William Habron
Aug 1, 1876

William Habron was convicted of the murder of Constable Cock, a local lawman. Habron was a patron of the Royal Oak, a pub near Manchester that was on the constable's beat. Habron was frequently getting into fights with other patrons, which Cock had to break up. After one fight Cock threatened to arrest Habron the next time he got into a fight. Habron replied, “It'll be a sorry day for you, the day you arrest me.” The next time Cock passed the pub and heard sounds of a fight, he entered without waiting to be called and saw Habron and another patron in the midst of a fight. Cock arrested Habron. However, Habron had actually been on his best behavior. The other patron had interpreted Habron's behavior as a sign of weakness and, inspired by liquor, decided that it was a good time to pick a fight.

The next day a magistrate dismissed the case against Habron as it was well substantiated that Habron was blameless in the fight. In the courtroom following the dismissal, Habron reportedly walked up to Cock and told him, “I promised you a sorry day if you ever ran foul of me. I'll do you in for this.” Near midnight the same day Cock was shot to death.

Habron was arrested for the murder. At trial, the circumstantial evidence against Habron was supplemented by testimony about the perpetrator's boot prints. A police officer testified that boot prints left by the murderer matched Habron's boots. The soles of Habron's boots had a row of nails on each side as well as two rows of nails down the center. The officer testified that the number and the position of nail marks in the boot prints matched Habron's boots. However, no photographs or casts were made of the prints, so the judge and jury had to rely solely on the officer's testimony. The defense argued that Habron's style of boots and nails was common. Habron was sentenced to death by hanging. However, the crown accepted the jury's recommendation of life imprisonment and commuted Habron's sentence.

Two years later, in Oct 1878, another constable was shot while interrupting a burglary in the London suburb of Blackheath. While this constable was not killed, the suspect was caught. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for the attempted murder of the constable. Following conviction, the suspect was identified as Charles Peace, wanted for the murder of Albert Dyson. Peace was then convicted of this murder and sentenced to death. Following his sentencing, Peace confessed to the murder of Constable Cock. He said that Cock had interrupted him during a burglary. Peace gave sufficient details of the crime that authorities were fully convinced of his confession. Habron was pardoned and Parliament awarded him £500.  (CTI)  [6/08]