Soldier convicted of theft

Hertfordshire Mercury, 7th August 1915


At Much Hadham Petty Sessions on Saturday, Joshua Cooper (21), a gunner in the 2nd/6th London R.F.A., stationed at Much Hadham, was brought up in custody charged with stealing about £20, the property of the Y.M.C.A., at Much Hadham, on or about July 25.  The case was partly reported in our last issue.

Thomas Snowdon, manager of the Y.M.C.A. tent, said that on the previous Sunday he checked the contents of the bag produced, and the money was absolutely correct.  At 12 noon the following day the bag was empty except for a cheque-book, and about £20 was gone.  He identified the key produced as the key of the tobacco box. It had been missing since Tuesday.  He saw the prisoner behind the tent on Sunday from 9 to 1 p.m..  He had no business there.  The back of the tent was just opposite the desk, and the bag was on the shelf under the desk.  He last saw the bag at 10 p.m. on the Sunday night, but did not know then whether it was full or empty.

Robert Pagett, helper at the Y.M.C.A., identified two postal orders that he had taken at the tent some time during the week.  One was made payable to Percy Hazzard and the receipt was signed ‘P. Hazzard’.  The other was made payable to the Y.M.C.A., and was the only one they had ever received payable to the Association.

P.S. Lee said that on Tuesday, July 27, he received information that a sum of about £20 had been stolen from the Y.M.C.A. tent at Much Hadham.  By the permission of the officers of the brigade, he with Bombardier Eveson, of the military police, searched the kit bag of the prisoner, and found in his possession a letter sealed down.  It was opened and found to contain six postal orders of the value of 12 shillings (produced).  Bombardier Eveson found two postal orders concealed in the lining of the prisoner’s military cap.  These had since been identified by the witness Pagett.  In the leather belt produced, which the prisoner was wearing, the witness found £3 12s. 8 ¾ d.  he also found a receipt for a  registered letter, dated 26th July, sent to Mr J. Cooper, 41 Lorimer Street, Kennington, S.E..  A key was also found on the prisoner belonging to the tobacco box.  He cautioned the prisoner and asked him how he accounted for the postal orders being in his possession, and he said: ‘I found them on a heap where they throw the rubbish.  Another man was with me when I picked them up, but I don’t know his name’.  When asked if he could pick the man out he made no reply.  The witness then charged him with stealing the money mentioned in the charge, and he replied: ‘I’ve said all I’ve got to say,  I know nothing about it’.  On July 29 the witness went to London to Carter Street Police Station, and was handed £6 10s. in treasury notes and a receipt for a registered letter, also some parcels, one containing 75 packets of various kinds of cigarettes, another 13 packets of tobacco, and a box of chocolates.  (These parcels not being mentioned in the charge the Bench decided not to receive evidence respecting them).  He also received a signed letter which the prisoner had sent to his father asking him to take care of the things he was sending.

Bombardier Eveson identified the two postal orders for 1 shilling and 2 shillings respectively as those he found in the lining of the prisoner’s cap.

Joshua Cooper, of 41 Lorimer Street, Kennington, father of the prisoner, stated that he received from his son a registered letter containing £6 10s. in notes, and he handed the money to the police detective when he came on Thursday night.

John Reginald Bellyse, another Y.M.C.A. assistant, said the bag was on the desk on Sunday until 9.30 p.m., when he put it in the van and locked it up.  The next morning at 6.30 he opened the van and took the bag back to the desk.  The bag was not locked and he did not know whether the money was in the bag on Sunday night or not.  The key found in the prisoner’s pocket was generally kept loose.

Mr C. Fitzroy Doll, one of the Magistrates, counted the money and notes produced that had been accounted for, and the total came to £10 17s. 8 ¾ d.

The prisoner, who elected to be dealt with summarily, on oath said after the Reveille on Monday last, he was dismissed from parade to light the smith’s fire at the forge about 6.30 a.m..  It was a wet morning.  he knew the Y.M.C.A. threw boxes out at the back, and he went there to get some wood to light the fire.  When he got there he discovered the notes in a big envelope, and instead of reporting the matter, kept the notes and sent them home.  The money in his belt was the change he received from Mr Snowdon on Friday and Saturday.  The key he had in his possession he found in an empty box about a week before.  He pleaded guilty to being in possession of the notes.

Mr Snowdon, recalled, said he changed notes to the value of £2 10 shillings. for the prisoner on Friday and Saturday.  In answer to Supt Foster the witness said there was a robbery of £5 from the tent on July 20.

The Chairman (Mr W. Minet) said the Bench had given the case a good deal of attention and could only come to one conclusion, that the prisoner was guilty.  The story he told of picking up the money would not do.  The decision of the Court was that he should go to prison for three months with hard labour.  The Bench wished to add that the great carelessness shown in the management gave the prisoner the chance of committing the crime.  There was much useful work being done, but it should be done in a businesslike way.  He and his brother Magistrates were of opinion that the carelessness of the system in guarding the money and goods in the tent offered opportunities to men like Cooper.



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