Thursday 21 February 2013

Murder at Kings College

Douglas Newton Potts came from Sevenoaks, Kent and he was considered a brilliant student who had received a scholarship, which included £80 per year for his keep. He arrived at King's College, Cambridge in October 1929.

King's College 1930s
It wasn't long after his arrival Potts became known for his extravagant life-style, and by the end of his first term admitted to his father that he had over spent.

During his time at King's Potts became friends with another undergraduate, John Fredrick Gerald Newman and being both talented musicians they formed a dance band they called 'Blue Melodians', where Potts played drums and piano.

People who knew Potts seemed to think he lived in a fantasy world where he often told people he was a prince and heir to the throne of Russia. In truth, Potts was from a modest background.

It is believed although his friends saw his stories as a big joke, Potts had began to confuse fantasy with reality and even started to believe his own tales.

On the evening of the 4th May 1930 Potts stole an automatic pistol from fellow student David Gattiker. Mr. Gattiker himself owned a firearm licence and obtained the Webley automatic pistol from Gallyon of Bridge Street, Cambridge with 500 rounds of ammunition.

Later along with a friend he visited a number of clothing shops. At each shop he gave the same story to staff - He had accidentally burnt his companions dinner suit and wanted to purchase a new one for him.

While his friend was being measured Potts selected other items for himself and asked to be sent a single bill to his home address.

At one shop the owner refused and Potts pulled out the loaded pistol. Although the shop owner was not threaten direct, clearly he was intimidated.

Within moments Potts and his friend left the shop and, thinking the police would be called, both men thought it would be best if they left Cambridge for a while.

Potts returned to Kings College on the 3rd June 1930.

His tutor Mr. Wollaston who was not aware of the shop incident, but noticing Potts absent requested him to visit his room to explain himself and the unauthorised leave.

Just before 1pm Potts arrived at Mr. Wollaston's room and within a few minutes of him being there Detective Sergeant Francis James Willis arrived. Detective Sergeant Willis had got news of Potts return and come to question him about the incident at the shop.

On seeing Willis was a police officer, Potts panicked and pulled out the pistol and pointed it at Mr. Wollaston.

Willis acted quick, throwing himself at Potts. Witness outside the room heard two loud bangs, followed by two more quicker ones.

Mr. Wollaston was shot through the heart. Willis was hit twice, once in the left shoulder and the other in the groin. He fell to the floor and could only watch as Potts pulled the gun on himself and fired a shot into his own head.

Willis dragged himself out the room and into the hallway to shout for help.

A doctor and ambulance was called.

Dr. Parson was quick to the scene and administered first aid to both Willis and Potts. Nothing could be done for Mr. Wollaston, who died instantly.

Addenbrookes Hospital in Trumpington Street
All three men were taken by police ambulance to Addenbrookes Hospital, which at that time was located in Trumpington Street.

Mr. Wollaston was declared dead on arrival. Potts died just before 6pm the same day.

At first Willis condition did not seem serious and he was able to record a statement however, that evening his condition quickly changed and an emergency operation was undertaken. He died in the early hours of the 4th June 1930.

A sad story of how one man's fantasy world became his reality to the point 3 lives where lost.

These articles may also be of interest: The Last Execution in Cambridgeshire 
                                                                The Shop of Secrets 
                                                                Murder on Midsummer Common