100 years ago two police officers were killed in Hamilton
Published December 1, 2023 at 10:32 am
Hamilton Police are remembering two officers who were killed on duty roughly a century ago.
Constable Albert C. Springstead
The first to be killed was Wentworth County Constable Albert C. Springstead, 65, on Nov. 29, 1919. At this time Wentworth County was an independent community. It wouldn’t be brought into Hamilton until Ontario formed the Hamilton-Wentworth Region in 1974 and the Hamilton “megacity” in 2001.
As a result in Springhead’s day, Wentworth had its own police service the Wentworth Country Constabulary, which existed from 1816 to 1973. According to the Hamilton Police Historical Society & Museum, Springhead may have been the chief, but the records of the time are unclear.
However, Springhead was a 35-year veteran of the constabulary (meaning he was hired in 1884) and therefore may well have been highly ranked.
On the night of his death, Springhead was on duty at the Wentworth County Jail, now the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre on Barton St. Along with Head Turnkey Arthur Awty, Springhead had been assigned to guard a condemned man, Paul Kowalski.
Kowalski had killed a fellow gambler Ignace “Knot” Trembluk and had been sentenced to death. Canada did not abolish the death penalty until 1974, though the last execution was in 1962. When Kowalski lost his appeal, he decided to break out of the Barton Jail. He was placed on “death watch” to ensure he did not take his own life before he was hanged.
Wentworth let Kowalski out of his cell to allow him to exercise, according to local historian Mark McNeil. Instead, Kowalski jumped Wentworth and used a bandana to choke the constable out. Once Wentworth lost consciousness, Kowalski beat him to death with an iron sash. He then took Wentworth’s pocket knife and cut the constable’s throat.
Now armed Kowalski made his way through the jail. He killed two more guards, including Awtry, before a fourth guard, John Lowery, brought him down. Kowalski was hanged nearly three weeks later on Dec. 19. In total, Canada hanged 1,533 people between 1865 and 1974, eight of whom were executed in Barton Jail. Kowalski was the fifth.
Wentworth became the second officer from a service that would become Hamilton Police to be killed on duty, after Cst. James Barret was shot in 1909.
Constable Fredrick Raynes
Raynes, 32, was heading down King St. on his motorcycle on Nov. 21, 1925. He was on his way to tell a family their son had been arrested down in Guelph. When he reached slower traffic, he tried to slow down, but the side car on his bike struck another vehicle.
He was thrown off the bike and into the path of an oncoming car. He sustained a serious head injury and died in hospital later that evening. Prior to joining Hamilton Police, Raynes was a sergeant with the 87th Battery Royal Field Artillery in the First World War, according to the Hamilton Police Historical Society and Museum.
Raynes was the fourth officer from Hamilton killed on duty following Cst. Reginald Pryer in 1921, who likewise died in a motorcycle crash. The next was Detective William Clark, who was killed in a 1929 robbery.
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