A History of Preston

in Hertfordshire

On Monday evening last as Mr Edward Foreman of Charlton Mills, near Hitchin, was returning from Offley and Kings Walden, he was attacked and robbed by some men and so violently abused that he died a few hours afterwards from the effects. He was found lying near the Preston Road and was carried at once to the Infirmary at Hitchin where he received all the aid that medical skill could afford. He died on Tuesday morning. Mr Foreman was about thirty years of age. It is said he had, only a few days before, entered into a contract for the purchase of the estate of his late much respected uncle, Mr Edward Burr, miller of Charlton.

On Thursday an inquest was held before Mr C Times, Esq. on view of the body, when the following evidence was adduced:

Thomas Currell (aged 33): I am a labouring man, living at Gosmore. I found the deceased lying at the bottom of Preston Hill. I saw him lay there on Monday night, about half past seven or twenty minutes to eight. He seemed quite a strange man to me. He was lying on the left hand side of the road coming from Preston to Hitchin. His head was next to the road. He was lying across-wise and his feet were next to the rails. He was then lying on his side. I went up to him and hallooed loudly three times - as loud as I could call and he made me no answer. I took him to be drunk and fast asleep.The first man that I met I told him there was a drunken man at the bottom of the hill; that man’s name was Samuel Warboy (sic) and he lives at Thistley Farm. When I got to Preston, I told my uncle and John Jeeves’ son (probably aged 25, a straw plaiter in 1861). I did not interfere with him at all and the reason why I did not do so was that I helped a drunken man a few weeks ago and when I got him up, he abused me and I said I would never help another drunken man. When I came back from Preston, about an hour and a half later, he was then turned over and he was lying on his back, with his head towards Hitchin and his feet towards Preston. Warboys was coming towards Hitchin and must have passed the body of the deceased. I did not touch the body the second time that I passed. I stopped by the body two or three minutes. I should not have seen the body if he had not had on white trousers. When I came from Preston the second time, I met a person leading a horse and I said, “There is a man drunk as a pig at the bottom of the hill.” That was an hour and a half after I first saw the body. I thought the man was drunk because he was snoring. His hat was lying in the middle of the road; it looked like a billy-cock (the hat was here produced, it was made of black straw and in the side of the crown showed evident marks of blows as from a life preserver or knobbed stick; the straw was cut through by pressure)

Frederick Mead; I reside at Preston and am a superintendent of land drainage. I was coming from Stevenage about 10 o’clock on Monday night and as I turned into the Preston Road, I saw lying on the right hand side of the road, as I was going towards Preston, the deceased - one foot was close to the bank and the other was about two feet from it. The deceased was lying on his back. His head was towards Hitchin. It was quite light enough for me to see him as he had light trousers on. I took hold of him and tried to arouse him. I felt his face and hands and they were nearly cold. He was still breathing. I was first attracted to him by his heavy breathing. It was not snoring; it was heavy breathing. I put my hand at the back part of his head to raise it up and my hand was covered with blood. I saw a dark mark on the road which I supposed to be blood. I ran home as fast as I could and asked my stepfather, Mr Westwood, who lives in the (Wain) wood, about five minutes from where the deceased lay, to get out the horse and cart while I went to Preston for help. I went to the Chequers public-house and one man came with me from there and another man came after. I met my father-in-law, Mr Westwood, at the bottom of Preston Hill with the horse and cart. We then went to where the deceased lay with two lanterns and I put him in the cart. We saw most of the blood on his face. I did not observe any blood from his nose. There were streaks of blood over his forehead. We brought him to Hitchin. John French (aged 56, a labourer from Preston) and Joshua Farmer were with me. We all rode in the cart. We came up Tilehouse Street and called at Mr Shillitoe’s the doctor’s. I rang the bell and called him up and he directed me to come to the Infirmary. He got up into the cart and looked at the deceased; we then brought him there and gave him in charge of Mr Cotton, the dispenser. I helped to carry him upstairs and there I left him. When I came back to the deceased in the cart, there was a gurgling sound in his throat. When we looked at him with the lantern, there was a great deal of blood on his back. I saw a mark of a wheel on the bank about ten inches high; it appeared to be a light cart. I thought it was a fresh mark because it was a frosty night. There was a gutter near the bank which took the water from the road. When we came to the deceased, we knew something of the favour of him, but we could not recognize him. I should think the road was six yards wide at the place where the body lay. When I first saw him both his coats were unbuttoned.

