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John 'Bill' William Towers

John Towers

Served with Essex County Constabulary and died on January 26, 1941.

War Reserve Police Constable John Towers was born in 1889. In peace time he was a painter. On the dark evening of Wednesday 22nd January 1941 John Towers and a colleague, Police Constable Pyman, were requested by their sergeant to go from Grays Police Station to Hangman's Wood in Little Thurrock to help collect the body of suicide victim who had been discovered there earlier in the evening.

Rather than use a motorised vehicle or hearse the two officers obtained a three-wheeled hand-bier from the fire station which they pushed to Hangman's Wood. There they met a colleague, Police Constable J. A. Jennings and the three men loaded the suicide onto the vehicle and left for Grays mortuary, one in front, one behind and one on the off-side.

It was wartime, and with the blackout in force there was little to illuminate the party apart from a white front and red rear light on the hand-bier, and a torch being held by Police Constable Pyman. After the party passed Palmer's Avenue an army lorry approached them from the rear, hugging the kerb in the darkness. The driver of the lorry saw the white light of the torch ahead of him on his near-side, and assuming it to be a cyclist he pulled out. Unfortunately by the time he realised he was approaching the police officers and hand-bier it was too late and a collision occurred.

Although the army lorry was only travelling at about 20 m.p.h. the impact knocked Police Constable Pyman and John Towers to the ground, and over-turned the hand-bier which was left lying badly damaged in the middle of the road with the suicide still tied to it. John Towers was conveyed to Tilbury Hospital and was conscious on admission despite injuries to the head and body. Later he became unconscious, and on Sunday 26th January 1941 he died from hypostasis pneumonia following concussion and other injuries.

Towers was married with a son, Norman and daughter, Joan.

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