On 5th December 1914, John Pearce , a soldier billeted in Bishop’s Stortford, was brought up on a charge of stealing a bicycle, value £4 10s, the property of Miss Spearman, cycle agent of Bridge St, and then afterwards attempting to dispose of the bike at Bedford. The officer commanding the defendant’s company said that as far as his military work was concerned the defendant did it well. Ever since they had been mobilised, the defendant had been trying to get to the front and the speaker was very surprised at what had happened. The Chairman said that in view of what his officer had said the defendant would be bound over in the sum of £10 to be of good behaviour for six months, with no conviction to be recorded.
On the same day, Arthur Edward Bates , a soldier billeted at Bishop’s Stortford, was brought up in custody charged with stealing a clock, value 3s 6d, the property of Mrs Elizabeth Wheeler of the Star Public House, Bishop’s Stortford. The defendant asked to be legally represented and Mr A E Floyd (Bishop’s Stortford and Dunmow) undertook to defend him. Mrs Wheeler said that, on November 19th, the clock produced was on her bar parlour mantelshelf at about two minutes to nine. She did not see it again until it was shown her by Supt Foster some days later. She valued it at 3s 6d.
Lance Corporal H Pratt deposed that he was in the Star about twenty five minutes to nine on 19th November. The defendant was there at the time in the bar parlour. Later, Lance Corporal Pratt went to the defendant’s billet in Water Lane when he told the defendant that he was looking for a clock which was supposed to have been stolen. He did not think the defendant answered him, but others in the room advised the defendant to hide it. The next day, Lance Corporal Pratt asked the defendant what he had done with the clock, and also told him that that he had been a fool to mention it with so many other people around.
Pte Bert Palmer of the same Regiment said that, on this same day, he was with others billeted with the defendant in premises in Water Lane. That night, at about nine o’clock, the defendant came in with the clock in question in his hands. He heard the previous witness say that they were searching for a clock but the Corporal did not see it. Other men in the room said “Hide it” and later Bates took it towards the garden. Mr Benjamin Baker, caretaker of the premises in Water Lane, said that he found the clock under some leaves in the garden of the premises where the defendant was billeted.
Sgt Gravestock, temporarily stationed at Bishop’s Stortford, said that on the previous evening he proceeded to the defendant’s billet in Water Lane and there told him that he wanted him to accompany him to the Police Station. On arriving there, Sgt Gravestock showed the defendant the clock but the defendant said “I know nothing about that“. He was then charged and said “I know nothing about the Star”. That same morning Gravestock charged him again, but on a separate charge, and the defendant said “I am not guilty of that, but I did steal the clock.”
The Defendant’s Statement and the Outcome
The defendant pleaded guilty and elected to be dealt with summarily. He also said that he had been drinking that night. Mr Floyd said that as another charge was to be preferred against defendant he would ask that that sentence be deferred. To this the Magistrates consented, but the defendant was then charged with stealing £37 10s 6d in money, a lady’s silver watch, a metal chain, two small silver plated trays, one black silk blouse and one black lace blouse, of a total value of £38 14s 6d, the property of Mrs Elizabeth Wheeler, on November 19th. Mrs Wheeler said the money and articles mentioned were on the top of, and in the drawers of, her dressing table in her bedroom at a quarter past three on this particular afternoon, but when she went up later they were missing. When she was cross-examined, she said she had put the money there herself. It was there on the previous Monday and up to a quarter past three on the day mentioned. PS Gravestock said that on the previous day he had brought the defendant to the Police Station on another charge and, on searching him, found three sovereigns in gold, a two shilling piece and two 10s notes. That morning he charged him with stealing the money and articles mentioned and, when cautioning him, the defendant replied “I am not guilty. I only stole the clock. I wanted to get my “ticket” (meaning his discharge). Supt Foster at this stage asked for a remand until that day week. The application was granted and the defendant was allowed bail.