James Wildman examined: I live at Hitchin and have worked for the deceased three of four years. As I was going along the road  from Hitchin to Charlton on Monday night, just as I got between the two gates leading to the Dog Kennel Farm, I heard a cart going by towards Hitchin and I saw it was my master’s mule and cart. The mule was galloping and I knew it was the cart I sent my master away with about two o’clock in the afternoon. Not seeing him in the cart, I thought something was wrong and ran back and a boy and a man of the name of Deacon held up their hands and stopped the mule. I met the mule in charge of the man and boy in Rattan near Mr Shillitoe’s back gate. I examined the harness and there was nothing broken. I examined the reins and I found that the near rein was wrapped twice around the loop on the pad so that it would not work and I was obliged to unbuckle the rein from the check of the bridle before I could right the position of the rein. I have lived three years with the deceased and I never knew the mule to run away with him.

John Buck examined: I live at Frogmore, Kings Walden. On Monday afternoon the deceased called at my house. I keep a public house and am a brewer. He stopped about ten minutes or a quarter of an hour. He had three pennyworth of gin and water. It was about half-past five or six o’clock when he called at my house. He was not off his guard, but I don’t think he was quite sober. He told me when he left that he was going home by the bottom road to save the hills.

Mr Holt examined: I am a medical practitioner residing in Hitchin and am an attendant at the Infirmary. I was called about half-past ten o’clock to go to the Infirmary. The deceased was insensible, slow pulse, cold extremities, pupils of the eyes insensitive to light, blood trickling from the right ear, the beard on the right side clotted with blood, a slight contusion on the left part of the forehead, a bruise on the left hand side of the forehead and some amount of puffiness on the skin of the scalp, but no lesions or teguments. There was no smell of spirituous liquors from which I concluded he was not intoxicated. I used the usual remedies to restore animation, but was unsuccessful. After a time the pulse began to get slower and slower and I then considered there was no hope of his life and he died about half-past three o’clock in the morning. I made a post mortem examination of the body. I found that the puffiness of the skin was due to the effusion of blood. I found a T-shaped fracture without depression immediately above the right ear. I then took off the vertex and the first thing I saw was a large clot of blood on the brain, flattening it. This clot of blood corresponded with the T-fracture of the skull and was caused by the laceration of the lateral silas. I then took out the brain and at the base of the skull, I found it fractured which accounted for the blood trickling out of his ear. I then opened the chest and abdomen and I found everything healthy. In the contents of the stomach I did not detect any alcohol. The injuries on the head were sufficient to cause death. It might be caused by a fall from a cart on a hard road, but it is impossible to decide whether it was from a fall or a blow. It appeared to be done by a blunt instrument. I think it might have been done by a life-preserver for they are generally covered or it might be a smooth stick. There is nothing inconsistent in thinking it was done by a fall or inconsistent to say it might have been done by a blow.

Ann Freeman, the wife of the deceased stated that he left her about three o’clock on Monday afternoon with intention of going to Offley and taking some money. She gave him £2 for the purpose of change, which he put in his purse with some silver - how much silver she could not say. The purse was a bag purse of the usual style used by farmers and dealers. The purse is not forthcoming and the whole of the money with some pounds taken at Offley are lost. There was a pocket book in the breast-pocket of the deceased’s coat which has been found.

The Coroner then stated that this was the whole of the evidence which could at present be laid before the jury and he considered that it was very incomplete.

The inquest was adjourned until eight o’clock for the purpose of obtaining the evidence of other persons.

At eight o’clock the jury again attended; and the boy who first met the mule between Charlton and Hitchin was called and corroborated the evidence given by a former witness in reference to the reins being twisted in the loops of the saddle-pad.

