwritten 5,000 word statement without seeking out any other witnesses to corroborate his story? The Inquest also failed to mention that the taxi-driver, Spicer had killed a man on a nearby stretch of road just three years before.
Fallows never gave any interviews to the press. In January 1927 he and a young girl were found dead in cave in Derbyshire, a vial of poison at their sides. A few months later, Detective James L Cox who had led the Toplis investigation was also found dead at home. He was 49 years of age.
The Police Statement
Statement prepared for Sergeant White of Hampshire Constabulary, April 29th-30th 1920.
On the Friday [the day before the Cup-tie) two orderlies in Company Office came to my bed and woke me up about 1.30, and told me that Sergeant Major Wilson of the `Air Force wanted to see me outside Company Office. As 1 thought they were joking I took no notice, especially as they said he was after my blood for putting his daughter in a certain state. About an hour or two after a boy (about 12 years of age, a civvy), said a Major wanted to see me at Tin Town and gave me a note. The note said the writer wanted to see me on important business, so I went. When I got there an Air Force Major said, “How do Fallows, don’t you know me? I’m Topliss, now a Sergeant Major in the R.A.F. at Halton Camp.” I said, “Are you really a Sergeant Major or is it a spoof, the same as you use to dress up as a Colonel?” and he replied, “Oh no, I am really a one, see here.” He then showed me a pass for a months’ leave and a paper to say he was commissioned to go about the country buying cars cheap for the Air Force. He also showed me a Bucks County Driving Licence for the R.A.F. at Halton Camp. I said to him, ” You haven’t half soon got a Sergeant Major”, and he said, “Yes, they know a soldier when they see one in the R.A.F.” I asked him, “What made you desert from here and then join the Army again?” He said “Desert? I never deserted see here,” middle showed me a parchment discharge paper with one centre orderly stamp on it signed by Captain J.C. Jennings on the 28/12/1919. He said, “I left Bulford and went to Sling on the 26/12/1919, and was discharged later. A lot of the chaps told me I pinched that Sunbeam you got into trouble over so I went to see Major Breadmore and he said it’s all a mistake.” Topliss then said, “I was down here a few weeks ago driving a kraut (Sir somebody) [Could be the German born Sir Eyre Crowe – made Permanent Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs that October] and I offered Corporal Hunt a ride in the car but he wouldn’t have one.
As it was too late he said, so I’ll give you a joy ride when I give him his.” I said, “Righteo, just feel like one now.” He then left me as he said he could see his chums. I don’t know who his chums were. Then the next morning he was walking about Sling, and I saw him there and one or two R.A.S.C. Sergeant Majors said, “Good morning Major” to him, but I don’t know if they knew him. The next I saw of him was on the Saturday afternoon a week later. About 2.30 an ex-Corporal in A.D.T. came in the hut and said a Sergeant Major wanted to see me at Tin Town. I wondered what he wanted and I went to Tin Town but did not see him until he knocked on the window of the Cromwell Institute and I went in and he was playing the piano. He said. “Hello old bean, thought I would tell you that I have got a car down here, but I have bought one for £50 as well at Larkhill.” I said, “What sort is it?” and he said, “Oh it’s Landulette.”, he said. You can have your ride tomorrow afternoon [Sunday] and so can any of your mates.” I said, “Righto, I shall be there.” He then said, “Have a walk with me down to the station.” So I said, “All right.” On the way down he informed me he had been to see his pal ‘Ginger’ and one or two more chaps at Bulford, but he didn’t mention their names. I said, “You don’t half come to Bulford a lot. All the chaps keep telling me you are in Tin Town; are you stationed near here?” He said, “All, that’s telling, but you be ready about 3 o’clock tomorrow afternoon and I will give you a decent joy ride, you will enjoy it.” As he said this Sergeant Wright [our Provost Sergeant] came up and asked had I got a pass so I said,” No, I am only going to Bulford.” He said, “You know you should have a pass, you go round there.” So we went round by the railway.
