At Ware Petty Sessions Silas R. Smith (31), a dealer, of Clements Road, Star Street, Ware, was charged with stealing 8 bushels of oats and two sacks, the property of Percy Albany at Ware during the night of May 24.
John Adams, of 14 Mount Street, Ware, in the employ of Messrs C. Albany and Sons, said he was skipper of the barge named ‘Prudence’. On Sunday, May 23, he left Millwall Docks at 5 o’clock with the barge loaded with a freight of loose oats and two sacks of oats, the latter being in the fore part of the barge. One of the sacks was marked with Mr Albany’s name and the other with that of Edward Manser and Co. The barge arrived at Ware between 11 a.m. and noon at Albany’s wharf in Star Street. The witness left the barge then, and the two sacks in question were still in the fore part of the barge. The witness next saw the barge at 3.30 a.m. on Tuesday, May 25. The sacks of oats were then missing, and he reported the matter to the foreman.
Cross-examined, the witness said he stood the sacks of oats up to prevent the oats slipping into the head sheets of the barge. It was not true that the witness offered the two sacks of oats for sale on his way to Ware. The witness had been in Messrs Albany’s employ all his life, but he had never before brought any oats up the river loose in a barge. The witness could not lift one of the sacks of oats alone and did not expect the defendant could.
Richard Bowman, of River Street, Ware, foreman in the employ of Messrs C. Albany and Sons, said that on May 24 he saw the barge in the wharf at 10 p.m. and everything appeared all right then. On the following morning the witness made a report to his master. On May 28 the defendant came to see the witness, and he asked him whether he could prove that he had the quantity of oats in his shop or not, and he also asked the witness if he could swear to the oats. The witness said if the defendant was guilty of taking the oats why did he not own up, but the defendant said he would rather have six months than round on someone else.
John Coy, 33 Baldock Street, Ware, a dealer and greengrocer, who attended on subpoena, said that on May 25 he went into the Eagle coffee shop, High Street, about 5.40 in the morning, and saw the defendant there. They had a conversation, and the defendant asked him if he would ride down the street with him and he consented. The defendant asked him to lend him a hand to throw two bags of ‘sweepings’ into his cart. The witness went to the defendant’s house and helped him to put the sacks on the cart. They were then taken to the defendant’s stables in Mill Lane, and the oats were shot out of the sacks into some other bags. The witness then left the premises.
In answer to Supt Handley the witness denied taking two sacks full of ‘something’ to High Cross that morning.
Percy Albany, of Springfield, Ware, said that on May 25 he received a communication from his foreman and in consequence of it communicated with the police, and later the same day he went to the police station and saw two of Mr William Page’s sacks full of oats and two of his own empty. There were similar oats to those missing hanging to the insides of the empty sacks. Since then the defendant had been to see the witness twice, and he had met him once. He asked the witness if he thought he had taken the oats. The witness had not said anything to him then about any oats. The witness told the defendant it was in the police’s hands to find the man who had taken the oats.
Cross-examined, he said Messrs Manser used the witness’s sacks and he used theirs. The same thing might have happened when the defendant’s father was in business, but the witness had never seen any of his sacks about his place.
The defendant: ‘Would it be possible for anyone to empty the oats into the bulk and you not know?’
The witness: ‘I have not found anyone to do anything for me for nothing yet’.
The defendant: ‘Would it be possible for a man to shoot the oats into the bulk without you knowing it?’
The witness: ‘I should say the oats would have been split in doing so’.
In answer to Mr Harrington, the witness said the full sacks were put in position in the barge to keep the bulk up.
Supt Handley said that on May 25 he took the sample of oats (produced) from the bulk in Messrs Albany’s shed, when the men were unloading the barge.
John Page, corn merchant, of Ware, said the sample spoken of by the last witness and those in the sacks (produced) were the same class of oats.
P.s. Herring said that on May 25, at 9.30 a.m., he received a report of the oats being missed, and he took a sample of the oats from the wharf and made inquiries. In company with P.c. Bignell he visited a stable at the back of the Mill Stream beerhouse, Priory Street, Ware, in the occupation of the defendant. There he found two sacks of oats in the same bags as they were now produced in. He compared them with the sample he had with him, and found they exactly corresponded. He searched among a number of bags, and close to the two sacks of oats were the two empty sacks (produced). Inside the latter he found oats hanging, which corresponded with the two bags of oats.
The witness took possession of the sacks and oats and brought them to the police station. The witness went in search of Silas Smith and John Cox, and about 2.45 p.m. he saw Cox, and at 10.50 p.m. he saw the defendant in Star Lane, and told him he was making inquiries about two sacks of stolen oats. He said he knew all about it. The defendant accompanied the witness to the police station, and there he was seen by Supt Handley, and made a voluntary statement, as follows: ‘I was at Rye House last night, May 24. I saw a man who told me he was hard up. He asked me if I would do him a favour. He said he had got a bag and a half of ‘sweepings’ for sale. He asked me if I could do with them.
I said: ‘I don’t know that I can’. I said: ‘All right, are they your property?’ He replied: ‘Certainly’ and I said ‘How much do you want for them?’ and he said ‘Twelve shillings.’ He gave me the understanding that they were his. He is an elderly man, and grey; age, I cannot say. The man said he would leave them at my stables, and I said ‘All right.’ When I got home I saw the sacks of oats at my house. The time I arrived home would be between 11 and 12 p.m.. I do not know who the man is. I know him well by sight. He is a bargeman.’
The defendant elected to be dealt with summarily, and pleaded not guilty. He requested that Adams should be recalled, and the Bench consented. In answer to the defendant, Adams said the barge was loaded through the spouts, and one end of the barge was loaded first and the other afterwards. There were no oats spilt into the water.
The defendant, in evidence, repeated the statement which he made when charged at the police station. He said that the man who sold him the ‘sweepings’ told him the contents were his property, but the bags were not. There was no secret about it, or he certainly should not have had Cox to help him.
Supt Handley said that the defendant’s house was about 150 yards from where this barge was moored. The reason he emptied the oats into other sacks was because the man told him they did not belong to him. The man said he would take the oats to the defendant’s stable, but he did not leave them there. He promised to call for the sacks. The defendant added that he had done business with men whom he did not know before.
In answer to the Clerk, the defendant said he could not say whether the oats were ‘sweepings’. He did not know what they called ‘sweepings’.
Mr Croft: ‘You ought to know: you say you bought them for ‘sweepings’.’
After a long retirement, the Bench bound the defendant over for 12 months and ordered him to report himself monthly to the probation officer.