Offence: Deception > forgery
Verdict: Guilty > lesser offence
Punishment: Imprisonment > hard labour
WELLINGS, George Edward (37, clerk) , forging and uttering, knowing the same to be forged, a certain valuable security, to wit, a bankers' cheque and order for the payment of £900, with intent to defraud; attempting to obtain by false pretences from Barclay and Company, Limited, £900, with intent to defraud.
Mr. Rooth prosecuted; Mr. Martin O'Connor defended.
WALTER HIBBERT , clerk in Barclay's Bank, Lombard Street. On Saturday, December 11, a messenger boy came to the bank and presented a letter. We keep an account for G. Cunard, Thorpe Lupenham, Market Harborough. The heading of the letter paper appeared to be the same as Mr. Cunard's and the writing was a very good imitation of his. I had not the least suspicion of it being a forgery. It was dated 7/11/1909: "Messrs. Barclay and Co., Limited. Please send by bearer a cheque-book to order containing 30 cheques and debit G. Cunard. I cannot call, as the time is so short between my arrival and leaving for Hampshire." In the belief that the signature was Mr. Cunard's I enclosed the cheque-book in an envelope with a memorandum asking Mr. Cunard to be good enough to acknowledge the receipt of it. As near as I can fix it, this was somewhere between half-past eleven and twelve o'clock. I addressed the envelope to "Gordon Cunard, Esq., St. Pancras Station." The boy having told me he was waiting there. I marked the envelope with the number of the messenger-boy, 1245, and the numbers of the cheques, 006031—60. The boy went away, and on the following Monday I received an acknowledgment dated from the "Carlton" Hotel, signed "G. Cunard."
ARTHUR CORNISH , cashier, Barclay's Bank, Lombard Street. The bank opens at nine and on Monday, December 13, about half-past 10, the cheque produced was peresented for payment over he counter by prisoner. It is an open cheque for £900 purporting to be drawn by our customer, G. Cunard, payable to "G. Hunt, Esq." and endorsed "G. Hunt."
The number of the cheque is 006034, the fourth cheque in the book sent to Mr. Cunard. I asked prisoner how he would take the money, and he said six £100 notes, five £50 notes, and £50 in gold. I put those figures on the back of the cheque. I did not give him the money. I first of all ascertained that the money was on the gentleman's account. Then I asked the man who looked up that if he thought the signature was correct. Having ascertained that the money was correct, I referred the signature to the manager. I asked prisoner if he was Mr. G. Hunt. He said he was not. I said, "Our manager would liker to speak to you. Will you follow me?" He followed me round the other side of the counter into the manager's office. I asked him, in the presence of the manager, how long he had been in Mr. Hunt's service. I believe he said about two days. I think he used the words "Since Saturday," and from that I perhaps drew the inference that it would be two days. I asked him how hecame into his employment and he said through an advertisement, but I did not understand in any particular paper. I asked him had he any testimonials about him by which he got his employment, and he said, "No." I then went away, leaving him with the manager, who had been comparing signatures.
Cross-examined. I am absolutely certain that he said he was engaged by Mr. Hunt in some capacity as a servant. I cannot say with certainty when he was engaged, but the belief the conversation
produced in my mind was that he said he was engaged by Mr. Hunt through an advertisement and I believe he mentioned Saturday.
FREDERICK WILLIAM GRIGGS , manager, Lombard Street Branch, Barclay's Bank. In consequence of a communication made to me at about 10.30 a.m. on December 13 I gave certain directions in consequence of which prisoner was brought into my room by the last witness. I was shown the cheque he had presented. I had known Mr. Cunard's signature and the signature on the cheque appeared to be his. I do not remember any conversation between Cornish and prisoner. The letter of request for a cheque-book to be sent was also handed to me, the envelope, and some other documents. I compared the handwriting of the various documents and they all appeared to be in the handwriting of Mr. Cunard. After Cornish had left the room I had some conversation with prisoner. I asked him if he was Mr. Hunt. He replied, "No." I then asked him from whom he obtained the cheque. He said it had been given him that morning by a gentleman who had engaged him as a servant that morning. He told me he had met him in reply to an advertisement in the "Daily Telegraph," which he had inserted. He also said he had met the gentleman in an office in Fleet Street; he did not specify the office to me. The gentleman had engaged him without any reference as to character. I asked him what he was to do with the money, and he said he was to take it back to the "Golden Cross" Hotel and meet the gentleman there. He did not mention the gentleman's name; he did not know it. I presume he would recognise him by his appearance, but that is only my surmise. I communicated by telephone with the police office in Old Jewry and Inspector Thompson appeared shortly afterwards. Prisoner was detained until the arrival of the inspector. We did not charge him immediately, and he went away in company with the inspector.
