a murderous outrage in the forest
Sergeant Samuel Beard, who joined the police force in 1843, has the unenviable position of being the first police officer in Gloucestershire to be murdered whilst on duty.
He was badly injured by poachers near Speech House in August 1861 and the circumstances of the attack, which resulted in his death a few days later, caused a huge public outcry. The tragic circumstances were made more poignant by the fact that he left a wife who was pregnant and six young children.
The details of the crime itself, as well as the proceedings of the subsequent Inquest, were reported fully in the local paper, the Gloucester Journal, as you can see here. The newspaper report also includes information about his funeral in Littledean church – this was attended by many police officers from Gloucester as well as the Forest. By popular consent a subscription list was set up for a fund to support Mrs Beard and her children with many police officers donating a day’s pay.
Four local men, Thomas and George Cooper, Richard Roberts and Thomas Gwilliam, were arrested soon after Sergeant Beard’s death and were tried at the Winter Assizes, 1861. The Gaol Register for Gloucester Prison displayed here includes detailed information about them and the sentence they received – all four were sentenced to 15 years penal servitude, three were then transferred to Millbank Prison in London, while the fourth, Richard Roberts, was pardoned.