28th May 1883
Reference Numbert18830528-602
VerdictNot Guilty > unknown; Guilty > with recommendation; Guilty > unknown
SentenceImprisonment > hard labour; Imprisonment > hard labour

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602. JOHN MASLIN (26), JAMES LAW (38), and WILLIAM EARL (34) , Stealing 47 pairs of boots, 10 pairs of gloves, and other articles, the property of Her Majesty's Secretary of State for War.

MR. RAVEN Prosecuted; MR. WILDEY WRIGHT defended Earl; MR. KEITH FRITH defended Maslin and Law.

GEORGE BRISTOW . I am a pioneer in the 1st Battalion of Grenadier Guards—I know Maslin—I saw him on 28th April, at dinner time—he asked me if I would lend him a ladder—I did not then—he came round about 4 in the afternoon, and I lent him one then from our stores—he told me he wanted to do some whitewashing.

Cross-examined by MR. FRITH. This was on Saturday—I Might have seen him on the Friday—my recollection was called to this conversation about the ladder a week afterwards—I am sure about the date—he did not say where he was going to do the whitewashing—I have been told he is a married man—I do not know that he has been seven years in the service.

HENRY WOOLACOTT . I am a pirate, 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards—on the afternoon of Saturday, 28th April, I had, come, out of hospital, and was looking out of the front window at Chelsea Barracks

—I saw Maslin bring a ladder on his shoulder and put it over the wall into the area where the Commissary Transport keep their stores—he went down the ladder into the area, opened the gate of the stores, and went into the stores.

Cross-examined by MR. FRITH. I saw his face—I have not been asked that before—I did not say at the police-court I only knew him by his walk.

By the COURT. The stores were right down below me, just under the window—there was nothing to interrupt my view.

WILLIAM BOBINSON . I am a private, 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards—on the 28th April, at 7 p.m. I was in the barrack room, Chelsea Barracks, and saw Maslin go past the window from the direction of our sergeants' mess—about five or ten minutes afterwards he came back with a bundle of clothes on his arm from the direction of the clock going towards the sergeants' mess—a private soldier is not allowed there unless he is on duty.

ROBERT OSMOND . I am a sergeant, 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards—about 7 on the evening of 28th April. I was standing by the sergeants' mess passage leading to the staff-quarters, and saw Maslin coming along one of the verandahs towards the end of the barracks, towards the direction of the pensioners' cottages and Chelsea Hospital—he had nothing with him them—about five or ten minutes afterwards he came back the same way, and he then had a bundle with him, a regimental coat with something in it.

Cross-examined by MR. FRITH. I did not give evidence at a Court of Inquiry—I never did before I went to Westminster Police-court—I did not say there I only recognised Maslin by his walk—I recognised him by his face, because I picked him out the next morning.

THOMAS FLOOD . I am a private in the Commissariat and Transport Corps—on 28th April I was in Chelsea Barracks about 9.30 in the evening talking to a sentry, Sly, and I saw Law and Maslin come out of the canteen; they passed us and went round by the gymnasium school to the waggon shed—I followed them round by the waggon shed; when they saw me they walked sharply away—I saw a bag similar to this (produced), which is one of our regimental waterproof bags, and a soldier's coat under the waggon shed standing up against the wheel of a cart—I reported it to the sentry Sly, and handed the bag over to him, and saw him hand it over to the corporal—on the next day, Sunday, I paw Law in the stable from 6 to 7 o'clock in the morning—he came to me and said "Don't say anything about seeing me and Jack last night"—he calls Maslin Jack—he gave me a shilling and said "Don't say a word about seeing us. Don't say a b—word or Jack will get three years"—I took the shilling and said nothing—nothing had been said about any robbery from the stores before I went into breakfast that same morning.

Cross-examined by MR. FRITH. I gave evidence before the Court of Inquiry—I swear I told them I had a shilling given me—it was an inquiry before Captain Fryer to determine whether there should be a court-martial—there was no court-martial held—it is not contrary to rules for soldiers to leave their rooms after the lights are out—the lights were not out when I was speaking to the sentry on this night—I had no right to go to the waggon shed—Law has generally got a female

there, and I went round to see if he had on this night—Sly saw me go; I did not tell him I was going.

