The Murder of PC James McFadden

James McFadden was serving as a police constable in the East Suffolk Constabulary when he was fatally shot during the burglary of a barn in Gisleham on 30 July 1844.  Searching through the Suffolk Record Office Archives we can find documents relating to the crime and those involved in it at both Lowestoft and Ipswich Record Offices.

The Murder

The Ipswich Journal reported on 1 February 1845 how PC James McFadden learned that Mrs. Button’s barn was about to be burgled on 30 July 1844 and he waited for the thieves to appear. Confronting the gang of thieves, he was shot by the gang’s leader and two other gang members brutally kicked him after this. Left for dead the 26-year-old police officer crawled back to Mrs. Button’s door leaving a bloody trail. McFadden only lived  for two days after the vicious attack but he was able to name William Howell as his murderer. He knew that others were involved but it was William Howell who fired the fatal shot. PC McFadden was buried in Kessingland on 1 August 1844.

The Murderers

Several men were arrested for the murder and assisting in the murder of PC McFadden and their details can be found in Ipswich Gaol book (A1122/12/68, A112212/69 and A1122/12/81). Three men were charged with PC McFadden’s murder: the brothers William (28) and Walter (21) Howell and Israel Shipley (38). Individual entries for the three accused can be found in the gaol books: William Howell (A609/3/269), Walter Howell (A609/4/95) and Israel Shipley (A609/4/96) and these provide personal information on each convict and their crime.

All three men were found guilty of murdering PC McFadden and a broadsheet in our archives provides details about the crime and sentences of the three men (1147/32/11/1 at Lowestoft and B106/3/9 at Ipswich). William Howell was sentenced to death and was hung on 25 January 1845 in Ipswich whilst Walter Howell’s and Israel Shipley’s death sentences were commuted to transportation to Norfolk Island. Walter Howell was transported on 13 May 1845 on the vessel David Malcolm and arrived on Norfolk Island on 25 August 1845. He was conditionally pardoned in June 1857 and married Catherine Hynes on 24 Aug 1857. He died on 4 January 1869 and an inquest was held. Israel Shipley was transported on 3 January 1846 on the vessel China and arrived on Norfolk Island on 16 May 1846 and was pardoned in March 1857.

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