Upon his arrival in 1915 as the Island’s new Inspector of Police, Mr. Sempill discovered that Bermuda’s Police Force was riddled to its core with gross inefficiency and criminality within its ranks. The need for sweeping change within the force was evident and, as the son of a Scottish Chief Constable and an experienced Chief of Police in the Broughty Ferry Burgh Police in Scotland, Mr. Sempill proved himself ideally qualified to assume command and make the necessary reform.
Using all the legislative tools at his disposal during his12 years’ tenure he ably rooted out the criminal fraternity operating within the Force by chasing down and prosecuting the burglars, marginal performers and bootleggers amongst them. After all, these were the days of Prohibition (1920 -1933) in the United States and rum-running earned good money for Bermudian’s willing to chance the law. As you will read, Mr. Sempill earned notable community respect by recruiting men of integrity from overseas in addition to introducing effective procedures designed to bring the Force into the 20th Century including the establishment of a new and promising fingerprint science to enhance criminal detection methods.
Under his attentive superintendence arrangements were advanced before the Legislature for the overseas training of senior police personnel with an eye to succession planning and cross-training between both the police and prison branches then under his charge. These were historically important times for the Bermuda Police Force including, as it did then, the administration of the Gaols where notable improvements were also made.
In 1925 Chief of Police Sempill was awarded the MBE.
After resigning in 1927 in order to pursue a command policing position offered to him elsewhere in the colonial world Mr. Sempill met a most unfortunate end in 1931 when he was killed in British Honduras whilst engaged in the execution of his duty.
This article details a comprehensive 12 year history of the Force between the years 1915 to 1927 and reflects on the work of John Howard Sempill MBE who was promoted from Inspector to Chief of Police in 1919.
Throughout his Bermuda career Mr. Sempill had little time for relaxing as he used his authority to hunt down criminals both within and without his police force. In his roles as both a police prosecutor and an investigating officer he had conduct of many prominent cases of interest a sampling of which is presented below.
Due to a number of factors, there are literally no records in the Bermuda Police archives from the early days of the Police Force so this article relies on other types of historical sources to provide some insight into the life and times of Mr. Sempill.
According to UK records the registration of the birth of John Howard Sempill at Whitehaven in Cumberland, England was recorded in the 1st Q of 1876. However, in the absence of a birth certificate his actual date of birth cannot be ascertained with certainty.
The 1901 census taken at “Broomfield Villa”, Stirling, St. Ninians, in Stirlingshire, Scotland, reveals that John H Sempill was the eldest child of County Chief Constable John D. Sempill and his wife Mary [Hall] – who was born in England.
John Douglas Sempill, J.P., was Procurator Fiscal of the County of Stirling and retired Head of the Constabulary of that county.
It appears that young John H. Sempill decided to follow in his father’s footsteps as a policeman because the same 1901 census shows that at the age of 25 and still a single man, his occupation is recorded as that of Inspector of Police.
To view a 1909 [Copyrighted] profile photo and early biography of Chief Constable John Howard Sempill [one of only two known photos] CLICK HERE
Set in Scotland in 1912 a book based on actual events entitled “The Secret Life and Curious Death of Miss Jean Milne” written by Andrew Nicoll tells the story of the subsequent murder investigation involving Mr. Sempill. To view the article CLICK HERE
Often referred to as ‘The Mansion House Murder’ the killing is further chronicled by Alistair Martin in reference to the history of Broughton Ferry. To view the article CLICK HERE
About 9.20 a.m. on Sunday 3rd November, 1912 Miss Jean Milne was found murdered in the hall of her house at Elmgrove, a large Mansion house standing in extensive grounds in this Burgh.
Miss Milne resided alone at the above address and was a lady of eccentric habits, having few friends or visitors. She frequently left home and went to London, sometimes without intimating her intention of doing so to anyone. The last time she is believed to have visited London was on 9th April, 1912, when she remained away until 2nd August, 1912. On that occasion she stayed at the Palace Hotel, Strand. She was last seen alive on or about 21st October, 1912.
The murder appears to have been of a brutal nature, the deceased lady having been battered about the head and arms with a poker which was found beside the body. Her feet were tied by a curtain cord and the wires of the telephone, which is situated in the hall where the body was found, were cut.
The whole affair is at present a mystery and, although a considerable quantity of valuable jewelry and money was found in the house and on the person of the deceased lady, nothing appears to have been disturbed.
Any information likely to lead to the elucidation of the murder will be gratefully received by the subscriber.
Despite the many efforts, the murder of Miss Milne remains unresolved to this day.
ARRIVAL IN BERMUDA
The first mention found between the young Chief Constable and Bermuda occurred on the December 16, 1914 when a New York Immigration Passenger Arrival List at Ellis Island, recorded the arrival of John Howard Sempill, a 38 year old police officer accompanied by his wife Isabella [Ella] both of whom had departed Liverpool on December 5, 1914 on board the S.S. Transylvania destined for Bermuda. Both had declared their final destination as “W.I. Bermuda” and gave their last place of residence as c/o Mr. H. D. Sempill, 3, Randolph Road, Stirling, Scotland.
Thereafter, the Royal Gazette records that on Monday, December 28, 1914 the Sempills’ arrived on the Island from New York on board the R.M.S. Bermudiana and that the Inspector of Police assumed the duties of his office on this same day. It was further disclosed that Mr. Sempill was for 13 years Inspector of Police for Stirling County, Scotland, and for 5 years Head of the Police Force and Public Prosecutor of the borough of Broughton Ferry, Forfarshire.
THE ‘WEIGHTY CASE’ OF TWO LOAVES OF BREAD
Inspector Sempill’s first argument before a Bermuda Police Court occurred in late April 1915 when he prosecuted a “weighty case” involving two loaves of bread. The matter was reported as follows in the Royal Gazette: –
“At the Hamilton Police Court yesterday morning Mr. C. A. V. Frith, representing the Bermuda Bread Co., pleaded guilty to a charge of having sold two loaves of bread on the 22nd inst., the same not being legibly marked with the weight. Mr. Frith stated that Section 2 of the Bread Act. 1914, as it is now, is impracticable in the working.
“Mr. S. D. Robinson also pleaded guilty to a similar charge. Both stated that the stamping had to be done before the bread went into the oven, and in the process of the baking the impression most frequently worked [itself] out.
“Mr. Inspector Sempill (sic) said that in other places it was found practicable to mark the bread.
“Some correspondence with the Executive had passed. The bakers urged that the law be so amended as to permit the affixing of a label instead of impressing a stamp. The Executive had no objection to the amendments suggested, but held that it ought to be prompted by the parties interested and not by the Government. The hearing was further adjourned……….”
ON THE SQUARE
According to the Colonial and Foreign Membership Registers of the United Grand Lodge of England, John Howard Sempill was initiated into the Craft of Freemasonry on June 22, 1915 by the Atlantic Phoenix Freemasonry Lodge No. 224 of Hamilton, Bermuda. He received his certificate of membership on June 20th the following year.
The Sempills’ engaged in extensive philanthropic involvement during their stay in the islands and they contributed regularly to charities of their choice as evidenced below in the Royal Gazette of October 20, 1915.
A “List of subscribers already received towards the motor-ambulance ‘Bermuda’ and the British Red Cross Fund” recognized the contribution of £1.0.0 by Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Sempill”.
INTERNAL POLICE INVESTIGATIONS
Less than twelve months after his arrival in Bermuda, Inspector Sempill was engaged in an investigation that would have profound implications for the Bermuda Police Force in particular and the Bermuda public in general.
“A shock awaited those few of the public who frequent the Police Court, Hamilton, either out of curiosity or on business, when on Tuesday morning [2nd of November, 1915] Chief Constable Eales, Constables H. T. Seymour and John Shirley, were brought from gaol and placed in the dock arraigned before His Worship R.W. Appleby, J.P., P.M., with having at various times within a period covering the last three years entered the stores of four firms in the City of Hamilton namely Trimingham Bros., H. A. & E. Smith., and T. J. Pearman & Sons and Young Brothers and stole goods therefrom.
The Inspector then put the goods in the cellar, locked it, and placed Mr. Hooper on guard while he conveyed Seymour to Hamilton Gaol.
(The above matter was reported in the Royal Gazette dated Thursday, November 4, 1915 – Hamilton Police Scandal)
Inspector Sempill explained that what was present was hardly a third of the amount of goods. The remainder was stored at the Court House and were being sorted.
The case was adjourned and bail was extended on same conditions as previously.
Trimingham’s goods were identified by Charles Arthur Hooper, a clerk at Trimingham Bros. who commenced with his inspection of a bundle of 19 shirts.
The articles found on defendants Shirley’s and Eales’s premises were also enumerated and witness testified he had never sold any of them to the defendants named.
(Above matters were reported in the Royal Gazette dated Thursday, November 6, 1915 – Hamilton Police Robbery)
“On Saturday morning Mr. Charles Arthur Hooper was recalled and said that the three suits of under-ware which had been found in the sea near defendant Eales’ house, were of the make which was sold by Trimingham Brothers, but that he could not identify them. He had at different times seen defendant Eales wearing goods which he knew to be the property of Trimingham Bros, and had about 4 weeks ago noticed him wearing a tweed coat which he knew had not been sold. He had then notified one of the partners in the firm at Trimingham Brothers.”
The case was further adjourned and the defendants were allowed bail.
A Clerk in charge of the Boot Department of Trimingham Bros. told the Court the next day that after he had inspected a bundle of boots and shoes found on defendant Eales premises he had identified them as having been the property of Trimingham Brothers. The bundle consisted of 4 pairs of boots and 4 pairs of shoes, black, white and brown. Witness considered certain of them had been worn, but they were mostly new. Witness valued the various boots and shoes. He said he had never sold any shoes of this description to defendant Seymour.
The same witness also identified 3 pairs of boots (one mens and 2 ladies) and 1 pair of rubbers as having been Trimingham Bros. which were found on the premises of defendant Shirley. He said, “I have never sold any of the boots identified to defendant Shirley. I cannot say when I last saw any of those particular boots and shoes in our store…….”
Continuing his evidence, the Clerk said that between 3 and 4 years ago he began to notice boots and shoes were missing at intervals of 3 or 4 months and generally noticed on Monday mornings. Witness was further questioned by the magistrate……………
The Clerk further stated: –
“We had the contract to supply Police boots up to the middle of last year. We supplied them twice a year. Defendant Eales was among those supplied with contract boots. I only remember supplying him once. He could take the equivalent in other goods from other departments.”
Magistrate – “Have you seen him wearing Trimingham Bros. boots?”
Witness – “I could not say I have seen him wearing our boots but they were very much like them. I could not say they were ours.”
Defendants’ wished to ask no questions and witness was warned to appear at Supreme Court if called upon. Court was adjourned and defendants remained on bail.
(Above matters were reported in the Royal Gazette dated Tuesday, November 9, 1915 – Hamilton Police Robbery – Further Evidence)
Both Kenneth Trimingham and Eldon Harvey Trimingham of the firm and tailor George Charles Smellie gave detailed evidence identifying certain recovered goods and imparting very specific knowledge of certain items on display in the Court.
Kenneth Trimingham identified 2 Cardigan waistcoats, some silk handkerchiefs, etc., as goods which he himself had selected in England and elsewhere, and which from certain marks and signs he was sure could not be found exactly the same in other firms in Bermuda, Trimingham Bros. being the sole importers of that class of goods.
Eldon Trimingham continued the work of identifying and valuing the goods now before the Court. Mr. Smellie gave evidence regarding a piece of lilac serge which had gone missing from his shop about the end of September .
Upon adjournment of the Court the defendants’ were allowed bail after the departure of the Halifax steamer.
(Above matters reported in the Royal Gazette dated Tuesday, November 11, 1915 – Hamilton Police Robbery – Tuesday’s Proceedings)
(Above matters were recorded in the Royal Gazette dated Tuesday, November 16, 1915 – Defendants Committed For Trial)
THE TRIAL COMMENCES
TRIAL COMMENCES THIS MORNING
“The Court opened at 10.45 and the Register of Jurors and Constables was called. Mr. J.P. Hand was not present having been excused. The Chief Justice read to the Grand Jury the Indictments against John Eales and J. Shirley conjointly, and one which included a charge against John Eales and Constable J. S. Paynter.
“The Indictments were seven in number as follows: –
(1) That in the month of September, 1915, J. Shirley and John Eales did break and enter the premises of Trimingham Bros. and did feloniously steal therefrom certain goods; and that John Eales and John Shirley did also receive certain goods knowing them to have been stolen. “Pursuant to adjournment on Monday last the Special Criminal Session of the Supreme Court resumed yesterday. His Honour P.M.C. Sheriff, Chief Justice, presiding, and the Assistant Justice Hon. C.V. [illegible ………….]
“When the Court adjourned on Monday last, at the insistence of the Attorney General’s motion, the case against Constable Seymour was in progress, and defendant was charged on the true bills returned by the Grand Jury, of three indictments out of four, of stealing, and receiving certain goods, and pleaded guilty to one indictment only, for which he was sentenced to 4 years in Hamilton Gaol with hard labour.
(2) That on 8th October, 1915, J. Eales and W. J. S. Paynter did break and enter the premises of Trimingham Bros. and feloniously steal therefrom certain articles, and that John Eales did also receive certain goods knowing the same to have been stolen.
“Indictments (3), (4) and (5) also charged John Eales that he did in the months of June, 1914, September, 1915, and October 8th, 1915, respectively, break and enter the premises of Trimingham Bros. and steal therefrom certain goods, etc., etc.,
“Indictment (6) charged John W. Shirley with breaking and entering and feloniously stealing certain goods, and receiving the same knowing them to have been stolen.
“Indictment (7) charged John W. Shirley with having on September 3, 1915, stolen from the premises of George C. Smellie a length of serge and did receive etc., etc.
“His Honour touched on all of the evidence of witnesses who had given evidence in the Supreme Court. The Foreman of the Grand Jury inquired as to the evidence against Constable J. S. Paynter, and His Honour informed them that he could do nothing for them in that matter as he knew nothing. There was no evidence given in the Police Court as Paynter was not examined there. The Grand Jury retired at 11.45.
“The Attorney General asked for an order to bring H. T. Seymour out of prison to give evidence to the Grand Jury. The Grand Jury returned to Court at 3.55, and the foreman, Mr. J. D. B. Talbot, reported that the Jury had found true bills on all seven indictments, which were detailed to the Court by the Registrar.
“A True Bill having been found on the Indictment against W. J. S. Paynter, who was still at large, the question of his arrest was submitted to the Court by the Attorney General, and a summary warrant was issued from the Court for his apprehension.
“Constables Eales and Shirley were then brought in and placed in the dock and arraigned with the first indictment and both defendants pleaded not guilty. The Attorney General submitted to His Honour the Chief Justice that there were two new cases pending which would require the Grand Jury, but recommended that the Grand Jury be discharged.
“The Chief Justice discharged the Grand Jury provisionally, and informed them that they had done a good day’s work, and would be notified when they were required, and humourously mentioned that they need not come back until they were required.
“The following Jury was then empaneled by ballot in the usual manner: –
[12 men are named and from among them a foreman was chosen and the jury sworn]
“The Attorney General addressed the jury as to the nature of the indictment which was before them, explaining the circumstances, and mentioned that Seymour, who was an accomplice with the defendants would give evidence. His Honour outlined the evidence and explained the history of the case. He alleged on the part of the prosecution that in respect of the indictment the two defendants and Seymour met under No. 1 Shed and planned the robbery and Seymour effected an entry into Trimingham Bros. by climbing onto the verandah and opening a window. Unfortunately for the proprietors the blind was not securely fastened.
“There were six other indictments, which it may be necessary to try, or it may not. He was afraid it would be a long job, but he hoped it would not be as long as it was in the Police Court. It all depended of course on what transpired later.
“The first witness Mr. Sempill was called, but at the suggestion of His Honour the Chief Justice the Court adjourned until this morning at 10.30.
“Constable Paynter was subsequently apprehended and was released on bail by the Court until this morning when he will appear to answer the charge found against him on the second indictment by the Grand Jury.”
(Above matters reported in the Royal Gazette, Tuesday, December 14, 1915 – The Police Scandal)
FIRST TWO VERDICTS AND SENTENCES
For the sake of brevity in an otherwise protracted descriptive narrative of the trial, the author chooses to transcribe below only additional noteworthy details of interest not hitherto made known in the earlier discovery hearings above.
“The trial of the defendants in the Police Scandal case in the Supreme Court was continued on Tuesday morning when a Jury was empaneled and John Eales and John Shirley were brought up to stand trial on the 1st indictment of the charge found against them by the Grand Jury.
“Inspector of Police, Mr. H. Sempill gave evidence which was chiefly corroborative with the statements found in his dispositions (sic) [depositions] before the magistrate and he also gave some evidence which shows that the Inspector has not been asleep during the short time he has held the office and that the public may feel more secure while things are in his hands.
“H. T. Seymour, the defendant, took the stand next. He had become King’s evidence and had the unenviable job to “blow on his pals.” His evidence was looked forward to with much interest, and the audience was not disappointed. Seymour made a clean breast of it and his tale of this particular one of the nocturnal burglaries committed while Hamilton slept will be found to be good reading. The following is the evidence [in part] taken on Tuesday.”
Mr. H. Sempill, Inspector of Police was placed in the witness box, and testified as follows: –
“I am Inspector of Police. I arrived in Bermuda on the 28th Dec., 1914. I have been here continuously since that date. On my arrival Eales held the position of Acting Chief Constable, and he still holds that office but is now interdicted from performing the duties since 22nd Nov., 1915. Shirley, on my arrival, held the position of Police Constable. He still holds the position, but is now interdicted from the same date as Chief Constable Eales.
“I began to take action five days before defendants were apprehended – the Thursday immediately before. On the 1st Nov., I applied to the Chief Magistrate for a warrant to search the premises of Constable H. T. Seymour. In executing the warrant …………….
Seymour made a confession to me after a time.”
Defendant Shirley had no questions to ask of Inspector Sempill.
Extra Police Constable T.H. Jackson gave his evidence and was not questioned by the defendants.
“Henry Thomas Seymour was next called upon, and, being at the time a prisoner in Hamilton Gaol, he was released [from] custody and placed in the witness box, [where] he gave the following statement which amounted to a confession: –
Having been sworn, each of six witnesses employed at Trimingham Bros. gave their testimony in turn.
“Of witness Hooper –
Defendant Eales asked – “Have we been very friendly this last two or three years?”
Hooper – “Yes, I have always spoken to you. You lent me a dog about five years ago. I have not given you any goods from that time.”
