Murderous Assault on the Police at Blantyre

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Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland

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Glasgow HeraldTuesday 18 September 1883

Murderous Assault on the Police at Blantyre

Murderous Assault on the Police at Blantyre

Murderous Assault on the Police at Blantyre

On Saturday night and the early hours of Sunday morning the village of Stonefield, Low Blantyre, was the scene of a murderous assault on the police. The district is the centre of a considerable Irish community, who find employment in the nearby mines. Betwixt 12 and 1 o’clock on Sunday morning, as Sergeant Stewart and Constable McLeod were on duty, their attention was drawn to a great noise outside Turner’s Building, and on proceeding to the spot they found a young man, about 24 years of age, a miner named John Cain, with all his, clothes off except his trousers, fighting with a man named. French, and nearly sixty people collected round them.

The Sergeant gave the word to separate the combatants, and while he seized Cain, his companion took hold of French. The crowd resented the interferences and immediately afterwards Stewart was struck behind the left ear with a half brick. At the same time he felt something sharp cut his left arm, while blood began to trickle from his ear. He was also struck on the right breast by a half brick, thrown by some one in the crowd, and though stunned by the blow on the back of the ear, on receiving this latter blow he followed his assailant and dealt him a sharp blow which knocked him down.

Being exhausted by loss of blood, the effort was too much for the constable, and he fell. The crowd then closed in upon the sergeant, and commenced to kick him, all his efforts to get up, and extricate himself being unavailing. Among other assailants he identified his former captive Cain, who kicked him on the left side. He eventually got up, while the crowd retreated down the road a little, and after receiving from Cain’s mother, a woman 40 years of age, his helmet, which had been knocked off his head, he was assisted to the police office by his companion, who escaped with a cut lip.

Constable Morton and a young policeman from High Blantyre named Bruce were in the office the latter by chance, and in plain clothes, and, on being informed that Cain was breaking open his mother’s house in Grimson’s Building they proceeded to the spot. As they came up some half-dozen men ran off, but Cain advanced to meet them, armed with a miner’s pick. His mother then came out and took the murderous. implement from him, laying it down at the side of the door. Morton, in recognising him, remarked, “It is you, Johnnie Cain,” when he was met with a volley of oaths, and upon the constables attempting to apprehend him he got away from them. His mother cried to him to take the pick, and doing so he struck Constable Morton twice on the head with the sharp end. Both men fell to the ground, on seeing which Bruce rushed to his companion’s assistance. Mrs Cain lifted the pick and tried to intercept Bruce, who ultimately took it from her, and while the crowd pelted him with stones be beat Cain off his companion by sheer force of the baton and assisted the latter to the police office.

Meanwhile the wounds Of Sergeant Stewart had been examined by Dr Cooper, and found to consist of a cut on his left arm about a quarter of an inch long, a cut on his left ear about three quarters of an inch, and bruises on the back of the head and right breast. It was at first thought he had been stabbed in the arm and ear, but it is now believed that the cuts were caused by pieces of slag thrown at him. He is confined to bed, but is not considered in any danger.

Morton was unconscious on being brought to the office, and became delirious. On the left side of his forehead there were two small wounds, caused by the point of the pick. The doctor was not certain whether or not his skull was fractured, and ordered his removal to the Western Infirmary, Glasgow. He was accompanied by Sergeant Snow and Constable Bruce, and recovered sensibility on the way. Yesterday he was in as favourable a condition as could be expected.

The police have taken possession of the pick and part of the smashed door. The pick is as sharp in the point as a bodikin, and the wonder is that it did not penetrate the man’s brain. In the course of Sunday morning a large force of police were concentrated in Blantyre. They apprehended Mrs Cain, mother of John Cain, and his brother-in-law, Patrick Cain, but John Cain up till last night was still at large. In the beginning of the present year he assaulted the same constable with a pick and absconded. On returning the police arrested him, and he was tried under the Crimes Prevention Act, and sentenced to three months in prison.

Constable Morton had resolved to retire from the police force, and a half an hour or so would have ended his connection with it.

Chief Constable McBardy was in Coatbridge when the disturbance occurred and on hearing of it drove to Blantyre. The Procurator-Fiscal, Mr J. Dyles, was also advised of what had happened, and was in the village from four till seven in the morning.

Yesterday Mrs Cain and Patrick Cain were brought before Mr Anetine. Honorary Sheriff at Hamilton, and having been judicially examined, were committed to prison pending further inquiry.


Glasgow HeraldThursday 22 November 1883

The Blantyre Police Assault Trial

The Blantyre Romance.Yesterday at Hamilton Sheriff Court before Sheriff Spens and John Cain, Patrick Cain, and Thomas Cain were tried for breach of the peace, and assault by cutting and stabbing. The libel set forth that on 15th or 16th September, opposite Mrs Scott’s shop, Stonefield, Blantyre, John Cain created a disturbance; (2) Sergeant Stuart and Constabile McLeod having, in the execation of their duty, proceeded to the place, to preserve the public peace, and Sergeant Stuart having to apprehend John Cain, the three accused assaulted him and Constables William Morton and John Bruce having found John Cain, and endeavoured to arrest him, armed with a, miner’s pick, struck Morton two or more blows on the head. In the comment of the evidence it was proved that Stuart was five weeks off duty from his injuries, and that Morton’s life was in danger, while he was 15 days in the Glasgow Western Infirmary, and he still suffered from lightness of the head.

The Fiscal withdrew the charge of assault with the giok against Patrick and Thomas Cain, and the Sheriff directed the jury to find prisoners not guilty of Stabbing.

In summing up his Lordship entered his emphatic protest against such a case as this being tried by a Court whose limit of sentence was only two years. If the case which the proculator presented against John Cain was proved, it was simply an insult that he was not tried in a charge at murder. If Morton had died from the effects of the injuries inflicted on him he (John Cain) would certainly have been tried on that charge and it made no difference whatever on the moral guilt whether Morton recovered or not.

After an absence of ten minutes, the jury unanimously found John Cain guilty as libeled, with the exception of the stabbing and cutting; and Patrick and Thomas Cain guilty of the second charge, with the exception of the stabbing and cutting, and not gu11ty of assault with the pick. Prisoner agent, Mr W. Barclay, writer, having stated In mitigation of sentence that they had each been two months in prison, the Sheriff, addressing John Cain, said it was just as likely as not that he might have been tried on the charge of murder.

He, with five previous charges for breech ef the peace and two for assault, in one of which he was found guilty of, assaulting a policeman with a pick, he came to be tried there was more than he could understand, for it was a case which ought to be punished with a lengthy sentence of penal servitude. His only reason for not inflicting the highest sentence in his case was that in the opinion of the prison authorities it would be dangerous to his health, bodily and mentally. He restricted the sentence to one of twenty-one months imprisonment. He sentenced the other two prisoners each to four months imprisonment.



Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland

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