Scene of the Crime I - The beggar in the River

On a very cold winter's night on 1 December 1935, Sergeant Ernest Peters and Probationary Sergeant Ernest Peter were alleged to have thrown a Chinese beggar, Mau Te-Piau, into a freezing river in Shanghai.  Peters and Judd admitted that Mau had been in their care - they had picked him up in a police car intending to "deport" him to Chinese territory. They claimed they had placed him on a "beggar boat" that was "about 20 foot long, dilapidated, cloth covered in the centre.” Mau had however been fished out of the river soon after, fighting for his life.  He died a few days later in hospital.  Peters and Judd were tried for murder in the British Supreme Court for China and acquitted.  

The Chinese press were scathing of the verdict.  The Modern Daily News noted that victim was a “beggar of a semi-colony, while the culprits [were] policemen of a great power.” The editor of Lung Yu wrote sarcastically that he expected the verdict contained the expression: “The deceased lost his life because he could not swim.”

What was the truth? On a cold December morning, I retraced the route Peters and Judd had followed that fateful night. The bridge near to where Mau was found is still there. On three corners, the same buildings that were there in 1935 remain almost exactly as they were. See the photos below.  Standing on the bridge, it was hard to believe that Peters and Judd (or any other human being) could have, in cold blood, thrown Mau in the river. Chapei, where they had planned to dump Mau, was only a short drive away - a couple of hundred metres. On the other hand, Peters in particular was in a foul mood. He had had a fight with his girlfriend. He had travelled on the running board of the police car in the freezing cold keeping a dirty filthy struggling Mau in place. Peters may have wanted to kill him; but why Judd?

We will never know the truth. Mau died soon after.  Peters and Judd have taken the secret to their graves.

Beggar River