Unsolved Murders

Harold Johnson

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Date: 5 Jul 1940

Place: Newark

Harold Johnson was shot by another soldier in Newark.

A soldier was tried for his manslaughter but acquitted after the case was stopped.

At the time of the incident, the soldier charged with the manslaughter was acting as a temporary lance-corporal and on 5 July 1940 he was in charge of a guard. He loaded the rifles, pulled back their safety catches, and then called the attention of the soldiers in the guard that they were not to touch the safety catch.

However, at about 8pm, another soldier said that he saw the soldier charged with manslaughter about to post another sentry, carrying his rifle at the trail. He said that the soldier then swung to the right and threw his rifle to his shoulder. The sentry said that he then heard a click as though the mechanism was being operated and then heard a shot ring out.

The shot hit Harold Johnson who had been sitting in the shadow about 20 yards away. He reeled forward and fell, having been shot through the left eye. His death was said to have been instantaneous.

It was then said that the soldier that fire the shot, the man charged with the manslaughter, then looked very pale and upset and was alleged to have said, 'I did it'.

When his rifle was examined the safety catch was found to be in the forward position. At the trial, the counsel stated that the soldier had done the very thing that he had requested his men not do.

A soldier who gave evidence stated that after Harold Johnson groaned, twisted and fell, the soldier on trial looked amazed.

At the trial, after a luncheon adjournment, the judge was asked, 'Do you accept the position that, if the rifle was not intended to go off at all, there would be no evidence to justify a conviction for manslaughter?', to which the defence replied, 'No, not at all, my Lord'. The judge then said, 'That is my view'.

The defence then stated that it was not a case of deliberate intent to fire, but forgetfulness on the part of the soldier that he had loaded his rifle two hours earlier.

However, then, at the direction of the judge, the jury conferred, and then announced that they didn't want to hear any more of the case and returned a not guilty verdict and the soldier was acquitted.

The judge then said that he hoped that the case would in no way stand against the soldier in the Army.

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Aberdeen Press and Journal - Thursday 21 November 1940

see Nottingham Evening Post - Wednesday 20 November 1940