History of the Metropolitan Police
MPS officer murdered in Hyde Park during World War II
Jack William Avery, warrant number 20997, was a War Reserve Constable of the Metropolitan Police. He had joined the force on the 3rd September 1939, and was posted to A Division.
On the 5 July 1940 he was on patrol in Hyde Park near the gun emplacements (anti-aircraft guns). A passer-by, George Ernest Bryant, saw a man lying on his stomach facing towards the guns apparently writing something on a piece of paper. Bryant could not exactly see what the man was writing, but at short intervals he looked up at the guns and then continued writing.
Bryant was only about 12 feet away from him when Constable Avery came up to him and after some brief conversation the officer took the paper away. The man got up and, holding a knife in his right hand, made an effort to stab Avery, who parried the blow. Avery then drew his whistle for assistance and Bryant went to his aid. The man then struck again at Avery and stabbed him in the left thigh. Despite this Avery stood his ground.
At this moment a 29 year old War Reserve Constable, Hyman Krantz, saw Jack Avery endeavouring to pull the prisoner who was kneeling on the ground. He then saw Pc Avery draw his truncheon and blow his whistle.
Krantz was 20 yards away when he saw the man rush at Avery and strike him with the knife. Krantz was about a yard away from the two men when the man turned towards him. Krantz swung his unrolled cape at the man, who rushed again at PC Avery. Avery hit him with his truncheon and the man fell to the ground as though in a faint.
Krantz held the man on the ground with the assistance of Bryant, and removed the knife from his hand. At this moment Station Sergeant Alfred Baker arrived by car and arrested the man and then took him back to the station. In the meantime PC Avery was taken to St Mary's Hospital.
The man was Frank Stephen Cobbett, a 42 year old labourer of no fixed address. When told he would be detained and charged with unlawful and malicious wounding, Cobbett replied "He shouldn't have interfered with me. I was only drawing an almanac near the guns. I knifed him. He hit me with a cane. It's my knife I found it in a dustbin." He was then charged.
At 5.15pm that evening a surgeon at St Mary's Hospital Paddington operated on Avery. At 2.30am the next morning his condition deteriorated. He received a second transfusion, which revived him somewhat, but he collapsed at 8.20am and died 15 minutes later.
On 6 July DI John Swain interviewed Cobbett and informed him that he would be charged with wilful murder. Cobbett said: "You say he's dead! I don't believe it. It seems impossible to me. I didn't wilfully murder the man."
Cobbett was born at Wandsworth on 21st November 1899 and served in the 3rd East Kent Regiment from 12th December 1917 until 15th March 1919. He had seven previous convictions for wilful damage, begging, assault on police and wandering abroad. He was a single man with no occupation and lived on his army pension of 8 shillings a week, which he supplemented by begging. He was described in his report as a "sulky stubborn type of individual of the tramp class, weak mentally, but it is doubtful if he is certifiable."
Cobbett appeared at the Central Criminal Court on the 15th July 1940 and was sentenced to death at the Central Criminal Court on the 22nd July 1940. The Jury recommended mercy and Cobbett successfully appealed against judgment at the Court of Criminal Appeal on 12th August 1940. The sentence was reduced to one of 15 years penal servitude and manslaughter.