Capturing Cambridge
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64 Ross Street

64 Ross Street

History of 64 Ross Street

1925 – 1930 William Patrick Doyle

The Illustrated Police News (20/10/1932)


“A zealous police-officer by day, but a systematic burglar by night.” In these words counsel described the “Jekyll and Hyde” career of P.C. William Patrick Doyle, fifty, until recently member of the Cambridge force. He pleaded guilty at Cambridge Assizes to thirty charges of housebreaking, burglary, and larceny spread over period of two years.

Mr. E. F. Levy, prosecuting, after making the remark quoted above, declared that the gravity of the case lay in the fact that innocent shop-assistants had been suspected of theft when, in fact, it was Doyle who had been responsible. He would go on duty night, and had a complete set of duplicate keys, with which he entered business premises on the pretext of looking for burglars.

Mr. Levy mentioned one case burglary, in 1930, in which a set of finger-prints were taken from window-pane.

It was not until this year, he added, when Doyle’s finger-prints were compared with those taken on that occasion, that it was discovered that he had been the thief. This proved the great value of the fingerprint system.

When Doyle’s house was searched a quantity of stolen property and thirteen keys were found. Other keys were found hidden in ivy at the back of the police-station.


Mr. E. J. Pearson, Chief Constable of Cambridge, told the court that Doyle enlisted as a gunner in 1898. During the South African War was sentenced to five Years’ penal servitude for striking a superior officer on active service, but only served part of the sentence. He subsequently enlisted again in the Northumberland Fusiliers, but failed to declare any previous Army record. Later on he was transferred Life Guards.

He joined the Isle of Ely Police Force in 1909, and was transferred to the Cambridge Borough Police in 1911.

He was called up at the outbreak war,  and served overseas from October that year to January, 1918. He was mentioned dispatches for meritorious conduct in the field, and on his discharge, in 1913, rejoined the Cambridge Police.

He had been reprimanded by the Watch Committee for being drunk on duty and proceeded against for wearing medals to which he was not entitled, for which was reduced to the lowest rank of constable and deprived of a certain amount of pay. He was reinstated to his former rank last year.

Dovle was discharged from the force in July this year, having served twenty three years 123 days a constable. Had he completed his twenty-five years’ service he would have been able to retire on a pension of £2 15s 9d a week.

In a broken voice Doyle, from the dock, declared that he was more than sorry to hear that people had been dealt with unjustly for his offences.

Mr Justice Branson, remarking that it was a tragic case, passed sentence of five years’ penal servitude.


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