The St Margaretsbury burglary - smart sentence

Hertfordshire Mercury, 26th June 1915


At the Herts. Assizes Joseph Walter Blackwell (28), wharf checker, was indicted for burglariously entering St Margaret’s Church and stealing a missionary box and contents, also a brush and towel, on May 7.  He was further charged with burglary at St Margaretsbury, the residence of Mr Septimus Croft, on the same date, and stealing therefrom a silver inkstand and other articles.  He pleaded not guilty to both indictments.

Mr Blanco White prosecuted, and stated the facts, which were to the effect that the residence of Mr Croft was safely locked up on the night of May 7, and when the servants came down in the morning of May 8 they found that an entrance had been effected and various things were stolen, among them being a silver vinaigrette.  St Margaret’s Church, which was about 100 yards away, had also been broken into and various chisel marks were found.  A notebook was also picked up outside a small window of the church.  There was the mark of a glass-cutter having been used on the window, and there were bicycle marks nearby. In the notebook was found the address of a Miss Crane, a domestic servant, who about three weeks before was in Rye Lane, Peckham, when she met the prisoner and his brother.  They got into conversation and exchanged addresses, the girl writing hers in the notebook, and the prisoner taking a leaf from it and handing it to her with his address upon it.

The police, who had possession of the book, thus traced it to the prisoner. On Sunday, May 9, Inspector Moles and other police officers went to 63 Arlington Street, Camden Town, and kept observation, and at 6 o’clock the next morning the prisoner and his brother arrived on bicycles.  On the back of one bicycle was a little brown bag.  They went into the house and the officers followed later into a back room, where the prisoner and his brother were sitting on the bed.  The prisoner was arrested after some conversation had ensued. In the little brown bag were found a cold chisel which exactly fitted the marks on the church and on a dispatch box which was missing from St Margaretsbury, which had been broken open, also a glass cutter, small table knife, and two pairs of gloves.  On the prisoner was found a small Georgian vinaigrette, which belonged to Mr Croft.

The prisoner made a long statement in evidence, in which he said that on May 7 he met a man named George Robinson, whom he lent a suit to so that he could get some employment.  He was at the time in khaki and expected to get his discharge as he was medically unfit.  The prisoner was sure that he left the notebook in the pocket of the coat.  On Friday and Saturday he was in bed with a cold, and on the Saturday, Robinson returned him the suit, and made him a present of the vinaigrette (produced) and a snuff-box, no mention of which had been made in the case up to now.  He denied that he took the bicycle with the bag on into the house, or that it was his.

In cross-examination by Mr White, the witness said he bought the bag some time ago, but he could not explain how the things got into it.  George Robinson was a private in the Army, and he thought it peculiar for him to be in possession of a gold snuff-box and a silver vinaigrette.  Robinson told him he had bought them.  Robinson said he was going to get employment at a munition factory, but he did not want to go in khaki.  The prisoner admitted that he wrote to a Mr and Mrs Richards and asked them to give evidence that he stayed at their house that night. Mr Woodman, a carpenter, of 63 Arlington Road, Camden Town, said the prisoner lodged in his house and was only a casual acquaintance.  The prisoner came home on the Friday evening, May 7, about 9.30 and during the night he heard Blackwell coughing in his room. Cross-examined, the witness said he did not always know whether the prisoner was at home at night, because  the witness went to bed early.  He did not trouble to ascertain whether his lodgers were in or not. Mrs Woodman, the wife of the last witness, gave similar evidence. The jury returned a verdict of guilty.

Detective Tarboard, of the Metropolitan Police, proved a long list of convictions against the prisoner for similar offences, and he was sentenced to three years’ penal servitude.

This page was added on 29/01/2015.

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