20th April 1909
Reference Numbert19090420-38
VerdictsGuilty > unknown
SentencesImprisonment > penal servitude

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TIBBEY, Frederick George (21, labourer) ; feloniously setting fire to a warehouse in the possession of Henry Pooley and Son, Limited; breaking and entering the said warehouse and stealing therein 12 cigars and a Post Office Bank book, the goods of Wesley Watson.

Mr. J. P. Grain prosecuted.

Police-constable GEORGE SHARPE , 230 City, proved a plan of 89, Fleet Street, on which were marked the places spoken to by subsequent witnesses.

Chief-inspector SYDNEY ATKINS , City Police At 10 past three on Faster Monday, April 12, I heard that a fire had broken out at 89, Fleet Street. I went with the fire brigade officers to the premises. (Witness described the state of the place and the various fires; refer to Superintendent Smith's evidence.) On examining the premises after the fire I found that several office doors had been forced and a

safe was turned upside down. I was at Bridewell Police Station when prisoner was brought in by Police-constable Chatfield. Prisoner had in his possession the four keys (produced); I asked him where he got them; he said, "I stole them a fortnight ago from Messrs. Pooley's; my mother was charwoman there." On prisoner was also found a Post Office Savings Bank book in the name of Wesley Watson, and 12 cigars. Later on Superintendent Allison and Jarvis came in and identified prisoner as the man they had seen on the stairs. Prisoner was then formally charged with arson, with breaking and entering, and stealing the bank book and cigars. After being cautioned he made the following statement: "We went in there about a quarter to three to-day; I opened the street door with the door key. We went upstairs, went in the front office of Pooley's, got the back office key, went in the back office, opened the drawers, broke open the desk, took a bank book, went into the front office, broke open another desk, took some cigars, went upstairs to third floor, broke the front office drawer with iron bar, searched round and broke open another drawer, broke open a roller-top desk, turned the safe on its front, went to a back office, broke open a door, searched round, broke open another desk; we came out on the landing, broke a door leading to top floor, went upstairs, had a look round; I came down then, leaving my mate upstairs; I come right down, went out into the street, went down as far as Blackfriars Bridge to the urinal; I come up Ludgate Hill; a horse fire escape passed me on turning into Fleet Street. I found number 89 was on fire." In a later statement prisoner desired to make a correction; instead of Ludgate Hill he meant New Bridge Street.

JAMES GEORGE SMITH , superintendent of the Central District of the London Fire Brigade. On April 12, at 3.14 p.m., calls were received at the Bride Street Fire Station; two minutes later I arrived at 89, Fleet Street; flames were then issuing from the upper floors. On entering the place the first floor appeared to be well alight; that fire was extinguished. Then we found the third floor landing and stairs well alight. That fire having been partially extinguished, I tried to get to the fourth floor; there was such an accumulation of coal gas there that I could not get up until a glass skylight had been broken. While going up there I was informed that the back part of the first floor was also alight; at the same time a fire was found in a front office on the third floor. On that floor I found the can (produced); it was empty and stoppered; it had recently contained petrol. In one of the rooms I saw a safe turned upside down. I examined the premises carefully to see if there was any possible connection between one fire and another; they were absolutely separate fires, six in all. Or the top floor the tap leading from the gas meter was full on; had we arrived a few minutes later the place must have been blown out, as all the windows were closed.

To Prisoner. It was quite possible for all the fires to have been effected by one person. There were heaps of papers littered all over the place. All the preparations would not have taken more than half an hour.

CHARLES ALLISON , superintendent, London Salvage Corps, Watling Street. I arrived at the fire at 3.20. Passing up the staircase to the first floor I passed prisoner; he was standing on the staircase; my duties took me upstairs; on returning I saw him standing in the same place; when I was on the ground floor prisoner sang out to me, "Bring the b——sheets upstairs into the front room as the machines are getting wet." I said to him, "Are you employed here?" He made no reply and went out. Later in the day I saw prisoner at Bridewell Station. I am certain he is the man who spoke to me.

FRANK JARVIS , salvage officer. When I was at this fire—I saw prisoner on the first landing; I am certain this was the man. He said to me, "Bring some of your sheets upstairs"; I referred him to Mr. Allison. Later in the day I identified prisoner at Bridewell Station.

