Coal thieves were known to be at work at night in the LNER goods depot in Birmingham’s Curzon Street, which is why Detective Constable Thomas Hibbs, 23, was keeping an eye on the place during his nightly patrols. On Saturday, August 10th, 1901, he surprised three of them in the act of stealing coal, and challenged them.

The men ran off into Fazeley Street and Hibbs went after them, blowing his whistle and drawing his truncheon. When they realised the constable was alone the three men turned on him. One of them grabbed the truncheon and hit Hibbs over the head with it. They then dragged the unconscious officer to the canal bank and threw him into the water, where he drowned.

Within hours of the body being found three men were charged with the murder. One of them admitted that they attacked Hibbs, but all denied hitting him with a truncheon and throwing him into the canal – this, they claimed, must have been another gang. The case against them was thrown out by magistrates for lack of evidence.