9th February 1891
Reference Numbert18910209-224
VerdictNot Guilty > directed; Not Guilty > unknown

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224. GEORGE LOVEDAY (44), GEORGE CULMER (25), and ELLEN WHEELER (70) (indicted with Ellen Ingram, not in custody), Feloniously setting fire to a dwelling-house at Walthamstow, with intent to injure and defraud.

MESSRS. BESLEY and GILL Prosecuted, and MR. ORMSBY Defended Wheeler.

FREDERICK WHITEHEAD . I have known Loveday from twelve to fifteen months—I also know Mrs. Ingram, and Mr. and Mrs. Capsey—I

have from time to time had conversation with Culmer and Wheeler on the subject of a fires, as to the mode in which houses could be set on fire—I was in the habit of visiting 38, Ringcroft Street, which was rented by Warren Ingram; I have seen Culmer and Wheeler there, Mrs. Capsey and Loveday; I could not fix the number of times, but on several occasions—I understood from Mrs. Ingram that Loveday had an income—I have seen him there in the daytime on one or two occasion", also in the evening—in July, 1890, Mrs. Ingram in Culmer's presence spoke about Loveday having a fire—I was then living at New North Road, Hoxton; I heard it spoken of on two or three occasions; Mrs. Ingram spoke of it—the conversation generally took place at 38, Ringcroft Street; she said that it was Loveday's house that was to be fired—on 12th August I went to Ringcroft Street about mid-day—Mrs. Ingram, Wheeler, Mrs. Capsey were there, and Culmer; and later on they were joined by Mrs. Culmer; I was shown a telegram during the afternoon; Mrs. Ingram said, "I have received this from Loveday, and I shall do the job to-night; you see it is all right to start at ten; I shall manage to bring it off about that time"—it was so arranged that Loveday should leave early in the evening, and go to some place of amusement—she spoke about a fire in general, and of a key in particular; she said she had received a key, or that Loveday had sent the key of his house—she said that George Culmer was to do the business with her assistance; I had nothing to do with it, simply I was invited to go and see the show, simply as a spectator—about seven that, evening I started to go to Walthamstow with Mrs. Ingram, Mrs. Capsey, Mrs. Culmer, George Culmer, and Wheeler—we got there about half-past eight—we first went to a public-house called the Cock; we remained there, I daresay, about half an hour, and from there we went to Hoxton Road, the six of us all in company—I went as far as the gate—Culmer and Mrs. Ingram went into the house; Mrs. Ingram appeared to open the door by what I could see—they stayed there some forty minutes I should think—the other women were at the other end of the street—I was outside the house on the opposite side; I saw them come out together—Mrs. Ingram went ahead; Culmer went a few steps and then he joined me—Mrs. Ingram passed me without speaking—Culmer said, "It's all right, it will be off in about five minutes"—we walked up and down, and I should say in about five minutes the fire broke out—I saw the flames come through the front and the back on the top floor; it burnt very furiously for about a half hour, or rather more—the usual scene followed; people rushed in and tried to get things from the bottom of the house, and succeeded in saving many things—eventually the local brigade arrived and assisted to pit the fire out—I stayed there until it was nearly out, about three-quarters of an hour after the outbreak; it was then practically extinguished—the women disappeared—I did not see them again that night at Walthamstow—Culmer and I went to 13, Whitmore Road—later that night I saw Mrs. Capsey and Mrs. Culmer there—prior to the fire, on the day of the telegram, Mrs. Ingram had explained to me that there was some difficulty in getting Loveday to settle the date of the fire, and she was very glad it was finally arranged.

Cross-examined by Loveday. I cannot fix the day when I saw you at Ringcroft Street; it was somewhere about Christmas, 1889—I heard

that Mrs. Ingram had purchased a piano—I can't say how many times I saw you there; somewhere about a dozen times, say inside a dozen; suppose we say about nine or ten times—I heard nothing about the fire spoken of in your presence—I know nothing about the telegram beyond what I have stated, what I was told by Mrs. Ingram—I did not hear you mention anything about the fire.

