– The First Detective Inspector In Charge of The Criminal Investigation Branch
Henry John Wager, was born to William and Suzanna Wager on the 1st December, 1826, in Ceylon. His father was a British Police Officer, attached to the Colonial Police in that Country.
Shortly after his birth, his father retired from the Police and journeyed to Australia to settle in Bathurst.
Henry married Elizabeth Anne Webb, in February 1847 at the St. James Church in Sydney, but unfortunately his wife died in childbirth in 1848.
The archives indicate that Henry travelled to Great Britain where he joined the Birmingham Borough Police on the 31st August, 1848, which was just nine years after that Force was formed. He was posted to the 1st Division, which in those days covered the town centre. Wager was promoted to the rank of Sergeant on the 20th December, 1853 and resigned at his own request on the 2nd August, 1857. It is believed that all his service was spent in the uniform branch in the Birmingham Police, although the Borough did have a Detectives Department comprising of nine men in those times.
Henry Wager married Eliza Goodyear whilst he was in England and had one child to that union, a son William Henry Wager, born in 1855. The Wager family travelled to Sydney in the latter part of 1855 and took up residence at 63 Riley Street, Sydney. Records show he followed the occupation of a clerk, until 1st January, 1863, when he gained employment with the newly formed New South Wales Police Department as the Record Keeper and the Clerk of Detectives. The Government decreed he be allowed Police premises at 40 Riley Street, Woolloomooloo and forage in kind for two horses. Henry joined the Police Proper as a supernumary in 1864 and in 1867, as a First Class Detective, was placed in charge of the small Detective Force, which was attached to the Foot Police. He continued on in this capacity for some years and on the 6th October, 1875 was promoted to the rank of Sub-Inspector. In the same year he shifted his place of residence to 305 Liverpool Street, Sydney.
On the forming of the Criminal Investigation Branch, in 1879, Wager continued on as Officer in Charge and was responsible for keeping the criminal records of the Colony and the compiling of the Police Gazette. Records show that in late 1879 he suffered from severe headaches and a swelling of the face, spending a considerable time off duty.
On the 8th May, 1880, he applied to the Inspector General of Police to be released from the Department so that he might take up the position of Deputy Controller of Prisons in New South Wales. The following passage is an extract from that application:-
‘My object in making this application is to enable me, if
successful, to devote more time to my home and its
requirements, that I can possibly do in my present position
as Inspector in Charge of the Detective Police.’
On the 31st May, 1880, Henry John Wager left the New South Wales Police Department and took up his new post. Wager spent four short years with the Prisons Department before he died on the 15th September, 1884, at his home which is still standing at 415 Riley Street, Surry Hills.
The death certificate indicates he suffered from ‘Apoplexy’ (inability to feel or move, caused by the blockage or rupture of a brain artery).
The first Inspector in Charge is buried with his wife Eliza and their only son William Henry Wager in grave 1007, Church of England Select Division, Section 2, Waverley Cemetery. The last direct descendant of Henry John Wager, his grandson Lysle Henry Wager, a bachelor, of 131 Gloucester Street, Sydney, died of stomach cancer on the 6th March, 1952.