Hitchin jeweller warned after theft by Codicote girl

Hertfordshire Mercury, 20th February 1915


A young cook, named Gwendoline Hughff, aged 24, was indicted at the Herts. Winter Assizes for stealing a gold bracelet, valued at £2 2s. and a silver watch of the value of 10s., the property of Mr and Mrs Leonard Angel, at Hitchin, on 2nd October last, and also with stealing a gold ring belonging to Emily Hawes, a fellow servant, at Codicote, on 26th October.  The prisoner pleaded guilty on both counts and admitted previous convictions for similar offences in London.

Mr St. J. Hutchinson, for the prosecution, said the prisoner was a domestic servant in the employ of Mrs Collingwood, of Codicote, and some time in October she went to a tea shop at Hitchin, and during the absence of the people there she managed to slip into a bedroom and steal the bracelet and watch, which she sent to Mr Kingstone, a jeweller in Hitchin, who valued the bracelet at £2 2s., and the watch at 10s.  She asked him to give her whatever he thought fit for them, and sent her address.  Without making any inquiries, he sent her 9s. for the bracelet and 1s. 6d. for the watch.  The ring, which was the subject of the second charge, was the property of a fellow servant.  There was also missing from her mistress’s house a salt cellar, a spoon, and a ring, which the prisoner admitted taking.

Mr Kingstone, the jeweller in question, was called, and admitted that he purchased the stolen property from the prisoner.

The Judge: ‘Mr Kingstone, you are in danger of prosecution; you seem to have been the receiver of stolen goods’.

Witness: ‘I was not aware of it.  I have been a dealer for 35 years’.

‘Did you think this ring was not worth more than 1s. 6d.?’  ‘There was only 14 pennyworth of gold in it’.

‘I recommend you to discontinue this trade of yours. I regard you with great suspicion’.  ‘This is the first time’.

‘Yes, but you have not been caught before’.  ‘It is the first time I have handled stolen property’.

‘Here is this woman stealing these articles right and left, and apparently sends them to you to dispose of.  You had better leave the box and be careful for the future.  I will say no more against you, though I am tempted to do so’.

Supt Reed, of Hitchin, stated that in addition to the articles mentioned in the charge there were other things stolen from Mrs Collingwood during the time the prisoner was in her service, including knives and forks, salt cellars, and spoons, and those things were also sent to Mr Kingstone, from whom he had recovered them.

Detective Purkiss, of the Metropolitan Police, said there were five other cases recorded against the prisoner for larceny, including the theft of a valuable fur and jewellery, in London.  The police court missionary had interested himself in her and had got her into a house at Letchworth, but she absconded.

The Judge, in passing sentence, said he had received a letter from Mrs Collingwood, who spoke very kindly of the prisoner, but he was afraid it would not help him.  He could not let the prisoner go without punishment, which she certainly deserved, for she was obviously a thief.  It seemed to be in the prisoner’s nature that she must possess herself of other people’s goods.  This was not the first time she had done it.

She had written a letter to him (the Judge) about her brothers who were serving in the Army and Navy, and he was glad to hear that she came from a very respectable family, but she apparently felt, and so did he, that she was likely to bring disgrace upon them.  She was addicted to this habit of theft, and must be punished.  She would be sentenced to nine months’ hard labour on each charge, the sentences to run concurrently.  He would say no more about Mr Kingstone, but he ought to bear in mind what he had already said to him.

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