JOHN SWINDEN, Theft > mail theft, 30th April 1794.

Reference Number: t17940430-14
Offence: Theft > mail theft
Verdict: Guilty > with recommendation
Punishment: Death
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242. JOHN SWINDEN was indicted for that he being a person employed in sorting letters in the General Post-office, sent by the post to the said General Post-office, on the 20th of August last, on the said day, a certain letter sent to and in the said General Post-office , then lately before, by one Peter Wedd of Cambridge, and directed to one Robert Wedd of Gerard-street, in the parish of St. Ann, in the liberty of Westminster; containing a bank note, No. 3461, dated London, the 6th of April 1793, signed and subscribed by one William Dunn , for the Governor and Company of the Bank of England, for the payment of fifteen pounds, came to his hands and possession, and that afterwards on the same day, at the parish of St. Mary Woolnoth. being so employed as aforesaid, then and there having the letter, containing the bank

note in his possession, he feloniously did secret the said letter, then and there containing the said bank note, being the property of Robert Wedd .

Indicted in three other COUNTS charging him with the same offence, only varying in the manner of charging it.

(The indictment opened by Mr. - and the case by Mr. Garrow.)


I am a merchant, I live at Cambridge. On the 19th of August, 1793, I inclosed a fifteen pounds bank note in a letter, No. 3461.

Q. Did you take any memorandum of the number of the note, at the time that you enclosed it? - Yes.

Q. To whom did you direct the letter? - To Robert Wedd , No. 5, Gerard-street, Soho; when I had sealed the letter, I put it into the post office myself, the memorandum of the number of the note, was taken by one Stephen Giber .

Mr. Knowlys. Therefore you rely on his taking the number only.


Q. Did you live with the last witness, Mr. Wedd, in August last? - I did.

Q. Did you receive of him a bank note, in order to take down the particulars of it? - Yes.

Q. Did you take it down in his presence? - I did.

Q. When you had taken it down did you give back the note to him? - Yes, I did, and he inclosed it in a letter.

Q. In what book or paper did you enter the description of this note? - In this book.

Q. What book is that? - This is a book where we enter all notes, our bill book.

Q. What entry did you make there? - I copied it from the bank note.

Q. What is the number? - 3461, the gentleman's name I received it of, is John Oakly , fifteen pounds payable to Abraham Newland , William Dunn by whom drawn, April 6, 1793, entered William Garratt .

Q. Look at the note, do you believe that to be the note? - Yes.

Q. Is that the same that was sent to Robert Wedd ? - It was, that is the note that I returned to Mr. Peter Wedd , the last witness, after I had made the entry of it.

(The note read by the clerk of the Court.)


I am clerk to the Post office at Cambridge, and was so on the 19th of August last.

Q. When were the letters of that day which were addressed for London, forwarded to London? - On the evening of the 19th.

Q. Was the bag sealed at Cambridge before it was delivered to the mail coach? - It was never sent unsealed to my knowledge the bag was sealed and delivered to the guard in the yard.

Q. According to the course of the post, when would that mail arrive in London? - Early the next morning of the 20th.


I am clerk in the General Post-office in London.

Q. Was the Cambridge, bag the morning of the 20th of August, received safe in London? - It was.

Q. Sealed in the usual manner? - I will not swear it was sealed, but nothing struck me but what was in the usual manner, and the course is that they should arrive sealed.


I am an attorney in Gerard-street, Soho, and brother to Mr. Peter Wedd .

Q. Did you receive either the letter or the bank note? - Neither, it never came to my hand, I never saw the bank note till I saw it at the Bank, which I believe was on the 3d of September.

- FERGUSON sworn.

I am an inspector of the letter carriers.

Q. Was you so on the 20th of August last? - I was.

Q. At that time was the prisoner at the bar employed in the Post Office? - He was.

Q. What was his employment in the Post Office the 20th of August? - As a letter carrier, and he assisted in subsorting of the letters .

Q. What was his duty in that character? - The letters are sorted first by twelve sorters in twelve divisions.

Q. When they are sorted by the twelve sorters to whom are they delivered? - To the letter carriers, who subsort them into the different districts to deliver them.

Q. Was that part of the prisoner's duty on that day? - Yes.

Q. Did the letters directed for Gerard-street fall among those that he sorted? - It might or might not.

Q. Is his walk to carry letters in Gerard street? - No, it is not. There are one hundred and ten districts and twelve divisions; and there were ten districts in this division that he forted. The first sorters make them into twelve divisions, when the postage is tolled and the letters are delivered to the carriers, and they are subsorted by the letter carriers of that division, and they are subsorted by the letter carriers of that division, and they subsort them, and each one take to deliver to their own district; one of them divisions are delivered out to the letter carriers, who subsort the letters for their own districts; there were ten in this division.

