Thirty-three year old police constable Alan George Baxter was murdered by his namesake, twenty-year-old Alan Derek Poole in June, 1951 for no good reason except Alan Poole fancied himself an anti-hero.
Alan Poole had been known as a ‘bad lot’ with a long history of offending. The first recorded offence was in 1946 for office-breaking, after which he was sent to an approved school. After absconding, he broke into a Chatham sports pavilion which resulted in three years Borstal training. Again, Poole escaped but was arrested and sent back to Borstal.
This disturbed young man, who was one of ten children, was, by now, harbouring a pathological hatred of the police. But he adored American gangster films and comics and liked to model himself on their anti-heroes, talking like them, even honing his walk into a swagger just like a film-star gangster. He was equally thrilled by knives and weapons.
In 1949 Poole absconded once more but this time he threatened a constable with a knife and was sent back to Borstal yet again.
Then, on 5 June, 1951, a young man, David Tutt and three male friends were confronted in the Luton area of Chatham by Alan Poole with two girls. Poole was masked and carried a Sten gun in the crook of his arm. Poole threatened the young men and they fled, but decided to tell the occupant of a nearby cottage about the hostile gunman. The cottager called his dog and returned to ‘have a word’ with the masked man but Poole merely fired another volley of rounds at them.
A 999 call was made to the police. P.C. Baxter, who lived in Palmerston Road, received the report of a gunman hiding in Luton, an area of Chatham. P.C. Baxter was an experienced officer, having been in the force since 1938. This unfortunate policeman was under some stress himself, as his father had recently died and his wife had given birth to a stillborn baby.
P.C. Baxter, who was based at the old police station just off New Road, went to investigate with two other PCs, Langford and Brown. At the Hen & Chickens in Luton Road, the policemen were waved down by the little group that had been fired on and they explained what had happened and where they thought the gunman was hiding. P.C.s Langford and Brown entered the corporation rubbish dump, while P.C. Baxter remained in the car. There were some huts surrounding the dump and P.C. Langford peered in the broken window of one of the huts and saw Poole and the two women opening the door. P.C. Langford rushed around to the front but was greeted by a hail of bullets from the automatic weapon. Fortunately, the shots missed and Langford escaped death by inches.
Meanwhile, Alan Poole ran to the police car and fired at it, shattering the windscreen. Drawing out his truncheon (Baxter was otherwise unarmed) the policeman pushed open the squad car door. But the gunman fired again and P.C. Alan Baxter was shot several times and fell to the ground, while Poole jumped over a gate and vanished.
P.C. Langford tried to console P.C. Alan Baxter, but the latter seemed to know he could not survive his terrible wounds. ‘I’ve had it. I’m going,’ said the brave P.C. as he was rushed to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital.
A search ensued between Luton, Blue Bell Hill and Wigmore areas. Poole’s two young women companions were found and turned out to be escapees from a Gloucester remand home. They explained that Poole had stolen the Sten gun when he was a member of the Royal Corps of Signals. They also said that Alan Poole was only ‘showing off’ when he attacked P.C. Langford on the Monday night.
Poole’s parents lived in Symons Avenue, where armed police surrounded the house, believing the perpetrator of this awful crime to be inside. At 8.00am, Alan Poole’s father Albert returned from his nightshift and everything was silent till next morning when eleven-year-old sister, Doreen, left to go to school. Unexpectedly, she returned home, very upset. The other girls had laughed at her because they’d heard her brother, Alan, had shot at a policeman. Mrs. Poole sat down to write a note to the school, but Alan, overhearing, told his family to get out, as he was going to ‘shoot it out with the cops.’ He was talking wildly, and was still under the influence of the American media, ‘They’ll never take me alive. I’ll kill the bastards.’
At 9.00am Mrs. Poole and her daughter left the house and there was a burst of Sten gun fire from the back. Alan Poole had moved about 50 yards away from the house and opened fire in the direction of his father. The armed police closed in as Poole retreated to an upstairs bedroom continuing to fire, indiscriminately, at police. Reinforcements were called for and some people said it was exactly like a siege.
The police decided to introduce tear gas grenades, but still Alan Poole carried on with his furious bombardment. Eventually, a group of police officers led by Chief Superintendent, C.F. Broughton bashed down the door and rushed inside. Soon, there was a white handkerchief waving out of a window to tell everyone outside that it was over. Poole had been killed by the last round of return fire.P.C. Baxter died in hospital eighteen hours after admittance and was laid to rest on the 11 June. The following day, 12 June, the funeral was held of Alan Poole, his cold-hearted murderer.