Householders in St Albans were caught out in an ingenious scam during the first week in December 1900 until police followed up on complaints.
John Coulson, alias James Evans, of no fixed abode, had been calling at houses in the city and handing out a letter that stated:
“Dear Sir or Madam – An accident has occurred on the Midland Railway, we have thought of raising a small subscription for the sufferer (Mr Woods, porter, of St Albans) who has a smashed foot and a broken collar bone. Subscriptions, which are for Mr Woods’ wife and four children will be most thankfully received by the bearer, James Evans. Yours, for the Company, George Parker, Foreman”.
In response to complaints, Police found and arrested Coulson when he was on a doorstep telling a lady that Woods was in St Thomas’ Hospital.
Coulson tried to eat the letter but police found a book in his possession that showed he had collected £2 and 9 shillings during the week.
Coulson pleaded guilty and said that he had no friends and wanted the money to pay his passage to America.