Mr Wright (probably George, aged 22, son of farmer George of Preston Hill Farm) of Preston stated that about nine o’clock he was going from Hitchin to Preston when he met a man in a smock-frock and billy cock hat on before he came to the spot where the deceased lay. He said, “Goodnight” to the man and was replied to. He should not know the man again. When he got to the deceased, he was lying with his head towards Hitchin. In passing the deceased, the horse, which was a blind one, refused to pass the road where the blood was. On his return he told his father of the circumstance and he said the witness ought to have attended to the deceased. His reason for not doing so was that he was nervous and did not like to stop single-handed.

Mr Holt, the medical man who gave his evidence in the early part of the examination, was recalled and stated his decided opinion that the injury sustained by the deceased was from a blow and not from a fall. He gave a most lucid explanation of the injury.

The jury retired for upwards of an hour and ultimately returned a verdict of, Wilful  murder against some person or persons unknown.”

The man Warboys spoken to the deceased by the witness Currell as the first man he met after the deceased was stated to be absent from home. Enquiries had been made for him at his place of work and at his home which he left about five o’clock on Thursday morning.

 

ROBBERY AND SUPPOSED MURDER AT HITCHIN

 

Up to the present time nothing satisfactory can be elicited as to the precise manner in which the death of Mr Edward Foreman occurred and the reports in circulation vary so considerably that they cannot be depended upon. We have visited the spot in the road and from several points in the evidence are led to believe that death was caused by an accident. The road from Preston to the spot where the deceased lay is down a steep hill with a sharp corner at the turn. The evidence of Wildman at the inquest was that the rein in the near teeret of the cart saddle was twisted and would not work. The witness Sharpe in the following evidence stated that the deceased passed him going at trotting pace but when he got about fifty yards from him the mule broke into a gallop and continued galloping as far as he could hear it. If this is correct, and we have no reason to disbelieve him, the mule came down the hill galloping and so turned the corner; and as the near rein would not work, the deceased might have pulled both reins, the mule then drawing the cart up the bank and throwing Foreman out. The witness Meade, at the inquest, stated there was a mark of a cart wheel about ten inches high up the bank on the opposite side if the road to where the deceased lay. Inquiries are now being made by the police to ascertain if possible the true state of the facts.

In Tuesday last a man named Samuel Wabey (in our report of last week he was called Warboys, and, it will be remembered we stated that he was absent from home.) and a lad named Joseph Harmer, aged 14, were brought up at the Petty Sessions at Hitchin and charged with robbing Mr Freeman.

The prisoner Wabey is a very morose looking man about 30 years of age. Harmer assisted Wabey in his work as a hay binder.

The first witness called was Thomas Currell, a labourer. He said; I live in Gosmore. On Monday evening, the 11th January, I was going from home up to Preston. I started about 25 minutes past 7. I looked at my clock before I started out of the house. It is about a quarter of an hour’s walk from my house to the bottom of Preston Hill. When I got to the bottom of Preston Hill, I saw a man lying by the side of the road with his feet on the rails and his head on the road. He was lying on his side and his face was towards Preston. I stopped and halloed to him and said, “Wake up , don’t lie here.” I thought he was drunk and asleep. he made a moaning noise; I thought he was snoring. I stopped with him about two minutes. It is about ten minutes walk from where I saw the man to Preston. When I got to the Chequers at Preston I met a man and a boy - the man was Wabey and the boy, Harmer. I said to Wabey “You have to bind some hay up tomorrow at Hill End.” and he said he would be there towards night. I said to Wabey “There is a man lying at the bottom of the hill fast asleep and I can’t wake him.” and the prisoner replied, “Let him lie, I shan’t interfere with him.” I then went on towards Preston and Wabey and the boy went on to Hitchin. I stopped at Preston about an hour and a half. It was about five minutes to nine by the Temple clock when I started from Preston. In a little better than five minutes, I got down to the bottom of the hill. The man was lying there still on the side of the road, only he had been moved and his head was turned towards Hitchin and his feet towards Preston and he was lying on his back. I called to him again and he was making the same noise as before, but he did not answer me. I didn’t stop more than a minute and went on towards Gosmore. Very near the top of Chalk-hill which is about 200 yards off, I met a man with a boy who was leading a horse. I spoke to the man and said, “Goodnight.” and he answered me and I told him there was a man lying at the bottom of the hill.

