Potteries coppers were ‘not so thick, after all’
RETIRED policeman Tom Parton remembers being involved in the hunt to catch thieves who raided a Potteries jewellery shop more than 55 years ago.
The 89-year-old, of North Street, Leek was transported back to the incident in May, 1957 after reading the memories of Chris Skelhorne, who was working at Pidduck and Sons, in Market Square, Hanley, when the raiders struck, making off by car with valuable rings.
"I was a scenes of crime officer at the time," recalls Tom.
"Myself and Harry Steele, who was then a detective sergeant, were in Hanley town centre dealing with a minor break-in.
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"Someone then came to us and said a brick had been chucked through Pidduck's window."
Tom and Harry headed straight to the shop, where standing outside was the window cleaner, who had just cleaned the window.
"I had a look at the broken glass," continues Tom, "and there was a part of a palm print clearly on the glass, which I photographed and recorded."
A short while later, Tom went to Hanover Street, in Newcastle, where a stolen car had been abandoned.
"We found false number plates had been stuck over the originals," says Tom, "so we prised them off, and underneath was a thumb print which again was photographed and recorded.
"It gave us a lead to a London thief but there wasn't enough for a prosecution."
Tom's colleague Harry travelled to London and was able to identify where the false plates had been made.
"It was quite close to where the suspect lived," says Tom.
"He was interviewed but said he had never heard of Stoke-on-Trent."
But when the suspect was searched a business card was discovered for a pub in Trent Vale.
"This is where we believe they had stopped for a drink," says Tom, "and that was enough to bring him back to Hanley."
The suspect's fingerprints were taken and they matched the prints on the glass and the number plate.
"He had a younger brother who was with him at the time," remembers Tom, "and we soon learned there had been an identical job at a jewellery shop in Lancashire, with the same sort of car."
The police in Lancashire found the car covered in fingerprints, and it was the brother."
Both brothers, from London, were charged and went to court.
"They received substantial sentences," says Tom, "and when they were going to prison, the older brother said to me: 'You're not so thick up north, after all'."
Tom joined the police as a boy messenger at Longton, and then served in the Army during the Second World War. After the war, he became a police constable in Hanley, and then worked in CID.
"I went on to become a sergeant in Stoke," he says, "and was then a detective sergeant in Hanley for a short time."
Before retiring from the police in 1974, he also worked as an inspector in Longton, and then a chief inspector in Burslem, before transferring to Hanley.
"After leaving the police, I worked as a security adviser," says Tom, "and retired from that in 1984."
Tom, whose wife Marjorie died nearly 20 years ago, recalls he had always wanted to work in the police.
"It was an interesting job," he adds, "with something different every day."
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