Famous Cases

The Topliss Murder

The sketch of the actor Paul McGann, who played Topliss in The Monocled Mutineer, is by Alryssa Kelly, to whom I am indebted for allowing it to be used on this page.

The sketch of the actor Paul McGann, who played Topliss in The Monocled Mutineer, is by Alryssa Kelly, to whom I am indebted for allowing it to be used on this page.


This revolved around the army deserter, Private Percy Topliss, who murdered a Salisbury taxi driver in 1920, on the A303 near Andover at Thruxton Hill, in a an area now known locally as ‘Topliss Hill.’

Topliss went on the run after the murder, impersonating an army officer. Due to the lack of a comprehensive nationwide telecommunications network (1920’s) it was some time before he was tracked down. He was traced to Cumbria and ‘shot dead by police’ after he shot and injured a police officer.

A new book (June 2002) called,
‘Chasing Percy’ is now available
for £8.99 + £1.50 p&p from :

J Bilton
9 Shrewsbury Close
DE21 2RW

Wanted message in the Police Gazette 1920

The case was made into a BBC TV film a few years ago, under the title of: “The Monocled Mutineer”




The Murder of ‘Sweet’ Fanny Adams

We think that the murder of children is a modern curse but it has been happening over the centuries. This infamous case concerned the murder, at Alton, of ‘sweet’ Fanny Adams, aged 8 years. This took place at Flood Meadow, on Saturday, 24th August 1867. To add to the horror, the victim had been decapitated and brutally mutilated. Body parts were spread over a wide area. Even by Victorian standards this was a horrific murder.

The murderer, Frederick Baker 29, was arrested within hours with bloodstained clothing, Damning evidence was an entry in his diary, “killed a young girl.”

Involved in the arrest were, Superintendent Cheyney and PC George Watkins.

Baker was tried at Winchester Assizes in December that year. The defence introduced evidence of a history of violent mental illnesses in Baker’s family but he was found guilty. The jury took 15 minutes to reach a verdict. Baker was publicly hanged on Christmas Eve the same month outside the county prison at Winchester and was watched by 5,000 spectators (mainly women). Swift justice indeed!

This was to be the last public hanging at Winchester although hanging continued into the 1960’s.

The photo shows the grave of “Sweet Fanny Adams” in the churchyard at Alton cemetery, Old Odiham Road (photo – BC)

Acknowledgement: Research by Bob Cameron

The Curtis Museum at Alton has more information in the form of a leaflet from which some of the above facts have been taken.

A detailed book entitled, “Sweet FA The True Story of Fanny Adams” was written and published by Peter Cansfield Associates in 2000 – ISBN 0-9536346-1-2
Many of the buildings referred to in the book still exist – except for the police station.

Town centre map of Alton, Hampshire. The flood meadow is clearly seen in the centre together with the footpaths criss-crossing the area.

Alton Police Station http://hampshireconstabularyhistory.org.uk/?page_id=657

The Kingsclere Shootings

5th. October 1944


Detective Sergeant Richard Whitehead (later Superintendent) walked into the CID office in Andover at 10.17pm on Thursday 5th. October 1944 when the Section Sergeant at Kingsclere, then in the Andover Division, telephoned to request his presence. A group of ten American soldiers stationed in the area had come into the village armed with rifles, looking for their Regimental Police.

They located them in the Crown Hotel and opened fire on the premises killing one of the policemen instantly and inflicting fatal wounds on another and fatally injuring the wife of the licensee of the premises, Mrs. Rose Napper.

Over forty-eight hours later an exhausted Det. Sgt. went home for the first time having worked straight through in conjunction with U.S. Army investigators. By this time all ten men were in custody and all later appeared before a court martial at Thatcham in Berkshire and were sentenced to life imprisonment.

An interesting aspect of this case was the likely effect of these killings on Anglo/American relations and at the time the whole affair was hushed up although there were reports of their court martial in some newspapers, notably the Daily Herald of 10th. November 1944. General Eisenhower himself became involved and some time later requested his second-in-command to apologise to the people of Kingsclere for the affair.

Some reports speak of many other offences of rape, burglary and so forth in the area and say that local members of the Home Guard were given live ammunition to enable them to defend themselves if attacked. The widow of detective sergeant Whitehead though takes the view that these reports were exaggerated this view is supported by the moderate tone of the minutes of the committee meeting of Kingsclere RDC at source 1 below and the summary of events prepared by the Kingsclere History Group at source 2.


1. Meeting of the Kingsclere & Whitchurch RDC Public Health, Housing and General Purposes Committee on 10th. October 1944

2. Press report of the above committee meeting, undated, said to be a local paper – Hampshire Chronicle from the layout?

3. Summary of the incident and following events prepared by the Kingsclere History Group, undated.

4. An account of his investigation by Detective Sergeant, later Superintendent Richard Whitehead, undated.

5. A newspaper article, source unknown, dated 3rd January 1958 from the Willis Museum in Basingstoke.

6. An article from the ‘Hampshire Magazine’ of April 1978

7. ‘The Secret Massacre’ – an article in The Mail on Sunday 19th. June 1988.

8 “Hushed up by the allies, the forgotten massacre’ Newbury Weekly News 14 Dec. 1995

9. ‘Murderous Night at The Crown Inn’ from the Basingstoke Gazette, 1st. March 1996.

10. Statement by Mrs. Peggy Whitehead, widow of Superintendent Whitehead, who was his clerk during the investigation.

11. Information gained from Daily Herald article dd. 10th. November 1944

Robert Cameron,
Hampshire Police History Society
17th. April 2002


There are two books available that relate cases of murder and mystery in Hampshire over the centuries, including cases from recent years.

“Hampshire – Tales of Mystery & Murder”
by Ian Fox
ISBN 1 85306 716 4
from Countryside Books


“Shocking Hampshire Murders”
by John  Barton
ISBN 1 84114 035 X
from Halsgrove