When we got to the platform where they place the chassis on the goods wagons, Topliss said, “Let’s have a sit down.” We sat down on his coat and then a dog came playing round me. When I looked at him again he had Mark VI Webley in his hand, and I said, “What’s that for?” He said, “I am going to blow that buggers brains out.” I said, “Don’t be a damn fool, leave the poor little blighter alone.” So he said “Fancy being frightened to kill a dog.” I said, “You leave him alone” and the dog ran away when I pushed it He then emptied his revolver and I saw the cartridges were mixed, some were British Bull-dog pattern [with a metal top] others were Yankey pattern [with a lead top]. I said to him, “That’s more like it, a man who carries a loaded revolver in England is an idiot” So he said “Oh I’m going to Ireland soon where you can shoot on sight.” He then left me after we had been together an hour, but before he went he borrowed my last two Woodbines, as he said he couldn’t get any. I then went in the Cookhouse at 4.30. The witnesses to prove this are Privates Clemson, Drink-water, Durose and Wells, also Sergeant Oldfield. There was a bit of an argument about the Cup-tie, and a chap said A.D.T. had it on the telephone that Huddersfield were winning 3-1. As Durose is a Birmingham chap I told him I wasn’t surprised that the Villa should lose, as they couldn’t play football for nuts at Birmingham. At 6 o’clock I had to be on duty so I went to the lavatory 5.55 to 6.05. I then stayed in the Cook house while Private Canniford cleaned the pipes on the roof. Then the Guard and Police came for supper, but as the Sergeant had left them no bully out I went outside and carried on a mock conversation with Private Canniford on the roof in the course of which I said, ‘The Guard and Police for supper tonight will be fucking unlucky.” Corporal Mathieson of A.D.T. then said I should not be so rude and use such language. The next thing, this would be about 7.15, I asked Private Clark if I borrowed 6d would he come to the pictures so he said yes.
I scrounged round until I saw Corporal Howland of the Magneto Store in the billiard room and he lent me the sixpence out of a half-crown, which Miss Guppy at the N.A.C.B. Canteen changed for me. I then saw Private Oddy of the Vehicle Office having a supper so I said. “Corning to the pictures with Nobby and me in the 3d?” He said, “Oh blimey, I generally go in the bobs.” I said, “Righto, in the bobs we go if you pay.’ He then agreed to come so about 7_45 we left the camp and went to the pictures. On the way to the pictures we met Private Smith and Private Raker [Steam Section] and Corporal Coulter [Cook house). Corporal Coulter shouted he had won the sweep again and I said you lucky blighter, you are always winning. We then went in the pictures_ In the seats was Cpl Hunt who smiled at us, and two rows in front in the 3d was Private Hilldrop [of the Cook house]. Private Clark then left us and sat next to Hilldrop. There were two men who let on to me who work in 1 Depot Cook house a few rows in front of me.
At the finish of the performance, which would be about 9.45, I walked down to the camp with Private Clark, Oddy, and Hilldrop. As we got to the lorry park two men said, “What do you mean making such a row” Oh looking closer we found it was Privates Drinkwater and Durose so we all linked arms and went to the hut. I left them at the door and went in the Cook house. I pulled my coat off and peeled some potatoes for our supper. About 10.30 two guards came down for the bucket of hot tea and Private Canniford said, “I told you to come for tea at 12.00 not 10.30.” so the guards said the Sergeant in charge of Guard sent them. Canniford then put some duff in the oven for them so they waited for it, then they left the cook house about 10.50. About 11.00 a knock came to the door and I opened it thinking it would be the provost sergeant. I was surprised to see Topliss there and he said, “For Gods’ sake give a drink, I feel as parched as hell and I have had nothing to eat since dinner.”
We had some tea so gave I him a drink and then he said, “You had better have a ride to Tidworth and back with me tonight if you want a joy ride or you will not be able to have one as I have some important business on.” He said, “Are you coming?” So I said, “Yes might as well have a blow as I don’t often get chance to go a ride by the other cars now.” When I got outside I said, “I thought you said you had the Landulette you bought here.” He said, ” Oh no, this is another one, the one I told you about that I already had.” I thought the car was an Air Force Crossley, as it had only the cover over half of it. He then said, “Jump in, we’ll soon be back.” He drove down the railway siding first and I said, “What’s the idea?” So he said, “Oh I don’t want everyone to come poking round my car.” And I said, “What does it matter if they do?” so he said nothing then. He then raced his engine and we went up the hill at the sidings and past Company Office with his engine making a terrible row. There were two chaps just entering the camp by the pillar box as we were passing A.D.Ts, but I don’t know who they were.