Cross-examined by Culmer. I can swear you were at Walthamstow on purpose to set the house on fire—I did not say I would have vengeance upon you when we dissolved partnership—I did not say I would have vengeance at any cost, because I could not get your wife away from you—I did not rob my firm of £20—I am not living with my wife—I never heard that the telegram meant an appointment to go to Brighton—Inever heard of it.

Re-examined. I do not know where Mrs. Ingram is—the last time I knew she could be found was the first part of September; she was then at an address I could mention—I have not seen her since a few days after the fire in Woodstock Road—I have not the slightest idea of her whereabouts—I cannot recollect any conversation about Mrs. Ingram and Loveday going to Brighton together.

WILLIAM BOSLEY . I am a builder, and live at Walthamstow—I have known Loveday nearly five years—I let him the house 53, Hoxton Road, Walthamstow, at 9s. a week—it is a seven-roomed house, six dwelling rooms and a scullery—he was in occupation there in December, 1889, and up to the time of the fire on 12th August following—I heard of the fire the same night, about half-past ten—I saw it burning, it was a very fierce fire—I saw no one belonging to his family or himself on the premises at the time; I saw the local firemen breaking the glass panels of the door—the fire was put out—Loveday was formerly a joiner when I first knew him, till he had money left him—he was living under me all the time I knew him, not in that house, he was in that house nearly two years—it was twelve months before the fire that he was carrying on business as a joiner—I am not at all aware what he was doing at this time—I could not say for certain what family he has, five or six at least; there was a wife and some children—so far as I know there was no one in the house at the time the fire broke out

Cross-examined by Loveday. During the time of your tenancy I found you a very good tenant—I never heard of your being connected with anybody having fires, or of your ever having a fire—you lived under other landlords before me—I presume you have been living on the money left you—I always found you a good tenant, I know nothing detrimental to you—I did not think you would set fire to the place—you had some musical instruments—I have seen two pianos and a piano organ, very good instruments—you were rather a lover of music.

ABEL CLARKE . I am a member of the Salvage Corps—about eleven—on the morning of 12th August, I took charge of the house, 53, Hoxton Road—I found that a fire had apparently broken out in the front room, first floor—it was very much burnt—it had severely damaged the back room—I saw Loveday there, and asked him how he thought the fire had occurred—the only supposition was, having taken his family out and left the lamp burning, it was by the explosion of the lamp—the fire had been so fierce that I think it would be impossible to come to any decided opinion as to the cause.

Cross-examined by Loveday. When I came to your place I put a new catch upon the lock—I got the key from you—I had no suspicion regarding the outbreak—I saw nothing suspicious—I had a good look over the premises—I thought it was genuine—I found the remains of genuine things upstairs—I heard you remark, "D—the fire; I ought to be down in the country"—I wrote out a settlement for the ground floor to get the furniture out—I got the roof off to prevent further damage.

Re-examined. All the greater portion of the downstairs things were saved, and distributed round to the neighbours; for instance, the piano was saved, but damaged—everything was taken out of the house on the night of the fire; the ceiling of the front room broke down into the sitting room; the fire was principally on the first floor.

JAMES SUTTON METCALF . I am agent of the Phœnix Fire Office—I received a communication from Mr. Loveday, and on that I sent a proposal form to his address 53, Hoxton Road—it was returned filled up, as it now appears—the assurance proposed was for £300 on household goods, etc., mathematical and musical instruments—I received this letter from him without a date, with an 8s. postal order for the premium—I subsequently received this letter proposing the policy to be for £400—the policy was issued in January, 1890—on 13th August I heard of the fire at the premises, and this claim was received—it has the signature "George Loveday"—it was sent to Winstanley and Co. to settle—the claim was for £391—it purports to show damage by fire in every room of the house—I had nothing to do with the settlement of the amount.

Cross-examined by Loveday. I insured you before in 1882, as a greengrocer—I never knew you to have a fire before—the policy in 1882 lapsed a year afterwards—I think that was for £200.