Police-constable CHATFIELD, 113 City. On April 12, after the fire, I was left in charge of the premises with another officer. At 6.20 p.m. prisoner came up to the door and was about to put a key in the lock. I asked him who he was and what was his business; he said, "I am just going to have a look round." I said, "Which firm do you represent?" He said, "My mother is charwoman here." I said, "I see you have the keys." He said, "Yes, we have three lots, I have one lot, mother has one lot, and there is another lot." I told him he must come to the station. On the way there I said, "Do you know if everything is all right at that place?" He said, "What do you mean?" I said, "I was wondering whether or not you knew there had been a fire." He said, "Oh, yes, I was there when the firemen was there."

Police-constable ANDREW HAHN , 171 City. On Sunday, April 11, I was on patrol duty in Fleet Street at 9.30 p.m. I saw a man standing inside the door or lobby of No. 89; I watched him for a quarter of an hour; he kept occasionally turning his head towards the doors leading to the offices upstairs. I am certain prisoner was the man. I went up to him and said, "Halloa, what are you doing here tonight?" He replied, "Looking at the crowd passing, the same as you are." I noticed that the door leading to the upstair offices was partly standing open. I said to him," The door is open"; he replied, "We have come back to answer the telephones." I said, "In what way are you connected with this place, as I have seen you here on two nights previous this week?" (I had seen him on two nights between eight and nine, after the place was shut up.) He said, "Oh, I work for the Fire Press Company up on the third floor." I remarked that it was unusual for these people to come back on Sunday night. He said, "We will be going presently." I said, "Don't forget to close the door before you go." I then went away; on returning five minutes later the man had gone and the door was closed and secured.

THOMAS WILLIAM BARRETT , departmental manager to Henry Pooley and Co., Limited, said that on leaving the premises at 12.30 pm. on Saturday, April 10, the premises were properly locked and secured; there was no sign of fire; the gas was turned off.

FRANK WAKEMAN , manager to Messrs. Pooleys. In my room on the first floor there are two desks. On my leaving the place at 12.30 p.m. on April 10 one desk was locked. It contained some cigars. I believe the 12 cigars produced are part of what was in the desk. When I left the office it was quite tidy; there was no litter of paper about.

WESLEY WATSON , traveller to Messrs. Pooleys, identified the Post Office Savings Bank book produced as his property; he had left it locked up in his desk. The desk also contained various papers; after the fire he found some of these papers littered about the office partially destroyed by fire.

CHARLES HARRY PARKES , of Parkes' Press Agency. We occupy rooms at 89, Fleet Street. I have never seen prisoner before; he has never been in our employment; he would have nothing to do legitimately at our office on Sunday night or at any time, and no authority to go there about telephones or anything else.


FREDERICK GEORGE TIBBEY (prisoner, on oath). On April 12 I was walking over Blackfriars Bridge about half-past two. On reaching Ludgate Circus I met a friend of mine who was the worse for drink. I took him up to these offices. We broke open the doors. We went right up the house, broke open the doors on the top floor. I came down, leaving my friend upstairs, went down as far as Blackfriars Bridge; went to the urinal. On coming up New Bridge Street a fire escape passed me. On turning into Fleet Street I saw that No. 89 was on fire; that was the place I had been in about a quarter of an hour before. I went to where the fire was; went upstairs to see if my friend was up there. He was not. I came down, where I saw the firemen. When I got to the bottom I went up Fleet Street and went home.

Cross-examined. The "friend" I referred to I had known about four years; I do not know where he lives; I have seen him only once; I knew him by sight, as you might say. I have not given the police a description of him. What Police-constable Hahn says about seeing me on Easter Sunday night is all untrue.

To the Court. When I went with my friend into the premises, up all the floors, I did not notice any heaps of papers lying about in different places, nor that the gas was turned on, nor any smell of gas; no preparation for fire at all. The whole thing must have been prepared within the time I left the place and the fire breaking out. Verdict, Guilty.

Prisoner confessed to having been convicted of larceny, in the name of James Martin, at South London Sessions on June 26, 1906; other previous convictions were proved. Sentence, 10 years' penal servitude.

Mr. Justice Jelf complimented the police and the Fire Brigade officers upon the service they had rendered to the public in this case.


(Monday, April 26.)

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