Ebenezer Foster examined: I keep the Red Lion public-house at Preston. Bout six o’clock on Monday evening the prisoner was at my house. He had two pints of beer and did not pay for them. He had done some work for me and I owed him 3s and he asked me for it. He said he owed some rent and I paid him. I believe he was at work at Mr Brown’s at Preston that day. He left my house about 20 minutes to eight o’clock and it is about five minutes walk from my house to the Chequers. I did not see the deceased that evening.

Frederick Sharp (aged 18) of Preston examined: On Monday the 11th inst. just after the Temple clock struck seven, I saw the deceased, Mr Foreman, riding in a cart. I was just at the corner of the Green at Preston. He was trotting the mule when he passed me but he went faster after he passed and the mule was galloping when he had got about fifty yards and kept on so as far as I could hear it. He came close by me; I know him very well.

Samuel Brown examined: I live at Gosmore and keep a grocer’s shop. On the Monday night in question, I started away from home about seven o’clock and came on about 500 yards from my house on the road towards Hitchin. I heard a cart behind me and I then saw a white mule or pony in a cart coming as fast as it could. It was just such a mule and cart as the deceased Foreman used to drive. I had to jump in the ditch to get out of the way. There was no-one in the cart. I did not notice the reins but I picked up a horse cloth about one hundred yards up the road. I brought the cloth to Hitchin and left it at the ”Dial” public-house and since then it has been claimed by the family of the deceased.

Maria Harvey examined: I keep the “White Horse” public-house at Hitchin. On the Monday evening the prisoner Wabey came into my house about half past 8 o’clock and asked for a pint of beer. He called for another pint before he drank the first and asked me to change a sovereign and I said I could not as I had just changed one. He then said, “They’ll say, if they know it, that I have too much money.” I asked him if he had any smaller change and he gave me a shilling. About eleven o’clock the same night I saw Wabey sitting in the taproom as if he was going to sleep and I said, “You can’t sleep here.”. He then got up and went away. When he came into the house in the evening he appeared to be agitated.

In cross examination the witness stated that she could not speak to half an hour as to the time the prisoner came into her house.

Mrs Mary Kingsley examined: The prisoner lives in a cottage belonging to my husband at Gosmore. He owed us some back rent and for a few weeks past he has been in the habit of paying 5s a week. On Monday evening about 9 o’clock he called and said it was late and paid me 6s. I said it was rather late and he replied, “Yes, my work lays wide, I have come a long way. I am at work at Winch-hill.” I gave him a pint of beer. I did not notice anything particular in his manner.

Inspector Pangbourne examined: I received information of the robbery on Tuesday last, the 12th instant. I had heard of the death of Mr Foreman and the circumstances connected therewith. I immediately made enquiries about the money he was said to have possessed and my suspicion fell upon the prisoner, Wabey. I made enquiry for him until Friday when he came to the police-station. I caused his house to be visited several times on Wednesday and Thursday and he did not go home either day or night. On Friday morning he came to the police-station and saw me. The boy, Harmer, was with him. I took them both into custody and I told Wabey he was charged with robbing the deceased Mr Foreman whilst laying on the road on Monday the 11th instant. He told me that he met Currell who told him there was a drunken man lying at the bottom of the hill, and that he went by the place but did not see anybody. I asked him where he had been and he said he and the boy had been to St Albans. I then took the boy into the yard and asked him, separately, where they had been and he said he met Currell and heard him tell Wabey about the man lying by the road, but that they did not touch the man and that they had been at work hay-binding and straw-binding every day and had been home every night. I knew that to be false and I locked the boy up. On Saturday I went to St Albans and found they had been to St Albans and stopped there on Wednesday night and part of Thursday. On Sunday morning I went to Wabey’s home and saw his wife. I asked her a question about a sovereign which she had changed and she said that she had bought an umbrella, which she produced, and that she had only 1s 6d in the house. She refused to say where she got the sovereign from. I then went upstairs and saw a dress hanging up in the room which I searched. She said there was nothing in it and I found nothing in the ordinary pocket; but in a pocket which appeared to have been made for the purpose, not being in the usual part of the dress, I found two pieces of rag and in each piece, two sovereigns tied up and a receipt for 10s, money which had been paid to Miss Marks of Hitchin. I have been to Miss Marks and she states that the woman paid her with half a sovereign.

