John Birt, Violent Theft > highway robbery, 13th January 1738.

Reference Number: t17380113-12
Offence: Violent Theft > highway robbery
Verdict: Guilty
Punishment: Death

15. John Birt , was indicted for assaulting John Berry in a certain Field, near the King's Highway, putting him in Fear, &c. and taking from him 12 s. Jan. 9 .

John Berry. This Day Se'nnight I had been in the Country with Wild Fowl, and about 6 o'Clock at Night, I was coming Homewards thro' Islington, where I lit of the Prisoner and another Man, who came along with me thro' the Town, past the Bear-Garden House , and thro' the Posts, in the Way to the London Spaw ; as we came along this Field, one of the Men asked me what Goods I had Sold? I told them, I had no Money, but one of them laid hold of me, and the Prisoner put his Hand into my Pocket, I told them I hop'd they would not rob a poor Man: they told me they made no Exception, and so they threw me down; the Prisoner stopp'd my Mouth with Dirt, then they ty'd my Legs together. I cry'd out, but no body heard. The Prisoner struck me over the Arm with his Stick; I cry'd out louder, and then they both run away. When they were gone, I got forward as well as I could with my Legs ty'd, and knocked at this Man's Door, begging him to let me in: this other Man, cut the String from my Legs, then they fetch'd me some Water to clean me. I staid there 'till almost 7 o'Clock, then I went Home. The next Night, I was going Home with some Folks from a Christening, and I saw the Prisoner at Drury Lane Playhouse. I told Mr. Fisher the Constable of it, and the next Day he went with me to see if we could find him at the same Place: but as we were going up Fleet-street, I saw the Prisoner and seized him; telling him, he was the Man that robb'd me. We carry'd him before Justice Poulson, and the Justice asked him what Account he could give of himself? He told him, that he liv'd by picking Pockets, and had done so these 2 Years, at Drury-Lane Playhouse. The Prisoner put his Hand into my Pocket; I endeavour'd to resist, upon which the other pull'd me down Backwards, and then they took 12 s. from me.

Prisoner. I never saw him, but when he came to disorderly Houses with the Thief-takers. I shall bring Witnesses to prove, I was at the Bull-Head Alehouse in Sharp's-Alley, Cow-Cross, when this Fact was committed.

John Cooper and John Dutton gave an Account of the Prosecutor's knocking at Mr. Cooper's Door, in a dirty Pickle; they deposed, that his Legs were ty'd, and that he told them, he had been robb'd in the Manner, as above related.

Jury. How could the Prosecutor remember the Prisoner's Face? We apprehend it must be dark when he was robb'd.

Berry. They came from the Three Calves, all the Way thro' Islington with me, Check by Jowl; and there was a Boy with a Link came along with us about an hundred Yards of the Way.

Prisoner. I have not been in the Fields, since last Welch Fair, and this Night I was in Sharp's-Alley.

Berry. The House that he speaks of (in Sharp's-Alley) is a House the Thieves make use of. When the Prisoner was taken, he did not pretend then, that he was at this Bull Head in Sharp's-Alley that Night.

Prisoner. I am Innocent; I was then drinking at Mr. Wallis's, the Bull-Head, in Sharp's-Alley.

William Fisher , Constable. I was with the Prosecutor at the taking the Prisoner. Before Justice Poulson, he said he was a Cabinet-maker by Trade, but he had follow'd picking Pockets at Playhouses these 2 Years. The Justice told him 'twas a very bad Trade, and committed him.

Prisoner. And so because I am a Person of hardly a low Character, they would swear my Life away.

Berry. I never swore against any Body before in my Life.

Sarah Wallis . The Prisoner came to this House in Sharp's-Alley, this Day Se'nnight ('tis the Bull and Last) I did keep the House my self, but I live there now. The Man that I have let the House to, went out that Afternoon, and I look'd after it for him 'till he came back. The Prisoner was there from between 3 and 4 in the Afternoon, 'till 9 at Night. He had no Company with him, but drank 2 Pints of Ale by himself, and had a Penn'orth of Bread and Cheese.

Jury. Does she remember the Prisoner's being there, at any other Time?

Wallis. No - He was there Wednesday Night, Tuesday Night and Sunday Night; and I remember 'twas a wet Night, that Monday, because the Man that keeps the House could not come Home 'till past 11 o'Clock.

Samuel Bellinger . I know no Harm of the Prosecutor, only I heard him say before last Sessions, that he would have a Man or two by next Patter, I suppose he meant, before next Sessions. I am a Mathematical Instrument-Maker, and no House-keeper; I live with my Mother. This Discourse I heard in Rosemary-Lane, where he and I and others were drinking, and he said at that Time, that he had been robb'd (I think) 3 Months ago, near Moorfields, of 3 s. 6 d. or thereabouts. I know nothing of the Prisoner's being a Pick pocket; I never saw him before, but being at the Queen's Head in the Old-Bailey, I happen'd to say, I heard Berry speak these Words; so they brought me into Court.

Edward Driver gave the Prosecutor the Character of an honest Man, and that it was his Opinion he would not forswear himself.

Justice Poulson: When the Prisoner was before me, he deny'd the Fact, but he told me, he had liv'd for these a Years last past, entirely by picking Pockets, and nothing else: I asked him of what? And he told me of Handkerchiefs only. That House in Sharp's-Alley has a bad Character. Another Witness gave the Prosecutor the Character of an honest Man. Guilty . Death


View as XML