Then we went to Tidworth and twice on the way there I had to grab the wheel as he used his right lock instead of his left on one or two occasions. I said,” What’s the matter with you?” and he said nothing only “I feel cold.” However, we got to Tidworth after a civvy on a cycle had directed us and then we stopped at a house for water for the radiator. As I was putting it in, a constable came up and watched me doing this. I did not attempt to hide my features, as I did not know what he had done. We started off and I asked him what about going back so he said, “You had better stay where you are.” I said, “I shall be absent though.” So he said, “Oh hell are you windy,” I said “Windy, what of?” He made no reply but made a grab at my hat nearly overturning the car in doing so. He said, “This fits better than mine,” and threw his on the seat. I put my hand behind for the hat and I felt something cold which made me shiver, but on picking it up I found it was only a revolver. I picked it up and looked at it and there were six cartridges in it, but he pulled it out of my hands. I said, “What do you want that on the seat for?” and he said, “If any bastards get in my way I’ll do them in.” Then he started mumbling about jewels and banks and I nudged him to keep his eye on the road and not dream as I was fed up with keeping my eye on the road and steering at every turn. All through the night until we parked up just before Cirencester, I don’t think he spoke above 30 or 40 words to me.
Before parking up after leaving Swindon we had to pass through a forest with some deer in it. He stopped the car here in the forest and told me to get in the back and make myself comfy. I did so, and then he struck a match and lit some rags about 20 yards away from the car. Then he put some petrol on the rag and it burnt up. I said “What’s that?” He said, “Oh only some dirty clothes, I thought it would warm my hands up if I lit them.” Then we went on and he stopped the car at Swindon. In the full glare of our own headlights with lamps round a monument, I went up to a Police Inspector and asked him, at Topliss’ suggestion, the way to Cirencester. The Inspector looked very closely at me and then told me the way, and said, “Just put your rear light on before you get into trouble.” I shouted to Topliss to light it, and I think he did do, but I ant not certain. Then we stopped in the centre of Swindon and a policeman and a civvy came up. The civvy asked us to give him a lift for five mile on the way to Cirencester so Topliss said, “Jump in.” We went on and the civvy told him what turnings to take and then we stopped at a house. The civvy gave Topliss 4/- of which he gave me 2/-and then Topliss said, “Good luck old sport, I hope there are a few more blokes want 4/- lifts tonight, although a drink of tea would be more acceptable,” but of course the civvy had gone. Then Topliss said he had to follow a churchyard and then go straight on. He followed the churchyard but he nearly ran into some railings so I said, “You’re dangerous, have you had a drink?” So he said, “Only a few whiskies and it’s got to my head,” I believed him then, but I don’t think he was half drunk now I think what he did. Then he said, “We’ll stay here while morning so he pushed it on an incline with my help as the engine had stopped and we both got in the back. I woke him up about 6.30 when a civvy passed us with a bike, and he got up and put the hood right over the car then and put two straps on the mudguard as he said it would rain.