Police-constable Young examined: I made search for the prisoner. On Thursday I knocked at his door and his wife said he was gone to work and was away from home early on the morning. On Saturday, I was searching the room upstairs and I found a slop which she said was her husband’s. It was marked with blood. (The slop was here produced and marks of blood on the right side of the body of it and on the left sleeve were apparent.) There is no person living with the prisoner except the boy, Harmer. The prisoner has acknowledged that it is his slop. Inspector Pangbourne asked him at the police station how he accounted for the blood on the slop and the prisoner said he wiped his nose (which had been bleeding) upon it on Monday when he was at work. On the afternoon of Sunday, the boy’s father came to see him. I brought the boy into the office and the father then asked him to tell the truth. The boy replied that he would if Mr Pangbourne would let him go with his father. Mr Pangbourne refused to do so and his father still said, “Speak the truth.” The boy then said, “I did see the man lay as we came past but we didn’t meddle with him”. Mr Pangbourne said, “That’s not the truth, take him back again”. Later in the evening after his father had left, I was in the cell with the boy and I said, “What a foolish boy you are not to speak the truth as your father wished you to do”. The lad then said, “I wish I had; I will if Mr Pangbourne will allow father to come and see me tomorrow”. I then asked Mr Pangbourne and he refused, which I then told the boy. The boy then said, “I didn’t touch him; I am innocent myself. We met Currell and he told us there was a man lying at the bottom of the hill and when we got to the bottom, we saw the man and stopped. Wabey touched him and said “Halloa”. The man didn’t move or speak. Wabey then gave me the hay-knife and needle. the man was at this time lying on his face. Wabey turned him over and said, “I don’t know him”. Wabey then put his hands into the man’s pockets and told me to go on. I went on two or three yards and I saw him pull a purse out of the man’s pocket. Wabey then came after me with the purse in his hand and said, “I’ve got the ---------- money”. The man’s face was covered with blood. Wabey didn’t knock him or kick him. We went home together and I didn’t go out again.

The boy here stated that the evidence of Young was quite correct.

Inspector Pangbourne stated that was all the evidence he had up to the present time and asked for a remand which was granted.

 

THE LATE HIGHWAY ROBBERY  (Extracts)

Mrs Foreman, wife of the deceased, said, “On Monday, the 11th inst., my husband left home with a mule and cart about three o’clock in the afternoon. he occupied the mill at Charlton, lately held by Mr Burr. He had £2 in gold and some silver. He had a linen purse which I made myself which was similar to the one I now produce. The old and silver was altogether in the purse and he put it in his right hand breeches pocket when he left me. He was in his usual health. I saw him go by the window when he started; I did not see him again until about half-past two o’clock on Tuesday morning at the Infirmary. The mule and cart were brought home about half past seven o’clock on Monday evening.

Sarah Pursell examined: I live at Offley and keep a shop there. The deceased, Mr Foreman, was at my shop on the 11th inst. and I paid him 2 sovereigns, half a sovereign, 5 two-shilling pieces, 3 shillings and 3 four-penny pieces which amounted to £3 4s. He bought half a pound of tea of me and gave me a 2s piece for Christmas box.

Mrs Lane examined; I live at Offley and keep a grocer’s shop. On Monday the 11th inst. the deceased, Edward Foreman, called upon me and I paid him £1 10s. I did not notice that he had any purse. When he left my house, he went towards Kingswalden.

Philip Olney: I am gardener to Mrs Hall at Offley. On Monday the 11th inst. I paid the deceased £1 9s 3d. he called upon me, I believe, about three o’clock in the afternoon.

Frederick Meade; ........ I was coming by the foot of Preston-hill when the Temple clock was striking tea.....We had a lantern and searched the road and found two half-pence on the ground. His face was covered with blood which appeared to flow from his ear....

The Dispenser at Hitchin Infirmary: .......his clothes were searched and 1s 6d in silver and 4d in copper was found in his waistcoat pockets......

