Smart capture by police - Hatfield court story

Hertfordshire Mercury, 18th December 1931



A story, amply demonstrating the vigilance and smartness of the Herts Constabulary, was unfolded at an occasional court held at Hatfield on Saturday afternoon  when George Sandle, described as a waiter, of 43 Grafton Street, W.1., and Charles Henry Keller, an engineer, giving an address at Tavistock Street, Westbourne Grove, were brought before Mr. J . Gregory, and charged with breaking and entering the shop of Mssrs. Underwood, Tinker’s Hill, on the previous night .

P.C. Childs, from Welwyn Garden City, stated that he and P.C. Mapley, also of Welwyn Garden City, both in plain clothes , were riding pedal cycles up Tinker’s Hill at 10.30. p.m. on the 11th inst., and on coming to Underwood’s shop, saw a stationary motor-car. Both got off their cycles and went to the car where there were two men – Sandle in the driving seat and the other in front of the car – and made themselves known as police officers. The car was started by the man outside, who then jumped in and hurriedly drove off in the direction of the Great North Road. Witness turned his light on the rear number plate and saw the index number E.B. 5151. Turning to the shops  he found the front door of Underwood’s open. He immediately entered the shop and telephoned Welwyn Police Station. Examining the shop he found the lock staple had been forced off. It was lying on the floor. On the door there were three marks which appeared to have been made by a file. Later, in consequence of information, he went to Hatfield Police Station where he saw the motor-car, and the men detained, and on searching the car, found behind the cushion of the driver’s seat a file ( produced). He returned to the shop and found that the marks on the door post were the same width as the end of the file, and the teeth marks of the file appeared to fit the marks on the door. He also examined the shop next door, belonging to Charles Archer Burkett, and found two marks on the door post which appeared to have been made by the same file.

P.C. Smith, stationed at Stanborough,  said, in consequence of information received at 10. 25 p.m., he went from his cottage to keep observation on the Great North Road. At 10.30, he saw a motor car E.B.5151 approaching from the direction of Welwyn. In response to his signal the car stopped, and when asked for his driving licence, Sandle said two police officers had just taken particulars of  his licences and had also searched the car. Witness told the men he suspected them of breaking into a shop at Tinker’s Hill just previously, and that he should detain them, awaiting enquiries. He brought prisoners in the car to Hatfield Police Station

George Fred Godfrey, living at Stanborough, manager of Underwoods ( ironmongers), said he closed the shop about 6. 15 p.m. on Friday. At about 10.30 p.m. he was awakened by P.C. Childs, and went with him to the shop. He was later shown a large half-round file, and he pointed out that the marks on the door corresponded exactly with the top of the file. As far as he could find, there was nothing missing. The file did not belong to him.

Charles Archer Birkett, owner of the shop next door, gave evidence as to the marks on the door post, which were not there when he left the shop.

Supt. Farrow then applied for a remand until Monday. This was granted. Both prisoners asked for bail but the Superintendent was not satisfied  with references offered, and they were removed in custody .

The case resumed on Monday, before Mr. J.C. McCowan (in the chair) and Messrs. D Crawford , J.H.S. Smith , J Gregory and E. T. Tingey.

Corroborative evidence was given by P.C. Mapley, of Welwyn Garden City, and Thomas Carter, a bootmaker of Longcroft Lane, Welwyn Garden City , who stated that he saw a car and two men outside Underwood’s at between 5 and 10 minutes past 10 p.m. There were no other vehicles about .

Sergt. Reeves gave evidence as to the marks, and the part of the door post and door corresponding were produced and examined by the Magistrates, with the aid of a microscope.

Both prisoners made long statements on oath, Sandle stating that their object in being in the neighbourhood was the purchase of a car in Welwyn Garden City. Keller said he had lived for three years in Welwyn Garden City, and was a demonstrator for Airways Hygienic House Cleaning.

After brief retirement, both men were committed to stand trial at the next Quarter Sessions at Hertford on January 4 . Both made application for  bail, which was granted, if to the satisfaction of the Police  – Sandle in £100 and one surety of £100, and Keller in £25  and one surety of £25. They were removed in custody .







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