Grave charge against a soldier

Hertfordshire Mercury, 11th December 1915


At a special sitting of the Hatfield Bench on Monday, William John Hart, a lance-corporal in the 10th Batt., Royal Sussex Regt., was charged with an act of gross indecency with Sidney Walter Cull, aged 14 years, at Hatfield, on November 30.

The story told by the boy, who lives at Glebe Cottages, Hatfield, and is employed by Mr Butler, butcher, Fore Street, Hatfield, was to the effect that whilst walking down Brewery Hill at about 4.40 on November 30th, a soldier passed him and asked him to show him the way to St Albans.  He proceeded with the soldier down the hill, round Pond Hill, and up French Horn Lane to the Gun public house.  There the soldier asked the witness to take him down a dark lane for  a walk.

The pair proceeded along the road to Dare’s Meadow, where the soldier lifted Sidne onto the bank and pushed him through the hedge.  They went into the meadow, where the soldier made certain overtures to him.  The soldier had promised him some money for showing him the way, and said if he went into the meadow he would settle his account.

The witness declined to do as the prisoner asked him while in the meadow, and they then proceeded to the Red Lion Meadow, where, the witness said, the offence took place. The boy further stated that the prisoner threatened to kill him if he did not go into the meadow, and while in the meadow he said he would kill him if he made a noise.  As a matter of fact, said the witness, the prisoner banged his head on the ground three times, and said he would hit him on the back of the head and kill him, or else make him unconscious and throw him over the hedge.

While they were in the meadow three policeman and two civilians came, and the prisoner was taken to the police station.

Alfred Ball, gardener at ‘Newlands’, proved giving information to the police in consequence of having heard a boy in the Red Lion Meadow call out in a faint voice: ‘Let me get up ……… I won’t run away.’

P.c. Reynolds, P.c. More, and P.c. Wilkins gave evidence as to finding the prisoner and the boy together in the meadow, and to taking the prisoner into custody.

P.s. Olding said when he charged the prisoner he said: ‘I deny the charge.  I know nothing about it.  I remember nothing since I left Potters Bar’.  The prisoner appeared to have been drinking, but was not drunk.  Both the prisoner and the boy were examined by Dr Lovell Drage, who made a written report.

The prisoner was committed for trial at the Assizes.

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