Cross-examined. Prisoner was quite cool during the time we were speaking to him and displayed no nervous anxiety or desire to get away. He was in the bank half or three-quarters of an hour. I cannot say whether he knew whether we had sent for the police. The telephone is not in my room, but in a separate box close by. I telephoned myself. I did not even request him to wait till the police came. My recollection of the conversation was that he said he was given the cheque that morning by a gentleman who had engaged him, but whose name he did not know. He never suggested the name of any person by whom he was engaged in my hearing. He told me he had met the man who gave him the cheque and asked him to bring it to the bank that morning in Fleet Street. He did not tell me that he met the man at the office of the paper in which he had advertised.
Re-examined. I gave intimation to the messenger at the door not to let prisoner go out. Prisoner was sitting in my office when I went to the telephone.
Detective-Inspector ERNEST THOMPSON, City. On the 13th of last month I was communicated with by last witness a little after 11 o'clock and, in consequence, I went to Barclay's Bank, arriving there at 11.20. I there saw prisoner in Mr. Grigg's office. In consequence
of certain information which had been given to me I put certain questions to the prisoner. I told him I was a police officer and said, "I understand you have just presented this cheque for £900, which is a forgery." Prisoner said, "That is quite true. Shortly after nine o'clock this morning I met a man outside the 'Daily Telegraph' offices in Fleet Street. He said to me, 'Are you looking for a billet?' I replied, 'I am.' He then said, 'Do you know where Barclay's Bank is in Lombard Street?' I replied, 'I do not, but I will soon find out.' He then said, 'Take this cheque to Barclay's Bank and get it changed as it appears on the envelope.' The note on the envelope is "six £100, five £50, £50 gold," making in all £900. Then he said, 'When you get the change jump into a taxi-cab and meet me at the smoking room of the "Golden Cross" Hotel, Charing Cross." In consequence of that I took him to the "Golden Cross" Hotel in a taxi-cab, arriving there about a quarter to 12. We went into both the smoking rooms, one being on the ground floor and the other on the first floor. Prisoner pointed out no one to me and said the gentleman was not there. There were a number of people in both rooms. I subsequently took him to Old Jewry and told him he would be detained while inquiries were made. In consequence of a communication I received from the manager of the "Golden Cross" Hotel in the course of that afternoon I again went with prisoner in a cab to the hotel. A man who was loitering out in the hall was pointed out to prisoner, who said he was not the man who handed him the cheque. Prisoner gave me a description of the man on the way from the bank to the hotel; age about 50, six feet in height, hair and moustache iron grey, and wearing a silk hat and dark overcoat and trousers. The man hanging about in the hall did not answer that description; he was too grey and he was not tall enough. While I was going with prisoner the second time to the hotel I said to him, "Did it not strike you as being very funny that a perfect stranger should trust you with a £900 cheque to get cashed?" He replied, "It did seem very funny to me." Prisoner was afterwards taken to the Minories Police Station, where he was charged by Mr. Hibbert on behalf of the bank with forging and uttering this cheque. He was searched by the gaoler. Nothing was found on him relating to the charge, only a pair of gloves, a pipe, and a pawnticket. A receipt for 3s. for an advertisement and a box number at the "Telegraph" office were handed to me at the bank in the morning. The ticket says "This ticket must be produced on each occasion when application is made for answers." On December 20 I took these two documents to the "Telegraph" office and handed them to an employe and I was handed the postal letter card produced.
