The curious recovery of a missing gun

Hertfordshire Mercury, 10th April 1915


William Ernest Edward Smith, labourer, of Goffs Oak, was charged at Cheshunt Petty Sessions with night poaching with a gun on a field at Halstead Hill, Cheshunt, on March 30.  Frederick Starkey, gamekeeper, in the employ of Sir Hedworth Meux, said that on March 30 he saw the prisoner and another youth in a spinney on Halstead hill, occupied by Mr Doxat.  They were searching the hedges.  The witness caught Smith and on him found some cartridges and a double-barrelled sporting gun, which he said was his own property.

Before giving their decision the Bench proceeded with another case against the prisoner and Arthur Joyner, of High Street, Ponders End, a nursery hand.  They were charged with being concerned  together in stealing and receiving on August 31, 1913, from an office at the nursery, Longfield Lane, Cheshunt, a double-barrelled sporting gun, value £10, the property of Mr John Cull, of Flamstead House, Cheshunt.

The prosecutor said that on August 30, 1913, he put a double-barrelled sporting gun together and left it in his office at the nursery in Longfield Lane.  The next morning he found that the office had been broken open and that the gun was missing.  He gave information to the Police.  On March 31 last he was shown the gun by Detective Sergt. Bishop, and he identified it by the number on the stock.  Detective Sergt. James Bishop said that in September, 1913, he saw Joyner at the Prince of Wales public-house, Goffs Oak, and questioned him concerning a sporting gun which had been stolen from Mr Cull’s nursery.  Joyner said ‘I know nothing about it; the only gun I have got is one I bought at Birmingham’.  He then produced a hammer gun.

On Wednesday, March 31 this year the witness saw the gun produced, and it was identified by Mr Cull.  At 7.30 on April 6, he saw the prisoner Smith at Goffs Lane.  Smith said to him ‘Yes I know about it, it’s over the gun, ain’t it?  I heard you had been up to see me, but I’m going to round.  I am not going to be a fool this time.  I know who I bought it of, and that was Jack Joyner’.  Smith went on to say that Joyner sold him the gun just before Christmas, but did not say where he got it from.  He gave Joyner a sovereign, five or six cartridges, and two or three drinks for it.  The witness conveyed Smith to Cheshunt station.

At 8.30 that morning he went to Honnors Nurseries, Freezywater, where he saw Joyner and told him what Smith had said respecting the gun.  Joyner said ‘I have sold him no gun’.  Joyner accompanied the witness to Cheshunt station, and in the presence of Smith the witness read Smith’s statement to him.  Smith said ‘That is quite right’ and Joyner said ‘No, I have sold him nothing’.  Smith afterwards said ‘My father and mother were present when I bought the gun, and I shall call them to prove it’.

Sophia Smith, mother of the prisoner Smith, stated that just before last Christmas she was with him when he bought the gun (produced) off Joyner for a sovereign.  They were all in the Prince of Wales public-house at the time.  She saw her son pay Joyner a sovereign.  The Bench remanded the prisoners on bail until the next Court for the production of further evidence.

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