Shirley asked no questions of Hooper.
“By the Court – “I have never given anything out of Trimingham Bros. Shop. It has been the practice to give the police small things out of the store at Xmas time, such as a shirt or socks, or braces. I have never given Eales anything in that way. I think I have given Shirley something.
After five more witnesses had given their evidence the case for the prosecution was completed.
Defendant Eales then addressed the Jury in the following manner –
“Gentlemen, you have heard the evidence as given by Seymour and I submit that there is nothing to show that I broke and entered Trimingham Bros. He plead guilty to the first indictment and confessed to entering the store of Trimingham Bros. I was interviewed by certain persons for three or four days and I say, forced to make certain statements. But there is no evidence that I broke and entered Trimingham Bros. I hope, Gentlemen, you will take that into consideration.
The Attorney General then addressed the jury at length. After remarking on the seriousness of the case he said, in part: –
“You cannot convict anybody on uncorroborated evidence, if Seymour’s evidence had stood alone. But the goods as described by Seymour were found in the defendant’s possession.”
“He pointed out to the jury that what the defendant Eales had said about breaking and entering in this case. Defendant had got the idea that because Seymour had said in his evidence he had made the entry, he (defendant) could not be convicted of breaking and entering. The Court would no doubt instruct the jury on that point in the case. He submitted that they were all guilty of breaking and entering. They had not denied being in possession of these goods, and that they entered Trimingham Bros.
When sentencing John Shirley, the Chief Justice offered him the following advice: –
“You also are a Constable found guilty of a similar offence. As a Constable you have failed in your duty. You may have been led away, but what a pity. The past record of your life has gone to naught like a castle built of sand and washed away. You have to start all over again. Now turn over a new leaf and when you come out try and lead an honest life. Your sentence will be 4 years in Hamilton Gaol with hard labour.”
Resulting from the above proceedings the question arose about kissing the Bible when witnesses take the oath.
“Mr. Kenneth Trimingham’s attention was called by the Court Attendant that he did not put the Bible to his lips when taking the oath. He demurred, but kissed it. The Attorney General then submitted that under the English law, in the Police Courts in London particularly it was not necessary to kiss the Bible. He intended to submit a Bill to the Legislature to bring the Bermuda Laws up-to-date with recent methods of procedure in these respects.
“In view of the question of kissing the Bible when taking the oath, which arose during the present Criminal Session, the Attorney General was kind enough to point out to us that by Section 30 of the Evidence Act, 1905, the oath may be taken in the form as laid down in that Act as follows: –
“If any person to whom the oath is about to be administered desires to swear with his right hand uplifted, instead of the accustomed manner, he shall be permitted to so, and the oath shall be administered to him in such form and manner without further question.”
(Above matters reported in the Royal Gazette, Thursday, December 16, 1915 – Hamilton Police Scandal)
PAYNTER AND EALES SENTENCED
The want of space does not permit the publication here of the evidence in breadth, suffice to say however that the story of Constable Paynter’s involvement in the scandal was deemed at the time to be ‘sensational’.
“The Supreme Court resumed on Thursday morning for the trial on the second indictment of the charge against certain Police Constables of the Hamilton Police Force.
This indictment charges Constable John Eales and Constable Paynter with having broken and entered Trimingham Bros. on Oct. 8th of this year and feloniously stolen goods therefrom, and received same knowing them to have been stolen.
“The advent of Constable Paynter into the scandal was sensational, as although Paynter’s name had been mentioned when this unfortunate state of things first came to light, he had not appeared in the dock up to now, as no incriminating evidence was found against him during the search of the premises on the fateful night of Nov. 7th, 1915.
“Both defendants pleaded not guilty and a jury was empaneled after one challenge each by both defendants. Richard Frith Cooper was chosen as foreman. H. Villiers Smith Esq., Barrister-at-Law was counsel for both defendants.
“Inspector of Police, Mr. Sempill, gave evidence as before of the night’s searching, accompanied by his assistant, and of obtaining a warrant against Constable Paynter. He searched Eales’ house with the results as previously described, and subsequently Paynter’s house, where nothing was found to incriminate him. Consequently he did not put the warrants against Paynter into execution.
“The chief witness, of course, was Constable H. T. Seymour, who was once more released from prison to give King’s evidence in the witness box. He again described the methods by which they had obtained an entry into Trimingham Bros. on that night, Oct. 8th of this year, how he had got on the verandah, opened the door and let the others in. In fact, it was almost identical with his evidence at the previous trial.
“Chief Constable Eales, he said, on the afternoon before, had told him that the defendant Paynter had expressed a desire to join in the robbery. Seymour met Paynter that night, when he (Paynter) had said that he particularly wanted a valise bag for his wife. He had told her he was getting one from New York. Eales and Shirley joined them later, and the whole four, Seymour asserted, entered the premises, the three being let in by Seymour. They went upstairs where Paynter had taken a valise or a brown leather handbag or suitcase, while the other got some carpet. On their way down they all got some boots, which Paynter put in the suitcase while the others, again, preferred pillow slips. They left the building in the way they had entered. Eales took away the goods in his buggy to his house from where they arranged to get them later.
“Employees of the firm of Trimingham Bros. were again examined and carpets and boots were identified as having been the property of that firm. [Other goods and property were variously commented upon].
“Constable A. Fox was called by the defence and gave evidence of being on special duty with Constable Paynter [on] Oct. 8th. They did duty at night. Their latest nights were Monday and Thursday nights. He could swear that he had been in company with Paynter to 12 p.m. on these nights. Up to the present time, he could not say ‘till 1.o’clock, but they were often later together according to the duty they were engaged in. No written notes were kept by him of the times they parted. They generally parted by the Pembroke Church. This closed the evidence and the Court adjourned until yesterday.
[The Royal Gazette was not published on a daily basis during 1915 which meant that court reports of ongoing trial cases were delayed in their publication for a number of days after the event].
Defence counsel addressed the Court on behalf of his clients. He requested the jury to ‘cast a ray of intelligence’ upon the circumstances of this case and if they did so they would find that the case was reduced to almost nothing. He charged them that a doubt will arise in their minds as to whether the quantity of evidence as adduced was sufficient to convict defendants. Their duty was, he said, to bring in a true verdict on the evidence adduced. He also pointed out the nature of the evidence as given by Seymour, their accomplice. It was not given voluntarily but was given in the hope of reward. Such evidence should be corroborated, although not of necessity by another witness, but there was positively no corroborative evidence in defendant Paynter’s case. The evidence was, after all, a stab in the back he said.
On behalf of his client Eales, Counsel made a gallant effort concluding that he hoped the jury would give the defendant the benefit of any doubt in their minds.
“The Attorney General addressed the Jury for the Crown, and submitted chiefly the question of corroboration. He said in this Colony the Criminal Code Act provides that no person can be convicted on uncorroborated testimony. But he submitted that there was in this case corroborative testimony, although very slight in the case of Paynter. Where persons conjointly steal both are guilty of stealing all of the goods taken. It would be a dangerous thing, he said, to convict Paynter unless you were satisfied that there was corroborative evidence. He submitted that there was evidence of this nature against Defendant Paynter.
“The Attorney General then dealt with Eales’ case at some length. It was not part of the defence that there was no evidence that the piece of carpet found in Eales possession was not proved to have been stolen at that time. The whole question with Paynter was whether there was corroborative evidence implicating him. In Eales’ case, he submitted, there was ample corroborative evidence.
“His Honour summed up the evidence and presented the case to the jury at 12.45 p.m. The Court resumed after lunch and a message from the jury announced that the jury would occupy the full three hours and would return at 3.16 p.m. At that time the jury returned to Court and the foreman read the following declaration to the Court: –
“In the case of John Eales the jury had found a three-fourths verdict of guilty on the first count of the indictment.
“In the case of W. J. S. Paynter, also the jury found a three-fourths verdict of guilty on the indictment.
“At the usual question why the sentence should not be passed upon him, John Eales begged the mercy of the Court as he was now serving sentence for a similar offence.
“Paynter said, “I have been brought before the bench on a charge of which I am entirely innocent.”
“In passing sentence on John Eales His Honour said:
“It was a painful task to have to pass a sentence on you now. I said a few words to you then, and I do not intend to repeat them, it would be like kicking a man when he is down. I can only say one thing, that while you are in gaol serving your sentence you will try by your good behavior to shorten your time, and during that time make up your mind when you come out to live an honest life. You have done these things at a time when everybody is doing his best for his country. Try and be worthy of being an Englishman. The sentence of the Court is that you be sentenced to 3 years in Hamilton gaol with hard labour, the sentence to commence at the expiration of your present sentence.”
“To Constable Paynter His Honour said it gave him pain, very great pain, to have to pass sentence on you because I can say that I know you. The whole thing has been thrashed out by a jury, and it remains for me only to do my duty. You have been a constable and you have not done your duty as such. It is the duty of the Court to pass the maximum sentence upon you. You will be sentenced to four years in Hamilton Gaol with hard labour.”
(Above reported in the Royal Gazette, Saturday, December 18, 1915 – Hamilton Police Robberies)
On Friday the 18th inst. the verdict of the jury was returned and the defendants were arrested by Rural Constables Bean and Paul [correctly identified as J. A. Bean and J. S. Hall] of Southampton Parish on a warrant issued by the Coroner. In consequence of the Coroner’s verdict, and of other information, the Inspector made the charge against the defendants now in the dock.
It was reported that American visitors were very much interested listeners to the proceedings in the Court which was packed to its limited capacity.
[In part….. ]
“Outside the Court a large crowd had gathered to catch a glimpse of the prisoners on their way from prison to Police Station or back again.
“The last witness called was Inspector of Police J. H. Sempill who stated that he had received a telephone message on the morning of the 16th informing him that a man had been found drowned at Southampton Parish.
“Def. DeShield: ‘Who gave you the information about me?’
‘A Portuguese man Manuel DeMello of Southampton Parish was one of the persons.’
‘Did he say I was in the Dance room that night?’
Def. Washington declined to cross-examine the witness.”
The case continued………………
“………….. At [the hearing] the Inspector was making his statement, when Counsel objected on the grounds that the statement made to the Inspector by defendant was not admissible in evidence for the prosecution.
“An interesting argument took place on the Bar’s contention (sic) when Counsel for the defendant made careful inquiry into the matter from all legal sources and made a strong effort to substantiate his contention; also to establish how far a police officer can go in questioning witnesses and others for the prosecution. The learned counsel submitted to prove that there was undue pressure put upon his client by the Inspector, although not by threat or force. The magistrate, however, overruled his contention, and the case was resumed.
“The Inspector of Police took the stand to resume his [evidence], and was questioned by Counsel.
Counsel – “Was there any inducement made out to [my client] to make a statement?”
Inspector – “None whatsoever.”
In answer to further questions by Counsel the Inspector answered –
“I communicated by telephone to [R.K.] at the place where he was employed. The interview took place in my office. It was about 11 o’clock in the morning when I telephoned for defendant. Defendant made a statement as the result of the question I asked him. It was a voluntary statement and was made without any undue questioning.
“Counsel – “Was defendant set to restraint while questioned?”
Inspector – “Not beyond being in the presence of the Inspector”
Counsel – “Was he led to believe he was bound to give information?”
Inspector – “He was not in any way told that he was bound to give any information on the matter. It was not put that if you make a statement you can go, and say nothing. Defendant did not appear to be nervous or frightened at the interview.”
“Counsel then submitted to the Court that in this case a police officer had exceeded his right in questioning [R.K.] in the manner he did. He quoted largely from several authorities on the subject chiefly: “Coxes Criminal Cases” to substantiate his argument on the question of examining witnesses before they become defendants. He submitted that in this case although no force or threat had actually been made, yet the circumstances had influenced the boy – his client – to make a statement. If defendant had gone to the Police Station or the Inspector’s office of his own accord and said he wished to make a statement that would be a voluntary statement – but he was sent for by telephone and told to attend the Inspector’s office at a certain hour. That, said Counsel, constituted undue pressure. A confession of guilt must have been voluntary and not extracted by threat or force. Counsel quoted a case where a learned judge had ruled “that when a statement has been made by a person to a Police Officer, that there is an amount of pressure used, and it is at the discretion of the judge to accept that evidence or not.”
[Counsel] went into the matter largely and submitted to the Court that in his opinion the statements made by defendant to the Inspector were not voluntary in a legal sense and were inadmissible.
On Tuesday, March 28, 1916 the Royal Gazette reported on the circumstances surrounding the misappropriation of mail, a case which had been investigated by Mr. Sempill. The headlines read: –
“Appearing before the Court Williams, a Post Office employee of Devonshire Parish was remanded to prison pending a charge against him, “alleging that he had secreted, and misdirected letters containing postal orders, cheques, and all descriptions of Postal matter.”
“It appears that for some time reports have been lodged at the General Post Office concerning the miscarriage and loss of letters, in many cases containing valuable matter and money. Investigation, with the assistance of the police in the person of Mr. Sempill, the Inspector, have discovered a misappropriation of mail by the defendant charged with the above crime and a search has revealed a trunk in possession of the defendant containing letters of all description containing cheques, post office orders and other negotiable tender of the realm which is now being sorted and qualified.
“Williams was remanded to prison [until] Monday next pending inquiry.”
“On the 27th January, 1917 Mr. J. H. Sempill, Insp. of Police and Mrs. Sempill returned to the Island from New York.”
The following case report, written over 100 years ago, involving Inspector Sempill was transcribed (in part) due to its unusual interest.
“The case against Kenneth Leroy Barritt before the Worshipful R. W. Appleby in Hamilton Police Court was again adjourned yesterday morning………The charge is indictable involving the alleged use of threatening letters to extort money from a young lady resident in Hamilton.
“Mr. Sempill, Police Inspector, gave formal evidence as to the charge in consequence of information from the complainant.
“The evidence of Chief Constable Ramsay was that he searched the bedroom of the defendant, took some books and paper therefrom, and made the arrest. Charged in the usual manner, the defendant denied any knowledge of the matter.
“Complainant was the next witness but letters produced as evidence by her were not read in open Court. The evidence of Miss…… [name not yet revealed] is as follows: She lived in King Street, Hamilton, with her mother. She had five letters, which she had with her. The first one was received on June 23, (this was put in evidence). Ten days later she received another similar one through the post, as before. She read it and went to the Inspector of Police. About July 21st she received a third letter which was also read and taken to the Inspector.
“Considering what was in this letter, and on the advice of Mr. Sempill she went to the S. E. corner of Fort Hamilton at 7.15 on Sunday evening July 22. She waited about twenty minutes but nothing happened. There were a few people about at the time, but no-one spoke to her. She did not see the defendant at all.
“The following Tuesday (July 24th) witness received another letter, which she also took to the Inspector. Once again on his advice, witness went to the S. E. corner of Fort Hamilton at 7.30 the following (Wednesday) evening, and sat down. After about five or ten minutes, witness said, a young boy came round behind her, and passed her ten or twelve feet away. He went in a N. E. direction and passed from her view. About 5 minutes afterwards he appeared again from a S. E. and came towards her, walking past about 12 or 15 feet in front of her. He did not speak to her. She had ample opportunity of observing him.
“At Wednesday’s session the evidence of P.C. Simons was taken. He told how on Thursday, July 22, (sic) he went to Fort Hamilton and had a letter addressed “Observer” placed under a bush in the South East corner. It had been given him by the complainant: it did not contain any money. After watching all afternoon and finding no-one came to take it, he removed it himself.
“P.C. John Christopher Bean gave evidence to the effect that he was on special duty connected with the investigation. On July 25, he said he was sitting on a wall South of the G. M. P. barracks when young Barritt, the defendant, and a man named Ben Hodge passed going up King Street from the direction of Front Street. He heard defendant say:
“I’m going over the hill to see about a dog,” and thereupon he followed him at a distance of about 30 yards. He saw him pass close to where the complainant was sitting.
“This concluded the evidence of the police. After His Worship had instructed the defendant as to his rights he granted an adjournment to Friday morning, upon request of Mr. Conyers.”
(Above reported in the Royal Gazette, on Thursday, August 2, 1917 – Charge of Attempted Blackmail)
In Hamilton Police Court the following day His Worship R. W. Appleby committed for trial Kenneth Leroy Barritt, the 15-year-old boy charged with attempting to extort money by means of threatening letters. Bail was fixed……………..
“The five letters were, for the first time, read in Court by His Worship and much stress was laid on the phrase “Staff Naked” used in one of them. The defendant was asked by His Worship whether, in expressing a state of absolute nudity, he would use the term “S-T-A-F-F”. He replied that he would do so.
“At the request of Mr. J. R. Conyers, counsel for defendant, Mr. John C. Crisson was called to the stand to give evidence on the use in Bermuda of this variant of the adjective “Staff”. He testified that he was a printer and reporter and that he believed “Staff” was commonly used here by the uneducated class in lieu of the word “Stark”. He was careful to add that he never used it so himself.
“Defendant was asked by His Worship if he knew why he had made three copies of the correspondence. “I wrote under the direction of Mr. Conyers,” he replied.
His Worship – “You don’t know why?”
Defendant – “No sir”.
Defendant testified that he was 15 years old on Oct. 21, 1916.
“John Barritt was called and stated that he was defendant’s father and familiar with his writing. On being shown copies of the original letters he said that he did not recognize the hand. Questioned by His Worship, he stated that two of the copies made by defendant were handed to Mr. Conyers while he himself kept the remaining copy.
His Worship – “Why did you hold one copy?”
Witness – “For my own satisfaction”
“The witness stated further that no comparison had been made of the different copies, for selection.
“In moving for the dismissal of the complaint, Mr. Conyers said that the only evidence of any weight concerned the handwriting. He dwelt upon the fact that the clerk at Prospect Barracks had not sworn to the identity of the handwriting. “I submit to your Worship,” he declared, “that the witness should have gone further; in the absence of his sworn testimony on this point, I hold that there is not sufficient evidence to place the defendant on trial. The police have resorted to every strategy in this case but nothing has appeared to connect the defendant with it. If he had been guilty he would never have dared make these copies of the letters.
“After reviewing the charge, His Worship read the original letters and went at some length into the question of the handwriting. He stated that had the clerk at the Barracks sworn to the writing he would have given less weight to his evidence. He had been careful to say that it was similar but that there was such a thing as forgery. His Worship remarked that all the letters were in the same hand and that there had been no attempt to change the characteristics.
“Certain evidence, he said, had shown that the defendant was present at times and in places mentioned in the letters, this may have been coincidence, and if so it was a peculiar coincidence. As the evidence of the defendant’s father, he said it was not necessary to go into detail.