GEORGE KING . I am a partner in the firm of Winstanley, Horwood, and Co., assessors to the Phoenix—I had notice of this fire at 53, Hoxton Road—I went there the day after the fire, and saw Loveday—he said that he left about 6 30 the previous evening; that his wife and eight children had gone on before; that they went to the Agricultural Hall, and returned by the last train, and found the place had been on fire; that he had left a paraffin lamp burning in his bedroom, and he supposed that it exploded—if I wanted to find out as to his being away I could easily ascertain, as it was known as Loveday's boarding-school, and he had a number of children—this was a six-roomed house with a scullery—the fire had apparently broken out upstairs in his own bedroom—there were three other rooms used as bedrooms; those three rooms were burnt out; the roof was burnt off, and the fire had gone downstairs; the lower rooms were damaged by water and by removal—I afterwards received from him this claim, amounting to £391—it appears to deal somewhat exhaustively with every room in the house—there are a large number of items in the first floor front; that was the principal bedroom; they were nearly all destroyed—we made an offer of £213, which was accepted and signed for—the salvage remained his property.

Cross-examined by Loveday. I had a good look round when I first came to your house—there were three rooms upstairs, but one was not touched—there was very little in the back room, the ante-room—£9 13s. 6d. is charged for that room—the only suspicion I had was that

I thought it was a very funny thing you should take such a number of children out—the lower part of the house was well furnished—I did not think that had been set on fire—the fire was said to have commenced in your bedroom; that was burnt out, and the roof off—there was a wardrobe that was burnt and destroyed—parts of it were found—I found a plate box; the principal items mentioned were in it—there was a good deal of contention about that on your part—there was a mahogany plate chest; I should say all the items in that were there—there were very few there—I had no evidence that it was not a genuine fire—I thought it was a suspicious thing leaving a paraffin lamp burning so many hours—I allowed £52 10s. for the damage done to the bottom part of the house.

Re-examined. I don't know the ages of the eight children; I did not see any dogs on the premises.

WALTER DINNEY (Detective Inspector). I took Loveday into custody on 2nd December last at his house in High Street, Walthamstow—I had a warrant, I read it to him; it was for conspiring with others to defraud the Phœnix and other fire offices—he said, "I never set fire to the place; what evidence have you got that I did?"—I said, "I understand you sent a telegram to Mrs. Ingram about the fire, but you will hear the evidence against you at the Court"—he said, "Yes, I did send a telegram to Mrs. Ingram "—he hesitated, and said, "But that was about another matter, it was about going to Brighton the following morning"—I then said, "You will be further charged with conspiring with others in wilfully setting fire to 53, Hoxton Road, Walthamstow, and other dwelling-houses"—he made no reply—Mrs. Loveday was present, and said to him, "George, did you do it?"—he replied, "No, I never"—on the way to the railway station he said, "I believe Richard Capsey has got me into this; one thing I do know, there has been a b----traitor in the camp. "

Cross-examined by Loveday. You did not say, "There is some b----traitorous scamp doing this for me"—I searched your house—I found nothing appertaining to a fire—there was a very reasonable amount of furniture, and pretty new, as far as I recollect—I went into all the rooms, it was the ordinary furniture; a piano and organ in the back room; the house wad furnished very well.

WILLIAM SCOTT . I am a clerk in the Accountant-General's office of the General Post Office—I produce an original telegram handed in at the St. James's Office at Walthamstow on 12th August, 1890, at 11.52 in the morning—it is addressed to Mrs. Ingram, 38, Ringcroft Road, Holloway—it is, "All right, start at ten"; there is no sender's name at the back.

The COURT held that there was no evidence against Culmer and Wheeler, who were accordingly acquitted.

Loveday, in his defence, explained that his acquaintance with the other prisoners teas quite accidental, that he knew nothing whatever about the fire, and was a considerable loser by it.


For cases tried in Third Court, Monday and Tuesday, see Essex and Surrey Cases.

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