Read The Barker's Dozen - Reminiscences of an Early Police Dog Online
Authors: Robert Warr
The Barker’s Dozen
Reminiscences of an Early Police Dog:
The detective got the praise, but the dog did the digging…
This paperback edition published by Bellorum, 2012
17 Belle Vue Road
, Bournemouth, BH6 3DB
First Published in Great Britain by Bellorum 2012
Copyright © Robert Warr
The Author asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work
The Barker’s Dozen is for my parents and brother.
My especial thanks to Mr Philip Lee who drew the illustrations for this book
I would also like to thank
Sue Sims, Emma Drake-Lee and Gemma Ridout who were kind enough to read the draft versions and suggest changes.
Finally for Cassie who was a wonderful Springer Spaniel and a dedicated Snufflehound.
The people, with the exception of obvious historical figures, and events described in this book are fictitious and bear no intentional resemblance to any real person living or dead.
The Case of the Maygrove Murder
The Case of the Dorset Murders
The Case of the Unseen Witness
The Case of the Laudanumed Labrador
The Arlesford Spaniels Always Get Their Man
‘THE name’s Snuffles, Snuffles of The Yard,’ said my
uncle’s Spaniel with a growl in his voice. ‘I will not tolerate an ill-mannered pup calling me a good doggie.’
I must admit that this statement shocked me and I wondered, for an instant, if I had gone mad. My training as an engineer, however, has taught me to examine facts. I was sitting in my uncle’s study; his dog was standing with his paws on my knees and his teeth an inch from my nose. I had called him a good doggie.
‘But, you can talk,’ I managed to say.
‘There is no need to state the obvious,’ said the dog, ‘when an apology is obviously in order.’
‘Sorry, old boy,’ I said. My parents always told me that politeness costs nothing and the dog did have really big teeth.
The dog removed his weight from my knees and sat down in front of the fire looking at me.
‘I suppose my master asked you to dinner and you have deliberately come early so that you can drink his whisky while waiting?’ The dog raised his ears in a questioning fashion.
I started guiltily, as that was precisely what I had done. The invitation to dine with my uncle had come too soon after I lost a lot of money in a swindle. A bit of free courage before my uncle started advising me was what I needed.
My uncle, who is known to the papers and the public as ‘Thompson of the Yard,’ is undoubtedly the greatest detective of his age. He is known for his good table, good cellar and fascinating stories. It was, therefore, in the expectation of a great evening that I had accepted his invitation. An examination of my recent folly was a minor price to pay.
‘Snuffles,’ I said, ‘you used to accompany my uncle when he investigated some of his more famous cases. I wonder if you would mind telling me about one or two of them.’
The dog looked at me for a moment or two and then smiled.
‘All right,’ he said
. ‘I’ll tell you. I doubt anyone will believe you if you betray my confidence.’
I was still only a pup when I helped to solve a case that was fast becoming the murder of the decade.
It all started early one Sunday morning at Maygrove House, down in
Berkshire. Lord Brockenham’s party had returned from the hunt ball at nearby Houton Hall in the early hours. The weather was very hot and close and the evening had been marked by some very heavy thunder showers. As a consequence, most of the guests, who were sleeping with their windows open, were rudely awakened by a desperate scream soon after dawn. When they went to investigate the noise they found Lord Brockenham’s niece, Emma Hartridge, lying dead on the terrace. She had obviously fallen from the window of her room.
At first they thought that it was a tragic accident, but one of the maids claimed that she had heard Lady Emma shout, ‘Drop it, you little thief
!’ and then, just before she fell, ‘Please help me!’
When they examined her room, they found her sheets and blankets lying on the floor, one of the curtains torn away from the pole and Lady Emma’s jewellery box on the table by the window. The box was open and the Brockenham Brooch missing. It was clear to Lord Brockenham, who was the local
magistrate, that his niece had woken to find a thief rifling through her jewels. She had tried to rescue her property and, in the struggle, had been thrown from the window to her death. It was undoubtedly a case of robbery and murder.
You must remember that in those days the Yard was automatically called in whenever a murder like that occurred. The local police forces would try, however, to solve the case before the Yard man arrived. On
occasion, this resulted in evidence being lost.
The local police force was represented in this instance by Inspector Evans
, a small-minded man who believed that he knew everything. He was also determined to solve the case quickly to impress Lord Brockenham. Inspector Evans arrived at the scene of the crime and examined Lady Emma’s room. He found a small piece of twig on the floor by the window. This twig was still green so Inspector Evans concluded that the intruder had entered the house just before the theft, probably hiding in a nearby shrubbery while waiting for his chance to enter. An examination of the face of Maygrove House convinced the inspector that the thief had not entered the house through Lady Emma’s window. As there were no signs of any forced entry into the house, the thief had therefore been let into the house by an accomplice.
The inspector’s initial enquiries among the family revealed that there had been several small thefts over the past few months. Lord Brockenham
had suspected that it was one of the servants, because the items stolen were normally easily hidden and of no great value. Some of the servants had also reported small thefts, but no culprit had been found.
Inspector Evans obtained permission from Lord Brockenham to question the staff. While the Inspector was interviewing the house staff, one of the under
-gardeners, a lad called James O’Brian, asked to see Lord Brockenham. This was an unusual request, because James would normally have spoken to the head gardener, who would have approached the butler, who would in turn have spoken to his Lordship. I have noticed that humans tend to have very rigid pack structures. His Lordship was intrigued by this request and agreed to come out and see the lad. You can imagine his emotions when James O’Brian reached into his pocket and produced the Brockenham Brooch.
The young man claimed to have found the brooch while working in the rose garden.
