23rd October 1822
Reference Numbert18221023-53

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1540. NIEL DOUGLAS was indicted for a fraud . MESSRS. BOLLAND and WALFORD conducted the prosecution.

JOHN CURTIS . In the Summer of 1819, I lodged in Blewitt's-buildings; the prisoner lodged in the same house. I was in search of employment - I had frequent conversation with him on the subject. He stated, that he had an uncle, Colonel Miller, who resided at Bethnal-green, but with whom he was then at variance - but it was his own fault, for he would not stoop to ask his uncle's pardon, or he would have forgiveness; he represented that Colonel Miller had been a late Director and proprietor in the India House - and that he could make great interest to obtain a situation in that house, and asked if I should object to one. I said I should be very glad of one. Soon after that, one morning (in May, or the beginning of June, I think,) he asked if I was particularly engaged that day, and if I had any writing paper - and if I would put some in my pocket, we could take a walk together in the afternoon. I did so, and we took a walk up Church-street, towards Bethnal-green - went into a public-house, which he said a friend of his kept. We went into the parlour, where we were alone; he asked for my paper, and wrote out four or five memorials; before that he had said that he could get me a situation, as messenger - and asked if I should object to wear livery. I said not. He then drew out some memorials, and wished me to make a fair copy of them; he had said, as we walked along, that he had had some conversation with his uncle, who thought from my hand-writing, and the situation I had held, (I had been in the Custom House), that the place would be too low for me, and he would use his influence to get me a situation as clerk. He drafted out four memorials, (looking at them), these are the drafts of them.

These memorials were here read; they were addressed to four Directors, soliciting their interest on behalf of the prosecutor.

Q. Were these memorials copied - A. I copied them, and gave to him to take to his uncle, who was to sign them, and distribute them to the different gentlemen. I saw him almost every evening; he represented to me, that his uncle had sent them to the Directors, and the business was going on in the regular channel. On the 29th of July, 1819. I met him by appointment, (with Holcroft, a friend of mine,) at the Crown and Thistle, public-house, Billiter-street, about four o'clock, and asked him my business was going on at the East-India House; he said every thing was done that was needful, and nothing wanting but the payment of the fees. I said if he would let me know the amount, I dare say I should be able to pay them; he said he did not know what they were, but if I and Holcroft waited there he would go to the India House and make enquiry. He left us and returned in about half an hour, and brought a slip of paper with the amount of fees - (looking at it) - this is it - (read, memorials written, 2 l. 8 s. 6 d.; fresh memorial for deputy chairmain, 10 s. 6 d.; five new ones, 1 l. 1 s. 3 d.; copy for records, 19 s.: - 4 l. 19 s. 3 d.) - I said it might as well be paid first as last, and I would go to my lodgings and fetch the money; he said

"Well, if you do fetch it, don't fetch it in ones, but fetch a five-pound note, as it will look more respectable." I went to my lodgings, and got five 1 l. notes, changed them for a 5 l. note, and brought it to

him - he said a complimentary letter ought to be written to Mr. Hudson, the clerk at the India House; he drafted one out. I went up to a private room, and copied it, came down, and shewed it him. He said it would do very well. I gave him the 5 l. note to convince him it was one - he returned it me; I folded it up in the letter, in the presence of him and Holcroft, sealed, and directed it to

"H. Hudson, Esq., East India House," by his direction, and he had told me to fold the note in it. He said he did not wish to be seen further in it, but as my friend Holcroft was with me, he had better take the letter to the India House, and that would be proof that it did go, and he would go as far as the India House with him - they went out together for that purpose, and returned in about ten minutes; he said he was going to meet a party at his uncle's, and left. On the 4th of October, when I got to my lodgings, Mrs. Dowling, the landlady, gave me this letter, (looking at it, No. 1;) it is in a diguised hand; but I believe it to be the prisoner's writing - I told him I had received it. One evening Mrs. Dowling gave me another letter, this is it, (looking at it, No. 2,) I believe it to be his writing, but the hand is disguised. In consequence of this letter I went into the country to see my friends, but before I went he told me that on a clerk being appointed it was customary on the appointment being delivered to give a dinner to the other clerks - I said I had not the least objection to it if it was customary. He mentioned the dinner once or twice. I went to Lewes to see my friends, and while there I received this letter - (looking at it, No. 3) - it is his writing, and a day or two afterward I received another (No. 4), in consequence of which I went to the Bank at Lewes, paid in 14 l., and got this bill - (looking at it) - which I inclosed in a letter to the prisoner; the receipt at the back of it is in his handwriting. After this he came into the country on a visit to my friends. I saw him there frequently; he said every thing was finally arranged and settled, and that the dinner was at the Ship Tavern. Leadenhall-street. (A cheque upon Sir John Esdaile and Co, drawn by the Lewes Old Bank for 14 l., the receipt signed by the prisoner, was here read) - While I was in the country, I received another letter - it is in a disguised hand, but is the prisoner's writing - (looking at the letter, No. 6) - this is his writing. I afterwards discovered that it was entirely false, and that I had no appointment whatever.