Q. Was Gerard-street in that division in which that man was one of the ten to sort? - Yes.

Q. Then Gerard-street must be among them sorters? - Naturally speaking it must be, but it might be given to others, being put in wrong by the first sorters under a mistake.

Q. Is there any particular period in which the letter carriers make their payment at the Post-office? - Every other day.

Q. What are the days? - Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Q. In the week in which this 20th of August fell, was the prisoner at the bar regular in making his payments on the Monday, Wednesday, and Friday-(Produces a memorandum book.)

Mr. Knowlys. Are the entries in that memorandum book, made by yourself? - They are. On the 21st of August he was deficient eight pounds and four-pence on that day, Wednesday, by two o'clock.

Q. When did he in fact pay it? - Not till the day following, Thursday, it was paid into the revenue on the Friday following, but I think he paid it on Thursday.

Q. What is the consequence if a letter carrier does not make good his payments? - The post master's order is, that he be suspended till such times as it is paid.

Q. According to the rules of the Post Office when would he have been reported? - On Friday, if it had not been paid.

Mr. Raine. If I understand you right, there were nine others into whose hands these letters might have fell? - Yes, there were.

Q. There are a great many persons by at the time that this process takes place? - Yes, I believe one hundred and ten.

Q. Is there any strangers admitted? - Yes, sometimes they come in enquiring for letters, and when the gates are opened they will come in to enquire for letters, but not in general till the sorting is all over, except an old woman, that supplies the letter carriers.

Court. Are there any other sorters in the room besides these ten sorters of this division, when they are sorted by the letter carriers? - All the divisions are sorted in the same room, they are three rooms, but they are all connected together.

Q. So that all the sorters have access to all these rooms? - Yes.

Mr. Raine. If I understand your description right, there is a class of sorters, and a class of subsorters? - There is.

Q. At this time the prisoner at the bar was employed as a subsorter, and not as a sorter? - It was so.

Q. In these twelve divisions it sometimes happens that a mistake happens, a letter gets into a wrong division frequently? - It is impossible to avoid that.

Prosecutor's Counsel. When a mistake happens what is done with the letter? - There are boxes for each of the twelve divisions, they are thrown off to the division it belong to.


Mr. Garrow. You are sworn Mr. Shillcock? - Yes.

Q. What employment was you in, the 19th or 20th of August last? - I was waiter at the sign of the Southampton Arms, in the road that leads from Tottenham Court, to Hampstead.

Q. How long have you known the prisoner at the bar? - About seven or eight years.

Q. Do you recollect being examined at the office at Bow-street? - Yes.

Q. Do you remember any bank note being produced at the office at Bow-street, when you and the prisoner was there? - Yes, there was a bank note produced.

Q. Of whom had you received that bank note? - I received it of the prisoner at the bar,

Q. When did you receive it? - On Monday night.

Q. Did you state the time correctly at Bow-street? - I think I did.

Q. Can you tell us how long it was before you was examined at Bow street? - I might be about three weeks.

Q. Can you tell us what day of the month it was that you received it? - I cannot.

Q. What time of the day was it? - I am pretty sure it was in the evening.

Q. Where was it? - At the Southampton Arms.

Q. For what purpose? - There was a little money between Mr. Swinden and me, he owed me twenty-seven shillings, and I received the note, and I was to get it changed; it was a fifteen pounds.

Q. Did you return him the difference after taking what was due to you? - I did.

Q. Who did you deliver it to? - To a person of the name of Bailey, who lives in the Terrace, on Tottenham-court-road.

Q. Do you recollect whether the prisoner was with you twice on the day after that you had the note, or whether he came but once? - He came twice, the first time he came I had not got the change to give him; I think it was between one and two that he came and gave me the note; I delivered the note the same day to Mrs. Bailey.

Q. And which note you received from the prisoner? - I did so.

Q. How long had the debt of twenty-seven shillings been due to you? - A fortnight, or there away.

Mr. Knowlys. To the best of your recollection this was on Monday night? - I think it was on Monday.

Mr. Garrow. I did not understand you to speak with any certainty about the day? - No, I think it was Monday.

Q. Was it the same day you give it to Mrs. Bailey? - Yes, it was, I had business to go to Tottenham-court road, or else I should not have given it to her.


Q. Where did you live in the month of August last? - No. 2, in the Terrace, Tottenham-court-road.

Q. Did you change a bank note for Shillcock at any time? - Yes, it was either on Tuesday or Wednesday, I think it was Tuesday.

Q. What month? - I cannot say.

Q. How long before you was examined at Bow-street? - I think about five or six weeks.

Q. What did you do with that note? - I took it to Mr. Underwood, and got it changed.

Q. How long after you received it from Shillcock, was it you changed it with Mr. Underwood? - Within two hours.

Q. What did you do with the change? - I carried it to Mr. Shillcock and gave it him.

Mr. Rains. You have a very imperfect recollection of the day in which this transaction took place? - It was either on a Tuesday, or a Wednesday.

