Breaking and entering, but the theft was not the first time. PC Field shows "exceptional intelligence"
Hertfordshire Mercury, 5 January 1918
At Herts Quarter Sessions, held at the Shire Hall on the Monday morning, Arthur Robert Attfield (20) and Wilfred William Tew (17), both described as labourers, pleaded guilty to a charge of housebreaking and stealing from the house of Mrs Louisa Teale, of Rye Park, Hoddesdon, a coffee pot and other articles of the value of £4 5s.
Mr Murphy, on behalf of the prosecution, said that it looked from the depositions as if Attfield was the originator of this affair. In November, Mrs Teale went away for a few days, leaving the house in the care of a neighbour, Mrs May, who, on 29th November, found the glass door to the back of the house, facing the New River, had been broken open, the house entered, and the premises ransacked from top to bottom, things thrown about the floors, and the coffee pot, sugar basin and clock mentioned in the charges, stolen. Suspicion fell on Attfield because he was a cripple and used a crutch, and marks corresponding with his crutch were found on the premises.
When PC Field spoke to him about it, he denied all knowledge of the theft. Then a curious thing happened. The policeman indicated his intention of searching Attfield’s room, whereupon Attfield said “Before you go my room, have you got a search warrant?” The Constable smartly replied “You don’t pay the rent anyhow”, and the landlady at once gave him permission to search. On going into the prisoner’s room, the policeman found the clock, which the prisoner said he had bought from some man 6 weeks before the robbery actually took place. The prisoner Tew went to the police station shortly afterwards and gave information which led to the recovery of the coffee pot. The sugar basin had not been found.
The Chairman asked “Have the other missing articles been found?” Supt Handley replied “No”. “Have the prisoners had the opportunity of stating where they are?” The superintendent replied “Yes”. “And have given no information?” “No”.
The Chairman said that in reading the depositions he was struck with the fact that the Constable in this case had shown quite exceptional intelligence, and that his conduct throughout was worthy of commendation.
Supt Handley, when asked about the past record of the defendants, stated that Attfield was born at Norwood in 1897 and, in 1915, was residing with his parents at Epping and was working in a tailor’s shop. In July of that year, he left home and nothing more was heard of him in that district. His parents subsequently left the neighbourhood and the prisoner Attfield said that they were now dead.
In the autumn of 1915, Attfield went to Hoddesdon and worked as a labourer in a nursery and associated with lads of 15 to 17, of whom he appeared to be the leader. At the Ware Petty Sessions in September 1917, he was fined 15 shillings for stealing growing fruit and, at the same court on 4th December, was fined a guinea for fowl stealing. On 17th November, a basket of tomatoes was missing from Rye House station and, from enquiries made since the prisoner’s committal, a charge of stealing them could have been proffered against him.
Tew was born in Stanstead Abbots in December 1900, and had lived in the district ever since with his parents who were honest, hard working, people. Prior to this crime, he bore a good character and conducted himself well until he got into the company of Attfield, and at Ware Petty Sessions on 4th December 1917, he was fined 6 shillings for fowl stealing in company with Attfield. On 10th December, a report was received of a garden fork having been stolen, and it was traced to Tew, who admitted stealing it but no charge had been proffered against him.
The Chairman, in passing sentence, said that the prisoners had set the Magistrates a difficult task because they did not like to send young people to prison for the first time, but they had pleaded guilty to a very serious offence. If the stolen property had been returned intact, and the prisoners had given all the necessary information, they knew it would have been easier for them to pass a lighter sentence. Attfield, under the circumstances, must go to hard labour for 3 months, and Tew for 2 months.