“This is a case,” he said, “that ought to be sifted by a Judge and Jury: I therefore commit defendant for trial in the Supreme Court………………………”
It was recorded in these same columns that the defendant had earlier been questioned at length by His Worship and that he had admitted that the account given by Miss Trimingham of his movements at Fort Hamilton on the days when he passed there, was correct. He said that he had gone to the Fort to get feed for his rabbits. He denied having written any of the threatening letters received by the plaintiff and declared that he had no photographs, as alleged in the letters.
(Above reported by the Royal Gazette, on Thursday, August 9, 1917 – Charge of Blackmail)
The Royal Gazette of Thursday, October 25, 1917 reported as follows:
“The case of Kenneth Leroy Barritt, charged with intent to extort money from Miss Hilda Gordon Trimingham by causing to be sent to her letters containing threats, was begun yesterday in the Supreme Court. Five letters were read to the Court, all signed “Observer at Church Bay.”
“The defendant pleaded “not guilty” and on the Attorney General’s motion a Special Jury was sworn in. The members are: – …………….
“In opening the case the Attorney General stated that this indictment was brought under Section 338 of the Criminal Code, which is based mainly on the English code and makes the offender guilty of felony. It is the first time, he said, that such an indictment had been known in Bermuda for many years. Offences of this nature, he said, are very serious not only in regard to the person immediately concerned but to the public at large. In this instance the prosecutrix is a young lady, and while it is always unpleasant for any person to have to come into Court, it is particularly so in connection with a case of this sort.
“Five letters are alleged to have been written by the defendant and it is fortunate that all the envelopes were preserved. That covering the first letter shows it was received before the actual date (June 26) the postmark plainly stamped, being June 23. None of the remaining letters is dated, but with regard to nearly all it is possible to ascertain the approximated dates. When Miss Trimingham received the first letter she took no notice of it, but when the second came she very wisely and prudently communicated with the police and acted according to their instructions.
“The Defendant is employed in an office at Prospect and after the letters were received he made a copy of a minute under the direction of Mr. Plowman, who was called on to testify as to the similarity of the letters with this specimen of the Defendant’s writing………..
“O. N. Plowman, Chief Clerk in the Barrack Office at Prospect was called to the stand…………… Asked if he was a handwriting expert, he said: “No.”
Mr. Conyers – “Did the Inspector of Police go to Prospect to see you?”
Witness – “He did, accompanied by Police Magistrate (Mr. Appleby). They asked me how long Defendant had been employed at Prospect, and if I could identify his writing. I said I could do so; the letters now produced in Court were then shown me.”
“John Howard Sempill, Inspector of Police, was the next witness. He said that on July 7 last, Miss Trimingham brought to his office two anonymous letters; the rest of the letters in question were afterwards handed him by Miss Trimingham. On July 30 he applied for and obtained a warrant to arrest the Defendant.
“Mr. Conyers – “Were you present when Miss Trimingham gave her evidence in Court?”
Witness – “I heard all the witnesses.”
Further cross-examination of Inspector Sempill ensued.
The following morning, The ‘Powers of the Grand Jury’ in connection with the case against Kenneth Leroy Barritt were discussed when the Judge remarked on the latitude allowed that body in considering evidence…
“Their discussion, he said, is guarded by secrecy and whatever transpires in the Jury room is of a privileged nature; no one has power to inquire into what they do there. It seems, in fact, that they have full rights to secure knowledge of a case before them in any way they see fit.”
“His Honour said he agreed with the Attorney General that it would be desirable to have the Grand Jurymen confine their source of information to evidence brought before the Court. Otherwise, he added, the Judge himself might be in ignorance of matter produce at the trial; he thought it would be preferable if only the evidence of witnesses whose names had been endorsed on the indictment were considered.”
The first of the five letters sent to Miss Trimingham was read in open court on Friday, October 26, 1917 by the Attorney General in his closing remarks to the jury. Prior to that however, in concluding his case for the defense, Mr. Conyers criticized very strongly what he termed the extraordinary efforts on the part of the Inspector of Police to get evidence against the Defendant.
“You heard,” [Conyers] said, “Miss Trimingham give her testimony; she stated that she gave evidence in the Police Court on July 31 and that she produced there the letters marked ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘D’ and ‘E’. You also heard Mr. Sempill’s evidence that he asked Mr. Simpson on Aug. 1st to compare the writings and that the letters were returned to him on Aug. 2nd.
“Once those letters were presented in Court as evidence they were the property of the Court. Who is Mr. Sempill that he should go and take out those letters? Suppose that they had been lost?
“The Inspector has done everything possible to convict the Defendant; nothing has come up to show that he had an order of the Magistrate to take those letters out of Court. Has Mr. Sempill shown that the Defendant ever went to Spanish Point on the date mentioned in the letter? No.
“You have heard the Defendant tell a straight story; …………….. Counsel then proceeded to comment on the testimony of the Police Constables and to what he termed the extraordinary manner in which the Simpson report was produced. In conclusion he told the jurymen that they were practically witnesses as to the handwriting and that unless they were willing to swear that the letters were written by the Defendant they could not conscientiously bring in a verdict of Guilty.”
The Attorney General then rose and took up the points raised by Mr. Conyers one by one. He said –
“The learned Counsel for the Defense has said,” he declared, “that extraordinary efforts were made by the Inspector of Police to obtain evidence; well, what else is he here for? But so far from the Inspector being liable to the comments made, I think he is deserving of the thanks from this community.”
The AG then read the letter marked ‘A’ which said: –
“[The AG] then proceeded with an analysis of the succeeding letters. It was his opinion that when the writer went to Fort Hamilton on the Wednesday in question and actually faced Miss Trimingham, he grew frightened; he felt that he had put his neck into a noose and wished to draw back. It occurred to him then that it would be safer to get the money put in a place in the bushes where he might go and take it away at night.
“As to the testimony of John Barritt………………………..
“The Attorney General then compared the paper used in the letters with that which is commonly used in the office at the Barracks where Defendant was employed…………
“In conclusion he said: “It would be hardly possible to submit to jury evidence more conclusive than has been adduced in this case.”
In summing up His Honour the Chief Justice said, in part:
“It is my province to bring to your attention the points of the law and to give my views of the facts in the case, but you are not called upon to act on them; the responsibility rests entirely with you.”
“After reading the words of the indictment, he continued: “This is a dastardly attempt, as the evidence shows, to obtain money by means of a vile menace – “I’ve got a picture of you naked” – could anything be more despicable and threatening than that? I am speaking thus to show you that the indictment in this case is correct in respect of the law.”
“The learned Counsel for the Defense quotes me as having said that the greatest experts on handwriting have made mistakes; so they have; but that is no reason why a witness cannot be allowed to judge of the similarity of handwriting; there are cases where the writings are so similar that there is no need for an expert.”
“His Honour then read the report of Mr. George Simpson, commenting on it in detail.
He said further: “In my judgment Miss Trimingham’s action in this matter has been most meritorious and she is deserving of the thanks of the community. Many young ladies in her position would have been too delicate to have come into a court of law under the circumstances or they would have lacked the public spirit which she has shown. I am glad that Defendant has stated here that he not only never had a picture of Miss Trimingham but that he never had knowledge of such a picture anywhere in the world. It seems to me also that in this case the Police have done their duty.”
Various details within this annual report are set forth in tables one of which itemized that the daily average number of prisoners was 23 in the Hamilton Gaol and 17 in the St. George’s Gaol.
Table K contained a summary of expenditure on the Gaols during the year from 1st April, 1916 to 31st March, 1917, namely £3,407. 9. 4., which included, inter alia, the cost of transport of prisoners between the Gaols, to the Lunatic Asylum, and to the Supreme Court from St. George’s Gaol; also the payment of Rural Constables in charge of such prisoners; the cost of uniforms of the Gaol Staff and salaries of officers, including the salary of the Provost Marshal General to the 31st December, 1916.
Also noted was that under the provisions of the Gaols Act, 1914, the employment of prisoners’ in the St. George’s Gaol on certain public works in the Parish, had been continued throughout the year.
As the Great War raged in Europe, the Royal Gazette dated the 29th November, 1917 announced the following:
“BIRTH – at ‘Highlanders’, Pembroke on 27th instant, to Mr. and Mrs. J. Sempill, a daughter”
[See below, a later residence in Paget East on June 22nd, 1926]
“On Saturday evening of last week His Excellency Sir James Willcocks, with Capt. Leighton A.D.C., and Police Inspector Sempill made a tour of the public houses in Hamilton. They visited most of the Bars and took careful note of the conditions at first hand as they exist in the various resorts.
“Whether or not any action will result from these unexpected visits is not yet known but that the authorities are keenly interested in the questions involved is apparent.”
“Mr. Toddings remonstrated with the fellow and proceeded to the cigar store on the corner where he found Inspector Sempill. The latter accompanied him to the bar and asked the man for his name. This question was not answered. Thereupon the Inspector telephoned Hamilton Police Station. With the aid of P.C. Tucker and a G.M.P. the man was finally taken into custody. James [Francis] went along quietly but Gordon Francis, though a small man, proved hard to handle, and gave much trouble to the law-officers.
“In Court next morning James was fined 10/- with 6/- costs, His Worship remarking that all persons must be made to understand that they have no right to shove others out of the way on a public sidewalk.
“A charge of resisting the police in the performance of their duty was then lodged against Gordon Francis by Mr. Sempill. Francis pleaded guilty.
“Mr. Sempill said that he had received a complaint from Mr. Toddings and, on going to a bar on Burnaby Street, had found the two men there. He had questioned James Francis and asked him for his name but on the advice of Gordon Francis, James had refused to give it.
“Mr. Sempill then arrested the latter and took him to the street. Gordon followed them and advised James not to go with the Inspector. He pulled James away from him and began to take off his coat. Mr. Sempill sent to the Police Station for aid and Constable Tucker responded. On his arrival he attempted to arrest Gordon who resisted.
“His Worship said that resisting the Police was a very serious matter and if the defendant had been charged under the Criminal Code and tried in the High Court he would be liable to three years’ imprisonment. He was, however, being dealt with under the Act of 1869 which, although its wording was practically the same as that of the later Act, [it] only provided a very light penalty. He would impose the maximum penalty which was a fine of 24/- and 12/- costs, in default of ten days in gaol. He wanted this to be a warning to others. The fine was paid.”
“On Tuesday His Excellency Gen. Sir James Willcocks, visited the St. George’s Gaol and was met by M. J. M. Barnes, the superintendent, who conducted him through the institution. The party accompanying His Excellency during visit included Wor. W. J. Boyle, Mayor of St. George’s, Wor. C. M. McCallan; Capt. F. E. Smith; B.M.A., Dr. Percy W. Graham Shelley, surgeon to the gaol, and Inspector Sempill”
“This was done by order of the Coroner for the Western District, Wor. H. Villiers Smith. His actions followed close on a report made by the Police to the Executive.
“There is a deep mystery connected with the proceeding which may be cleared up when the Coroner’s jury goes on with the inquest at 1 p.m. today in the City Hall.
“Acting under the personal direction of Inspector Sempill the police are making a careful investigation of all circumstances connected with Mr. Roberts’ death. What they have hitherto learned may not be divulged until the formal proceeding at the City Hall is concluded.
“After the jury had viewed the body, which previously had been stripped and examined by Doctors Trott, Tucker and Arton, the Coroner adjourned the inquest until this afternoon at 1 o’clock, then to be resumed in the City Hall, for the examination of the witnesses.” [Jury members are named.]
There followed an extensive examination of witnesses appearing before the coroner’s inquest and, despite evidence presented of cries of “Murder!” at the scene, the Jury returned a unanimous verdict as follows on Thursday, 13 February: –
“That the said Edward Francis Roberts died on the 2nd day of February, 1919. From the medical evidence adduced the Jury are of the opinion that the deceased died of Natural Causes. The Jury are also of [the] opinion that just prior to the deceased being moved from Devonshire to the City of Hamilton he was sadly neglected.”
The Inspector of Police had instituted a criminal prosecution against The Editor of the Mid-Ocean News for defamation, in respect of a letter that was published in the Mid-Ocean of January 22, and signed “A Wood Block.” The Editor of the Mid-Ocean had been summoned to attend the Chief Justice in Chambers on February 13. – Mid-Ocean, Feb. 12.
“Mr. Sempill resuming his evidence said he knew the defendant about four years. He was the publisher and proprietor of the Mid-Ocean newspaper.
“Mr. Toddings did not wish to cross-examine the witness. His counsel, he said, would not be present at the Police Court hearing of the case. The Magistrate said on the absence of the counsel he could ask questions of the witness if he so desired. In this case it was not necessary. It was his duty to decide if the matter was defamatory on its face, and to consider whether the charge was brought home to defendant sufficiently to send him to the Supreme Court.
On reviewing the evidence His Worship quoted sec. 308 of the Criminal Code, which states:
“If, on a person being brought before a Justice on a charge of the unlawful publication of defamatory matter, the Justice is of opinion that a case has been made out against the accused person but that the case is of a trivial nature, he may ask him whether he wishes to be tried by a jury, or consents to the charge being dealt with summarily; and if the accused consents to the charge being dealt with summarily he may be summarily convicted before two Justices, and is liable on such conviction to a fine of twenty pounds.”
“His Worship said he had thought it well to acquaint defendant with what was contained in that section. He had not asked him if he desired to be dealt with summarily; but even if defendant felt disposed to proffer a request for summary trial, he doubted – having regard to statements made in the letter which amounted to a charge of the Inspector spending time which he should devote to his duties for his own pleasure – whether he could grant it. In His Worship’s opinion this was by no means trivial, but was on the contrary quite serious, and he had no hesitation in coming to the conclusion that it was libelous.
His Worship then quoted a paragraph from the letter in the Mid-Ocean, as follows: –
“Shortly after assuming office the present Inspector withdrew one of the men from regular duty with a view to having him act as a ‘detective’, thus relieving the Inspector, to a large extent, of a class of work for the performance of which he was especially selected and paid, and enabling him to devote a large part of his working hours to attendance at hotel grills, club rooms, military messes, and similar places.”
“Mr. Toddings said he had no intention of asking for a summary trial. He had nothing to say at present, but would reserve his defence for the High Court.
“Defendant was then committed to take his trial at the Supreme Court; bail being granted for two sureties of ₤25 each and ₤25 in his own recognizance. Mr. J.P. Hand and Mr. A.B. Smith are the sureties.”
As recorded below, on Wednesday, June 4, 1919 – although not mentioned by name – Inspector of Police Mr. Sempill appears to have lost his prosecution case for a criminal libel against Toddings.
“In addressing the grand jury, [in the morning session] His Honour [the Chief Justice] said that the case against Mr. Toddings was an important one, and he proposed reading the indictment which would be presented to them later. The indictment have been accordingly read by His Honour, certain paragraphs from the Mid-Ocean containing the alleged libelous sentences were also read. His Honour then gave definitions of certain legal terms, and told the grand jury they would have to be satisfied on [the] evidence from [the] witness for the prosecution that there is a case, to assure themselves that the defamatory matter complained of was published in the Mid-Ocean by Mr. Toddings, the editor and proprietor of that paper.
“At the afternoon session, the Grand Jury reported that it had not found a true bill against Mr. Toddings.
“The decision made a distinct impression on all those present in the Courtroom, as this matter has been widely discussed for months past. Later on, the news spread about town and groups of citizens showed keen interest in the results.”
On Tuesday, 30 Sept 1919, the Royal Gazette carried the following two matters of interest.
The Royal Gazette of Saturday, November 1, 1919 made known the following matter of importance to the Bermuda Police Force: –
[As an aside:]
In the RG&CD on Wednesday, May 19, 1926 “D.O” Simons together with Inspector W.N.T. Williams are recorded as witnesses for the prosecution before the Supreme Court in a case of breaking and entering with intent to rape and to steal (R v. Leverock). Their testimony represented only – “the second time since the finger-print system was installed in the bureau of Criminal Identification in December, 1924 at Police Headquarters, [that] the finger-print system was used by the Crown as evidence against the prisoner……………………..”
The Attorney General then moved that a special Jury should be drawn to try the case arguing that as the finger-print system was to be introduced it was an occasion of special importance.
The Court granted the motion over objection from defence Counsel Mr. R. Vaucrosson.
The trial proceeded with evidence presented by D.O. Simons and Inspector W.N.T. Williams who stated that upon – “the matter being reported to the Police an investigation has been started” by them and Chief of Police Mr. J. H. Sempill. A careful examination of the premises had disclosed fingerprints on two panes of glass on the southeastern window of the living room ……….. , these panes of glass were carefully removed, taken to Police Headquarters, and by the use of powder the latent prints were brought out distinctly, and they were later photographed and enlarged.”
The lengthy and sometimes controversial trial continued with a jury finding of “Guilty” on the first charge of breaking and entering with intent to commit rape. Leverock (21) was imprisoned for 5 years at hard labour, and to receive 12 strokes of the cat-o-nine-tails.
CLICK HERE To read more about Charles Edward “D.O” Simons in our Hall of Fame.
Returning now to the Sempill article –
On Tuesday, December 2, 1919 the Royal Gazette responded as follows to public requests to report on Bermuda’s district police.
“In certain instances the incumbents are temporary and owing to the difficulty of securing houses at points centrally located it has been found necessary to cover certain territory from headquarters stations.
“Telephones were authorized by the Legislature for use of the Police in rural districts. But we are told that it will be some time before the Telephone Company will be able to undertake the installation.
“Chief of Police Sempill advises us that if any resident has difficulty getting in touch with Constables of detached areas, he (the Chief of Police) will be glad if they will call up either himself – Private Telephone No. 431A, Hamilton – or the Inspector of Police, Telephone No. 203 Police Station, Hamilton.
* The name of C. A. Tucker in the above list in late 1919 of ‘men who are acting in detached areas of the colony’ such as the Pembroke ‘rural parish constable’ – is reliably judged to refer to Constable Charles Albert “Bo” Tucker who served in the Force between the dates February 22, 1912 to July 1, 1935.
CLICK HERE to see rare photos of Constable Charles Albert “Bo” Tucker on beat patrol duties
“As now organized the officers of the reconstituted force are: –
In the same newspaper, on the same date, the following was information was reported –
“Chief of Police Sempill has received from former Chief Constable Allan Ramsay a letter enclosing his resignation as a member of the Hamilton Police Force. He wrote from Forfar, in Scotland, and was in expectation of securing a police appointment in that country.
“We understand that the pay of a Constable in England [is] £3/10 a week for new appointees, with free housing, rising to the sum of £4/10. Sergeants commence at £5.
