Paper Memories - A Tragic Case

Dispatch Rider's Death
Case Against E. Boldon Man Adjourned
An army dispatch rider told the County Magistrates at Jarrow yesterday how he discovered a fellow dispatch rider lying injured beside his wrecked motor-cycle aftger a crash on October 16 on the East Boldon-Sunderland road. He was giving evidence in the case in which Roland Clarkson (56) of Stratford House East Boldon was charged with the manslaughter of Arthur William Lathwell (20), gunner-driver, of Walthamstow, Essex. Clarkson pleaded not guilty. The hearing was adjourned until November 13.
The witness John Finlay of Aberdeenshire, said he was riding from three to five hundred yard behind Lathwell's motor-cycle, of which he could only see the red rear light. After the collision the car seemed to come straight on but on the wrong side of the raod, and was then pulled over to its proper side. He estimated that it travleed more than 200 yards after the impact.The motor-cycle was not travelling at more than 40 mph before the accident. When he saw and spoke to the driver of the car he came to the conclusion from his behaviour that the man was drunk, the way he spoke and from the smell of liquor about him.
Mr F.J. Lambert (defending): How drunk was he?
Finlay: He was drunk - I don't know how drunk; but he wasn't sober, then it stands to reason he was drunk.
Mr Lambert: That is the Scots definition of drunk, I see.

Dr D. F. O'Kelly, who examined Clarkson after the accident and came to the conclusion that he was sufficiently under the influence of drink to be unfit to be in charge of a car, said there was no immediate and visible sign before commencing the tests that Clarkson was adversely affected by drink. Clarkson admitted that he had taken some drink, but not much. He "walked the line" fairly well, but was unsteady, while he could not balance on one leg. He did the tests slowly but fairly well. His breath smelt of drink. From his general instability, his unsteady gait, the loss of control of his limbs and his reactions, the conclusion was that he was under the influence of drink.
Sergt=Major T. H. Moffatt gave evience that the motor-cycle Lathwell was using had been tested and found in perfect order. Lathwell was in good health, his sight and hearing were good, and on the night of the tragedy he was perfectly sober. He qualified by test to ride a motor-cycle in June of this year and had been driving Army vehicles for more than a year.

Source: Sunderland Echo & Shipping Gazette
Date: Saturday, November 2, 1940

East Boldon Man Accused
Manslaughter Charge at Jarrow Court
Hearing of the charge of manslaughter brought against Roland Clarkson (56) of Stratford House, East Boldon at the County Police Court at Jarrow Yesterday was adjourned until November 26, The hearing has already occupied two full days.
Clarkson is charged with the manslaughter of Arthur William Lathwell (20) an Army gunner - driver of walthamstow, Essex, who died in Monkwearmouth and Southwick Hospital on October 17 as the result of injuries suffered when his motor-cycle was involved in a collision with Clarkson's car between Sunderland and East Boldon on the previous night. He is also charged with driving a car while under the influence of drink, with dangerous driving and with driving without due care and attention.
PC Smith of East Boldon, said when he saw Clarkson shortly after the accident he asked the accused if his lights were on at the time of the crash. He replied"you can see my lights" Clarkson then asked if he could drive the car away and was told that he could not do so. "In my opinion the car could not have been driven away" he added.
Clarkson smelt strongly of drink and his speech was thick. Cross-examined, witness said he did not notice that one tyre of the car was burst. He saw that the wheel was buckled.

"Unsteady on Feet"

Inspector B. Coates of East Boldon who saw Clarkson soon afterwards said he asked accused if he could give any account of the accident. Clarkson repleid. "No. you see where my car is standing." The Car was then on its proper side of the road. Clarkson's breath smelt striongly of drink and he was very unsteady on his feet. He was taken to Boldon Colliery police station, where he was put through a number of tests. He was asked to write down the word "cosmopolitan", but said he could not spell it. He was then asked to read out a headline from a copy of the Sunderland Echo. It was in large type and read "Turkey Also Prepared for Eventualities" Clarkson read it as "Turkey Also Prepared to Enter into others." He excused himself by saying that he had not his glasses with him. LAter however it was noticecd that he could see the time without his specticles and that he did not need them for a reading test some time afterwards.

Source: Sunderland Echo & Shipping Gazette
Date: Thursday, November 14, 1940

Boldon Man Charged
Resumed Hearing of Manslaughter case
Insepctor Coates, cross-examined by Mr Frank J Lambert, defending, said he had not been able to trace a car which was said to have stopped near the scene of the accident.

