Anthony Poulton-Smith


As the canal and river systems developed, it provided an opportunity for some to make a little extra money. We have all heard how something "fell off the back of a lorry" and prior to the internal combustion engine other goods and wares will have just as easily fallen off a narrow boat. Indeed it was much easier to do so with a boat for the journeys were longer, plenty of quiet spots could be found along the canals and, most importantly, there was a perfect hiding place. Just by dropping a barrel overboard en route a valuable item could be picked up at a later date.
Today there are more than 4,000 miles of navigable inland waterways in the United Kingdom. This includes canals, non-tidal rivers, tidal rivers, large lakes, deep lakes, lochs and estuaries. Half of this distance and numbering almost two hundred distinct stretches could be considered canals, either purpose-built or canalised rivers. Travelling the canal network in the United Kingdom is tantamount to stepping into a living museum. Note this museum gives access to 2,700 listed structures, fifty scheduled monuments, and five UNESCO world heritage sites standing alongside the tow path.
Over the last 250 years the canals have seen plenty of crime. Robbery, theft, assault, smuggling, child cruelty, manslaughter and murder have made the headlines over the years. This book looks at the stories behind the crime, the locations both then and today, the investigations, the trial and, where applicable, the sentence.