HENRY SLY . I am a driver in the Commissariart and Transport Corps—on 28th April, from 8.30 to 10.30, I was sentry in Chelsea Barracks opposite the canteens—I saw Law and Maslin come out of the canteen straight by me and go round by the waggon sheds—they had nothing with them—soon after I saw Flood, and he said something to me, and Flood went round to the shed and found a bag, and came and reported it to me—I went round there myself, and saw a bag similar to this regimental one standing up against the wheel of a waggon in the waggon shed—I did not look inside the bag—I called the picket, and handed it over to the picket corporal, Bevan—I saw Law again some little time afterwards—nothing was said to him at that time.

ALFRED BEVAN . I am a colour-major corporal in the Commissariart and Transport Corps—I had charge of the stable picket on the evening of 30th April—at 9.30 the last witness brought me this waterproof bag—I examined it; it contained five pairs of new regimental drawers, overalls, and boots—they had never been worn—there are no numbers on the boots—Quartermaster-Sergeant Reigate serves out the things—I handed the bag over to him.

ALFRED REIGATE . I am sergeant-major, Commissariart and Transport Corps—I received this bag from Bevan on Sunday morning, 29th April—I examined it; I identify these contents—some of the things are marked with the regimental number and Government marks, and I saw some of them in the stores on the day previous, some in the morning and some in the afternoon—the store is in the basement under the barracks—there was only one pair of boots in the bag on the Sunday morning—these other boots I identify as similar to those in the stores; they have Government marks on them—I issue boots to the men; before doing so I mark every man's regimental number on them and the date of issue—no boots go out of the store to the men without them—I have charge of the store—I took stock about 16th March previous to going to Brighton, and the number of the boots in the store was then all right—Law and Maslin went to Brighton, I believe; Earl remained behind in barracks—we came back on 29th or 30th March—when these articles were shown me I looked over the stores and found several things were missing, boots, and overalls, and drawers—if any boots were sold to the men, Goodley, the storeman, would put the man's number on them.

Cross-examined by MR. FRITH. There was an investigation into the case; that usually precedes a court-martial—there was no court-martial—after the investigation Maslin and Law were not discharged to my knowledge—I should think they were taken before the Magistrate a week after the inquiry came to an end—they were under arrest for a week before they were taken before the civil power—soldiers when discharged are entitled to a pair of boots and civilian clothes—those boots are marked; I mark them myself with the man's regimental number and the date of issue—boots and caps are never issued without marks—if there is a cap in Court without a mark it must have been worn off—I do not know a man from my company who has a cap without a mark—we can purchase boots and other things from the stores—such goods paid for in cash are marked—trousers and other things do not go out without being marked to my

knowledge—I and the storeman are the only two who do the marking—he is outside—for two or three days or a week old articles in the stores have been open on a landing, not under lock and key, because I had no storeage for them—I pointed out to my superior officer that I had no place to put them—there is a "W" and the regimental number in this cap (produced)—the man's number is not discernible; it looks as if it had been there—there are two figures in white paint.

Cross-examined by MR. WRIGHT. I took stock on 16th March—if I said 16th April at the police court I made a mistake—my evidence was read over to me; I did not discover the mistake—there was an unusually large number of boots in store in March and April, and the room apportioned to those things was overstocked for the time of year—I had the proper number of boots and they were all packed away—only old boots were left on the landing for about a week in November because there was no place for them—that did not also take place in March—I generally took stock once a month—I took it on 16th March because we were proceeding to Brighton and it was the end of the financial year—I took it next on 26th or 27th April—I then found a few boots deficient.

