'Wanted, The Elusive Charlie Peace': A Sheffield Killer Of The 1870s As Popular Hero


By Dr. John Springhall, published 1st March 2000

On 28 November 1876, William and John Habron, Irish brothers habitually in trouble with the police, were tried at Manchester Assizes for the murder three months before of Police Constable Nicholas Cock (on the basis of ‘scientific’ footprint evidence at the scene of the crime). The jury found 19 year-old William Habron guilty, with a recommendation that he be reprieved from hanging because of his youth, and his brother not guilty. But one respectable-looking man who had sat in court throughout the trial believed in William’s innocence, that man was burglar Charles Frederick Peace (1832-1879). The very next day, Peace went back to Sheffield and killed Arthur Dyson, the husband of a woman with whom he was infatuated, at Banner Cross. Three years later, awaiting execution for this crime, Peace at last confessed to shooting PC Cock during a burglary. His iconic status as an audacious Victorian rogue, however, owed as much to press focus on his movements from 1876 to 1878, whilst eluding the law after the murder of Dyson.

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