The End of the Racecourse Gangs. Part 2

Daily Sketch wins the 1959 Larnach Plate
18th July 1949, Lewes, Sussex, A general view outside the ancient Assize Court
Lewes Races 2/6
Brass Knuckles
Richard Attenborough as Pinkie in Brighton Rock Photo: REX
The Telegraph

The Trial: – 

The Prisoners were: –

  1. George Gilder, 28 years, a labourer of No. 6, Fanshaw Street, Shoreditch, London.
  2. Albert Blitz, 24 years, a lorry driver of No.  48 Bookham Street, London N1.
  3. George Gardiner, 30 years, a salesman of No. 2, Gibraltar Gardens, Bethnal Green. London.
  4.  John Tyler, 27 years, a labourer of no. 55, St. George’s Street, Shadwell, London.
  5. George Churchill, 29 years, a bookmaker’s clerk, of No. 42, Lyncock Street, London N1.
  6. Thomas Mack, 40 years, a painter of No. 14, Nicholas Street, New North Road, London N1.
  7. James Spinks, 29 years, a French polisher, of No. 64, Maidstone Street, Hackney, London E2.
  8. Arthur Bonniface, 28 years, a fruiterer, of No.  29 Bowlin Road, Dalston, London N16.
  9. Michael Illingworth, 28 years, a porter of No2, New North Street, London N1.
  10. Charles Spring, 36 years, a labourer of No. 5, Wicker Terrace, Stepney, London E1.
  11. Henry Bond, 25 years, a florist of No. 33, Allerton  Street, Shoreditch, London.
  12. Henry Wilkins, 23 years, a labourer of No.18, Galway Street, St. Lukes London.
  13. Leslie Edward Hain, 26 years, a labourer of No. 12, Buckland Street, Shoreditch, London.
  14. Joseph John Kilby, 26 years, a labourer of No.9, Castigney Place, Bath Street, City Road, London.
  15. Stephen Patrick Bennis, 33 years, a clerk of No.18, Weald Square, Upper Clapham, London.
  16. Timothy Bennis, 28 years, a clerk of No.8, Domingo  Street, St. Lukes, London.


For the Prosecution was: – Mr. John Flowers KC and Mr. Eric Neve.

For the Defence was: – Mr. J. D. Cassels KC and Mr. G. L. Hardy.

The case was heard before Mr. Justice Hilbery.

The trial commenced at 10am on the 28th July, 1936, although it was delayed for some time due to the late arrival of two of the accused. After they apologised to the court the case was able to get under way. The whole of the accused were charged with ‘that they together with persons unknown, with riotous assembly and also of assaulting Alfred Solomon and mark Frater, at the same time and place.

Each of the prisoners standing in the dock was then asked how did they plead? Each one in turn said ‘Not Guilty my Lord to both of the charges’.

The case for the prosecution was opened by Mr. John Flowers who said that these men, indicating those sat in the box, gathered together at Lewes Racecourse with the common purpose of attacking the man, ‘Frater,’ and that in fact, Frater was wounded, having been struck on the head by an implement, in fact this implement was a hatchet, he was also very viciously kicked, causing him deep pain. Only some of them actually caused the injuries but they were all there for the purpose of assisting each other in this deed. At this point Counsel then took a very short break, glancing around the courtroom and then continued; if that is proved, and that they were there for the common purpose; then they are all equally guilty. You may think that the circumstances in this case reveal a somewhat remarkable state of things to have happened in this county, so far as acts of violence of this kind is concerned and from which one can hope that this county is usually fairly free.

Counsel proceeded by saying that the alleged affair took place about 12.45, in fact well before the first race.

Detective Sergeant Collyer and Detective Constable Janes, who were standing close to the three shilling ring, saw a large gang of about thirty men, of whom these sixteen standing before you were part of them. They appeared to come from the direction of the car park. They all passed the two officers in some sort of formation and walked along the backs of the bookmaker’s stalls and close to the rails of the course. They then stood at the end before walking along in front of the bookmaker’s stands. By this time the two officers had joined the group at the back and were observing them in whatever they were doing. They appeared to be scanning the bookmaker’s faces as if they were looking for someone in particular. The officers heard one of the gang say ’it’s no good here boys, there are too many ‘top hats’ about.’ Counsel commented that he understood ‘top hats’ applied sometimes to police officers. They were not aware of the two officers who were standing with them.

The gang continued Mr. Flowers went off towards the motor coach park with the officers Collyer and Janes following them. The two officers managed to convey a message to the other officers who were there on duty. The gang reached the corner of the three shilling ring, when suddenly, Spinks shouted out “here they are boys, get your tools ready.”

With that the gang started running towards two men who were coming towards them.

One was a man called Solomon, who was carrying some part of a bookmaker’s stand, the other man was Frater.

As the gang started to run, they all produced weapons of one kind or another; you can see some of these weapons, here on the table said Counsel. As you see, they are a remarkable collection of very dangerous weapons which include hatchets, knuckle dusters and iron bars. He picked each one up from the table as he was talking.

The gang made towards Solomon and Frater. Spinks was waving a hatchet as he approached Frater and he appeared to be the ring-leader Spring was seen with a truncheon in his hand, waving it about in a threatening manner. All the other members of the gang were holding weapons of one kind or another. The officers saw Solomon struck several blows, wounding his head but he managed to escape and ran away. He is not a witness in this case, added Counsel. The gang members managed to get around Frater, led by Spinks and he was seen to strike Frater on the head with the hatchet he was carrying. Counsel picked up the hatchet in question, holding it high for everyone in the court to see.

Counsel continued, having replaced the hatchet, saying Spinks shouted ‘let him have it boys.’ Frater was struck again and fell to the ground. With that the gang started kicking him. That was the time the two detectives closed in upon the attacking mob. One of the gang shouted out ‘here they are boys, blow.’ Which he, counsel said he presumed the word meant ‘run.’ The men stopped what they were doing and made a run for it. As they ran, they dropped and threw their weapons down as they went. Detective Collyer went after Spinks, the ring-leader and saw him throw away the hatchet. He arrested him about 20 yards away from where the incident had just occurred. Spinks Hain Kilby and Blitz were also arrested almost immediately. They were practically caught red-handed, added Mr. Flowers. Counsel said an iron bar was found on the running board of a car in which five of the prisoners were arrested and under a mat in the car was found a knuckle-duster. Detective Sergeant Collyer, Detective Janes and PC Lynch identified all the prisoner as being members of the gang that had just attacked Frater.

Frater has not given evidence because we couldn’t find him, but we shall call him now. He will not give evidence to prove identification of the men who wounded him. When I say that this affray was connected with what I may call race-gang feuds, you may possibly draw your own conclusions as to why he (Frater) doesn’t help you in identification.

Frater had a one and half inch wound in his scalp, he was in hospital until the next day, when he was discharged.

Mr. Flowers said that when the men were charged with frequenting with intent to commit a felony they answered either ‘yes’ or I understand.’ Spinks said ‘I expected assault’.

Later, when the other charge was preferred against him, hey all said that they knew nothing about it.

Referring to the weapons alleged to have been used in the affray, Counsel said a piece of steel tubing was found at the police station and under the seat where Hain and Mack had just been sitting and it wasn’t there before their arrival. Thee was found to be £20 8s and 9d

Among the 16 men when they were searched; of that sum £19 was from four of them, so that there were 12 of the others with only about £1 between them. DavidRowland

Welcome to the Finsbury Publishing

David Rowland has just launched his 15th and final book, “The Spirit of Winsome Winn II”, all about the B-17 Flying Fortress which crashed at Patcham after being hit by anti-aircraft fire over Germany.



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