GORDON CUNDRD , Thorpe Lupenham, Leicestershire. The letter of request for a cheque-book produced is not in my handwriting nor written by my authority. The signature is something like my writing, but the rest is not. With regard to the letter paper, at first sight I should say it was mine, but I know it is not because I have compared it with my own. My die has been copied and the water mark is not the same as the water mark of the paper I use. It is like the heading
I use, giving my telegraphic address, the address for parcels, and so on, as is usual in country houses. I never entrusted a messenger boy with the letter, nor did I receive a cheque book in reply. I have never stayed at the "Carlton" Hotel, and at this time I was down at Market Harborough. The acknowledgment of the cheque-book was not written by me, but the signature is more like mine than the signature to the letter. The cheque was never written by me nor by my authority. I do not know "Mr. G. Hunt," and to my knowledge I had never seen prisoner till I saw him at the police court.
WILLIAM RAYMOND MITCHELL , clerk in the advertisement department, "Daily Telegraph," produced the original of the advertisement inserted on December 11. The reply was to be sent to "Box G 968," Postal Department. The receipt for 3s. and the box ticket (produced) related to that advertisement. All answers would be to the number given on the box ticket. The advertisement was handed in by a person he could not identify—"Advertiser, good clerk, wants situation any capacity, excellent references; age 35. Box G 968, Postal Department, 'Daily Telegraph,' Fleet Street."
FREDERICK WILLIAM WELLS , Wells, clerk, "Daily Telegraph" office. On December 13 a person called with the box ticket about nine o'clock. I do not remember whether it was a man or a woman. I looked and found that no letters of reply had been put into the box. I returned the document to the person who had produced it. Some days subsequently Inspector Thompson produced the same document. I looked at the box again and found the letter-card (produced), which had arrived on Monday the 13th. The Post Office stamp is "December 11.09, 8.30 p.m." That should have been delivered by the first delivery on Monday morning. The sorting would not be finished so early as nine o'clock. We start sorting about nine a.m.; it sometimes takes three, hours. The card was read as follows: "December 11 1909, G Box 968. With reference to your advertisement in the 'Telegraph' of even date, please meet me in the smoking-room of the 'Golden Cross' Hotel, opposite Charing Cross Station, at 9.45 a.m., on Monday next. Be punctual and hold this card in your hand. Yours truly." The letter bore neither address nor signature.
Inspector THOMPSON, recalled, verified the identity of the letter card by the following note made at the time he received it, "Handed to me by Frederick Wells, clerk of the 'Daily Telegraph,' 20th December, 1909." This was written in the presence of Wells, who signed it.
GEORGE EDWARD WELLINGS (prisoner, on oath). Up to the time of my arrest I was in the Army, in which I had been for 13 years. I left the service last October. I have been marreid some few years and married off the strength. In October last my wife ran away with another man, and I was so affected by it that I deserted from the Army. I served through the South African War in the 1st Royal Dragoons. I went out in 1899 and came home last year. I also
served with the police out there after the war. (Various testimonials from Army and police officers were put to prisoner.) I also served in the Matabele campaign in 1893. I have three medals for military services, one for the South African War with six bars, the King's medal for the South African War with two bars, and one for the Matabele campaign without bars. I inserted the advertisement in the "Daily Telegraph," which has been read, and gave the receipt and box ticket, which have been produced, to the inspector. On December 13, at nine o'clock in the morning, I called at the office of the "Daily Telegraph," asking for any answers to advertisements, and was told there were none. I was turning away from the desk when a man spoke to me. He could have heard my inquiry of the clerk. This man said to me, "Are you in search of a billet?" I said, "Yes." Thereupon he asked me if I knew Barclay's Bank in Lombard Street. I said I did not know it, but I would find it. He then gave me an envelope with the particulars on it as to how the cheque was to be cashed. He said there was a cheque inside and he wanted me to go to the bank and get it changed as he had written on the envelope, and when I had got it changed I was to take a "taxi" and meet him at the smoking-room at the "Golden Cross" Hotel, Charing Cross. I did not look at the cheque until I got to the bank, when I took it out and presented it. I had no idea the cheque had been forged and had nothing to do with the forging of it. I did not ask the man his name; his name was on the cheque. With regard to the evidence of Mr. Griggs and Inspector Thompson, what they say as to the conversation is substantially true. I had never seen the man before in my life. I believed it to be a bona-fide cheque. I have never been charged with any crime of dishonesty.
