Daring theft in Watford

Hertfordshire Mercury, 16th June 1900


The Railway Tavern in Watford, kept by Mr H Robertson, was the scene of a daring theft on Saturday 9 June 1900.

A man, dressed as a hawker, had been drinking beer and lemonade in the public house.  Around noon he jumped over the counter and snatched a bag containing more than £16 from the till.  He made his escape and disguised himself by throwing away the light coat he had been wearing over a dark jacket.

The man then headed for Bushey Station where, sometime after 1 p.m., he bought a ticket for the 1.34 p.m. train to Euston.  PS Sullivan was suspicious of the man, and on searching him, found the money. The man, later identified as Harry Williams, made violent efforts to escape, including giving PS Sullivan a black eye and “barking” his shins.

Assisted by some of the passengers the Sergeant conveyed Williams to the Police Station by cab.  Williams was charged with robbery and assaulting a police officer.  Williams refused to give any further account of himself and was remanded by the Bench.

Subsequently Williams pleaded guilty to stealing £16 13s 3d; and assaulting wounding and ill-treating PS James Sullivan whilst in the execution of his duty.  It transpired that there were several previous convictions against Williams, with his last sentence being three years of penal servitude.

Williams blamed drink.  He said he was drunk at the time of the offences; that he had been trying to get an honest living but “broke out when we took Pretoria”.  However the judge was unimpressed, pointing out that Williams had been committing crimes since he was 14 years old, and that on this occasion he had assaulted a policeman which showed him to be “a dangerous fellow”.

The judge asked if anything was known in favour of the accused and the prosecution said he had failed to report himself to the police.  The judge concluded Williams had not been trying to make an honest living and sentenced him to four years’ penal servitude.

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