On Saturday 24 April 1920, around 9.45 pm Sidney George Spicer, a taxi driver, was shot dead on Thruxton Down near Andover. At 11pm Toplis was seen alone in the car on Bulford Camp immediately prior to deserting again; but now he was wanted for murder. A fortnight or so was spent masquerading among London society as a decorated Army officer of landed descent. Continued press coverage of the Andover Murder, and the level of police activity to effect his arrest led twenty three year old Toplis to seek isolation in the north east of Scotland. All went well until an unusual spell of cold weather caused him to light a fire in a remote gamekeeper's bothy. On June 1 smoke from it was seen by a hill farmer checking stock who returned with the gamekeeper and the Tomintoul Constable George Greig at 11 pm. Unable to talk his way out, Toplis drew a revolver and fired several shots, wounding the policeman in the shoulder and the farmer in the stomach, then made off on a bicycle. He abandoned the bicycle at Aberdeen, and travelled south by rail, arriving in Carlisle on Saturday June 5 in the afternoon. There he had the audacity to seek refreshment from the Army occupying the Castle.
The Final Hours
At 4pm on Sunday, 6 June 1920, PC72 Alfred Isaac Fulton of the Cumberland and Westmorland Constabulary questioned a man in partial military dress sitting by the side of the Carlisle to Penrith road at Low Hesket. Not altogether satisfied, he returned to his station and checked police circulars. Convinced this was the man wanted for the Andover Murder, he went back and found him changing into civilian clothes in a wood further down the road. Realising why the officer had returned, Toplis drew a revolver and menacingly identified himself. Constable Fulton managed to safely withdraw, return home, change into civilian clothes and ride south on his motorcycle to report the matter to his superiors in Penrith the Police Station at that time being also Force Headquarters. Inspector William Ritchie and Sergeant 24 Robert Lewis Bertram were issued with .45 Webley Mark VI revolvers and six rounds of ammunition, ordered to disguise uniform and accompany PC Fulton in a chauffeur-driven car borrowed from the Crown Hotel.
Driving out of Penrith they were joined by the Chief Constable's son, Norman de Courcy - Parry, there without his father's permission, on his motorcycle and armed with a small automatic Belgian pistol. They passed Toplis walking south toward Plumpton continuing until out of sight before turning round. De Courcy Parry was the first to return, feigning break-down ahead of Toplis, and noted one hand gripping the butt of a gun concealed in a coat pocket as he drew alongside - information which he did his best to silently convey to the car as it returned some minutes later.
Farther down the road, the three officers took cover behind farm buildings at Romanway. Toplis approached and was challenged by Inspector Ritchie, but began to run south, turning to shoot at the pursuing police who fired three shots in return, one of which proved fatal.
Toplis, was buried in Penrith's Beacon Edge Cemetery, at 9am on Wednesday 9 June, by the Penrith Board of Guardians, a charitable organisation responsible for such matters. The only witnesses were the grave-digger, one Board of Guardians representative, two senior police officers, and the Rev R H law, Vicar of Christ Church, who despite strong opposition insisted that Toplis was entitled to a full Christian burial stating "This man was violently removed from this life before he could be judged on earth."