Then we carried on to Cirencester and she stopped dead outside a doctors’ house for want of petrol. He said, “We’ll have some breakfast here.” So we had a walk round for likely shops to get it. We tried one or two places but were unsuccessful but at last we got it at some tearooms near a church. After breakfast Topliss went up the street and bought a tin of oil and I tin of petrol. After doing this and putting everything right he washed his hands in petrol and then the car would not start. I went as Topliss told me to get a motor engineer but none of the three men could come so Topliss found one himself. This engineer put the car right in about 20 minutes so we started off again. The next part I remember clearly is Chepstow where he said he would knock a policeman down if he saw him. I said, “Remember you’ll drop me in it if you do such a damn daft trick,” so he said nothing again. I said, “Why don’t you say something?” so he said, “Oh I don’t feel like it, I’m hungry. He then drove in the National Shipyards (Chepstow) and we had dinner. While we were having dinner he said, “If ever I did anything wrong the finest place to hide was the National Shipyards,” he said “You got your grub cheap, and you could get a bed for 6d a night.” He showed me all over the place and he seemed fully conversant with it. Then we left there, and he went round a path by a church and a policeman was near the church looking at us, so I told him this was not a road, it was a footpath so he said, “Never mind, we’ll be on the road now.” Then I said, “Where are you really going to?” He said, “Gloucester.” I said we had passed through Gloucester so he said Cardiff. I said, “Why Cardiff?” so he said he was not going to let the Air Force have the car for £50, he was going to sell it, and make his accounts right by paying a cheque in the bank for £50 to the Air Force Commission, and saying he had drawn it in mistake. We called at a few places for petrol on the way but I cannot say where or in what towns. Anyhow, after getting the car piled up on a bank and having to get two chaps to help to get it straightened again, we went on. On the way to Cardiff we stopped at a public house for some water for the radiator, but they don’t have public houses open on Sunday in South Wales, so Topliss got some from a house. We had not been going long when that was a policeman climbing a hill with a civvy, and Topliss said, “I’m going to knock him over.” But I said, “You’ll not be so damn daft.” So I kept it over the left hand side.
We managed to get to Cardiff all right and as Topliss nearly ran into a high-powered American style of car, I kept my head out of the side all the time so that everybody in Cardiff could see me so that I could grab the wheel if he hesitated and as If I had known what Topliss had done it is hardly likely I would have let everyone see me as I did. Then some cows came along and I told Topliss to stop, but he did not until he banged into a cow. I looked behind and the cow seemed all right and the farmer did not move to come back so I started her up as Topliss told me do. I wanted to straighten the mudguard then but Topliss said, “Don’t be a bloody fool, look at all these people.” So I said, “Well, what does it matter to them?” but I got in anyway, and we bowled along until Topliss said, “Ask the way to Swansea.” I said, “Swansea? I thought you were going to Cardiff” He said, “Stop bloody well arguing and get on with it.” So we went down a road where a signpost said to Swansea and after a few minutes Topliss pulled up and bought some Woodbines.
Nothing strange happened on the way to Swansea except that passing a drapers shop where we saw a scruffy looking chap, and Topliss said, “There’s Gardener.” I should not have known him myself as he had a dirty face and cap; coat and khaki trousers were absolutely filthy. From what I saw so I thought he must work in a mine or something. Topliss then turned up one or two side streets and then came to a stop. Then Topliss left me with the car outside a house where we had a wash about 6.45 and I saw no more of him until about 9.45 approximately. The people at the house will be able to verify this. I was talking to the chap from this house and I let him look at my photo in uniform in the back of a Comrades of the Great War Membership Card. I also told him I came from Manchester. If I had known Topliss had murdered a driver it stands to reason I should have tried to hide my identity, and not disclose it.
Then Topliss came up and he said, “Has a man been talking to you?” so I said, “Yes” he said, “Did he ask you or did you tell him anything?” I said, “Only just talking about one or two things, and I showed him the photograph”. He said, “Did he ask where you lived?” so I said “Yes, and I told him Manchester.” Then Topliss said, “You damned fool, why couldn’t you keep your mouth shut.” Anyhow he dropped me at the bottom of the street and told me to ask for the Grosvenor Hotel, and to go upstairs and tell them I was waiting for the Major. I did this and Topliss came in about 10.30 to 10.45. After supper we went to bed and Topliss put the revolver on the dressing table. I said, “Have you still got that bally thing?” so he said, “Yes” and then got into bed. He told me to wake him at eight o’clock but I woke him at 3.45 as he was groaning and shivering, but he said he was all right and then he slept until 10 o’clock. He told me to hurry up and we had breakfast and then he went into a barbers for a shave.
