The case of the missing ferret

Hertfordshire Mercury, 2nd March 1918


On 2nd March 1918, the case against Ernest Emmerson, of Hockerill Street, a private in a labour battalion, was adjourned because Emmerson had missed his train.

Emmerson was summoned again on 16th March on a charge of stealing a ferret valued at  £1 from Mr William Andrews of Bishop’s Stortford on January 28th.  Mr S Wortley, solicitor of Chelmsford, appeared for the defendant.  The prosecutor, a game keeper of Plantains Wood, said that at about 5.30 p.m. he had four ferrets shut up in two hutches outside a hut in the woods.  At 7.30 the next morning he found that he was missing 15 fowls, a gun and a white doe ferret.

He gave information to the Police and on February 4th, Sgt Megaughey showed him the ferret he had lost. He placed this in the hutch with the others, and it was quite friendly. He identified the ferret by the hair having been worn off the forehead, evidence of it having been working. The witness said he also identified the ferret by a small ball of clay on its head, that had been in that position for some time.

Mr Frederick Emerson, of 29 Elm Grove Road, brother of the defendant, said that at 6 o’clock on Wednesday morning, January 30th, his brother had brought a ferret to him and told him to take it on his bicycle to Mr Baker’s at Takeley, and he did so. It was in a bag and he did not therefore see it.  William Baker, a labourer of Takeley, said that the last witness had brought a white doe ferret early one morning and had asked him to keep it for his brother. A week later, Sgt Megaughey came for it.  When cross-examined, the witness said that the defendant had brought him a ferret in December but he could not say that this was the same one.  The witness said he had no ferrets of his own but sometimes kept them for others.

Sgt Megaughey said that, on January 29th, he had made enquiries in respect of 15 fowls, a gun and a white ferret which had been stolen from Plantains Wood.  He saw the defendant at his house in Hockerill Street and asked him to account for his movements the previous night.  The defendant replied that he had been to the White Horse Public House with two other soldiers where they had had several “Rodneys”.  As there was an air raid that night he did not go to bed until midnight.  The next morning, he did not feel well and did not get up until 10 o’clock.  He did not go to work that day, but went for a walk around the town.

The witness told him he had ascertained he had come off the 9.30 a.m. train and had handed in a ticket from Liverpool Street.  Emmerson replied  “It’s a lie.  I have not been to London”.  He asked the defendant if anyone had seen him in the town that day, and the defendant replied  “When I am out I do not talk to people“.  After a pause, the defendant said that one of the men who had been with him in the White Horse had seen him in Dane Street at about noon that day.  The witness asked the man if he had seen him and he replied  “No”.  The defendant said “Yes, you did Harry.  You saw us”.

Sgt Megaughey said that, on February 4th, he had gone to Takeley and that there, in the cupboard in the kitchen, he had found the ferret which answered the description of the one missing and which the defendant had confirmed. The soldier from Dane St was now in France.

John Flogdell, the ticket inspector at Bishop’s Stortford station, said that on January 30th the defendant had come off the 9.30 a.m. train and had handed him a ticket from Liverpool Street.  The witness said he had known the defendant for years and went to school with him.  George Hounsden of South Mill said he was working with the defendant at Blounts Farm when the Sergeant brought the defendant a summons. The defendant afterwards asked the witness to come to Court and say that the defendant had bought the ferret from the last witness in December for 12 shillings, and also that the defendant had said that if he won the case he would give him £1 and if he lost he would give him 10 shillings. The witness told him he did not want anything to do with it. He had never sold a ferret to the defendant in his life. The defendant said it was a fact that he had bought the ferret from the last witness in December for 12 shillings and another man bought two at the same time. The witness was recalled by the Bench and said that it was true that he had sold two ferrets to the man mentioned about a year ago, but that he had never sold one to the defendant

The Bench convicted the defendant and fined him, including costs.


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