“One of them pulled a revolver out and the other said, ‘Let him have it, he’s all alone,’” Police Constable William Sheill said in a statement dictated as he lay dying from a bullet wound in his stomach.

In the early hours of FEBRUARY 29th, 1940, he had been called to investigate a break-in at the Co-operative store in Coxhoe, County Durham. He arrived to see two men run from the shop, and as he pursued them one turned and shot him.

A Vauxhall car had been stolen a few nights before in Chester-le-Street, and on the night of the shooting a Vauxhall had been seen in Coxhoe. It did not belong to any of the locals, and on March 4th the investigators learned that a stolen car had been reported in Hawksworth, near Bradford.

Whenever there was a burglary in that area, the prime suspects were two local criminals, Vincent Ostler, 24, and William Appleby, 27. Both were arrested on suspicion, Ostler reaching for a loaded gun under his pillow when armed police burst into his bedroom.

Both denied being in Coxhoe on February 29th, but under interrogation Appleby admitted his involvement in the Co-op burglary, insisting that he didn’t know that Ostler was armed. He denied telling Ostler, “Let him have it” and said he had been shocked when Ostler shot the policeman.

Ostler continued to deny any involvement, but when he was tried with Appleby at Leeds Assizes the jury didn’t believe him. Both were convicted of murder, and they were hanged by Thomas Pierrepoint and his nephew Albert on July 10th, 1940.