Robert Erskine Copland-Crawford inherited Sudbury Court from his relatives, the Copland Sisters. A fine sportsman he attended Harrow School and later, through his Scottish family background, played for the national football team against England, scoring a goal in his first ever match. The family changed its surname to Copland-Crawford after receiving an inheritance, while he embarked on a decorated military career with the King’s Royal Rifles, serving in the Afghan War and the Sudan campaign. His early successes were forgotten though as he became an alcoholic, his marriage came to an end, and in 1884 he resigned his commission. Hoping to build a new life, he took up a new post at a police command in a remote part of Sierra Leone. It wasn’t long however before he landed in trouble again. Fed up with the political inertia, or perhaps just bored, he took unilateral action against local warlords to the fury of his superiors. The Colonial Secretary wrote “it won’t do to have subordinates acting independently”. Before any sanctions could be taken against him he had even bigger problems, having been charged for the murder of one of his servants accused of theft. Copland-Crawford is said to have ordered and overseen the unfortunate’s torture and death. In the end he was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 12 months with hard labour in a local court but considered too ill to remain in prison and was sent home. There was a lengthy debate about his appalling conduct in the House of Commons the following year, but Robert was already fading and died in 1894 at Sudbury Court. It is said his ghost is still is to be seen walking through the trees and shrubs of the gardens.
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