14th August 1837
Reference Numbert18370814-1742
VerdictGuilty > unknown

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1742. JAMES NATION was indicted for stealing, on the 5th of August, 1 coffee-pot, value 9l. 12s.; 1 cream-ewer, value 2l. 8s. and 1 towel, value 1s.; the goods of James Harris Huckins, in a vessel, in a port of entry and discharge.—2nd COUNT, stating the property to belong to Asa William Henry Clapp and another.

MESSRS. ADOLPHUS and BODKIN conducted the Prosecution.

JAMES SUARD WILLIAMS . I am mate of the brig Speed, which laid in the London Docks on the 1st of August. Mr. Huckins is the master—there is an opening from the dock into the port, out into the river—Mr. Clapp is a merchant, and is owner of the vessel—she had discharged her cargo on the other side of the dock, and had taken in another cargo, and was outward bound—we had a wooden case on board, marked N. A., No. 1, which was represented to contain silver plate—it was placed in the captain's state-room—the prisoner was a custom-house officer, and was in charge of the vessel for six or seven days—he slept in the state-room—no one else slept there—the case came on board in the morning of the 1st of August—the prisoner was on board when it came, and knew what was represented as the contents—he took an account of it as an officer—it would be mentioned in the cocket—he had a box on board, containing his own clothes, which was kept on the quarter-deck—on the Saturday after the 1st of August,

between five and six o'clock in the evening, I saw the case in the state room, apparently safe as it was when originally placed there—I afterwards went on shore, leaving Lee, the steward, the prisoner, and five or six men on board—I returned in about an hour, when, in consequence of what Lee told me, I went down to the state-room—there was no one there—I saw the wooden case broken open, and a silver tea-pot lying out on the cabin floor—I let it lay there, and said nothing to any one—the prisoner was on the quarter-deck when I came on board—the captain came on board about nine o'clock next morning, and I told him what I had seen—I went down with an officer, and the captain and steward, and saw the case and tea-pot just as I had seen them before.

Cross-examined by MR. BALLANTINE. Q. All you know about it is from Lee, except what you saw when you went into the cabin by his information? A. Yes—the prisoner slept there that night—the tea-pot was lying partly unpapered on the floor—any body going down must see it imme diately—about a week before this Lee got a thrashing from the second mate—any body could go down into the cabin—I do not know of any body coming on board to see the steward—I never saw any woman on board since the vessel has been there.

MR. BODKIN Q. Is the state-room large or small? A. About five feet wide, and eight feet long—a man can just go in to dress and turn in—nobody but the officer has a right to go into the state-room—I believe the officer who has charge of the vessel is not allowed to leave it, but I do not know—the prisoner has been on shore, but he left another officer on board the while.

DAVID LEE . I am steward on board the Speed. On Saturday evening, the 5th of August, I had occasion to go down to the cabin—the door of the state-room was open, and I saw the prisoner with a piece of the lid of the box off, and lying by the side of the box; and a knife in his right hand, prizing the other part of the lid off—a hammer was lying by the side of the box—several packages, which had been on the box in the course of the day, were removed, and put on the captain's chest—I did not say anything to the prisoner—he saw me, and moved the box back to its place, put the other packages on it, and said, "I must take care of these things"—after that he said to me, "Steward, I could put you in the way of making four or five pounds"—I said, "Officer, what do you mean by that?"—he made me no answer, but turned about, and laid down on the transom—the mate came on board about eight o'clock, and I told him what I had seen.

Cross-examined by MR. JONES. Q. Is this an American ship? A. Yes—I had come from Havannah with it—the prisoner had been on board about a week—he could go on shore when he liked, and had been—I did not speak to him when I saw him doing this—as he was a custom-house officer I thought it was something he had to do with it—I did not know what was in the box—I do not know how long it had been on board—I did not see it brought—I had no notion what was in it—I did not put it into the state-room nor see it put there—I have not seen any visitors on board—some stewards may have called as they passed along, as the vessels lie alongside each other, and they pass from one vessel to the other to get ashore—no friends have been to see me, nor any person at all—no woman has been on board since the vessel has been in the dock, nor alongside it—I had a quarrel with the second mate a few days before this—he had given me a thrashing—I did not complain to the prisoner about that—he was on board at the time—I did not talk to him about going before a Magistrate about it—he did not tell

me, if I went before a Magistrate it would put three or four pounds in my pocket—I will swear he did not lay so, nor any thing of the kind—he did not say the Magistrate would fine the mate for heating me—I was talking about it that day on deck, but not in the state-room—I was present when the prisoner's box was opened, and the plate discovered—he said, "That steward has put this into my cheat"—he also said I had got the key of his box-his key could not be found—I had not got it—I had seen him open his box with the key—I never saw it left in his box.