Q. How came you not to enquire at the India House sooner - A. I trusted entirely to him; and he always wanted me to avoid making enquiry, he said every thing was perfectly right. From the time he left Lewes till the 27th of September last, I never saw him; I took every pains to find him.

Cross-examined by MR. ANDREWS. Q. What age are you - A. Thirty-seven. I have had a situation in the Customs nine years, I did not get it by purchase; I first became acquainted with him at Blewitt's-buildings; our business was mostly conducted at public-houses. I might not be quite sober sometimes when I was with him. I have a perfect recollection of all our meetings.

Q. As you have lost two sums of money, be so good as to tell us what false pretence obtained the 5 l. - A. To pay fees for the situation he said he had obtained for me. None of the letters came till after that. I believed Mr. Miller to be a Director, and that he was a Colonel, and expected it was by his interest only I was to obtain it.

Q. When did he first tell you not to go to the India-House to make enquiries - A. In June, 1819; he told me so repeatedly, it never occurred to me that the letters were fabricated; but after the deception was discovered I compared one with the other, and find they are his writing. I took out a warrant to apprehend him, on the 27th of September, 1819, but could never find him. The letter dated the 21st of August obtained the 14 l. from me. I found the prisoner in Robinhood-court, Shoe-lane, on the 20th of September, 1822; I took an officer with me and he was apprehended. I am not to pay the expense of the prosecution.

MR. WALFORD. Q. You presented a memorial to the India Company, and they took up the business - A. Yes.

COURT. Q. Did he lodge in Blewitt's-buildings at the time he came to visit your friends in the country - A. Yes. I could not find him there after I discovered the deception.

The letters referred to in the evidence were as follows: - No. 1, signed H. Hudson, dated, East-India-House, 4th of August, 1819; informing the prosecutor he was appointed an extra clerk, the appointment to commence on the 25th of September, and desiring him to appear before the Directors on the 22d to receive his instructions; and till then his appearance would be dispensed with, and desiring the payment of the fees of office.

No. 2, dated the 11th August, signed H. Hudson, informing the prosecutor that every thing was settled; that he would be entitled to his seniority from this date, and acknowledging the payment of fees.

No. 3, dated the 18th of August, from the prisoner to the prosecutor at Lewes, stating that the dinner was to take place next day, and desiring an answer by return of post, saying in what manner the bill was to be discharged, and proposing that a bill should be drawn for it.

No. 4, dated the 20th of August; from the prisoner to Curtis, informing him that the dinner had taken place last night; and out of sixteen invited, thirteen sat down to dinner; some of whom were the most respectable in the house. That it was understood to be Colonel Miller's entertainment; that the bill was 12 l. 16 s. 4 d., and with 1 l. to be given to the waiters made 13 l. 16 s. 4 d.; and desiring the prosecutor to go to the Bank, pay 14 l. in, and forward an order for the cash.

No. 5, addressed to prosecutor, dated East-India-House, 7th of September, signed H. Hudson; informing him that as a special ballot was appointed for twenty-two, the Court of Directors had postponed his attendance from the 22d to the 29th; when he must not fail to attend.

No. 6, dated Bethnal-green, 14th August, addressed to J.D. Stone, Esq. Comptroller of Customs, signed Miller Douglas, of Stone and Webberly-park, congratulating him upon the appointment of the prosecutor.

JAMES HOLCROFT . I live in Alfred-terrace, Stepney. I have known Mr. Curtis since 1814; I and he met the prisoner at the Crown and Thistle, public-house, Billeter-lane, several times, and recollect meeting there when he asked the prisoner how his business went on at the India House. I had met him before, when the subject was respecting the appointment of a clerk's situation in the India House; the prisoner said every thing was settled, except the fees of office being paid. Curtis asked him the amount of them; he went out to ascertain

and returned in fifteen or twenty minutes with a slip of paper, with the fees on it, amounting to nearly 5 l. Curtis went home to fetch them; Douglas wished him to bring one note instead of small ones. Curtis fetched a five-pound note, and asked how he was to convey it to Mr. Hudson, whose name had been mentioned before in the conversation; the prisoner said,

"You had better send Mr. Hudson a complimentary note;" a form for which he drafted out. Curtis retired and copied it, enclosed the five-pound note, and sealed the letter, addressed it to H. Hudson, Esq. East-India House. The prisoner said I had better take it, and he would walk with me, which he did to the corner of Lime-street; and as we went along I said I was a stranger in the India House, and did not know where to deliver it; he said I was to deliver it to the messenger in the lobby, at the left hand entrance - which I did - and joined him at the corner of Lime-street. We returned to Curtis, and in about twenty minutes lie apologized for leaving us, saying, he was going to a party at his uncle's, Colonel Miller's, at Bethnal-green, and left. Curtis went into the country about the middle of August, and while he was there, I saw the prisoner at the Crown and Thistle, public-house; he said the gentleman at the India House had had the dinner the day before, (he had told me nothing about the dinner before,) he said they were the principal clerks in the house; he said the dinner was at the Ship, public-house, in Leadenhall-street; that the bill amounted to 14 l. altogether, and he was anxious that it should be paid. I said, I made no doubt, if he wrote to Mr. Curtis he would send the money by return of post. He wrote in my presence, and said he had left room for me to write what I chose; I said I had nothing to say - but wrote this postscript (looks at the letter).