He came out and then we went up one or two streets until we came to a street called Neverdy Street or Dynever Street with a Boys’ Secondary School at the top. Then he went in a garage called the Alexandra Garage and came out of a side door about 11.25 with the car. There was a man and a boy pushing the car out of the garage so that he had no need to swing her to get going, but did it coming down the hill by kicking his clutch in. He then came to the bottom of the hill where he told me to wait and said, “He’s got the wind up over this car. I’ve sold him cars before but he won’t take this one.” I said, “What makes him think you’ve pinched it?” so he said, “Oh I don’t know, I shall have to take it back to Cardiff now. Anyhow I made him fill me up with petrol and give me a spare tin for fuck all as I know something about him.” There was a policeman on the footpath and all of a sudden Topliss said, “That policeman’s looking” and instead of going to Cardiff he went through a lot of streets and dropped me near a bridge where there was a policeman leaning over the top of the railings. He said, “Wait here, or walk up here to meet me, I am going to see a chap now.” He borrowed my spectacles and then came back after about 10 to 15 minutes without the car. I said. “Where’s the car?” So he said “Oh another chap’s taken it now’ Then he said, “You can have your hat back now.” And took his of my head and we climbed up a bank and walked along the front or promenade.
After a bit he said, “You walk behind and follow me to the railway station. I said, “I’m not going back to Bulford now, I’ll get as much detention as if I stayed three or four days.” So he said, “You had better go back straight away, here’s a pound to pay your fare.” A policeman was on the kerbstone and Topliss said, “Is he looking?” so I said “No, you are very frightened of policemen,” so then he said “so would you if you had as much to do with them as I have.” Then I got into the station after him and a railway policeman was behind him and Topliss called me to him and said, “You catch the 1.30 train to Bristol and change there for Salisbury, you will have to book to Bristol from here as you can’t book to Salisbury from here.” It was 1.05 then so I went to the Railway Hotel and had a drink of bitter which cost me 7d. I got on the station again at 1.25 and bought a Daily Mail. When I opened it Topliss took it off me and said there was no football in it. Then when we got to Cardiff, Topliss told me to change here for Bristol so he said he would write or see me on Thursday. I got out and there was a man who looked like a demobbed Officer in the carriage, two or three more civvies, and a black man. The black got out at Cardiff when I did. Then I got in a train there and as it was going to Salisbury I asked the Guard could I stay on and pay the difference, so he said he would see me right. The last stop we had before getting to Bath, a collector came in and gave me a white slip to Salisbury taking 6/6d off me and my Bristol ticket. While on the way to Bath a gentleman was reading a paper and I peeped over and was scanning the headlines when I saw “Hold up mystery in Wiltshire”. The Andover and Wiltshire Police were yesterday engaged in solving a brutal murder in which the driver of a motor car was robbed and shot dead and the car stolen.’ At the first station we came to I bought a paper [a gentleman in my carriage bought a lady some Rowntrees chocolate in a packet at the same time]. When I read full details I was horrified to find that it was the car I had been in. I was stunned for the minute and then the gentleman nudged me and asked me to have a chocolate. The lady gave me two chocolates and the young man with her gave me a B.D.V cigarette. I felt miserable and wondered what to do and then I thought I will go back to Bulford get my own charge of ‘Absent without leave’ done with and then ask to see the police and make a clean breast of it. Borrowed 8d off a young lady at the Y.M.C.A. at Salisbury to make up my fare to Bulford. I arrived at Bulford about 11.30 on Monday night, helped to get the troops breakfast ready, cleaned up for Orderly Room. Was remanded. Then my C.O., [Captain Atkins) saw me about 11.15 to 11.30, and after talking to me and giving me 1 days pay by R.W. and 7 days C.B. 1 went to the but put on my light boots, and sat by the fire for a bit. Then I got up and went straight away to Orderly Room and asked Captain Atkins for a pass to go to see the police at Amesbury. However lucidly the Superintendent of the Andover police was there, and I was able to give him information within 19 hours of knowing of the crime Topliss had committed. I only hope he may be caught soon.
Inquest Opened on Murdered Chauffeur, Western Times 29 April 1920, p.4
Clues in the Motor Mystery, Nottingham Journal 28 April 1920, p.1
HUNT FOR ANDOVER MURDERER, The Manchester Guardian, Apr 29, 1920
SEARCH FOR CHAUFFEUR’S MURDERERS, The Manchester Guardian, Apr 28, 1920
Motor Driver’s Murder, The Times, Tuesday, Apr 27, 1920; pg. 16