There is a pension after 30 years of service.”
On June 7, 1920 The Courier (Dundee, Scotland) newspaper informed as follows: –
On 23 July, 1920 J. H. SEMPHILL (sic) departed Liverpool, England for Quebec, Canada on the S.S. Minnedosa. He travelled on this ship in company with his ‘captures’ all of whom are believed to have become Bermuda police officers soon thereafter.
A report out of Halifax, Nova Scotia dated the 4th August 1920 was carried in the Royal Gazette on August 7, 1920 and informed the Bermudian public that new police were coming.
“J. Howard Sempill, of the Bermuda Police, is spending a few days in Halifax en route for Bermuda. Chief of Police Sempill had just finished a sojourn of three months in England, recruiting men for the Bermuda Police Force, and is now conducting 20 recruits to the scene of their duties. He and his men sail for Bermuda Friday on the S.S.Chaudiere.”
The Royal Gazette announced on 10 August, 1920 the following arrivals: –
“Bermuda’s new police force is now an accomplished fact. Yesterday Mr. J. H. Sempill, Chief of Police, landed from the R.M.S.P. Chaudiere with 18 policemen, from England, and two more men are to follow.
“Mr. Sempill tells us that he had 500 applications from all over England, and that it was a very hard job to select the required number. He would sooner have had permission to pick out 200; it would have lightened his labours. The majority of the 20 are former Metropolitan Police Force men, and all of them have seen service during the Great War, either on shore or afloat
“With the exception of one, they are unmarried. Immediately on their arrival they were taken to their quarters, the Allenhurst Building, on the reorganization of which the Colonial Surveyor has been hard at work.
“They will be easily noticed, chiefly on account of their uniform, which they brought with them. This is blue, and is an improvement on the present uniform.
“Furthermore they are a clean-cut, intelligent lot of young men between the ages of 25 and 30. Their alert manner shows the benefit of discipline and education received during various periods of service. Eleven were recruited from the metropolitan force of London, while five saw service with the Royal Marines. All are keen on sport and active physically and mentally. They are ready to take up their duties at once.
“After receiving instructions during the afternoon from Inspector Fearneley and Sergeant Major Williams assisted by Detective Simons, they marched to the Police Station at 5 p.m. where all were duly sworn in. At eight in the evening they went on patrol taking over the various posts assigned them. They are well pleased with what they had seen of Bermuda and with the quarters provided them.
“Chief of Police Sempill will occupy Room No. 14 in the former hotel. Mr. Sempill had a strenuous time in London but looks well and ready for work. He will go back to England in October.
“The party came over from Liverpool aboard the C.P.R. steamship “Minnendosa” which made a record trip after her departure on the 23rd July. At Montreal they took train for Halifax where they embarked on the R.M.S.P Chaudiere.
“Acting Chief Fearneley met them at the Hamilton dock yesterday morning and escorted them to the barracks. Those who saw the men as they marched up were well impressed by their soldierly appearance.”
Comment continued two days later when the Royal Gazette observed: –
“One thing in particular attracts the attention of the public, in Hamilton at any rate, and that is the manner in which the different men on duty are relieved. Under the old regime, the relief went off on his own and took over the point where he was to be on duty for the next few hours. Now the relieving men are marched back to the station before being dismissed.
“As on the arrival of the men on Monday there were only 18 instead of 20, shed wireless (sic) immediately got busy and said that the two had skipped their contract by leaving in Halifax.
“We know from Mr. Sempill, Chief of Police, that he sailed with 18 from Liverpool, and that they duly arrived here without change. The remaining two are to follow on shortly from England.”
NOTE: This photograph displays the second of only two known photos of Chief of Police Mr. J. H. Sempill seated center row holding a ceremonial sword.
CLICK HERE to view this photo of the new police recruits in an article on the History of the Bermuda Police on our expo website.
A Royal Gazette Editorial of the same day, Thursday, August 12, 1920 proclaimed as follows: –
“It was a good opportunity to select recruits and we believe that the Colony has done wisely to take advantage of the chance afforded by present conditions in Great Britain.
“These new constables start in at a yearly salary of £225 with quarters and medical attendance provided by the public. It is adequate pay and a prudent man could even save something out of it: in return the people of Bermuda will expect faithful service and all present indications point to their getting it.
“Public money invested in the maintenance of law and order is money well spent. It is a premium on peace [and] insurance for all the inhabitants of the Colony and we can well afford the extra cost, especially when we take into account the direct saving affected by diminution of property loss caused by predatory crime and the lessened expenditure for court proceedings and for maintenance of offenders in gaol.
“A good police organization, well directed, tends to the prevention of criminal activities as well as the apprehension of criminals; and prevention is always better than cure.
“It is the part of all good citizens to co-operate with the police in reporting breaches of the law and in giving useful information. Prompt and intelligent reports will be of much value: where facts are withheld or given only after a period of delay the law officer is necessarily hampered in his work; and no one should expect a policeman to perform miracles.
“Bermuda’s experience in the past with its constabulary has not always been a happy one. Some most unfortunate and reprehensible conditions will be remembered, due in large part to the apathy of public sentiment and the desire to get along on the cheapest possible basis without regard to quality. The lesson of the past has evidently been impressed on us now and we have learned to appreciate the advantages of a reliable organization. During the last two or three years we have noted a gradual improvement and all are hoping that henceforth we shall be able to entrust the enforcement of law- and - order here in the re-organized force with full confidence in the outcome and with a just pride in the personnel, such as Londoners feel when their metropolitan police are referred to.”
Some twelve days after the above Editorial, on Tuesday, August, 24, 1920 a notable occasion occurred of historical importance to the Bermuda police when the force was inspected by the Governor. An account of the proceedings was reported as follows:
“His Honour the Chief Justice, Government officials, officers of the Garrison, members of the Legislature, and several civilians were present. Lady Willcocks was an interested spectator.
“There were about 35 members of the force drawn up in two lines, when the new members distinguished themselves by their white tunics. Many of these wore the insignia that marked deeds of special merit performed during the war. Chief of Police Sempill was uniformed in white and wore a sword.
After walking along the lines and addressing the men personally the Governor made a speech to all, saying: –
“Mr.Sempill and men of the Bermuda Police – It is a long time since I last had an opportunity of making an inspection of this nature and since then many things have happened, but all of them for the better.
“When I first came here three years ago one of the first things I took up was the condition of the Police. I found Mr. Sempill a good officer, but the force at that time was very far from what I should have liked and what it ought to have been.
“It seemed then as if nobody in Bermuda took much interest, and if the public will not take an interest how can one expect the force to do its full duty? I ask you all to read an article in today’s ‘Colonist’: It gives some excellent advice on this subject.
“I said one day to Mr. Sempill ‘I mean to give you every possible help and I am sure that the Legislature will back me up. In two years from now I feel sure you will not recognize the force.’ I don’t want to take credit for what I have done to help but I want you all to remember that we had many things to contend with. Those men in the years past were miserably paid and we had to fight against many adverse circumstances. Somebody was always ready to find fault but few were willing to give credit.
“To the new men here present I would say that most of you have had the opportunity to serve in the army and even if you were not in the Police people would take off their hats to you. I believe from what I have heard that the people here will be hospitable and generous to you. The Legislature has given you a very good grant with liberal pay.
“In me you will find not only the Governor, but a personal friend who is always ready to hear what you have to say. But if any man does not do his duty I’ll take care not to see him very long.”
“His Excellency then thanked Inspector Fearneley for the excellent manner in which he had performed his services during the absence of the Chief of Police.”
The Royal Gazette on Tuesday, 5 October, 1920 told its readers about: –
“To the Governor’s A.D.C., Captain Selwyn, the Prince gave a very handsome silver cigarette case.
“Just before the Gladisfen left St. George’s for the [H.M.S.] Renown, His Royal Highness sent for the Chief of Police, Mr. Sempill. The Prince thanked Mr. Sempill for the excellent care taken of him during his stay and said the police arrangements were splendid. He then handed him a tie pin, with the Prince of Wales feathers set in diamonds.”
Of interest, the Gladisfen was a New York harbour tug built in the 1880s and which came to Bermuda waters in the 1890s. The following note from the Bermuda Maritime Museum describes her history: –
“One of the more famous historical tugs was the Gladisfen, which was an active salvage boat and towed vessels like the Richard P Buck into Bermuda’s calm harbours; she also took part in the rescue of passengers and crew from the wrecking of the Madiana in 1903. In 1908, she assisted other tugboats to move the old floating dock to Spanish Point, after the Royal Navy considered it would sink in the Camber at Dockyard during its demolition operations by a German salvage company. The Gladisfen also assisted in scientific research, when the learned Dr. William Beebe, with Otis Barton’s ‘Bathysphere’, made a number of record-breaking deep dives off the eastern coast of Bermuda in the early 1930s.”
CLICK HERE for an excellent photo of the magnificent oil painting by Bermudian artist Stephen J. Card of the steam tug boat Gladisfen off St. David’s circa.1930 can be viewed here. [Click on image to enlarge]
In this article source reports in the Royal Gazette and Colonist Daily will henceforth be referenced by the acronym RG&CD]
With reference to my minute No. 162 dated 13th April, 1921, I have the honour to report for the information of His Excellency the Governor that Constable Rogerson was discharged from hospital on 17th May, but he is still on the sick list. I attach a report on Rogerson’s condition by Dr. Arton, the Police Surgeon for the Central District, in which it is stated that Rogerson will never be fit for active duty.
The question now arises as to what is to be done with Rogerson. He is a trained clerk and his injured hand should not materially affect the efficiency of his employment as such. It would be possible to retain him in the Police Force solely in a clerical capacity but whether that would be desirable is another matter. Personally I am not in favour of it because it is highly important in the constitution of a police force that every unit no matter in what capacity employed should be physically fit and able, if called upon, to take an active part in any emergency.
2. With respect to Rogerson’s partial disablement, at home “Special Pensions” are granted to Constables who are incapacitated for duty by infirmity of mind or body, caused by injury received in the execution of duty without their own default, and vary according to the injury is or is not accidental, and according as a Constable is partially or totally disabled from earning his livelihood, and I recommend him for the consideration of His Excellency that the House of Assembly be asked to pass a Bill permitting Rogerson to be dealt with in a similar manner (sic)
3. Rogerson’s feelings are that he would prefer not to be retained in the police service but that in the meantime he be permitted to make enquiries for other employment with a view to his being allowed to resign.
The Governor has the honour to transmit, for the information of the Honourable House of Assembly with reference to his message No. 137 of the 2nd July, 1921, the accompanying copy of a minute from the Chief of Police dated 22nd July, 1921, enclosing an application from Police Constable A.E. Rogerson for his repatriation to Scotland.
2. Under the terms of the Agreement with the Constables recruited in England last year provision is made for free return passages for such Constables who shall have served satisfactorily for three year and six months from the date of probationary appointment.
3. Although P.C. Rogerson has barely completed one year’s service, the Governor considers that in the special circumstances of his case, this Constable should be provided with a free passage home, the cost of which for ocean passages alone from Bermuda to Glasgow is estimated at $164.00, say £50 with exchange.
4. As it was not anticipated that any funds for this purpose would be needed during the present year no amount was asked for and there is accordingly no appropriation for the service.
5. The Governor, therefore, has the honour to recommend that the necessary funds be appropriated by Your Honourable House for the purpose indicated.
P.C. ROGERSON EXPRESSES HIS WISH TO LEAVE THE FORCE
With reference to my previous minutes I have the honour to forward for the information of His Excellency the Governor the attached report received from Constable Albert E. Rogerson on the subject of his wishes in regard to the disposal of himself.
After giving the matter my serious consideration and while I am deeply grateful to His Excellency the Governor and yourself of your offers to obtain for me other suitable employment, I am now of the opinion that I should do better at home and would like to be sent to my home in Scotland.
I wish to leave the Police Force and would prefer not to be retained in the Force in a clerical capacity.
ANOTHER P.C. ‘FLITS’
Was the heading in the RG&CD on Monday, 8 August, 1921 which read: –
“Police Constable Joseph Shanks has been missing since 8.0 p.m. on Wednesday and it is presumed that he took his departure by the “Fort Hamilton” on Tuesday last, either as a stowaway or travelling under an assumed name as no one listed as Joseph Shanks appeared amongst the passengers.
“He went off duty at 4.0 a.m. on Tuesday and did not report again on Wednesday evening when it was his turn on. He is the second of the Police Constables selected in England by Mr. J.H. Sempill, Chief of Police, to abscond in this manner, P.C. Harrison having cleared out in April last.
“Of both these men the Chief of Police states that they, unlike their comrades, never really settled down to work. P.C. Stone, a Bermudian with a splendid war record, replaced P.C. Harrison and Mr. Sempill says that any suitable local candidate offering his services in place of P.C. Shanks will be given preference over outside applicants, of whom there are several both in England and Canada.”
It was reported the following day that one such refusal involved John Soares who had applied for a ‘B’ license in respect of the International Hotel, King Street and the Police had made a strong protest against it being granted.
“Mr. J. H. Sempill, Chief of Police, stated that this place – and his remarks applied also to the King’s Hotel next door – catered for the lowest possible classes, and in consequence attracted a most undesirable class of persons, male and female. These were not residents, but lived a long distance away. Drunkenness on the road was prevalent, fights of frequent occurrence, and other objectionable scenes were witnessed. The peace of the neighbourhood was disturbed, and the grounds in the immediate vicinity became the resort of men of ill fame and women of bad character.
“It was a common trick for the women to loiter about the premises, and for the men to obtain them the liquor, which was consumed by both while sitting on the banks on either side of the premises. As a result of numerous and bitter complainants, a constable was detailed [and] who had devoted the major part of his time in preserving the peace.
“Cross-examined by Mr. G.C.G. Montagu, for applicant, the police said the objections existed in modified form since July 1921, when Soares had the license, and the constable was still on duty. Against Soares personally they [the Police] had no objection…………………
“After a consultation the application was refused by a majority of two……….The objections raised in this case applied also to the next door bar, the King’s Hotel, which was refused a license.”
The RG&CD on Tuesday, January 3, 1922 carried the following police appeal: –
[No connecting records concerning the matter above were recovered.]
Two police promotions were announcement in the RG&CD on Monday, September 4, 1922
* * *
To the Officers and Constables of the Bermuda Police Force
Both these Police Officers have a fine war record.
Inspector W. N. T. Williams, went overseas with the Second contingent of the B.V.R.C. as Sergeant, and after service was invalided through illness. He has the Volunteer Long Service Medal, General Service, Coronation and Victory Medals.
Sergeant-Major J. S. McBeath has the Victory Medal, the 1914 Star, the General Service and Victory Medals.
It was revealed that in his earlier report to the Colonial Secretary on the matter, Mr. Sempill had written: –
“This would permit me to keep my own horse and draw a forage allowance in the same way as the Director of Education does and the Medical Officer of Health may do.
2. The object in making the suggestion is that if the Chief of Police had his own horse he would be independent of the liveries and in a better position the supervise the Colony than the present system of hiring carriages to the extent of £60 permits. It has happened on several occasions during the winter season, when a carriage was urgently required by the Chief of Police for official purposes that no carriage was obtainable.
3. I recommend therefore that if His Excellency approves, that the House of Assembly be asked to give effect to the proposal when considering the Estimates in Committee.
The Governor, when writing to the Honourable House of Assembly on the 8th December, supported the Chief of Police in his request saying that: –
He “considers it of great importance in view of the nature of the duties which the Chief of Police is called on the perform, that he should have at his disposal some means of conveyance, the services of which he can command at short notice, and recommends that the precedents created in the case of the Director of Education and the Medical Officer of Health should also be followed in this case.”
[Nothing can be found to indicate whether or not Mr. Sempill was successful in his quest for his own horse but it is noteworthy that Tuckers Town had its own mounted police patrol in the person of PC Galloway and later in 1926 PC George Smith and his horse ‘Pompey’.]
P.C. Galloway patrolled Tuckers Town on his horse
During his absence from the 28th April to the 11th May, 1923, inclusive, Mr. W. N. T. Williams, Inspector of Police, was appointed to act as Chief of Police and Marshal of the Supreme Court in Admiralty. CLICK HERE for more details.
The table was said to have been beautifully decorated for the occasion and the affair was full dress and impressively organized. The loyal toasts were offered and the company thoroughly enjoyed the distinguished occasion.
“Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Sempill and their daughter Alice sailed today on a four months leave which will be spent in Scotland and England.
“Mr. Sempill has spent eight and a half years in the Colony and, except for absence on business connected with the Police Department, has had no previous holiday. We trust he will thoroughly enjoy a well-earned vacation.”
In similar manner as before, a Government Notice informed the populace that Mr. W. N. T. Williams, Inspector of Police, had been appointed to act as Chief of Police and Marshal of the Supreme Court in Admiralty during Mr. Sempill’s absence on leave with effect from the 16thJune to the 15th October, 1923.
“The Chief of Police of Bermuda Mr. J. H. Sempill, Mrs. Sempill and Miss Alice Sempill, arrived by the Fort Victoria yesterday after a sojourn in England and Scotland, which was extended owing to the illness of Mrs. Sempill’s mother, who, we regret to hear is still seriously ill. Mr. Sempill expressed his pleasure at returning to Bermuda.
“The party arriving with Mr. Sempill, also included Commissioner Richard Enright, Chief of the New York Police Force, Mrs. Enright and their niece, Miss Enright. Special - Deputy Commissioner R. Waldo, formerly Chief, and Mrs. Waldo. They are staying at The Sound House, Tuckers Town and intend to remain until December 4th for a holiday and for the Commissioners at least, to recuperate after some very hard work. We trust that in every way their visit will be pleasant and invigorating.”
“……having in his possession at night without lawful excuse, the proof of which lies on him, any instrument of house-breaking”
Since this was an indictable matter requiring trial in the Supreme Court it required an examining Magistrate to first hear the case in lower court to determine whether or not there was a prima facie case against the accused and that the Prosecution had sufficiently shown a presumption of guilt.
[In later years, this hearing later became known as a Long Form Preliminary Inquiry]. [There was also a Short Form P.I. in which case papers were exchanged by agreement].
The morning hearing started with Police Sergeant Munroe who said: –
“At 4.30 a.m. last Saturday morning as he was cycling up Court Street, Hamilton, in a northerly direction, he noticed a man walking slowly and close to the wall which surrounds the grounds of the House of Assembly, and it was very dark. He rode up near to the man and got off his bicycle when he recognized the defendant. He asked what he was doing out at that time in the morning, and the reply was “I come from the Power House.” Again the [Sergeant] asked him what he was doing there and he said that it was his business, or words to that effect.
