Richard Moxey, Superintendent of Edinburgh City Police, 1848 to 1851

Richard John Moxey was born in Haddington, East Lothian in about 1803. He initially was assistant sheriff clerk and was present for the confession of William Burke 3rd January 1829, Edinburgh’s most infamous serial murderer. He married Louisa in 1833 and had three children. He lived at 45 Montague Street in 1845 which is still the same today as it was then (for a map of the area in 1877 see this link to the National Library of Scotland map). . He appears to have been an anxious insecure person given to working hard. He was appointed Chief Superintendent of police in 1848 after the approval of a leave of absence for the existing superintendent. His appointment appears to have been with some reservation and on the basis that he knew the justice system as well as the new police act.

McLevy appears not to have liked the man and on one occasion keeps information to himself rather than tell Moxey.

On 21 August 1849 Superintendent Moxey was involved in a famous international case, The Bermondsey Murders,  with the arrest of Mrs Manning and he attended the trial in the old bailey on 29th October 1849 to give evidence in her trial. He received a telegram telling him of the likely presence of Mrs Manning in Edinburgh and went to her address with Laidlaw to arrest her. This caused some public comment in the papers after the case as people wondered why he had received a reward when no detective work was required.

On 30  August 1850 he stood at the foot of the Mound alongside the Lord Provost to receive Prince Albert, travelling with Queen Victoria on their way to Balmoral. Prince Albert laid the foundation stone of the National Gallery on the Mound.

In 1850 he gained the respect of the papers for making “terrible havoc among our publicans” ensuring they close by 11 pm and the paper noted the consequent decrease in crime. ( ref The Aberdeen Journal (Aberdeen, Scotland), Wednesday, January 3, 1849; Issue 5269). However, the law that had been introduced was challenged by some drinking establishments changing their function to hotels which then allowed late-night drinking.

At this point his health failed – he had refused to delegate any work and was effectively carrying out two jobs – that of the superintendent and that of the prosecutor, staying up all night preparing papers. The police committee was sympathetic but at a loss on how to remedy the situation. Eventually, he succumbed to exhaustion and had to take a leave of absence. The immediate appointment of Thomas Linton as Lieutenant of police can have done little to improve his health such was his insistence at having no deputy. According to the 1851 Census he lived in 69 Morningside with his children George, Helen and Louis along with an aunt Louisa Mason and a servant Janet Bryson.

1851 Census Return for Richard Moxey

A month after the census he died on 29th April 1851, aged 48. Superintendent Moxey was interred in Newington cemetery. A report in the Caledonian Mercury (Edinburgh, Scotland), Monday, May 5, 1851; Issue 20090. states

“FUNERAL OF THE LATE MR MOXEY.- The late esteemed Superintendent of Police, Mr Moxey was interred on Saturday in the Newington burial ground. The body was borne shoulder high, and the procession, which moved from the residence of the deceased shortly after one o’clock, embraced Mr Sheriff Gordon, the Lord Provost and Magistrate, several members of the town council, the majority of the Police Commissioners, and the chief officials in the police establishment. A large number of private friends also took advantage of the occasion to show the respect they entertained for the departed. A body of the police force brought up the rear.


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