London’s boys in blue were stretched to the limit in the spring of 1888 - as Jack the Ripper started his brutal reign of bloody terror.
At the same time, up in Hartlepool, the town’s bobbies were similarly under strain. It was not, however, a mass murderer causing chaos - but snowballers.
“The streets were carpeted by thick snow following a couple of days of heavy blizzards, and local youngsters were making merry,” said historian Norman Kirtlan.
“But, with so much ammunition to hand, the happy pastime of pelting snowballs at a few pals turned into a full-blooded civil war down in Tenant Street.
“Indeed, a group of around 20 lads formed an army that mercilessly hurled a barrage of snow and ice at anyone who dared venture past.”
Most of the local residents retired to their firesides to wait out the battle but one poor visitor, Samuel Sayefski, stumbled into the war zone by accident.
As he picked his way through the snow towards the docks, whistling cheerfully, he suddenly found himself under siege from scores of screaming miscreants.
“Battered and bruised, he arrived at the end of the street and ran for his life, screaming murder most foul,” said Norman.
“Hearing these cries, local bobby PC Littlefair made his way to the unholy din and demanded what foul deed had befallen the poor visitor to the town.”
After stammering out the story of his very wet assault, Samuel pointed the officer towards Tennant Street - where five gang members were caught snowy-handed.
George Burgess, John Williamson, John Kinnersley, Billy Connelly and Edward Collins were all duly charged with throwing snowballs to the danger of passersby.
“No doubt the lads were chastised by their embarrassed parents before they appeared at West Hartlepool Magistrates Court the following week,” said Norman.
“But, in the event, most of the lads would get away scot free - after poor Samuel was able to identify only John Williamson as one of the snowball throwers.
“In truth, terrified Samuel had been too afraid for his life to remember many details - so the other lads ended up dismissed with broad grins on their faces.”
John, however, was found guilty of snowballing and, as he slowly paid off his five shilling fine, so the slush and snow disappeared from Hartlepool’s streets.
“The town once more returned to relative peace and pedestrians wandered the streets in the knowledge that their progress would be unmarred,” said Norman.
“But, as Hartlepool’s officers basked in the satisfaction of a job well done, back down in London Jack the Ripper was still running riot.”