“The Sergeant thought things looked rather suspicious so invited the defendant to accompany him to the Police Station, which he did, and when they arrived there he for the third time asked him his reason for being out so early and he replied, “That was for me to find out.”
“The Sergeant, knowing that robberies had recently been committed and reported at the Police Station started to search him. At first he objected but afterwards submitted. In his trousers pocket two keys were found. The Sergeant then tried them on three doors in the Police Station and found that one of them opened the lower locks of those doors. The defendant was then detained at the Station pending further investigations.
“Sergeant Munroe in company with Police Constable Osborne, tried those keys on several doors in Front Street. With them he opened the doors of Ingham & Wilkinson, the door at the foot of the stairway leading to the American Consulate, and the door of the Goody Shop in Reid Street which had been recently robbed.
“He then called in Detective Officer Simons and related to him what had happened. After which these two officers went to the Bermudiana Hotel, where the defendant had been employed and which was also one of the places which had been robbed, but found that the skeleton keys would not work on the door to the hotel laundry which they tried. The door to the Bermuda Furnishing & Supply store was also opened with these keys.
“A search warrant was obtained and the two officers visited the defendant’s house in Devonshire Parish, but they did not find any goods there. They did, however, find a bunch of keys in a drawer in the bedroom which contained a master key, a picklock key, and a skeleton key. These keys were tried on certain doors without success.
“Mr. A.B. Rennie, who is conducting the defence, put Sergeant Munroe through a long cross-examination and endeavoured to show that the arrest and charge was brought about by spite. He also showed that the Sergeant had been reported to the Chief of Police by ex-constable Greate [name corrected to read Geake] for neglect of duty in that he did not prevent “rum-running”, that is, allowing people to take liquor on board the Furness Liners in violation of the Liquor Control Act. Mr. Rennie tried to show that the defendant was connected with this report but without success. Evidently this charge must have failed as nothing was said about the results.
“[Rennie] also endeavoured to bring out the fact that the Sergeant was paid by the owners of these ships to allow them to carry liquor on board, but failed to develop anything along these lines and asked if the Sergeant knew he was being watched by certain member of the Police Force, to which he replied that he did not.
“Detective Officer Simons corroborated the opening of the door to the Goody Shop with the skeleton key. He also asked the defendant why he was out at that hour of the morning, and received the reply, that he left early that morning as he had reason to believe that the Police was assisting to convey liquor on board the Furness Bermuda boats, and he was trying to catch them.
“On being asked to account for those keys, he said he used them to let himself in and out of his house. That one opened the door and one locked it. But when the Detective Officer tried them on doors he found they would not work. He was told that several places had lately been robbed and false keys had been used, and that it looked rather suspicious on his part.
“As for the bunch of keys found in his room, he [Browning] said he had obtained them when he was a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary, and that they were used by Police in Ireland to open doors.
“Cross-examination brought out that it was generally known that the defendant had these keys when he first joined the Force, and that he took great interest in detective work while on the Force.”
The following day, Mr. J.H. Sempill, Chief of Police, was called as a witness by the Magistrate; Mr. J. R. Conyers appeared for the prosecution. When giving his evidence in chief, Mr. Sempill told the court that the defendant was made a temporary Police Constable in January 1922 and later appointed to the permanent staff.
“His papers showed he was formerly a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary, and it was there he had acquired the keys. He was employed while on the force, as a detective on a number of cases, and did some very good work. It would not be necessary for him to be in possession of skeleton keys in the course of his work. I had absolute confidence in the defendant and accepted his story as true, and did not think he was carrying the keys for any improper purpose.
“Mr. Rennie, for the defence, examined Mr. Sempill at length. His questions sought to bring out the ill-feeling which existed between the defendant and certain members of the Force. Also concerning the reports which the defendant had made to the Chief of Police against some of his brother members and which led to their discharge or their resignation from the Force, to which Mr. Conyers objected more than once as irrelevant, but which the Magistrate allowed.
“After the close of the cross-examination, the Magistrate asked Mr. Sempill if it is the practice for Members of the Force to carry skeleton keys while in the performance of their duties. The answer was a most emphatic denial accompanied by a remark that he had never heard of a Police Force anywhere permitting such a practice.
“Also in answer to questions regarding a statement made by Mrs. Geake on the discharge of her husband from the Force, that he was shielding Sergeant Munroe, he replied that he showed absolutely no favouritism to Sergeant Munroe when he was investigating the matter between him and Geake.
“This closed the case for the prosecution. Mr. Conyers then asked that the defendant be committed for trial as in his opinion it was a case that should be investigated by the Supreme Court.
“Mr. Rennie in his reply argued for a dismissal of the charge on the ground that the prosecution had not made out a prima facie case. The Magistrate received the evidence given in part, and quoted on the English and Bermuda laws on this offence, and said he would hold that skeleton keys were instruments of housebreaking. However, as there were other points of law involved which he desired to look up before he gave his verdict on this case, he would adjourn [overnight].”
The following morning Friday, March 8th, the Magistrate announced his decision that the prosecution had established a presumption of guilt and he placed the defendant on his defence. The defendant took to the stand as a witness in his own behalf, and told the following story: –
“First he recounted his doings on the evening of Friday, February 29th very minutely. Next morning [he said] at 3.45 a.m. he got up and left the house a little after four o’clock and went to the pumping station opposite the City Hall arriving there at about half past four o’clock. His object was to watch Police Sergeant Munroe whom he suspected of being engaged in rum running, and to catch him in the act. He took up a position on the grounds of the Pumping Station and shortly after he saw Sergeant Munroe arrive and look over the wall on the sea front about fifty yards away. He then left the Pumping Station, thinking that Munroe might have observed him, and intending to return if the coast was clear. He walked up away [on] Court Street and on turning to look back he saw Munroe standing at the foot of the street with his cycle which was without a lighted lamp. He proceeded on his way when Munroe came up behind him and said, “It is you is it? Now I have got an opportunity to jam you in and I am going to do it. Come with me to the Station.”
“He went along to the Station where he was searched and the keys found on him. He explained how the keys came to be in his pocket by saying that they had been given to him when serving in the Royal Irish Constabulary and as a member of the Black and Tan. These keys were used to open Creanery doors where the Sin Fein stored their arms, ammunition and monies, also buildings where they held meetings in order to effect entrance for the purpose of destroying them. He took two keys off the bunch with the idea of fitting them to the lock of his bedroom door, which was minus a key, at the Machine shop of the Bermuda Electric Light Co., where he was employed, as he was unable to get the owner of the house to provide one. This was on Friday night and he put them in his pocket of the same trousers he wore the morning he was arrested.
“He told of the interview with Detective Officer Simons in which he was told of certain robberies having been committed recently, and the searching of his house and of his being formally charged with this offence.
“He said he had never been asked to return the keys to the Royal Irish Constabulary when he left that force, and that he had kept them as a curio together with his duty band and whistle. These he had shown to the Chief of Police at a time when he visited his house, and had made no concealment that he did possess them from anyone. He had made arrangements with Police Constable[s[ Clements and Wall to catch Sergeant Munroe, and had obtained the use of a motor boat for the purpose, and that he did make a report to the Chief of Police regarding Munroe.
“The Magistrate remarked that he thought it was a peculiar thing that he should have left his position at the Pumping Station, where he could have observed Munroe where he was looking over the wall, and appear in the open where he might be readily seen by Munroe who he was out to watch.
“Police Constable Frederick J. Clements was the first witness for the defence and his evidence only corroborated what the defendant had said about the meeting between the two on the evening of the 29th in East Broadway near the Washington House; and he told of a conversation he had with the defendant at the Allenhurst about Sergeant Munroe which was adjourned to East Broadway owing to the proximity of the Sergeant’s brother who roomed next door to the witness at the Police Barracks. The defendant had told him that he, the defendant, had information concerning the Sergeant, and that there was some “Hootch” going on board the Fort Victoria that morning, and that the Sergeant would be out early that day. The word “Hootch” the witness had heard many times since he had been in Bermuda, and said that it meant to him something appertaining to intoxicating liquor. The witness said that he had not seen any display of hostility between the defendant and the Sergeant.
“Claude James Geake was the next witness for the defence and [his] evidence was mostly devoted to an interview he had with Munroe in which he said Munroe asked him to say he was on his beat on a certain night if the Chief of Police asked him questions concerning it, and of making out a report to the Chief of Police concerning Munroe. Geake was a former member of the Bermuda Police Force but was discharged for sleeping on his post and for inefficiency.
“Alfred Willis Lottimore, known among his contemporaries and intimate friends as “EARLY BIRD,” is a resident of Paget Parish and a boat man by profession was summoned as a witness by the defence, and a very unwilling one he was. He was called to tell what he knew about the Sergeant’s connection with the rum-running trade, and [he] did say that he had taken a cargo of a dozen cases of liquor from the Belmont Hotel steps in Warwick to White’s Island in 1922 about the month of March for Sergeant Munroe.
“He admitted that he had been convicted in March 1922 for attempting to convey intoxicating liquor on board a merchant ship bound for the United States and was fined forty pounds. But when Mr. Rennie asked him, “How did you get the money to pay the fine?” Mr. Conyers objected and after some argument the Magistrate ruled it out on the ground that the defendant had not at that time arrived in Bermuda and there was no evidence to show that this item of information ever reached his ears.
“Cross-examined by Mr. Conyers the witness said he had not been offered a reward to come into court and testify, but that Mr. Rennie had threatened him with imprisonment if he did not. This sounded like a very serious attack on Mr. Rennie’s character and he was promptly called upon to explain what he really meant and he said that one day last week he went to Mr. Rennie’s office [after] he was asked to do so by a Police Constable not in uniform. He did not want to give a statement but that Mr. Rennie told him that he knew the facts as well as the witness did, and would summon him into court whether he was willing to go or not, and if he did not tell the truth when he got there he, Mr. Rennie, would make a charge of perjury against him and have him sent to prison for telling lies.
“After this witness had retired from the stand Mr. Rennie announced that he had closed the case for the defence.”
BROWNING COMMITTED TO STAND TRIAL
The examination into the charge against Frederick William Browning was thus completed on Monday, March 10th, 1924 and he was committed by the magistrate to stand trial in the Supreme Court. In so doing, the learned Magistrate cited R v. WARD King’s Bench 1915 which was a case of a similar nature but which put the onus on the prosecution to prove unlawful possession of the skeleton keys.
The defendant was admitted to bail in two securities of fifty pounds each and himself in a like amount to surrender himself to the Provost Marshal General at the next session of the Supreme Court for action by the Grand Jury on this charge.
“His trial will take place in the Supreme Court of Bermuda at the next regular criminal sessions which will open on May 12th next, and it will rest with a jury to determine whether or not the accused had these keys in his possession, lawfully or unlawfully.”
“Browning, a former member of the Royal Irish Constabulary (Black and Tan) from whom he had obtained the keys, joined the Bermuda Police Force in July, 1922 and was dismissed a few weeks ago. During the time he served on the Bermuda Police Force he did some commendable detective work, and in the course of this duty he suspected that Police Sergeant Munroe was concerned in conveying intoxicating liquor on board the Furness Bermuda Line of steamers in violation of the Liquor Control Act, and it was with the intention of watching the Sergeant and catching him in the act that he was abroad at 4.30 a.m. of the 1st instant, and it was at that time that he was arrested by Sergeant Munroe who discovered the skeleton keys on his person.
“The defence claims that the accused was out on a lawful purpose that night and [the] charge was born of malice and spite. It certainly did seem at certain stages of the examination that it was Sergeant Munroe who was to be put on trial rather than the defendant. The Magistrate granted great latitude to the defence in its cross-examination in order that the defence might have every opportunity to establish its side of the case. Notwithstanding the objection made by Mr. R. J. [J.R.] Conyers, Counsel for the prosecution, much evidence went wide of the issue at hand and centered on the alleged rum-running activities of the Sergeant.”
Recorded below [in brevity] are the matters of importance hitherto unknown but revealed during the cross-examination of witnesses at trial, including the accusation put to Sergeant Munroe that he had been previously reported by P.C. Searle for engaging in liquor running, and had been suspended from the Force because of this. The Sergeant made a strong denial to this, together with the allegation that he had purchased two houses.
Detective Officer Simons revealed that he did not know anything about Sergeant Munroe being engaged in liquor running, though he had heard a rumour of such. These were the days of the Prohibition period (1920-1933.
Chief of Police Mr. J. H. Sempill said that the accused had distinguished himself in a number of cases, and with his education and ability had done very good work.
After his opening address to the jury, Mr. Rennie called Browning to the stand and during his evidence to the jury he said that he had seen Munroe in a sailing boat at 2.0 a.m. one morning acting suspiciously. He said he had been employed since leaving the Force as checker in the Hotel Bermudiana during which time the pay envelopes had been a £1 and 10/- short, which he had been ordered to refund. He had heard nothing further of this matter.
Cross-examined by the Attorney General, the accused said that the Chief of Police did not warn him about carrying the keys, and that what the Chief of Police had said was false.
In answer to the Chief Justice, Browning said that it never occurred to him that it would be wrong to carry the keys.
Inspector Williams said he was present when the Chief of Police instructed the accused to use the keys he carried if necessary (sic). Witness said he knew accused had the keys soon after his arrival in Bermuda.
The Attorney General was called for the defence. He repeated conversations that he had had with Browning after his dismissal from the Force relative to his standing under the Superannuation Act. He [Browning] had also told witness that he was responsible for giving information to the American Consul here which led to the arrest of members of the crew of one of the New York-Bermuda boats for smuggling opium into the United States. This was after he had been dismissed from the Force. The accused had a general grievance against humanity, said witness.
“Early Bird” Lottimore was the next witness who repeated having previously done work for Sergeant Munroe. In the course of his cross-examination, witness said Munroe had given him his fine money the day after the trial. Witness further added that the money was given him in two lots, £20 of which he received in the police station. In reply to the jury, witness said that most of the money that Munroe gave him was American.
Lottimore told the Chief Justice that all of the fine was given him by Munroe except £2 and this he never asked Munroe for.
S. S. Toddings Snr., M.C.P., stated that he had a conversation with the Sergeant of Police Munroe about liquor running. The latter admitted that when he was a police constable he ran liquor, but when a sergeant he gave it up.
Mr. Rennie later addressed the jury followed by the Attorney General who gave an able discourse which included a spirited defence of the Police Department and of which the local newspaper editor recommended should be perused by all. [The Attorney General’s address is republished below]
NOTABLE CLOSING ADDRESS BY ATTORNEY GENERAL
There now follows in full the notable closing address given to the jury by the Attorney General in the matter of R. v. Browning.
“When the accused was indicted in this Court with being in possession of implements of housebreaking by night I was not, nor I daresay were you, inclined to attach overmuch importance to the case, as I had seen that his possession of certain articles of this nature was apparently no secret whilst he was serving on the force, and I thought it quite likely he might be able to give some believable account as to why they were in his possession, and had he done so I must have summed up to you that he was entitled to acquittal at your hands.
“But when the Counsel for the accused disclosed by his cross-examination the line that the defence was going to adopt I realized that the case had taken in itself important developments, not so much as touching the accused in the dock, but rather as to public affairs and the whole system of life in these Islands.
“In other words whether Bermuda is going to be a place where ordinary decent self-respecting folk can live, comfortably secure in the knowledge that they are under the protection of a responsible and efficient Government; or whether any public officer who attempts to do his duty towards the public in an efficient manner is going to be made the object of virulent or hysterical attack[s] by every fouled mouthed monger of sedition and sensation in this gossiping community.
“When I saw that this poor wretch sitting in the dock (and I call him that, because I don’t hesitate to suggest to you that he is not working “on his own” in this matter, but has the backing of these sedition and sensation mongers to whom I just now referred), instead of explaining in credible fashion his possession of those articles was going out of his way to attack the police force, it appeared thus, there was more in this than met the eye and his resort to these tactics I submit goes as far as anything else can, that on that early morning of the 1st March the accused did have these implements in his pocket for an improper purpose.
“I dare say that during this case a thought has frequently occurred to some of you gentlemen, many of you having had some experience of Jury duty, and having often heard the frequent objections by Counsel to irrelevant questions, and possibly knowing my great objection to anything coming into the case which is irrelevant or for that matter to anything else which may tend to waste your and my time, I say you may have wondered, why when the defence was abounding in the most irrelevant of irrelevancies, was covering an amount of ground which had as much to do with this case as the man in the moon, was wasting your time in a fashion which would I should think cause the mere thought of serving on another jury to make you feel sick to the stomach.
“You may have wondered why I did not object to irrelevant questions. Gentlemen, my sole reason was that a public department, and a police department, more immediately responsible than any other for the maintenance of livable (sic) conditions in this Colony, the Department of Police was concerned, and I wanted every opportunity to be given to the Counsel for the defence for the client whom he represents and for the sedition and sensation mongers whom that client in his turn represents, to go just as far as they could, just as far as they dared, in their attacks on that Department, which more than any other they hold in fear and hate, because it keeps in check their diabolic activities. So I have sat tight and let the learned Counsel wander on and waste his time and yours and mine because I thought the object I had in view was worthy of it.
“Gentlemen some four years ago the Legislative made up its mind to re-organize the Police Force and this work was taken in hand right away and very soon a different atmosphere began to pervade the whole place. The old idea of laissez faire disappeared. The work in the Courts, increased for a short spurt by the activities of the new Police Force, was still got through in quicker time thanks to the increased efficiency on the part of the Force. But at the same time from its very creation – a feeling of hostility began to manifest itself to the Force in certain quarters. The actively criminal classes of course didn’t like it. Then there was a perfectly understandable objection felt by others to a number of outsiders (for so we are apt to regard anyone from overseas) in much the same spirt as I once heard the inhabitant of a Dorset village refer to a man who came from just over the county border as “that there vuriner” (sic) coming into the place to keep us in order.
“Then, and I expect I am among them as doubtless are some of you, there are those who have on occasion found members of the Force bureaucratic and unreasonable. Lastly there is a feeling not British in its origin, but coming to us with the increase of the tourist trade, a feeling that it is a good thing “to put it over on the Cops,” which undoubtedly exist among those sections of the community which come to any great extent in contact with our floating population.
“All these classes, combined with the love of scandalous sensation which has been steadily growing up in our midst, united in building up hostile and destructive criticism of the new Force.
