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James Inwood, Rickmansworth
Poaching is not, as many believe, confined to the killing and taking of game. There are those who unlawfully take fish. And, just as likely, as in the case of the Aldbury killings, it can end up by someone being killed.
In 1808, James Inwood rented a fishery at Rickmansworth. One night in October of that year he and four men, Thomas Tochfield, and three others named Davy, Ellingham and Walker, kept watch for anyone who might trespass and steal fish. Sure enough, at 4 a.m. they had a visitor: William Goodman appeared, it seemed to plunder fish from the water, although as it happened he was intent on stealing eels that had already been caught and were held in baskets, a fact which made a significant difference to the outcome of this case.
When Goodman realised he had been spotted he jumped into the water and swan upstream. James Inwood, who was carrying a cutlass, ended up in the water grappling with Goodman. It seemed Goodman was getting the better of the encounter, for Inwood called for help. His helpers made haste, finding Inwood on the bank and his prisoner gone. But Goodman left behind his jacket, through which they were able to identify him.
In fact, Inwood had mortally wounded Goodman with his cutlass, and Goodman died a few days later at his home. At his trial for murder, Inman explained that when he had reached the place where Goodman was, in the stream, he (Goodman) had pulled him into the water and Inwood, in fear of being drowned, had attacked him with the cutlass. Even so, Goodman escaped.
An important point of law arose, when it was disclosed that Goodman was after the eels, which had already been caught and were therefore the property of Inman, rather than simply to take fish from the stream. To steal was a felony, to poach was mere trespass. The law was that where any person who suspected a felony was about to be committed on his property, he might call for the help of a peace officer, and that the thief, if he would not submit to arrest might forfeit his life.
One is bound to compare this to today’s case where farmer Tony Martin was sent to prison for killing a burglar who entered his home. Murder or justifiable homicide. In the Inwood case the jury decided it was neither. He was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to one month’s imprisonment.