Prisoner killed by train while trying to escape from police

Local historian Keith Johnson takes at the horrific death of a prisoner on the run...

Wednesday, 20th June 2018, 11:44 am
Updated Wednesday, 20th June 2018, 12:46 pm
Ribbleton Station circa 1903

Amongst the passengers on the Ribbleton Station platform waiting for the train to Longridge on the first Wednesday of April 1903 were P.C. Andrews of the Lancashire County force and William Skillicorn, aged 35, whom he was escorting to Dilworth to answer a charge of theft.

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Just as the 6.35 pm train from Preston approached the station platform Skillicorn suddenly wrenched himself from the constable’s clutches and leapt onto the railway track intending to escape. Unfortunately, his timing was poor and as he stumbled he was knocked down by the steam engine as it began to slow down. Once the train had halted P.C. Andrews jumped down onto the line and with the help of two passengers pulled his prisoner from under the second carriage. He was taken into a first class compartment and attended by Dr. Jukes of Longridge, who was a passenger on the train.

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After receiving treatment from Dr. Jukes he was transferred to the next train heading for Preston and at the Deepdale Station he was taken in an ambulance along Deepdale Road to the Preston Royal Infirmary.

His injuries were severe having sustained a fractured skull, a lacerated foot, and a severed finger. In a critical condition he was treated by the hospital medics, but at 4 o’clock in the morning he died.

An inquest was held on the following afternoon at the Infirmary before Mr. John Parker, the coroner. Jane Collard, of Pitt Street in Preston, identified the deceased as her lodger. She had known him for about two years. He had come from the Isle Of Man, where he had a mother and brothers and sisters.

Cuthbert Crane, station master at Ribbleton, described the scene as Skillicorn made his bid for freedom and the speed with which the constable and others rendered assistance to the unfortunate man.

The coroner told the jury to consider if the police officer was in any way to blame for the escape of his prisoner. When they returned from their deliberations they laid no blame on the constable and a verdict of ‘Accidental Death’ was recorded.

The Ribbleton Station at Gamull Lane was a popular halt in the days of the Preston to Longridge railway. The passenger service continued until June 1930 when the L.M.S Railway announced closure of the service, although the line continued to be used for goods traffic. The popular branch line to Whittingham Hospital, ferrying staff and services, continued until 1957.

The Longridge line continued to provide a valuable service for transporting goods until its closure in 1967. In later years the only traffic using the line was the coal trucks heading for Red Scar and the Courtaulds works.