He did not know what it was but assumed that it was valuable and therefore belonged to Lord Brockenham or one of his guests. Inspector Evans was called and told the young man to ‘show me where you claim you found it’. The rose garden at Maygrove is located near the house and is surrounded by a substantial wall, which has been used to support several varieties of climbing rose. The single door into the rose garden was located close to the terrace where Lady Emma met her death. The Inspector took one look at the garden and its location then arrested James O’Brian for the murder of Lady Emma Hartridge.
The inspector went back into the house and arrested one of the maids, Jenny Miller, on the same charge. The case was, as he explained to Lord Brockenham, a simple one that ‘depended for its resolution on a good knowledge of the bestial nature of the lower classes.’
The case was a simple one that ‘depended for its resolution on a good knowledge of the bestial nature of the lower classes.’
The Inspector explained that during his interview with Jenny Miller, the maid assigned to Lady Emma the night before, he had discovered James O’Brian and Jenny Miller were courting; unfortunately for them they could not afford to marry. The girl had obviously told her lover about the jewel and, in a fit of ‘the madness all too common among their kind’, they decided to steal the brooch to give them enough money for a new start. The lad had waited in the shrubbery until the girl signalled that the coast was clear, and, while she lingered downstairs on watch, he crept upstairs to Lady Emma’s room. Unfortunately Lady Emma awoke and ‘the criminal monster threw her, with no pity in his black heart, from her window’. His later claim to find the jewel was only a pathetic attempt
to ‘put things right, once he realised what he had done’. O’Brian’s mistake was, the Inspector concluded, to ‘find’ the jewel within a walled garden that only had one entrance and that in plain sight of all the people rushing to Lady Emma’s body. The mud within the garden gate was a mute witness of the lad’s infamy, because it clearly showed only one set of tracks entering and then leaving the garden.
he unfortunate couple had just been taken away by a sergeant when my master and I arrived. Inspector Evans had remained behind so that he could tell your uncle that the local police had solved this one, without the need for any of ‘your fancy London methods’. Truly, for your uncle and Inspector Evans, it was contempt at first sight.
The annoying thing was that Inspector Evans seemed to have a case. After all, such tragedies do happen and it is not inconceivable that a naive young couple would decide to steal a piece of jewellery that they could not hope to sell. Your uncle
, however, decided to do his own investigation, much to Evans’ disgust. As he said to me later, he was never happy about murder cases that rely only on circumstantial evidence.
For a young
dog, this was an extremely exciting occasion. Not only was there a murder to investigate but Maygrove House had a large lake, with ducks! It was a hot day and I must admit the thought of a swim appealed to me. For me, to think is to do. I have always been a dog of action. I ran down the lawn towards the lake. I must admit that I so forgot myself as to bark at the ducks. I even ignored your uncle’s clear instructions to stop. Splash! I entered the water, only to find that it was four inches deep and covered thick mud. It was some few minutes later that I was dragged from the lake, covered with mud and embarrassment.
found myself sent in disgrace to the stables where I was left outside an unused loose box. Your uncle asked one of the grooms to clean me off and said he would collect me after he had interviewed the prisoners. Somehow, one always knows when one has let down your uncle. The groom, however, was one of those fortunate humans who really know how to play. I spent an enjoyable half hour, which ended up with the groom wet and muddy and myself clean and dry.
I settled down to wait for the master in a quite contented frame of mind. Who, I reflected, can be sad on a beautiful summer’s day? I drifted off to sleep with this naive thought in my mind. I was awakened by a soft, almost inaudible, meowing that seemed to be coming from within the loose box. It was such a forlorn sound that I got up and entered the box. Although I was temporarily blinded when I went into the dark, my nose told me that there was a cat in the manger. My ears told me that it was a very unhappy creature.
You humans often seem to think that cats and dogs enjoy a mutual antipathy, but this is not true. We are both competing for the same ecological niche, that of pet. Because we are rivals we occasionally fight, but on the whole, we manage to live together quite easily. Often a cat is the only decent, if self-absorbed, friend to whom a dog can really talk, you humans often being unable to say much more than ‘Who’s a good dog then?’
I went up to the cat and gently snuffled it. To my
surprise, I wasn’t scratched. The cat only opened its eyes and mewed all the louder. ‘Whatever is the matter?’ I asked. ‘Are you ill? Should I fetch one of the people?’ The cat looked at me and wailed, ‘She’s gone.’
It was obvious to me that I was talking to Lady Emma’s cat, and though I did not want to intrude on private grief, she might know something important. One thing was certain
: a wailing cat was not going to tell me anything. I therefore began to rumble quiet platitudes while washing her as one would a disturbed puppy. It might have been my tone of voice or conceivably my wet tongue, but the cat stopped wailing and started hissing. Noticing that her claws were out, I stopped washing her and retreated a cautious step. Your uncle always says that one should not appear threatening when interviewing a witness.
The cat stopped hissing and said
, ‘What are you mumbling about, you stupid dog?’
‘Why the death of your human, Lady Emma,’ I replied in the friendliest tone I could manage.
‘What makes you think I’m worried about that one’s death? She was vain, selfish and totally self-absorbed.’ This coming from a cat was a bit rich.
I told the cat that I was a stranger, and I had naturally thought that a cat of her obvious qualities would belong to one of the humans in the big house. You have to really flatter an angry cat if you want to escape with your nose unclawed. This approach worked, because the cat put her claws away, and after a few minutes silence, started telling me her tale.
Lucky, as my informant was known, was one of the many cats who scratched out a living in the farms and stables of the estate, being tolerated only because they kept down the numbers of mice and rats. When she little more than a kitten she had been badly bitten in the leg by a rat and as a result could not hunt as effectively as the other cats. It was while she was weak from her injury and lack of food that young Jenny Miller had found her. With the eager help of James O’Brian and one of the grooms, Jenny had managed to nurse the cat back to health.