The tragic case of Kensingtons Superintendent Tarlton - Death, Suicide and Fraud -by Peter Kennison
One of Kensington’s Superintendents, Edward Tarlton, had a tragic end to his career. He had been born in Ireland in 1812. He applied to join the Metropolitan Police and was accepted in 1836 with warrant no. 11677. Some ten years later he married Louisa Hannah Purdie from Islington. Louisa was very attached to her parents, who resided at 17 Upper Park Street, Islington, and visited them often. In 1851 he was living with his wife and their five daughters at 7 Upper Crown Street, Westminster and travelled to Stoke Newington each day for his duty as an Inspector after being promoted from Sergeant on A Division. He finally moved his family to Hackney in 1851. Tarlton was a hardworking and conscientious police officer who seemed destined for promotion, and by 1857 he had indeed been promoted to Superintendent of T (Kensington) Division. His time at Hackney saw his wife give birth to a son in 1853, whom he called Edward Pitt Tarlton, named after his younger brother Pitt, a V Division Inspector attached to Chelsea Police Station. Tarlton was a strong family man, and his only son was the apple of his father’s eye. The family had moved to the Superintendent’s quarters at 152 Hammersmith Bridge Road, a fine house suitable for a Superintendent of this busy division and his family. As the Divisional Superintendent he was heading murder investigations, dealing with suspicious deaths or taking control of fires, using reserves of police from the section house when necessary. He appeared before the local courts frequently, and was a well-known and respected senior police officer in the neighbourhood. Tarlton and his family then experienced a series of tragic events that spelled disaster for the whole family.
In December 1860 his wife Louisa (then aged just 41 years) had returned to Upper Park Street, Islington to nurse her sick mother Hannah (aged 59), when tragically and mysteriously both mother and daughter died within the same hour. This tragedy left him to bring up his daughters Ann (21), Susannah (19), Louisa (14) Emily (12), and son Edward Pitt (8), and it fell to the eldest, Ann, to help her father, together with a house servant, to bring up the rest of the family. In early November 1862 Inspector Searle of T Division submitted a bill for expenses to Tarlton which the Superintendent failed to sign and signify that he had authorised its payment. Instead, the bill was forwarded to the Commissioner Sir Richard Mayne accidentally. Mayne was not best pleased and immediately called for the Inspector to appear before him at Scotland Yard. On hearing the evidence he found that Searle had spoken truthfully about the circumstances, but recommended to Tarlton that Searle should be transferred to another station as soon as a position became available. It is clear that events at home was distracting Tarlton. Word had got back to the Commissioner about the running of the division, as within a month Assistant Commissioner Captain Labalmondiere stipulated that he wanted to conduct an inspection. He duly arrived on 1st December and, whilst it is unknown what he discovered, within four days Tarlton had been placed on leave and his deputy, Inspector John Mitchell, put in charge. Tarlton’s daughter Susannah had also died on 5th December and his son Edward also became seriously ill, with little chance of survival. Two weeks later, on 19th December 1862 Tarlton’s own medical condition became worse and on his doctor’s advice was prescribed bed rest. Superintendent Tarlton was then placed on sick leave, and Police Orders confirmed that Inspector Mitchell was temporarily placed in charge of the division. This series of events had left Tarlton severely depressed and confined to bed. In fact, so serious was the situation that Inspector Mitchell’s wife went to help out at the Tarlton family home in Bridge Road. Mary Ball had been resident in the Tarlton household for about three months helping out as the housekeeper. Tarlton and the housekeeper had helped to look after his ailing daughter during her long illness. She noticed how Tarlton had been despondent and heartbroken at the loss of his wife and daughter. At about 7.00pm on 2nd January 1863 the housekeeper found that Tarlton had cut his own throat with a razor. Tarlton died, according to police records, having taken his own life with the bland comment in Police Orders explaining that Tarlton had ‘committed suicide’ however there was a reference in other internal documents that his police account had ‘insufficient funds’. An inquest took place on Saturday evening at the Sussex Arms public house, Bridge Road. Mr Alfred Bird, the Coroner, had known Tarlton extremely well. So upset were Bird and other witnesses in viewing the body that evening, which had been kept in the cool cellar of the public house, that proceedings had to be delayed in order that those who were distressed could compose themselves. During the inquest, evidence was heard from Tarlton’s doctor that he had been suffering from an inflamed stomach and chronic bronchitis, from which he could not recover, and that he had said that ‘he wanted to be put at the bottom of a pond’. The jugular had been severed, and this was the cause of his demise, leaving the coroner to record a verdict of ‘death due to temporary insanity’. Superintendent Tarlton held a contingency account which was used for paying the officers under his command and for other financial matters.
His Clerk Sergeant and the man who organised the finances for the division was Sergeant 2T Thomas Hindes from Beccles in Suffolk, who had joined in 1853. Hindes would travel with his Superintendent on a Wednesday to Scotland Yard to collect a cheque paid into the Bank of England which was converted into cash. On 7th January 1863, as a consequence of checking the accounts prior to a new Superintendent being transferred to the Division, the Receiver’s Office found errors in the accounts and seized them. Sergeant Hindes was immediately suspended from duty ‘as a consequence of the errors found in the late Superintendent’s accounts’ and his pay was stopped. Checking and re-checking these accounts took some considerable time. In the meantime, Sir Richard Mayne decided to move a substantive Superintendent into T Division, and Beckerson was duly transferred from L Division on 19th January. Sergeant Hindes was called before the Commissioner to explain himself, but it was not until 23rd April that he was finally dealt with. All this time was spent at home with his wife Eliza and his large, family worrying about his likely fate. During his suspension there would have been concerns that this would end in the criminal courts as misappropriation of police funds. The Commissioner fined Hindes one month’s pay, on top of losing 11 weeks’ pay on suspension, and stated: ‘The sergeant was, I believe, unconscious of the very serious nature of the offence he was committing, and was certainly acting under the express orders of his Superintendent at the time’. But after all this tragedy and misfortune there was some fair play in the end, as the matter was not held against him and Hindes was promoted to Inspector in January 1864 and transferred to D Division. By 1879 he had become Divisional Superintendent at Woolwich Dockyard (and Arsenal), and in March 1889 he retired on pension and remained resident in Plumstead. In the meantime, Tarlton’s family had to vacate their police house, probably by 19th January 1863, and were scattered around London with the remaining daughters all finding suitors and having their own families.