Mrs Debnam examined: I keep a beer-shop in Hitchin called “The Ram”. The prisoner, Wabey, came to my house on the 11th inst. in the evening about 9 or 10 o’clock. I think it was nearer 10 than 9. He changed a sovereign in my house and he owed me 4s 8d which he wished me to deduct and I did so and gave him the difference. He had a pint of beer which he drank. he stopped about half an hour. On Thursday evening about 8 o’clock he came to my house, when I said something about Foreman upon which he said that he saw Currell near Lake’s Farm and told him about binding some hay. I said to , “You must have passed the body;” and he replied, “If I did, I didn’t see him”. The boy said, I am sure he didn’t as I was with him.”

Daniel Crawley examined: I keep the White Lion Inn and am a butcher. On the Monday night about 11 o’clock, the prisoner came to my house and asked for some beefsteaks and whether I would let him have half a pint of gin. I did so and he paid for it with half a sovereign and I gave him the change.

Miss Marks examined: I keep a furniture shop in Hitchin. On Tuesday, the 12th inst. the wife of the prisoner called at my shop about three o’clock in the afternoon and paid me half a sovereign on account of a bill which had been standing upwards of a twelvemonth, and amounted to about £2.

Miss Reeves examined: I am niece to Mr Penn, the draper, in the Market-place, Hitchin and I assist in the shop. On Tuesday, the 12th inst., the wife of the prisoner came into the shop and asked to look at an umbrella. She bought one which came to 2s 4d; but she had not silver enough to pay for it and she put her fingers into a pocket of her dress and took out a sovereign and paid for it. I gave her the change.”

Thomas Burton examined: I am a straw hat maker and work for Mr Barford at St Albans. I lodge at the Fleur-de-lis. I saw the prisoner go into that house on Wednesday, the 13th inst., about half past twelve o’clock. When I went home for tea about half past four o’clock, I heard the prisoner talking in the tap room about the robbery at Hitchin. He said, “I passed the deceased at the bottom of Preston-hill and he appeared as if he had his brains knocked out.” He also said he heard him groaning. I then said, did you not go near to him and see what was the matter with him; and he replied, “No, I didn’t go near him; for I got into bother once for picking a drunken man up.” I said drunk or sober, I should have gone to him”. Afterwards in the evening, he told the landlord that he had passed a man at the top of the hill and asked him if he had seen the man lying in the road and that the man replied, “Yes. We must not meddle with him or we shall get locked up tomorrow.” The prisoner went out and did not come back until after I had gone to bed. It was 12 o’clock when he came in. The landlord came up stairs with the candle and said to me, “This man is going to sleep on the other bed. I spoke to the prisoner and asked him where he was going the next morning and he said, “I don’t know.” I thought the man appeared in a good deal of trouble in the night-time and I said, “Halloo mate, was is the matter with you?” and he answered, “Nothing much.”

Harmer examined:.....(on Tuesday, the 12th inst) we did not go to work. On Wednesday morning about seven o’clock he said, “ Come on we are going to work” and we went to Hitchin railway station when he said, “I am going to take you for a ride.” We went to Hatfield and walked from there to St Albans where we stopped until mid-day on Thursday, when we came back to Hatfield. Wabey did not say anything about the money afterwards, but he paid for everything I had.

Prisoner: Do you mean to say that I saw the man lying in the road?

Boy: Yes, I do

Prisoner: You are a false boy. I did not give you the hay knife to carry.

Boy; You did.

John Hatton examined: I was at Preston on a visit on the 11th of January. I belong to the 60th Rifles. I was on a furlough from the 5th to the 12th of January. On the night of the 11th, I started from Preston to go for a walk and when I got as far as Gosmore I found I could go no further as my foot was very sore and I called at the Bull public-house at Gosmore and had half-a-pint of beer. About five minutes past six, I started for Preston thinking I should perhaps get a ride. A cart passed me in which there were two gentlemen. I said, “I wish you had room for another,” and they said, “they wished they had”. I traveled on till I got to Chalk-hill. It was very dark. As I turned the corner I fancied I heard some sticks breaking and I felt rather suspicious. I had my regimentals on and I buttoned my tunic to prevent losing my medals and watch. By the dim light I looked along the hedge and I fancied I saw a man on the right hand side of the road at some distance from me. I kept my eyes on the outline of the man and as he passed from the side of the road where I first saw him, he stooped and looked along the road, then ran into the hedge opposite, and when I went by the spot I could see the man lying in the ditch. I thought it would be useless for me to disturb him as I was a cripple, but as I passed, I made a common-place remark, “You are taking it easy”. I am confident there was someone there. It must have been between twenty minutes and a quarter to seven when this occurred. The man was dressed in clothes darker than the grass; for his outline was very distinct. After I saw the man in the hedge, I met a man in a cart at the top of the hill - the cart was a small one, but I cannot describe either horse or cart.