Q. Or a Thursday perhaps? - No.

Q. Recollect yourself Mrs. Bailey, when it ought to have been more recent in your recollection, you was more doubtful concerning the day? - I think it was on a Tuesday, or a Wednesday.

Q. Recollect yourself, in short you cannot at all remember precisely the day of the week, so it might have been on Monday.

Prosecutor's Counsel. Was it the same day you changed it with Underwood? - It was.


I keep a public house.

Q. Did you give cash at any time for a fifteen pounds bank note to the last witness, Mrs. Bailey? - It was on the 20th or 21st of August last, as well as I can recollect.

Q. How long did you keep it in your possession? - Till the 26th, I paid it then to Messrs. Hill and Rickards.

Q. Was it the same that you received from Mrs. Bailey that you paid to Mr. Rickards? - Yes, it is, I am positive.

Mr. Knowlys. You are not positive as to the day you received it? - I am not quite accurate.

Q. It might have been the 19th for what you know? - I know the day I paid it away, but I cannot say the day I received it.

Court. Do you happen to know the day of the week? - No, I do not.

Mr. Garrow. Do you happen to know how many days you had it in you possession? - About five.


Q. Did you receive that note of Mr. Underwood? - Yes, I received it on the 26th.


I am one of the cashiers of the Bank of England.

Q. Was you so in August last? - I was.

Q. By whom is that bank note signed? - By me, for the Governor and Company of the Bank of England.

Q. Was that note out standing on the 20th of August? - It was.


Q. I believe you was present at Bow-street when the prisoner was in custody on this charge, and when he was apprehended? - I was with Miller when he was taken.

Q. Did you hear him say at any time where he had received this note, or how he came by it.

Mr. Knowlys. Was it taken down in writing? - No, there was some memorandum making.

Mr. Garrow. At his own lodgings did he say any thing? - Yes.

Mr. Knowlys. Before he said any thing of this sort, did any body tell him he had better give some account of it? - No.

Mr. Garrow. Was there any thing before that said to him, either to induce him to say it, or to threaten him to say it? - He was in bed when we went to the house, and Shillcock by the direction of Miller, desired him to come down; when he came down stairs, he was asked by Miller what he had done with the fifteen pounds bank note? he hesitated some little time, but however by interrogating him with some degree of spirit, he said it was all gone different ways, and said if we would let him alone, he would make it up in the morning; very little more passed then, he put his clothes on, and we took him away in a coach, and we brought him down to the Brown Bear, the next morning he was examined at Bow-street.

Mr. Knowlys. At Bow-street there was some memorandum made in a book? - I will not take on me to say positively there was.

Mr. Garrow. But as to the time you was going to speak of, was there any thing in writing taken down at that time? - I rather think there was not; it was what I did not much attend to.


I am one of the clerks to the public office at Bow-street.

Q. Did you examine the original minute book to see if there was any examination of the prisoner taken? - There was only three or four words, a sentence begun but not finished, no more than that it begins, "the prisoner saith that."

Q. The question was not what the clerk had writ on any subject, but on your search did you find any one syllable which imported to have been said by the prisoner? - No, I did not, nothing only,"the prisoner saith that."

Court to Wedd. What was done with the letter? - I put it in the Post Office myself at Cambridge.

Mr. Rolse. I keep the Post Office at Cambridge.

Q. Who assists you in it? - Nobody, but my wife occasionally.

Q. Have you a memory of any such letter as that coming into your office? - That is impossible; I generally keep it myself, sometimes my wife, but that Monday evening the 19th, I was at home and my wife had no part of the business at all.

Q. How lately in the evening had you sealed that bag that night? - At the time that the Wisbich Mail comes in, that commonly comes in a quarter after ten, sometimes sooner, and sometimes later, I delivers it to the guard. I put the letters into the bag before, I shut the box at nine o'clock; it is a bag sealed for London only.

Court to Peter Wedd. You say you put the letter in the Post, did you pay any thing with it? - No.

Q. What time did you put it in? - Between eight and nine.

Q. Where did you put it in? - Into the letter box.

Rolfe. I saw Mr. Wedd go to the box, and had some particular conversation with him afterwards.

Q. Therefore if Mr. Wedd put it in you are absolutely certain you forwarded it in proper time? - I am.

Prisoner. I am conscious of my innocence, I was out nine weeks on bail, and

twice surrendered myself, and my bail even persuaded me to be absent if I was guilty; I told my bail I was not guilty and I would take my trial like a man.

Mr. Garrow. It is certainly true that this man did twice surrender himself, after having been out twice upon bail to take his trial.

The prisoner called twenty-one witnesses who gave him a very good character.

GUILTY. Death . (Aged 36.)

Tried by the London Jury before Mr. RECORDER.

Recommended to mercy by the Jury on account of his general good character, and his surrendering himself, and also by Mr. Wedd .

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