“I hold no brief for the Force. They undoubtedly make some mistakes. Some of you may have felt themselves the victims of their mistakes, but remember the men who make no mistakes never make anything at all. They have managed to get some wrong ‘uns (the accused was one) in their ranks, but I don’t think any of us can compare the condition of things now to be what they promised to be in 1919 without failing to recognize that the Force as a whole has done its duty and been a very real and ever increasing benefit to the Colony.
“I feel compelled to make these remarks as the nature of the defence is so different from what it might have been had the accused brought one witness to substantiate his reason for carrying these keys. Had he brought his landlady to support his story that he had no key to his room I should have had to ask you to acquit him.
“As it stands I must ask you to convict remembering of course that if any doubt exists in your minds it is your duty to give the accused the benefit of that doubt. And the only result of this attack on the Force has been the suspension with the possible ruin from a Police standpoint of a young non-Commissioned Officer who over two years ago connived in rum running, a trade which is making many rogues out of honest men. And for that evidence you have only his admission to Mr. Toddings, because I have no hesitation in submitting to you that the evidence of Willie Lottimore is so discredited that it would not be sufficient to convict a cat on.
A Summary of the Proceedings of the Hamilton Police Court for the month of March, 1924 ….provided some insight into the jobs, tasks, chores and assignments associated with the thirty-eight cases dealt with by the Magistrate, Wor. R. W. Appleby during that month when the fines imposed amounted to £26-0-6
A breakdown of the cases is provided within the summary but it is not imparted here. In reporting the summary on Wednesday, April 2nd the RG&CD opined: –
“This is a considerable decrease in crime from the preceding months. In January there were sixty-eight cases with fines aggregating £55-2-0 and February produced forty-four cases with fines of £62-10-0. However, the indictable cases in these two months totaled four as against five in March. Indictable cases entail vast labour on the part of the Magistrate in the taking of depositions from the witnesses for which no returns are made for the Colony Treasury in the way of fines and a vast amount of time is consumed in this sort of work.
“The Department of Police, under the command of Mr. J.H. Sempill its efficient chief, are deserving of high credit in handling and in working up these cases. Much work is accomplished by this department that does not come before the public but of which the results are most beneficial to the Colony by keeping a certain element in order besides bringing the unworthy to justice.
“In addition to these criminal cases there were numerous civil suits of a more or less complicated nature as well as many complaints to listen to, of which there is no public record.”
Where might the ‘handsome gift’ of nine sticks be located now?
An interesting matter was reported on Saturday, April 26, 1924 in the RG&CD: –
“Through the courtesy of the Malloy Brokerage Co., we have had the opportunity of inspecting the very interesting and beautiful gift which has been made to nine of our leading citizens by the National Cash Register Company, of Dayton, Ohio, in recognition of their efforts to make the late visit of the Company’s agents to Bermuda a memorable one, and also of the cordial welcome extended to them.
“The gift takes the form of a very handsome walking stick for each of the following gentlemen, bearing the initials of the recipient.
“It will be remembered that in January last the agents of the above Company numbering about 600 arrived in Bermuda for a visit. They enjoyed the experience greatly and left with most pleasurable memories and with a sense of obligation to the officials who had endeavoured to make their stay as pleasant as possible which they have recognized in this very cordial manner.
“It is interesting to note that the sticks were made at the [Malloy] Company’s plant which is equipped for turning out every detail of one of the biggest industries in the world.”
Another Government Notice appeared some two weeks later in the RG&CD on Saturday, May 31, 1924 imparted the following police information:
The money stolen consisted [of]: –
Some of the bills and notes had been torn and pierced together. Should any person be known to be in possession of money which he could not reasonably be expected to have honestly come by, or should any member of the public be in possession of or acquire any information, no matter how trivial it may appear, which might be of assistance in the investigation of the crime, he should, without delay, communicate what he knows to the Chief of Police.
“Mr. J. H. Sempill, Chief of Police, stood before the officers and men of the Bermuda Police Force in the recreation room of the Police Barracks, and in the presence of Mr. J.D.C. Darrell, Manager of the Bank of Bermuda, Mr. Thompson of the Bakery Co. Ltd., and Press representatives, and distributed the rewards given by the Bank of Bermuda and the Government, to those who were instrumental in effecting the capture of the burglar some six weeks ago in the residence of Mrs. Selley near the Brunswick Hotel.
Mr. Sempill spoke as follows: –
“About three years ago when His Majesty the King was gracious enough to confer on Constable Rogerson of our Force the King’s Police Medal for conspicuous bravery in the execution of his duty, ……..we were then only nine months old. I stated to you all that Rogerson had created a high standard for the rest of us to live up to and I expressed the belief that it would be the endeavor of each of us to maintain and uphold the prestige of the Force which he had established.
Medal awarded to P.C. Albert Rogerson
The legend aforesaid reads as follow:
In addition to what is related above, further enquiries by EXPO researchers are now under way relative to the life and accomplishments of Constable Rogerson in Bermuda and it is envisioned that such enquiries will result in a future EXPO article concerning this officer. [July 2020]
Mr. Sempill continued his speech ………..
“Officers and men, I am gratified and proud to know that that belief has been fulfilled. As you all know for about six weeks prior to Saturday, 16th May, 1924, a series of daring cases of house-breaking had occurred without detection in the Central District of the Colony to the considerable alarm of the residents.
“At 8.10 p.m. of that date, Sgt. Pantry received information at Hamilton Police Station that a man had been seen to jump over the wall bounding the house occupied by Mrs. Selley in Brunswick Street. Sergeant Pantry with Constable Munro immediately repaired there and on his arrival, by a most happy coincidence, met First Class Constable C. A. Tucker who happened to be passing that particular point at that time. I mention Constable Tucker’s status in the Force advisedly because subsequent events proved how justly entitled he was to the rank of First Class Constable.
“Having arrived on the scene, Sergeant Pantry posted his two available men to prevent the escape of the possible housebreaker. Pantry then made an examination of the house and finding a jalousie blind unfastened and the window open he entered thereby. Having entered he noticed the dim form of a man who when he saw Pantry made a dash to escape by the window by which Pantry had entered. Realizing this Sergeant Pantry endeavoured to arrest the man. Then ensued a most desperate struggle; Sergeant Pantry fought with this man from room to room until latterly, Constable Tucker, hearing sounds of the struggle from his post outside entered the house by the same open window and went to Pantry’s assistance. They were later joined by Constable Munro and Mr. Soanes who assisted Sergeant Pantry and Constable Tucker in overpowering the desperate criminal and conveying him to the station.
“This was a most important arrest and while the police performed their part of the work in a creditable manner, I wish to emphasize that if it had not been that Mr. William John Soanes and Mr. Charles Henry Smith had done their part as good citizens in conveying information to the Police, the man might still have been at large.
“I will now read a letter from the Manager of the Bank of Bermuda, Limited, to His Excellency the Governor:–
Sir, – The Bank of Bermuda Limited have heard with a great deal of satisfaction of the capture of the housebreaker, who has, it is believed, been creating the greatest feeling of uneasiness among the residents of Pembroke Parish. The Bank feel that the exceptional bravery and devotion to duty of the Police should be recognized by the business community, and, representing that community, the Bank wish to submit for the consideration of His Excellency the following proposal: –
“The Bank sincerely trust that this proposal will receive the approbation of His Excellency as being an expression of the general feeling of relief among the people, with which expression the Bank fully concur.
Should His Excellency approve, the Bank will be pleased to forward you a cheque for the amount to be distributed as suggested by the proper authorities.
To this letter the Acting Colonial Secretary replied as follows: –
2. I am directed to inform you in reply that His Excellency has been pleased to approve the proposal and desires me to convey to you an expression of his appreciation of this generous and public spirited action on the part of your Bank.
3. The cheque which you propose to give for the purpose may be sent either to me or direct to the Chief of Police, who will be instructed to divide the amount in the proportions named in your letter under acknowledgement.
“Sergeant Pantry then came forward, followed by Constable C. A. Tucker, Mr. Soanes and Smith, [and] received from Mr. Sempill’s hand cheques apportioned to each from the £100 – fund given by the Bank of Bermuda.
The £20 – offered by the Government to the person who was instrumental in furnishing information which led to the capture and conviction of the criminal, was then distributed as follows:
To Soanes, who first saw the man go over the wall of the grounds, £15
To Smith, who carried the news to the Police Station, £5
Mr. Sempill then announced that Soanes had since joined the Police Force.
Mr. Darrell, in a few well-chosen words, congratulated the Force on having such brave and capable men; he spoke of the value of co-operation by the public with the Police Force, in giving the latter every bit of information possible relating to crime that came its way and that might affect the capture of criminals and wrong-doers to the benefit of the community.
The simple but impressive ceremony ended with three cheers given by the Force for Mr. Darrell.”
“During his sojourn in New York it was revealed that Mr. Sempill had attended a police conference of fingerprint experts at the invitation of New York Police Commissioner Enright. It was noted that at the last session of the House of Assembly a sum for the establishment of a fingerprint branch in connection with our Bermuda Police Force was requested, and [undoubtedly] the Chief of Police will now be able to give some valuable information in this regard.”
[NOTE: In mid-November 1924 a certain J. W. Sempill (sic) advertised by way of a notice in the RG&CD for a servant at his residence in Paget. Undoubtedly, the initials J. W. are in error and they should read J. H.]
“A very large and representative audience attended the Armoury, Hamilton on [the evening of] Wednesday, 10 December, 1924 on the occasion of the lecture by Captain Golden, Chief of the Identification Bureau of the Police Department, N.Y.C. on “Police Identification Systems and Methods” and were richly rewarded for the subject proved fascinating and instructive beyond all expectations.
“Mr. Sempill spoke of the continual help and courtesy of the authorities in New York who had received him and his officers with every personal kindness and given invaluable aid in many branches of the service.
“Captain Golden had recently returned from a European tour and was fully conversant with the various systems employed in the great cities, and he was sure the audience would learn much that would help them to understand the necessity for the inauguration of the Finger Print System here, and which might also remove any lingering doubt in their minds about the efficacy of the system.
“Coming to the subject he briefly outlined the growth of the system and showed pictures (operated splendidly by Mr. St. George Butterfield with his excellent stereoscope) tracing the development from photos, [and] the Bertillon system of bone measurements, up to the absolute, fool-proof, scientific finger print system.
“Magnified impressions of the fingers were shown and the various classifications enumerated. No two fingerprints were alike, and by a carefully compiled system, records could be taken and transmitted all over the world and identification made without the possibility of mistake. This was made clear by a mathematical process that proves, 900 characteristics on every persons fingertips, reveals an endless number of combinations, and formulates a principle that makes search through records a matter of minutes.
“It is perhaps unnecessary or inadvisable to give away the secrets of the Police Force in the methods employed in taking these impressions, or of the means taken to effect the arrest of criminals, but it was demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that the science was exact and adequate.
“After showing a number of imprints that had led to the capture of criminals when every other clue failed, the lecturer took two impressions in order to demonstrate his work. Much amusement was caused when he singled out the Hon. S.S. Spurling to step forward and touch a piece of paper. Mr. Spurling, with a courage that bespeaks innocence, immediately went to a table and in passing touched the paper. In a few moments, with the aid of a specially prepared powder, Captain Golden had produced a vivid and accurate impression of the hand that rules Bermuda. (It was noticeable that Mr. Spurling took away the impression at the close of the meeting. He always was long sighted).
“Captain Pitt was the next victim. He was asked to carry a bottle from one table to another (a matter of two seconds to this man of high stature). But it was enough to convict him if ever his finger print is wanted. The audience displayed the keenness interest throughout the lecture and repeatedly applauded the clever points.
“He was sure the audience had been interested in and instructed by the lecture and, on behalf of the Colony, he thanked Captain Golden. He hoped he would enjoy his stay in our midst an carry away with him the pleasantest recollections. He also wished to thank Chief Commissioner Enright who had done so much for Bermuda, and he was sure that the mutual co-operation between the Police Departments of the world could only have a beneficial result.
“Co-operation between Bermuda and New York was necessary for, with our development, we might attract some of that class. He begged his audience to believe that at all times his department would be proud to assist. Hearty and prolonged applause greeted this and the meeting terminated.”
“The Police Court is the moral pulse of the community; it is like a hospital chart which tells a doctor whether a patient is improving or getting worse. It is therefore of an institution of public interest and its proceedings something to be watched by those who have the interest of the Colony at heart, especially in Bermuda where all criminal matters have to come before the Magistrate.
“During the year 1924 three Magistrates held the scales of Justice at different periods –
Wor. Major (sic) R. W. Appleby, Magistrate for the Central District: Wor. A. C. Smith, and Wor. George O. Whitney, Acting Magistrates.
“567 criminal cases were dealt with in this Court in 1924, and £405. 9. 6. was imposed in fines. Out of this number 302 were fined, 87 were imprisoned, 14 were whipped, 58 were bound over, 53 warned, 23 acquitted, 30 indictable.”
A monthly comparison was then included which showed the disposition totals of the collective cases for each month followed by the disposition of all Offences and Crimes as grouped under seventeen heads.
“As no summary of the Hamilton Police Court was made in past years, for publication anyway, it is impossible to draw any comparisons. 567 criminal cases in one year does not seem extravagant and shows that the normal condition of the Colony is pretty good.
“It is a pity that the various types of offenders cannot be given; one has to see them in the dock to appreciate their personalities. They are mostly male, very few women were charged in 1924. The saddest part is the children, all boys with one or two exceptions. There were no girls under the age of twelve years charged with any offence, but the boys under sixteen were far too many; fifteen were whipped and some were sent to prison (but only the hardened and very worst cases.) These are the seed of criminals from which they grow and ripen. There is a crying need for a reformatory or an industrial school in Bermuda right now.
“The Bermuda Police Force is a splendid body of men; it is entirely due to their vigilance and efficiency that the criminal record for 1924 is as low as it is. It has more intimate daily contact with the general public than any other department of government in innumerable ways which are not generally recognized, and it contributes more to the public comfort than any other department. Its strength is 61 men.
“Very great credit must be awarded to the Chief, Mr. J. H. Sempill, for the way he has organized the Force and sustains its efficiency. Ten years ago the Police Force of Bermuda was a joke, and all sorts of crime was rampant. If the history of its career could be published it either would not be believed or if it was it would cause quite a scandal. In addition to his duties as Chief of Police, which keeps him on duty day and night, week in and week out, he is also Provost Marshal General, the duties of which include the direction of the gaols. He is Marshal in Admiralty for the Supreme Court which includes the serving of writs on vessels in difficulties and the responsibility of them while they are under arrest. He is also the LicensingAuthority for public carriages, drivers and bicycles throughout the Colony. These are all positions of trust and responsibility and take up much of his time. Strange to relate he received no compensation for these extra duties although the money which passes through his hands amounts to a considerable sum in a year. Is not the labourer worthy of his hire?
“Inspector W. N. T. Williams is second in command whose record as a war veteran is only too well known. In addition to his other duties, he is charge of the Criminal Identification Department, which has just been started, and which Captain Golden of the New York Police Department, assisted in establishing. Among other things it includes the finger print system and a rogues’ gallery.
“Sergeant-Major J. S. McBeath is the third in rank. Most of his mornings, during at least four days of the week, are taken up in the Hamilton Police Court where he is the prosecuting officer and he is in charge of the proceedings. He presents the charges to the Magistrate, sees that the summons are issued, writs executed, and witnesses are in attendance, and keeps the charge book written up.
“During 1924 there were four Sergeants and one Detective Officer in the Force.
“A great deal of civil work is done in this Court in addition to the criminal which yields quite a revenue to the Colony, and much time is spent on complaint cases many of which are a mere waste of time and should never be brought into court at all.”
H. C. A.
“The ball room of the St. George’s Hotel was crowded on Thursday evening with residents from all over the Island and visitors to witness the presentation of the Royal Humane Society bronze medal and certificates presented on recommendations forwarded from Bermuda in recognition of heroic attempts to save people from drowning.”
Medals and certificates awarded on this night were to recipients Mr. Romig D. Lightbourn; Mr. Herbert V. Duerden and Constable Thomas Pearce with whom we deal now.
“Members of the Bermuda Police Force were present in strength to witness the awarding of the Society’s certificate to one of their colleagues, Constable Thomas Pearce, and no man more thoroughly deserved it. He was one of the original constables recruited in England 4 years ago.
“On Sept. 1st, 1924 a small coloured boy overbalanced and fell into deep water near the Market Wharf, St. George’s. The alarm was given by a woman, and as no one came she went into the nearest store and told the proprietor. He in turn started for the police, and met Pearce. Pearce was fully equipped in uniform, but without hesitation he ran to the spot and jumped overboard, though but an indifferent swimmer. He arrived in the nick of time, and to him the boy owes his life.
“The medal and certificates were presented to the men by His Excellency the Governor, Lieut.-General Sir J. J. Asser, K.C.M.G., K.C.V.O., C.B., who was accompanied by Lady Asser, Miss Asser, Miss Hedley-Costin, Capt. Hoskyn, A.D.C., being in attendance. Among others in attendance was The Mayor of St. George’s, the Wor. W. J. Boyle, M.C.P., the Hon. S. S. Spurling, C.M.G., M.C.P., Mr. and Mrs. W. F. Meyer, and Col. Lockhart, C.R.A. Mr. J. H. Sempill, Chief of Police, Col. R. J. Tucker, Police Magistrate, Eastern District, etc.
“His Excellency recited the incidents which led to the granting of the decoration and certificates, and gave a brief outline of the history of the Royal Humane Society. He then pinned the medal on Lightbourn, and handed the certificates to Duerden and Pearce, and addressing them said:-
“You three men standing here this evening will be the envy of your fellow citizens. You have received what I think next to the Victoria Cross is valued more highly than anything the British Empire gives to men. You have shown yourself possessed of two very high qualities – quick decision and courage – and by saving the lives of others and risking your own you have shown that you possess of very high sense of duty to your fellow citizens.
“The very best thing of all is that you can hold up your heads for the rest of your lives and be held in high esteem and regard in Bermuda. Bermuda is very proud of you, and I am very proud to have had this honour. (Applause)”
After a few words from the Mayor, the ceremony was concluded with the singing of the National Anthem.
“The cooperation of the Police of all countries has had great beneficial results and Bermuda has been fortunate enough to reap more than her share.”
THE ANNUAL BIRTHDAY HONOURS FOR BERMUDA were reported as follows [in part] by the RG&CD on the 4th June, 1925:
“Everyone is congratulating Mr. J. H. Sempill on his well-earned distinction. Since only one honour came our way on this occasion, we are fortunately spared an incident such as befell rivals in England some time ago.”
The public were notified in the local newspaper that the investiture of J. H. Sempill who was to receive the M.B.E. would be conducted on December 28th.
