AS part of our weekly Crime Files series, we are taking a look back at the archives to bring you stories from Herefordshire's history.

The following story dates from 1857.

A POLICE constable and sub-postmaster was hauled up before a court in Herefordshire in 1857 accused of theft.

John Powell of Garway, who had been constable for the parish for 15 years and was also sub-postmaster and letter-carrier between Garway and St Weonards, appeared before the Harewood End petty sessions in October that year.

The court heard Powell had been found in the granary of farmer James Bennett between 2am and 3am a week earlier, attempting to steal a bushel and a half of wheat.


Bennett's son told the court that he had been called by his waggoner that morning, and told that someone was in the granary.

On investigating, he found the door was locked from the inside, and so found a ladder and entered the building by an upstairs window.

Inside, he found the prisoner, and police were sent for.

More wheat, in a bag bearing Bennett's name, and a total of 29 skeleton keys were found in the prisoner's property.

The keys were reported to have been able to open the doors of any house in the district, with Superintendent Dykes, the officer in charge of the case, testing many of them since Powell was taken into custody.

"There is no knowing how many robberies this parish constable has committed," the Hereford Times said at the time.

Powell, who entered a guilty plea, was sentenced to three months' hard labour, in light of the excellent character references given for him.