19th October 1885
Reference Numbert18851019-1030
VerdictNot Guilty > unknown

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1030. WILLIAM MAHONEY (42), Setting fire to a mattress in the dwelling-house of Richard Higgins, one Thomas Mahoney being therein, and with intent to set fire to the said dowelling-house.

MR. POYNTER Prosecuted; MR. WARBURTON Defended.

RICHARD HIGGINS . I am a biscuit baker, of 18, Bell Court, Bermondsey, and am the landlord of that house—the prisoner occupied the first-floor front—on Friday night, 11th September, between 9 and 10, I was standing at my front door—my wife and children were in bed on the floor below—the prisoner's wife was out, and all the children except one, a little boy—I saw the prisoner come downstairs—he passed me without saying anything—the little boy came down and called to his little brother in the court—I saw the reflection of a fire in the prisoner's room—I went up and tried to quench it—the mattress was alight—I pulled it off

and quenched it as much as I could—I went for a pail of water to put it out as the firemen came—the prisoner came back at 12.30, and insisted on coining in—I said "You won t come in to-night," and I went out and called a policeman, and gave him in custody—he did not seem drunk—he said he did not do it wilfully, but that he had a candle and was looking for some money he had put away—he came to lodge there on 7th September—when I went into the room I found a candle on the mantelpiece lighted, and half a box of matches by the side of it—there was no one in the room when I went up.

Cross-examined. I live on the premises, but am very seldom there, because of my work—he did not know me as Mr. Higgins, but he knew I was the landlord, because he lived at No. 16 before—when I went up I could hardly see for the smoke—I am used to go amongst smoke from the work in my own place—I did not see that any water had been thrown over the mattress, it was in flames—it was less than a minute after I saw the prisoner that I went upstairs—there was no basin or jug there; they had not got any—the burn in the mattress was two or three feet.

Re-examined. The prisoner took the room unfurnished, and brought his own things—the people washed themselves downstairs—there was no water in the room; I saw no sign of water on the floor.

ANN STEERS . I am single, and live at 3, Bell Court, facing the prisoner's window, and work at a jam factory—I was at Bell Court with my sister on the evening of 11th September—my sister called my attention to the prisoner's window, and I saw a flare in his room—I saw him close against the bed with a candle in his hand—the blind was down, but it does not quite meet the window—I did not see what he did with the candle—the flare went down when he was in the room and then came up again—he only left the room once.

Cross-examined. I could see clearly into the room in spite of the smoke—I saw the prisoner pass Mr. Higgins at the door, but could not see in what state the fire was then—I could see a good deal of flaring, but cannot tell exactly the state of the fire when he left the room.

ANGELINA STEERS . I am single, and the sister of the last witness—I was in the room on this night and called her attention to the opposite window, and saw the prisoner go towards his bed with a candle—a flare came up while he was in the room, and went down, and then went up again, and he left the room—I do not know whether he tried to put it out.

HENRY WEIGHT (Metropolitan Five Brigade). At 10.19 on Friday, 11th September, I was called and went to this house with a manual engine—I found the bed and bedding slightly damaged by fire; it was all out them—the wall and wainscot on the side of the room were charred—I did not see the mattress.

GEORGE PAWSEY (Policeman M 213). I was on duty and assisted in taking the fire-escape to Bell Court—at about 12.45 the same night Higgins followed the prisoner up Bermondsey Street and gave him in custody for setting fire to a mattress at 18, Bell Court—the prisoner said "It is a mistake"—I took him to the station and he was afterwards charged—1s. 6 1/2d. was found on him—he was sober, I should say; he seemed a little excited.

Cross-examined. I did not search for any money in the mattress. INSPECTOR BUSTING. I was on duty when the prisoner was brought to

the station—a little boy was also there, and I asked him, in the prisoner's presence, whether he knew anything about the fire—he said "Yes"—I asked how it came on fire, and he said "Daddy did it with a match"—I said "What did he do then?"—he said "He went out of the room, and I followed him"—I said to the prisoner "You hear what the child has said;" he made no answer—I afterwards went to the room and examined it—the bed fits into a recess, lengthways, and in the farther corner the wall was very much charred, and the foot of the bed—the window-blind did not fit within about six inches on each side, and from the window opposite I could see plainly into the room—I found about a foot of the mattress burnt entirely away, and another portion of it charred.

Cross-examined. I did not examine it to see if there was any money there.

By the COURT. About 5s. would pay for the furniture in the room—there were no materials for washing there—there was an old pail with the bottom half out—there were some signs of water—that was done by Higgins to put out the fire.

The Prisoner's Statement before the Magistrate. "I was only looking for a few halfpence, 2s. 6d. I put there to get myself a jacket. The mattress was open, and all the straw caught. I went and got half a pail of water which was in the room, and threw over it; I thought it was out I went down to see where my wife was."

RICHARD HIGGINS (Re-examined). I have not found any money in the mattress.


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