HC Deb 27 February 1879 vol 243 c1840

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether it is true that Charles Peace, the Banner Cross murderer, before his execution, made a statement in which he confessed that he had murdered at Whalley Range, near Manchester, in August 1876, a police constable named Cock; whether subsequently, at the Manchester Assizes, a young man named Habron was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for the said murder, which sentence was afterwards commuted by the Home Secretary to one of penal servitude for life; whether, taking into consideration that the case was one merely of identity, he will institute an inquiry which may be the means of releasing the said convict, who appeared to be wholly innocent; and, whether, if there be such a case of mistaken identity in fact, he may not be induced to reconsider the conviction of Sir Roger Tiohborne, who may also have been wrongly convicted under a similar error?


It is true that William Habron was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for the murder of a police constable named Cock, at Whalley Range, near Manchester, in August, 1876. It is also true that his sentence was commuted to penal servitude for life, on the ground that there was some reasonable doubt as to whether his was the hand that fired the shot which killed the police constable, but not as to whether he was implicated in the murder in other ways. It is true that the convict Charles Peace made a statement after his conviction, and while under sentence of death, that he was the man who shot police constable Cock. The House, I am quite sure, will feel, on the one hand, that this is a matter which will require most careful consideration; and, on the other, hand, that the statement so made is one which must undergo the most careful scrutiny. But whatever the result of the inquiry into the matter may be, it can in no way affect the case of the prisoner Thomas Castro, otherwise Arthur Orton, now undergoing a sentence of penal servitude for a totally different offence.