MR. ADOLPHUS? Q. Had you ever his key in your possession for a moment in your lift? A. No—I had not taken any thing out of the plate box, nor put any thing into his box—I was present when he was asked where the key of his box was, and he said he had lost it, and could not open the box—the officer said he should force it open—he said no man should open his box—I was present when it was opened, and saw this silver coffee-pot taken out—he had nothing to do with the quarrel between me and the mate.

JAMES HARRIS HUCKINS . I am matter of the Speed—I was ashore on the 5th of August, and returned on board about nine o'clock on toe 6th—Williams, the mate, made a communication to me—I was in the cabin adjoining the state-room at the time—I looked into the state-room, and then went myself for an officer who came afterwards—I saw the case, which stood under tome others, protruded out no far that I could see it had been opened—when the officer came, the prisoner was called down into the cabin, and the officer asked him if he knew any thing of the box containing the silver plate—he pointed the box out to him is it stood on the transom with the lid forced off—he said, no, he knew nothing about it—Lee, who was present, was then asked if he knew who had broken the box open, and he said that he came into the cabin after I had left the ship on Saturday night, and saw the prisoner near the box with a knife in his hand and part of the lid off; and as Boon at he taw him he took some cases which stood on my chest, and put on it, and said, "I must take care of this," and then turned to him and said, "If you have a mind I will put you in the way of making four or five pounds for yourself"—the prisoner replied, "You did not"—the police officer searched the cabin and state room, and other places, and found tome paper which appeared to have contained plate, under my mattress in the state-room—we came to the prisoner's box on the quarter-deck—it was locked, and the officer asked him to open it—he said he had lost the key—the policeman asked him to break it open—he said he would not, nor should any other person—he said the lock cost him 18d., it was a new one, and he did not want to spoil it—he was at that time in custody charged with stealing these things—he sat down on his box, and requested the officer to search the forecastle—that was done, but nothing was found—the officer then took him and his box on shore—I accompanied them, and saw the box broken open, and the silver coffee-pot was found in it, wrapped up as it is now, in a towel belonging to me, and a handkerchief which I do not know—the towel generally hung on the bulk-head near the state-room—when the case was opened we found a silver sugar-basin in it—when the prisoner lifted the lid of his box, he said, "I see somebody has been playing me a trick; that steward has put this into my box, stolen my key, and locked my box, and thrown the key overboard"—Lee has been about fifteen months on board the vessel—I did not know him before—he still belongs to the ship—the vessel laid in the Port of London.

Cross-examined by MR. BALLANTINE. Q. Did you see the tea-pot lying

in the state-room? A. Yes—it met my eye immediately on my looking round—it could have been seen by any body there—the prisoner had the opportunity of going ashore.

MR. BODKIN. Q. Would it be regular for him to go ashore without another officer taking charge of the vessel? A. Yes—they do do so, I understand—he could take his box ashore without it being searched.

DANIEL RUDKINS . I am an officer belonging to the London Dock. On Sunday, the 6th of August, I was sent for on board the brig Speed—I saw the prisoner on deck—I went down into the cabin with the captain, who told me, in the prisoner's hearing, he had a case on board, broken open—I asked the prisoner if he knew any thing about the case being broken open—he said no, he knew nothing about it—I asked him if he slept in the state-room—he said he did—I said, "Do you mean that you slept there, and know nothing about the case being plundered"?—he said he knew nothing about it—I asked the steward if he knew any thing about it—he said, yes, he came down into the cabin and stated what he saw the prisoner do—I told the prisoner I must take him into custody—he said, "No, no man shall take me alive into custody"—I told him I must examine his box and bed—he felt in his pockets, and said, "No, you can't do that, I have lost my key"—I said, "Well, if you have, take and break it open, if you do not I shall"—he said, "No," and placed himself on the lid, "no man shall break my box open"—I said, "Well, I will take you and your box to the watch-house"—he said, "No, no man living shall take me, nor my box either"—I asked the Captain to lend me two men to assist me to the watch-house with the box, and I took him and the box to the watch-house—I then said, "Will you break open the box? if you do not, we shall"—I gave him a hammer—he hit the bottom of the lid and it flew up—he said, "There, by God, this steward has been play ing me a trick"—I found the coffee-pot in the towel—he took it in his hand and said, "By God, Captain, this is your towel, the steward has been playing me a trick, and that is how my key is gone"—the towel was wrapped round the coffee-pot then, and what was in it could not be seen—next morning I applied to the Customs and had the case re-landed, and found this sugar-basin in it.

Cross-examined by MR. JONES. Q. How long have you known the prisoner? A. I have seen him at the docks several years as a customhouse officer.

JOHN INNOCENT . I am in the employ of Lambert and Robson of Coventry-street. These articles are their manufacture, and were furnished to a gentleman who was going out to America, whose name I do not remember—I took them in this case to the Docks, to be shipped on board the Speed—it was opened and examined at the Custom-house in my presence, and re-packed.

GUILTY . Aged 35.— Transported for Ten Years.

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