Cross-examined. Q. Were you present when the prisoner told him not to go to the India House - A. Yes; several times. I do not know what reason he assigned, as I paid very little attention to him. I have seen Curtis in liquor two or three times, but not often. He was not particularly addicted to liquor.

Q. Did you hear Curtis swear at the Mansion House, that he wrote the paper with the amount of fees - A. I believe he did, but he wrote it from a copy, which Douglas shewed him. It does not appear to me to be his writing. The prisoner did not ask for the 5 l.; Curtis said it might as well be paid at once. He was not drunk when this business was transacted.

HENRY DYMOND . I am a messenger at the India House. In the summer of 1819, the prisoner was a good deal about the India House, he came frequently after one of the messengers - I have seen him in the passage of one of the lobbies. I recollect Baird asking me to take a letter for him, and in the course of that day the prisoner asked me to deliver a letter to Curtis, at his lodgings. It was directed to Mr. J. Curtis, Blewitt's-buildings, Holborn - I gave it to the landlady. The prisoner had access to the passages and lobbies. Letters brought for the clerks were left in the left hand lobby, but since this matter has been discovered, an alteration has been made. I never saw the prisoner in that lobby - but any of the messenger's friends could go there without suspicion.

EDWARD DENCH . I am a messenger in the Company's service, and was so in the summer of 1819. The prisoner was intimate with Baird a messenger. He had no appointment under the Company - he asked me to take a letter to Curtis, his fellow lodger, at Blewitt's-buildings, to meet him in the City. I gave it to Mrs. Dowling; (looking at it,) this is it. If a letter was brought for a clerk three years ago, it would be received by a messenger, and laid in the lobby window, or put into an open box. Anybody who knew the messengers, or a stranger at the lobby might take them.

MARY DOWLING . I keep the house in Blewitt's-buildings. The prisoner and prosecutor lodged with me. In September, 1819, two East India Company's messengers brought two letters at different times, which I delivered to Curtis. The prisoner left my lodgings to go into the country - I expected him to return, but he did not - he had not settled with me exactly. I believe Curtis to be a sober man.

JOHN COOKE . I am a messenger in the East India Company's service. In the summer of 1819, the prisoner was in the habit of coming to the house. I remember his coming one evening in the summer, about five o'clock, when I was at the front door; it was after office hours - he enquired for Mr. Baird; I said I believed he was gone; he said I should go with him to the George, public-house, St. Mary-axe, and have some drink - I refused, but he said I should, and I went. He asked what I chose to drink, I chose porter - he paid the reckoning, which was 15 d. or 18 d.; he gave the landlord a 5 l. note in payment, and received the change. I do not know whether it was a Bank note.

HENRY THOMAS ADAMS . I keep the Ship, public-house, opposite the India House. In September, 1819, there was no dinner of the India House clerks at my house, nor in August - nor any dinner at which the prisoner and Mr. Hudson were present. I do not know the prisoner. No bill of 13 l. odd was paid me for a dinner.

JOHN CONNYERS HUDSON . I am clerk to the Committee of College, at the East India House. (Looking at the three letters,) Neither of these are my writing. I knew nothing of the subject till this charge was made. I never received a 5 l. note as payment of fees, for any appointment. There are two other clerks of my name in the house.

CHARLES HUDSON . I am clerk of the Treasury in the East India House. Neither of the letters are my writing. I know nothing of it. I knew nothing of the affair till this investigation took place. I never received a letter with a 5 l. note from Curtis, to pay fees of admission.

ROBERT HUDSON . I am clerk in the Home Audit Office, in the India House. The letters are not written by me. I knew nothing of the matter till the investigation took place, and have received no 5 l. note to pay fees.

MR. WILLIAM MILLER . I live at Bethnal-green - the defendant is my nephew by half blood. He never made any interest with me to get Curtis a situation. I have no interest at all in the house, and do not know the four Directors alluded to, except by name. He did not live with me. I knew nothing of this negotiation, and never saw Curtis.

THOMAS LOWES . I am clerk to Sir James Esdaile . This bill was paid in 1819, by me. The person receiving it wrote his name on it - I suppose as I paid it then.

MR. ANDREWS, addressed the Jury on behalf of the prisoner.

GUILTY . Aged 27.

Transported for Seven Years .

London Jury, before Mr. Recorder.

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