A Possibility

The offside of the defendant's car was damaged from end to end, and the damage to the motor-cycle was confined mainly to the front and gear-box. This would indicate that the motor-cycle had scrpaed right along the side of the car. "To my mind" added Inspector Coates, "both vehicles wre going dead straight and the accident would not have happened if the motorist had been six inches nearer his proper side of the road." It was possible that a burst tyre might have given witness the impression after the accident tha the car was zig-zagging. Inspector Coates estimated that the distance between oil trail on the road to the damaged motor-cycle was about 30ft. The distance from the oil to Clarkson's car was about 170 to 180 yards. In reply to a further question from Mr Lambert. Inspector Coates said that in deciding that Clarkson was under the influence of drink he made some allowance for the fact that Clarson may have been daed by the accident. The Inspector added: "He did not, however appear to be affected by the collision at all."

Source: Sunderland Echo & Shipping Gazette
Date: Tuesday, december 3, 1940

Allegation of Gross Negligence
Boldon Contractor charged at Assizes
Arthur William Lathwell, a gunner dispatch rider, was riding his motor-cycle from Boldon towards Sunderland on a road more than 26 feet wide, perfectly straight and with a good surface, when he was killed as a rsult of a collision with a car driven by Clarkson, The accident occurred about half an hour after black out time.

Travelling "Fast"

Witnesses would say that Lathwell was a qualified motor-cyclist perfectly sober, that his cycle was properly lighted and was in perfect order, having being tested just before he took it out. Witnesses saw him on the road, and would give evidence that his speed was not more than 30 miles per hour, and that he was well on his proper side of the road. On the other hand, a witness would say that he saw accused's car "travelling fast."
Another Army dispatch rider named Finlay who was travelling in the same direction as Lathwell about 500 yards behind saw three lights of a car approaching from the direction of Sunderland. There could be little doubt that they were the lights of Clarkson's car. As he approached he saw these lights swerve right over to the wrong side of the road, he heard a crash, and then saw the lights swing back to the proper side of the road. !Afterwards it was found that the car travelled for about 150 yards before it came to rest on its proper side of the road after the collision" added Mr Morely.

"Struck Something"

Finlay reached the car just as Clarkson was getting out and asked him what had happened. He replied, "I have struck something," Finlay went on and found Lathwell and his motor-cycle lying half on the kerb and half on the road 150 yards away, and saw that Lathwell was very gravely injured, although fully conscious. An ambulance was ent for and Lathwell was taken away to hospital, where his leg was amputated about an hour afterwards. Though he recovered temporarily from the operation he died the next morning.
"This may seem to you to be the story of recklessness of the degree which I have indicated." said Mr Morely. "You may wonder how it came about that Clarkson was driving in that way. Finlay, however, will tell you that as soon as he got up to Clarkson he realized that the man smelt very strongly of drink, was unsteady on his feet, and his speech was thick."
A pedal cyclist, a man named Smith arrived just as Clarkson was looking at the injured man. Clarkson said to him. "I would not like this to have happened to any other human being. soldier or not," Smith also noticed that Clarkson smelt of drink. He said he wanted to go home because "my wife is waiting for me."

"Significant" Remark

A War reserve constable came up and took charge of the affair, and asked accused what was the matter. Clarkson made an answer which might seem significant. He said "See where my car is, There has been an accident with a motor cycle," The car by that time was parked on its proper side, but the injured man lay on the other side of the road. Clarkson then asked if he could go home, but permission was refused. This policeman also noticed that he smelled strongly of drink and that his speech was thick. The whole length of the offside of the car was damaged, both door handles were broken off: one was found in the back of the car and the other on the roadway. The motor-cycle wa also very badly damaged.
Inspector Coates also noticed that Clarkson smelled of drink, and when the accused told him a "motor-cycle has run into me" Inspector Coates measured marks on the road, which showed the point of impact and the fact that the car had travelled 150 yards after the crash. "you may think it odd that it should take a driver 150 yards to pull up after an accident like this," said Mr Morley. Clarkson again asked if he could go away and permission was refused. Inspector Coates telling him that in his view he was not in a fit condition to drive a car at all. He was taken to Boldon Colliery Police Station, told he would be examined by the Police Surgeon and was given the oppotunity of having his own doctor present at the examination. He said "No I will abide by the Police Surgeon." He told Dr O'Kelly who examined him, that he had only drunk two beers and two lagers, but Dr O'Kelly came to the conclusion that he was so far under the influence of alcohol as to be unfit to exercise proper control of a car. When told this Clarkson replied. "I am sorry, I understand."
He was then cautioned and charged with the offence of being under the influence of drink to such an extent as to be unfit to drive a car. He replied, "i was not drunk." Later Clarkson changed his mind and decided he would like to have an examination by his own doctor. Dr Forbes was called and conducted an examination at 10pm, two and a half hours after the accident. After Lathwell had died in hospital Clarkson was formally charged with manslaughter and pleaded not guilty. Mr Morley pointed out to the jury that the fact that a driver was under the influence of drink was no excuse for reckless driving. "if a man chooses to take so much to drink as to be unable to exercise proper control of his car, he must take the consequences," he said.