Re-examined. The old boots had been taken from the reserve men when they were discharged at Woolwich, and they and old clothes were on the landing—there are three or four windows to the store, eight or nine feet from the ground—Maslin was sent to nail up one of them on the 24th or 25th, two or three days previous to the robbery being discovered—I tried the bottom part on the Sunday and it was nailed—the other windows were all right—they had iron railings outside—the railings had been broken away from this one at the bottom part—each window is divided into halves—they could open this one before it was nailed up.

WILLIAM YAXLEY . I live at 1, Warad's Court, Pimlico, and am a sweep—I know Law—on a Saturday before May he came to me in my stable in the Court about 7.30—he asked for George Yaxley—I said "That is my uncle; he has gone away from where he used to live; that was at the top of our place"—he took a long bag something like that (produced) off his shoulder and brought a pair of boots out of the bag and asked me if I would buy a pair—I said "Where did you get them from?"—he said he had them to sell for his sergeant and comrades—I asked him how much he wanted for them, and he said "5s." at first, and afterwards I gave him 3s. for them and told him to come after breakfast for another shilling—I saw about eight pairs of boots come from the bag—these are the boots (produced) I bought—I put them on at once and wore them—eventually somebody who is outside came to me for them and I gave them up—they had buckles on them—the prisoner asked me to cut the straps off and make, lace-up boots of them, and I told him no, I preferred them as they were—they were new and black.

Cross-examined by MR. FRITH. It was about nine weeks ago; I think it was in February.

Re-examined. If it was nine weeks ago it would be in February.

JAMES YAXLEY . I am the father of the last witness and live at Warad's Court, Little Ebury Street, Pimlico—Law came to my place about eight or nine weeks ago, I think on a Saturday, and saw me in the stable in the passage—he came inside and wanted to know if the farrier, that is my brother, who used to live at the top, had moved out—I said he had moved away some time—he said "I have got some boots to

sell"—I said "I don't want any boots"—he had them in a bag, and one of my boys was there and said "I should like to have a pair if they will fit me"—I said "Whose boots are they, are they yours?"—he said "Some belong to me, some to my comrades, and some to the sergeant"—my son gave him 3s., and he was to come for the other shilling—I gave him the money.

WILLIAM JAMES MITCHELL . I live at 69, Hanover Street, Lupus Street, Pimlico, and am a stableman—I know Law—I saw him at Colesnill Mews, where I am employed, about 7 or 8 on Saturday morning about eight weeks ago—he had cot a bag something like this on his shoulder—he took several pairs of boots out of it—he showed me a pair, and asked me if I would buy them for 4s.—I said "Are they your own property?"—he said "Yes"—I have since given those boots to Police Sergeant Scott—these are them (produced)—I wore them—they were new when I bought them.

Cross-examined by MR. FRITH. It is about eight weeks ago last Saturday since I bought them; I am not certain to a week—it was the latter end of March of the beginning of April—there was nothing to fix the date in my mind.

JAMES SHEA . I am a private in the second battalion of the Coldstream Guards, in Chelsea Barracks—I know Earl by sight—I do not know the other prisoners—Earl came into the barrack-room with a pair of boots in his hand, I do not know what the date was, and asked me if I would buy a pair of boots—I said "No"—I saw him a second time in the passage, and he asked me would I buy them, and I said "Yes," and I bought them—he had them with him—I asked him if they were his own boots, and he said they were—I gave him 4s. for then—next day he brought two pairs of boots underneath his jacket, and placed them on the table in the barrack-room, and asked if anybody wanted to buy any goods—I was in a hurry to go out of barracks, and did not buy them—I word the boots I bought, and afterwards gave them u—I think these are them (produced)—they are military boots—there were no straps on them.

Cross-examined by MK. WEIGHT. I had spoken to Earl before a few times—whatever he did, he did openly; there was no attempt to conceal anything—when I bought the boots he did not bring them under his jacket—I think it was about the beginning of March—any soldier can go to the store and purchase boots, and have the money taken out of his pay—many a time I have exchanged boots in the barrack-room; sometimes they don't fit—I did not think I was doing anything wrong in buying these boots—on the second occasion I saw the boots put on the table—I did not handle them—they were military boots—that second occasion was on the following day—Earl was a corporal at that time—he was absent, or for some such offence he was reduced to the ranks on the 5th, 6th, or 7th March, I can't say which—it was for no criminal offence—he had a tunic on like he has now—he could not hide a pair of boots under there—it was unbuttoned—anybody could see he had boots there, but he must have been trying to hide them, because he had pulled his tunic over—I can't say if it was a wet or fine day.