On the morning of the investiture the RG&CD informed: –
“The date is a happy one for it is eleven years today since Mr. Sempill arrived in the Colony, and during that time we have witnessed the reorganization of the whole Police Force and watched it grow to its present splendid state of efficiency. There will be many friends of the Chief’s present today to see him honoured and the occasion will be marked by the biggest parade of Police ever seen in Bermuda.”
Photo and comment in quotes are courtesy of Sue Cook who has this original copy. Ideally, we would like to obtain a better quality copy of this unique photo. It was said to have been taken on Parliament Street outside the Allenhurst Building but judging by the wall on the left of the marchers we are almost sure that it was taken on Court Street next to the House of Assembly Building.
In continuation of yesterday’s investiture report, the RG&CD dated Tuesday, 29 December, 1925 detailed the events as follows: –
“His Excellency was attended by Brigade-Major Imbert-Terry, R.A. and Capt. Hoskyn, A.D.C., and Col. Briggs, C.R.E., was also present. Among the spectators were the Hon. H. Henniker-Heaton, Colonial Secretary; the Hon. K.J. Beatty, Chief Justice; the Hon. Major T.M. Dill, Attorney General; Major R.W. Appleby, Police Magistrate, Central District; the Rt. Rev. [the] Bishop of Bermuda; Mr. J. Robertson Honey, American Consul; Hon. S.S. Spurling, C.M.G., M.C.P., Hon. J.P. Hand, M.C.P., and other members of the legislature; the Wor. A.W. Bluck, M.C.P, Mayor of Hamilton; and the business community was also well represented.
“On his arrival, His Excellency inspected the Police Force, and then, taking up his position near the flagpole, read the Charter of the Order and pinned the decoration on Mr. Sempill’s breast. He afterwards made a short speech. “About 11 years ago,” said the Governor, “it was felt that the Colony was not exactly what it ought to be, and a search was made for a police officer of high qualifications to take up the work, and the choice fell on Mr. Sempill. He was man with a long apprenticeship in police work, and had good service to his credit. It was proper that that day should have been chosen, the 11th anniversary of Mr. Sempill’s arrival in the islands, for him to receive this decoration, conferred on him by His Majesty the King “in appreciation of the faithful manner in which you have carried out your task undertaken 11 year ago. You have certainly rendered a good account of yourself,” added the Governor.
“It gave His Excellency great pleasure to have the honour of making the decoration, because he had looked through many records of the early days and the years following Mr. Sempill’s arrival, and so he understood the situation which obtained in those days as far as public security was concerned, and what obtained today. He gathered from those records, and those of the Police, that the Force was very different to what he saw before him that day.
“The first thing that Mr. Sempill had realised on taking up his position was that he had got to surround himself with a Force of honest and reliable men. It was not an easy task, and was work which entailed careful thought and consideration and much time, because he not only had to select men but had to wait and see whether he had been wise in his selections. But thanks to his good judgement and quality of dealing with men and his understanding and long experience, he had by careful selection and by eliminating those unsuited to the profession, Mr. Sempill now had command of a Force which the Governor had no hesitation in saying was a model to any other country. That was not only His Excellency’s opinion, but visitors from the Dominion and other Colonies spoke in the highest terms, while visitors from other countries highly commended the Police Force, while the officers of the Services, the Navy and the Army, spoke of them in the highest terms.
“His Excellency complimented them on that high state of efficiency. Any man, he added, could build up a Force, but he would not get the best unless he had the whole-hearted support and good-will and loyalty of the men, and it was largely due to that state of affairs that Mr. Sempill stood before them to receive the decoration.
“In conclusion, the Governor hoped that each member of the Force, now that this high state of efficiency had been reached, would strive to maintain it and to uphold the good name they had won, that they would be a credit to their Chief, to Bermuda, and the British Empire. (Applause)
“This ended the investiture, and the Police Force, a very smart looking body of men indeed, marched from the Public Buildings, via Front and Reid Streets, back to the Police Station, where they were dismissed.”
A report by the RG&CD on Saturday, January 2, 1926 read, in part: –
CLICK HERE to view a previous Expo article entitled ‘A Bigamist Bobby’ when a former police officer named John Harry TYERS is believed to have been in the police formation attending the ceremony celebrating Mr. Sempill receiving the M.B.E. on December 28, 1925.
This 1926 report revealed, in part, that: –
“For two months during the summer of 1925 an extra Constable was detailed to write up the records. He accomplished a lot but was returned to regular duty before the work was completed; the result is that matters are rapidly returning to their former state.”
The report continued: –
“So much has been said regarding the Bermuda Police Force during the past few weeks that there remains little to be said at this time. Its efficiency and wellbeing is second to none in any community of equal size. To Mr. J. H. Sempill M. B. E, Chief of Police, goes the credit of bringing the men up to their present state of efficiency. His Officers are the Inspector of Police, Mr. W. N. T. Williams; Sergeant Major J. S. McBeath; Staff Sergeant Burrows; four Sergeants; two Acting Sergeants; one Detective Officer; and forty nine Constables. Inspector Williams is in charge of the Fingerprint System. Sergeant Major McBeath is in charge of the court proceedings and acts as the prosecuting officer in addition to his regular police duties.
“At that time there were thirty men and two women within its walls. The dinner, as well as all food, is prepared in the prison and cooked in the prison kitchen by the prisoner cook, served in aluminum bowls or deep dishes, these are then carried by assistant cooks, also prisoners, to the cells on trays.
“The dishes are handed to the diners who are standing waiting at the threshold of their cells to receive them, who then take them within where the viands are eaten at leisure. This dinner consisted of roast pork, potatoes, squash, plum pudding, apples and oranges. It certainly looked, and tasted good; the prisoners thought so too, for not a scrap was left in any dish when washing up time arrived.
“This method of catering has saved the government £2000 sterling in the last three years over the old form of feeding the prisoners under contract
“Great credit is due to Mr. H. Wilson, Head Gaoler, for the splendid conditions which exist among his charges and within the walls of the prison. He is ably assisted in his duties by wardens who oversee the work done by the prisoners. Not all the work is done within the gaol as the Government can employ prison labour on its work and for which the prisoners get a small payment.
“Mrs. Wilson is the Matron of the gaol and looks after any female prisoners that may come within the law. The women do the gaol mending while the men, who are not engaged on government work, crack stone [and] make concrete bricks etc.
“The New Year 1926 is still in its infancy, but it will grow and wax strong: its future is a mystery today and how it works will compare with 1925 is something in the Lap of the Gods.” H. C. A.
LOCAL JOTTINGS published on Monday, 17 May, 1926 in the RG&CD carried the following report concerning the police: –
“Some months ago a dog attached himself to the members of the Bermuda Police Force stationed in Hamilton, and every evening since then has fallen in with the men going on duty from 8.0 p.m. until 4.0 a.m. With those detailed for duty in Front Street he marches off, and to no other part of the town will he go. When they go off duty he comes too, and spends the balance of the day in the Station. Of course, the men feed him, and he is practically common property.
“Then the Dogs Act was passed, making it compulsory for every dog to be registered and carry his number on a collar. Little Miss Alice Sempill made enquiries as to what would happen to “Prince”, as the dog is named, and was told that presumably he would have to be destroyed if no one registered him. A day or two later, the Station board contained a notice printed in ink on a large piece of paper appealing for subscriptions towards the cost of registration and collar, the fund being started [by] “Alice, 3d.” The men fell in with the humour of the thing, clubbed in their pennies, and “Prince” is safe for the rest of the year at any rate.”
In addition to providing the location of the residence of the Chief of Police Mr. Sempill in Paget Parish, the following report in the RG&CD on Monday, June 22, 1926 revealed that the first sod had been cut relative to the construction of the Bermuda railway: –
[Transcribed in part:]
“The rumours current during the past week with regard to the commencement of actual construction work by the Bermuda Railway Co., Ltd., have crystalized into substantiality by the news that the first sod yesterday was cut by His Excellency the Governor………..
“With regard to the actual construction work, this had to be started within six months of the Legislature approving of the plan and book of reference. The period expired today, but shortly before noon yesterday the Press were informed that the first sod was to be cut that day at 12.15 p.m. on property belonging to the Hon. H. W. Watlington O.B.E., M.C.P., [likely Henry William b. 1866] just behind the residence in Paget East occupied by the Chief of Police, Mr. J. H. Sempill.
[This residence in Paget East is clearly not the same residence as that earlier referred to in late November, 1917 as ‘Highlander’ Pembroke, where young Alice was born. But see below at 19 February, 1927 when the name of Sempill’s house is “Ocean View” Paget East]
“I regard today as one of the most important days of Bermuda’s history; the actual commencement of work which will be the solution of a much vexed question, which has engaged the thoughts and attention of the people of Bermuda for at least the past 50 years…………………..
On August 21st, 1876…………”
It is likely that this late-in-the-year unnamed hurricane was the first such storm ever experienced by Chief of Police, Mr. Sempill – but, as later events in his life transpired, it would not be his last.
“Acting under instructions, on the occasion of any serious blow such as occurred on Friday, the police in charge of the various districts present to headquarters a detailed account of what transpired in their respective districts. By the courtesy of Mr. J. H. Sempill, M.B.E., Chief of Police, we are permitted to publish these reports in to-to, and we feel sure they will be read with interest.”
Police reports of damage caused in the parishes included extensive listings together with an attempt in some instances to give an approximate idea of the cost of repairs. Officers returning damage reports comprised the names below: –
A hurricane related Government Notice signed by Chief of Police Sempill was published in the following terms by the RG&CD on Wednesday, October 27, 1926: –
“Having regard to the loss of H.M.S. “Valerian” mariners, pilots, fishermen, and others, are respectfully requested to keep a lookout for wreckage, &c, and to report without delay anything they might see to the subscriber. Telephone numbers: 567 and 203”.
“Kickoff is at 2.45 p.m., and the Police hope to equal, if not exceed, the proceeds of past years.
“It might be as well to remark here that whippings are administered to boys under eighteen years of age. A new law was passed by the Legislature which went into effect last spring providing for trials of children under sixteen years. These trials must now take place in camera; the public is excluded and no reports of these cases can be published in the press. For this reason, this punishment does not appear in the latter part of 1926. Floggings are given to older criminals by sentence from the Supreme Court only, and are administered by the cat-o-nine-tails.”
Crimes and Offences were grouped under thirty heads, the totality of each of the offences being shown by the fine imposed.
There followed in the same edition the Heading: –
“Today there is not a civilized community of equal size anywhere in the world that is better policed than Bermuda; and this can be said also with regard to its members. The Bermuda Police Force consists of the Chief, Mr. J.H. Sempill M.B.E., Inspector, Mr. W. N. T. Williams; Sergeant Major Mr. J. S. McBeath; Staff Sergeant A. H. Burrows ; Sergeants B. A. T. Burrows, C. W. Pantry, Frank Morgan, A. MacPherson, Acting Sergeants F. Cray, A. T. Silcock, Detective Officer C. E. Simons, and fifty three (53) constables.
“To Mr. J. H. Sempill, M.B.E., the Head of the Bermuda Police Force, goes the credit for organizing the Force, recruiting the personnel, maintaining the discipline and efficiency of the Force. He is responsible for life and property and good order of the entire Colony; and is practically on duty day and night, subject to call at any hour.
“Mr. W. N. T. Williams, Inspector of Police, is the second in command. In addition to his regular routine duties he is an expert in the Finger Print System of Criminal Identification which has been in use for the past two years, and has been the means of bringing several criminals to justice who would otherwise have escaped. He is in charge of this Bureau and his work in connection with its detailed operation is well worthy of credit. Mr. Peter Dowle is the official photographer of this Department. It is his duty to photograph the fingerprints and make enlargements for the same in order that they can be properly presented to the court and jury. This work requires much time and patience, and it is in every way most praiseworthy.
“Mr. J. S. McBeath, Sergeant-Major of Police, is third in command. A very important part of his duty is to prosecute criminal cases in the Police Court and the general conduct of all cases that come before the Magistrate. He is responsible for the records of the court, and for the issuing of summonses, warrants, writs, etc. His savoir faire is most meritorious. In addition to this work he has also a regular routine to attend to, and is about as a man as any on the Force.
“Mr. A. H. Burrows, Staff Sergeant at Police Headquarters, is in charge of all the clerical work of this Department, and is private Secretary to the Chief of Position, a position of high honour and great responsibility. He is assisted by Police Constable E.J. Howe, who looks after the registration books and records.
“Sergeant B. A. T. Burrows is in command of the Western Magisterial District, and is stationed at Somerset.
“Sergeant A. MacPherson commands the Eastern Magisterial District with headquarters at St. George’s.
“Inquiries regarding personal merits among members of the Force failed to reveal that any on man is better than his comrades. In other words all are so good that it is difficult to excel. The Force boasts of a solitary mounted officer in the person of Police Constable Galloway, who is stationed at Tuckers Town. This is a squad that is badly needed for patrolling and regulating traffic in East Broadway, Front Street, Pitts Bay Road, and highways in the outlying Parishes. It is to be hoped that P.C. Galloway will be a nucleus from which this troop can be built up in the very near future.
“Upon the shoulders of the Police Department has fallen the onerous duties of registering public carriages, drivers, bicycles, and dogs; thus adding greatly to the work and responsibility of Police……………… Mr. Sempill is also Provost Martial in Admiralty of the Supreme Court, but derives no compensation for the duties connected with this office, which principally has to do with the arrest of ships which happened to get into financial difficulties………………………”
A description followed of life in the Gaols where, on Christmas Day 1926 there were twenty-seven prisoners in the Hamilton Gaol and four in St. George’s, but there were no women in either gaol.
“It is not possible to obtain all the information regarding the working of the Police Force. The Officers on duty are the friends of the public and should always be treated as such.
There are many cases handled by them which never come into Court or are even heard of again. They do not make arrests unless the offender is unreasonable or the crime is a serious one. Take for example the orderly crowds on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve in Hamilton. Not a single arrest was made on these evenings. To be sure extreme precautions were made in advance to prevent any disturbances of the peace and the entire Force worked man hours of overtime.
“This review shows the efficiency of the Bermuda Police Force, and the community is to be congratulated on being guarded by such an able body of men. 1927 is in its infancy, but it will grow; its future is a mystery today and how its works’ will compare with 1926 is in the lap of the Gods.
The following excerpt in a column entitled ‘News from St. George’s’ published in the RG&CD on Thursday, January 27, 1927, detailed, in part, the work of the Chief of Police when acting in his capacity as Provost Marshal General.
“The late owner of the property died in New Jersey, without a will, [his] American estate was settled, each brother and sister receiving an equal share of the (American) estate according to the U.S. law. The Bermuda estate was taken charge of by the Court.”
“Word has been received that the Secretary of State has offered the post of Superintendent of Police at British Honduras to Mr. J.H. Sempill, MBE, who has been Chief of Police here for twelve years.
“This post has invariably been held by military men and in selecting Mr. Sempill, who has had no military experience, it is obvious that the extraordinary success of Mr. Sempill in re-organizing our Police Department and in bringing it to its present high standard of efficiency has been recognized.
“British Honduras has an area of 5,985 square miles; that is about the size of Wales, and present police force consists of 2 officers and 136 rank and file. The force is armed and trained in musketry and squad drill.
“In an interview with the Chief of Police our representative congratulated Mr. Sempill on his promotion but was told no decision to accept had been made. No date for the appointment has been set so Mr. Sempill will take [a few days] to consider the offer.
“It must be remembered, however, that the new post is a distinct advance in promotion, the only drawback being an inferior climate to ours. The salary is higher and allowances much more generous. Passage money is offered whereas he had to pay his own to Bermuda.
“It will be terrible uprooting,” said Mr. Sempill, “if I leave Bermuda. During my twelve years of Service I have made many friends and received innumerable kindnesses. At the same time one may not refuse promotion without considerable risk. The salary here, considering the expense of living, does not enable one to provide for the future, indeed it is insufficient for comfortable purposes. I see no prospect of H.C.L. falling whilst I know my expenses must increase.”
“From this may be gathered that Mr. Sempill will accept the offer and Bermuda will lose a competent officer and a valuable friend. Nevertheless, Bermuda will wish Mr. Sempill the best of good-wishes for we realize that his ability and faithful service entitles him to the widest possible recognition and reward.
“There may be a lesson for us in his departure. Our public servants are inadequately paid if we wish to obtain first class men and retain them against competition. The old idea that commerce alone is entitled to the cash and civil servants to the credit is exploded.”
“Should Mr. Sempill decide to accept the position offered him of Superintendent of Police at British Honduras, Bermuda is going to feel the loss very much. Not that he cannot of course, be replaced, everyone can, but he will be missed in the sense that he has taken to leading part in the reorganization of the Bermuda Police Force and bringing it to a standard that it is hard to realize when one remembers the Force as it existed 12 years ago. Today Bermuda has a Force of which it can well be proud, and the proportion of crime in the Colony is proof of it.”
“Within a few weeks, the Colony will lose a Civil Servant who had labored exceedingly well for the past 12 years, and Mr. and Mrs. Sempill will take with them to their new station the hearty good wishes of a very large circle of friends.
“Here in brief is Mr. Sempill’s record: –
Constable Clerk in the Chief of Police’s Office at Headquarters of the Stirlingshire Constabulary, Stirling, Scotland, 1895 to 1898; Sergeant Clerk in the Divisional Headquarters of the Stirling Constabulary at Falkirk, Scotland, 1898 to 1901; Inspector and Chief Clerk at the Divisional Headquarters of the Stirlingshire Constabulary at Falkirk and Deputy Public Prosecutor in the Falkirk Police Court, 1901 to 1906; Inspector in the Stirling Constabulary in charge of the Burgh of Grangemouth and Section; Public Prosecutor in the Grangemouth Police Court and Procurator Fiscal under Police Court and Procurator Fiscal under the Liquor Licensing Act, 1906 to 1909; Inspector in the Stirlingshire Constabulary in charge of the Burgh of Denny and Dunipace [two merged villages] and Section, Jan. 1909 to 1914; Chief of Police of the Burgh of Broughton Ferry and Public Prosecutor in the Police Court, 1914 to 1916; Chief of Police and Provost Marshal General of Bermuda, 1914 to 1916; Chief of Police and Provost Marshal General of Bermuda, 1916 to 1920; Chief of Police, Provost Marshal General and Marshal of the Supreme Court of Bermuda in Admiralty. Awarded M.B.E.in 1925.