Corporal's Evidence

Lce-Cpl John Finlay, a dispatch ride, gave evidence of riding along the road behind Lathwell. Visibility was good. Immediately before the crash he saw the three lights of a car approaching. The lights swerved over to the wrong sideof the road and then the off-side light disappeared. The car then approached still with two lights burning and on the wrong side, but as witness cut into the kerb it crossed to its proper isde and stopped. When he spoke to the driver Clarkson's actions and speech suggested that he had been drinking. Cross-examined, Finlay said that unless in a hurry he preferred to do about 30 mph. After calling an ambulance he stayed near the car which had been involved "because it seemd as though it might be moved. The driver wanted to go home." It would take Clarkson some time to walk to the scene of the crash, because he was not to steady. Another soldier, Fred Mannie who arrived at the scene shortly after the crash, said he came to the conclusion that Clarkson had been drinking.
Thomas William Smith, of D'Arcy Terrace, South Hylton who was riding a pedal cycle at the time, said Lathwell passed him at no more than 30mph on his proper side of the road. When he spoke to Clarkson after the accident he formed the conclusion that he was under the influence of drink even though he was dazed and upset.

Source: Sunderland Echo & Shipping Gazette
Date: Tuesday, February 11, 1941

Marks on the Road After Fatality
Judge's Comment
Before Mr Justice Charles at Durham Assizes to-day the hearing was continued of the case in which Roland Clarkson (56) is charged with manslaughter.
Dr P.H. Petersen, house surgeon at Monkwearmouth Hospital, gave evidence yesterday as to the severe injuries from which Lathwell was suffering and which necessitated amputation of his right leg. He recovered partly, but died next day from shock following multiple injuries caused by the accident. Mr Stanley Ritson Hon surgeon at the hospital, who performed the amputation also gave evidence. Dr H A Cookson, pathologist said the causes of death were shock and gas gangrene follwoing injury to the right lower limb.
William Ramsay, farmer, of Field House, East Boldon gave evidence of seeing Clarkson's car pass him outside the greyhound stadium "at a pretty fast speed" and without lights, but on its proper side of the road. Asked what he said to the driver of the car after the crash. Ramsay said "I'm afraid i said something I should not have said. I swore at him. I said ----S coming along the road at 60 miles an hour with no lights on should be ----- well kicked!" He replied. 'My lights are on,'"

Marks on Road

The lights were then burning. but must have been switched on after the car passed him. War Reserve Constable Smith of East Boldon said when he arrived on the scene Clarkson wanted to drive away, but was forbidden Clarkson smelt strongly of drink , his speech was thick, he was unsteady in his gait, and seemed very vague about what had happened. Inpsector B Coates said that when he told Clarkson he was under the influence of drink and unfit to have control of a car, all Clarkson said was "I want to go Home."
Examination of the road showed tyre marks on the same side as the wrecked cycle-the wrong side for the car. When Clarkson was taken to Boldon Colliery Police Station and told he was to be examined by the police surgeon, he was given the opportunity to call his own doctor, but said he would abide by the police surgeon. Clarkson told Dr O'Kelly that he had only drunk two beers abd two lagers. When told the police surgeon considered he was under the influence of drink to such an extent as to be unfit to drive a car, and would be charged with that offence, he said., "I was not drunk." Later Clarkson changed his mind, sent for Dr Forbes and was examined by him. Told that he might be charged with dangerous, reckless, or carless driving, Clarkson repleid "Not dangerous."

Question of Health

Under cross-examination to-day Inspector Coates said he knew Clarkson did not enjoy the best of health, but could not agree that after the accident he was suffering only from the effects of shock. FRom marks on the road he judged the point of impact to be three to four feet over the white line on the wrong ide of the road for the car. Police Sergt Matthew Slack said that when the police surgeon told Clarkson he considred he was under the influence of drink. Clarkson replied "I am sorry; I appreiciate what you say."
The Judge: If I had taken one over the eight I should be very careful indeed about trying to say a word like appreciate.
Mr Paley Scott: It is getting very near to "British Constitution."
During the examination pf PC Richard Foster who made measurements of marks on the raod, the Judge commented that the distance might be of very great importance. "So far as I can see from the evidence this car was never farther over to its wrong side of the road than nine feet from the kerb of a 27ft road" he said "the car, I understand has a wheel base of about 4ft 6in and if the collision occurred nine feet from the kerb it means that only the width of the car was over the centre line: in fact one set of the wheels would probably be on the centre white line."
PC Robert Bakerr gave evidence as to the damage to car and cycle, PC Baker in cross-examination said it was clear from examination of the car that a tyre was burst by collision and not spontaneously.

