THE intriguing tale of the murder of a policeman in nineteenth century Butterknowle has been put together in book form to provide a chronological and fascinating account of the event.

The story has been compiled by Len Teasdale, who lives in the village. He has always been interested in local history and on taking early retirement joined the Gaunless Valley History Trust, which fired his interest further.

The slain policeman was Acting Sgt William Smith, who was killed at Diamond Bank on February 23, 1884. So horrendous were the injuries that led to his death that they caused outrage in Butterknowle and around the region, as word of the murder spread. Three men - Joseph Hodgson, William Siddle and Joseph Lowson - were arrested, purely on circumstantial evidence. One was acquitted, two were sentenced to death, but only one man went to the gallows.

Mr Teasdale asks whether he was the right man, whether the man acquitted was the culprit, or whether they were all equally responsible.

Was justice done? In his foreword, Mr Teasdale points out that the verdict caused consternation throughout the mining districts. Mass protests were held and the Home Office petitioned to try to gain a respite from execution, as it was felt the evidence did not justify the sentence.

Mr Teasdale has brought the incident vividly back to life using cuttings taken from the newspapers of the time, including the D&S Times. He has catalogued them in date order to give an accurate portrayal of the murder, the trial and the twists and turns of the aftermath.

The book, A Death on Diamond Bank, costs £5 and is available from Bainbridge's at Butterknowle, Blackett's at Woodland, Teesdale Mercury shops or by writing to Mr Teasdale at 22 Garden View, Butterknowle DL13 5PD.