“So far as Bermuda is concerned this record naturally makes no mention of the conditions as they were when he came and are now that he is leaving. Twelve years is not so long but most of us can remember when the Police Force existed in name only, and it was Mr. Sempill who brought to an end not long after his arrival in the Colony, a series of robberies participated in by members of the Force which had cost the business community of Hamilton thousands of pounds.
“Arriving in war time, it fell to his lot also to unravel a Post Office mystery which was causing considerable consternation not only in business circles but in Government offices. For months past the mail had been tampered with and letters went adrift, and for a space of three months this Chief wrestled with the problem. Then his efforts were rewarded with the arrest of the culprit, and the recovery of 1053 postal packets which were returned to the addressees.
“One of the first acts of Mr. Sempill when he arrived was to reorganize the Police Force, and in basing the force on an approximation to a Scottish constabulary, the Legislature loyally supported him and voted the funds, and today the Colony has a Force of which it can be proud.
“Every advantage was taken of modern methods existing in Scotland, New York and England; eventually the finger print system was installed so that now the Force is being run on modern lines.
“Regarding his new position, we take the following extract from the annual Colonial report on British Honduras relating to the Police. Prior to 1886 for many years a detachment of troops were stationed in the Colony for its defence, at the same time a small Civil Police Force was in existence. In 1888, the British Honduras Constabulary, a semi-military body, commanded by officers seconded from British Regiments, came into existence. In 1894 a Civil Police Force was formed again and took the Belize, Stann Creek and Toledo Districts from the Constabulary which was reduced in strength…….
“……In 1902 the Constabulary Force was abolished and the whole Colony taken over by the Police Force under the able administration of Major Barnes, an experienced officer from the Demerara Constabulary…………”
[There followed an extensive review of the administration, organization and makeup of the Honduras Police establishment – not transcribed here]
“To the outsider the offer of the position [to Mr. Sempill] may not convey very much, but officially its distinction lies in this, that it is the first time it has been offered to one who has not had some military experience, and will eventually lead to higher promotion.
“Bermuda is the loser by Mr. Sempill’s transference to British Honduras, for Civil Servants’ carry out their duties as workers in other ranks of life do, and yet they are imbued with a sense of loyalty which frequently does not exist in those other ranks.
“He has carried out his duties during his 12 years of office here, work which has called, because of the smallness of the Island, for the exercise of more tact and diplomacy than on occasions might have been thought necessary.
“As against Bermuda’s 19 square miles, Mr. Sempill’s new duties – it will be seen how multifarious they are – take him over an area about a third of the size of England, and is a Crown Colony.
“Financially, the pay will be about the same. In Bermuda the Chief of Police gets a salary of £600 per annum, with an allowance of £60 in lieu of quarters and £60 for travelling expenses. In Honduras he will get quarters and certain allowances, but the cost of living is much cheaper and the position may be looked on as leading to better promotion in the course of a few years.”
“In the course of the evening Major [the Hon. T. M. Dill O.B.E.], gave a most interesting review of the Bermuda Police Force, and emphasized the striking contrast between the Force as it existed formerly and today, when it had, thanks to Mr. Sempill, achieved a standard of efficiency which could be equaled by few other Colonies.
“The toast of the guest was proposed by the Colonial Secretary and heartily drunk, with musical honours, and the only song of the evening was a parody on “A Policeman’s Lot” from “The Pirates of Penzance,” the sub-title being “Under Modern Conditions in Bermuda”, a very amusing topical effort. …………”
“The whole of the Bermuda Police Force will parade at that hour for their final inspection by the present Governor, and the occasion will also be made use of by the Chief of Police to say goodbye to the Force.
“His Excellency the Governor, General Sir J. J. Asser, terminates his appointment as Governor of Bermuda and Commander in Chief on May 3rd, when he sails for England, and Mr. J. H. Sempill will vacate the office of Chief of Police of Bermuda at midnight tonight, as he departs for England tomorrow via the States on leave prior to taking up his new job…………
“Inspector W.N.T. Williams will take over the duties temporarily until the new appointment is made.
“Both his Excellency and Mr. Sempill have seen the Force transformed to an organization of which the Colony can be proud, and both can look back with great satisfaction on their handiwork, backed up as they were loyally by the Legislature when the change from the old to the new scheme was being made.”
“When the news became known of the promotion of Mr. J. H. Sempill, Chief of Police, from Bermuda to British Honduras, the members of the Force immediately initiated a subscription among themselves in order to make to their old Chief and Mrs. Sempill a small present of remembrance. The gift was subscribed, and plans were laid to hold a social evening at which they would be presented.
“It was then discovered that Colonial Office regulations forbade any such thing, to a serving member of the Civil Service or anyone of his family. Nothing daunted, the Force immediately petitioned the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and late on Monday afternoon the necessary permission came through, much to everyone’s relief.
“Shortly after 8 o’clock that evening Mr. and Mrs. Sempill, with their small daughter, attended at the Police Court Hamilton, and in the courtroom the presentation was made on behalf of the Force by Inspector W. N. T. Williams. About 20 N.C.O’s and men were present.
“Inspector Williams handed over the gifts – a silver tea service and a Quaich [a small drinking cup] – as a token of esteem from the Force, and a happy connection, and felt assured that Mr. and Mrs. Sempill would treasure it with as much esteem as it was given with.
“In acknowledging it, Mr. Sempill said it was a pleasure to know that he was leaving in good standing. He was particularly pleased that the Governor had seen eye to eye with him on this point – that after all the principal credit was not due to the Chief of Police but to the members of the Force who had backed him up. If he had not had the loyal support and co-operation that he had received from every one of them he would never have got promotion, or have been entitled to the remarks the Governor had made at that day’s inspection.
“It was to them that he owed the position he was going to fill, and Mr. Sempill hoped that there he would be surrounded by as loyal a lot of officers and men as he was leaving in Bermuda.
“The articles were suitably inscribed.
“Mr. Sempill was also the recipient of another presentation earlier in the day. As a token of their respect for him the gaols staff subscribed and bought their old Chief a handsome silver mounted Malacca cane, with an inscription denoting its source. As the Governor said when he inspected the Police Force that morning, the efficiency of the Prison Department was greater than it had ever been, and Mr. Sempill acknowledged that here, too, he had received loyal support from the staffs at Hamilton and St George’s.
“Bermuda’s Chief of Police terminated his work at midnight on Monday, March 21, 1927 although, officially, he severed his connection with the Force about half an hour before the S.S. Fort St. George sailed on Tuesday morning taking himself, his wife and small daughter aboard bound for England via the United States. There, he will have three months leave of absence prior to taking up the post of Superintendent of Police, British Honduras. Mr. Sempill’s official date of separation from the Bermuda police will occur on 30 June, 1927.
“About 40 of the N.C.O.’s and men, under Inspector W.N.T. Williams, paraded at the eastern end of No.1 Shed, in two ranks, and Mr. Sempill went round and said goodbye to each one, adding a few words to the whole Force. Unfortunately the din under the shed prevented his words being audible enough to be reported.
“A large number of friends gathered to see Mr. and Mrs. Sempill off, not only official and legal being represented, but the business community, and ladies, and Mrs. Sempill was the recipient of innumerable bunches of flowers.”
The release contained mention of J.H. Sempill, among many other notables, as having presented his application for membership in the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
“The criminal prints and records now include 1,171,387, and are coming in from the authorities at the rate of 4,452 every week, and that the identification of many of the violators may be established, one day's requests, startling as it may seem, wanted the identification of 15 murderers, 139 burglars, 9 charged with rape, 100 arrested as forgers, and 13 as automobile thieves. This bureau, it is anticipated, will be enlarged to make it a central clearing house on all important criminal information reaching all classes of law enforcement officers without delays and is to become a wonderful factor in preventing and detecting crime.
“Major Sylvester will present to the association the application for membership of J. Howard Sempill, head of the police at Hamilton, Bermuda; John Chiappe, prefect of police and directeur de la Surete Generale. Paris, France; John Ashley, Scotland Yard, London, England; F.J. Piggott, Chief Inspector, Melbourne, Australia; and Charles McLaughlin, Ex-Commissioner of New York; Hakon Joergensen. Copenhagen, Denmark; John Fhober, President Police, Vienna, Austria; J. E. Hoover, Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.; John Barker Waite, instructor criminal law, University of Michigan and others. The convention will continue for four days. For an in-depth read of the press release CLICK HERE
CLICK HERE to view a YouTube video and enjoy the taste of how it was to journey as a passenger on the banana boat “TSS Camito” in 1958. The narrator explains that in April 1633 England got its first glimpse of a banana when a single stem of bananas originating in the recently colonized islands of Bermuda were first displayed in a shop in Holborn, in the City of London.
“The office of Chief of Police is one of those appointments which many hold are better filled from outside. As things go nowadays the Police Force plays an important part in the life of the Island, and in order that its work should keep up the high standard reached during the time of the last holder it is essential to have men trained for the work carrying on.
“The definitive announcement of a new Chief of Police sets at rest the rumours which have been going the rounds since the appointment was made vacant by Mr. J. H. Sempill accepting the job at British Honduras. It will be remembered that rumour got ready right away with names of a number of local residents. Then when some of them went to England on vacation or business it was at once taken for granted that they had gone to form a queue outside the department that dispenses these favours.”
“Mr. J. H. Sempill, late Chief of Police in Bermuda, arrived at Belize on July 10th and assumed the duties of Chief of Police on the 11th inst. His appointment takes effect from June 21st. An official announcement in the British Honduras Gazette under date 11 July, states that the Governor has appointed J. H. Sempill, Esqr., Superintendent of Police for the Colony, [and] to be a Justice of the Peace.”
“Mr. J. H. Sempill, Superintendent of Police, and formerly holding a similar office here, had been appointed to act provisionally as an Official Member of the Legislative Council.”
“HON. J. P. HAND: – (Having read the [Governor’s] Message.) Mr. Chairman, a Message on somewhat similar lines came to the House last year. It was not taken up because in that case it was anticipated that the then Chief of Police, Mr. Sempill, might take the course, but afterwards he was moved on to another Colony.
“The Chief of Police is the only officer directly concerned under the Gaols Act with the administration of the gaols, but since the Superintendent of Police is at times the Acting Chief of Police it would be distinctly valuable for him to attend such a course as this prison course, especially as he may be on leave in England next year.”
Mr. HAND moved to adopt the recommendation of the Governor…followed by: –
“Mr. J. D. B. TALBOT: – Mr. Chairman, I am going to second that motion, because I think if we have a second officer out here who takes this course of study it will not only be to the advantage of the Colony but to the advantage of the Force. Some months ago, when the salaries committee was in session, several members talked to me about the advisability of the having the 3 next senior officers to the Chief of Police go to London and take a course which would put them in touch with the latest methods of police administration. I undertook, after the arrival of the new Chief of Police, to take the matter up with him and see what he had to say about it.
“I was shown a dispatch from the Secretary of State in which early in the year he offered the Colony the chance of taking such a course on police administration – not prison administration – but for reasons not known to me that was not forwarded to the House. But the new Chief of Police strongly recommends it. He says he has had experience with it, and in some Colonies it is compulsory on senior police officials going home on leave to take what is called a refresher course.
“The two courses, prison and police, could be taken in six weeks, and while it is not perhaps desirable to institute a matter in this House of what will be done by an officer who is under the disposition of the Executive, if this is likely to meet with the approval of the committee I will move at a later stage to send a Message to the Governor asking whether it would be possible for the Superintendent of Police to go to England and take this course in Police work next year in addition to the course on prisons.
“If he went to take the 6 weeks course there would be necessarily very little left of his leave. He could get perhaps an additional week or two, but in that case as he would be going for the benefit of this Colony certain expenses would have to be paid. But I believe after investigating the whole matter that if the Superintendent were sent the two courses could be taken, his passage paid, with a small amount for subsistence allowance while taking the two courses, for £150.
“I am assured by the present Chief of Police that such a course would be invaluable in the Department, would tend to very much greater efficiency, and be beneficial all round. It would then put us in a position so that when a new Chief of Police is wanted, as there must be some time, we may have one of our officers next in line to take the position, or to be eligible for promotion to another Colony.
“Whether we lost a good officer or not, if we do that we shall know that we have a man in the Force who might get promotion if not here, then elsewhere, while it would tend to the good of the service and the benefit of the Island; and we cannot by any means have too efficient a force now, and the Force can only be efficient if the senior officers are kept in line. If the present proposition commands itself in any way to the approval of the committee, I propose to vote for the motion of the Hon. Member and will bring forward the other at a later stage, so that it may be included in one matter in the estimates for 1928.
“Agreed to: The House resumed and adopted the resolution of the Committee”
“The exclusive information we published concerning the death of Chief of Police Sempill, formerly Chief of Police here, in the hurricane which devastated Belize, British Honduras, has led to many enquiries being made at our offices for news of Mrs. Sempill. We are able to state that Mrs. Sempill was not a victim of the hurricane.
“On Friday Chief of Police Bettington sent from Bermuda the following cable to the Governor of British Honduras: “All ranks Bermuda Police and Prisons send deepest regrets sad news of Sempill and sincerest sympathy to relatives.”
“The Governor of British Honduras on Saturday sent the following reply to Chief of Police Bettington: “Deeply appreciate kind message sympathy conveyed to Mrs. Sempill.”
“The fate of Police Constable Parkinson who left Bermuda for British Honduras shortly after Mr. Sempill is not known here.”
Mrs. Sempill’s reply to Bermuda’s message of sympathy was published as follows on Thursday, October 1, 1931.
“Recently we published the text of a cable of sympathy sent by the Bermuda Chief of Police, Mr. Bettington, to Mrs. J.H. Sempill, at Belize, British Honduras. Mr. J.H. Sempill, former Chief of Police here, lost his life in the tidal wave which followed the disastrous hurricane in that country.
“Mrs. Sempill is now on the way to England and the letter we reprint below was sent by her to Mr. Bettington and posted at Jamaica on the 19th Sept. Mrs. Sempill was aboard the C.N.S., R.M.S. “Connector” at the time. Her letter reads:
One consolation I have; that my husband died as he would have wished to die – “On Duty’. He was caught by the tidal wave when trying to get to the Boy’s College which had blown down. Mr. Parkinson was with him and his back was injured by a mahogany log. When we left, he was little better and on duty, but very lame.”
In a postscript Mrs. Sempill advised that her permanent address would be “Harefield” Colinton, Midlothian, Scotland.
The Knickerbocker Press headlines:
To view nine rare press reports in the Knickerbocker Press please click here CLICK HERE
“Well, it’s absolutely incredible that the people who were in charge of the safety of the people of this country would have ignored continuous warnings for three days that a hurricane was coming, that the storm was coming, that ships were fleeing from the Caribbean and to ports and to just say …… Well I don’t know what they said, but the result was that the authorities, the governor, the Colonial Secretary and the members of the executive council decided that they wouldn’t tell anybody about the hurricane, just go on with the parade for the Tenth of September and the school children’s’ outing and the friendly society march. The result was that two thousand people got killed,” King continued, in his interview with Channel 5 News in Belize.”
[Storm 5] was allegedly followed by a tidal wave. Eye witness accounts and contemporary reports form the most effective method of conveying the devastation. To read more CLICK HERE
Intriguingly, and perhaps not then knowing of her father’s death, Alice Sempill (aged 13) recounted the scene that confronted her on the ‘Tenth’ after returning from a traditional bonfire. She said: –
“When we were walking to Biddle’s we had to be careful of the fish on the road. All the big barges and boats of different kinds and sizes were in all parts of the town. There was hardly a house intact – a bit of our roof had gone and the telephone. The shutters were broken and also the glass but that was practically all. The ground was covered with mud and the smell was terrible.” CLICK HERE
The Belize Police Force was commanded by a succession of expatriate officers who held the post of Superintendent of Police. They included Superintendent of Police, Major J. H. SEMPILL who was killed in the course of his duties during a Hurricane in 1931 which devastated Belize City that year. It was the worst natural disaster in Belize's history. The city was left devastated by the 125 mile per hour winds.
To View: CLICK HERE
Summarizing Mr. Sempill’s accomplishments as Bermuda’s Chief of Police during the years 1915 – 1927 it is patently clear that from the moment he was appointed by the Colonial Office and took up his post in these Islands as an experienced professional police officer and prosecutor he began the process of introducing new and innovative approaches to policing in Bermuda.
He successfully accomplished the overhaul of policing performance and practices, and throughout his leadership Mr. Sempill expunged from among the ranks those felons and assorted undesirables who had hitherto corrupted the Force to such an extent which had led to social disdain and low morale within the force.
With the support of three successive Governors’ in turn and the Colonial Secretariat, Mr. Sempill steered budgeting and legislative reforms through the Legislature ensuring the recruitment of a new batch of quality personnel together with procedures designed to modernize the existing Force towards one of the finest small police services of the 20th century. He personally recruited from overseas a contingent of smart, intelligent and disciplined men to be professionally employed as law officers in the Colony.
The establishment of a highly acclaimed and first of its kind Fingerprint department brought with it a scientific approach to crime detection within the Island, followed by the appointment of Bermuda’s first, locally born, detective officer which further enhanced the fight against crime. He established liaisons with overseas counterparts and with Interpol.
In addition to his role as Chief of Police Mr. Sempill assumed the busy administrative duties of both the Provost Marshal General of Bermuda and as Marshal of the Supreme Court of Bermuda in Admiralty. As Chief Officer of the Gaols he was charged with leadership in the reform of the prisons in which he established clean and sanitary conditions, efficiency, dietary meals, work details and discipline among the prisoners.
Mr. Sempill’s interest in horses undoubtedly led to the introduction of a mounted police patrol in Tuckers Town in the early 1920’s.
Awarded the M.B.E.in 1925, his leaving in early 1927 after twelve years of reform rendered Bermuda deficient in administrative policing matters. Such was the impressive scale of his entrepreneurial abilities that his loss was felt immediately.
As a member of the Colonial Civil Service Mr. Sempill accepted an offer in another strategic outpost of the Empire when he became Chief of Police in British Honduras where he tragically died whilst on duty during the hurricane of 1931. He was aged 55 years.
EDITORS NOTE - This article, written by retired Detective Superintendent George Rose, provides a fascinating insight into the life of Mr. John Howard Sempill who served in the Bermuda Police from 1915-1927 during which time he was promoted to Chief of Police. There were literally no records of Mr. Sempill's time in Bermuda in our police records so George had the enormous task of delving through newspaper archives and conducting extensive research both locally and abroad to piece together this insight into a man who we can now say with authority played a pivotal role in the development of the Bermuda Police. We are most grateful to George for the time and effort he devoted to this project in particular, but also his other articles which shed light on the history of the Bermuda Police.