Police Surgeon's Evidence

Dr I O'Kelly, police surgeon gave evidence of examining Clarkson at Boldon Colliery Police Station about an hour after the accident, Clarkson gave his name, age and address correctly. His speech was clear, his attention was fair, and his behaviour good. Aksed what drinks he had taken in the last 24hrs he said "Not much," but admitted that he had taken some beer,. His breath smelt of drink. He was unable to read fairly Large print, but said he was short-sighted and had not his spectacles. He carried out a number of wlaking and standing tests fairly well, but swayed in turning and also in standing with eyes closed and feet together.
The Judge: A great many people even when sober could not do that test successfully. He also commented that he was not surprised Clarkson was unable to balance stadning on one leg.

Dr O'Kelly said Clarkson could not spell "cosmopolitan," and the Jduge commented "There are plenty of people of infinite propriety who cannot spell. I had a letter the other day in which a young gentleman of supposedly good education spelt 'patience' as pashuntz,' and he certainly was sober."

Dr O'Kelly said he came to the conclusion that Clarkson was under the influence of drink and not fit to control a car on the highway.

Source: Sunderland Echo & Shipping Gazette
Date: Wednesday, February 12, 1941

Drink Test Criticism by Assize Judge
Boldon Motorist Acquitted
After a three-day hearing at Durham Assizes, an East Boldon man was found not guilty to-day on a charge of manslaughter and was discharged.
He was Roland Clarkson (56), an engineer and contractor, of Stratford House, East Boldon, and he appeared charged with the manslaughter of a 20 year-old Army despatch rider, Gunner Arthur William Lathwell at Boldon on October 16. Lathwell died in hospital from injuries alleged to have been caused through the negligent driving of a motor car by Clarkson who, it was further alleged, was under the influence of drink at the time. Two witnesses for the defence yesterday said there was nothing to indicate that Clarkson was in any way affected by drink when he left them in Sunderland shortly after 7pm to return home. The accident happened half an hour later.

Judge's Comment

Mr A Morley KC and Mr Willard Sexton (instructed by Q M Patterson, South Shields) appeared for the prosecution, and Clarkson was represented by Mr C Paley Scott KC and Mr C B Fenwick (instructed by Frank J Lambert and Co Gateshead). Mr Justice Charles, who began his summing-up when the hearing was resumed to-day, told the jury they were not trying whether Clarkson had or had not too much to drink. "Indeed having regard to the evidence I am rather wondering why it wa ever introduced into this case," said his Lordship. "Generally these matters are introduced in order to explain some extravagant behaviour on the part of the driver of a car. "Here, apparently, the only extravagance ws that he got his off-side wheel over the white line."

Police Test Criticised

"Having regard to the evidence of Lieut Davis and the witness Franklin, who were with Clarkson, you must think that the evidence and particularly that of the police surgeon was hopelessly unsatisfactory." continued the Judge. "Indeed, when i read through the report of the police surgeon with his answers and his conclusions, I said to myself: 'Charles, you are always drunk yourself, always ' because I could never do better than Clarkson did in tests like those." The Judge went on to say that when Clarkson wrote his name at the request of the doctor he wrote it with such perfection that he (the Judge) was staggered to hear that when writing it as he did "it was one of the reasons that brought home to the mind of that distinguished doctor that he was drunk"

Advice to Jury
"There it is. I daresay some of you might have felt the same as I did," continued the Judge, "Take the @stork' test. If you don't do it you are drunk. Remember that; always keep in mind that if you cannot stand on one leg properly you are drunk-drunk as a stork."

The Judge said before they convicted Clarkson of manslaughter the jury had to come to the conclusion. On the evidence that on that occasion he drove with a reckless disregard of the lives and safety of others on the highway. His Lordship said it was difficulty to discover any evidence that would justify a conviction of manslaughter. Without leaving the box the jury returned a verdict of "Not Guilty." Discharging Clarkson Mr Justice Charles observed "I quite agree with the verdict."

Source: Evening Chronicle
Date: Thursday, February 13, 1941

By today's standards a most bizarre case, undoubtly with modern testing and accident investigation methods, the outcome would have be totally different (He would have failed the breathalizer straight away). The Judges comments were very much of the time but today would have likely led to him being removed from office as being highly inappropriate. In reading these articles of the time we would have to be careful forming our judgement as it seems the evidence was overwhelming as to the accused being under the influence (even by his own admission of drinking 4pts). The Judge and jury seems to have disregarded the testimoney of a lot of experienced and respected officials, but we must not forget that this is paper talk and as such we are not party to the full facts and the accused was acquitted by the Jury in this case.

The main reason for me including these articles, is that in trying the case the one thing that has been lost is that a young man had lost his life serving his country in our Parish, so where as today the verdict means little, the memory of Arthur William Lathwell (20), gunner-driver, of Walthamstow, Essex should not be forgotten. R.I.P.

Source: Steph Moore
Date: August, 2017