2nd August 1881
Reference Numbert18810802-753
VerdictNot Guilty > unknown

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753. FREDERICK DEVERELL (18) and WILLIAM HENRY GRAIN (17) , Feloniously setting fire to certain furze on Wimbledon Common.

MR. MCCLYMONT. Prosecuted; MR. HORACE AVORY. Defended. JESSE REEVES. I am head keeper of Wimbledon Common—on Sunday, 17th July, I was watching and saw a fire break out near the Windmill—I went towards it, and just as I got to it I saw another fire break out nearer Wimbledon; I ran on, and a third fire broke out about 75 yards nearer Wimbledon—I saw Mason standing there in plain clothes; we went farther down the furze; I sat down and watched, and Mason left me for a minute or two—I then saw the two prisoners working their way through some high furze direct from the previous fires and coming towards me—Mason rejoined me, and I called his attention to them—Grain worked his way through the furze to the other side of the clump, and stood there keeping watch; Deverell went into a large, high clump of furze, came out, and went into another, where he appeared to throw something into the bushes, and immediately rushed into the open, ran about twenty yards, and then stopped and looked back, but seeing no fire he again returned, slipped one foot into the furze, struck a light and threw it in, jumped back about two paces, and the fire blazed up—he then ran and rejoined Grain, who came out from the other side of the clump; they both walked rapidly away together, and I ran after them—Deverell looked round, saw me coming, and ran away into Mason's arms, who had gone round the bushes to intercept him—I ran back and caught Grain, and before I could speak to him he said "I know nothing about this man"—I said "That don't matter to me; you were coming with him through the furze, and you ran away with him"—he said "I admit I came from Waterloo with him this morning"—there were nine fires' that day, and about an acre and a half of furze was destroyed—it would have been much more but for the volunteers turning out and working hard to put it out—several trees were destroyed.

Cross-examined. The camp had been there seven days; this was the second Sunday; that is the favourite day for visitors—it was very hot, and the furze was very dry—we have had fires so often that without looking at my book I cannot tell you how many, but we have caught most of the men and convicted them—the road is thirty or forty yards from where the first fire was, and about the same distance from the other two—I sat down and saw the prisoners working their way through furze four or five feet high, but some of which is seven feet high; they were three or four yards apart, one behind the other—they were not twenty yards apart—I could not see what Deverell threw into the furze; I was about forty yards from him; I said he apparently threw something—I presumed he was trying to set fire to the furze—I ran towards him—I am sure there was nothing else in his hand—I saw no cigarettes—when the fire actually broke out they walked away together—Grain was ten or twelve yards off when the match was thrown on the Wandsworth side of the bush, but not out of Deverell's sight—I did not see either of them

with cigarettes, and there were no other persona near, but I daresay people were wandering all over the common.

Re-examined. I saw the prisoners come from where the first fire was to where the other fire was, one behind the other—if they had been smoking I must have seen it—I saw Deverell strike a light deliberately and throw it into the furze.

MASON (Policeman V 235). On 17th July I was on duty in plain clothes at Wimbledon Camp—I met Reeves, who asked me to come with him—he sat down on the edge of a gravel pit and I went away for a few minutes, and then came back and went round a clump of furze—I then saw Deverell go into the furze, but could not see what he did—he came out and ran away a little distance, and then returned and looked—I saw him return a third time and stoop down, and then the bush went into flames and he ran into my arms—he had no pipe, cigar, or cigarette—I said "I shall take you in custody for setting fire to the furze"—he said "All right"—I saw Reeves run after Grain—I searched both prisoners and found a box of fusees on each, and some cigarette papers and tobacco on Deverell.

Cross-examined. I was about 10 yards from Reeves, standing up in the furze, so that my head was visible above the top—there were bushes all round, but there was boarding on one side—it was a calm day—I did not see Grain till after the bush was in flames—they were walking side by side as the bush went into flames—I do not think they began to run till Beeves began to run.

GEORGE SKEATES . (Police Inspector 2). On 17th July I was on duty on Wimbledon Common—about 8,20 I laid down at the edge of a gravel pit, and saw Deverell about 40 yards from me behind a furze bush—he went about three paces and turned round, and immediately the bush sprang into flames—I saw Beeves run towards him—I ran the reverse way behind the bushes—Grain was standing 8 or 10 yards away, apparently watching while Deverell was in the bush—when I got round the bush I found Deverell in Mason's custody—I took hold of Grain and assisted in taking him to the station—he said "I know nothing of this man," but he afterwards said "I came from Waterloo with him this morning."

Cross-examined. Grain was 10 or 12 yards from Deverell when he came from behind the bush—Deverell did not run till Reeves began to run—I saw no match struck.

ROBERT WILLIAM GOODEN . I live at 10, Winthorpe Road, Putney, and am a booking clerk—on 17th July I was at the camp, saw a fire, ran to it, and saw Superintendent Dig by—while I was speaking to him another fire broke out 50 yards away; that was put out, and, as I was walking away, I saw Grain come through the furze, and saw another fire break out about 70 yards behind him—I ran towards it, and about the time I got half way to it I saw a fire break out at the spot I had seen Grain—the fires were both put out, and in a quarter of an hour another fire broke out, and just as it began to blaze up I saw Grain in charge, and said "You have got one of the right ones"—I had previously described him to Digby.

Cross-examined. Everybody seemed to keep away from the furze; I kept away because I would not be accused—any person in the furze would naturally be suspected—Grain was the only person I saw in the

furze, bar the volunteers, who were putting out the fires, and moat of them had flannel trousers on.

Re-examined, No one could have thrown a match from the high road to where the fire broke out.

The prisoners received good characters.



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