WILLIAM BUCKLE . I am a private in the second battalion of the Cold-stream Guards—some weeks ago I saw Earl in our barrack-room—he offered to sell a pair of boots to private Shea—I saw the boots—I never had them in my hand—these (produced) are not them; they had a strap across them—they were similar to these—he asked 5s. for them.

CHARLES GOODLEY . I am a private in the Commissariat and Transport Corps, and storeman of the Fifteenth Company—I know the three prisoners—on 15th March Earl was on fatigue duty, cleaning harness in the dressing-room adjoining the ball court, where the stores were in a large room, which was locked—the key was in the door—when Earl went in I took the key and put it in the window of the room where he was.

Cross-examined by MR. FRITH. I never missed any articles—I get the things out for Reigate, he makes up the parcels, the boy takes them out of barracks, I don't know what becomes of them—I saw him receive the money for three or four pairs of drawers—I was a prisoner at the time the preliminary investigation was held—I did not make a statement against Maslin or against anybody—after I was released I swore against Reigate that goods were sold and the money handed over to him—the investigation was held to consider whether there should be a court-martial—they were not brought to a court-martial.

Cross-examined by MR. WRIGHT. I left the key of the door on the window sill; that is a common thing for me to do—I had left it there when Earl and others were there—Earl was reduced from the rank of corporal for being absent from duty or something of that sort about 14th or 15th of March, I think.

Re-examined. The price of boots when issued to soldiers new is about 13s. 6d. a pair with the buckles.

JOHN SCOTT (Police Sergeant B). I took Maslin into custody at Chelsea Barracks on the 10th inst.—I told him I should take him into custody for stealing a number of boots between 16th March and 28th April—he made no reply—at the station he said he wished to make a statement—it was taken down in writing by Tyrrell and read over to him and he signed it—on the following morning I took Earl into custody, told him the charge, he made no reply—this is Maslin's statement (produced and read): "On 19th March I was stable orderly. After the men turned out of stable at five p.m., Private Flood came down with the key of the ball alley and unlocked it and went in. I was standing at No. 2 company stable and he called me across. He said the storeman had given him the key to get some things out of his (the storeman's) own bag. Flood said to me 'If you want anything now is your time, Jack, as Goodley is upstairs. 'Flood' took two pairs of spurs out of the box. That is all I know." I did not take Law into custody.

WILLIAM TYBBELL (Sergeant B). About 6.30 on 10th May I took Law into custody at Chelsea and charged him with being concerned with others in stealing a number of articles from the barracks—he made no reply—I conveyed him to Cottage Road Station—after the charge was taken he should like to make a statement—I took it down in writing, read it over to him, and he signed it—this it is (produced and read): "In the month of February some fatigue parties were cleaning coats in the ball court alley at Chelsea Barracks. I saw Corporal Hardy come out of the ball court as I was in No. 2 stable. He came to the stable in his shirt bulged out in front. I asked him what he had, and he said a few things and gave me a sponge, and he had some gloves and sponges in his shirt at the time, but I cannot say how many. He then went to hide them, but I cannot say where, and then returned to the ball court again. About the beginning of March he (Hardy) was on picket duty, and

when I came into stables in the morning at 5.30 a.m. he told me that he had made a raid in the night, and the way he got in was by the window, as the storeman never locked the inside door. On Saturday, 31st March, Private Earl asked me if I could sell him three pairs of boots, not giving it a thought at the time that they were stolen out of the company's stores. After I had sold them he told me he (Earl) could get me what he liked out of the basement store, as he had the key, and he had been taking these boots to one of the barrack rooms of the Cold-stream Guards in the passage at the opposite side to the street—I gave him 6s. out of the 11s. I got for the boots which I sold for him. That is all I have had or sold."

