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The Square Mile, its crime and policing history The Square Mile, its crime and policing history

Walter Charles Choat was born on 17th October 1876 in Byfleet, Surrey to Simon Golding Choat and his wife, Mary.  His father died in 1905, but his mother passed away only two months before the incident at Houndsditch.   He joined the City of London Police in March 1897, his referees stating that he was an ‘industrious and well conducted man’.  

On the evening of 16th December 1910, Choat, then 33 years old, left Bishopsgate Police Station at 9.55 pm on patrol duties.  He was in company with his friend and colleague, PC Ernest Woodhams, when a probationer constable came up to them saying he had been alerted to a possible burglary in progress at a jeweller’s shop in Houndsditch.  Both Choat – known as Joe to his colleagues – and Woodhams headed in that direction and, while Woodhams accompanied other officers to the shop, Choat waited nearby in case any suspects made off.  

After gunning down several of Choat’s colleagues, the suspects did indeed make off, and Choat grabbed hold of the man who was later identified as being the leader of the gang, George Gardstein.   Seeing Gardstein had been detained, the rest of the gang started firing at Choat.  He was hit a total of 8 times – in the body, hip and legs – before he let go of his prisoner.  Choat was taken on a hand ambulance by his colleagues to the London Hospital where, despite an operation to try to save him, he died at 5.20 am from shock and blood loss.  

Choat was subsequently awarded the King’s Police Medal for Gallantry.  

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