Young servant's thefts

Hertfordshire Advertiser, 27th January 1917


A young girl named  Elizabeth Warder, aged 17, described as a domestic servant, was charged before Alderman W S Green at St Albans Police Station last Friday, and remanded until the Petty Sessions on the following Thursday, with stealing about sixty different articles, including two pictures, two blinds, crockery, blouses, stockings, knickers  etc., valued at £3.19s.6d, the property of Mrs Jesse Ethel Sparrow, Deaconsfield Road, St Albans, between May 1st and January 16th. The articles alleged to have been stolen were displayed in Court and covered a long table.

Mrs Sparrow, wife of Mr Frederick Poole Sparrow, auctioneer and estate agent, said the defendant had entered her employ the previous April as a maid. The witness said that she had discharged the maid on the Tuesday morning as something had come to her knowledge. The witness had missed articles of clothing, and other things,  and on the Thursday evening at eight o’clock when the defendant came to the house for her box, witness asked her to have the contents of the box displayed, and assisted the defendant in opening the box.  She recognised therein two serviettes, a towel, the two blouses, stockings and various other articles of clothing, all valued at about 32 shillings, as her property. That day (Friday), the witness accompanied Inspector Phillips and Detective Sgt Paine to Mrs Gurney’s house at 33, Spencer Street.  The witness (who was handed a long list) said that she identified the articles at Mrs Gurney’s house. She valued them at £8.7s.

Detective Sgt Paine said that at a quarter to nine that morning he had seen the defendant in Grosvenor Road and had told her that he was making enquiries about things which had been stolen from Mrs Sparrow’s house where she had been in service  and that he intended to take her to the Police Station.  She said: “I should have not taken them if Mrs Gurney had not led me on. I have given her several things. I am very sorry I have done it”.  The witness accompanied Inspector Phillips and Mrs Sparrow to Mrs Gurney’s house in Spencer street and, in every room in the house, articles were found which were identified by Mrs Sparrow as being her property.  The two blinds were affixed to the defendant’s window and the pictures were on a bedroom wall.  The articles were brought to the Police Station.  The defendant, when she saw them, said “I gave Mrs Gurney one picture; the other I did not know she had got. She has carried the things home in her basket. I have also given her bacon, tea, sugar, cocoa and coffee – in fact, every time she has been down she has taken away something with her.”

Sgt Peck said  “He went to Mrs Gurney’s home with a warrant, but did not arrest Mrs Gurney owing to her condition”.

A remand was granted until the following Thursday.

Mr Mundin, police court missionary, said that he could take care of defendant until the remand hearing.  The defendant was then remanded on bail and left the court with Mr Mundin.

When the case was returned before the Magistrates (Alderman J Flint, Mayor, in the chair) on the following Thursday, Mrs Gurney, the woman whose name had been mentioned at the previous hearing, was in attendance to answer a charge of receiving the articles referred to, but the case against the girl was heard first. The evidence at the previous hearing was read over and the accused then elected to be dealt with summarily, and pleaded guilty.  She said she was very sorry.

Mrs Elizabeth Gurney, of Spencer Street, St Albans, was then charged. She appeared to be ill and was allowed to be seated.

The defendant, Elizabeth Warder, entered the box and was sworn in. She said that she had entered Mrs Sparrow’s employment last April and had become acquainted with Mrs Gurney two months afterwards by going out with her son. Mrs Gurney first came to see her at Mrs Sparrow’s house in August.  She had asked the witness for some tea and witness gave it to her, not thinking at the time how serious this was.  Mrs Gurney knew where it had come from as she had seen the witness take it out of the caddy.  Mrs Gurney frequently called afterwards, and had had something every time. The witness gave her all the articles mentioned in the charge because Mrs Gurney had asked her for them. The witness was, during all of this time, going out with the son who knew nothing about the thefts but did  know the witness had given his mother some things. The son helped his mother to carry away some of them. This kind of thing continued until the witness was charged.

The prisoner, who was very much upset, said the girl brought all the things to her house except the blinds and the plates which, she said, were going to be placed in the dustbin. She would not have had a thing from the girl if she had known that any of them had been stolen.  The witness said that she had told the truth.

Detective Sergeant Paine said that, on January 19th, he received a search warrant in respect of the prisoner’s residence, and went there with Inspector Phillips and Mrs Sparrow.  He told the accused the object of the visit but the prisoner replied “I don’t think you will find anything of Mrs Sparrow’s here”.  In the front room, and in practically every drawer and cupboard therein, he discovered articles which were identified by Mrs Sparrow as being her property. Plates, cups and saucers were found in the kitchen and, in the front bedroom, other articles were found in a box and a cupboard. The witness also repeated the evidence as to the picture and the blinds.  As the Sergeant came across each of the articles, the accused said: “They were what she (meaning Warder) said she had given her.”  The witness said: “There is bacon, tea, sugar, coffee and cocoa which I am inquiring about”.  She replied: “I have had nothing of Mrs Sparrow’s; I won’t pinch off anyone”, adding, however, “I have had a small rasher of bacon, and she gave me sugar once.  There was nothing left of the rasher when it was cooked. I said to the girl “You will  look well if Mrs Sparrow finds you out” but the girl told me “But they won’t do that”.  The witness added that he had that day formally charged the accused at the Police Station and she had replied: “I did not know they were stolen.”

The prisoner thought they had been given to the girl.

Mrs Sparrow again gave evidence and said she had not given any of the articles to the girl.

Sgt Peck said “Half a dozen of the plates are all alike”.

The prisoner asked that the case be settled and done with,  and the Justices found her guilty. The Magistrates’ Clerk said “Is any other property missing?” and Sgtt Peck replied “Yes, and few other things, but not much”.

The Bench retired and, on returning to the Court, the Chairman said that “the prisoner Gurney has been found guilty of a most serious offence because if there were no receivers there would be no thieves”. He said that she would have to pay a fine of £5 but it was only on account of her health that she was not sent to prison straight away. The girl Warder would be placed on probation under Mr Mundin for two years and must go into a home for that period. Any breach of this undertaking would mean that she would be brought up and probably sent to prison. There was nothing credible, said the Chairman, about the conduct of the Mrs Gurney’s son, and that this case should be a warning to him otherwise it looked as if he might well be brought up on some serious charge.

Mrs Gurney, who was much upset, said she had a large family of little children and asked for time to pay.

The Bench ordered her to pay the fine at the rate of £1 a month.


This page was added on 28/11/2014.

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