Linda Rhodes, Lee Shelden and Kathryn Abnett

The CWA Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction 2006

Linda Rhodes, Lee Shelden and Kathryn Abnett

The Dagenham Murder

The Borough of Barking and Dagenham

On the exact 160th anniversary of the death of PC George Clark, a book about his unsolved murder has won the CWA Gold Dagger for Fiction and a prize of £2000. The prize is shared between three people: Linda Rhodes, Lee Shelden and Kathryn Abnett (pictured above, left-to-right). They were presented with their cheques and the dagger by Robert Richardson, CWA chair, on behalf of the membership of the CWA who sponsor this award, which is awarded this and every even-numbered year.

The Dagenham Murder is not published by a mainstream publisher but by the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham. As explained on the Council's website, the book delves into one of the great mysteries of local history, the murder of 20-year-old PC George Clark, who was brutally murdered on the night of Monday 29 June 1846. His killers have never been found and there continues to be much speculation about their identity.

This lavishly illustrated book is the first full-length study of a killing that shocked the nation but was to remain unsolved. The authors were all born and bred in the area, and have used original sources to uncover many new facts and insights into this fascinating case. The action of the story ranges from rural Essex to London’s prisons and convict hulks; from the wilds of British Columbia to the Australian goldfields. Along the way we meet a cross-section of the Victorian community, from the monarch herself down to the wretched victims of the “Hungry Forties”.

Judges’ comments:
A definitive account of the notorious murder of a Victorian policeman. Extensively researched and well written.

The authors

Linda Rhodes was baptised at Dagenham parish church, and brought up in Eastbrook Drive, just a stone’s throw from the scene of George Clark’s murder. In 2002 she gave a series of talks on the case, which eventually led to the writing of this book. Linda is currently Local Studies librarian for Barking & Dagenham.

Lee Shelden also lived near Clark’s beat as a child. He has long been regarded as the authority on the George Clark case, and is acknowledged as such in the Official encyclopedia of Scotland Yard. Lee was also the driving force behind the events commemorating the 150th anniversary of the murder in 1996.

Kathryn Abnett is the daughter of a police officer. Her family have lived in Dagenham for over 200 years. She has contributed to several publications on the history of Barking & Dagenham.

This year's Judging Panel

Joan Lock (Chair): fiction and non-fiction crime writer and former Metropolitan police officer
Brian Innes: a regular non-fiction author on forensic matters
Lesley Grant-Adamson: writes crime fiction and non-fiction and author of Writing Crime and Suspense Fiction
Andrew Cresswell: Chief Crown Prosecutor and solicitor
Professor Allan Jamieson: Director of the Forensic Institute

The other contenders on the shortlist were:
Sebastian Junger - A Death in Belmont - Fourth Estate
Nuala O’Faolain - The Story of Chicago May - Michael Joseph
Sister Helen Prejean - The Death of Innocents - Canterbury Press
William Queen - Under and Alone - Mainstream
Sue Williams - And Then the Darkness - John Blake