Unsolved Murders

Robert Joseph de Quincey

Age: 25

Sex: male

Date: 5 May 1946

Place: River Nene, Alwalton Locks, Huntingdonshire

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Robert Joseph de Quincey was found dead in the River Nene.

He had earlier been involved on an assault with the police with another 18-year-old youth. They were being taken to a police house in a car when they attacked the policeman, stabbing him and hitting him with a starting handle and ash stick and then ran off.

Robert de Quincey was found in the River Nene near Alwalton Locks in Huntingdonshire on Sunday 5 May 1946, about a week after the assault.

It was not known how he got into the river and an open verdict was returned.

The coroner said, 'There is nothing to show how he got into the river and one is always reluctant to return a verdict of suicide, although one might think that he may have thought he did some grievous harm to the policeman'.

It was said that he and another man had been concerned with wounding a policeman at Chesterton on 21 April 1946. The policeman said that he saw Robert de Quincey and another man on 21 April 1946 and after questioning them, told them that he was dissatisfied with and put them in his car to take them to the police house. However, he said that they then attacked him and got out of the car. He said that one ran off in a northerly direction and that the other, Robert de Quincey, ran off towards the river.

The policeman said that on Easter Day, he had been travelling up the Great North Road on duty and had seen Robert de Quincey and the other youth and after questioning them asked them to get in his car and accompany him back to the police house at Alwalton. He said that they got in the car and they drove off, but that shortly before arriving at the police house he suddenly felt a blow on his left chin and felt a steel blade pierce through from just below his ear which he said emerged just under his chin. He said that he stopped his car on the carriageway whilst he received further heavy blows on his head and face. He said that he then turned and caught hold of the other youth's throat and one of his hands. However, he said that Robert de Quincey then got the starting handle and proceeded to hit him with it on the back of his legs and thighs and he was forced to release the other youth.  He said that when he then alighted from the car, he received a further crack from the starting handle which broke his wrist and that the youth then brought a heavy ash stick down on his head and that they then both ran off.

Robert de Quincey had lived in Stanley Street in Bedford and was a lorry driver.

An open verdict of found drowned was returned.

After the inquest returned its verdict, the man that had been with Robert de Quincey in the police car and who had assaulted the policeman and run off was committed for trial at the 20 May 1946 Cambridgeshire Assizes by the magistrates on a charge of being concerned with Robert de Quincey in wounding the policeman with intent to murder him. The youth was tried at the Cambridgeshire Assizes on 24 May 1946 and pleaded not guilty to attempting to wound the policeman with intent to murder him but guilty to causing grievous bodily har with intent to avoid arrest and was sentenced to three years' penal servitude.

The judge said, 'Police in this country go about unarmed, and any man who uses a lethal weapon in order to avoid arrest is committing a crime of the gravest character'.

Robert de Quincey's funeral took place on 9 May 1946 at Bedford Cemetary. During the war he had served as a driver in the RASC.


*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.


see Bedfordshire Times and Independent - Friday 24 May 1946, p5

see Bedfordshire Times and Independent - Friday 24 May 1946

see Bedfordshire Times and Independent - Friday 10 May 1946

see Bedfordshire Times and Independent - Friday 17 May 1946