(Wabey was committed for trial for the robbery and was refused bail)

THE TRIAL (Reported 5 March 1864)

(Much of the evidence detailed above was repeated. Harmer altered his testimony, saying that he did not see Wabey take anything from the deceased. He was cross examined in some detail about this, but stuck to his new story. Part of the newspaper which reports the trial has been torn. The following are the summing-ups)

Mr Codd then addressed the jury on behalf of the prisoner, arguing that there was no satisfactory evidence that the deceased had been robbed at all, he might have disposed of his money in different ways before he met with his accident. It ought not to be presumed that he had the money with him when he started on his return journey home. But supposing he had he money in his pocket when he was thrown out of the cart, was there any evidence that the prisoner took it from him? He laid on the public road from half-past seven till ten o’clock at night. Several persons might have passed him besides the prisoner and one of those persons might have robbed him.

The Chief Baron, in summing up said the first question for the jury was, whether the deceased was robbed? and if so, the next question was, who robbed him? He was of the opinion in point of law that there was abundant evidence to show that the deceased was robbed by someone. There was proof that he had had money paid him during the afternoon and there was not a particle of evidence to show that he had parted with any of that money; and the fair and reasonable conclusion was that he kept that money in his pocket and had it with him when he was thrown out of the cart. With regard to the question, who took the money out of his pocket, he must caution the jury not to let the conduct of the boy, Harmer, prejudice their minds in reference to the prisoner. But they must judge of the prisoner’s guilt or innocence by his conduct and by all the circumstances which affect him as proved in evidence. He was proved to be pressing for payment of a few shillings to pay his rent just before and the presumption was that he was short of money  then. Afterwards he was found to have an abundance of money. his wife was also proved to have spent a considerable sum of money and four sovereigns were found in the pocket in her dress. The slop found in his house was proved to have been worn by him and it was remarkable that the boy Harmer, without a question being put to him on the subject of the blood on the slop, volunteered the statement, “That’s where his nose bled the week before”. Although the boy said the prisoner did not wear the slop on the night in question, yet the witness Currell said it resembled the one Wabey was wearing when he met him and the jury must judge for themselves whether that was the slop he was wearing at the time. Unwilling as Harmer was to give evidence against the prisoner, it was remarkable that when pressed on the subject, he said, Wabey showed him something after he had spoken to the deceased and that it might be a purse. The deceased's purse was made of linen which might account for the boy saying he could not tell whether it was a pocket handkerchief or a purse. Another fact worthy of the consideration of the jury was that the prisoner had stated to one of the witnesses that he did not see anything of the deceased lying on the road. It was proved that he did see him and if he had done anything wrong, why should he wish to conceal the fact that he had seen him? Putting all the circumstances together, the jury must say what impression they made on their minds.

The jury after consulting for a few minutes, returned a verdict of guilty.

The Chief Baron in passing sentence said that the prisoner had been found guilty upon what he may now pronounce to be, in his judgement, the clearest testimony that was ever presented to the consideration of a jury. If this were a case of ordinary stealing, it would still call for the greatest severity of punishment; but when he recollected that the prisoner had stated to one person that he saw the unhappy man in the road and that he looked at if his brains had been knocked out--

  The prisoner: I did not my lord.

  The Chief baron: That was the evidence. At all events, one thing was quite clear, that he turned the body about and bloodied the slop which he wore at the time and stripped the unfortunate man of all the money he had. The sentence was that he be kept in penal servitude for four years.

  The boy Harmer was then called forward and the learned Judge directed the police to take him into custody to be dealt with by the magistrates as they might think fit, upon the evidence he had given today in which he had unsaid the greater part of what he said in his examination before the magistrates.

 

Articles reproduced by kind permission of the Hertfordshire Mercury

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Preston Hill Robbery

January 1864

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