Cross-examined. I deserted at Brighton. I have no private means. I have been living in London; I have lots of friends in London who have lent me money. I have had no occupation in London. I have never been a clerk. It is not true that I deserted because I was constantly in trouble with the authorities. I have not been in front of an officer since we left South Africa; I have a clean defaulter's sheet. I did not absent myself from my regiment on many occasions in South Africa. I was not detained sometimes on account of having delirium tremens. I never deserted from the army in South Africa. I did not go to a number of hotels out there with another man representing myself to be an officer of the advanced guard. I was not arrested for that, but for absence; we were absent three days and got punished for three days' absence. Since October I have been living at Ham mersmith at 38, Cambridge Road, but not all the time; I have also been living in the Mall. As to whether a man named Charles Wellings, a man called Clark, and a man called Bert Manners visited me at Cambridge Road—Clark I do not know. A man named Stapleton did not call upon me there nor a man named Seaton.
Mr. Rooth. With regard to Wellings and Manners, are they respectable people?
Mr. O'Connor objected to the question.
The Recorder. It goes to the credit of the witness. The suggestion of the prosecution is that this may have been the act of one man or it may have been the act of several men. I cannot exclude the question.
Further cross-examined. As far as I know they were perfectly respectable men. Charles Wellings is my brother. I had not seen him since 1898. I was staying at Cambridge Road with him. I did not know that he had been in trouble. I knew nothing about Manners or Seaton. They came to see my brother. I had never before seen the gentleman who spoke to me outside the "Telegraph" office. I did not even know his name nor the residence at which he lived. I presumed this was the commencement of his taking me into his employment as a servant. He probably would have given me his name and address if I had gone back to him. The evidence given by Mr. Cornish, by Mr. Griggs, and by the detective-inspector accurately describes what took place, with the exception of my having entered the employment on Saturday. I surmised the name of the gentleman who gave me the cheque was Hunt, that being the name on the cheque. I never received the reply to my advertisement. It was the gentleman I met who told me to go to the "Golden Cross" Hotel. I have not the slightest idea from whom the answer to the advertisement came. As to it being a curious coincidence that the same hotel should have been mentioned in the letter card you may put it that way. As to whether I have ever been trusted before with an open cheque of that size, I was entrusted with £100,000 in South Africa to take 80 miles across the country. I was by myself; the Dutchmen knew of it. I naturally thought the cheque had been honestly come by or I should not have taken it. I did not give him my name. I could have done what I liked with the proceeds; he did not accompany me, but, as you suggest, left it to my honour to find him at this hotel.
To the Recorder. The gentleman said nothing to me about having answered my advertisement. He may have heard the number in which I advertised. I was not expecting to receive a letter card when I went in reply to my advertisement. I knew nothing about a letter card being posted on Saturday night. If posted on Saturday night at eight o'clock I might reasonably have expected to receive it at nine o'clock on Monday morning. If the card had been found in my pocket at the bank I could then have produced it and said I called in response to the answer to this advertisement. I cannot explain how it is that the man I met told me to meet him in the smoking room of the "Golden Cross" Hotel, and the writer of the card in reply to my advertisement on the Saturday also requests me to meet him at the "Golden Cross" Hotel. It is a curious coincidence.
Verdict, Not guilty of forging but Guilty of uttering, and the Jury recommended prisoner to mercy on account of his good character.
Mr. Rooth stated that prisoner's brother, Charles Wellings, is now awaiting trial with three other persons on a precisely similar charge. Prisoner's character in the army had not been good, there being seven convictions for drunkenness and two for absenting. Prisoner had been twice detained in the Military Hospital suffering from delirium
tremens. He deserted with another soldier and travelled through the country representing himself to be an officer.
The Recorder said he thought they need not trouble about that. As prisoner had three medals and eight clasps he could not have been such a very bad soldier.
Mr. Booth said he had further information as to which he did not know whether it would be for or against prisoner. He was at a public school and was well educated.
Sentence, Nine months' hard labour.