ERNEST FRYER . I command the 15th company of this corps—there is a printed regulation for the army about getting rid of clothing—I have not got a copy of it.

Cross-examined by MR. FRITH. There was an investigation—that usually precedes a court-martial—there was no court-martial because we went by civil power instead.

CHARLES GOODLEY (Re-examined). I serve things out of the store—a great many things are marked and some are not marked when served out—they are served out to the officers, who give them to the men—on coming home from Egypt a lot of things were served out unmarked at Woolwich—that does not apply only to those who came home from Egypt.

ALFRED REIGATE (Re-examined). No new article is ever sold out of the stores as surplus stores—the things sold as surplus stores are worn out; the broad arrow is put on them then.

Witnesses for Maslin and Law.

JOHN FRANCIS . I am a private in the Commissariat' and Transport Corps—on the evening of 28th April I was in the stables from 6 till a quarter to 7, and after that went to the pay-office to receive my money—Maslin was with me in the stable till 6.35, and then went with me to draw his money; I met him on the stairs as I was going up at 6.45 on the landing below the pay-office—I next saw him at a quarter to 9 in the canteen, and we were together there till 25 minutes past, and went out together—I was the soldier with Maslin when he left the canteen; there was no one else with us.

Cross-examined by MR. RAVEN. I did not see him between a quarter to 7 and a quarter to 9—I do not know whether he was in or out of barracks between those times or between 2 and 4—he was feeding the horses in the stables from 4 till 6.35—I know the time because the clock is just against the stable door.

ROBERT DEISCOLL . I am a private in the Commissariat Corps—on 28th April I saw Maslin about 25 minutes past 6 in the afternoon and about 7, the first time in the stables and the second time with the officer—I did not see him with a ladder on that day—there is a name in my cap, but no number.

JOHN KEMP . I am a private in. the Commissariat Corps—I saw Maslin on the 28th, about 6.30 in the stable; he did not remain in long—he walked in at the door, and asked if we had seen Law—I saw him again between 7 and 7.30 at the pay-office—I have known things to be given out unnumbered—my cap is numbered.

Cross-examined by MR. RAVEN. The stables are in the barracks.

JOHN CORNISH . I am a bootmaker, of 39, Lower George Street,

Chelsea—on 28th April Law was in my house at 9.30 playing two or three games of draughts with me—he stayed till 12 or 11.30—I remember the night—I heard the bag was found.

Cross-examined by MR. RAVEN. I don't know what date this was—I heard about the bag being found on the following Monday—I think Mrs. Law told me; she is in the habit of coming to my house—at that time Law had not been charged—I heard when he was charged on the Thursday following that he was mixed up with it—I did not hear what time the bag was found—it occurred to me when I heard it that Law had been playing draughts with me at that time—I did not go to the police. court—I only heard he was mixed up in the affair, and I said directly "I don't know anything more about it than that he was at my house about 9.30 on the day the robbery was supposed to have occurred"—he came to me about 9.30, and left about 11.30.

Re-examined. Scott and Morse came to me and I told them I could give this information—I should have attended at the police-court if I had been called on.

MR. WRIGHT submitted that, as MR. FRITH had only called witnesses on behalf of Maslin and Law, MR. RAVEN'S right of reply was confined to their cases only, and suggested that after MR. FRITH had summed up his evidence MR. RAVEN should address the Jury upon the whole case, and that then he (MR. WRIGHT) should be heard in defence of Earl. The COMMON SERJEANT, after referring to Q. v. Trevelli and others (Sessions Paper, Vol. XCVI, p. 110), and other authorities there cited, ruled that that course should be adopted.


MASLIN— GUILTY of stealing.

LAW— GUILTY of receiving. Both recommended to mercy on account of the lax way in which the stores had been kept and of their services to the country. MASLIN— Six Months' Hard Labour.

LAW— Four Months' Hard Labour.

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